Life

The Royal Palaces and Ancient Hanok Villages of Seoul – Witnessing 600 Years of Korean History

  The Han River divides Seoul in two, and most of the city’s attractions are located in the old town north of the Han River. After the establishment of the Joseon Dynasty in 1392, Seoul (called “Seoul” at the time) became the capital. Although Seoul has been damaged to varying degrees in the long history, its magnificent history can still be seen through Gyeongbokgung Palace near Gwanghwamun, Take a peek at Changdeokgung Palace, Changgyeonggung Palace, Deoksugung Palace and Jongmyo Temple.
1 The distant past of Changdeokgung Seoul

  This Changdeok Palace, which runs through the entire history of the Joseon Dynasty, witnessed the glory of the Lee Dynasty and also witnessed the end of the Lee Dynasty. Now the Li Dynasty has long disappeared in the torrent of history, leaving this palace alone, watching the ever-changing world here.
  Don’t look at the modern streets and high-rise buildings in the center of Seoul today. However, like ancient China, Seoul, as the capital of a dynastic country, used to center all national activities on the king and the royal family. Seoul has a total of five royal palaces during the Joseon Dynasty, namely Changdeokgung, Gyeongbokgung, Changgyeonggung, Deoksugung and Gyeonghuigung. What we are most looking forward to during this trip is Changdeokgung Palace and Changgyeonggung Palace.
  Changdeok Palace was first built in 1405. It was originally used as the departure palace of the Joseon Dynasty. In the later period of the dynasty, it replaced Gyeongbokgung Palace and became the main palace used by the royal family. Changdeok Palace has been rebuilt many times. The area and building volume of the palace strictly follow the suzerain-vassal relationship with the suzerain country China. At the largest time, there were more than 230 palace buildings, and there are 13 existing buildings with more than 60 rooms, including Dunhua Gate and Jinchuan Bridge. , Hall of Renzheng, Dazao Hall, Houyuan, etc. Among them, Dunhua Gate, the main gate of Changdeok Palace, is the oldest among the main gates of palaces preserved in Seoul. The Jinchuan Bridge (formerly known as the Jinchuan Bridge) built in 1411 across the Jinchuan (man-made river) of Changdeok Palace is the oldest stone bridge among the many palaces in Seoul. In 1997, Changdeok Palace was included in the World Cultural Heritage List by UNESCO.
  Injeongjeon Hall is the main hall of Changdeok Palace. It was built in 1405. It was once the place where important national ceremonies such as the enthronement of the Joseon King and reception of foreign envoys were held. The front of the hall is paved with granite, surrounded by corridors on three sides, and there is an emperor’s throne inside. It is worth mentioning that during the interior renovation in 1908, Western-style equipment such as electric lights and curtains were introduced into the hall. Xuanzhengjeon, located on the side of Injeongjeon, was originally called “Changdeokgung Chaoqijeong”, where the king and ministers handled daily government affairs. With the office use of Xuanzheng Hall moved to Xizheng Hall, it is generally only used as a soul hall for the memorial tablets of deceased kings and queens. When the Xizheng Hall was first built, it was originally called the “Main Sleeping Hall”, which was the king’s living room. However, because the Xuanzheng Hall was small and often used as a soul hall, the Xizheng Hall later replaced the function of the Xuanzheng Hall as a private hall.
  Daejojeon is the official bedroom of Changdeokgung Palace, and it is also the place where the princess lives. The temple was burned down and rebuilt later. Because it is the residence of the princess, Dazao Hall also has a beautiful back garden. Xingfuxuan on the east side of the hall is the place where the last imperial meeting of the Joseon Dynasty was held. On August 22, 1910, the Prime Minister of the Korean Empire, Lee Wan-yong, and the representative of the Japanese Empire, Terauchi Masaki, signed the “Japan-Korea Merger Treaty” here. Leshanjae in the southeast corner of Changdeok Palace was built in 1847 as the residence of the empress. The last empress of the Joseon Dynasty, Empress Chunjeonghyo, lived here until 1966. in 1989.
  After visiting Leshanzhai, the regular tourist route of Changdeok Palace ends here, and then we visit the back garden of Changdeok Palace.
  Changdeokgung Houyuan was built in 1406 and took nearly 60 years to complete. It was destroyed during the Imjin Japanese Invasion until it was rebuilt in the early 17th century. The back garden retains the original topography and builds gardens in the valley. First arrive at Furong Pond and Zhouhe Building. In the center of the square pond is a round island, which embodies the idea of ​​”the sky is round and the place is round”. To the east of Furong Pool is Yinghua Hall, to the south is Furong Pavilion, to the west is Sijingji Stele Pavilion, to the north is Yushuimen and a two-story attic – Zhouhe Building. Kuizhang Pavilion on the second floor of Juhe Building was once the library of the Korean court. Pass through the Bulao Gate and come to Ailian Pond and Yidou Pavilion. You can see that the back garden of Changdeok Palace is full of maple trees, and the pond is also full of lotus. If it is in late autumn when the leaves are red, or when the lotus season comes in summer, the scenery will be beautiful. It must be a must.
  Yeonkyungdang is a house built in imitation of the residences of scholar-bureaucrats in the Joseon Dynasty. It was built in the 19th century and consists of an inner house and an outer house. Although it belongs to the building in the palace, it is not painted, and it is simple and unique. The hexagonal pavilion with double eaves – Zunde Pavilion, supported by stone pillars, stands in the pond. Next to the pavilion is the Bian Yu Pavilion with long eaves. “Remove stupidity” means to prevent stupidity and correct mistakes. This is where the son of the emperor reads.
  The whole journey of Changdeok Palace ends here. This Changdeok Palace, which runs through the entire history of the Joseon Dynasty, witnessed the glory of the Lee Dynasty and also witnessed the end of the Lee Dynasty. Now the Li Dynasty has long disappeared in the torrent of history, leaving this palace alone, watching the ever-changing world here.
2 Gyeongbokgung Palace distinguishes the relationship between suzerain and vassal with blue color

  Gyeongbokgung Palace is to Seoul what the Forbidden City is to Beijing. However, the size and specifications of the two palaces cannot be compared. At that time, China and North Korea were the suzerain state and the vassal state. Therefore, although Gyeongbokgung Palace was the official palace of the Joseon royal family, its specifications were only the royal palace regulated by the Chinese prince.
  Cheonggyecheon flows from west to east in the center of Seoul between Jongno-gu and Jung-gu. It has a total length of about 5.8 kilometers and flows through many scenic spots and business circles including Guangzang Market and Dongdaemun. The urban renewal project cost a total of 384 million U.S. dollars, demolished viaducts and concrete roads, and made the clear river water visible again. With its scenic waterfalls, sky bridges, sidewalks and various public artworks, it has become a paradise for Seoulites looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.
  We went from Cheonggyecheon to Gwanghwamun Square. The square is located in front of Gwanghwamun, broad and magnificent. At the southern end of the square is the statue of General Yi Sun-shin, who is a national hero of the Korean peninsula. At the end of the 16th century, when the Japanese navy invaded North Korea, Yi sun-shin led the North Korean navy to rise up to resist and designed a new type of iron-clad ship—the turtle ship, which turned the tide of battle and helped the Joseon Dynasty win a series of victories. On the southeast corner of the square, there is a monument pavilion. This monument hall was built for the 40th year of Li Xi’s accession to the throne of Emperor Gaozong of the Joseon Dynasty. There are simple stone railings around the stele pavilion, carved with stone beasts of various shapes, which is very special against the backdrop of the surrounding reinforced concrete jungle. In the middle of the square is the statue of King Sejong. King Sejong Li Yi was the second king of the Joseon Dynasty. He reigned from 1418 to 1450. This period was the heyday of the Joseon Dynasty. He created Hangeul during this period, which had a profound influence on the development of language and culture after Joseon.

  At the end of Gwanghwamun Square is Gwanghwamun, which is also the main gate of Gyeongbokgung Palace, the main palace of the Joseon Dynasty. It was originally named Sizhengmen, and later renamed “Gwanghwamun”, which means “illuminate the four directions, educate the four directions”. Gwanghwamun was first built in 1395 and has undergone many changes and reconstructions. After the merger of Japan and South Korea, in 1926, Japan built the North Korean Governor’s Office Building between Gwanghwamun and Geunjeongmun in Gyeongbokgung Palace, and most of the buildings in Gyeongbokgung Palace were demolished one after another. Until 1995, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of South Korea’s recovery, the government demolished the Governor’s Mansion building on the grounds of “removing the symbols of the Japanese rule”, and rebuilt Gyeongbokgung Palace and its ancillary buildings on a large scale, and rebuilt it again in August 2010 Gwanghwamun. There is a pair of Xiezhi (xiè zhì) in front of Gwanghwamun Gate, which is an ancient mythical beast in Chinese legends. It is recorded in ancient books such as Sima Xiangru Biography. According to legend, it understands human language, understands human nature, can distinguish right from wrong, good from evil, loyal to traitors, and is a symbol of the emperor, upright, fair and just. In May 2008, Haechi was selected as the mascot of Seoul, South Korea.
  Enter Gyeongbokgung Palace from Gwanghwamun. This royal palace at the foot of Beiyue Mountain was built in 1395. It is named after the word “Jingfu” in “Gentleman Wannian, Jieer Jingfu” in “Book of Songs”. It is one of the largest and oldest palaces in Seoul. Gyeongbokgung Palace is to Seoul what the Forbidden City is to Beijing. However, the size and specifications of the two palaces cannot be compared. At that time, China and North Korea were the suzerain state and the vassal state. Therefore, although Gyeongbokgung Palace was the official palace of the Joseon royal family, its specifications were only the royal palace regulated by the Chinese prince. In addition, all the buildings of Gyeongbokgung Palace are in blue to distinguish the yellow color of the Chinese imperial palace.
  The main hall of Gyeongbokgung Palace, Geunjeongjeon, is the largest wooden structure building in ancient Korea. It is a hall for holding ceremonies and receiving congratulations from officials. The square in front of the hall is the place where hundreds of officials meet. The ground of the square is paved with granite and divided into three roads. The road in the middle is slightly higher and wider, which is the road walked by the king, and the road on both sides is slightly lower, which is the road walked by civil and military officials. In addition, there are grade stones on both sides of the square.
  The National Folklore Museum, located in Gyeongbokgung Palace, is the most representative museum of Korean life and culture, opened in 1945. Thousands of collections in the museum display the life of the Korean people, Korean agriculture, Korean life and so on.
3 Bukchon Hanok Village at the junction of tradition and modernity

  The Korean houses in Bukchon are all brick walls and blue tiles, and there are still residents living there. In this place, you can see not only the ancient village with a history of 600 years, but also modern buildings and bustling urban areas. The ancient and the modern blend here and coexist harmoniously.
  Bukchon Hanok Village is adjacent to Samcheong-dong, between Gyeongbokgung Palace, Changdeokgung Palace and Jongmyo Temple. It is a traditional Korean residential area with a history of 600 years. During the Joseon Dynasty, with Cheonggyecheon as the center, the area below Bidong and Beicangdong was called “Namchon”, which was usually where civilians lived; while the area above Jiahuidong and Samcheongdong was called “Bukchon”. “, used to be a high-end residential area where royal officials and nobles lived, and it still retains a traditional appearance.
  Bukchon Hanok Village occupies a large area and is known as the “Eight Views of Bukchon”. Because we started to visit Beicun from the end of Sanqingdong, we first arrived at the eighth scene among the eight scenic spots: Sanqingdong Stone Step Road. Unlike the stairs we usually see, which are made up of pieces of stone steps, this stone step road is carved from a single large stone. Walking to the top of the stairway, the field of vision suddenly opens up. If you look down, you can see Bukaksan Mountain, Gyeongbokgung Palace and the National Folk Museum in the southwest.
  The place with the most tourists is the same alley in Jiahui Cave. Thanks to the active alley protection policy, the hanoks in this area have preserved their original features. Among the well-organized eaves, you can still see the urban landscape such as the N Seoul Tower.

  The Four Views of Beicun is on the hill No. 31 of Jiahuidong, the location is not easy to find, you have to enter from a very narrow alley. Here you can have a panoramic view of the Hanok around Gahui-dong. Go downhill from the “Four Views”, cross a large road, Beicun Road, and then go uphill, you will arrive at No. 11 Jiahuidong. The Three Views of Bukchon is located nearby. In addition to the traditional Hanok that you can watch, there are also several museums and workshops here, where you can experience or visit the internal structure of the Hanok. On the way from “Three Views” to “Second Views”, you will pass by Central High School, which is the filming location of Korean dramas “Winter Sonata” and “Ghosts”.
  The road facing the main entrance of Central High School leads to Anguo Subway Station. We didn’t take this road, but continued eastward from the main entrance of the high school to Beicun Erjing. The Second View of Bukchon is Wonseo-dong Workshop Street. Because it is a bit far from the core area of ​​Bukchon, there are very few tourists who come to “Second View”, and most of the workshops are not open. We wandered around casually, and walked along the wall of Changdeokgung Palace until we reached the place where we could vaguely see a palace.

Bukchon Hanok Village, where you can see the oldest and traditional Korean ancient houses. It used to be the place where the Korean royal family and nobles lived, and now it has become a popular tourist attraction. Many Korean dramas and movies have been filmed here.

  Through the low wall, you can see the Injeongjeon Hall of Changdeokgung Palace. If you step on the stone pier by the roadside, you can see farther. Walls, palaces, towering trees, all together, it is a good composition. The Korean houses in Bukchon are all brick walls and blue tiles, and there are still residents living there. In this place, you can see not only the ancient village with a history of 600 years, but also modern buildings and bustling urban areas. The ancient and the modern blend here and coexist harmoniously.

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