Friday, December 7, 2012

Asian Eyes' Korea - Gyeongbokgung Palace

A Palace guard in full 
ancient costume stand 
guard at the palace 
       Day 2 - Nov/18/12, 9.30am: We entered Gyeongbokgung Palace compound, also known as Gyeongbok Palace, a royal palace located in north Seoul, opposite Blue House. It was first constructed in 1395, later burned and abandoned for almost three centuries, and then reconstructed in 1867. It was the main and largest palace of the Five Grand Palaces built by the Joseon Dynasty. The name means "Palace" [Gung] "Greatly Blessed by Heaven" (Gyeongbok). In the early 20th century, much of the palace was destroyed by Japan. Since then, the walled palace complex has been gradually restored back to its original form.  
        The palace covers a huge area and had many gates, outer courts, inner courts, pavilions, bridges and quarters for the royal family. This palace was depicted in a couple of scenes for the 2003 popular Korean ancient cooking drama Da Chang Qing (Dae Jang Geum; 대장금; 大長今) starring Lee Young Ae. We spent some 2 hours within the palace compound, taking in the ancient building sights and Kent added more tales to the excitement. Here are the pictures taken around the palace's compound on that trip:
Location: Gyeongbokgung Palace in Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea.
Entrance ticket to Gyeongbokgung Palace stated 2,400 won (roughly US$2.4), included into our tour fare, as with all admission ticket to all other attractions, museums, and shows.
We rested under a yellow leaves tree before we continued on. 

A tourist guide explained the area to tourists using an old map of the palace.
A portrait of Lee Young Ae in traditional Korean Hanbok dress in the movie "Da Chang Qing" in the compound of Gyeongbokgung Palace attracted lot of tourists, each waiting for their turn to take pictures with the portrait.
Entrance to the inner courtyard where king used to stay and governs the country.

We peered inside a courtyard to try to catch a glimpse of ancient king or queen or palace maid whose spirit may still be dwelling there.
Kent explained that the statues at the roof of all the courthouses are adapted from the 'Journey to the West" tale with the monk, monkey god, Sand devil, horse and piggy. This reaffirmed the influence of Buddhist teaching to Korean culture. 

Smaller courthouses were used by king's lesser rank relatives within the palace compound
The doors to some of the courthouse were "hanged" instead of folded sideways. This was to have more space for entrance and exit then.
Pretty motives painted on beams just below the roof They are colorful and intricate in design and its purpose - to dispel evil! 
This was a cooking smoke column, disguised with murals to blend it in with the palace design architecture. The smoke was also used to warm the building during winter, a great way to use heat before it was discharged to the atmosphere.

Most buildings in the palace compound had similar architecture design. Everyone had the "journey to the west" statues on the roof.
Jeff, our tour lead, strolling along a courthouse to ensure that we were not lost in the vast palace compound.
A pavilion in the middle of the royal lake where the king used it to entertain his guests.
A front view of the pavilion. Kent added that there were doors that were hanged above the ceiling inside the pavilion. This was to have a large space for banquet, and upon a clap of  an officer in charge, these doors will be lowered down, transforming the banquet hall into small rooms for a more private session in entertaining the king's guests.
Royal hall where the King sat and conducted official duty. It is majestic and had similar design as in the palace in China Forbidden City.
Kent mentioned that dragon motives can be found in China, Vietnam and Korea, however only the dragon motive in Korea had 7 claws while China's one had 5 claws. The picture here showed tourists, taken in by that story, tried to snap a photo of the Korean's 7 claws-dragon, which can only be viewed by the side door, and not the main door. The reason why it can only be viewed by the side door - then Korea still paid honor to China, and does not want to show disrespect of openly showed that Korea had a 7 claws-dragon which was more superior that China's 5 claws-dragon.  
My turn to snap the 7 claws-dragon. I counted the claws - yes, it had 7 claws all right.
Some European tourists visiting the palace, listening attentively to their tour guide haltingly explanations about the palace.
An ancient 'air-condition' being used in the palace by the royal family. Ice was placed inside the urn to cool the place in summer.
An ancient ceremonial bronze urn being used just outside the royal building.
Here was once the king sat. Not a grand looking seat in my opinion.
A stone tablet identifying where first level officers' waiting place outside the royal building, since they were not high ranked enough to have a place inside the palace when meeting the king. There are more stone tablets behind this for second, third and so forth for the lower ranked officer' placing inside the palace compound. 
The compound outside royal palace is barren and full of stone slabs. Kent mentioned this was to prevent assassins from tunneling through or buried themselves in the ground or hide behind any structures to try to murder the king. It sound logical. True enough as the one in China Forbidden City was also similarly built.

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