It was Friday and we were set to visit two palaces in Seoul. The two palaces are: Changdeokgung and Changgyeonggung. The original plan was to visit first the Jongmyo Shrine, but unfortunately, we missed the English tour at the time we arrived at the gate and it is not allowed to go around the area on our own, tour guide is a must while inside the shrine. Because we wanted to maximize the time and not just waiting outside, we decided to go back after the two palaces.
From Jongmyo Shrine, we walked at the road at the right side of the shrine named as Seosulla-gil and then we turned left after we saw the rooftop of Changdeokgung Palace gate called Donhwamun. Same what we did in Gyeongbokgung Palace, before we entered, we bought the map guide. We have the tickets already for the said palace as we bought combine tickets (integrated tickets) when we were in Gyeongbokggung.
–Open space after Donhwamun
–Geumcheongyo and Jinseonmun
We entered the Palace via Donhwamun, as per the handbook guide, this gate is a two-story, pavillion-type wooden structure and the largest of all palace gates. After passing the said gate, what we saw was a huge space. And then we turned right where we saw the small bridge called Geumcheongyo. This bridge is known as the oldest stone bridge remaining in Seoul. After passing the bridge, the way leads to another gate called Jinseonmun. Based from handy guide, on this gate has once installed a drum called Sinmungo where anyone can strike the drum to file a petition to address grievances but striking the drum requires approval to a lot of government official and this system did not serve its purpose and been useless to many. It’s sole purpose is by the name only.
–Sukjangmun (Front) and Injeongmun (Left)
After passing Jinseonmun gate, another open space welcome us. From where we stand and looking at the map, another gate in front of us called Sukjangmun and the gate in our left side is called Injeongmun. As we reached Injeongmun, we saw Injeongjeon area. Injeongjeon is the throne hall of Changdeokgung Palace. Based from the guide, major state affairs took place here such as coronation of new king and reception of foreign envoys. Next area we visited is Seonjeongjeon, this building where king worked at his convenience to discuss routine state affairs with high-ranking officials. And this is the only building in the palace with blue-tiled roof.
–Seonjeongjeon and Huijeongdang
Beside Seonjeongjeon is Huijeongdang. Huijeongdang is the king’s bed chamber. This bed chamber became king’s workplace and become the actual main hall of the palace instead of Injeongjeon.
–Entrance to Secret Garden
As we are awaiting for the English Tour schedule to Secret Garden, we went out the area of Huijeongdang and we waited at the entrance of the garden. Time had come and the tourist guide arrived. The guide made introductions and reminders while touring the secret garden.
Secret Garden or rear garden (Huwon) was a forbidden place for the purpose of the sole use of royal family. Since the palace was built at the base of the mountain, in the rear end of the palace, the garden was placed. And after seeing the garden at the tour, I can say that the design of the secret garden is still in harmony of the nature. This kind of place, I can think that any king can reclaim peace of mind because it is surrounded of nature. Our guide led the group at first stop which is Buyongji and Juhanmu.
–Buyongji (Pond), Eosumun (Gate) and Juhamnu (Main hall at the top), Seohyanggak (library) left hall in the top
–Buyongjeong (left) and Sajeonggibigak (right)
–Seohyanggak (only roof) as I can’t go beyond where I was standing
–Seohyanggak (left most hall) , Eosumun (gate) and, Juhamnu (right most hall)
–Seohyanggak(left), Eosumun (gate), and Juhamnu (top)
–Juhamnu (second level), Gyujanggak (first level) and Eosumun (gate)
–Juhamnu (second level), Gyujanggak (first level)
–Stairs to Cheonseokjeong (not visible – not sure of the building still stand at the top)
I like the setting of the area. There is rectangular pond called Buyongji and most of the building built here surrounds the pond. The main building we saw is called Juhanmu Pavilion. Two libraries are nearby as well called as Gyujanggak and Seohyanggak, another pavilions exist are Yeonghwadang and Buyeongjeon. The said area is in the heart of the Secret Garden.
–Buyongji (Pond) and Sajeonggibigak
Our next stop was Aeryeonji and Uiduhap. Here we found another pond, this time, the pond shape is square. It was mentioned that it has islet in the pond with pavilion but now it was disappeared but the pavilion still there. The pond named by King Sukjong (I know he is the King in love with Dongyi) “Aeryeon” that is why the pond is called Aeryeonji. The grandson of King Jeongjo which is Crown Prince Hyonmyeong built Uiduhap Pavilion near the pond. I remember that the guide told us something about one passage way in the area, it was called Bullomun (or Bulromun) gate wishes whoever passes it will have long and healthy life which originally meant for king.
–Aeryeonji (pond) and Aeryeonjeong (pavillion)
Then, moved to Jondeokjeong area, here the landscape seems to be more natural, because the ponds looks great together with different pavilions surrounding it. There is pavilion which stands on the brim of the pond which is called Gwallamjeong, there is one near on the hill – Pyomusa, Sungjaejeong which stands on the highest ground in the area and the oldest pavilion which is Jondeokjeong.
We continued our walk in the next area called Ongnyucheon. Ongnyucheon is a brook flowing through the deep valley north to the Secret Garden of the palace. And he we found a large flat rock called Soyoam Rock. As per our guide, the story of the rock is related to poetry composition, where cup of wines are afloat while making poems, I checked the handbook guide and I learned that it was from Chinese when having parties, they composed poem by a floating wine cups in the waters and if they are not able to create poems, they drink 3 cups of wine as punishment (for me it’s not really punishment, they are still having a good time). There are five pavilions surrounded the brook, namely : Soyojeong, Taegeukjeong, Cheongguijeong, Nongsanjeong and Chwihanjeong. In that five pavilion, the one caught my attention is Cheongguijeong, because it has unique roof which is thatch-roof.
We moved to the last stop which is YeonGyeongDang. When we went inside the area, there is part where it seems one of the building is being used for shows during night-time. Then, the guide walk us around the area. Based from handbook guide, the area become an audience hall, the guide shows us separated quarters of for men and women. It was mentioned that during King Gojong, the area become a venue to received foreign envoys.
The tour ended well and for me I had a great time. I enjoyed the tour in the garden because it is like a nature trek which I really enjoyed doing. Historical sites in a natural settings is amazing for me. Before we ended the tour, while we were on our way to exit the Secret Garden we found a tree called Chinese Juniper. The tree believed to be 750 years old and aromatic which provide incense for ancestral rituals at Seonwonjeon Shrine.
We parted ways with our tour guide in the Secret Garden. Then we continued our walk in other parts of the palace. We moved to Gwolnaegaksa area. Based from handy guide, the area are mostly used as government offices.
–Gwolnaegaksa and vicinity area
Next was Old Seonwonjeon Site, it was called Old because there is a New Seonwonjeon Site, but we were not able to visit the area, it seems the area are still restricted from the public. Old Seonwonjeon was the place for royal ancestral rites performance. Former king’s portraits were enshrined here.
–Seonwonjeon and Naechaldang
–Seonwonjeon and Vicinity
Then we moved to Daejojoen Area. As per guide book, the area are the scene of tragic history. Here was the place where the last meeting of the cabinet was held to discuss the Japan’s annexation of Joseon and the bed chambers of the last king and queen are still remaining in the area.
And the last area we visited inside Chandeokgung palace was Seongjeonggak. The area was the crown prince residence and has been home of many buildings. Seongjeonggak was also used as royal hospital during Japanese occupation.
During the time of our walking tour between Daejojeon and Seongjeonggak area, it rained so heavy and we waited for sometime until rain was over. While waiting at the stair in the doorway of entrance to Huijeongdang, we met a Filipino which touring around the palace as well. And we talked to him for a while, until we discussed the next palace which is ChangGyeongGung which can be found beside Changdoekgung. He mentioned that the palace is small and can be finished in 1 hour. Because of that conversation, we hurriedly decided to visit ChangGyeongGung as well. We have at least 1.5 hours left before closing time.