Gyeongbok-Gung,(Hangul: 경복궁) Gung means Palace; is the first and the largest Royal Palace out of the five Grand Palaces exist in South Korea. Built during the Joseon dynasty, in 1394 finished in just one year 1395, just 3 years after Yi Seong Gye/King Taejo (the first King of Joseon) took the throne in 1392.
Purposely it was the residence of the Kings of the Joseon dynasty along with the Queen, King’s royal consorts and their Prince and Princess, also all the palace’s households. It become a symbol of the great Joseon reign and its royal family.
Sadly, during the Japanese attack “Imjin war 1592-1598” Gyeongbokgung destroyed. Because of its status as the symbol of national sovereignty, the Japanese likely thought by destroying the Gyeongbok palace means eliminated the symbol power of Joseon at that time.
Fortunately, the most representative edifices of the Joseon Dynasty, such as; Geunjeongjeon (the Imperial Throne Hall), Gyeonghoeru Pavilion, Hyangwonjeong Pavilion; Jagyeongjeon Hall; Jibokjae Hall; Sajeongjeon Hall; and Sujeongjeon Hall. And nowadays become a South Korea National treasurer.
Gyeongbokgung been left out in ruined for about 300 years, when finally in 1867 during the reign of King Gojong, the King’s son, Prince Regent Heungseon took command in restoring the Gyeongbok palace. A massive complex with 330 buildings and 5,792 rooms within 40 hectares (432,703 square meters) land site were successfully restored. The restoration using the architectural principles of ancient Korea were incorporated into the tradition and appearance of the Joseon royal court.
But again unfortunate things happened, when the Japanese Colonial war break in 1910-1945, they made the Gyeongbok palace as exhibition place for Japanese purposes and again destroyed some of the buildings into the ground.
In 1989, the South Korean government started a 40-year initiative to rebuild the hundreds of structures that were destroyed and misused for 35 years by the colonial government of Japan Empire.
What is Gyeongbok-gung meaning today for the young generations? I believe it remind them a lot of the great beginning of the Korea nations, the strength that holds up through bad invasion and preserves the culture yet architecture values.
For many tourists that came to South Korea, it become number one historic destination place to visit. And as many young Koreans more aware about preserving their Korean inheritance, they like to visit the palace during special events like Seollal (Korean New Year) or Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving), proudly wearing their traditional dress hanbok, walking around the palace and built memories there.
What’s to visit nowadays? Honestly, it is not enough to visit every corner of the Gyeongbok-gung just in one day, due-to of its huge size and length to walk on to the site. But likely you will have to see the Gwanghwamun (Main Gate), it is the most famous gates out of 6 gates that exist, located in the South side of the palace.
Then after passed the second gate (Heungnyemun Gate), you will walk on a small bridge named Yeongjegyo. Located on the top of the canal right next to the bridge were several imaginary creatures built on stone, known as Seosu.
Walk straight you will find a huge courtyard, where all the King with his top ministers and palace officials hold the open air palace ceremonies, within it there is Geunjeongjeon (Hangul: 근정전), also known as Geunjeongjeon Hall, is the throne hall building where the king formally granted audiences to his officials, gave declarations of national importance, and greeted foreign envoys and ambassadors during the Joseon era.
Outside the Geunjeongjeon, there is stone-paved courtyard which lined with two rows of rank stones, called pumgyeseoks (Hangul: 품계석), indicating where the court officials are to stand according to their ranks.
When you visit Geunjeongjeon, let me tell you best part of the building, you will not allowed to enter inside the hall, but go to the left or right side opened windows, then look up the ceiling, you will find remarkably sculpture of twins gold dragons, the Royal symbol of Joseon King.
Have you ever curious about a historic beautiful building that lies in the center of the pond, mostly you saw on many tourism ads or in drama? Yes, that building is exist, it called Gyeonghoeru (Hangul: 경회루) Pavilion, this hall used to hold important and special state banquets during the Joseon Dynasty due to its beautiful ponds surrounding. This hall was constructed in 1412, the 12th year of the reign of King Taejong. Gyeonghoeru used to be represented on Korean Won money the ₩10,000 (1983-2002 Series).
The pavilion was constructed on an artificial island of a lake named Hyangwonji (Hangul: 향원지), from the palace grounds walk through a bridge named Chwihyanggyo (Hangul: 취향교) and you will arrive to this pavilion. The name Hyangwonjeong is loosely translated as “Pavilion of Far-Reaching Fragrance”, while Chwihyanggyo is “Bridge Intoxicated with Fragrance”.
When you feel that you still have the energy to walk, you can always visit other buildings like;
- Gyotaejeon (Hangul: 교태전), also called Gyotaejeon Hall, is a building used as the main residing quarters by the queen
- Jagyeongjeon (Hangul: 자경전), also called Jagyeongjeon Hall, is a building used as the main residing quarters by Queen Sinjeong
- Jibokjae (Hangul: 집옥재), “Hall of Collecting Jade” located next to Geoncheonggung Residence, is a two-storey private library used by King Gojong
- Donggung (Hangul: 동궁), located south of the Hyangwonjeong pavilion, was the compound where the crown prince and his wife were living
- Sajeongjeon (Hangul: 사정전), also called Sajeongjeon Hall, is a building used as the main executive office by the king
- Sujeongjeon (Hangul: 수정전), a building located to the south of Gyeonghoeru, was constructed in 1867 and used by the cabinet of the Joseon dynasty
- Taewonjeon (Hangul: 태원전), or Taewonjeon Shrine, is an ancestral shrine originally built in 1868 to house a portrait of King Taejo, the founder of the Joseon dynasty
- Geoncheonggung (Hangul: 건청궁), also known as Geoncheonggung Residence, was a private royal residence built by King Gojong within the palace grounds in 1873
When you there, you can also visit The National Palace Museum of Korea, located south of Heungnyemun Gate and The National Folk Museum, located on the eastern side within Hyangwonjeong. You can also rent Hanbok there.
The Changing Guard Ceremony, is everyday on 10:00AM and 2:00PM. Make sure you don’t missed it. You can also take picture with the guard dressed as a real Palace Guard during Joseon dynasty, just ask nicely to them, they would happily let you do it.
When you want to go by subway, just stop by the Gyeongbok Station and walk out the exit 5 tunnel, you will instantly arrive just right next to the National palace museum and walk straight to Heungnyemun Gate (the 2nd gate).
Gyeongbokgung is closed on every Tuesdays, so make sure you visit other available days. The admission fee is as small as ₩3,000 (Korean Won) for adult, children half price.
Have fun, and let me know your own experience in Gyeongbokgung, down below the comment.
Articles fact source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gyeongbokgung