Seoul (Part Four)

In May, 2012 I went to Asia on the “Three-Countries-Three-Weeks-Three-Kids” tour. The first stop on this once-in-a-lifetime trip was Shanghai, followed by Seoul. On our first day in Seoul, we’ve made our way to the Gyeongokgung Palace museum, the restored Imperial Palace. Starting at the Gwanghwamun Gate (the main entrance) we’ve walked to the back of the grounds, to the Sajeongjeon, Cheonchujeon, and Manchunjeon buildings.

Side note — Last time I mentioned there’s a “lot of walking.” For reference, I love to get someplace while travelling and walk, taking pictures, seeing things, meeting people. I will take the subway or bus or a taxi to get from place to place, but once I’m at a given area it’s not unusual for me to walk two or three miles or more, for a total of maybe six to eight miles in a good day. This is not “Bataan Death March” walking, it’s taking your time, seeing the sights, taking LOTS of pictures (I do that, you know) walking. In this particular case, if you took a bus, taxi, or subway to the Gwanghwamum Gate (when we left we took the subway, the station’s about two blocks away) and strolled around and see everything in some detail, it might take three or four hours (or more) and you might walk a mile or two. On the other hand, you could do a quick 45-minute tour, see pretty much everything quickly, and walk 3/4 a mile or less. Long story short (TOO LATE!), that’s what I mean by “a lot of walking.”

IMG_0062_smallI did love the architecture and the brightly-colored and incredibly intricate and ornate paintings! Note also along the walls are a whole slew of very modern and anachronistic fire extinguishers. With all of these buildings constructed of very old and dry wood, plus rice paper interior walls, it wouldn’t take much to have them all go up. In the middle of the main beam coming straight out at the top, you can also see a video camera for security.

IMG_0045_smallAn ancient sundial is an indicator that astronomy and the sciences were well advanced for the day.

IMG_0074_smallI never did quite figure out what this was. It seemed to be off to the one side of the grounds and may not have been a part of the museum. There seemed to be touristy crowds around it, but for all I know it could have been decorative at a shopping mall or something located next to the official palace museum grounds. But it was tall and colorful and pretty and fun to look at, so I took a picture of it. (Let’s see a show of hands from anyone who is surprised by that…Anyone?)

IMG_0130_smallAt the very back of the grounds (Zone 9) is the Hyangwonjeong (shown, out on its island and surrounded by lily pads and lotus blossoms), the Jangandang, the Gonnyeonghap, and the Boksudang.

IMG_0116_smallIn Zone 10, the Jibokjae is flanked by the Parujeong on the left and the Hyeopgildang on the right. These buildings housed the royal private library. The architecture on these buildings include many Chinese influences.

IMG_0108_smallThe Geoncheonggung Residence was built as a private residence and used in the late 1800’s, until the king’s wife was assassinated here. (Again, many fire extinguishers and security cameras. The Koreans have been attacked many times over the centuries and still have a rather rabid enemy only a few miles away, so they take their security very seriously.)

IMG_0141_smallThe Janggo is a site where food was stored in earthenware jars. Much of the food was fermented (such as soy sauce) and large quantities of food were stored here, both for royal banquets, and to allow the residents to withstand protracted siege conditions. The pots shown are all original, each individually decorated to show different religious sects, social groups, or food types, and collected from museums all over the country and brought here.

IMG_0147_smallGyeonghoeru was the Royal Banquet Hall. It also sits isolated in a lake (Zone 12), in part for the ambiance, in part to allow boating by the royal family and guests, and in part for safety.

IMG_0150_smallSajeongjeon was used as by the king for offices and executive functions. It is built next to the lake surrounding  Gyeonghoeru.

This brings you back to the front of the grounds, where the primary entrance is, the Gwanghwamun Gate. (You can see the modern skyscrapers are nearby in the background of the final picture above.) There are exits other than the Gwanghwamum Gate, so we headed off to one side to find the exit nearest to the closest subway station. It had been a very long day, but also one that had been very interesting and very exciting.

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