Gyeongbokgung Palace (경복궁)

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June 18, 2019

Gyeongbokgung was the first royal place built during the Joseon Dynasty. This is the largest of all the palaces. It is an example of  Confucian Royal arquitecture and court life. It was built in 1395 in the northern part of Seoul and its main gate faces the South.  It served as the home of many kings and their households, and their government.

Sadly, this palace was destroyed greatly during the Imjin War (1592–1598) and abandoned.  After two centuries, Prince Regent Heungseon during the reign of King Gojong began the restoration of the palace.

The project of rebuilding Gyeongbokgung to the original dimensions of 330 buildings with 5,792 rooms, covering 4,414,000 square feet (410,000 square meters), required seven years and a royal fortune. Gojong and his court moved into the reconstructed palace grounds in 1872. Soon after the assassination of Empress Myeongseong instigated by the Japanese agents in 1895, Gojong of Korea left the palace, and the imperial family never returned.

In 1911, during the period of Korea under Japanese rule, the government of Japan demolished all but ten buildings, constructing the residence of the Japanese Governor-General in front of the throne hall.

Cr. New World Encyclopedia

There are two national treasures in this palace, I will point them out…

Getting There:

Take the subway line 3 and get off at the stop by its name: Gyeongbokgung (Government Complex-Seoul).  The closest entrance to the main gate is 5.

On my way there I saw this beautiful mural:

Gyeongboksung Palace. Cr. Fan 13. 2019 1Gyeongboksung Palace. Cr. Fan 13. 2019 2

This is a map of the inside of the palace. Cr.

Map of Gyeongbokgung Palace. Cr.

This the gorgeous main gate “Gwanghwamun.”  (Map: No.1)

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The gate is guarded by these very colorful guards and by the two Haechi (Haetae) on both sides.

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This is Heungnyemun.  (Map: No.2) As you pass through, it marks the official entrance into the palace.

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This bridge “Yeongjegyo” was built over a stream (Now it is dry).  The figures around it are called Seosu.

“Streams are a common site in Korean temples, as they symbolize crossing from the mundane world into the sacred world. Streams also serve to distinguish spaces in Korean palaces, but this distinction  is political rather than spiritual- during audiences with the king, high ranking officials stood to the north of the stream while those in lower rank stood to the south. ”    Cr. Koreana Magazine. Winter 2010.

Once you pass through this gate… you see another… gate!  Correct!  This gate called “Geongjeonmun”  and leads to the main courtyard of the palace.  During Joseon times, only the King was allowed to walk through the center.

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There you will see the Geunjeongjeon, also known as Geunjeongjeon Hall. (Map No.3)  It is the throne hall.  This is…

“where the king formally granted audiences to his officials, gave declarations of national importance, and greeted foreign envoys and ambassadors during the Joseon dynasty.  The building was designated as Korea’s National Treasure No. 223 on January 8, 1985.”

Geunjeongjeon was originally constructed in 1395 during the reign of King Taejo, but was burned down in 1592 when the Japanese invaded Korea. The present building was built in 1867 when Gyeongbokgung was being reconstructed. The name Geunjeongjeon, created by the minister Jeong Do-jeon, means “diligence helps governance”.

Constructed mainly of wood, Geunjeongjeon sits on the center of a large rectangular courtyard, on top of a two-tiered stone platform. This two-tiered platform is lined with detailed balustrades and is decorated with numerous sculptures depicting imaginary and real animals, such as dragons and phoenixes. The stone-paved courtyard is lined with two rows of rank stones, called pumgyeseoks, (품계석), indicating where the court officials are to stand according to their ranks. The whole courtyard is fully enclosed by wooden cloisters.

Cr. Wikipedia

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Behind this area came the Sajeonjeon (Map No.4) , an area where the king would hold his daily meetings and give orders to his officials.  I didn’t get a good photo of this building, so this one comes from a fellow WordPress writer “Derek Vs. Lonely Planet.”

Sajeongjeon by Derek Vs. Lonely Planet.png

Photo Cr. Derek Vs. Lonely Planet.

I got the inside of the building, where you can see a smaller and probably more comfortable throne:

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Behind this is what is called the Inner Palace, the living quarters of the royal family.  In the center first you see the King’s Living quarters “Gangnyeongjeon.”(Map No.6) and after it “Gyotaejeon” (Map No.7) the Queen’s living quarters.

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Gyeongbokgung-KyoTaeJeon in Gyeongbokgung Palace.jpgCr. Wikipedia    I loved this building!  I took a lot of photos of its details:

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I did not get to the Jagyeongjeon (The Late Queen’s Quarters) or the Donggung (Palace of the Crown Prince).  So here are a couple of photos by Wikipedia.

Jagyeongjeon (Map No.9):

Jagyeongjeon in Gyonegbokgung Palace. Cr Wikipedia.jpg

Donggung (Map No.10):

Donggung in Gyeongbokgung Palace

After I went to the place I wanted to see the most in this palace… the “Hyangwonjeong”  (Map No.12) Sadly it is being reconstructed!  But I looked in  between the boards and got some photos that are not too bad considering!

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So gorgeus!  Here is a bit more information about this place. Cr. Wikipedia

Pavilion, is a small, two-story hexagonal pavilion built around 1873 by the order of King Gojong when Geoncheonggung residence was built to the north within Gyeongbokgung.

The pavilion was constructed on an artificial island of a lake named Hyangwonji 향원지, and a bridge named Chwihyanggyo 취향교;  connects it to the palace grounds. The name Hyangwonjeong is loosely translated as “Pavilion of Far-Reaching Fragrance”, while Chwihyanggyo is “Bridge Intoxicated with Fragrance”.

The bridge Chwihyanggyo was originally located on the north side of the island and was the longest bridge constructed purely of wood during the Joseon dynasty; however, it was destroyed during the Korean War. The bridge was reconstructed in its present form on the south side of the island in 1953, but is now being relocated to its original location on the northern side. The reconstruction is expected to be completed in 2019.  

Well not yet!  But I have something to look forward to in my next trip (along with the Jagyeongjeon and Donggung)  … I dream of seeing it in the fall like this:

Hyangwonjeong Cr. Life to reset WordPressCr. Life to Reset -Wordpress

There is another pavilion on the water. It’s the Gyeonghoeru (경회루). It was a hall used to hold important and special state banquets during the Joseon Dynasty.  It was registered as Korea’s National Treasure No. 224 on January 8, 1985.   I was too busy being a model in an hanbok! so I forgot to take photos.  This is what it looks like:

Gyeonghoeru_(Royal_Banquet_Hall)_at_Gyeongbokgung_Palace,_Seoul Cr. Frank Schulenburg. Wiki Commons.jpgCr. Wikipedia

A palace within a palace: “Geoncheonggung.”  (Map No.13)  Yeah! Numero trece!

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This palace is often overlooked by tourists as it does not look as colorful as the rest of the buildings in Gyeongbokgung.  But this palace built by King Gojong, was the first in Seoul to have electric lights!  And it has an amazing history.  I found a site that tells the story really well here:   and, this is the story of how it got lights!  Imagine that Korea sent a mission to the US to see the use of electricity in action.  And the delegation came to Boston!  My city!!!  And…

“It was just one year after Thomas Edison’s Pearl Street Central Power Station began first commercial electric lighting service from September 4, 1882. The mission saw the incandescent lighting and generating facilities in the Hotel Vendome in Boston where they stayed and also in equitable building and Navy Ship Trent. The mission’s visit to the Boston area may well be regarded as the first significant event in the history of scientific and technological interactions between Korea and the U.S.”                                               Cr.  ETHW, Engineering and Technology History Wiki.

How cool is that?  To read more about this topic go here:

Click to access Nam-Early_History.pdf

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Wondering what Queen Min looked like?  I did…  She is number one on my list to learn more about… followed by King Sejong…  Here is a photo:

Queen Min (Empress MyeongSeong in 1895. .jpg                                                                                        Cr. Pintarest

The assasination of the Queen Myeongseong in such a brutal manner by the Japanese military, leaves one so sad… but I have something to turn this into a happier ending.  I watched the beautiful ceremony of the change of the guard!

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Here is some information about it:

History of the Ceremony
During the Joseon Dynasty, the royal guards were responsible for guarding and patrolling the gates of the capital city and the royal palaces. The royal palace guards, who were known as the “WanggungSumunjang”, had the very important duty of protecting the king by guarding the entrance gates of the primary royal palace where the king resided. They were in charge of opening and closing the palace gates, inspecting all visitors, and maintaining a close surveillance of the palace. They were divided into day and night shifts, and the Changing of the Guard ceremony took place whenever the shifts changed over.
In the early period of the Joseon Dynasty, the Changing of the Guard ceremony was conducted at Gyeongbokgung (Palace) as at that time Gyeongbokgung was the primary royal palace and the king then resided there. However, in the late period of the Joseon Dynasty when Gyeongbokgung was burned down during the ImjinWaeran (Japanese Invasions of 1592 – 1598), Deoksugung was made the primary royal palace and the Changing of the Guard ceremony was then conducted at Deoksugung.

Reenactment of the Ceremony
After some extensive historical research, this splendid and elegant traditional Korean royal court cultural ceremony was first re-enacted in 1996 and has been a must-see among Seoul’s tourist attractions ever since. This ceremony is a great opportunity to experience a rare traditional scene in Korea, as the ceremony is reenacted exactly as it used to be held, with guards wearing royal uniforms, carrying traditional weapons and playing traditional instruments. A tradition comparable to the Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace, this ceremony takes place three times a day in front of Gwanghwamun, the main gate of Gyeongbokgung (palace) from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. (except for on Tuesdays).                               Cr.

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Gyeongboksung Palace. Change of the Guard.  Cr. Fan 13. 2019 57.JPG

This is a really good video I was able to make… you’ll see the musicians and the guards marching in… so beautiful!

It now feels like I dream that I was there… thank you Jung Il-woo… if it wasn’t for you I probably would not have experienced this WOOnderful place!