Saturday, June 15, 2013

Gyeongbokgung Palace (경복궁)

It's been more than half a year since my visit to fast time flies and yet I din even finish blogging all my Korea trip yet! -_-"' Continuing from part of my itinerary here, I had visited Gyeongbok aka Gyeongbokgung Royal Palace which is located in northen Seoul, South Korea.
Boyfie and me in Gyeongbokgung Palace
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.
See the Gyeongbokgung Palace map: Really v huge..I din manage to cover all areas also..
Before we start exploring the palace, our tour guide started to brief us about Korean history and also the historical of this palace.Zzzz...hate history classes especially during schooling days..

Our tour guide explaining using the palace map..but no idea what he's talking dee
After explanation, we start exploring the palace and the tour guide stop by the main few areas to describe to us I said before..I'm not a good student in history class, so forgive me if I captured some missing or incorrect info here :-P

Entrance to the inner courtyard where the king used to stay and governs the country
Boyfie in front of Gyotaejeon
Gyotaejeon (#17 on the map above) is the queen's main residence. Here, she oversees how the palace household should be run.
Any idea what is this? It's the heater outlet, where the servants have to put in coal to burn and keep the floors warm and cozy for the kings and all the royal family members
Gangnyeongjeon is the king's residence (#12 on the map above).
Gangnyeongjeon is the King's chambers
In both wings of this building there are nine rooms arranged in a 3x3 pattern. The central room was where the king slept and the surrounding eight rooms were where the court ladies kept night watch. Can you give a guess which 8 court ladies plays the most important role? According to our tour guide, the court lady that is in charged of the king's "output" plays the most important role. She has to ensure the king is healthy by ensuring everytime the "output" is nice smell and color too *LOL*

Geunjeongjeon (근정전, the Throne Hall) which is the #5 in the map above, is considered the greatest building of Joseon architecture. And it's also the main building of Gyeongbokgung Palace. 
Geunjeongjeon, the throne hall

This throne hall is the place where ceremonies of the state, such as new year's greetings to the king by civil and military officials, were held, and where foreign envoys were received.  It is believed to be in a very auspicious location; surrounded by four mountains and with a stream running through the grounds. 

Now let's look inside the throne hall in detail...
The throne inside the Geunjeongjeon hall
Behind the throne is a picture showing a red sun and a white moon, above five mountains, a waterfall and the ocean (the realm) and pine trees (a sacred tree). This is the symbol of the emperor Interior of Geunjeongjeon, Gyeongbokgung and it traveled with the him.  The sun and the moon in particular represent all of nature (yang and ying), and the king and queen, respectively.
On the ceiling above the Throne Hall, a lifelike dragon painting emphasizes the King's nobility.

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, indicating where the court officials are to stand according to their ranks. The whole courtyard is fully enclosed by wooden cloisters.
wanted to have a closer shot of the Geunjeongjeon but the lady's hat is blocking -_-"'
It seems Chinese do have influence in Korea as if you look closely on the 9 guardian animals on the rooftop of the Geunjeongjeon Throne Hall, these 9 guardian animals are similar to the roofs of the palace in the Forbidden City (The imperial palace of China in Beijing). 
9 guardian animals on the rooftop of Geunjeongjeon Throne Hall
And now if you compare with the Forbidden City one..looks similar or not?
This is the roof sculpture of the Beijing Forbidden City Palace

Well, I am just quoting from the tour guide that the importance of the building is indicated by the number of guardian angels on top. 9 is the max number and normally are on the main palace. And these animals are the guardians which protect the palace, and also the royalty who reside within. Btw, there is actually 13 guardian animals instead of 12 like Chinese zodiac animals? Wonder why?

At the edge of the stone steps, you can find dragon, tiger, phoenix and a tortoise.
Next, are all of the animals of the Chinese zodiac, except for the dog and the pig. Here you can see the rat, ox, rabbit, snake, sheep, monkey, horse and tiger.
Spot the animals?
Check out this video on Jenny Pope showing you all the guardian animals here:

And if you are up at the throne hall, you can have a nice shot of the Geunjeongmun Gate, which is #4 on the map above.

Geunjeongmun Gate behind us
Lastly, found another video online that shows you more about Gyeongbokgung Palace:

How to get here?
Gyeongbokgung Station (Line 3, Exit 5) 
Ganghwamun Station (Line 5, 400m walk from Exit 2)

Admission Fees
The admission fee for adults (age 19 - 64) is KRW 3,000 (RM 8+), youths (age 7 - 18) is KRW 1,500 (RM 4+) and age 6 or below is free of charge. 

Opening Hours:
March-October: 9:00am - 6:00pm 
November-February: 9:00am - 5:00pm 
Closed every Tuesday.

That's all, hope you enjoy!

*Check here for the summary of my 2012 Korea+Jeju Trip itinerary.

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