This afternoon, James, Christine and I took a tour of Changdeokgung (창덕궁), the second of the "Five Grand Palaces" of the Joseon Dynasty that I have visited this summer.
The name Changdeokgung translates to "Palace of Prospering Virtue." Changdeok Palace was completed in 1412 and, though not the primary seat of government, was the most favored palace of many Joseon monarchs. The palace architecture and garden design incorporate traditional elements dating to the Three Kingdoms of Korea period. In particular, the buildings of Changdeokgung were laid out to blend in with the topography of the hilly terrain rather than to conform with Joseon architectural standards. (The larger and more contemporary Gyeongbok Palace, in contrast, was built in a precise arrangement on a wide open space along a north-south axis.) Changdeok Palace was burnt to the ground during the Japanese invasion of 1592 but reconstructed in 1609 by King Seonjo, who restored and expanded the original grounds.
Seonjo's expansion included the 78-acre Huwon, which translates to Rear Garden. The garden, which comprises more than half of the entire area of Changdeok Palace, was constructed for the use of the royal family. It was also known as Geumwon (Forbidden Garden), because no others were allowed to enter without the king's permission. In addition to providing a private area for relaxation, the garden also served as a venue for various outdoor activities, including sericulture, military inspections, archery contests, fireworks displays and royal banquets.
Entrance to Injeongjeon
In the background, Seonjeongjeon, the king's council hall
(The only structure at Changdeok Palace with blue glazed roof tiles)
Huijeongdang was reconstructed with Western furnishings after a fire destroyed the original building in 1917.
Korea's last emperor lived here until his death in 1926.
Path leading to Huwon, the Rear Garden
A royal study room in the Rear Garden
(The simple, unpainted design was intended to minimize distractions.)
One of the series of lotus ponds in the Rear Garden
Gyujanggak, a two-storied royal library, was constructed during the reign of King Jeongjo.
Scholars and officials were invited here to discuss ways of improving the government.
Changdeokgung has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for being "an outstanding example of Far Eastern palace architecture and garden design, exceptional for the way in which the buildings are integrated into and harmonized with the natural setting, adapting to the topography and retaining indigenous tree cover."