After filling up my stomach in Tongin Market, I went to Gyeongbokgung Palace. Last time I was there, I didn’t go inside. This time, I kinda hesitant whether I should go inside or not. Then, I saw a big banner informing that there was no admission fee for that day. So, of course, I went inside. Haha. Normal admission fee is 3000 KRW for adults.
Later, I found out that it was because that day was the last Wednesday of the month. The last Wednesday of each month in 2014 is designated as Culture Day in Korea. In that day, participating museums, palaces, galleries and other cultural facilities will offer free or discounted admission. You can check more about it here. It’s a really nice offer, especially for me. I’m just a poor student here. #mahasiswakere xD
Gyeongbokgung means Palace Greatly Blessed by Heaven. It is first constructed in 1395, ater 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. In the early 20th century, much of the palace was destroyed by Imperial Japan. Since then, the walled palace complex has been gradually restored back to its original form. As of 2009, roughly 40% of the original number of palace buildings still stand or have been restored.
After entering Gwanghwamun gate, you’ll see another gate inside. This gate is called Heungnyemun, the entrance to the main throne hall called Geunjeongjeon. You’ll see a bridge when you enter this gate. I’ve mentioned about it before, all palaces have this small bridge near the entrance. Crossing the bridge means purify yourself. Between Heungnyemun and Geunjeongjeon, there’s another gate called Geunjeongmun. Geunjeongjeon has 2-layer roof that makes the hall appears to have two floors. Just like typical main throne hall, there’s throne and sun, moon, and 5 mountain background here.
Gyeongbokgung has so many buildings, but I’ll just mention several buildings that you shouldn’t miss if you come here. One of the most popular building is Gyeonghoeru. It is a hall used to hold important and special state banquets during the Joseon Dynasty. The first Gyeonghoeru was constructed in 1412, the 12th year of the reign of King Taejong, but was burned down during the Japanese invasions of Korea in 1592. The present building was constructed in 1867 (the 4th year of the reign of King Gojong) on an island of an artificial, rectangular lake that is 128 m wide and 113 m across. I saw so many people taking photo with the hall and the lake as the background. You should do that too. 😉
Next, Gangnyeongjeon and Gyeotaejeon. This area is widely referred as king’s living area. Gangnyeongjeon was used for a number of purposes, including daily activities and office duties. At the rear is a beautiful terraced mound named Amisan, made up of a long rectangular stones with four flower terraces on which stand decorated stonework and chimneys.
Hyangweonjeong 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 and a bridge named Chwihyanggyo connects it to the palace grounds. The name Hyangwonjeong loosely translates as “Pavilion of Far-Reaching Fragrance,” while Chwihyanggyo translates as “Bridge Intoxicated with Fragrance.” It’s really pretty.
Too bad, I didn’t have enough time to take a picture there. It was almost 6 PM, the closing time of Gyeongbokgung. I was wandering around the northwest side of the palace, where Taewonjeon located. Taewonjeon was built as the Royal Coffin Hall of Gyeongbokgung. Nearby were buildings for funeral ceremonies, which were removed during the Japanese occupation. Reading the desription gave me a goosebump, so I didn’t enter the area and went back to the northeast side where Hyangweonjeong is located.
I didn’t realize that it was almost 6 PM. It was very quiet, i didn’t see anyone when I walked. Then somebody called me. “Hey, where are you going?” he asked in korean. I just pointed my finger to a building but he forbade me. I was confused but then I realized something. “Is it already closed?” I asked. And he answered “Yes”. OMG. Hahaha, I almost trapped in Gyeongbokgung. It was cold. I didn’t want to sleep there. He then guided me to the exit gate. While walking he asked me “Honja? Alone?”. And I just nodded and answered “Yes”. He was kind of surprised. LOL. “All guides just quickly went outside when they saw me” he said. Sooo, if you want to come here make sure you’ll have enough time to explore this big palace and leave at least around 20 minutes before closing time. There’s no announcement when it’s closing, or maybe I just didn’t hear it because Taewonjeon is kinda far from other areas. xD
But my journey in Gyeongbokgung didn’t end there. There was traditional performance in front of Heungnyemun Gate at 7 PM. And yes, it’s free. It was veryyy interesting. There were dance with traditional drum, jultagi (tightrope-walking), pungmul, and short musical drama. That was a really great experience.
The performance ended on 8 PM. And I quickly walked outside to the Gwanghwamun Square. There would be Media Facade performance in Gwanghwamun gate. And that’s why I actually came to Gyeongbokgung. It was part of Royal Palace Festival. There were 3 media facade performances at night during the festival (Sept 20-28), at 8 PM, 8.30 PM, and 9 PM. It’s so pretty, and the music matched the performance. It was also my first time watching media facade/video mapping.
BTW, you can have a virtual tour of Gyeongbokgung here. And if you have time, don’t forget to visit The National Palace Museum of Korea in the south of Heungnyemun Gate and the National Folk Museum in east within Hyangwonjeong.