Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Changdeokgung and Huwon

May 17, Buddha's Birthday is celebrated in Korea as a national holiday.  Bob and I headed south of Seoul to go paragliding, but when we arrived we were informed that the wind were not right and we would not be able to go.  So we headed back to Seoul and decided that we needed to be outside since it was such a beautiful spring day.  We took the subway to Changdeok Palace and it's secret Garden (known as Huwon and often called Biwon), which we didn't get to fully explore last fall due to heavy rains.  (Colorful lanterns hung all around the city celebrate the birthday!)

We had a little time before our tour, so we walked around a bit and came upon a little park.  Doesn't it look like the kind of place Bob and I would fit right in?  Don't know if there was an expected event, or if this was just the place for us old folks to catch some shade on a lovely spring day.

Changdeok palace is one of five major palaces built by kings during the Joseon Dynasty, and construction on it began in 1405.  Much of it was destroyed during Japanese occupation during 1910-1945, but a lot of it has been restored to it's original beauty.  Korea's last Emperor, Sunjong lived here until his death in 1926.  The location and design of this complex makes it the most beautiful of all the palaces we have seen.  Behind the palace complex (which includes the East Palace or Changgyeonggung - not visited this day) is a huge peaceful garden which only the royal family was able to enter.  Though not a flower garden as we had expected, it is a beautiful retreat from the city.  Unfortunately, it is not open to visitors except as part of a tour.  Here are few photos of the palace and surrounding buildings:

The throne building is protected by guardian figures on the corners of the roof tops.  The more guardians there are, the greater the importance of the building.  Behind the throne is a lovely painted backdrop, which is represented on the 10,000 Korean won bill.  The buildings were built with space for fires to burn underneath for warmth and had chimneys off to the side.  Every detail of the buildings seem to hold some significance.  Spiders represent good luck coming down from heaven.  The Chinese characters in the roofs providing ventilation mean "good health" on the hospital, and "be happy" on another building. 

 And now, enter into the secret garden:

Spring is beautiful in Seoul!


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