Spring in Seoul, South Korea: Exploring Changgyeonggung Palace

As promised, here’s my entry on Changgyeonggung Palace, the last on my itinerary before going to Myeongdong and Namdaemun Market (for my last minute shopping) during my last day in South Korea. To go here, take Seoul Subway Line 4 to Hyehwa Station and go out from Exit 3. Go straight for about 20 meters and then turn left at Seoul Jongno Pharmacy, go straight for about 180 meters and then turn left at Jeongmin Onnuri Pharmacy, go straight for about 200 meter and then turn left, go straight for about 60 meters and then cross the road to arrive at main gate of the palace. Admission fee is 1,000 KRW and it’s open from 9:00 AM to 5:30 PM (even later for some months). It is closed on Mondays.

Coming from Changdeokgung’s Secret Garden, I entered Changgyeonggung Palace from it’s rear entrance, which starts at the palace’s Jagyeongjeon Site. But I’ll be sharing to you the palace’s features starting from it’s main gate so it won’t be confusing.

Changgyeonggung Palace was originally built as Suganggung Palace by King Sejong (4th king of Joseon Dynasty) for his father, Taejong. In 1483 it was renovated and enlarged by King Seongjong (9th king of Joseon Dynasty) at which time it received its current name.

Coming from the direction I gave on how to get to the palace, the first thing that will greet you is the Honghwamun. the main gate of the palace, was built in 1484 during the reign of King Seongjong. The it’s a two-tiered wooden gate, four columns wide and two columns deep, and with a roof the shaped like a trapezoid. It was here were the king received ordinary people and citizens. Honghwamun was designated as South Korea’s National Treasure No. 384.
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As visitors pass through the Honghwamun, Okcheongyo Bridge comes into view. The bridge, which is over 500 years old, is a symbol of entry into the courtyard. The stream which flows below the bridge is known as Geumcheon Stream. Okcheongyo is the most striking bridge of bridges in Korean palaces, it is the only bridge that is designated as a National Treasure of South Korea (National Treasure No. 386).
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Myeongjeongmun, is the entrance of Myeongjeongjeon (Changgyeonggung Palace’s Main Hall), enclosing the courtyard of the main hall. The area surrounding the gate, known as haenggak (roofed wall), was used during funeral preparations by royal guards.

Myeongjeongjeon (The Main Hall) is the throne hall of the palace, where state affairs were held, such as meetings with officials and the reception of foreign envoys. In particular, Myeongjeongjeon represents an outstanding example of seventeenth century Joseon architectural style and is the oldest main hall of any palace. The modest one story structure is built upon a two tiered woldae (elevated stone yard).
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Originally constructed in 1484, the hall was burned down during the Japanese invasion of 1592 and rebuilt in 1616. Myeongjeongjeon is the oldest main hall of all the palaces in Seoul. It is smaller than the two-story main halls of Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung because it was originally built as living quarters, especially for dowager queens, rather than as a throne hall.
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Although it is a simple, one-story structure, Myeongjeongjeon was built on an elevated stone yard that imbued it with the dignity of a main hall. Myeongjeongjeon is designated as South Korea’s National Treasure No. 226.
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Munjeongjeon (Council Hall) which sits right beside Myeongjeongjeon is the council hall where the king dealt with routine state affairs. Unlike the throne hall, which faces east, this building faces south. Such a palace layout with a secondary structure facing a different direction than a throne hall is highly unusual in Korea. Munjeongjeon was also used to enshrine royal tablets after funerals.
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On May 13, 1762, the courtyard in front of Munjeongjeon (behind those bricks) witnessed one of the most tragic incident in Korea’s royal family history. It had been reported to King Yeongjo (21st king of Joseon Dynasty) that Crown Prince Sado was mentally ill and behaving erratically. Furious with the prince, his father ordered him to be sealed alive in a large rice chest, where he died eight days later at the age of 28. King Yeongjo later became remorseful and gave his son the posthumous title ‘Sado’ (thinking in sorrow).

Sungmundang Hall was used for banquets and conferences. It was here where the king would discuss state affairs with officials and literature with scholars. It is believed to have been built in 1483 when Changgyeonggung was first built. Burned down in 1830, it was rebuilt in autumn of the same year. Its foundation was designed to make the hall appear elevated on sloped ground; the base stones for the front columns were made high, while those in the rear were made low. The inside of Sungmundang consists of the central wooden floor and two rooms, on either side. King Yeongjo, who was a great promoter of scholarship and learning, used to receive and test university students here, and often held celebrations here in their honor.

Haminjeong Pavilion was where banquets were held and where the king received high performing civil and military officials at the palace. The name means “the whole world is soaked with the benevolence and virtue of the king.” Today, the building is open on all four sides. In a painting known as “Painting of the Eastern Palace”, the pavilion is depicted with walls on three sides. The courtyard in front of the pavilion looks exactly how it was depicted in the said painting.
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Hwangyeongjeon Hall was the sleeping residence for kings, princes, and their wives. Dae Janggeum, a female physician, attended to King Jungjong (11th king of Joseon Dynasty) at this location. She was the only Joseon Dynasty female physician to attend to a king. She also delivered the baby of Queen Janggyeong, the second wife of Jungjong in 1515. In 1522, she gained the trust of the king by treating the illness of the queen dowager. After this, she became the head royal physician which was unheard of at the time. She attended to King Jungjong until he died at this location in 1544, after 39 years of rule.
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Gyeongchunjeon Hall was the sleeping residence of the wife of the deceased king. It was also here where multiple Joseon kings were born. The building was originally built in 1483 during the reign of King Seongjong.
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Yeongchunheon and Jipbokheon. Jipbokheon was the residence of the concubines, it’s where Crown Prince Sado and King Seonjo (14th king of Joseon Dynasty) were born. While King Jeongjo (22nd king of Joseon Dynasty) used Yeongchunheon as a library and, it’s the place where he died.
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Tongmyeongjeon Hall served as the residential quarters for the king and queen. Surrounding the hall is a woldae (elevated stone terrace). This feature is similar to those of important buildings such as Jeongjeon and Yeongnyeongjeon at Jongmyo Shrine. It’s roof has no ridge on top and has simple, graceful double-wing brackets atop columns. Latticed doors are installed all around the building and latticed windows are above them. It has a front and rear veranda. And except for the north-western section, the inside wooden floor is laid out in a large lattice pattern.

Yanghwadang Hall was the residential quarters of the dowager queen or widow of the king. During the second Manchu invasion of Korea, King Injo (16th king of Joseon Dynasty) took refuge here. The invasion occurred in 1636 when the Qing Empire of China invaded the Joseon Dynasty.
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The Jagyeongjeon Site, was the location of the residence of the queen mother. It was in built in 1777 by King Jeongjo for his mother, Queen Heongyeong. It is situated at a spot above Changgyeonggung Palace. The hall and its terraced rear garden offered a beautiful view of the surrounding area. In the late 19th century, buildings in the area were removed.
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Tip no.1, at one end of Jagyeongjeon Site there’s an exit which leads to the entrance of Changdeokgung Palace’s Secret Garden. You can arrange your itinerary such that you’ll finish your visit to Changgyeonggung Palace just in time before the guided tour schedule of Secret Garden starts.

After exploring Changgyeonggung Palace, I went to Myeongdong and Namdaemun Market for last minute pasalubong (treats and gifts you bring home for family and friends) shopping. I didn’t bother to take any photos while I was there since I was on the run. It’s not my first time to visit Myeondong as I already shared to you my experience of it on a previous post. But for Namdaemun Market, it was my first. Namdaemun Market is the largest traditional market in Korea with various goods in store (from local products, daily living essentials, to food and clothing). All products are sold at affordable prices and most of the stores in this area also function as a wholesale markets but sale on retails as well. It sprawls over 24 blocks, with each block featuring different specialized shopping zone. To go here, take Seoul Subway LIne 4 to Hoehyeon Station and go out from Exit 5.

And that concludes my 10 days of adventure around South Korea. Hope you were able to learn from my experience and gather some tips which you can use on your own visit.


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