Gyeongbokgung / Kyongbokkung Palace (Heavenly Blessed Palace) in Seoul, South Korea, is among the Five Grand Palaces that was built during the Joseon Dynasty. It is also the dynasty's largest palace, and probably the most beautiful. It is massive and awe-inspiring – with its 330 buildings and over 5,000 rooms. Yes, the Royal family estate is a majestic symbol of power and wealth – it has over 400,000 square meters! It is a treasure trove of architectural structures, gardens, sculpture art and so much more. At present, you can also visit the National Folk Museum of Korea, which is also situated in the compound.
The palace was devastated during the Japanese invasion. Only 10 of the original buildings survived. However, major parts have since been restored.
Here is a lowdown of the major buildings of the Gyeongbokgung Palace:
The Geonchunmun is the east gate of the palace. According to traditional beliefs, the east is related to spring, that is why the name Geonchunmun literally means 'promoting spring'. The gate has an arch with a tower. You can climb up the tower using a set of very steep stairs. This was where the sentries stood guard. Look up to see the painting of a dragon on the ceiling.
The main hall, Geunjeongjeon, is the place for royal and state functions. The throne stands towards the back of the room and has a wooden canopy above it. The ceilings are adorned with a painting that makes use of the traditional Dancheong colors. The painting features two dragons fighting over a ball. The hall has stone foundations and railings. Other fascinating details include the inscription of a phoenix and a Haetae (a mythical creature).
There is another gate at the center, the Geunjeongmun, which is the only remaining structure of the set. This is a two-story gate. Meanwhile, another hall, the Sajeongjeon hall, served as the site where the king conducted his daily business. The hall stands on a granite base. It also sports two-tiered eaves, gabled roofs and multi-clustered brackets. To the west of this hall is the Manchunjeon Hall, which is really a restored version as the original was destroyed during the Korean War. Another hall, also to the Sajeongjeon's west is the Cheonchujeon. This was where King Sejong initiated his cultural projects.
Meanwhile, the queen lived at the Jagyeonjeon, which also includes the Amisan, which is a garden that is a favorite among those who visit the palace. It is a lovely haven with its bridges, chimneys, and solar clock stands. The chimneys have intriguing images. Dragons, the sun, cloud and animals are some of the drawings that are featured in the chimneys.
Speaking of gardens, you can also find the Gyeonghoeru in the gardens of the palace. Its name means Pavilion of Joyous Meeting and it has the distinction of being the largest pavilion in Korea. The Gyeonghoeru is where most royal affairs such as banquets and celebrations are held. Also in the garden, you can find stone structures in the form of dragons and other animals.
Visit the Gyeongbokgung. It has a wealth of National Treasures. Indeed, be prepared for a historical treat!