Palaces in Korea Part 4 – Changdeokgung (창덕궁)

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I am so sorry this post the longest time ever to come. Was too lazy to even do anything on weekends, just wanted to sleep through everything. But now I’m back!

Changdeokgung – Second largest among the 5 Palaces in Seoul, is stunning! I love this palace so so much! If you happen to be there on a weekday morning, you will enjoy the peacefulness in the palace like I did. This was also named as a UNESCO World Heritage in 1997. Lots of tourists who visits Seoul would visit Gyeongbokgung but forgot all about Changdeokgung. This palace should be in your itinerary and not to be missed!

Construction of Changdeok Palace began in 1405, and was completed in 1412. King Seonjo expanded the palace grounds by about 500,000 square meters, including Huwon. Was supposed to be named as Gyeongbokgung but King Taejong had it named as Changdeokgung after the killings done for fighting over a throne. This palace once served as the main palace until Gyeongbokgung was rebuilt.

The main palace gate, Donhwamun (as seen above) is the largest of the palace gates. You can get tickets to the palace outside the gate, and if you are lucky, you can also get the ticket to Huwon (Secret Garden) there too.

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The palace grounds are comprised of a public palace area, a royal family residence building, and the Huwon. Known as a place of rest for the kings, the Huwon boasts a gigantic tree that is over 300 years old, a small pond, and a pavilion. Changdeokgung consists of governmental area (치조, 治朝, chijo) centering on Injeongjeon and Seonjeongjeon, royal private area (침전, 寢殿, chimjeon, meaning ‘a house of king’s bedroom’), Nakseonjae area in the east, and Huwon beyond the north hills.

Most of major official buildings such as Injeongjeon, main hall of Changdeokgung, Seonjeongjeon, king’s office, and many of government offices (궐내각사, 闕內各司, gwollaegaksa) are placed in the front parts of the palace, beyond which there are royal private court for king and queen. King’s houses like Seonjeongjeon, Huijeongdang, and Nakseonjae are surrounded in many folds of buildings and courts in case any outsider break through.

The palace compound opened to the general tickets takes about 30% of the grounds, and the Huwon takes about 70%. So if you missed out Huwon, which is highly recommended, you actually miss out quite a bit! 

Those who are interested in heading to Huwon, I suggest that you book a slot (no payment required) before heading down on the actual day. Only those who are booked on tours can enter into the Huwon. Fret not, they have Korean, Japanese, English, Chinese tours at different time of the day. You simply have to head to their website and you will be able to book a slot. Bookings can be made 2 weeks before and you will need to be there 15mins before the tour start so that your slot will not be given up.

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I missed the chance to do the Huwon during my last trip there because the tour was fully booked. So pictures are from my very first trip into the palace, with a lousy camera. One of the more prominent buildings would be the pavilion (which was on restoration when I was there) and the Royal Library. The Royal Library (as pictured above) also holds state examinations in the past.

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The walk in Huwon is long, with occasional steep slopes and hikes needed. I couldn’t help but notice the super fit elderlies on my tour at that time. My friends and I were struggling up a slope and they were probably 70ish and overtaking us. .____. Now we really need to train up a little.

I’m so sorry I couldn’t really remember what I saw and heard from the guide, but one thing for sure, Huwon is worth the time!

History cited from wiki and KTO website.

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