The Northern Palace: Gyeongbokgung

So this is my adventure from Saturday. I went to another one of the Grand Palaces, leaving only 3 remaining. I actually had no real plans for Saturday, so I just lazily got out of bed and went to Bupyeong to eat in Lotte Mart again. I had a kebab this time. Curiously, there seems to be a decent middle eastern community here. Or at least, there’s enough of them to have a community. I’ve met a few guys from India or Pakistan who run restaurants, and those restaurants usually seem to have a few middle eastern guys in them. Anyway, this kebab was great and it was a nice change of pace from what I usually eat.

So after lunch, it was off to the palace. Last time, I thought I’d see more than one palace, but I had underestimated the size of Changdeokgung. So I left earlier, confident that I’d be able to see two palaces this time.

I had underestimated the size of Gyeongbokgung.

It is magnificent. It is so large, there’s a park, a museum, a small replica town from the 70’s, and a small field of statues within it’s walls. I’m now unsure of UNESCO’s judgement. Gyeongbokgung is much larger, much more beautiful, and much more impressive than Changdeokgung. I think that if I had visited this palace first, and then went to the other palace, I would have been somewhat disappointed that it was the one that carries the World Heritage title. I’m glad I’ve seen both of these palaces, and I plan to see the other three, but there is a huge gap between the two I’ve seen.

Unfortunately, the National Grand Palace Museum is closed until August, but the Korean Folk Museum located inside the palace was still open. I’ll have to visit the other museum in the fall. Anyway, when I arrived, I found the subway station I went to led right up the the palace. As soon as I entered, there was a large parade of people in historical costume carrying weapons. It was some kind of parade-like-thing that apparently occured every hour. I thought I’d catch it on my way out, but again, I underestimated the size of the palace. I spent around 4 hours wandering the palace, folk museum, and the replica 70’s town. There were more people here than at Changdeokgung, but less foreigners it seemed. Maybe tourists are drawn to the UNESCO title as well. Either way, I ended up blistering my feet and I was there until almost closing time and I still didn’t see the whole palace.

One of the many gates of the palace

I’m really not entirely sure what to say on posts like this. I don’t really want to drone on with a history lesson and I feel like I don’t have a vast knowledge of architecture that causes my building commentary to be worthwhile. I think a photo gallery will do this more justice, and I’ll have to look into a solution for that in the coming days.

The Museum was nice, especially since entrance was free, and it had a minor history starting with prehistoric Koreans leading all the way up to modern Korea, with a bulk of the artifacts and information set in the Joseon era. There were several interesting Korean customs that I knew nothing about, such as noble families putting a child’s placenta into a jar because it was considered to contain important life force. It was then later used in some kind of divination ritual, which I plan on reading more about. Additionally, after a parent’s death, the child is expected to mourn and wear special mourning attire for three years afterwards and they are “forbidden for merriment” during this time. Naturally, this kind of stuff is from a few hundred years ago, so isn’t currently relevant, but it is still interesting history.

As for the 70’s village outside of the folk museum, it was pretty interesting. I’m curious how much of the items there are recreations and how many are originals. I know the palace itself has been restored since it was damaged heavily by the Japanese during the occupation, and supposedly the current palace is only 40% of the original, which is pretty shocking. Supposedly, over the next 20 years, the palace will be restored fully (granted, wikipedia told me that, so…you know) which is pretty exciting to me. I’m not sure where I’ll be 20 years from now, but if I’m not here, I’d like to make a trip to see the palace restored to full form.

I was fairly excited by these movie posters in the 70's style town

I had further adventures on Sunday that are a bit too much for this post. I’ll be talking about them next time. Look forward to it coming soon!

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~ by James on April 10, 2012.

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