We toured the gardens, losing both our tour group and sense of direction.
What we knew about it.
Nothing, as usual. I still have trouble getting all these Changbok- and Changyeon- and Changdeok- places straight. That I still don’t have it together was again brought to my attention when I went looking for a cover image for this entry and couldn’t find anything notable. Google searches for stock photos for Changdeokgung showed something completely different than what we saw. So I’m guessing we only saw the gardens and missed Injeongjeon, the main hall!
The rear garden of Changdeokgung Palace has had many name changes over the centuries. Initially called Geumwon, or “Forbidden Garden,” nobody but the king himself was allowed entry (excepting the king’s permission). It had also been called Naewon (“Inner Garden”), and throughout the Joseon Dynasty it was referred to as Huwon. Since the 19th century, Koreans have been calling it Biwon, so named after a government office of the same name.
What we saw.
Changdeokgung’s garden is the most colorful place I personally have ever seen. We visited in November, and much of the foliage had changed color in preparation for winter. The canopy around us was a sea of red, orange and yellow, and nestled amongst it were the traditional Korean pavilions with their own primary color scheme. So much of the trip through the garden was absolutely surreal.
Coming up the hill (as seen in the first picture above), the first exhibit we saw was the Juhamnu (Juhapru) Pavilion. This two-storied pavilion was used as a library by the king.
The small pavilion that straddles the lake is known as Buyongjeong; King Jeongjo and his entourage were known to enjoy fishing from the balcony.
Unfortunately one of the buildings that comprise the complex was under renovation while we were there.
Like everything else in Korea, the Japanese had destroyed much of the complex during the 16th century.
To the right of Juhamnu was, another pavilion that nobody who visits ever seems to know the name of or make reference to. The tour guide explained that historic usage of this pavilion was restricted to the king exclusively.
While there were no longer any exclusivity rights over this pavilion and we were free to enter it, visitors’ shoes must be removed first. The rest of the group did not seem much interested in this pavilion; probably because it was extremely cold and nobody wanted to remove their shoes. This left the claim to the throne ripe for the taking.
Leaving Juhamnu, we came across a small square pond with another pavilion. This one is Aeryeonjeong Pavilion; built in 1692 during King Sukjeon’s reign, it was originally located on an island in the center of the pond but was later moved to the side.
Then there is Bulromun Gate. This gate is made out of a single slab of rock. Anybody who touches or passes under it is said to be blessed with longevity and good health. We’re not ones to pass up free blessings.
Next up was the two-story hexagonal pavilion Jondeokjeong. It was more of the same, honestly.
Then came Ongnyucheon (stream), a small stream that runs through the garden. In old times the king(s) liked to do their drinking by the stream. Apparently the king(s) enjoyed having their drinks literally floated to them upon the water. I’m not sure about the mechanics of that but such is the story. As I understand it, the word Okryucheon was inscribed in the rock by King Injo.
Changdeokgung is sometimes referred to as a “museum of ancient roofs.” I spent quite a bit of time admiring as much.
From there, we walked through a housing area.
After that, we somehow managed to completely lose our tour group. We ended up alone with some Frenchmen from our group who were taking pictures of everything conceivable. We all meandered our way back to the entrance, missing Uidohap Pavilion and Yeongyeongdang Residence in the process. Oh well.
Free of the guided tour, we allowed ourselves some time to grab a few more pictures on the way out.
We were tempted to try whatever the hell this is but thus far we didn’t appreciate the unseen surprises we kept finding in Korean implementations of foreign foods, so we refrained. We probably went back to McDonald’s.