Gyeongbokgung Palace

Gyongbokgung Palace (translated to The Palace Greatly Blessed by Heaven) is a major landmark in terms of Korean history.  It served as the center of culture the king’s affairs for more than 500 years.  The palace was built in the late 14th century.

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On a Saturday, we decided to be tourists for a bit and ventured out to see the palace.  The palace grounds covered a very large area, and it made for a stark contrast against the background of downtown Seoul, where the forests and traditional Korean architecture have given way to sprawling office parks and busy roads.

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The palace now serves only as a source of national pride (which Korea is not lacking in, with their hundreds of officially designated national treasures) and a reminder of an older brand of Korean culture, so people come and go to see the sights and admire the beautiful palace.

Like so much traditional Korean architecture, the woodwork, painting, and attention to detail are unparalleled and definitely worth admiring.

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Like so many of Korea’s favorite things, the palace was burned down by the Japanese (twice, in fact – once at the end of the 16th century and again in the early 20th century).  As the major symbol of Korean power and sovereignty, this was an obvious target, but you would be surprised at the number of temples that were burned as well.  This and the rumor that Japan is interested in stealing back what is presently the Korean island Dokdo make for some pretty strong resentment from Koreans toward the Japanese.

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However, as with basically all of their national treasures, Koreans salvaged what they could and rebuilt the rest as well as they could, serving as a monument to their country’s history.

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In addition to the incredibly beautiful main hall (pictured below), there were several surrounding buildings.  These served purposes from housing the king’s concubines to housing elderly parents to the king’s sleeping quarters (quite modest for a king) to my favorite, his pondering room, which was aptly translated from Sajeongjeon to “the room where the king should think deeply before deciding what is right and what is wrong.”  I bet those rooms have seen some great pondering sessions.

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Even though it was freezing, we had a great time wandering around and exploring all the beautiful details of the palace.

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A couple of palace handstands ^^

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