Changdeokgung also known as Changdeokgung Palace
or Changdeok Palace — is set within a large park in Jongno
, South Korea
. It is one of the "Five Grand Palaces" built by the kings of the Joseon Dynasty (1392–1897). As it is located east of Gyeongbok Palace, Changdeokgung — along with Changgyeonggung
— is also referred to as the "East Palace".
Changdeokgung was the most favored palace of many Joseon princes and retained many elements dating from the Three Kingdoms of Korea period that were not incorporated in the more contemporary Gyeongbokgung. One such element is the fact that the buildings of Changdeokgung blend with the natural topography of the site instead of imposing themselves upon it. It, like the other Five Grand Palaces in Seoul, was heavily damaged during the Japanese occupation of Korea (1910-1945). Currently, only about 30% of the pre-Japanese structures survive.
The palace was built between Peak Maebong of Mt. Bugaksan in the back and Rivulte Geumcheon
having flowing in the front influenced by the principle "baesanimsu" (배산임수) in Feng Shui theory. Contrary to Gyeongbokgung whose main buildings are arranged in accurate architectural principle, however, buildings in Changdeokgung are disposed more freely without a regular system. Though its structure seems chaotic at a glance, all buildings are in harmony with the environment surrounding them.
Changdeokgung consists of governmental area centering on Injeongjeon and Seonjeongjeon, royal private area , 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 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 architectural style of Changdeokgung overall features simplicity and frugality because of Confucian ideology.
Structures of particular interest include:
Donhwamun Gate - The main palace gate. Built in 1412, Donhwamun has a two-story pavilion-type wooden structure, and is the largest of all palace gates. Donhwamun was burned down during the Japanese invasion of 1592 and was restored in 1608.
Geumcheongyo Bridge - Oldest bridge still extant in Seoul. Built 1411.
Injeongjeon Hall (National Treasure) - the throne hall of Changdeokgung, it was used for major state affairs including the coronation of a new king and receiving foreign envoys. Originally built in 1405, it was rebuilt in 1610 after being burned down during the 1592 Japanese invasion, and a third time in 1804 after being destroyed by a fire.
Seonjeongjeon Hall - An office for ruling officials, the king held daily meetings with ministers, reported on state affairs and seminars here.
Huijeongdang Hall - Originally the king's bed chamber, it became his workplace after Seonjeongjeon was deemed too small for conducting routine state affairs. The original Huijeongdang was destroyed by a fire in 1917. The reconstructed structure is completely different from the original due to recent Western influences. Wooden floorboards and carpets, glass windows, and chandeliers can be seen inside the building.
Daejojeon Hall - Official residence of the queen. Destroyed by fire in 1917, it was rebuilt with materials taken from Gyeongbokgung. Daejojeon was used as a residence for the last empress of Joseon, allowing us a glimpse into the final years of the royal household of the Joseon Dynasty.
Juhamnu Pavilion (Kyujanggak
) - Royal libraries stood in this area. State exams were conducted in front of the pavilion on special occasions in presence of the king.
Yeon-gyeongdang Residence - Built in 1827, it was an audience hall modeled after a typical literati house.
Huwon (Rear Garden) - Behind the palace lies the 78-acre (32 ha) Huwon which was originally constructed for the use of the royal family and palace women. The garden incorporates a lotus pond, pavilions, and landscaped lawns, trees, and flowers. There are over 26,000 specimens of a hundred different species of trees in the garden and some of the trees behind the palace are over 300 years old. The garden for the private use of the king had been called 'Geumwon' because even high officials were not allowed to enter without the king's permission. It had also been called 'Naewon'. Today Koreans often call it 'Biwon' which derived from the office of same name in the late 19th century. Though the garden had many other names, the one most frequently used through Joseon dynasty period was 'Huwon'.
In September 2012, the Buyongjeong pavilion in the garden was re-open after a year long restoration project. The pavilion was restored based on the Donggwoldo from 1820, National Treasures of South Korea No. 249.
A variety of ceremonies host by the king were held in Huwon. In early period of Joseon dynasty, military inspections participated with king himself had been practiced many times. King Sejo had troops parade and array before him or commanded them by himself in the garden. In addition, giving feasts, playing archery games, or enjoy fireworks in Huwon.
The Ongnyucheon area is of particular interest. It contains a U-shaped water channel carved in 1636 for floating wine cups, with a small waterfall and an inscribed poem on the boulder above it. The area also contains five small pavilions.
Changdeokgung was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1997. The UNESCO committee inscribing the site stated the place was an "outstanding example of Far Eastern palace architecture and garden design" being exceptional because the buildings are "integrated into and harmonized with the natural setting" and adapted "to the topography and retaining indigenous tree cover."
Portions of the palace were used to film the hugely popular Korean drama Dae Jang Geum in the first decade of the 21st century.