Friday, April 24, 2009

Deoksugung Palace(Main Hall)

On Sunday, I went to Deoksugung Palace and although not the most important or lavish of the palaces in Seoul, it has been central to many important events throughout Korea's history.

Deoksugung was originally the home of King Seonjong's elder brother, Prince Wolsan. After the Japanese invasions of 1592 it became a temporary palace when King Seonjo moved here, as all the other palaces had been destroyed by the Japanese forces.

Seonjo was succeeded by Gwanghaegun in 1608 and the palace was renamed as Gyeongungung in 1611. It was used as a royal palace for seven years until 1615, when Gwanghaegun moved the palace to Changdeokgung.

In 1895 Queen Min was assassinated by the Japanese in Gyeongbokgung Palace and feeling threatened, King Gojong took refuge in the Russian Legation. In 1897 King Gojong moved into the palace which was renamed Gyeongungung and expanded. It was also during this time he changed his title from king to that of emperor in a coronation.

Forced to abdicate in 1907 by the Japanese, he was succeeded by his son Sunjong and the palace became known as Deoksugung, which he lived in until he died in 1919.

Sunjong reigned here until 1910 as a puppet emperor with his Japanese wife, when he too was also forced to abdicate, finally bringing an end to the Joseon dynasty that had lasted for more than 600 years.

The palace is extremely beautiful with its gardens and ponds and contains a vast contrast of architectural styles. From the traditional Korean buildings to a Western-style tea pavilion, where King Gojong would drink tea and entertain guests, Deoksugung is a great day out for anyone wanting to find out a little more about Korean history.

Royal Guard Changing Ceremony

I also got to see the Royal Guard Changing Ceremony. Held three times each day on Saturdays and Sundays, it really helps to bring alive the pageantry of the Joseon dynasty that ruled Korea for so long.

You can see all the photos here.