Friday, October 21, 2011

Obligatory Tourist Spot #5: Gyeongbokgung

Seoul has lots of Joseon era sites to visit (and earlier, too, I guess, but Seoul was the capital of Joseon-era Korea).  One of the bigger and nicer palaces is Gyeongbokgung: literally, "The Palace of Shining Happiness."  Why do Asian names for things sound really, awfully dumb when translated into English?

Most of Gyeongbokgung is a reconstruction, as the Japanese basically razed it not once but twice.  Oh, and the second time, they put a new residence for the Japanese Governor-General on top of the ruins.  Way to go, guys.  Surely that will endear you to your newest colonial conquests...or inspire them to vomit on the steps of your embassy.

I had always meant to visit (it just seemed like one of those things I should do), and my week of funemployment provided me the perfect opportunity to do just that.  I didn't take a tour or anything (read as: I don't know jack about the palace beyond what I just wrote up there), so I'll just picspam a little bit.

Heungnymun, the Second Inner Gate (also pictured above).

Changing of the guard ceremony.  

"Don't eat on the bench or Haechi will swallow your soul!"

Department of Redundant Redundancies: "...longevity symbols...symbolize longevity."  The rest of the English on the signage was impeccable, in terms of both grammar and style, so this stood out.  "Who's buried in Grant's tomb?"

Geunjeongjeon (Imperial Throne Room): originally built in the 1390s, burned down (by the Japanese) in the 1590s, reconstructed in the 1860s and has survived all Japanese invasions since then.

I think this is Gyeonghoeru Pavilion but I can't be sure, everything runs together.   Gyeongheoru Pavilion is where emperors had feasts and banquets and fancy unofficial fun times.

Part of Amiran, the gardens behind the queen's quarters.

The impression I can't really convey here is that Gyeongbokgung is kind of big.  Even with restorations only 40% complete, it's pretty big.  The South Korean government launched a 20-year program to rebuild the entire goddamn thing (which clocks in at 330 buildings and over 400,000 square meters) and if it ever gets done, Gyeongbokgung will be even more impressive.  Of course, The Forbidden City is still bigger (three times as many buildings and just under twice the amount of land), but I don't think China had to rebuild the thing three times.

I'll probably make another trip in the spring to take the English tour and to visit the two museums attached (The National Folk Museum and The National Palace Museum).  Unfortunately, their price isn't included in the general admission (I don't think?), but Gyeongbokgung is such a deal (3000 won) I can splurge without feeling bad.  Museum admission in South Korea tends to be very economical, anyway.

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