Changdeokgung (Changdeok Palace or Palace of Prospering Virtue) is a palace set within a large park in Seoul, South Korea. It is one of the "Five Grand Palaces" built by the kings of the Joseon Dynasty and due to its location east of Gyeongbokgung Palace, Changdeokgung is also referred to as the East Palace.
Changdeokgung was the favored palace of many kings of the Joseon Dynasty and retained many Korean elements dating from the Three Kingdoms of Korea period that were not incorporated in the more formalistic Gyeongbokgung. One such element is that the buildings of Changdeokgung blend with the topography of the site instead of imposing upon nature.
Changdeokgung is one of the finest examples of Confucian royal architecture and landscaping in the world, demonstrated by UNESCO's designation of Changdeokgung as a World Heritage Site as well as the designation of Injeongjeon as a National Treasure. Although Confucianism is considered a philosophy rather than a religion by many scholars, the emphasis upon becoming a divinely perfect gentleman in society is undeniable. Changdeokgung has been designed as the perfect dwelling place for the perfect gentleman and his family, the king, and his court.ChangdeokgungHangul창덕궁Hanja昌德宮Revised RomanizationChangdeokgungMcCune-ReischauerCh'angdŏkkung
Construction of Changdeok Palace began in 1405, and was completed in 1412 with the construction of the main gate Donwhamun during the reign of King Taejong of Joseon. King Sejo of Joseon expanded the palace grounds by about 500,000 square meters, including the Biwon (Secret Garden). The Japanese army burnt the Palace to the ground during the Japanese invasions of Korea (1592-1598) and King Sonjo and King Kwanghaegun reconstructed the Palace in 1609. The next arson occured in 1623 during the Injo Political Revolt against Kwanghaegun. The palace suffered damage throughout its history, but the rebuilders have remained faithful to its original design. Changdeokgung served as the site of the royal court and the seat of government until 1872, when the royal court rebuilt neighboring Gyeongbokgung. Korea's last king, King Sunjong lived here until his death in 1926.
Today thirteen buildings remain on the palace grounds and twenty eight pavilions in the gardens, occupying 110 acres (forty-five hectares). The area is designated Historical Site No. 122. Buildings of note include Donhwa-mun (built in 1412, rebuilt in 1607, with a copper bell weighing nine short tons or eight metric tons), Injeong-jeon (main hall), Seongjeong-jeon (auxiliary office in the main hall), Huijeong-dang (the king's private residence, later used as a conference hall), Daejo-jeon (living quarters), and Nakseon-jae (former residence of Korean imperial family including Princess Bangja). Structures of particular interest include:
- Daejojeon Hall - Official residence of the queen. Destroyed by fire in 1917, rebuilt 1920.
- Donhwamun Gate - The main palace gate. Built 1412, the oldest of the gates still standing.
- Geumcheongyo Bridge - Oldest bridge still extant in Seoul. Built 1411.
- Huijeongdang Hall - Originally royal bedchamber, later also offices. Original building was destroyed in 1917, rebuilt 1920.
- Injeongjeon Hall (National Treasure #225) - Throne hall. Originally built 1405, destroyed in Imjin Wars, restored 1609, destroyed by fire in 1803; the current structure dates from 1804.
- Juhamnu Pavilion - Royal archive and portrait gallery. Built 1776.
- Seonjeongjeon Hall - An office for ruling officials. Originally built 1461, destroyed in Imjin Wars, restored 1647.
- Yeongyeongdang Residence - A house in the style of Confucian literati. Built 1828.
Behind the palace lies the 78-acre (32 ha) Biwon (Secret Garden) 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. The surroundings and the palace itself are well matched. 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 now over 300 years old.
The Ongnyucheon ("Jade Stream") 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 declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. The UNESCO committee inscribing the site stated the palace 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 2000s.
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All links retrieved January 25, 2017.