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Seoul Searching | Deoksugung Palace.

As I have failed to witness the Royal Guard Changing Ceremony during my previous trips to South Korea, I made it a priority to visit Deoksugung Palace this time around. My son and I trooped to Deoksugung on our first Saturday here in Seoul (the week before Christmas Eve), and luckily, we were able to catch the 3:30 pm schedule of the ceremony.
We meet again, Deoksugung Palace!
This is Daehanmun Gate, the main gate of the palace.
Held thrice a day everyday (except Mondays when the palace is closed to the public), the Royal Guard Changing Ceremony is a great opportunity to experience a rare traditional scene. The ceremony is quite similar to Buckingham Palace's Changing of the Guards, with the same colorful spectacle and gallant pageantry.
Yue with the guards, prior to the ceremony.
Patiently waiting for the ceremony to start.
The ceremony begins with the entire troop matching towards the gate, together with a musical accompaniment. The guards's splendid costumes, complete with weapons such as swords and bows and arrows, and the use of traditional musical instruments, are a sight to behold.
Marching towards the gate.
Musicians with traditional musical instruments.
The guards, with their weapons.
Everybody in position.
Supervised by a government official, the guards exchange passwords for verification. An eight-minute guard ceremony comes next, followed by a seven-minute change ceremony, and then capped by a closing march or the so-called 'patrol'.
Password verification.
Guard ceremony.
Change ceremony.
Towards the end of the ceremony, the palace staff removed the ropes that cordoned the ceremony area and ushered us spectators towards the guards for photo ops. Yue, who was so impressed by the ceremony, became even more excited when he heard that he can take photos with the royal guards.
This man was very friendly, he called Yue towards him and said 'Here, picture!"
Who's your granddaddy? :)
Everybody with their game faces on.
He was the only guy in the troop who smiled for the camera. :)

I think Yue has found a new profession. Haha!
Yue and the Royal Guards.
The ceremony, which lasts for more or less thirty minutes, is a must-see for tourists. Here's a snippet, just to give you an idea of how awesome this experience was. 

And no, you do not need to buy tickets to watch this performance. You will only need tickets if you wish to enter the palace grounds, which we did. 
Yue in the Palace (again)!
Compared to Gyeongbokgung Palace, Deoksugung Palace has cheaper admission rates - 1000 won for adults and 500 won for kids. Guided tours are also available, with English tours scheduled twice a day.

Inside Deoksugung Palace after the jump!
One of the 'Five Royal Palaces' from the Joseon Dynasty, Deoksugung Palace was originally the residence of Wolsandaegun, older brother of King Seongjong. Deoksugung only became known as a palace after King Seonjo (he was portrayed by Lee Sung Jae in the 2014 sageuk 'The King's Face') returned to Seoul and discovered that he had no place to stay as most of the palaces had been destroyed by the war. At that time, this palace was known as 'Gyeongungung'.
The entrance leading to Hamnyeongjeon Hall.
Changes were made to the palace during the reign of King Gojong, the second to the last king of Korea. He made expansions to the compound and renamed it 'Deoksugung Palace' which means 'palace of virtuous longevity'.
Hamnyeongjeon Hall.
Up close.
King Gojong was so attached to this palace so much, that he remained here even after abdicating the throne to his son Sunjong. Hamnyeongjeon Hall served as King Gojong's residence and office; the same place where he was said to have been killed by poison in January 1919.
Deokhongjeon Hall.
The adjacent Deokhongjeon Hall served as a reception hall for foreign diplomats. This hall was built on the former site of the Gyeonghyojeon Hall, where the spirit tablet of Empress Myeongsung, King Gojong's wife, was enshrined.
Junghwamun Gate.
Junghwamun Gate, one of the last structures built during the Joseon dynasty, is the palace's inner gate and serves as the entrance to Junghwajeon, the throne hall.
Junghwajeon Hall.
Previously, Jeukjodang Hall served as the palace's main throne hall. Here, King Gwanghaegun and King Injo were crowned as kings in 1608 and 1623, respectively. The name Jeukjodang literally means 'house where kings ascended to the throne'.
Jeukjodang Hall.
Connected to this hall by a narrow corridor is the Junmyeondang Hall, where King Gojong handled palace and state affairs during his reign.
Junmyeondang Hall.
Located nearby is the Seogeodang Hall, a plain two-story wooden house which served as King Seonjo's residence. Among the structures in Deoksugung, this hall is devoid of color and decoration, which is similar to houses during that period.
Seogeodang Hall.
Located on the hill of the rear garden is the Jeonggwanheon Pavilion, a banquet hall for foreign envoys who visited the palace. The word Jeonggwan, from which the name of the pavilion was derived, refers to 'quiet meditation'. This structure was designed by a Russian architect named Seredin-Sabatin.
Jeonggwanheon Pavilion.
Among the structures inside Deoksugung Palace, Seokjojeon Hall is the one that really caught my attention - mostly because it gives White House vibes. Completed in 1910, this Western-style stone building is a stark contrast to Seogeodang Hall. It is now known as the Daehan Empire History Museum, following a five-year-long restoration.
Seokjojeon Hall.
At the far end of the palace lies Gwangmyeongmun Gate, which initially was the front gate of Hamnyeongjeon Hall. The gate is now used as an exhibition space for the Bronze Bell from 1462, the prototype of all the Joseon Dynasty bells as ordered by King Taejo, founder of the Joseon dynasty.
Gwangmyeongmun Gate.
To get to Deoksugung Palace, take the subway to City Hall Station, Exit 2.

Deoksugung Palace
99 Sejong-daero, Jung-gu, Seoul

6 replies:

Unknown said...

What a fun and exciting experiences. Your son looks really having fun.

Unknown said...

Looks like an amazing place. I can see the highlights of different culture and traditions. Nice pictures!

Xon said...

That's a really nice experience, especially for kids! It's very rare that they get to experience something like this. What an awesome place to take the family to!

Debra Schroeder said...

Deoksugung Palace looks fascinating. I love learning about the history of places when I visit. I haven't been to Korea yet but hopefully soon.

Liz Mays said...

What an experience to see the guard changing ceremony. The visuals alone are magnificent!

Wren LaPorte said...

That looks like a once in a lifetime opportunity! Seems like such an amazing experience that your son will cherish forever!