Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Gyeongbokgung Courtyard & Throne Room

Gyeongbokgung, the largest of the Five Palaces in Seoul built in the Joseon Dynasty, followed my ventures into Changdeokgung, Changyeonggung and Jongmyo. Having already seen two palaces, I was expecting something more along the same lines but was rather surprised by the augustness and grandeur given off by Gyeongbokgung in comparison to the former palaces. The outer courtyard of the palace was really quite huge and the majestic Gwanghwamun Gate was enough to give a good foretaste of the wonder to be seen inside.

Scultptures of haechi, the legendary creature that are used to protect the city, are seen in a number of places such as these steps, and along the moat on the right to 'protect' against invaders

Through this gate, we can see the main throne hall in the background.

The grand Geunjeongjeon throne hall seen below, was where the king held audiences and was the site of important ceremonies and declarations. Originally constructed in 1395 during the reign of King Taejo, the building was burned down when Japan invaded Korea in 1592. Numerous sculptures of real and imaginary animals can be seen lining the outside.  In the courtyard, stone tablets known as pumgyeseoks indicate where court officials of varying rank should stand.

Not sure I could really identify this one.  It looked partly like a horse but reminded me a bit of a platypus...

Again, I'm not sure whether this was a phoenix or an eagle...

A glimpse inside the throne hall itself with the throne in view. Has anyone ever noticed that Western palaces are almost always made up of one main buildings with few other buildings/wings whereas Eastern palaces are often huge compounds containing numerous individual buildings/halls for separate uses?  While some of the buildings may be connected with each other via covered walkways, most rooms are almost directly accessible from the outside here.

This throne room is a perfect example where the throne room directly opens up into a huge courtyard as opposed to the throne rooms in Europe which are typically connected to other salons and waiting rooms such as those in Versailles or the Hofburg.

The ceiling, pillars and lanterns were also quite fascinating in terms of their construction and decoration with the use of vivid colours throughout. The red color was really rather striking in appearance especially as its seen as an auspicious color.

The next part of my tour took me over to two gorgeous pavilions within the palace compound.

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