Ibike Korea People-to-People Program



Photo essay: Changdeokgung & the Secret Garden Walking Tour



  Donhwamun, Changdeokgung Changdeokgung & the Secret Garden were the 2nd palace for a long period.  After the destruction of the Imjin Invasion (1592-98), Changdeokgung was the first palace to be rebuilt and was used as the main palace for almost three hundred years, until until 1865, in the late Joseon Dynasty.

Donhwanmun (gate), is the oldest palace gate among those remaining in Korea. "Donhwa" means to "teach and influence the people."

  Geumcheongyo and Jinseonmun, Changdeokgung

Changdeokgung PalaceGeumcheongyo (bridge) (left, forground) built 1411, is the oldest existing stone bridge in Seoul.  Crossing a stream when you enter a palace is based on the geomantic belief of pungsu that flowing water will secure auspiciousness and prevent harm.

Beyond the bridge is Jinseonmun (gate).  There are three lanes crossing the bridge and passing through the gate; the right path is for civil administration, the center walkway is for the King, left path is for military

  Injeongjeonmun, Changdeokgung Palace Imjeongjeon (hall), Changdeokgung PalaceInjeongjeonmun (gate) leads to Injeongjeon . Both date back to 1405.  Injeongjeon is considered the greatest building in the palace.  It was used for official ceremonies, such as celebrations by royal subjects and receptions for foreign envoys.
  Changdeokgung Palace Nakseonjae, Changdeokgung Palace Nakseonjae, Changdeokgung Palace Nakseonjae, Changdeokgung Palace Nakseonjae, Changdeokgung Palace
  Nakseonjae, Changdeokgung Palace Changdeokgung Palace Nakseonjae living quarters, Changdeokgung PalaceChangdeokgung has many of the elements of Gyeongbokgung, the big palace, but on a more intimate scale and a much larger garden / forest. With its large variety of shapes, textures, colors, lines, angles, design and natural settings, it is one of the most photogenic palaces in Seoul.

Most of this group of photos are from around the various living quarters.

  Nakseonjae, Changdeokgung Palace Chimney for ondol heating system, Changdeokgung Palace Throne, Changdeokgung Palace Chimney for ondol heating system, Changdeokgung Palace
  Chinese Juniper, Changdeokgung Palace Seonwonjeon Shrine, Changdeokgung PalaceThis Chinese Juniper (left) probably started life around the year 1250. It is estimated to be about 750 years old.  The Chinese Juniper has a strong fragrance and was often used during ancestral rites for incense because of their aroma. The incense made from this tree was commonly used during these rituals by worshipers who visited the adjacent Seonwonjeon Shrine (right).


Huwon, Secret Garden, Changdeokgung

Huwon, the Secret Garden

Secret garden has undergone a series of name changes over its history. Because it was an extremely private space for the king it has been called ‘Geumwon’ (Forbidden garden) because even high officials could not dare to come in without king’s permission. Another name of the garden used to be ‘Naewon’ (Inner garden). Today Koreans often call it ‘Biwon’ (Secret garden) which derived from the office of same name in the late 19th century . Thhe name most frequently used through Joseon dynasty period was ‘Huwon’.  It is a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site.

  Buyongjeon, Huwon, Secret Garden, Changdeokgung

Huwon, Secret Garden, Changdeokgung

Huwon, Secret Garden, Changdeokgung

Huwon, Secret Garden, ChangdeokgungThe northern 60 percent of Changdeokgung Palace is Huwon, the Secret Garden.  Until the new millennium it was mostly closed to the public.  The public is now allowed to tour the Secret Garden on escorted tours up to 100 people.

Presumably this is done to minimize the human impact on the garden, but in a group of 100 technology equipped people you loose the calm, tranquility and nature of the experience.  Going through the garden the people had a tendency to clamber around points of interest so it was contemplate a landscape without a couple dozen people scattering energy in it.  All of the photos here are essentially a fraud because the palace was packed and the tour was full so I had to work hard to see the palace and garden from the people.

Huwon, Secret Garden, ChangdeokgungHuwon was exclusively for the leisure of members of the royal family. The garden was first constructed during the reign of King Taejong, who ruled from 1400 to 1418. Its location allowed access from either Changdeokgung Palace or the adjacent Changgyeonggung Palace. It was here where royalty rested, contemplated life, wrote poems, and held banquets.

  Ongnyucheon, Huwon, Secret Garden, Changdeokgung Ongnyucheon, Huwon, Secret Garden, ChangdeokgungGenerally the design of the garden flows naturally with the surrounding nature. The exquisite design is adapted to the topography, geography, and ridges of Mt. Bugaksan. Artificial landscaping is minimal and left untouched to human hands as much as possible.
  Buyongji Pond, Huwon, Secret Garden, Changdeokgung Eosumun and Juhamnu, Huwon, Secret Garden, Changdeokgung Buyongji and Juhamnu, Huwon, Secret Garden, ChangdeokgungBuyongji (pond) is created to mimic earth, the square pond, and the universe, the round island. The building on the hill was used to store the royal archives.

Above Buyongji is Juhamnu (hall) and Eosumun (gate), built in 1776.  The two-story pavilion served as a library and royal archive, Gyujanggak, (first floor) and reading room second floor) during the reign of King Jeongjo. Gyujanggak was not only used as a library but also as a political research institute for the king as he worked on his reform ideas. 

The name Eosumun refers to the fact that a fish cannot live outside of water. This was a reminder to King Jeongjo that he as a ruler must consider and respect the people he rules.

  Buyongjeon, Huwon, Secret Garden, Changdeokgung Buyongji pavilion, Huwon, Secret Garden, ChangdeokgungThe pavilion with two pillars in the pond is Buyongjeon (left).  It is unique, in that instead of a long central roof ridge, its roof structure extends out in four directions forming a cross.

On the opposite side of to Buyongji is another pavilion (right), which was used for reading and contemplation.

  Uiduhap, Huwon, Secret Garden, Changdeokgung   Uiduhap, Huwon, Secret Garden, Changdeokgung

Uiduhap Pavilion was built by Crown Prince Hyomyeong as a place of study, reading, and contemplation. Hyomyeong was the first son of King Sunjo.  Unlike other royal structures, the architecture is conservative and not decorated with vivid paintwork. It is one of the most modest buildings at Changdeokgung Palace.

Along with Aeryeonjeong Pavilion, these are the only buildings in the palace that face north.

  Jondeokjeong, Huwon, Secret Garden, Changdeokgung Jondeokjeong, Huwon, Secret Garden, Changdeokgung Jondeokjeong, Huwon, Secret Garden, ChangdeokgungFour pavilions are located around two pond in this area: The unique pavilion with the double-layer roof is Jondeokjeong (1644).  There is a painting of blue and yellow dragons on the ceiling.  A tablet hangs on the north side of the pavilion, with King Jeongjo's handwriting, reads “All streams of the world have moons reflected on them, but there is only one moon in the sky. The moon in the sky is me, the king, and the streams are you, my subjects.” This plaque reiterates that King Sejong desired full royal authority of his people. Gwallamjeong, Huwon, Secret Garden, Changdeokgung

The longer pavilion is Pyeonmusa.  "Pyeomu" means to "beware of and amend folly."  The pavilion with a roof shaped like the ribs of a fan is Gwallamjeong (left).  On the facing hill is Seungjaejeong.  "Seungjae" means outstanding scenery."  Both of these pavilion are believed to have been built in the 1800's.

  Ongnyucheon, Huwon, Secret Garden, Changdeokgung


Ongnyucheon, Huwon, Secret Garden, Changdeokgung

Soyoam, Ongnyucheon, Huwon, Secret Garden, ChangdeokgungThe Ongnyucheon (stream) area was a garden within the garden, and one of the most beautiful at that.  It is where the king would sometimes hold parties. Wine cups would be floated down the stream, and then the recipient would have to drink the wine and compose an impromptu poem.

Soyoam is a rock (tall rock on the left and close up on the right) with the name of OngnyuCheon carved into it by King Injo (reigned 1623-1649). Also carved into the rock is a poem composed by King Sukjong (reigned 1675-1720).

Around the stream are located small open pavilions allowing the viewer to enjoy the garden from any direction. Taegeukjeong pavilion symbolizes the state of perfect harmony, with yin and yang in balance. Cheonguijeong is the only existing thatched pavilion left in the grounds of Changdeokgung. In front of it is a small rice field, the king would farm rice to aid his understanding of the hard work of farmers and show his solidarity with the farmers. The dried rice plants would be used to thatch Cheonguijeong.

  Huwon, Secret Garden, Changdeokgung Walking in Huwon, Secret Garden, ChangdeokgungThe days of royalty in Huwon are long past, so we are adopting these well dressed visitors (left) as royal representatives or princesses of the day.

A full experience in Huwon requires a long walk so comfortable walking shoes are recommended.  You don't have to walk fast, in fact a slow stroll is preferable for absorbing as much of the quality, temperament, spirit, mood and personality of the garden as possible.  It changes through the seasons.


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