Changdeokgung Palace Complex
Changdeokgung Palace Complex
Cultural Republic Of Korea Asia And The Pacific Seoul

Changdeokgung Palace had a great influence on the development of Korean architecture, garden and landscape planning, and related arts, for many centuries. It reflects sophisticated architectural values, harmonized with beautiful surroundings. The palace compound is an outstanding example of Far Eastern palace architecture and garden design, exceptional for the way in which the buildings are integrated into and harmonized with the natural setting, adapting to the topography and retaining indigenous tree cover.

In the early years of the Joseon dynasty in Korea, the capital moved many times between Gaeseong and Hanyang (present-day Seoul). In 1405 the King Taejong (1400-18), moved the capital back to Hanyang. Considering the existing Gyeongbokgung Palace to be inauspicious, he ordered a new palace to be built, which he named Changdeokgung (Palace of Illustrious Virtue). This palace occupies an irregular rectangle of 57.9 ha, north of Seoul at the foot of Mount Eungbongsan, the main geomantic guardian mountain.

A Bureau of Palace Construction was set up to create the complex, consisting of a number of official and residential buildings, carried out to traditional design principles. These included the palace in front, the market behind, three gates and three courts (administrative court, royal residence court and official audience court). The compound was divided into two parts: the main palace buildings and the Biwon (royal secret garden). The main buildings (throne hall, hall of government affairs, and royal residences) were completed in 1405, and other major elements were added in the succeeding seven years.

The compound was extended to the north-west in 1462. In 1592, during the Japanese invasion of Korea, the palace was burned down, along with many of the important structures in Hanyang. The ruler, Seonjo, began reconstruction in 1607, and this work was completed in 1610, when it again became the seat of government and the royal residence, a role that it was to play for 258 years. It underwent some vicissitudes during that period, but reconstruction was always faithful to the original design.

The main gate (Donhwamun) is a two-storey structure, built in 1406 and reconstructed in 1607 after destruction by fire. The first of the three functional sectors of the palace (administrative court) is entered through the impressive single-storey Injeongmun gate, in the same style as Donhwamun. It gives access to a courtyard whose dominant feature is the majestic throne hall (Injeongjeon). It was destroyed twice by fire, in 1592 and 1803. Set on a double terrace, it is a two-storey structure supported on four huge columns. The elaborate throne in the main hall is placed on a dais beneath a carved ceiling screen. The roof ridge is decorated with carvings of guardian animals, such as eagles and dragons. The main stairway leading to the hall is ornamented with statues of mythical guardian animals. To the east of the Injeongjeon Hall is the simple blue-tiled Seonjeongjeon Hall, used by the king for everyday business. Next to it is the Huigyeongdang Hall, another modest building, which contained the king's bedchamber and sleeping quarters for his staff.

The Daejojeon Hall nearby was for the use of the queen. The garden was landscaped with a series of terraces planted with lawns, flowering trees, flowers, a lotus pool, and pavilions set against a wooded background. There are over 26,000 specimens of 100 indigenous trees in the garden. To these should be added 23,000 planted specimens of 15 imported species, including yew, stone pine, white pine, gingko and Chinese junipers.