Changgyeong Palace and Cherry Blossom Delight
On the lookout for cherry blossoms this season, but not wanting the crowds, I searched the google machine for a different place to head. I was surprised to stumble upon Changgyeong Palace (창경군). During my six years here I had yet to see this palace and wondered how I’d missed it. Cheonggyeong Palace was not originally meant to be a palace, but a residence for the many royals that filled Changdeok Palace during King Seongjong’s reign. It was first built by the fourth ruler of the Joseon Dynasty, King Sejong, for his father King Taejong. But it wasn’t until King Seonjong’s rule that the grounds were renovated and renamed as a palace. Under King Seongjong the residence was built to house the queen dowagers from the reigns of King Sejo, King Deokjong, and King Yejong. After the sudden death of King Yejong, his nephew, at the age of 13, was crowned King Seongjong. As he was so young, his grandmother, Sejo’s queen, took care of the state affairs until he became an adult. In turn he supported the three dowagers, who in familial terms were his grandmother, his mother and his aunt, by having Changgyeong Palace updated.
The complex lies a few blocks back from the Changdeok Palace entrance on the main road with Gyeongbuk Palace. Because it was built as an residence originally and not a palace many things about the buildings and the entrance itself are unlike traditional Korean palace grounds. The main gate and throne hall face east, for example. This could be due to the fact that there are mountains on the north, south and west sides of the complex and the only flat suitable ground for an entrance was to the east. Traditionally, these buildings were built facing the south. Another difference is that the inner halls of the complex were built larger than the normally larger administrative “outer” halls. This makes sense as it was used as a residence as opposed to a working palace. Once through the entrance into the compound the first thing one notices is the beautiful bridge over the stream, which is common among all palaces of the Joseon Dynasty. Here there are cherry blossom trees lining the small stream and of course others out like me to find the flowers snapping away on their cameras.
After the palace was destroyed in the Japanese invasion between 1592 and 1598, the palace was rebuilt. The main hall, or Myeongjeongjeon, rebuilt in 1616 is the oldest of the Joseon palaces today. In 1623 after King Injo was crowned the queen’s residence and the prince’s compound were burned down in a revolt, followed by the residential inner halls being burned down a year later. These buildings were subsequently destroyed again 200 years later in a fire and after being rebuilt were once again demolished during the next Japanese invasion in the early 1900s. During the Japanese colonial rule of Korea, Changgyeong Palace was turned into a zoo and a public park. Having been restored, the grounds surrounding the few buildings that are now standing are covered with trees, a good size pond and a greenhouse, making this a perfect refuge from the Seoul city hustle and bustle that can sometimes be overwhelming.
It’s W1,000 for admission and it’s closed every Monday. Guided tours are available in English at 11:00 and 4:00
종로구 와룡동 2-1
2-1 Waryong-dong Jongno-gu, Seoul, Korea
Bus: 100, 102, 104, 106, 107, 108, 109, 140, 143, 150, 151, 160, 162, 171, 172, 272, 273, 301, 601, 710, 2112, 7025
Haewha Station, exit 4; go straight and turn left on the first street, follow the road as it turns and you’ll run into the stone wall surrounding the complex.
Or, Jongno 3-ga, exit 11; Walk one block and turn left. Walk about two blocks and you’ll see the large stone walls surrounding the complex. Keep going straight and you’ll find the entrance.
February ~ May & September ~ October: 9:00am – 6:00pm*
June ~ August: 9:00am – 6:30pm*
November ~ January: 9:00am – 5:30pm*
*Last admittance permitted a half hour before closing.