Secret Garden Highlights – Changdeokgung Palace
Being able to experience fall season in South Korea twice was such a blessing we will forever be thankful for. Changdeokgung Palace, being the first place we’ve visited on our initial vacation in Seoul, was the first place that comes to mind when I hear the word autumn.
The well-preserved UNESCO World Heritage palace of Changdeokgung was built as a secondary palace of the Joseon Dynasty in 1405. It was said to be the favored residence of the many Joseon Dynasty kings not only because of its size but also because of its over-all setting of harmony with nature.
The Changdeokgung Palace patterns are mainly themed in green, a chosen color that blends perfectly with the surrounding trees. It is said to be most glorious in autumn and we are lucky to be able to see it twice. The most remarkable parts of Changdeokgung for me are the roofs; there is no way anyone could resist looking up to admire its intricate details.
At the backside of Changdeokgung main courtyard lays a beautiful garden, said to be the best representation of Korean gardening culture, called Huwon or the Secret Garden. How secret is the Secret Garden? Back in the Joseon days, it was such a forbidden place that only members of the royal family have access to. This place is where the royals compose poetries and this is where they contemplate. You need to book a tour for you to be able to enter Secret Garden, more info at the end of this article.
I became so engrossed listening to the Guide’s lecture, if we had a quiz then, I would have aced it. Lol. It was fascinating because every single structure inside the garden has its own use and purpose. Here, let me guide you through them.
Buyongji and Juhamnu was the first stop of the tour; this open area is in the heart of Secret Garden and was used for retreats and studies. Surrounding the pond (which is frozen when we were there) are two royal libraries as well as a pavilion where they conducted State exams in the past.
Buyongjeong Pavilion, which seems to be a lotus flower in bloom on the pond is designated as a Treasure No. 1763 in 2012
Juhamnu Pavilion stands on the high ground and commands a fine view of pond. It was designated as a Treasure No. 1769 in 2012.
Moving on, the next place is Aeryeonji, it is a pond name meaning ‘loving the lotus flower’, it was named by King Sukjon, saying he loves lotus because it blooms with such clean and beautiful flowers, however dirty the water may be. Wisdom at it’s finest.
Next is YeonGyeongDang, living quarters for men and women that are separated but inside they are connected. Interesting isn’t it?
Next is Jondeokjeong Area, it contains pavilions and ponds of various sizes. This area is believed to have been the last to be added on to the Secret Garden.Above is Jondeokjeong, a double-layered roof pavilion which ceiling is painted twin dragons. They said it symbolizes upright royal authority.
This pond is shaped after the Korean Peninsula, I believe it was called Gwallamji.
We had to walk downhill to reach Ongnyucheon Stream. A popular party place back in the days, a party where royals/scholars composed poetry while sending wine cups afloat on the waters. When a wine cup was sent to a specific person, the recipient had to drink the wine from the cup then compose an impromptu poem and re-cite it. If the person could not recite a poem, he had to drink three cups of wine as punishment.
That concludes the tour of Secret Garden. I recommend you visit this place once in your life; the coherence of history and nature in this place filled our souls with hope and positivity. But still, don’t just listen/read to what I say/write. Go see.
Directions: Anguk Station (Seoul Subway Line 3), Exit 3. Walk straight from the exit (towards east) for about 5-min to arrive at the palace entrance.
Admission Fee: KRW 10,000 (Integrated ticket of Four Palaces, Secret Garden Included)