Saturday, January 20, 2007

창덕궁에 대해서

Of all the Korean palaces that I have visited only Changdeokgung (창덕궁-昌德宮) made it compulsory for visitors to subscribe to guided tour. While I would have liked to wander freely in the palace I was stuck in a tour group. When the time came for my tour to start, a Korean guide greeted us, "Annyeong Hashimnida" and requested politely for us to repeat after her. I was thinking to myself why wasn't she saying "Annyeong Haseyo" like what I heard in the Korean movies. Of course, she was using the most polite form while I was expecting to hear a more common form of the greeting. I only know the difference after studying Korean langauge.

I found it very difficult to take pictures when I was in a tour group. I liked to listen to what the guide was saying. Taking pictures would distract my concentration and so during the tour of Changdeokgung, I rarely took out the digital camera which I bought specially for the trip. One interesting story which I heard was about the blue tiles. The guide told us that Korea was the first in the world to perfect the technique of making blue tiles. The blue tiles she spoke about, are exactly those that are found on the roof of Cheongwadae (office of the President of the Republic of Korea). The blue tile was once a sought-after item that the Japanese captured the Korean tile artisans back to Japan to produce the tiles for them. I never thought that such simple blue tiles could be both a source of Korean's pride and sadness.

Injeongjeon Hall (인정전-仁政殿), the main throne hall where all major activities in the palace took place.

The tour also brought us to the "Secret Garden" or Biwon (비원-秘園). Biwon was supposed to be a place where the royal family once spent their royal retreat. I was anticipating something exotic and beautiful, only to be let down later by what I saw. Biwon looked aged and run-down. The garden and pond were not well maintained. The place was gloomy and bleak though I thought Biwon was as authentic as possible. The place was already history afterall. It just could not be looking like it was just renovated recently or made to give the impression that people were still living in it. Perhaps, history is best left sleeping. But if tourist money counts more than history, Biwon might have to be restored to its former glory.

Changdeokgung was not big. It didn't take many hours before I was back at the main entrance again. I thanked the guide for showing us around and left by the main entrance. I tried to recollect what I did after I left Changdeokgung but could not. It seems that memory is only lasting when something is done, regardless of whether it is interesting or not. Perhaps, I should have just lived a live without doing anything so maybe there won't be any sweet or sad memories to unsettle my mind constantly. But that is just an unpractical thought. Give me another palace and I will still visit it.

Biwon was built in 1623 and was originally called the "Huwon" or the "back garden".


  1. As I know, 창덕궁 is the only place with a guided tour. I would have liked to wander freely too.
    Every Thursday, you can wander freely, but it costs a bit more - 1,500won.

  2. Oh, my mistake, it's not 1500 but 15000 won.


  3. 와! 가격이 너무 비싸네요! O_o