A Walk in the Secret Garden: Inside Seoul’s Most Treasured Palace

Inside Seoul’s Most Treasured Palace. A winter afternoon stroll in the Changdeok Palace.

Imagine yourself walking through the traces of the old Kings. Imagine yourself rambling in their secluded garden. And imagine yourself indulging in the very same beauties of nature that kept the kings mesmerized for more than 500 hundred years.  Located near the center of Seoul, the Changdeok Palace is where you can realize your imaginations with a brief  afternoon walk.

Being one of the most-cherished palaces in Korea, the Changdeok Palace, which literally means “the palace of prospering virtue”  in Korean, was nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage in 1997. The UNESCO describes the palace as “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.”  Here, you are readily granted the chance to peep into the world of the Joseon Dynasty, the once-prosperous kingdom that thrived in the Korean peninsula for about five centuries.

Upon entering the main gate of the palace, you encounter the stone pillars standing firm on the sides of the path leading to the main building. Hundreds of years ago, the dynasty’s high-ranking officials flocked behind each of their designated pillars to have an audience with  the king. Now,  travelers from all around the  globe  gather around these  lonely  monuments from the past  to envision the sumptuous lives of the palace.

As you  stroll  past the pillars, the grand facade of Injungjun greets you with its exquisite colors and breathtaking craftsmanship. No  wonder  the Kings of the Joseon Dynasty  greeted foreign guests and hosted major gatherings  in here. Tasteful yet restrained, the building  is  more than a refined venue to give hospitality to distinguished guests. It is, in fact,  the epitome  of the  Joseon-dynasty architecture.

Deeper inside the palace  rests  a secret garden which once was loved by the kings and the princes of the dynasty. The garden is dubbed “Hoowon” or “Beewon,” meaning “rear garden” and “secret garden.” Amazingly, it  stretches across a  large area which  accounts for  more than 60% of the entire palace. What was filled with  greener trees and blossoming flowers  in springtime is now permeated with a peaceful silence, as if it  fell into a  deep  winter’s slumber.

Some believe that autumn is the best time of year to discover the true qualities of the palace. Yet a winter walk in the  garden admittedly brings a pleasure of discovering  its amicable harmony with the  nature. Tasteful yet restrained…

And the stream that once resonated along with the rhymes of the kings’ poems now lingers on the brink of the rocks. Silently waiting for another spring  to come.  All, in a peaceful harmony.

Click here  (official website)  for more information about the Changdeok Palace and its Secret Garden.

Seijin is a rather unusual globalist living in Seoul. He is currently working as a full-time marketing strategist in Seoul. You can follow him on twitter @seijinjung.  Follow Untapped Cities on Twitter and Facebook.

 Korea, Seoul

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