The mini- Forbidden City (a visit to Seoul’s royal palace)

8 Oct

One of the first places we went after landing in Seoul was the historic palace complex.  Before I went I asked several colleagues who had been to Korea for advice on what to see.  Several had mentioned that Seoul had a mini-Forbidden city, but Beijing’s was much more impressive.  The two complexes were different – but it was a good example of how you compare what you see with what you know.

A beautiful fountain before the president’s house with mountains in the background.

This is where they said to stand for the best photos. I’m actually not sure if you can see much of the house because of my head – but there is a beautiful mountain behind.

Prior to entering the complex we first looked at the president’s house and had more views of the mountains surrounding the city.  The current president’s house is literally across the street from the former palace complex meaning that this location has been the center of power for many generations.  I’m guessing the feng shui is very good there.

When we entered the complex it was very large.  It hasn’t been completely reconstructed the way the Forbidden City is in Beijing and there is more green space throughout which was a refreshing change.  There was also fewer people in general – though still a lot because we went on a Saturday afternoon.

Palace map

One special area was a series of vats that had been pieced together where the royal family would store their special kimchi!  It makes sense given how important kimchi is to the culture in South Korea.  There was space for hundreds of vats – perhaps they had all the different types that our guide explained when we had our kimchi lesson.

Entrance to kimchi room

Pots and pots for the royal kimchi – a separate room

The pavilions were similar to those I have seen in many different Chinese cities and actually used some Chinese characters as long ago characters were used throughout the entire region.  One unique attribute was that under several of the pavilions you could see spaces for large ovens – they had under the floor heating systems to protect themselves from Seoul’s winters.

The Korean version is much simpler than the animals you typically see on Chinese roofs – I don’t know if that is because these are older and thus more simplified or just a different style.

Peering through the next door…

A temple guardian with a cheshire cat grin. I didn’t realize Alice in Wonderland was inspired by Korean royalty.

Have you ever visited somewhere grand and then said – “Well, it’s not as nice as XXX.” I’m glad I didn’t do that in this case or I may not have enjoyed this royal complex.

That said, some places are just let-downs.  Have you had any visits like that recently?

I guess there were a few more people there than I remembered!


6 Responses to “The mini- Forbidden City (a visit to Seoul’s royal palace)”

  1. eof737 October 8, 2012 at 9:17 pm #

    The photo works… Love those kimchi pots. 😉

    • gkm2011 October 9, 2012 at 1:58 pm #

      I found them fascinating too. An entire room for one food – living in the lap of luxury.

  2. expatlingo October 8, 2012 at 9:43 pm #

    Very interesting pictures. How interesting that Chinese characters were once used in Korea as well. Now I’m curious about the story behind that and the switch to modern Korean.

    • gkm2011 October 9, 2012 at 2:01 pm #

      I don’t know the answer, but if you find out I’d be curious too!

  3. abc in shanghai October 9, 2012 at 6:49 pm #

    it seems that the forbidden city is a model for a number of ”wannabe” places. there’s a citadel in hue city, vietnam that claims to have been modeled after china’s forbidden city as well, now a unesco site. this one doesn’t look as impressive ..

    • gkm2011 October 9, 2012 at 7:40 pm #

      It wasn’t as impressive, but it was still impressive. Haven’t been to Vietnam yet, but it is on my list.

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