“Wandering re-establishes the original harmony which once existed between man and the universe. ” – Anatole France
One of the so called ‘five grand palaces’ in Seoul, Deoksu Palace is the smallest and mot imitate of the bunch. Built in various stages, the palace structures contain representative samples of Korean architecture in wood and stucco. Many of the buildings are painted in the vibrant colors typical of historic Korean ceremonial buildings.
Representing the Joseon Dynasty, which ruled the peninsula from 1392-1897, the formality of the architectural style gives us some hint of the nature of the dynasty.
In fact, the Joseon period left a substantial legacy, which still holds a huge influence over modern Korea today in nearly every realm imaginable. Large amounts of modern Korean etiquette, cultural norms, societal attitudes towards current issues, and the modern Korean language and its dialects derive from the culture and traditions of Joseon for example.
Always heavily influenced by the neighboring Chinese, the regime encouraged the entrenchment of Confucian ideals and doctrines in Korean society and as such, was installed as the new dynasty’s state ideology. In turn, Buddhism was discouraged and even suppressed, as it was seen as a threat to the government’s rule.
Over the years, the palace and grounds of course changed as subsequent rulers left their marks. During the Japanese colonial period, a modern building was added and many of the traditional buildings were altered into a more modern style.
Today, the grounds provide much needed green space in the very center of the city and the complex is a great place to people watch or just catch a moment of silence in this extremely busy city with few parks. Besides featuring a western-style garden, the autumn colors and spring flowers are not to be missed if you catch yourself in town at the right time.
One of the more interesting features of the palace is the colorful and stately changing of the guard ceremony, which takes place three times a day at 11, 2 and 3:30 every day except Mondays at the gates across from City Hall Plaza. Donning period costumes (as well as obviously glued on beards) and accompanied by traditional drums as well as colorful flags, the reenactors put on a dazzling show for the audience.
You can reach DeokSu Palace from Line 2, exit 1 or 2 from the City Hall Station on the subway.