OWL Magazine Korea

Seoul, the Palace of Innovation: Gyeonghuigung Palace

In the heart of Seoul, centered around Gwanghwamun, you can still encounter the palaces of the Joseon Dynasty in the modern era. Among the five major palaces of that era—Gyeongbokgung, Changdeokgung, Changgyeonggung, Deoksugung, and Gyeonghuigung—Gyeonghuigung, in contemporary times, holds the most poignant history.

“Gyeonghuigung: A Palace with Innovative Architectural Techniques”

Gyeonghuigung was constructed in 1617, during the 9th year of King Gwanghae’s reign. The construction began in 1617 and was completed in 1623. Unlike other palaces, Gyeonghuigung is known for its adoption of innovative architectural methods.

Gyeonghuigung harmoniously blends with nature, setting itself apart from other palaces. Instead of placing the main and secondary halls in a vertical alignment, they were arranged horizontally. Additionally, the main gate faces southeast, leading visitors through the inner hall before reaching the outer hall, a departure from the traditional palace architecture.

“In the Joseon era, Gyeonghuigung was also called the Western Palace”

When Gyeonghuigung was first built, it was named “Gyeongdeokgung.” However, during the reign of King Yeongjo, it was later renamed to its current name, “Gyeonghuigung.”

During King Gwanghae’s reign, the Imjin War broke out, resulting in the loss of Gyeongbokgung. Consequently, at that time, Changgyeonggung was referred to as the Eastern Palace, being situated to the west of Gyeongbokgung, while Gyeonghuigung was called the Western Palace.

“Gyeonghuigung: Bearing the Sad History of 90% Destruction”

Gyeonghuigung, like Gyeongbokgung, experienced a sorrowful history of destruction. However, there’s a distinction between the two. While Gyeongbokgung suffered from popular uprisings and foreign invasions, leading to its devastation, Gyeonghuigung was damaged to provide construction materials for Gyeongbokgung’s reconstruction.

During the reign of Heungseon Daewongun, approximately 90% of the structures in the main hall of Gyeonghuigung were dismantled to secure materials for the reconstruction of Gyeongbokgung. As a result, Gyeonghuigung lost its grandeur and became a small-scale palace, with only a few structures remaining.

In addition, modern buildings like the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education, Seoul Museum of Art, and Seoul Museum of History have been constructed on the former site of Gyeonghuigung, making its reconstruction virtually impossible.

“Gyeonghuigung Harmonizing with Modern Seoul”

Unable to return to its former glory, Gyeonghuigung has become a modestly-sized palace. Nevertheless, the surviving structures continue to coexist harmoniously with modern buildings in Seoul, maintaining their place.

Unlike other palaces, the entrance to Gyeonghuigung is free. This might be because much of the palace has been lost and not restored, allowing open access for everyone.

The remaining structures at present include:

  1. Heungwamun (흥화문): This is the main gate of Gyeonghuigung. It serves as the entrance to the palace and is an important architectural element.
  2. Sungjeongmun (숭정문): This is the main gate of Sungjeongjeon, a significant building within Gyeonghuigung. Sungjeongjeon was the main hall where official ceremonies and events were held.
  3. Sungjeongjeon (숭정전): Sungjeongjeon is the main hall of Gyeonghuigung. It played a central role in the governance of the palace, serving as a venue for important state affairs and ceremonies.
  4. Jajeongjeon (자정전): Jajeongjeon is another important building within the palace. It was the living quarters of the king and served as the royal residence.
  5. Taeryeongjeon (태령전): Taeryeongjeon was a pavilion used for special events and gatherings. It offered a tranquil space for relaxation.
  6. Seoam (서암): Seoam is a unique rock formation located within the palace grounds. Its distinctive shape adds to the natural beauty of Gyeonghuigung.
  7. Banggongho (방공호): Banggongho refers to a pond or water feature in the palace. It may have been used for various purposes, such as providing a scenic element or for practical use within the palace.

These structures collectively contribute to the historical and architectural significance of Gyeonghuigung Palace. Each one reflects different aspects of palace life and governance during the Joseon era.

“Gyeonghuigung in Seoul”

  • Address: 45 Saemunan-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul
  • Phone Number: 02-724-0274
  • Operating Hours: (Tue-Sun) 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
  • Closed on Mondays, January 1st