Sometimes the gems are hidden among the modern buildings. My husband noticed "Bosingak Belfry" on a tourist map. Yesterday, we stomped by it after visiting the nearby Gyeongbokgung Palace (경복궁). We were tired. Hungry. Hot. And the belfry was locked up.
Today, we had spare time ... and discovered from the Korea Tourism website that the belfry is open 1130-1230 daily. We hopped on the subway ...
... and viola, it was not only open but guarded by an ancient warrior.
The director invited my children to take a picture ...
... and invited us to the bell ringing ceremony at 12:00. We didn't realize the bell ringing included a parade of soldiers, band, and officials from the Deoksugung Palace (link).
We followed the officials up to the bell ...
... where a lovely woman dressed in traditional hanbok gave us the history of the bell.
From the Official site of Korea Tourism (link),
The Bosingak Belfry was used during the Joseon Dynasty to keep the time. There were four gates in Seoul that allowed people in and out. At 4 a.m., the bell would ring 33 times and then the gates were opened. At 10 p.m. the bell would ring 28 times and the gates would close. The bell served as a siren. The original bell melted in that spot due to a fire accident. In 1468, the bell was remade and still exists today. However, for preservation purposes that bell now sits in the national museum. Currently, a daily bell-ringing ceremony is conducted at Bosingak. A special ceremony is held on new Year's Eve where the bell is rung 33 times in front of large crowds.
The website also allows Koreans to register to ring the bell. Above, parents help their children with the bell ringing tasks (foreigners can sign up to ring the bell on Tuesdays). Upon the final ring, the hostess invited us to touch the bell as it resonated. The crowd rushed to the bell and made a wish!
Then the officials, soldiers, and band marched off ...
... presumably back to Deoksugung Palace.
My family posed by the bell as the warrior guarded the bell gong.
This ceremony is not offered by any of the tour companies ... perhaps they feel it is too small. But I enjoyed it because it was cozy and allowed Korean children to participate in their heritage. This is a must see for anyone visiting Seoul!
Kim in Hawaii