Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Aloha to the Seoul Fortress and Deoksugung Palace

It was back to Camp Kim to meet our guide from the USO/Koridoor Tours.  We hopped into a mini van to Sagik Park.

The kings from the Joseon Dynasty came here to pray for a good harvest.    The dynasty spanned from 1392  to the Japanese invasion in 1910.

The king walked along the raised center track.  To the left, the military general.  To the right, the scholar.

Yi I (이이 李珥, December 26, 1536 – 1584) was one of the two most prominent Korean Confucian scholars of the Joseon Dynasty.

His mother, Shin Saimdang (申師任堂, October 29, 1504 – May 17, 1551) was an artist and writer.  The guide referred to her as the "mother of Korea". 

Climbing the steps behind the statues, we came to the Dangun Shrine.  From Wikipedia (which matches what the guide explained),

Dangun Wanggeom, or Tangun, was the legendary founder of Gojoseon, the first Korean kingdom, around present-day Liaoning,Manchuria, and the Korean Peninsula. He is said to be the "grandson of heaven", and to have founded the kingdom in 2333 BC. 

This link provides a detailed account of Dangun as the "founder of Korea".

We climbed further above the city to the fortress wall.   From Discovering Korea (at this link),

First constructed in 1396 – just five years after King Taejo founded the Joseon Dynasty – the earthen wall was built to join the ridge lines of the four small mountains that surrounded Seoul proper –Namsan (남산) in the south, Inwangsan (인왕산) to the west, Naksan (낙산) to the east, and Bugaksan (북악산) in the North. Although much of the oldSeoul Fortress wall has been torn down, significant portions remain and others are being rebuilt.

The guide pointed out that the fortress wall was built over 27 years.   Over time, the coursely cut stone (right) evolved into sharply cut squares (left) as the Koreans became skilled in stone work.   The Japanese attempted to destroy the wall.   But the wall, like its residents, resisted Japanese destruction.    The city is now restoring the wall (top).

Asian culture appreciates living things, such as trees.  The Japanese tried to break the spirit of the Koreans by cutting down many of their trees.   The above tree was spared - it is 600 years old.   

The Salvation Army serves around the world, including Korea!

We visited the home of beloved composer Hong Nan-pa  (April 10, 1897 – August 30, 1941).

 His granddaughter filled the room with his beautiful music.

We had to leave our outdoor shoes at the door and wear indoor slippers. 

We followed the fortress wall into the city, passing by an intriguing cafe ... 

... and the Seoul Museum of Art.

We arrived at the Deoksugung Palace - one of the five royal palaces built by the Joseon Dynasty - just in time for the "Changing of the Guard".  I asked the guide why the kings built five palaces in the city.  She responded that wood palaces often caught fire, so the extra palaces were available for "a rainy day".   I liked our guide's humor! 

The ceremony included one official drumming ... 

... and another official chanting.

The ceremony also included a band!

My family and our guide (right) posed with the official with the biggest sword.

These officials made themselves available for photos.

Our guide took us to a changing tent ... and viola, Chris and Andrew are now generals from a lost dynasty.  And the band marched into the palace.   

Tomorrow's adventure - Gyeongbokgung Palace, primary residence of the Joseon Dynasty.


Kim in Korea


  1. Wow... Great photos and nice history information! :) I hope you and your family are having tons of fun!

  2. I am enjoying the history - I hardly knew anything about Korea. Such wonderful colors - in a way that reminds me of Hawaii!

  3. Thank you for sharing the pictures! I love how they still celebrate their culture.

  4. Love the costumes and their vibrant colors.

  5. You've made me realize my knowledge of Korea is limited to the 1950s. Thanks for sharing your tour info.

  6. What amazing pictures. Thanks for sharing.

  7. You all are definitely making memories to last a lifetime. Thanks for sharing your trip with us through pics :)

  8. At last Royal Castles. I've been waiting for these. I often see them on Korean Shows being televised in our country. Fab pics! :) Keep 'em coming!

  9. Great pictures and I am enjoying learning history in this manner. Thank you for sharing your wonderful trip. Love the flower!!!

  10. So colorful! That's great you got to see the changing of the guard. What an interesting tour!

  11. Interesting--I didn't know there was a fortress wall around Seoul.