King Jeongjo is regarded as one of the better Joseon rulers, and he attempted to move the capital of the Joseon Kingdom from Hanseong (Seoul) to Suwon. At the end of the 18th century he built Hwaseong fortress around the natural hill Paldalsan in Suwon, and built his new palace, Haenggung, inside the fortress.
King Jeongjo was the grandson of King Yeongjo, and the son of Crown Prince Sado and Lady Hyegyeong. The most famous story of royal intrigue in the Joseon dynasty is the tale of how King Yeongjo killed his own son, Crown Prince Sado. The best account of this story is The Memoirs of Lady Hyegyeong, which is also the first book known to have been written by a Korean woman.
King Jeongjo seemed to have spent his life afflicted by the pain of his father’s murder. He dedicated Hwaseong Fortress to his father and moved his remains there.
I walked into Hwaseong Fortress without realizing it, so I was very surprised to find myself just outside Haenggung, King Jeongjo’s palace. I was just in time to see a live demonstration of the 24 arts of muyedobotongji, a system of martial arts (mostly involving weapons such as swords and spears) which were codified during King Jeongjo’s reign. Here is a video recording of the muye 24 ki demonstration at Haenggung.
After enjoying the cool martial arts performance, I wandered around inside the palace, not exactly sure what I was looking for.
I went on a path up Paldalsan behind the palace, foolishly thinking it might lead to the main fortress wall. It didn’t, but I got to see these views.
After the martial arts performers cleared out, I returned to the courtyard at the entrance, which looked a lot emptier than before.
There is an online interactive map of the palace. Since I was there about three months ago, I think it’s understandable that I’ve forgotten the names of all of these structures, and I don’t think these little details made a deep impression on me even when I was there.
Apparently, that tree there had been there long before the palace was built at the end of the 18th century.
Many historical dramas are filmed at Haenggung, and one was being filmed just as I was visiting, so part of the palace was off-limits to visitors for the day.
Throughout the palace there are little dioramas illustrating life in the palace.
Above is a life-sized figure of King Jeonjo at the official banquet for the 61st birthday of his mother, Lady Hyegyeong.
And above is a life-sized figure of Lady Hyegyeong enjoying her birthday party. Living to be 61 years old was considered particularly auspicious in traditional Korean life, and so whenever someone lived to be that old their children were obliged to prepare a large celebration in their honor. And Lady Hyegyeong’s son just happened to be the ruler of the Korean peninsula.
Since the guy above looks well-dressed and has a very luxurious abode, I’m guessing that’s another King Jeongjo.
The people who weren’t the king (or his mother) had much humbler attire and rooms, even if they were in the palace.
The men shown above are eunuchs.
Plenty of women also served in the palace.
The interior of Hwaseong fortress is mostly just a typical South Korean urban area … but when I stepped out of the palace to get a snack, I found this on a wall…
I then finally found a path which led to the actual fortress wall so I could start my circuit.
In my next post, I will present the western area of Hwaseong Fortress which is near the peak of Paldasan and thus the highest part of the fortress.