Huwon: The Secret Garden of Changdeokgung

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More than half of the grounds of Changdeokgung Palace are in the Huwon, the ‘Secret Garden’, which is the supreme example of a traditional Korean garden. It was established for the exclusive use of the Joseon kings, and only people with his explicit permission were allowed to enter. This is part of why Changdeokgung is on the World Heritage list. And I’ve already posted pictures from the Huwon on this blog – it is the mystery place of this previous post.

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Visitors are only permitted to enter the Huwon with a guided tour, and each guided tour accepts a maximum of 100 people. I went with an English-language tour because it started shortly after the end of the Mandarin-language tour of the main Changdeokgung complex. Some Taiwanese people also joined the English-language tour. They said that they were going with the English-language tour because the tickets for the Mandarin-language tour were sold-out, and that it was more important for them to see the garden than to understand everything the guide was saying.

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Near the entrance of the garden is this pond, which is next to a building which once served as the king’s library.

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I can’t say that I was impressed by the pond, but I’m sure it looks very different during the moonlight tours of the garden.

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Anyway, it was overcast during the full moon when I was in Seoul, and I would have missed the bright tree colors, so it’s just as well that I didn’t put in the time and effort to get into a moonlight tour.

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We continued through the garden.

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The pond shown below (and also shown in the mystery-place post from a different angle) is shaped just like the Korean peninsula, the Joseon domain.

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In the ceiling of one of the pavilions, shown below, is a triple-dragon.

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The guide explained what the triple-dragon means, but unfortunately, I forgot.

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The guide says that we were very lucky to be in the garden now, because we could see the autumn colors, and she says this is her favorite season in the garden.

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Above is a photo of the ‘waterfall’ in the garden … when I was there, it was just a trickle. Nonetheless, poetry has been composed about that little waterfall.

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Above is the pavilion with the only thatched-roof structure in the garden. Maybe it has something to do with the king honoring the agricultural nature of his kingdom? Thatched roofs are traditional for the Joseon-era common folk, as seen in Hahoe, Seongeup, and Nagan.

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There were some ‘steep’ sections and the guide advised us that people who do not want to put strenuous effort may want to rest at one of the pavilions. Personally, I think walking the hilly streets of San Francisco requires much more physical exertion than walking around this garden.

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The guide said that most Joseon kings only lived to be about 45 years old. I suspect political intrigue has something to do with that, but the guide said it was mainly due to poor health. The kings did not eat a healthy diet, nor did they get much exercise. I’m a little surprised about the diet – I think traditional Korean cuisine, at least the temple food, is very healthy, but the Joseon kings probably did not eat like Buddhist monks.

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We reached this set of buildings near the end of the tour. One building served as a study, another building served as a residence, etc.

The building on the right served as a study

The building on the right served as a study

Of course, the little historical details don’t stay with me. What stays with me is the traditional Korean architecture combined with blue sky above and trees in fall colors.

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I forget what the purpose of the thing shown above was, but my guess is that it was part of the heating system.

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So that’s Changdeokgung! I admit, Changgyeonggung is still my favorite Korean palace experience, but that is mainly for subjective reasons. Changdeokgung, especially with the Huwon, is the most impressive of the Joseon palace complexes, and the one which no tourist in Seoul should miss.

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8 Responses to Huwon: The Secret Garden of Changdeokgung

  1. Beautiful autumn colours

    Like

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