January 23rd, 2004
Located at the corner of the busiest intersection of downtown
Seoul, Deoksugung Palace is, among other things, a palace famous for its elegant
stone-wall road. It is the only one that has western buildings beside it, and it
adds to the uniqueness of the scenery. Details of the Deoksugung
Palace can be found on the Tour2Korea
During the Lunar New Year holidays, where most of the inhabits
of Seoul have left the city to perform their annual ritual at their respective
hometowns in the countryside, the traffic is virtually non-existant.
Particularly on New Years' day itself, January 22nd 2004 you can hardly find
anybody in town. Fortunately, the Royal Palaces are still open for
visitors, like us.
One of the first things to note with Deoksugung is the
entrance gate, named Daehanmun which standard only a short walk away from
Gwanghwamun, the main gate of a larger (in area) palace. This set me
thinking if the kings in ancient Korean times were neighbours but a casual
glance over their information tablet indicated that because of the modern city
planning of Seoul, the palace had to move moved westward. The size of the
gate is 3 kan wide and 2 kan deep.
Chinese or Japanese units of measure?
The unit of measure used on the information tablet is Kan, rather than metres or
foot. This is the Japanese architectural measurement unit, approximately
equivalent to 1.8 metres. This is interesting because although the Palace
was built in ancient times with Chinese influence, the details on the
information table indicate that their unit of measure had been influenced by the
Japanese. This means that during the 30+ year Japanese occupation of
Korea, significant parts of the Korean (ex Chinese) culture had been lost.
Incidentally, the Kan is roughly equivalent to the ancient Chinese measurement
unit of the Bu. More on the Chinese Unit of Measurements can be found on
the World History website
and details of the Japanese architectural measurements can be found here.
A gentle word of warning, these pages may lead to confusion.
Even though this has been a palace with huge grounds, we
consider the living conditions humble but the entertainment luxurious.
Lots of stone paved walkways, covered corridors gives the place a feeling of grandeur.
An open air coffee drinking hall signifies western influence - either from the
British, French or Russian. Two modern buildings within the palace grounds
is now the country's cultural museums. One in fact is the Royal Museum and
is worth visiting. I understood that the building of the "modern
buildings" had its own fair share of misgivings, as the building work was
supervised at its early stage by Sim Uiseok, a Korean, Sabatin, a Russian, and
Ogawa, a Japanese, and later by M. H. Davidson, an Englishman.
As we completed our pleasant but cool walk around the
palace grounds, we notice Folk Games being played by the people. Always
interesting is the Noeltduigi - see saw jumping
board - which we've seen and enjoyed at the Korean Folk Village several months
Jegichagi is a new game to us,
using what appears to be something wrapped in paper or cloth and kicked around
in the air. The aim of this game is keep this "ball" in the air
as long as possible.
We are also introduced to Tuho, a
game where you try to throw an arrow into a narrow jar from a distance
away. Video snippets of these games are made available on the right.
However, what we noticed that none of the games are particularly complex -
perhaps some may require a level of coordination or balance. This
indicates a simple life in ancient times.
and Happy Monkey New Year! .... Jeanette and Raymond Han
|Bronze statue of King Sejong
|Acorns on the palace ground
|An ancient sundial on the palace grounds
|Neolduigi is also played on the palace grounds -
during the Seollal New Year festival.
| VIDEO | 320x240 186kB
|Tuho - a game played by throwing arrows into a
| VIDEO | 320x240 128kB