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Deoksugung Palace
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 website. 

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.

More Games
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 back.

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.

Cheers 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 narrow jar
| VIDEO | 320x240 128kB

 

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