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Friday, June 1, 2012

Korea (South) : Changdeokgung Palace Complex


In the early 15th century, the King Taejong ordered the construction of a new palace at an auspicious site. A Bureau of Palace Construction was set up to create the complex, consisting of a number of official and residential buildings set in a garden that was cleverly adapted to the uneven topography of the 58-ha site. The result is an exceptional example of Far Eastern palace architecture and design, blending harmoniously with the surrounding landscape.


Changdeokgung Palace had a great influence on the development of Korean architecture, garden and landscape planning, and related arts, for many centuries. It reflects sophisticated architectural values, harmonized with beautiful surroundings. The palace compound is an outstanding example of Far Eastern palace architecture and garden design, exceptional for the way in which the buildings are integrated into and harmonized with the natural setting, adapting to the topography and retaining indigenous tree cover.
In the early years of the Joseon dynasty in Korea, the capital moved many times between Gaeseong and Hanyang (present-day Seoul). In 1405 the King Taejong (1400-18), moved the capital back to Hanyang. Considering the existing Gyeongbokgung Palace to be inauspicious, he ordered a new palace to be built, which he named Changdeokgung (Palace of Illustrious Virtue). This palace occupies an irregular rectangle of 57.9 ha, north of Seoul at the foot of Mount Eungbongsan, the main geomantic guardian mountain.
A Bureau of Palace Construction was set up to create the complex, consisting of a number of official and residential buildings, carried out to traditional design principles. These included the palace in front, the market behind, three gates and three courts (administrative court, royal residence court and official audience court). The compound was divided into two parts: the main palace buildings and the Biwon (royal secret garden). The main buildings (throne hall, hall of government affairs, and royal residences) were completed in 1405, and other major elements were added in the succeeding seven years.
The compound was extended to the north-west in 1462. In 1592, during the Japanese invasion of Korea, the palace was burned down, along with many of the important structures in Hanyang. The ruler, Seonjo, began reconstruction in 1607, and this work was completed in 1610, when it again became the seat of government and the royal residence, a role that it was to play for 258 years. It underwent some vicissitudes during that period, but reconstruction was always faithful to the original design.
The main gate (Donhwamun) is a two-storey structure, built in 1406 and reconstructed in 1607 after destruction by fire. The first of the three functional sectors of the palace (administrative court) is entered through the impressive single-storey Injeongmun gate, in the same style as Donhwamun. It gives access to a courtyard whose dominant feature is the majestic throne hall (Injeongjeon). It was destroyed twice by fire, in 1592 and 1803. Set on a double terrace, it is a two-storey structure supported on four huge columns. The elaborate throne in the main hall is placed on a dais beneath a carved ceiling screen. The roof ridge is decorated with carvings of guardian animals, such as eagles and dragons. The main stairway leading to the hall is ornamented with statues of mythical guardian animals. To the east of the Injeongjeon Hall is the simple blue-tiled Seonjeongjeon Hall, used by the king for everyday business. Next to it is the Huigyeongdang Hall, another modest building, which contained the king's bedchamber and sleeping quarters for his staff.
The Daejojeon Hall nearby was for the use of the queen. The garden was landscaped with a series of terraces planted with lawns, flowering trees, flowers, a lotus pool, and pavilions set against a wooded background. There are over 26,000 specimens of 100 indigenous trees in the garden. To these should be added 23,000 planted specimens of 15 imported species, including yew, stone pine, white pine, gingko and Chinese junipers.
Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC

Historical Description

[in French only]
Au cours des premières années de la dynastie coréenne Choson, la capitale est fréquemment déplacée entre Gaeseong et Hanyang (actuelle Séoul). Conformément à la volonté de son père, Chongjong, troisième souverain de la dynastie Taejong (1400-1418), rétablit la capitale à Hanyang en 1405. Considérant le palais existant de Kyongbokkung comme étant de mauvais augure, il ordonne la construction d'un nouveau palais qu'il baptise Ch'angdokkung (Palais de l'illustre Vertu). Un office de construction du palais est créé afin de superviser les travaux, lesquels sont exécutés selon les principes conceptuels traditionnels, notamment le chonjo hushi («palais devant, marché derrière») et le sammun samjo («trois portes, trois cours»). Les trois cours sont le Ch'ijo (cour administrative), le Yonjo (cour de la résidence royale) et l'Oejo (cour des audiences officielles). L'ensemble est divisé en deux parties : les bâtiments principaux du palais et le Piwon (jardin secret royal). Le jardin est orné de pelouses, d'arbres, de fleurs et d'un bassin de lotus alors que des pavillons se dressent contre un arrière-plan boisé.
Les principaux bâtiments (salle du trône, salle des affaires du gouvernement et résidences royales) sont achevés en 1405. L'ensemble étant considéré trop exigu, d'autres éléments de grande importance viennent s'y ajouter au cours des sept années suivantes. Son extension nord-ouest date de 1462.
Lors de l'invasion japonaise de 1592, le palais est incendié, de même que nombre d'autres importantes structures de Hanyang. A l'issue des sept années de guerres, le palais de Ch' angdokktmg est en ruines. Sonjo, le souverain de l'époque, lance sa reconstruction en 1607. Les travaux sont achevés en 1610 pendant le règne de Kwanghaegun, son successeur. Le palais redevient alors le siège du gouvernement et la résidence royale, rôle qui restera le sien durant 258 années au cours desquelles il connaîtra certaines vicissitudes (invasion Qing de 1636, occupation de l'île de Kanghwa par une flotte française en 1866 et représailles armées des Etats-Unis en 1871) principalement sous la forme d'incendies. Malgré cela, la reconstruction restera toujours fidèle à la conception originelle.
L'ensemble s'enrichit de certains ajouts au cours des siècles suivants. En 1828, le roi Stmjo fait construire une villa de style aristocratique, à laquelle le roi Honjon adjoint une petite résidence royale isolée, connue sous le nom de Naksonjae («Retraite de Joie et de Bonté») en 1846. Le dernier édifice ajouté est le Nouveau Temple de Sonwonjon, construit en 1921 afin d'abriter les portraits des ancêtres de la lignée royale. Initialement contigu à l'Injongjon (salle du trône), il est déplacé vers un lieu de moindre importance, l'angle nord-est de l'ensemble, pendant l'occupation japonaise.

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