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00707012
2011.8
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KOREAN

A Stroll through 600 Years of Korea’s History and Architecture  Changdeokgung Palace: A World Heritage Site  The Changdeokgung Palace complex was constructed in the early 15th century. The principles of Neo-Confucianism, the ruling ideology of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), are vivid throughout its vast precincts which harmonize with natural features of the site. A witness to six hundred years of Korean history, the palace remains one of the most beloved heritage sites of the Korean people today. Changdeokgung Palace Complex has been designated a World Heritage site in recognition of its value as “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 natural setting, adapting to the topography and retaining the indigenous tree cover.” Now, let us take a stroll through the layers of time and space hidden in this ancient royal palace. A view of Changdeok Palace

The Palace Buildings: Nature as the Background of Architecture

Major buildings in Changdeokgung Palace may be divided largely into four areas: the living quarters of the royal family, the office areas for officials and the king, the ceremonial area, and the service areas: Residential quarters, which include the king’s bed chamber (Huijeongdang), the queen’s bedchamber (Daejojeon), and the crown prince’s residence (Donggung); various government offices, and the king’s office (Seonjeongjeon); the throne hall (Injeongjeon); and auxiliary service facilities. In addition, Yeongyeongdang in Huwon (the rear garden area) and Nakseonjae nearby Donggung, both of which were added at later times in history, serve as meaningful links between the past and the present. One of the salient aspects of architecture in Changdeokgung Palace is that nature is an integral component. In other words, nature plays an active role as the background of buildings.

The inner court here is a quadrilateral yard that tapers off toward the far side. From here one can enter jojeong, the royal court, and reach Injeongjeon, or the “throne hall,” the first and symbolically the most important building of the palace complex. The royal court, a stone-floored outdoor yard in front of the throne hall where important royal ceremonies take place, is an integral part of any throne hall in Korean palaces. One can enter the royal court by passing through Injeongmun, or the Injeongjeon Gate. The throne hall and the court sit on the skirts of a mountain; they face south and are surrounded on their three sides by hoerang, or open corridors.

As for Yeongyeongdang, built in the rear garden, one crosses a small stream over a wide stone bridge to reach Jangnakmun, the main gate for Yeongyeongdang. Passing through the gate one finds oneself in a narrow rectangular outer yard. From there one finds two gates, Suinmun and Jangyangmun to the west and east, respectively. The former leads to anchae, or the inner quarters, or the women’s domain, and the latter leads to sarangchae, or the men’s and guest’s quarters. Anchae and sarangchae each has its own yard, and each is surrounded by its own haengak, or utilities corridors. Inside the buildings, the inner quarters and the men’s quarters are connected; however, in the yard area, they are separated by a low wall with a gate.

The sequence of entering Yeongyeongdang is often described as crossing “the bridge of ravens and magpies” over the Milky Way and entering the Moon Palace.” The expression is a reference to the stone sculpture of a cassia tree and four toads on a stone base placed at the head of the bridge that leads to the modest residential sub-complex.

The sequence of crossing a bridge, passing through a gate, and entering the main space through a yard is similar for both Injeongjeon and Yeongyeongdang. But, there is a difference in size, role, usage, and status of the spaces. Here, one can see that a unit space of Korean architecture includes a yard encircling the main building and the yard being surrounded by corridors – either open, as in the more formal Injeongjeon and the royal court, or closed, as in the more modest Yeongyeongdang – or walls, regardless of the actual size of the building. In addition, the palace residential and office buildings have three spatial/functional components: chamber (房), hall (廳), and “balcony (樓)”. In a properly oriented building, daecheong (廳), with its wood floor, is the area in which the cool air from the terraced flower beds in the back yard and the heat from the front yard intersect to provide an agreeable space to the inhabitants in the heat of the summer.

The Rear Garden: Minimal Architectural Intervention

Juhamnu, a two-story pavilion, overlooks Buyongji pond

Gwallamjeong, which resembles a folding fan, is one of many outdoor pavilions in the rear garden of Changdeok Palace.
The rear garden of Changdeokgung Palace features landscaped plants, man-made ponds and pavilions that are geometrically designed, as well as the original contours of the natural terrain. The garden was designed in such a way as to minimize man-made intervention and maximize the pleasure of enjoying nature through the changing seasons. For example, the smaller the pavilion, the greater the scenery looks. The rear garden of Changdeok Palace may be divided into four areas, each with a pond or a stream: the area around Buyongji (Lotus Pond) with the pavilions Juhamnu and Yeonghwadang; the area around Aeryeonji (Lotus Love Pond) with Aeryeonjeong and Gioheon; the area around Bandoji (Peninsula Pond) with Gwallamjeong and Jondeokjeong; and the area around Ongnyucheon (Jade Stream) with Soyoam, Soyojeong, Taegeukjeong and Cheonguijeong.

Water is an important element of this garden. Along the Ongnyucheon stream area, for example, pavilions were built at various locations, each with a different orientation, while the pond-side pavilions such as Buyongjeong and Aeryeonjeong were designed to sit on stone plinths dipped in the ponds so their images can be reflected in the water. Water also helped create a refreshing environment by controlling the airstream and temperature.

Jondeokjeong is a hexagonal pavilion. , Ongnyucheon is a clean stream flowing through the innermost area of the rear garden of Changdeok Palace.

Pavilions were built in different shapes to complement the natural surroundings. Buyongjeong resembles a lotus blossom, Aeryeonjeong is square-shaped, Jondeokjeong is hexagonal, and Gwallamjeong is in the form of a folding fan. They all have just two of their “legs” immersed in water. This can be understood as a means to personify images of ancient sages who would seek to beat the summer heat by dipping their feet into a cool mountain stream. Ponds were created based on the notion of Cheon-won-ji-bang, meaning “the sky is round and the earth is square,” and the relationship of water and fish which was compared to that of the king and his subjects. These design considerations were related to scientific principles that allowed the water to circulate and not stagnate.

Cheonguijeong is a noteworthy pavilion found in the innermost area of Ongnyucheon stream. It is built with four cylindrical pillars rising from the four corners of a square-shaped wooden floor, which is covered with a round thatched roof supported by an octagonal frame with eight round purlins sixty-four square rafters. The pavilion is designed in such a way that the structural load is supported by the four cylindrical pillars grounded in the king’s test rice paddy. It is meant to symbolize the relationship between heaven, man, and earth, and an awareness of the changing seasons in regard to the rice-growing cycle.

Unlike the building spaces that are intended to accommodate people coming and going garden areas are meant to provide spaces for people to stroll leisurely about and appreciate the ever-changing nature. Therefore, the garden spaces were designed in consideration of surrounding nature and any lacking element was complemented by putting overhead hanging plaques or pillar tablets bearing symbolic phrases on the pavilions so the small architectural spaces would have great significance.

Cho In-souk, Architect and Principal
DaaRee Architect & Associates

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