Saturday, August 22, 2009


For some reason I had thought I had already done a post of some sort on the Cheonggyecheon from when I had gone there in the winter a couple of years ago (they had it all lit up with lights). I guess I didn't, because now I cannot find it. :S

Spring, this sculpture at the Cheonggyecheon, was created by world-renouned artists Coosje Van Bruggen and Claes Oldenburg. The idea for the exterior spiral was inspired from a shell rising upward like a pagoda. The vertical shape creates a dynamic atmosphere, representing the restored vitality of the stream and the cultural aspect of Seoul's urban development. Looking inside, two colorful ribbons, inspired from Korean traditional dress for women, stream loosely down, one a luminous blue, the other a peony red, representing the unity of opposites in nature an th human spirit.
Spring is the monument of the nature regenerated in Seoul and the symbol of the Cheonggyecheon Restoration Project.
[from a plaque at the sculpture]

Also, the Korean national colors are blue and red. [pic from wikipedia]
The South Korean flag, or Taegukgi, has a blue and red yin-yang shape in the center, called a Taeguk. The Taeguk is also sometimes drawn with a yellow part added. In an older flag, the Taeguk was even more swirled, sort of like a snail shell. The Cheonggyecheon (청계천) or Cheonggye Stream is right down town Seoul, not far from City Hall. It is about 6 km long and is a natural stream that for many years (since the 1960s) was covered by a road and then an elevated expressway. Then, Lee MyungBak (currently the President of South Korea) became the mayor of Seoul and decided that the stream should be uncovered. It was a HUGE project that so many were opposed to, but it went on. The stream was finally finished in 2005 and since then, has been very popular in all seasons. In the winter, they have Christmas lights up and in the summer, people go and sit along the sides and children sometimes play in the water. The stream definitely doesn't have a natural look but it is very nice. Parades now end along the Cheonggyecheon. I remember last year after the St.Patrick's Day parade, they even turned the water green!!!! Not sure what they used to do that. I hope it was environmentally friendly! There ARE fish in the water (though not sure where they come from. The original stream source has mostly dried up or disappeared because of the city (the stream 'starts' at the Cheonggyecheon Plaza - up to that point, it is still all underground) so most of the water is actually pumped in from the subway systems and from the Han River (filtered, of course, to make it cleaner). So, after checking out Deoksugung and the City Hall (on July 22nd, during my summer vacation), I walked up to the Cheonggyecheon. It's a great place for a little walk or to sit and enjoy nice weather. At one point along, there were people all the way along the sides, dangling their feet in, listening to a street performer playing guitar and singing to one side. There were families and couples, groups of friends and several individuals as well. They mostly stayed along a line, sort of being tumbled sideways trying to stay.

Kinda cool watching them.Mojeongyo, the first of the 22 bridges that cross the Cheonggyecheon. Mojeongyo was originally the bridge of a fruit market street. The first section of the Cheonggyecheon, up to this bridge, is a special part called Palseokdam, which was built using stones from tiger eye stones found in all 8 provinces. In this section, the sides are built up an there are steps down to the water and walkways IN the water so people can walk in the water. All of the bridges along the Cheonggyecheon apparently have a story behind them. They were all destroyed when the stream was covered and have been re-built.[looking on down stream][looking back towards the start]
I walked quite a ways down the stream, stopping every now and again to watch the water, the fish, and the people (I love watching people watching!!). Then I crossed over and headed back again. I went to the Kyobo Bookstore, the largest book store in Seoul, which is in the basement of the Kyobo building just north of City Hall. Almost all of the bookstores in Seoul are huge. And I have a membership card for each of the large bookstore companies. No wonder my wallet is so thick!!! All of the large bookstores have at least a small English section. The Kyobo's is a bit bigger than some of the others. The best book store for English books in Seoul, though, is What The Book, in Itaewon. If they don't have it, they'll get it (they have stock in Seoul and in the US). They have a great website as well, and provide free delivery on purchases over 25,000won. Not bad. I must say that bookstores are an evil invention. I can't help but buy books and stationery (the bookstores here have huge sections with pens, stationery and office supplies) when ever I go. One might say I shouldn't go then unless I really need books or stationery, but alas, I can't keep myself from going. It's like some sort of magnetic force. I am drawn to them!! Books make me happy!! :)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Deoksugung, etc

During summer vacation I spent a day wandering around down town Seoul. I started out just through the tunnel from where I live (the 3rd tunnel going under Namsan) in the Myungdong area. I went to the Bank of Korea Museum.I have always looked at the outside and wondered what it looked like inside. It is a beautiful building, built in 1912 by the Japanese.The museum is definitely worth a look. Very interesting. Did you know they shred old paper money and make things with it, such as parts for cars and blocks for flooring??? Did you know that there is such a thing as knife money??? There is even an entire wall covered in Notgeld (emergency money used in Germany, especially during the war - some examples)! Too bad I couldn't take pictures inside the museum other than the stairs.Then I went for a walk towards City Hall.[Sinsegae Department Store][Korea Post Tower]
I decided to finally check out Deoksugung, (덕수궁/Deoksu Palace/Palace of Virtuous Longevity). It is right in the middle of downtown Seoul, across from the City Hall. Deoksugung was originally the home of a brother of one of the kings, but then became the main palace in 1592 when all of the other palaces were damaged/destroyed in fires when the Japanese were invading (during the Seven Year War). It is one of "Five Grand Palaces" built by the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) in Korea, the others being Gyeongbokgung (경복궁/Palace Greatly Blessed by Heaven or Palace of Shining Happiness, the largest/main palace, which is a little North of City Hall - I've been there a couple of times), Changdeokgung (창덕궁/Palace of Prospering Virtue, or Palace of Illustrious Virtue, which is near Anguk Station, to the west of Gyeongbokgung. I've been there a couple of times as well), Gyeonghuigung (경희궁/Palace of Serene Harmony, to the southwest of Gyeongbokgung/northwest of Deoksugung; it was completely destroyed by the Japanese and only a small part was rebuilt) and Changgyeonggung (창경궁/Palace of Flourishing Gladness, sort of attached to the east side of Changdeokgung). I guess I could mention that 'gung' is palace in Korean. [Taehanmun - Taehan Gate]
From a sign at the entrance:
On the site of Deoksugung were residential buildings of descendants of the royal family, including prince Wolsan (1454-1488), the older brother of King Seongjong (1469-1494), and high-ranking officials of the Joseon Dynasty. When all the palaces int eh capital were destroyed by fire during the Japanese invasion of Korea in 1592, King Seonjo (1567-1608) used these residential buildings as a temporary palace. In 1611, this palace became a secondary palace named Gyeongungung when King Gwanghaegun (1608-1623) moved to Changdeokgung, which was rebuilt as the offical royal residence. From that time to the mid nineteenth century, Gyeongungung played no important role as a palace. In 1897, King gojong proclaimed the establishment of the Great Han Empire and became and emporer. Gyeongungung became the central palace of the Great Han Empire, and a number of new buildings befitting and imperial palace were built. As evidence of Gojong's determination to modernize the country, some of the buildings were built in a Western style. In the 1880s, the area around the palace was called Jeongneung-dong and was crowded with foreign legations and residences of missionaries, making expansion of the premises of Gyeongungung difficult. The premises eventually surrounded the already existing American, British and Russian legations, resulting in a very irregular layout. In 1907, the palace became the residence of the former King gojong after he relinquished the throne. The palace was renamed Deoksugung, and its prmises were reduced to make way for street widening. After Gojong passed away, Seonwonjeon in the northern section and Jungmyeongjeon in teh western section of the palace were sold, reducing the premises of the palace by one-third. In 1933, all of the buildings on the palace premises, except a few central buildings and Western-style buildings, were removed. The palace was then made a park and opened to the general public. The Junghwajeon area, the center of the palace premises, and the Western-style buildings including Jeonggwanheon and Seokjojeon, remain. Deoksugung was the symbolic center of resistance in the face of several national crises, including the Japanese invasion on 1592 and the difficulties during the closing years of the so-called Great Han Empire.
THIS is a good site to see the layout of the palace.I love the fact that this giant cat has it's little tongue sticking out!!!
Gwangmyeongmun was originally the south gate to Hamnyeongjeon,
sleeping quarters of the king. It was moved to its present location when the
west wing of Seokjojeon was expanded in 1938 to be used as an art museum of the
Yi Dynasty.Inside the gate are an automatic striking water clock called
Jagyeokru (National Treasure No. 229), the Bell of Heungcheonsa Temple forged in
1462 (Treasure No 1460) and a powerful wheeled cannon that can fire 100 arrows
at the same time using gunpowder.
[from a sign in front of
the gate]

Singijeon Launcher Carriage
The singijeon is a weapon that was invented by Choe Museon at the end of the Goryeo Dynasty and improved in 1448. It is an iron-tipped bamboo arrow with a paper-gunpowder rocket attached to the rear. When the rocket was lit, the weapon would launch. There were a variety of types of these weapons, including large singijeon, medium singijeon, small singijeon and incendiary singijeon, but mostly small and medium singijeon were fired from the launcher carriage. The singijeon launcher was a wooden frame with holes 4.6 centimeters in diameter into which the small and medium singijeon were placed. When fired, the carriage that carried the launcher was aimed at the proper angle, and then all the singijeon fuses were gathered together and lit at once. The firing range of small singijeon was about 100 meters, while the medium singijeon could reach about 150 meters. It is the oldest weapon in the world for shich there is still a blueprint that was made when the weapon was constructed.
[from a sign in front]
Heungcheonsa Bell
Treasure No. 1460
Heungcheonsa is a temple established by King Taejo, the founder of the Joseon Dynasty, in 1397, to pray for the repose of his Queen Sindeok's soul and to protect her tomb. In 1409 the tomb was movedo ut of the capital city, to the prese3nt location in Jeongjeung-dong, Seongbuk-gu. Aftgerward, Heungcheonsa remained as a royal family's administrative temple until 1510. The Heungcheonsa Bell was installed in 1462. Since Heungcheonsa was burned down in 1510, the bell was first moved to Gwanghwamun of Gyeongbokgung Palace in 1747, then to Changgyeonggung Palace, and finally to the present location. According to the inscription found on the bell, it was petitioned byt the royal family, such as prince Hyoryeong. It also belongs to the representative temple bells made in the early period of the Joseon Dynasty. [from sign in front of bell]
Borugak Jagyeongnu
National Treasure No. 229
The jagyeongnu is a water clock that was made in 1536. In 1434, Jang Yeongsil connected a device which automatically told the time to a water clock for the first time, creating jagyeongnu, which moved by itself. This clock ws used to keep the standard time of the Joseon Dynasty. The jagyeongnu of Borugak is an improved device built by Yu Jeon and others during the time of King Jungjong. The intricate and complex time-telling device is now gone, and only 3 water bowls and 2 cylindrical water containers remain. In the jagyeongnu, water flowed from the water bowls and gathered in the cylindrical containers. A stick in the containers, marked with time gradations, moved a leverage-principle apparatus, causing the metal beads attached to the apparatus to strike bells, drums, and gongs.
This jagyeongnu, which carries on the tradition of King Sejong, is a precious scientific cultural asset, being the oldest and largest water clock in teh world. It was originally located in Borugak in the palace of Changdeokgung, but it was moved here. The automatic time-telling device and other devices were lost sometime before the clock was moved.
[from a sign in front]
View of Seokjojeon, one of the more modern buildings.
Looking towards Jeonghwajeon (the main throne room) through Jeonghwamun (Jeonghwa Gate). Guardians on the roof of Jeonghwamun.Both Jeonghwajeon and Jeonghwamun were burnt down in 1904 and then rebuilt in 1906. Because of that, it is the most recently built of all of the palace throne rooms. It is said that the original throne room was 2 floors high. The posts on either side show where different officials would stand during ceremonies. Notice the pigeon on the walk way?I stopped to take some pictures of the bird. It sat there for sooo long!! I wasn't sure if it was just resting or if it was injured, especially the way it was holding its wing a bit out to the side. But while I was taking pictures, all of a sudden it flew away, making a few Korean women that were checking it out jump out of their skin. LOL. I love these guys!! So ugly they're cute. Decorations on the stairs up to the throne room.The throne.The ceiling above the throne.There is a bit of a mix of old and new. Here is a view of a bit of both: the front corner of Jeonghwajeon, the throne room, with Seokjojeon in the distance, which now holds a sort of Royal Museum).An insense holder at the corner of Jeonghwajeon.Seogeodang (hall)This is how the rice paper doors/windows were stored out of the way to open the entire side of buildings.A chimney behind Jeukjodang. The chimney is from the ondol heating - there is a place to make fires under the floor, which heats up the entire floor, keeping the building warm in the winter.A back view of Jeukjodang.Deokhongjeon (hall)
Guardians on the roof.The little black spots in the air are dragonflies. :)A statue of King Sejong, the one that created Hangul, the Korean writing system.The Jidang (pond). It was around this pond that I found all of the cicadas (and the casings/shed skins) everywhere. I sat at a little cafe overlooking the pond and enjoyed an iced mocha and my book.After the palace, I headed over to the City Hall.I watched the children playing in the fountains and then headed onto the grassy area. City Hall is now completely surrounded and is under contstruction. They are trying to incorporate the old with the new. The original City Hall was built by the Japanese (in 1926) during the occupation. It had a similar feel to the other buildings from that time (the Bank of Korea is another one). THIS is what the new City Hall building will look like. I took a walk barefoot in the grassy area in front. Gotta love the feel of grass on bare feet. :) I was approached by a Mongolian student trying to sell me socks, and a Korean guy that is obsessed with traveling (though he hasn't really traveled much, but is PLANNING to travel) who talked my ear off for a good 15 minutes!! I couldn't get away with out being rude, and don't like to be rude, so just stood there looking around, responding every now and then until he seemed to run out of things to say, and then took my chance and said I had to go. I WAS going to sit on the grass for a bit and read, but he interrupted me. I think he just wanted a chance to practice his English (of course). View of another interesting building in the distance. Not sure what that one is (the one that bends). I headed orff in the direction of the Cheonggyecheon (Cheonggye stream). I'll save that for another post.