Friday, May 20, 2011

South Korea's Changdeokgung Palace

Changdeokgung, also known as Changdeokgung Palace or Changdeok Palace, is set within a large park in Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea. It is one of the "Five Grand Palaces" built by the kings of the Joseon Dynasty. Because of its location east of Gyeongbok Palace, Changdeokgung, with Changgyeonggung, is also referred to as the East Palace. The literal meaning of Changdeokgung is "Palace of Prospering Virtue".

Changdeokgung was the most favored palace of many princes of the Joseon Dynasty and retained many elements dating from the Three Kingdoms of Korea period that were not incorporated in the more contemporary Gyeongbokgung. One such element is the fact that the buildings of Changdeokgung blend with the topography of the site instead of imposing upon nature. Changdeokgung, like the other Five Grand Palaces in Seoul, was heavily damaged during the Japanese occupation of Korea. Currently, only 30% of the Palace structures remain.

Changdeokgung was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1997. The UNESCO committee inscribing the site stated the place was an "outstanding example of Far Eastern palace architecture and garden design" being exceptional because the buildings are "integrated into and harmonized with the natural setting" and adapted "to the topography and retaining indigenous tree cover."