Gyeongbokgung Palace and Korean Folk Museum

In front of the main gate of the palace, there is this big median in the road with these big sculptures

Today, being ill-informed about the weather we decided to go to the main palace in the middle of Seoul. Unfortunately, we did not know that it would be thunderstorming and pouring rain most of the day, so it was a very wet adventure. When we emerged from the subway, it was not raining and we were able to take our time approaching the palace gates and take some pictures.

The palace in the misty morning

Main gate from across the street

Dragon protector

The guards looked like wax- mostly because they had fake facial hair!

 As soon as we bought our tickets, however, it started raining. Not pouring, but enough to get wet. We decided to head to a museum to stay dry since we forgot our umbrella. We went to the National Korean Folk Museum, which ended up being much cooler than I thought it was going to be. It detailed the history of Korea as far as what happened during what seasons, what food people ate, what kind of lives they lived depending on their social status, etc. We learned that they started making kimchi and bean curd to help them survive the winter when Korea was primarily agricultural. They were having problms with vitamin deficiencies so they started making kimchi and they would store it in pots buried in the ground over the winter. Austin commented that one of his Korean co-workers’ parents still did this when he was growing up so they would go outside and get the kimchi in the winter.

These frightening things protected the villages

We learned what all the different kimchis were made out of- very informative!

We learned that to get into the civil service or military people had to sit for exams, even way back in the day. They would come to the palace and the king or prince would personally oversee the exams. Scholars/civil servants were regarded more highly than military and had to do better on exams. Also, they had some medical tools like acupuncture needles that were WAY thicker than the acupuncture needles used today. We learned that 60th birthdays are very important because not very many people lived to be 60 back in the day so it is a birthday filled with celebration and lots of special foods. The funeral and mourning practices are fairly elaborate and happen over 27 months after someone passes away. Korean museums are really cool in that they have projections on the walls and interactive exhibits. One such exhibit Landon loved- you had to take off your shoes and you could walk on a traditional wooden floor in a replica house.

Lotus and lily pond with pavilion and boys

 There was a little children’s museum in the same building as the other museum that Landon just loved. There were things to climb, fake rocks to throw around, and a black light room that he found amusing (I was wearing a white shirt, so that was fun in the black light). We played around in there for awhile before deciding to head back out into the wet.

Plain wood buildings for the servants and concubines

Neat painting on panels in an auxiliary throne room

For a few minutes, it didn’t rain at all. We explored more out buildings of the palace, which was the biggest palace that we had seen so far in Korea. The original palace was built in the 1390s but much of it was destroyed during the Japanese occupation. It was the main palace of the Joseon dynasty, but other palaces in the city were used when this one was destroyed. According to the powers of wikipedia, about 40% of the original buildings are still standing or restored. There was construction going on so they might be restoring more. It was huge though, considering all of that. Unfortunately it was raining and we were on a limited time crunch so we were not able to explore as much as we would have liked. There were special pantry rooms and auxiliary pantry rooms that were used when guests came to the palace or they had parties and needed a lot of room for all the food. The biggest pavilion in Korea was in the complex- it was 2 stories and from far away, Austin and I thought for sure it was the throne room. The actual throne room was quite elaborate and interesting inside, the most elaborate we had seen at any of the palaces. We had to take a few pauses to allow pouring rain showers to pass over, but overall it was a fun day.

Some of the mountains surrounding the palace- this was in the middle of Seoul!

The boys exploring the palace complex

During a particularly pouring time, Austin and I were separated across a courtyard from each other. I had Landon.
The two-story pavilion
The throne room- not two stories, just a high ceiling inside
This guy was protecting the throne room
The throne room

A good sport with the rain- as long as he had crackers
They didn’t change the guard because of the rain, but they still stood still for pictures.

The walk back to the subway, however, we got totally soaked! Something about being right up against a few mountains in Seoul made this area just pour with rain for a large portion of the day. Landon stayed nice and dry in the stroller, and fell asleep for his nap as soon as we boarded the train!

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