Samcheong-dong: An Unwilling Artsy Detour

Both Changdeokgung Palace and Jongmyo Shrine were amazing but that was the max that I would dedicate to history for the day.I was heading to Samcheong-dong, an art belt in Seoul for its famous art galleries accompanied by my new found Philippines friend (whom I have unfortunately forgotten his name). I actually preferred to do my sightseeing alone but felt that it might not be that polite to reject his company since he was keen to explore Samcheong-dong as well.

My interest stem from my online pre-trip preparation research. Samcheong-dong was described as a sweet and historical area in central Seoul where a nice afternoon walk there can make the rest of your day cozy. But the true charm of Samcheong-dong are the traditional Korean-style homes that are hidden deep within the area.

Samcheong-dong was just slightly further across a cross road from Insadong and there are very visible roadsigns directing tourists to the area. Exploration of the area started with a cute little video store & cafe just right at the start of the street. I was hoping to find the korean love movie I watched with Raymond.

I long to just have a cup of coffee and rest my legs for a while but my Philippine friend was showing sign of boredom. Ok, need to push on….

As we stepped out of the shop, he got excited with a palace that was just across the road. He was definitely bent on going and he was suspiciously encouraging me to join him despite my continuous declination.I gave in eventually…. I have travelled so far …. what’s the harm of adding another palace onto my ‘been to’ list.

When we got closer , it was clear that the subject palace was Gyeongbokgung, also known as Gyeongbok Palace. What we are looking at was the main and largest of the Five Grand Palaces built by the Joseon Dynasty. In fact, Gyeongbokgung translates in English means ‘Palace Greatly Blessed by Heaven.’

Looking at the construction works around the palace perimeters, I vaguely remember visiting it 2 years ago with Raymond during my ex company sales incentive trip. The construction was part of the palace restoration works from destruction by the Japanese government in the early 20th century.

The palace was in a festive mood when we visit. There were guards dressed in traditional costumes performing some form of guard changing ceremony.

After paying a small entrance fee, we ventured into the palace premise.

The first building that caught our attention was Geunjeongjeon, the throne hall where kings formally meet and discuss state affairs with his officials, deliver statements of national importance and receive foreign envoys and ambassadors during the Joseon Dynasty. Geunjeongjeon translated to English means ‘diligence helps governance.’

With wood as the main construction material, the complex rest centered on a large rectangular courtyard which in turn sits on top of a two-tiered stone platform decorated with detailed balustrades and sculptures displaying mystical creatures of awe and power such as dragons and phoenixes.

If you look close enough at my photo, you will realise that there are 2 rows of stone tablets lining the stone-paved courtyard. These are rank stones also called pumgyeseoks and they indicate where the court officials are to stand according to their rank. Well, since kings are long gone, I decide to officially awarded myself ‘Zheng Yi Ping’ – Top Grade Official! :p

Next in a highly fenced up area, we caught a glimpse of Gyeonghoeru. This waterfront complex used to hold important and special state banquets during the Joseon Dynasty.

Created primarily out of wood and stone, the main dining hall of Gyeonghoeru is supported by 48 gigantic stone pillars. The outer pillars take on a square cross section while the inner pillars are cylindrical representing chinese fengshui theory of ‘square skies and round earth’. Wow, imagine holding your wedding dinner here. :p

We also strolled around the backyards of kings and queens residences before proceeding to the museum which showcase Joseon culture, heritage and lifestyle.

I was getting really tired from all the walking and i was getting pretty irritated. My Philippines friend was quite a photo whore! Even worse than me! Arghhh… Now I know why he was so enthuastic about me coming along…. He needs a personal photographer.

After the museum visit, we wandered off to the museum surroundings for more photoshoots.

A photo with a stone statue of my Chinese zodiac sign!

The above are totem guardians that villages during the Joseon dynasty put up near their entrance to ward off evil spirits and bless the village. Both gender were well represented amongst the totem guardians despite their appointments. There was a few lady generals and that made me wonder if women were involved in defending the country then.

Singapore should consider making it compulsory for our lady folks to contribute 2 years and subsequent years of reservice to national service as well. They can take up roles of medical health support, nutritionist, cooks, counselling etc. This will be a great step towards gender equality, encouraging marriage and boost population figures in Singapore!

I was supposed to meet Raymond at 6pm for dinner and shopping at the high end lifestyle district of Apgujeong so by 5.15pm I rejected his request to venture further and started making my way for the train station.

I have made a unexpected detour from Samcheongdong. Will plan to head back to explore the place tomorrow. Meanwhile shopping and a great dinner awaits!

You may also like to check out my posts on other exciting travel destinations here

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