Changgyeonggung Palace, Part II
Bridge and Pond in Changgyeonggung
Today my language partner, Hee Jung, and I went to Changgyeonggung, one of Seoul's grandest palaces. Her best friend was supposed to come along, but she couldn't make it (that's a story in itself, but never mind). I took several pictures of my language partner, who is becoming a good friend, but she was shy about having her picture posted on the 'net, so you can't see her this time.
Today was a happy day for several reasons. Chea Young and I are spending more time together lately. Also, the weather turned summery in just one day; I was shocked at the fact that I was sweating in the sun! And I must say that I enjoy the company of my language partner, too. Finally, I went to a beautiful historical place, explored a few parts of it I hadn't seen before, captured a coveted picture of a "taeshil" (see below), and and purchased a book on the palace. I was unable to purchase the book last time, because the souvenir shop was closed that day. The book, which was only about $5 CDN, is written in both Korean and English, and is lavishly illustrated, covering the accompanying Jongmyo (Royal Ancestral Shrine) across the road from the palace. Look for an entry on that place in the future. Anyway, I want to go back again--hopefully this time I will overcome my inertia, because the palace is only a 20 minute walk from my apartment.
Anyway, I keep calling several of the palaces "Seoul's grandest palace." Well, they are all grand. Gyeongbokgung is my favorite, architecturally. Changgyeonggung is my favorite from a nature perspective. My previous post on Changgyeonggung is here, and mentions a little background about the place. I also have a nice picture of the botanical garden there. Here's the sign describing it:
Sign for the Botanical Garden
This next picture takes us into the realm of religion, a perennial favorite topic of mine, even though I no longer believe in any religion. What's so interesting about this pagoda is that it has seven stories and is eight sided! Why is this interesting? Because around the world the numbers 7 and 8 are sacred, or are symbols of perfection. Bible readers already know about number 7, but the more attentive ones also see the number eight at work. And in fact 8 was a symbolic number widely used in the ancient Near East, and in the Far East also.
Octagonal Seven-Storied Pagoda, National Treasure #1119
According to the sign, this National Treasure dates to the 15th century, and originated in China. It was purchased from an antiquities dealer. The author of the sign suspects that the top of the pagoda is a later addition, because of the difference in stone.
Sign for the Octagonal Pagoda
Fountain and Tree in the Garden
The above picture and title should make you think of Paradise! And of course such paradise was widely depicted in the ancient Near East, especially in the Levant and Tigris and Eurphrates regions, where the tree was associated with various goddesses, including Asherah. Fountain water is always a sign of life and divinity in those parts. Here, they serve both an aesthetic and a sort of spiritual function.
I don't have further information on this pagoda, above, but I can say what a pagoda is. It took me some time until I actually asked this question, believe it or not! Anyway, a pagoda is a symbol of Buddha consciousness. It was the principle statement in architecture in early Buddhism of this consciousness. As time went on, the figure of the human Buddha came to replace the traditional pagoda as the primary symbol in architecture.
The next few pictures show the Korean kingdom's interest in the realm of science.
The above picture shows an "astronomical observatory," called variously "Soganuidae" or "Cheomseongdae," built in 1688. I didn't succeed in getting this picture last time. According to the brochure for this palace, it is representative of the Joseon dynasty observatories.
Sundial, Replica of National Treasure #845
This sundial, known as Angbu-ilgu "upside down cauldron sundial," according to my book, is slightly differently described on the accompanying sign. It is a very beautiful instrument, and I like it very much. I would like to learn how to read it one day.
The next picture shows a "wind streamer," but I think the word "pole" should be in there. The accompanying sign is an interesting read.
Wind Streamer Pole, National Treasure #846
Sign for the Wind Streamer Pole
The next picture made me particularly happy, because I had read about its subject, the "Taeshil" in the brochure last year when I was here, but I never had the chance to see it. A "taeshil" is a stone box that holds a placenta of a prince. Fascinating! I don't know of any other societies that ritually buried and commemorated placentas from the royal dynasty, although I'm sure this wasn't the only such society. Anyway, this taeshil, like many Korean monuments, is not native to its present location. It was brought here in 1930 from Gyeonggi-do, another province in the country. According to the brochure, all the other princely taeshils of the Joseon dynasty, which had been scattered around the country, were brought here, too.
Yours truly by the Taeshil Stele
The thought just occurred to me that I've seen both "stela" and "stele" in scholarly literature. Of course, the only point of that sentence was to increase my Google count!
Sign about the Taeshil
Finally, in one part of this palace, there was an area in the sun where many gentlemen were playing paduk, a traditional game. I personally like the quaintness (if that's the right word), of this next scene. I particularly like the hat! Chessplayers in North America will instantly recognize what the other two men in the picture are doing. And indeed, Janggi is a distant cousin of our own beloved chess game.
Kibbitzers and players at Janggi