The Five Grand Palaces of Joseon

Imperial Family of Korea

Starting in 1395, the Joseon Empire built five great palaces across Seoul, Korea that have become known as the Five Grand Palaces. They generally all have the same layout and orientation – laid out according to the pungsu (풍수) customs and traditions of the time. In order by age, here are the five royal palaces of Joseon.

Gyeongbok Palace (Gyeongbokgung (경복궁))

Gyeonbok Palace, known as Gyeongbokgung (경복궁) in Korean, was built in 1395. Known as the “Northern Palace,” Gyeonbok Palace is located in Seoul. In English, the name means “Palace Greatly Blessed by Heaven” and it is located between two mountains. Joseon culture can be observed at the changing of the guard which occurs every hour during the day. The Palace Royal Guard performs the ceremony in their traditional red uniforms. Other notable buildings in Gyeonbokgung include the Throne Hall, the King’s Quarters, as well as the main gate – many of which are recently reconstructed. The palace is also home to the National Folk Museum and the National Palace Museum of Korea.

Changdeok Palace (Changdeokgung (창덕궁))

Changdeok Palace, known as Changdeokgung (창덕궁) in Korean, was built a decade later in 1405. This palace actually saw more kings as inhabitants than any other of the palaces. This was the second royal palace to be constructed in Seoul. It is known as the “Eastern Palace” due to its relative location to Gyeonbok Palace but in English the name means “Palace of Pondering Virtue.” One of the palace’s most notable features is a “secret garden.” Unlike the heavily reconstructed Gyeonbokgung, only a third of Changdeokgung’s original structures are restored.

Changgyeong Palace (Changgyeonggung (창경궁))

Changgyeong Palace, known as Changgyeonggung (창경궁) in Korean, was built in 1483 by the renowned King Sejong under the name Suganggung. In English, the current name means “Palace of Flourishing Gladness.” Located just one wall away from Changdeokgung, Changgyeonggung was turned into a botanical gardens and zoo during the Japanese Colonial Period. The zoo and botanical gardens were moved to a new location now known as Seoul Grand Park in 1983.

Deoksu Palace (Deoksugung (덕수궁))

Deoksu Palace, known as Deoksugung (덕수궁) in Korean, was built in 1592 under the name Gyeongungung. Its current name was given in 1907 and means “Palace of Virtuous Longevity” in English. Deoksugung is unique compared with all of the other palaces because of the large amount of western style buildings. Deoksu Palace is home to the National Museum of Art and also features a statue of King Sejong. Like Changdeokgung, Deoksugung only has a third of its original buildings still standing.

Gyeonghui Palace (Gyeonghuigung (경희궁))

Gyeonghui Palace, known as Gyeonghuigung (경희궁) in Korean, is the smallest of the Five Grand Palaces. In 1623, Gyeonghui Palace started as a secondary palace to be used in case of emergencies. In English, the name means “Palace of Serene Harmony.” An arched bridge connects Gyeonghuigung with nearby Deoksugung. The Seoul Museum of History is located in Gyeonghui Palace, which is the only of the Five Grand Palaces to offer free admission.

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