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Saturday, 21 September 2013

Inside Deoksugung, Part I: Junghwajeon Throne Hall

The Junghwajeon Throne Hall (Hanja: 中和殿) in Deoksugung (Hanja: 德壽宮) was the center of politics during the period of the Great Korean Empire (1897-1910) and served as the backdrop to critical discussions on national affairs among the country’s great leaders. The elaborateness of the hall’s interior is said to reflect the confidence of Emperor Gojong Gwangmu, Emperor Tae of Korean Empire (26th king of the Joseon Dynasty and 1st Emperor of Korean Empire, reigning 1863-1907) in his ability to effectual lead the country into the 20th century. One of the most striking parts of the building is the pair of dragons that decorates the canopy above the throne of the king. These dragons can be also seen on the ceiling of Junghwajeon and were representative designs of the Deoksugung, the imperial palace at that time. Though the Junghwajeon was originally built in 1902 as a multi-roofed building, it was redesigned as a single-roofed building in 1906 after it caught on fire in 1904.

The Junghwajeon is one of the historical centers of Deoksugung, which stands proudly alongside other notable buildings at the palace, such as: Seogeodang (석어당), Junmyeongdang (준명당), Jeukjodang (즉조당), Jeonggwanheon (정관헌), Deokhongjeon (덕홍전), Borugak (보루각), and Jagyeongnu (자격루).

The Superintendent’s Office of Deoksugung recently announced that Junghwajeon, “The Heart of the Modern History of Korea,” will be open to the public every Saturday from 9am to 4pm. Said to be the pinnacle of palace splendor, it is here at Junghwajeon that Emperor Gojong Gwangmu (the 26th king of the Joseon Dynasty and 1st Emperor of Korean Empire, Born: September 8th 1852 - Died: January 21st 1919) held daily morning meetings with his top officials to discuss matters of national importance. 

Never before seen by the public eye, the inside of Junghwajeon is rumored to be the most majestic, revered place in the Palace and its opening has caused quite a stir in the community. With the recent news comes the opportunity for visitors to the Palace to appreciate important cultural assets of the Palace such as ‘Yongsang,’ seat of the king; ‘Samjeolgokbyeong,’ a tri-fold screen; and ‘Irworobongbyeong or Irworobongdo’ a partition depicting the Sun, the Moon and five hilltops. The opening of Junghwajeon is a wonderful opportunity for visitors to see some of these historically significant articles up close and personal. 

For the safety of visitors and the preservation of the area, only 20 visitors will be allowed in at a time. No cameras, food or combustibles are allowed inside the premises. Those engaging in inappropriate behavior may be denied entrance by palace security guards.