Friday, March 29, 2019

The Seoul Museum of History

The Seoul Museum of History depicts the evolution of Seoul from the prehistoric period to the city it is today.  The museum emphasizes the city's 2,000 years of history and its rich and diverse cultural heritage, focusing on four periods of Seoul history, the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1863), the Daehan Empire (1863-1910), the Japanese occupation (1910-1945), and the transformation of Seoul after the liberation from Japan (1945-2002).

Outside the museum, the first displays show one of the remaining street cars that provided transportation in Seoul from 1899 to 1968 and a map of the city built into the sidewalk in front of the main entrance.

 Streetcar and map

Inside the museum, another map of the city is covered in glass, allowing us to wander over the districts and explore the neighborhoods from above.

 City map

The formal museum displays start with the 1394 establishment of Seoul as the royal capital of the Joseon Dynasty.

1300s Seoul

We then move to the 19th Century when western influences, including the introduction of electricity and petroleum, brought a transition from the Joseon Kingdom to the Daehan Empire in 1897.  Seoul transitioned steadily from that point into a city that was a mixture of East Asian tradition and Western modernity.

 19th century Seoul

The exhibition ends in the City Model Image Hall, depicting home life in more current times.

 City Model Image Hall

This has been an intriguing tour of the history of Seoul, very well presented and explained.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Gyeongbok Palace in Seoul

Gyeongbok Palace was originally built in 1395 and is Korea's most famous royal palace, a massive complex of ornate structures.  The palace was destroyed in the Japanese invasion of the 1590s, after which Korea's rulers decamped to the Changdeok Palace about 3 km (1 mile) away.  The palace was restored at the end of the 19th century, building up to around 500 structures, only to be destroyed again in the next Japanese invasion in the early 20th century.  The palace was re-restored in the 1990s and is once again able to show off its magnificent architecture, fabulous grounds, and historical significance.

I enter the palace grounds from the back, near the National Folk Museum and wander through the living quarters for the queen, the queen dowager (mother of the king), and the palace concubines.

 Living quarters

Strolling toward the front of the palace, I next cross the king's astronomical observatory.  Located near the king's sleeping quarters, the observatory allowed the king to track the movement of the heavenly bodies (important to an agricultural society) and, in the 15th century, King Sejong invented scientific devices to support the observations, including a rain gauge, sundial, water clock, and celestial globe and installed them at the observatory.

Royal observatory

Near the observatory, the living quarters of the king also contained halls for work, study, and discussion of state affairs with staff and subjects.

 Living quarters of the king

Approaching the impressive main gate, I look back at the incredible architecture of the entrance courtyard and formal buildings surrounding it.

 Main gate

 Entrance courtyard

As I reach the main gate, I hear music and realize that I am arriving just in time to see the changing of the guard.  The gate guards were established in the 15th century to guard the gates of the palace and manage the gate passes, signs, and keys.

 Changing of the guard

 After the change of the guard, guards are available for pictures at the gate with a stern reminder to not touch the guards!

 Standing guard outside the main gate

Departing the palace, I look back at this fabulous complex, with the mountains in the distance and modern Seoul just outside.

 Looking back at the main gate

Friday, March 22, 2019

National Folk Museum of Korea

Walking toward the Gyeongbok Palace, I spot the National Folk Museum of Korea on the edge of the palace grounds and wander in.  This museum was established in 1945 and consists of three main exhibition halls depicting the History of the Korean People, the Korean Way of Life depicting ancient Korean village agricultural life, and Life Cycle of the Koreans tracing the life cycle of upper class Koreans from birth to death, including the deep roots of Confucianism in Korean culture.

The entrance path to the museum contains statues used to guard tombs and the entrances to cities and temples.  Also, two Korean houses located on the grounds demonstrate Korean living arrangements.

 Guardian statues

Representative houses

Entering the museum, I wander through the halls and displays depicting Korean life, celebrations, and daily existence.

 Korean living

As I wander into other galleries, I see more exhibitions of traditional Korean lifestyle, and daily activities, with displays of Korean houses, rooms, and furniture as used in the past.

Korean daily life

The Folk Museum has been a great introduction to traditional Korean life and I've learned a lot wandering the galleries.