Post #44 – The National Palace Museum of Korea is also located on the premises of Gyeongbokgung Palace. For those who have time to return to the pointof entry , after visiting Gyeonbokgung and leave the palace once again through the Gwanghwamun Gate, there is plenty more to see and explore on your way out. Just before reaching the gate, on the right hand side, is the location of the National Palace Museum of Korea. While the National Folk Museum dealt with the day to day life of the Korean folk, this National Palace Museum houses collections and archives of the royalty and their palaces. Royal robes, golden seals, royal documents, royal illustrations of major historic events, royal portraits and other treasures are housed here, from the Joseon Dynasty and the Korean Empire.
Royal seals were historically used for honorific purposes such as enthronement or posthumous recognition, and then kept in a shrine, and not for daily state affairs. This past year a large number of royal seals were returned to Korea after being taken during the occupation. These were retrieved by the museum and its partners, and consequently exhibited in an effort to preserve Korea’s cultural heritage.
Gyeongbokgung, or the “Palace Greatly Blessed by Heaven,” the largest Joseon palace in Korea is in good company. Four other main palaces in Seoul were home to kings and queens: Deoksugung (mid 1400s, secondary residence, later royal palace), Changdeokgung (1405, restored 1611, UNESCO site), Changgyeonggung (1418, King Sejong), and Gyeonghuigung (17th century), making Seoul a truly Royal City. Through the many efforts Koreans make to preserve tradition, and to embrace history as part of their daily lives, Seoul lives in a continuous time-travel loop. Past and present hold hands at the table, at weddings and funerals, at school outings, at festivals. It is hard to envision Korea without this ever-present heritage. It is this country’s soul.