Changdeokgung Palace Complex

Seoul
N37 34 44 E126 59 28
Date of Inscription: 1997
Criteria: (ii)(iii)(iv)
Ref: 816
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In the early 15th century, the King Taejong ordered the construction of a new palace at an auspicious site. A Bureau of Palace Construction was set up to create the complex, consisting of a number of official and residential buildings set in a garden that was cleverly adapted to the uneven topography of the 58-ha site. The result is an exceptional example of Far Eastern palace architecture and design, blending harmoniously with the surrounding landscape.

Constructed in the 15th century during the Joseon Dynasty, the Changdeokgung Palace Complex occupies a 57.9 ha site in Jongno-gu, in northern Seoul at the foot of Ungbong Peak of Mount Baegaksan, the main geomantic guardian mountain.

Changdeokgung is an exceptional example of official and residential buildings that were integrated into and harmonized with their natural setting. The complex was originally built as a secondary palace to the main palace of Gyeongbokgung, differentiated from it in its purpose and spatial layout within the capital. Situated at the foot of a mountain range, it was designed to embrace the topography in accordance with pungsu principles, by placing the palace structures to the south and incorporating an extensive rear garden to the north called Biwon, the Secret Garden. Adaptation to the natural terrain distinguished Changdeokgung from conventional palace architecture.

The official and residential buildings that make up the complex were designed in accordance with traditional palace layout principles. The buildings and structures include three gates and three courts (an administrative court, royal residential court and official audience court), with the residential area to rear of the administrative area reflecting the principles of ‘sammun samjo (三門三朝)’ and ‘jeonjo huchim (前朝後寢)’. The buildings are constructed of wood and set on stone platforms, and many feature tiled hipped roofs with a corbelled multi-bracket system and ornamental carvings.

The garden was landscaped with a series of terraces planted with lawns, flowering trees, flowers, a lotus pool and pavilions set against a wooded background. There are over 56,000 specimens of various species of trees and plants in the garden, including walnut, white oak, zelkova, plum, maple, chestnut, hornbeam, yew, gingko, and pine.

Changdeokgung was used as the secondary palace to Gyeongbokgung for 200 years, but after the palaces were burnt down during the Japanese invasion in the late 16th century, it was the first to be reconstructed and since then served as the main seat of the dynasty for 250 years. The property had a great influence on the development of Korean architecture, garden and landscape planning, and related arts, for many centuries. It reflects sophisticated architectural values, harmonized with beautiful surroundings.

Criterion (ii): Changdeokgung had a great influence on the development of Korean architecture, garden design and landscape planning, and related arts for many centuries.

Criterion (iii): Changdeokgung exemplifies the traditional pungsu principles and Confucianism through its architecture and landscape. The site selection and setting of the palace were based upon pungsu principles, whilst the buildings were laid out both functionally and symbolically in accordance to Confucian ideology that together portrays the Joseon Dynasty’s unique outlook on the world.

Criterion (iv): Changdeokgung is an outstanding example of East Asian palace architecture and garden design, exceptional for the way in which the buildings are integrated into and harmonized with the natural setting, adapting to the topography and retaining indigenous tree cover.

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