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Palace tours offer new look at two ‘East Palaces’

March 17, 2024 - 15:17 By Choi Si-young
A view of Changgyeonggung’s grounds. (Cultural Heritage Administration)

Special palace tours opened Sunday to raise awareness of the historic grounds of Changdeokgung and Changgyeonggung captured in a 19th century painting, a national treasure.

Every Sunday until May 12, the first 20 visitors to arrive at the Okcheon Bridge just past the main gate of Changgyeonggung will be able to tour areas depicted in “Donggwoldo,” or the Painting of the East Palaces. The paintings depicting the palaces east of the main palace, Gyeongbokgung, are believed to be made sometime between 1826 and 1831 by royal court painters.

The free tours, which start at 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., will each run for an hour, making various stops around the grounds of Changgyeonggung. A guide will explain how the scenes depicted in the painting have changed over time.

“Donggwoldo,” or the Painting of the East Palaces. (Cultural Heritage Administration)

The painting, drawn from the right angle looking down, has been praised for its painstaking attention to detail, as shown in the painting’s “arbors, bridges, mountains, hills and the garden arrangements, including flowers and rocks,” according to the Cultural Heritage Administration, the agency managing historic sites and artifacts.

Separately, through March, CHA is adding Injeongjeon, the royal hall at Changdeokgung, to the existing tours of the palace that cover major palace buildings. The tours will stop for 15 minutes at Injeongjeon, the main hall of the palace, where kings conducted state affairs, received foreign officials and held state ceremonies.

Here, visitors can look inside to see the throne and a folding screen behind the throne called “Irwoloakdo” -- a painting of the sun, moon and five peaks -- representing the country.

Weekday tours in English, available on Wednesdays and Thursdays, start at 9:30 a.m. and 10:15 a.m., for the first 20 people who make it to Donhwamun, the entrance gate to Changdeokgung.