Gyeongbokgung; Harmony/Emptiness

Seoul’s iconic royal palace complex at the foot of the Bukaksan Mountain in the north of the city is a souvenir of bitter Korean-Japanese relations.  A legacy of the Joseon dynasty, Gyeoungbokgung has remained a constant landmark since the 13th century.  

A constant landmark; Gyeoungbokgung Palace in 1750, 1840 & 1950
Heavily razed during the 15th century Japanese invasion, extensive restoration in the mid-1800’s saw the number of palace buildings swell to over 300 - ruthlessly reduced to ten during the occupation.

With its succession of ornate entry gates, Gyeoungbokgung is defined by its axis with the mountains to the north and Han River to the south.  On visiting, this relationship with the landscape is immediately tangible.

It is easy, then, to read the positioning of the Japanese General Government Building between the entrance gates as a deliberate act of provocation. This obstruction of views upset the delicate harmony of the palace, and by extension, the city. After much deliberation, the colonial relic was finally demolished in 1996, the palace buildings continue to be restored. 

Walking within the grounds, open space weighs heavily between the ornate structures; the whole is a quiet celebration of intricacy and emptiness.

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