Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Well, my friends, it is now July, which means I only have about a month and a half before I take off to Korea for a year. Wow. I haven't updated for a bit as I took off to Montreal for a vacation with a couple of friends of mine, and when I take a vacation, I take a vacation from EVERYTHING -- Facebook, blogging, whatever. Anyway, I hope to write another article about some serious stuff, like that "Misguided Perceptions of Asian Women" article I totally wanna write, which will likely be my next post. But currently I lack the energy necessary for such a venture, so in the meantime, here's more pictures of Korean things!

The following pics are from 2008 when I visited the Changdeokgung Palace in Seoul. This palace apparently served as a sort of pleasure palace for the king of Joseon (Korea's longest and final dynasty). The king would come to Changdeokgung to chill out in the gardens and take it easy. It was also a place where scholar-officials, or yang ban, would study and write the civil service exams that could guarantee them a job in government. I thought it was quite beautiful and took a lot of pics. In my opinion these were the best of them.

This here is a line of stones leading up to the throne room, where the king would sit around and do kingly stuff. There is an identical row to the left and it seemed that they lined the path the king would walk to get to the throne-room structure. I'm unable to read Chinese characters but I seem to remember it was explained to me that they were elements meant to protect the king from all sorts of nasty things, such as disease and fatal accidents, etc. etc. Though some of the castle needed to be reconstructed over the turbulent years of Korea's modern history, I believe that these particular stones have been sitting there for a very long time -- hundreds of years likely.

 Here we have a structure that I don't really know the purpose of. It's connected to the main palace by gates and "bridges." The colours displayed here are common in traditional Korean architecture. I wish I could say more, but it was 4 years ago, and even then I don't think I was actually told what it was.  Still, looks nice!

Here's some more bits of the palace. Here you can see a chimney running up the wall of one of the structures. This is one of the chimneys used to ventilate the ondol floor of this building. Ondol floors are heated floors and are a uniquely Korean invention that would be used in the wintertime to heat floors in Joseon times. A fire would be lit in a special furnace located at the base of the structure, and through an elaborate system the floor would be heated by this fire. The smoke would be ventilated via this chimney. For rooms where the king himself would reside, the chimneys were placed much farther away so as to ensure the structures would not get blackened by soot.

Here is a signboard for one of the structures. Some of you may be wondering why it is in Chinese characters instead of the Korean hangul scriptThis is because Koreans traditionally used Chinese characters for their writing. It wasn't until the 1500s that the hangul alphabet was created by "Seijong the Great" -- a king known in Korean history for his benevolence and ingenuity -- so that commoners could have a writing system by which to communicate. Chinese characters continued to be used by the upper classes until quite recently, and in certain newspapers Chinese characters, or hanja, can still be seen occasionally. Also notice the detailing of the structure. Beautiful, no?

These small figurines can be seen on countless traditional Korean buildings. They serve as protective spirits against misfortune and things like that. They can be seen on palace buildings, temples and various other buildings. This motif is popular throughout much of East Asia and can be seen on Chinese and Japanese structures as well.

This is one of the pleasure gardens previously mentioned. Here we see a manmade pond. The structures behind are supposedly pleasure pavilions where the king, queen and officials would've relaxed and enjoyed food, music, and possibly theater. On the other side of the pond is a gazebo of sorts that is suspended over the water -- perhaps a place to relax and contemplate. I was so fond of this picture that I printed it out and mounted it on my wall.

This final shot is an exam study hall for scholar-officials in training. Each room would house a scholar who would study hard to memorize key sections of the Confucian classics, which he would then transcribe or recite for the test. Notice the screens at the upper right. These could be manipulated to keep sunlight from shining into a scholar's eyes while he was studying. Things haven't really changed much, have they?

So, that's all for now! 

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