National Museum and Palace

korea, seoul

palace garden
joylani 130pxAs far as national Museums go, I found Korea’s to be very well curated and in a beautiful building.  The exhibits were informative and the artifacts interesting to look at.  Not knowing much about Korean culture or history, I found the one about Hangeul, the masterfully created Korean writing system which is said to be the most logical in the world, particularly intriguing.  I’m not exactly sure how it all works, but apparently it is just very systematic and makes sense–you know, in a way that ”ph” sounding like ”f” doesn’t.  It was developed under the direction of King Sejong of the Joseon dynasty in the 1440s.  He felt there was a need for Koreans to express their words in writing effectively, and the traditional Chinese characters weren’t cutting it.  Hangeul was the answer, this new script successfully expressed the sounds and true meanings of Korean words, though it was not widely used until after 1945.  Even so, October 9, or Hangeul Day, is still celebrated as a national holiday.    

korea, seoul (2)

One aspect that makes the museum unique from others is the abundance of sitting lounges placed throughout the museum in various configurations and near windows, offering a peaceful view of the park below.  Many museums do not have so many windows.  The windows were like a display case, creating an exhibit of the outside.  It was almost as if to say, “We have many national treasures inside our museum; nature is a treasure as well.”  (Given the ammount of hiking Koreas partake in, I believe it is true they treasure their surroundings.)  On an even grander scale of outdoor curation is a display above walkway connecting the two sections of the museum.  It is flanked on either side by the buildings, below by a wide staircase, and above by a roofline.  These edges create a massive frame for one of the ultimate open-air artworks: the sky.

korea, seoul (3)

The palace was simple, but it was also very beautiful.  Rather than one monstrously huge building, there were dozens of smaller structures spread throughout the grounds.  Beautiful mountains provided a regal backdrop to the compound, to which no man-made garden could compete.  The palace itself is located on the upward part of a hill that slowly slopes up from the city.  Looking out from the buildings, I could see a view of the city from over the palace walls and I imagined the old emperors looking out over their capital.  The grounds were very neatly landscaped.  It wasn’t overdone with loads of flowers and trees; just simple and beautiful grassy areas, old trees, and a couple of peaceful ponds.  The grounds were not crowded and I enjoyed walking around the maze of buildings and walls in search of something exciting.  Like Matt mentioned, there wasn’t anything crazy or extravagant about the palace, but I didn’t come to Korea expecting Peterhoff Palace, and I am glad we had the chance to see how the Korea rulers pimped out their cribs in their own style.

korea, seoul (4)

roof decor

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