Friday, November 20, 2009

National Palace Museum

Today I went to the National Palace Museum in Jongno-gu Seoul. I spent all of yesterday tucked inside my Goshiwon planning out my Japan trip so of course I would want to get out today.

Before I take you on my journey into the museum let me first tell you that I upgraded my camera. It has been my impression that if you live here long enough you end up buying a DSLR camera. Why not? Walk around and you will notice many Korean citizens with these big cameras dangling from their shoulders with not a care in the world that the lens might bump into something.

So what camera did I end up with? I got the Canon Rebellious Woman 600D with Super-Macro-fisheye lens.

Awe.. I am just kidding. But if they did market a camera as "Rebellious Woman" I might just be enticed. Instead, I picked up the new Canon Powershot G11 which acts like a DSLR but without the bulk of one.

This camera is so new that the Korean market is just starting to pick up on it. The lens on this camera can be altered by adding conversion lens. There is a "fisheye" one on the market that I want to grab but for now will make due.

Using this camera calls for one to press more buttons and tweek the image before taking a shot. Meaning I am becoming one of those people who stand there taking a picture and after about 5 - 8 min finally move on. There are a lot of controls and settings that I am starting to get use to. Plus I need to get my brain back into the photography realm such as F-stop and aperature. All good though!

Let's move on to the museum as I am sure you don't want to here brag on about my camera.

Entrance to the Museum:

You make your way out of Exit five via line #3 at the Gyeungbokgong station. As you exit you go through this tunnel that is very narrow and lined with posters for the museum.

Coming out of the exit tunnel you are greeted with a traditionally styled building on your left, which is the cafe entrance to the museum. I stepped into the cafe for a bite to eat.

I had a dish where rice was wrapped in a leaf. 
The rice inside was very glutonous or sticky, so much so that it tasted like tteok. Unfortunately I am still getting use to the sticky and chewy nature that is tteok. So I guess I was a little surprised but however enjoyed my lunch.

Inside the cafe~

Leaving the cafe I walked into the museum but not the main entrance. So I took myself back outside to find the front of the museum and here is what it looks like.

As you enter the museum to the left is the info desk and locker room. In the front area was a little table where you can stamp a postcard for free. In addition the admission fee was FREE!
The National Palace Museum of Korea is free from the first of January to the 31st of December in 2009 to commemorate the centennial anniversary of the opening of the first museum in Korea.
B1 Level: Royal Court Paintings, Royal Palanquins, Royal Court Music
I started out at level B1 because I figured it would be a good idea to start by going up. I am not sure if there is a better or ideal way.

The first thing you notice is how dark and quiet it is, except for the sound of Korean court music being played in the background. This gave the B1 level an ominous feeling and also kind of cavernous.

The musical instrument section was very intriguing. There were bells and chimes some of which were made from marble. I could't help but imagine what they must of sounded like or how they were played. Museum viewing is great in this way because you can always find something you didn't know and want to understand more.

The royal court paintings were equisite to look at but a little difficult due to the low lighting. I can understand why though, as harsh light can destroy pigments and such.

The following screen is in the Chekkori style due to the painting of books and other genre of a scholar.

The gallery~
Detail of a painting on a screen...I can't remember exactly but I believe the large red circle is not a sun but a moon. I could be mistaken, however.

1F: Royal Childbirth and Education, Royal Scholarly Culture, Korean Empire:
Moving on I went up to the first floor and found myself learning something about Royal court history. Apparently the birthing process from start to finish was a very sacred part of court life. This makes sense if you think about, since they wanted to raise a royal prince with all the well wishes. Some practices were foreign to me such as that the placenta and other birthing materials were very sacred and thus they put them in jars and buried them. In my opinion, this might have shamanistic roots and could be a practice they used that dates back long ago.

So at the entrance to this exhibit you saw the placenta jar artifacts from different kings during the Joseon period. I didn't snap any pictures because one of the guards was having a good time trying to talk to me in Korean.

However the area where they displayed the royal court scholarly artifacts was very interesting. Throughout China, Japan and Korea they have valued the idea of the Confucian scholar. One who is wise in the art of poetry, calligraphy and painting.

This display showed handmade and died paper. I loved the variant colors.

Then I came upon the "Korean Empire" historical section. Alongside the wall was a timeline of events dating from when Korea officially opened up their doors to western influence and other outsiders. From there it highlighted when Korea first got telephone service to when Japan took over and then finally won independence.

The display cases showed some of the artifacts from this time when westerners were discovering Korea and when Korea was discovering western styles.

There were a few old books on display of works published about the Korean peninsula in a time when people were still discovering the nation. I wondered if one could buy a reproduction because I think it would make for a fun read.
2F Royal Life:
The second floor was left to explore but I was feeling a little bit hungry. I forgot to mention that I brought my sketchbook with me to draw the things I saw that took my interest. Unfortunately by the time I got to the 2nd floor I was getting too hungry to draw anymore. So I just left it to taking pictures. I can draw from them anyways.

This area of the museum housed my favorite cultural artifacts of Korea that of their ceremonial robes and accessories.

Needless to say, I had fun using my new camera to take pictures of these precious items.


I set out of the museum filled with amazement and wonder but my gut was feeling empty. As I exited there was a changing of the guard ceremony going on at the Gwanghwamun Palace entrance.
 I found something to eat a cafe (an expensive yet tasty sandwich) and headed towards the subway. On my way I noticed they were doing something with Gwanghwamun Plaza. For they are building the new ice skating rink that will be used during the winter. That is going to be fun skating in the center there with King Sejong and the Gate nearby.

On the way I also found this fun looking bin which is meant to be used for the snow.

I would like to finish this post by pointing out how you can find yourself in an odd yet enjoyable place sometimes while living here. For instance, as I was making my way out of the station there was an art performance going on inside a small gallery. Inside a group of children were watching as a man fed coffee to a teddy bear. Needless to say I felt a little confused but knew that there must have been some significance and meaning. I went on my way though to rest at home.


  1. What does it mean to "act like a dSLR"? SLR = single lens reflex. Still, it looks like you had better control over the light with the new camera (I looked back at the last several posts for comparison).

    As far as books, you may be interested in this:

    A cool place to visit concerning the early Western influence is Yanghwajin Foreign Missionary Cemetary and Choltusan.

  2. Tuttle, I have one just like this, but another model (and no exchangeable lenses) but you can change the aperture and shutter speed, kind of like an SLR... I call mine "kind of a dSLR" too, though I don't know about the technicalities of it.

    Joy, have fun with your camera, it looks great! I love mine. I need to spend more time playing with the controls because I'm always in a rush to get a photo an move on, I won't take the time to figure out what I need. I love the ISO options on mine though, and I play with those all the time! I look forward to more photos with the snazzy camera!

  3. I think the changing of the guard foto really demonstrated the new camera best in these fotos. The clarity of detail in the near distance & color crispness was v. nice.
    enJOY your new TOY!

  4. Joy,
    It looks like a very nice camera - but I'm sorry to say it's not a DSLR. The line between point-and-shoot and DSLR's comes with the construction of the camera. Exchangable lenses - not just add-ons - are one major difference; other indications include the mirror inside the body when you take the lens off.

    With that said, you probably don't need a DSLR to get great pictures! At the widest-angle - a respectable 28mm - it's wide enough to get a roomful with having to be in the next room. At the most telephoto - 140 mm according to the specs - it's enough to get in on a face if that's your interest.

    Michael Hurt of the Metropolitican offers a class on how to use your camera, though that's typically for a higher-powered user. I'm sure you could easily learn something from it. I personally picked up a book from Bandi and Luni's for 40,000 and have learned a lot. Title: Digital Photography Masterclass by Tom Ang.

    And keep up the nice work on your destinations :)

  5. I know that Chris. I took SLR photography back in highschool and even mastered the use of a dark room. I know it doesn't mechanically function like a DSLR but as far as functions go it is a step up from the regular point and shoot.

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