Royal Palaces Open Wide
More Cultural Events Take Place in Royal Palaces
By Chung Ah-young
Giacomo Puccini's opera ``Turandot'' was staged at the Imperial Shrine just outside the Forbidden City in 1998, the first performance of its kind at the venue. Since then, the Forbidden City has seen a number of performances although its use is strictly limited.
Here in Korea, royal palaces that have long been away from the reach of ordinary people due to many restrictions to protect their ancient structures are coming closer to the public with various performances and cultural events being held in their grounds.
Thought of as ``urban paradises,'' where structures are in perfect harmony with nature, despite being located in the middle of the hustle-and-bustle capital, the palaces are now becoming popular venues for outdoor performances.
Gyeonghui Palace: Epic Musicals
The epic musical, ``Janggeum, The Great'' based on the TV hit drama ``Jewel in The Palace'' will be staged at Sungjeon Hall in Gyeonghui Palace, Sept. 5-30.
It was the idea of the Seoul Foundation for Arts and Culture to put the ancient palaces to added use beyond mere preservation and protection for viewing.
Two musicals, ``Dreaming in Mars'' and ``The King's Jester-Gonggil'' scored a big success at the same venue in 2007, proving the possibility of the palace as a musical venue for epics due to its traditional background.
Also, ``The Last Empress'' was sold out in 20 days after the ticket opening in May as part of the ``Hi Seoul Festival,'' creating a sensational boom for putting the epic musicals in the royal palace.
``Janggeum, The Great'' hosted by the foundation and the Seoul City government will be offered at much lower prices of 30,000 to 50,000 won.
The upgraded version of the musical starring Lisa, Nana, Cho Jung-seok and Ko Young-bin will highlight the musical elements to better portray each character based on the more historical facts.
The musical reinterprets the work through a new theme rather than the episodes. Keeping the colors, patterns, touches of the structures intact, the production will use the natural backgrounds, traditional atmosphere and the outdoor characteristics.
Gyeonghui Palace was one of the ``Five Grand Palaces'' built in the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910). In the latter Joseon period, the palace served as a secondary palace ― a place where the king moves in times of emergency, as it was situated on the west side of Seoul.
From King Injo to King Cheoljong, about ten kings of the Joseon era stayed at the palace. The palace was built incorporating the slanted geography of the surrounding mountain and boasts traditional beauty along with architecture rich with historical significance.
Changdeok Palace: Traditional Performances
Changdeok Palace is holding regular traditional performances in Yeongyeongdang every Thursday.
King Sunjo (1800-1834) built the Yeongyeongdang in the style of the typical home of the Confucian literati in 1828.
The hall served as an office for his son, the Crown Prince Hyomyeong, who was entrusted with running state affairs in Sunjo's stead at the age of 18. The complex was designed for giving the young prince a taste of rural gentry life.
Various festive performances and banquets such as celebrations for the royal families' birthdays took place there.
To revive the original use of the venue, various traditional performances such as court music using stringed instruments and court dances featuring the nation's masters such as Lee Saeng-gang, Cho Tong-dal, Oh Jung-sook and Jung Jae-juk are now being staged.
The Changdeok Palace is one of the most beautiful royal palaces in Seoul. The palace consists of the main building and a large garden ― the Biwon (or Huwon), which was the exclusive pleasure garden of the Joseon royal family.
The palace was registered on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1997. The UNESCO committee describes the site as an ``outstanding example of Far Eastern palace architecture and garden design'' being exceptional because the buildings are ``integrated into and harmonized with the natural setting'' and adapted ``to the topography and retaining indigenous tree cover.''
Performances will be held every Thursday at 4:00 p.m. until Oct. 30.
Changgyeong Palace: Morning Music
Hosted by the National Center for Korean Traditional Performing Arts (NCKTPA) and supported by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, Cultural Heritage Administration of Korea, ``Morning is Broken at Changgyeong Palace'' will be performed every Saturday morning Aug. 23 to Sept. 20.
Members from the Court Music Troupe of the NCKTPA will perform ``Yeongsanhoesang'' for 55 minutes. ``Yeongsanhoesang'' is one of the musical masterpieces enjoyed by the noble classes in the late Joseon Kingdom. It consists of nine pieces of music _ Sangyeongsan, Jungnyeongsan, Seryeongsan, Garakdeori, Sanghyeondodeuri, Hahyeondodeuri, Yeombuldodeuri, Taryeong and Gunak.
Changgyeong Palace housed a zoo, botanical garden and museum on the site during the colonial period. In 1983, the zoo and botanical garden were discontinued.
The predecessor of Changgyeong Palace was Suganggung, or Sugang Palace, which was built by King Sejong (1418-1450) to accommodate his father King Taejong, the founder of Joseon.
In 1484, during the reign of King Seongjong, the three halls of Myeongjeongjeon, Munjeongjeon and Tongmyeongjeon were added on to the palace to accommodate the widows of three previous kings. With these structures, the palace became known as Changgyeonggung, the name it bears today.
Performances will be held from Aug. 23 to Sept. 20 at 7:30 a.m. every Saturday at Tongmyeongjeon Courtyard of Changgyeong Palace.
Tickets for each performance are given by request through Web site (www.ncktpa.go.kr) on a first come, first serve basis (500 seats are available per each performance). For more information, call (02) 580-3300.
Deoksu Palace: Traditional Artwork Exhibition
``Cheongong'' is an old expression to say a ``craftsman with a gift endowed from heaven.'' To show off the artworks of the gifted masters, the Korea Cultural Heritage Foundation is holding a special exhibition in Deoksu Palace.
The foundation has held the exhibition since 2001 under a different theme. This year's theme is court ornament culture.
The exhibit shows about 300 pieces of various court ornamental shoes, clothes, vessels and furniture.
The exhibit items are the re-created works of 27 craftsmen to recover the ancient skills at Seokjojeon of the palace.
Deoksu Palace was used as the main office during the reigns of King Seonjo, Gwanghae, and Gojong. The original name of Deoksu Palace was Gyeongwun Palace, named in 1611, the third year of King Gwanghae's reign.
Inside the Deoksu Palace, there are palace buildings of various architectural styles. Junghwajeon, the main building of the palace was built in the style of a traditional Korean architecture. Seokjojeon, which is currently used as an art gallery, is in Western-style stone architecture. The various architectural styles and gardens produce a unique dignity.
The exhibit will continue through Aug. 28. Admission is free.
For more information, call (02) 3011-2163.