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Hyangwonjeong Pavilion

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Hyangwonjeong is a two story hexagonal pavilion on a small island in the middle of an artifical pond on the northern grounds of Gyeongbokgung Palace in Seoul, South Korea.

The pavilion was built in 1873 by the order of the first (and last) Korean emperor Gwangmu, a.k.a. King Gojong.

The garden with a square pond, symbolising earth, and a small pavilion on a round island, symbolising cosmos, surrounded by a sparse evergreen forest, is a classic example of a Korean Imchon hermitage garden, allowing a very wealthy hermit to toss aside worldly interests and desires, returning to nature, aloof from the world.

The name Hyangwonjeong loosely translates as "Pavilion of Far-Reaching Fragrance", while the woodden bridge across the pond (Chwihyanggyo) translates as "Bridge Intoxicated with Fragrance". This sounds way too poetic to my utilitarian ear, but I guess they could not go against the tradition, after all the palace itself is called "Palace Greatly Blessed by Heaven".

Too bad the fancy names meant nothing to the emperial Japanese forces, which completely destroyed the palace during the 1910-1945 occupation. A 40-year plan to restore the palace and its gardens to its former glory was started by the government in 1989. When I visited South Korea in 2003, less than 30% of the original structures were reconstructed. If all goes according to the plan 2029 should be the year to visit the palace again.

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