Gwanghamun means “may the light of enlightenment blanket the world”. Founded in 1395, it symbolizes the creation of the Joseon Dynasty. However, much like Gyeongbokgung palace, it too has been demolished more than once. You would think the memory would be lost forever. But not quite. Maybe symbolic of the resilience of the nation of Korea, this gate has been rebuilt time and again. Today, it is the most beautiful of the five palace gates. However, because it is made of concrete, it was not designated by the Korean government as a National Treasure.
But I think it looks absolutely great! Furthermore, when you see it from inside the palace grounds, the Seoul city skyline juxtaposed against it seems so surreal. The old and new in one shot. Outside the gate, it is an awfully busy three way intersection. Taking photos here means you have to contend with the heavy traffic, so do be careful!
Here below, is another photo from further away. I did want to take a photo with Gwanaksan mountain in the background but the night sky did not help that much! I guess at least the beautifully illuminated gate more than makes up for that
You should also look out for Haetae. These are mythical unicorn-lion sculptures on either side of the gate ( that eat fire. ) Apparently, there was a fire around Gwanaksan Mountain. So, in order to protect the palace from fire, these sculptures were put beside the gate. Interesting. I walked past them but they didn’t turn out very well at night in my photos. Should have taken the photo when I first arrived. Oh well, perhaps another time. But here is what they look like courtesy of Wikipedia commons (photo by hyolee2)
Finally, I should say that I only scratched the surface of this grand palace. There is lots to do here. In addition to the very festive changing of the guard ceremony (voted by visitors as the third best thing to do in Seoul), the grounds also houses the National Folk Museum and the National Palace Museum of Korea. This will certainly be first on my agenda when I next visit.