A museum visitor appreciates the articles on exhibition at the National Palace Museum of Korea in Seoul on Dec. 7. The special exhibition ‘Timeless Marvels, the Construction of a Palace in Joseon’ gives visitors a chance to see all of the processes of building a Joseon palace.

The palaces of the Joseon Dynasty, when Confucianism was the national governing ideology, were not simple buildings. 

They represent the governing ideology of the nation, beyond simply a place where the king, who embodied the symbolic existence of the nation, resided and reigned. 

A special exhibition showing the values ​​and thoughts of the Joseon people in terms of architecture kicked off at the National Palace Museum of Korea on Dec. 6. The special exhibition, "Timeless Marvels, the Construction of a Palace in Joseon" (영건營建, 조선 궁궐을 짓다), tells us about the anguishes and hopes that went into Joseon Dynasty architecture.

"The Royal Protocol for the Reconstruction of Changdeokgung Palace" (창덕궁영건도감의궤, 昌德宮營建都監儀軌), "The Royal Protocol as Records of a Palace Construction" (영건의궤, 營建儀軌), "Draft sPlan for Gyeonghuigung Palace" (서궐도안, 西闕圖案), "Daily Records of the Reconstruction of Gyeongbokgung Palace" (영건일감, 營建日鑒), "Files of Craftsmen’s Work Records" (장역기철, 匠役記綴) are all on display at the special exhibition.


A blue beast's head for the eaves is on display at the special exhibition ‘Timeless Marvels, the Construction of a Palace in Joseon.’

The exhibit consists of two sections. The first section shows off 205 relics under seven themes.

The first section introduces the decision and planning phase of palace construction, the organizational background of palace construction, the processes involved in the construction of a palace, and the craftsmen involved when building a palace. In addition, the exhibit focuses on the royal protocol as records of place construction, plaques for the palace buildings, and architectural images from the Joseon Dynasty are all on display.

The second section shows the various and beautiful windows and doors, reappearances and displays, drawings and photos of the Geunjeongjeon Hall in Gyeongbokgung Palace, as well as the architectural models.


Wallpaper from the Norakdang Hall in the Unhyeongung Palace attracts visitors at the National Palace Museum of Korea in Seoul.

“The phrase ‘timeless marvels,' or younggeon (영건, 營建), as in the title of the exhibit, may be unfamiliar to the public, but at that time, during Joseon times, construction work was referred to as ‘timeless marvels.’ If you look at the records, like the "Seungjeongwon Ilgi" (승정원 일기, 承政院日記), or 'The Diaries of the Royal Secretariat,' they refer to it as shingeon (신건, 新建), or simply 'new palace.' Junggeon (중건, 重建) or jungsu (중수, 重修) mean 'reconstruction.' Improvements and repairs (개수, 改修) means 'renovation,' and igeon (이건, 移建) means 'to built into a new place,'" said An Bora, curator at the exhibition. "This exhibition was designed with a focus on the processes involved in the construction of a palace,” she said.