The cityscape of Seoul is littered with gleaming skyscrapers that stand side by side with magnificent, ancient palaces and edifices that date back to the founding years of the city. Much of the credit for the good urban planning of Seoul is to be given to the ancient Joseon Dynasty, who ruled Korea for five centuries (14th to the 19th centuries) and who established Seoul as their capital city.
The many relics of the Joseon Dynasty are today concentrated in the older part of Seoul, mainly its downtown area which is also home to several attractions, hotels and markets. These older attractions co-exist happily with the more modern sections of the city, which showcase Seoul’s incredibly advanced cutting-edge infrastructure that features services like mobile TV DMB and wireless broadband WiBro.
The stunning Gyeongbokgung Palace dates back to 1395. This palace was built by Lee Seong-Gye the founder of the Joseon dynasty, who established Seoul as the capital of his kingdom. This grand palace features Royal apartments, state rooms, gardens and the Folk Museum of Korea, all of which are open for viewing by the public.
Yet another magnificent palace in Seoul is Changdeokgung or the East Palace. This palace which is situated in the midst of a large park in Jongno-gu was also built by the kings of the Joseon Dynasty. The palace is counted amongst ‘the five grand palaces of Seoul’. The palace, like the other palaces of the city, was also destroyed by the Japanese occupation but it has been gradually restored over the years. The palace was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997.
Bongeunsa is a prominent Buddhist temple in Seoul which is located in the Gangnam district of the city. The temple was founded by Yeon-hoe a high ranking monk in 794AD. The original temple no longer exists and the current building dates back to 1498. Bongeunsa is the main temple of the Korean Seon (Zen) Buddhist sect. The temple complex today is a much-visited attraction of Seoul, which also offers a ‘Temple Stay program’ for people who would like to experience the life of a Buddhist monk.
The Jongmyo Shrine is the oldest royal Confucian shrine in the world. The shrine, which consists of a number of halls and a cloister, continues to be used for ceremonies, rituals and dance performances until today. The shrine dates back to 1394 and was declared a UNESCO World Cultural Site in 1996. This much venerated shrine is dedicated to the erstwhile Kings and Queens of Korea and has survived the ravages of time quite remarkably.
The Jogyesa Temple
The Jogyesa Temple is the chief temple of the Korean Jogye Order of Buddhism. The temple which dates back to 1395 is located in the heart of the city. The main attraction of this temple is an ancient white pine tree which is known as the Natural Monument 9.
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