Huwon Secret Garden is a rear garden at Changdeokgung Palace that flows naturally with nature and was used as a place of leisure by members of the royal family. The garden, which has also been known as Bukwon, Geumwon, and Biwon. At 78 acres, the garden takes up about sixty percent of the palace grounds.
This intimate rear garden, which today is the highlight of any visit to Changdeokgung Palace, was first constructed during the reign of King Taejong, who ruled from 1400 to 1418. Its location allowed access from either Changdeokgung Palace or adjacent Changgyeonggung Palace.
The royal family has used the garden as a place of rest since the reign of King Taejong (1400 to 1418). They would come here to contemplate life, write poems, and hold banquets. The garden was also used as an archery range and as the location of military drills.
The highlight of the garden is the two story Juhamnu Pavilion which was used by as a library and for reading by the king. The pavilion is located on a small, peaceful square lily pond.
Many of the pavilions and buildings located here were destroyed by fire in 1592 during the Japanese invasion of Korea.
Restoration work began in 1623 during the first year of the reign of King Injo. This work continued from one king to the next leading to its present appearance.
The design of the garden flows naturally with the surrounding nature. The exquisite design is adapted to the topography, geography, and ridges of Mt. Bugaksan. Artificial landscaping is minimal and left untouched to human hands as much as possible. Many of the trees seen here today are over 300 years old. The landscaping and trees are a great example of Joseon Dynasty gardening design.
What to see at Huwon Secret Garden
Juhamnu Pavilion is a two story pavilion that served as a library and reading room during the reign of King Jeongjo. The two story pavilion was first constructed in 1776 during the first year of the reign of King Jeongjo.
A royal library known as Gyujanggak was found on the first floor. Gyujanggak was not only used as a library but also as a political research institute for the king as he worked on his reform ideas. The second floor was used as a reading room.
Jeongjo was always under pressure from political foes while he held power. He worked hard to strengthen his mind and body and went on to become a great leader who enlightened and served his people to the best of his ability.
The small gate leading to Juhamnu Pavilion is known as Eosumun Gate. The name Eosumun refers to the fact that a fish cannot live outside of water. This was a reminder to King Jeongjo that he as a ruler must consider and respect the people he rules.
Aeryeonjeong Pavilion is a small square pavilion located on Aeryeonji Pond. It was first constructed in 1692 during the reign of King Sukjong. The pavilion was originally located on a small island in the middle of the pond. After the island was removed, the building was relocated to its current location on the side of the pond.
The first son of King Sukjong, Crown Prince Hyomyeong, often visited here to relax and contemplate state affairs. The location makes it a very peaceful and popular area of the garden.
The name means “love of lotuses” which King Sukjong was very fond of.
This pavilion is one of the only buildings at Changdeokgung Palace that faces north. This location allowed more light for reading and contemplation. Another pavilion that faces north is Uiduhap Pavilion.
Bulromun Gate is a single rock stone gate inside the Huwon Secret Garden. Anyone who passes under is said to be blessed with long life and good health. On the tour, you can pass under it and be blessed with good health and longevity. Bulromun leads to Aeryeonjeong Pavilion and Uiduhap Pavilion.
A replica of the Bulromun Gate can be found inside Gyeongbokgung Station on the Seoul Subway.
Changdeokgung Chinese Juniper
This tree that stands here, known as the Changdeokgung Chinese juniper, is thought to be over 750 years old. The tree measures in at 12 meters (40 feet) high and 5.9 meters (19 feet) in circumference.
These types of trees were often used during rituals for incense because of their aroma. Chinese juniper trees were commonly used for incense during rituals by worshipers who visited the nearby Seonwonjeon Shrine.
If you take a tour of the Huwon Secret Garden, the tree will be located on the left hand side as you exit the tour and walk back out to the palace.
Jondeokjeong Pavilion is a hexagonal, two story roof pavilion. On the underside of the painted ceiling are two dragons playing with a wish fulfilling jewel. This jewel is known as a cintamani. The painting is symbolic of total royal authority.
A tablet hangs on the north side of the pavilion that reads “All streams of the world have moons reflected on them, but there is only one moon in the sky. The moon in the sky is me, the king, and the streams are you, my subjects.” This plaque reiterates that King Sejong desired full royal authority over the people of his country.
Jondeokjeong Pavilion is located on a small and peaceful pond with wonderful views of the surrounding garden. The pavilion would have been a peaceful retreat for anyone in the royal family that would have wanted to rest and relax.
Seonhyangjae Hall was built as a study for the adjacent Yeongyeongdang Hall. It was here where books were stored and read and where guests were often greeted.
Records known as Gunggwolji (Record of the Palace) were found noting the function of this luxurious building as a study.
The building features, which faces to the north and south, features a sun shade on the western side which was used to block the setting sun, wind, or rain from those inside reading books or studying.
On the inside of the building is a wide wooden floor with heated floors on each side of the main floor. A bronze plate once hung from the rood.
The building is 7 kan wide and 2 kan in depth. A kan is the interval between pillars.
To the east is a terraced flower garden that was built into the hill.
Uiduhap Pavilion was built by Crown Prince Hyomyeong as a place of study, reading, and contemplation. Unlike other royal structures, the architecture is conservative and not decorated with vivid paintwork. It is one of the most modest buildings at Changdeokgung Palace.
The structure was built in 1827 by Hyomyeong who was the first son of King Sunjo. Sunjo, who reigned from 1800 to 1834, was the 23rd Joseon Dynasty king.
Hyomyeong only lived to be 22. Known for his intelligence and fine character, he handled state affairs on behalf of his father from the age of 18.
Along with Aeryeonjeong Pavilion, these are the only buildings in the palace that face north to allow more sunlight for reading and contemplation.
Yeongyeongdang Hall was built in 1828 by Crown Prince Hyomyeong for Jinjakrye, which was a special ceremony for his father King Sunjong. During this ceremony court officials would present food and wine to the king and queen as a sign of strong royal authority.
Yeongyeongdang was also the men’s quarters. It was here where the master of the house resided. Inside is a main room where the master would meet with guests and where he stayed during the day. A separate room with a raised floor was used as a bedroom in the summer.
Yeongyeongdang is built with stone pillars on top of a stone platform. The roof is single-eaved and features roof extensions at each of the corners. Windows surround all four sides of the building which were designed to be lifted during the warmer summer months.
Next to Yeongyeongdang is Seonhyangjae, which was used as a study and for reading books inside the garden.