Located in Seoul, the capital of the Republic of Korea, Changdeokgung Palace, was built during the Joseon kingdom(1395~1910), has more buildings preserved than any other palace from that period. The palace is designated as Historical Site No. 122, and it covers a total area of 580,000 square meters, although the main palace grounds which do not include the Secret Gardens cover an area of 120,000 square meters.
The capital of the Joseon kingdom was moved from Gaeseong in the north to Hanyang(today's Seoul) in 1392, but construction on the palace actually began in October of 1404 during the 4th year of the reign of King Taejong Construction of the main building Jeongjeon began in February of 1405 and was completed in October of the same year.
From then on, the palace was called Changdeokgung or "Palace of Prospering Virtue." Since the palace was east of the existing palace, Gyeongbokgung, it was often referred to as the "East Palace."
The current palace grounds are somewhat larger than the original grounds, since succeeding kings often had additions made during the palace's long history, and Changdeokgung palace was a favorite place of the kings during the dynasty. Although Gyeongbokgung Palace was in fact larger, Changdeokgung was a favorite of the kings because it was the most purely Korean of all the palaces.
Gyeongbokgung Palace was built on level ground and served the official functions of a palace. It was built according to planning and specifications for an official residence to meet the requirements of the capital city. Changdeokgung Palace, however, was designed and built according to more Korean specifications handed down from the Three Kingdoms Period, and consequently retained much more that was uniquely Korean.
After the Japanese Occupation which began in 1910 however, parts of the palace grounds were rearranged, partially destroyed, and even taken to Japan. As with the other palaces, Changdeokgung Palace also had many of its auxiliary buildings removed, and in general the grounds lost much of their authenticity. Changdeokgung Palace was ideally located, however: to the east was Changgyeonggung Palace, to the southeast was Jongmyo (site of the royal family's ancestral tablets and memorial shrines), and to the west was official residence,Gyeongbokgung Palace.
The main structures of Changdeokgung Palace include the gate, Donhwamun, the beautiful granite bridge Geumcheongyo, and the Injeongjeon which served for official state functions. The Seonjeongjeon was used for affairs of state between the king and his ministers. The Daejojeon served as the queen's guarders as well as the king's sleeping quarters, and as educational quarters for the princes. The original quarters were destroyed on several occasions, and during the Japanese Occupation the existing quarters became somewhat westernized. The current quarters are a combination of both Korean and western styles.
Other major buildings on the palace grounds included Hamwonjeon, Gyeonghungak, Gajeongdang, Eochago, Naeuiwon and Seongjeonggak, the Gwanmulhon, the old Seonwonjeon, Nakseonje, Chwiwunjeong, Hanjeongdang, Sangnyangjeong, Manwolmun, Sunghwaru, Samsamwa, and Chilbunso.
A particularly distinctive feature of Changdeokgung Palace is the fact that it was built with minimum effect on the natural environment and designed to harmonize with nature as completely as possible. Buildings were designed and constructed to blend easily with the immediate surroundings and even directions were given careful consideration in planning and building. Space was utilized to provide distinctly different atmospheres throughout the grounds. Also, careful consideration was given to provide continuous yet different views from each site on the grounds.
At the same time, however, the grounds retained a great deal of privacy for palace life, as evidenced by the small number of entrances. But there is a large number of artifacts which have been preserved to inform us of life in the inner world of the palace. And even today, Changdeokgung Palace remains the most Korean of all palaces.
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