My previous post was on the Gyeongbokgung Palace but a visit to the palace is not complete without watching the changing of the guard ceremony. During the Joseon Dynasty, the royal guards were responsible for guarding and patrolling the gates of the capital city and the royal palaces.

The guards were split into a day and night shifts and the changing of the guard ceremony took place during the shift changes. This ceremony started in 1469 and the current reenactment of this ceremony started in 1996. Unlike other changing of the guard ceremonies where the guards are actual military personnel, this ceremony is just for show to provide a glimpse into the past when the royal guards stood watch over the entrance to the Gyeongbokgung Palace.

The Gyeongbokgung Palace changing of the guard ceremony is based on historical records for authenticity and the guards’ uniforms, weapons and accessories are replicas to those they used during the Joseon Dynasty.

The performance begins with the sounding of a gong and lasts for about 20 minutes. The ceremony is reenacted exactly as the original ceremony. Starting with a small group of military marching in and secures the area.

Once the area is secured a band playing traditional instruments marches in and plays during the activities of the ceremony.

The replacement guard then enter and exchange positions with the existing guards.

After the guards have exchanged positions the order of the parade is reversed as the relieved guards exit first followed by the band and then the securing guards.

The ceremony performances are held daily except on Tuesdays at 10:00 AM and 2:00 PM. The performance area is roped off and people start lining up around the ropes about 15 minutes before the performance starts.

The Dust on My Shoes

I have been to changing of the guard ceremonies at several locations around the world. Most of the ceremonies that I have witnessed have been conducted by military personnel and are very formal and solemn ceremonies.

This ceremony is not that type of ceremony. It is a reenactment of a historical event that is important to the history of the palace. Going to a museum and seeing clothing and artifacts from the past cannot communicate the scene of an event like watching a reenactment.

I enjoyed watching the ceremony because it really shows that the palace is more than a bunch of empty buildings from the past. The ceremony brings an aura of royal importance to the palace. A ceremony like this would not take place for anyone except for the leader of the country.

Make sure to plan your visit to the Gyeongbokgung Palace during a time that you will be able to see the changing of the guard ceremony because it helps to get a better feeling of the importance of the palace.

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