November 4, 2016

2852 SOUTH KOREA (Seoul) - Changing of the Royal Guards at Deoksugung

Deoksugung (Deoksu Palace), one of the Five Grand Palaces built by the kings of the Joseon Dynasty, is a walled compound of palaces in Seoul that was inhabited by members of Korea's royal family until colonial period around the turn of the 20th century. During the Joseon Dynasty, the royal guards, known as the Wanggung Sumunjang, were responsible for guarding and patrolling the gates of the capital city and the royal palaces. They were in charge of opening and closing the palace gates, inspecting all visitors, and maintaining a close surveillance of the palace.

In the early period of the Joseon Dynasty, the Changing of the Guard ceremony was conducted at Gyeongbokgung (Gyeongbok Palace), which was the primary royal palace. In the late period, when Gyeongbokgung was burned down during the Japanese Invasions of 1592-1598, Deoksugung was made the primary royal palace and the ceremony was then conducted there. After some extensive historical research, this traditional Korean royal court cultural ceremony was first re-enacted in 1996.

This ceremony takes place three times a day in front of Daehanmun, the main gate of Deoksugung. It starts with two mounted soldiers leading the way, and a total of 78 special guards making an appearance. Once all the guards have arrived to the drumbeat of the military band, the ceremony begins. The officer in charge (sumunjang - gateway leader) receives the new password from the king via his royal ministers.

The gate soldiers are called sumungun, meaning gateway soldiers. When the new shift of sumungun arrives, the second-in-command of both the old and new squad, compare passwords to verify the identity of the new men. The next three steps of protocol are signaled by a drum beat. At the first beat, the palace key is handed over to the new sumunjang. At the second drum, he then accepts the bushin, a royal order needed to open and close the gate.

The old sumunjang also hands off the official sumunjang badge to his replacement. Finally at the third drum, the new squad is officially in charge. Next comes the highlight of the ceremony, a patrol procession on a fixed route. The parade starts from Deoksugung, passes by Seoul Plaza, Taepyeongno, and Cheonggye Plaza, before reaching Bosingak Bell Pavilion.

About the stamps

The first two stamps are part of the series Personal Greeting Stamps - The Midas Touch, issued on September 14, 2016.

The second stamp is part of the third set of the series Taiwanese Berries, about which I wrote here.

Deoksugung - Wikipedia
Changing of the Royal Guard - Korea 4 Expats
Deoksugung Palace Royal Guard-Changing Ceremony - Visit Korea

Sender: Betty / bettyteng21 (postcrossing) TW-2081958
Sent from Hualien (Taiwan), on 20.10.2016

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