Skip Navigation

home >Q&A >FAQ

FAQ

How did the Joseon Dynasty name its palaces and gates?

How did the Joseon Dynasty name its palaces and gates?

  • There were five royal palaces built in the period of the Joseon Dynasty: Gyeongbokgung, Changdeokgung, Changgyeonggung, Gyeonghuigung and Deoksugung.
  • Geunjeongjeon, Main Hall of Gyeongbokgung Palace Gyeongbokgung Palace was built in the beginning of the Joseon Dynasty, and its name was borrowed from the lines, “君子萬年介爾景福 (O our lord, myriads of years! May your bright happiness ever be increased!),” of Shijing (Book of Odes).
  • Changdeokgung Palace was built under the reign of King Taejong, and its name literally means “prospering virtue,” showing the vision of “uncovering the foundation of virtue and prospering upon it.”
  • Changgyeonggung Palace was built as a royal villa in 1484 under the reign of King Seongjong on the site of Suganggung Palace, which was built as the residence for King Taejong to stay after handing over the throne to his son, King Sejong.
  • Gyeonghuigung Palace was originally called Gyeongdeokgung, and was built under the reign of Gwanghaegun, or Prince Gwanghae, on the site of the residence of Wonjong, King Injo’s father, but its name was changed into Gyeonghuigung in the period of King Yeongjo’s reign.
Injeongjeon, Main Hall of Changdeokgung Palace / View of Changgyeonggung Palace
View of Gyeonghuigung Palace / View of Deoksugung Palace
  • The names of palace gates were based on the Philosophy of Yin-Yang and the Five Elements. The letter政 (jeong), meaning the rule of a king, was usually used for the main gate of a royal palace, while the four gates in the four directions had the letters, 春 (chun) and 秋 (chu) for their name as they symbolized the four seasons. 
  • The name of a palace’s south gate (main gate) usually included the letter 化 (hwa), which was used to mean “edifying and influencing ordinary people.”
  • Gyeongbokgung, Changdeokgung, Changgyeonggung, Gyeonghuigung and Gyeongungung (Deoksugung) were regarded at first as the five major royal palaces of the Joseon Dynasty, but later on, Gyeonghuigung was eliminated because its original form was damaged beyond repair.
  • Gunggwol, the Korean term for palace, was coined by combining the letters 宮 (gung) and 闕 (gwol). Gwanghwamun was the name for the main gate of Gyeobokgung Palace; Donhwamun for the main gate of Changdeokgung Palace; Honghwamun for the main gate of Changgyeonggung Palace; Heunghwamun for the main gate of Gyeonghuigung Palace and; Inhwamun for the main gate of Gyeongungung Palace. But in 1906, the main gate of Gyeongungung Palace was replaced with Daeanmun, located at the present site, and was renamed Daehanmun, which has been used to the present day.


  • Comparison Between the Names of the Main Gates of the 5 Main Palaces and the Philosophy of Yin-Yang and the Five Elements

ClassificationMain HallEast GateWest GateSouth Gate(Main Gate)North Gate
GyeongbokgungGeunjeongjeonGeonchunmunYeongchumunGwanghwamunSinmumun
ChangdeokgungInjeongjeon GyeongchumunDonhwamun 
ChanggyeonggungMyeongjeongjeon  Honghwamun 
DeoksugungJunghwajeon  Inhwamun 
Gyeonghuigung   Heunghwamun 
Four Seasons SpringAutumnSummerWinter
Five ElementsEarthWoodMetalFireWater
Five Cardinal VirtuesFaithfulnessBenevolenceRighteousnessPolitenessKnowledge
Four Guardian Deities Blue DragonWhite TigerRed PhoenixBlack Turtle
Five Cardinal ColorsYellowBlueWhiteRedBlack