A House Fit for (the Portrait of) a King


If you visit the perfected state, Jeonju, one of the places you are likely to visit is Gyeonggijeon, a palace shrine built for, not a king, but his portrait. More specifically, it was built for King Tae-jo’s portrait, the founder of the late Joseon Dynasty. Tae-jo, not his portrait. His portrait didn’t found anything.

Just wanted to clear that up.

The shrine is basically set up as a palace, complete not only with a throne room (where the painting is hung), but servants quarters, a library and various smaller shrines and monuments and a little bamboo grove! Let’s have a look!

It’s easy to find. It’s just across the street from the Jeonju Cathedral and all the buses and taxis going to the hanok village will drop you off nearby.


You can see the entrance on the left, right behind that crowd.

Once you enter, you have three choices: You can go left to the servant quarters (sans servants), you can take the middle to the enthroned portrait, or you can go right to adventure!

And a restroom should you need to use it. The only reason I mention it is because I can tell the contractor squeezed in an extra urinal, probably to sell an extra unit.


Seriously, how are we supposed to use this?

Anyway, head north from the restrooms and we find this little monument.


Yeah! Giant Turtle! This turtle guards another monument called a taesil. You can see it just behind the turtle.


What’s a taesil? Well, it holds the umbilical chord of a king. This one belongs to King Yejong. Why is it here? Good question.


You can find these in various places around Korea, and they’ll generally take the same shape.

Walking on, we come across a little bamboo grove…



…where almost every stalk has a name or love note carved on it.


On the left we have Jeon Changmin and on the right we have Saebom (heart) Minsu. How cute.

Past the bamboo stand we come across a library on stilts!



It’s on stilts to help regulate temperature and protect the library from vermin. Now its not actually a library, but a little gallery showing how the library used to work and the ceremonies involved with the maintenance. The reading would be fairly dry for most moderns as the contents were about the daily lives and records of kings past.

Turning back to the central path, we see the throne room.


But because this is a shrine, the main path is blocked and you have to walk around the sides. What does that sign say on the main path?



Literally the path for spirits, or as they so eloquently translated: “Road of God”. Only the spirits are supposed to use this main path as the king enthroned is a painting, a representation of the deceased king.

Along the sides we also see big pots. These are supposed to be filled with water for easy access in case of a fire. They’re pretty much just decorative now.

But what of the king? Where is the king?


The inner room of the throne room.



There he is, a painted king sitting on his painted throne. The table, now empty, will be filled with food and offerings during ceremonies. It only looks sad and lonely because we aren’t allowed inside. We can only peer in.

The library and throne are painted red for the royalty. But the last part, through this door, is all brown and white, the servants’ prep area.


In this last area, there are many small buildings with their own purpose. Some are for preparing food of one type or another, another for preparing cloth, etc.


Of course it was built for much smaller people. It’s easy for us to hit our heads on the beams. Behind me is a well, capped off for safety.



The backside of one of the servant buildings with a nice view of the Jeonju Cathedral.

It’s a nice little palace to visit if you find your way to Jeonju. The only advice I would have to give is don’t eat the bamboo.


It’s a little tough.


  1. Road of God is an accurate translation of “Shindo.” “Shin” means god or gods, not spirits in the Western sense.

    • Thanks for the reply. Shin has multiple meanings, and in context it does not mean for a god or gods, but rather the spirit(s) of the deceased. At least as far as my understanding goes. But you make a valid point, the terminology of what counts as a spirit or god can be quite different between cultures.

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