This 7th-century royal residence with reflecting pond from the Silla Dynasty looks especially photogenic at night.
While in Gyeongju, you won’t want to miss seeing the Gyeongju Donggung Palace and Wolji Pond after dark, when the illuminated pagodas and trees are reflected in the water. The small complex is part of Gyeongju National Park and it’s a local favorite for scenic evening walks.
Donggung Palace, on the edge of the main Banwolseong palace site, was home to the crown prince during the reign of King Munmu. This monarch from the Silla Dynasty was credited with the unification of the Three Kingdoms of Korea.
The palace used to be referred to as “Imhaejin” or “Imhaejeon” and it was here that all the major banquets took place. The original palace and hoerang (corridor) are from A.D. 674, but the pavilion you see when you arrive is a reconstruction.
The palace’s large, manmade pond dates even farther back. During the days of the Goryeo and Joseon dynasties, the pond was known a Anapji, and many locals still call it that today.
This artificial lake likely served as the moat of a fortress that has since been ruined. When it was dredged in 1974, thousands of precious relics were dug up, as well as evidence that the pond used to have three islands and that more buildings had surrounded it. The islands have been restored since. One of the items that was discovered was a pottery fragment with “Wolji” carved onto it, proof of the pond’s original name because it means “a pond that reflects the moon.”
As you walk around Wolji, imagine the exotic gardens that once adorned the palace grounds. It is said that King Munmu renewed the pond based on Taoist philosophies and aesthetics.
To take a closer look at the artifacts found in the pond during the renovations, visit the Anapji Exhibition Hall in the Gyeongju National Museum.
There is an entrance fee for the Gyeongju Donggung Palace and Wolji Pond. Because it is located in central Gyeongju, the complex is easy to reach on foot and by taxi. While there isn’t a lot to see, it’s nice to experience its ambiance and take artistic pictures at night.