Sunday, January 3, 2016

Changing of the Guards, Gyeongbokgung

History of the Royal Guard Changing Ceremonies (수문장 교대의식)

Since 1469 and through the Joseon Dynasty, royal guards, who were known as the "Wanggung Sumunjang", conducted a Changing of the Guards ceremony as they stood to defend the gates of the main palace where the king resided and from where he ruled the country. During the Joseon Dynasty, the royal guards were responsible for guarding and patrolling the gates of the capital city and all of the royal palace(s). They were in charge of opening and closing the palace gates, inspecting all visitors, and maintaining a close surveillance of the palace. They were divided into day and night shifts, and the Changing of the Guard ceremony took place whenever the shifts switched. 

In the early period of the Joseon Dynasty, the Changing of the Guard ceremony was conducted at Gyeongbokgung (Palace) as at that time Gyeongbokgung was the primary royal palace and the king then resided there. However, in the mid-Joseon Dynasty during the Imjin Waeran (Japanese Invasions of 1592 - 1598) when Gyeongbokgung was burned down, Deoksugung was made the primary royal palace and the Changing of the Guard ceremony was then conducted at Deoksugung. See Changing of the Royal Guard at Deoksugung (Palace).

Reenactment of the Ceremony

The reenactment of the original ceremony began in 1996. After some extensive historical research, this colorful traditional Korean royal court ceremony has become a must-see among Seoul's tourist attractions. This ceremony is supposedly enacted exactly as it used to be held -- with guards wearing royal uniforms, carrying traditional weapons and playing traditional instruments. The guards serve their sentry, perform the changing of the guards ceremony and hold a parade following strict ceremonial procedures as based on historical texts.

The Korean government proudly markets the tradition and compares it to the Changing of the Guards ceremony at Buckingham Palace. The ceremony takes place three times a day (except for Tuesdays) from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in front of Gwanghwamun, the main gate of Gyeongbokgung.

Ceremony Procedure
  1. The first drumbeat signal sounds and the relieving guard unit mobilizes towards Gwanghwamun Gate. 
  2. The second drumbeat signal sounds and the relieving guard unit moves outside of Gwanghwamun Gate, and the chief of the relieving guard unit and the chief of the guard unit on duty perform an identification check.
  3. The chief of the relieving guard unit orders his unit to take their positions at the gate and the relieved guard unit mobilizes to the inside of the gate.
  4. The third drumbeat signal sounds and the chief of the relieved guard unit orders his unit to exit the vicinity.
Ceremony Participants
Sumungun : ..... Position: Keeper of the Royal Palace Gates
..... Duty: Responsible for guarding the palace gates
Sumunjang :..... Position: Chief Keeper of the Royal Palace Gates
..... Duty: In charge of guarding the palace gates and commanding the SumungunSujongjang :..... Position: Deputy Keeper of the Royal Palace Gates
..... Duty: Daejonggo (Management of Large Bells and Drums)
Jongsagwan :..... Position: Lieutenant to the Chief Keeper
..... Duty: Assistance to the Chief Keeper, and management of the gate book
Gapsa :..... Position: Armed Guardsman
..... Duty: Guarding the palace gate
Jeongbyeong :..... Position: Regular Guard
..... Duty: Private soldier of the Joseon's central army
Daejol :..... Position: Subordinate Soldier
..... Duty: Sentry of the palace gate
Jeollugun :..... Position: Jeollugun..... Duty: Delivery of time for the royal court
Chwita : ..... Position: Military Band Musician
..... Duty: Member of a royal military band
Captain of the guards has central position and its his position that all the other guards pay attention to and take cues from as to position and movement. It seems he must always be aligned in the central position of the central gate, the gate that only the king can enter (and therefore it's symbolically blocked off in this picture).
The new captain of the guard comes in with his identical cohort of guards dressed exactly the same as those still on duty. A difference seems to be some changes in the flag the two separate guard cohorts fly.
Inspection of the guards -- on duty and going-on duty
The two captains of the guard greet each other.
Not shown, they simultaneously show each other their authorization passbooks.
All this is done under the supervision of guard in the blue sash, who seems to be the overseer of protocol.
After recognizing each other as being official guards, they bow to one another, and then the guardsmen assigned to each other them begin to shift positions of authority.
Shifting the guards teams as noted by the shift in flag colors.
The shift has almost taken place, every step conducted by proper protocol.
The protocol-overseer goes with the captain of the guard and rings his bell as the captain checks on the position and dress correctness of each of his guards. Each person checked gets a ringing of the little bell.
Oddly enough, very few of the "guards" guarding the palace gates are armed with anything beyond their swords.
In fact, only four are armed with cross-bows and swords, which means that most of the expected attack would be frontal and with close proxemics.
Once correct protocol has been completed, the former guards are permitted to retire.

Modified from the original texts:  

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