When I visited Changdeok Palace in Seoul, my attention was naturally focussed mainly on the buildings themselves. One of these buildings is the Injeong Hall (Injeongjeon), which was used for important celebrations and ceremonies. The unassuming forecourt one walks through to enter the hall was been designed with great care, but for the unsuspecting observer its secrets are easily passed by.
The eaves of hall and the surrounding buildings, for instance, served to amplify the words spoken during the important ceremonies. Granite was deliberately chosen for the paving of the court, as its solidity and rough surface ensured ‘diffuse reflection’ (i.e. scattering) of the sound.
The sound that escaped the courtyard was reflected by an outer wall, and this had the effect of lengthening the sound. The acoustic techniques of the hall, cloisters and floor add up to a design similar to that of a modern concert hall. Hmm – the Stones playing Injeong Hall. That would be a good thing.
The granite served a double purpose, by making the hall look brighter. Not only did its rough surface (like the rough surfaces of modern cinema screens) reflect the light diffusely in the same way as it did the sound, its constituents were ideally suited to the task. Mica is shiny, quartz gives transparency, and the white colour in the rock reflects light of every wave length.
Even the soil beneath the slabs was chosen carefully to ensure efficient drainage of rainwater, and is in fact the same as the drainage soil used beneath modern buildings. Water would travel down from the Hall’s roof, pass underground via the granite soil, gather at the catch-pit and pass along the subterranean stone waterways, out of the Palace grounds.
It is surprising that Korea’s hidden wonders have remained hidden so long. The courtyard of Injeong Hall is an example of a wonder that is virtually invisible, and appears to be typical of the Korean character, which makes a virtue of hiding its own virtue.