”I felt as if I was connected to this historical site.”
Rasmas Mortensen from Denmark was speaking after planting some rice seedlings near the Cheonguijeong Pavilion at Changdeokgung Palace in Seoul on June 7. He had an excited smile on his face as he took off his muddy boots.
The annual rice planting takes place in the palace every year to commemorate a royal Joseon event where the kings planted new rice seedlings and prayed for a good harvest that year.
As the event was only open to visitors who made it to the palace before 11 a.m., only some 260 tourists from various countries gathered at the Cheonguijeong Pavilion. They practiced making tteok rice cake with a traditional mallet and sampled some of the many different types of food that can be made with rice.
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“I feel happy that I was lucky enough to see an event that takes place only once per year,” said Martin Picard, a French tourists who watched the rice planting and sampled some of the delicious injeolmi rice cake. “It’s my first visit to Korea and I won’t be able to forget this experience learning about Korea’s traditional food heritage through such an event.”
Cheonguijeong is the only pavilion inside Changdeokgung Palace that has a thatched roof. Every spring, tourists are invited to plant rice seedlings in the small rice paddy that surrounds the pavilion. In the fall, visitors harvest the rice and thatch the roof of the pavilion with the rice straw.
“During Joseon times, annual ceremonies were held at the rice paddies near the royal palace to pray for a good harvest,” said Lee Moon-Gab, head of the Changdeokgung Palace Office. “To commemorate this tradition, Changdeokgung Palace holds an annual rice-planting ceremony.”