With snow still on the ground, my oldest and I took advantage of a half-day off from her school and toured Biwon, better know to us as the Secret Garden. Tucked behind the Changdeokgung Palace, the garden served as a quiet oasis of meditation and contemplation for the royals of old Korea.
Frozen and blanketed in white, the Ongnyucheon (옥류천, 玉流川, “Jade Stream”) was my favorite spot in the garden. Perhaps not the most zen of activities in the garden, the royalty had a sense of humor in the day (reminiscent of a naughty frat boy, albeit far more interesting) by declaring this spot the site of a drinking game. A horseshoe shaped channel was carved in the little stream and wine cups would float by in the water. Players had to create a clever impromptu poem before the floating cup passed them by. Punishment for lack of skill resulted in either no wine or the rapid chugging down of three cups. Not sure which, but far more witty than a game of quarters or beer pong.
For me, this spot captured the lighter side of being a king, a snapshot into ancient lives we don’t often see.