Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Beautiful Hwaseong fortress in Suwon city of South korea

This beautiful fortress is located on Mt. Paldalsan and nearby hills in Suwon.

< History >
Hwaseong Fortress was built over two and a half years, from 1794 to 1796. The architect was Jeong Yak-yong, who would later become a famous leader of the Silhak movement. Silhak, which means practical learning, encouraged the use of science and industry and Jeong incorporated fortress designs from Korea, China, and Japan and scientific knowledge into his plans. Adoption of brick as a building material for the fortress and the use of efficient pulleys and cranes also were the result of the influence of Silhak.

The fortress was also a response to the collapse of the Korean front line during Hideyoshi's Invasions of Korea. At the time, the dominant Korean fortress-building model was to make a simple wall for the city or town and a separate mountain fortress for the people to evacuate to in times of war. However, this fortress was built to include elements of a wall, defensive fortress, and town center. The four main gates were used as the gates for the town. The arrow-launching platforms built along ramparts with crenelleted parapets and battlements were elements of the fortress while the wall also held secret gates for offensive actions.

The fortress took 700,000 man-hours to build and cost the national treasury 870,000 nyang, the currency at the time, and 1,500 sacks of rice to pay the workers. In the past, government works were built with corvée labor, but in this case workers were paid by the government, a sign of Silhak influence.

King Jeongjo apparently built this fortress to prepare for a move of the capital from Seoul to Suwon. Suwon is strategically positioned to connect Seoul with the Yellow Sea and China. The king wanted to leave the fracticious strife of the court to carry out reforms and believed that Suwon had the potential to grow into a new and prosperous capital. To encourage growth, he ordered people to move to Suwon at considerable expense and exempted them from taxes for ten years. King Jeongjo also ordered public works, like educational facilities, for the city.

A white paper "Hwaseong Seong-yeokuigwe" (Records of Hwaseong Fortress Construction) was published in 1800, shortly after Jeongjo died. It was ten volumes and proved invaluable for the reconstruction effort in 1970 after the fortress had been severely damaged during the Korean War. The volumes were divided by subject. The first volume was about the plans for building, such as the drawing details and list of supervisors. The next six volumes detail the actual implementation of the building, such as the royal orders and records of the wages of the workers. The final three volumes are supplements and detail the construction of an adjoining palace. The manpower was divided by specialty, such as overseers and stone masons and manual labor. The records detail the amount of materials used as well.

Built under the plan of King Jeongjo of the Joseon Kingdom who wanted to move the court from Seoul to Suwon, to be closer to the tomb of his father, Prince Jangheon.

The fortress is famous for having used modern equipment and machinery invented by such renowned scientists as Yu Hyeongwon and Jeong Yakyong. The construction of the fortress called Hwaseong(Flower Fortress), took two years from 1794, the 18th year of King Jeongjo's reign.

 This fortress, designed to surround the entire town center, is complete with a temporary palace called Hwaseong Haenggung, and shrines such as Jungposa, Naeposa and Sajikdan as well as four smaller passageways, two floodgates, three guardhouses, a signal-fire stand and five gun emplacements.

        The fortress has four gates, "Hwaseomun" (west gate), "Janganmun" (north), "Paldalmun" (south) and Changnyongmun (east). The Janganmun and Paldalmun gates are the larger of the four main gates and resemble Seoul's Namdaemun in roof design, and stone and wood work.(Janganmun is bigger than Namdaemun. Janganmun is the most enormous gate in Korea.) Paldalmun was burned down during the Korean War and was reconstructed in 1975. Janganmun survived destruction and is from the original construction of the fortress. Both the north and south gates are topped with two-story wooden pavilions while Hwaseomun and Changyongmun, the west gate and east gate respectively, had one story pavilions. The north gate's grand design reflected King Jeongjo's desire to move the capital to Suwon. The four main gates are encircled by miniature fortresses which housed guards to protect the gates.

It also have four main gates, Changnyongmun in the east, Hwaseomun in the west, Janganmun in the north, and Paldalmun in the south. The original fortress was heavily damaged for the last 200 years, particularly during the Korean War (1950-1953).

           he wall is 5.74 kilometers in length and four to six meters high, originally enclosing 1.3 square kilometres of land. On flat terrain the wall was generally built higher than wall that was on mountainous terrain, an incorporation of terrain into the fortress defenses which was rare in China and Japan. The parapets are made of stone and brick, like most of the fortress, and were 1.2 meters in height.

Although the southern section has not been restored, the three-quarters that remains is well maintained and can be hiked on foot.

             Wall structures, Originally, there were 48 facilities along the wall of the fortress but seven of them have been lost to flooding, wars, or wear. The fortress features a floodgate, four secret gates, four guard platforms, two observation towers, two command posts, two archer's platforms, five firearms bastions, five sentry towers, four angle towers, a beacon tower and nine bastions.

There were three watchtowers but only two remain, both three-stories with distinctive wooden pavilions on top and embrasures for guns and lookouts. The beacon tower had five chimneys to make different signals with smoke or fire. When one was lit it signaled peace, two meant the enemy had been spoted, three meant the enemy was approaching, four meant the enemy had made it into the city, and five signals lit meant that the fighting had begun.

It was restored through a three-year project begun in 1975. This fortress is unique in the history of fortress construction in Asia in that aesthetic beauty is wonderfully mixed with the modern technology, and perhaps that's why it should be listed by UNESCO as the World Cultural Heritage of UNESCO in 1997.

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