Fortification in Suwon

Hwaseong Fortress

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Hwaseong (Brilliant Castle/ Fortress), the wall surrounding the centre of Suwon, the provincial capital of Gyeonggi-do, South Korea, was built in the late eighteenth century by King Jeongjo of the Joseon Dynasty to honour and house the remains of his father Prince Sado, who had been murdered by being locked alive inside a rice chest by his own father King Yeongjo having failed to obey his command to commit suicide. Located 30 kilometres (19 mi) south of Seoul and enclosing much of central Suwon including King Jeongjo's palace Haenggung, UNESCO designated the fortress a World Heritage site in 1997. The Suwoncheon, the main stream in Suwon, flows through the centre of the fortress.


Hwaseong Fortress was built over two and a half years, from 1794 to 1796 according to the designs of the architect Jeong Yak-yong, who would later become a renowned 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 along with contemporary science into his plans. Use of brick as a building material for the fortress and employment of efficient pulleys and cranes were also due to the influence of Silhak.

Construction of 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 model for building fortresses in Korea was to make a simple wall for the city or town and a separate mountain fortress to which the people could evacuate in times of war. However, this fortress was built to include elements of a wall, defensive fortress, and town centre, the four main gates being used as the gates for the town. The arrow-launching platforms built along ramparts with crenellated parapets and battlements were defensive 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 1500 sacks of rice to pay the workers. In the past, government work had been carried out by corvée labour, but in this case workers were paid by the government, another sign of Silhak influence.

King Jeongjo apparently built this fortress to prepare for a move of the capital from Seoul to Suwon. Suwon was purported to be 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 work, such as the building of educational facilities to better facilitate the city as a capital.

A white paper, "Hwaseong Seongyeokuigwe" (Records of Hwaseong Fortress Construction), was published in 1800, shortly after Jeongjo died. It has 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 covering the plans for building, including blueprints and a 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 the adjoining palace, Haenggung. Manpower was allocated by speciality, dividing workers by trade, categorising them as foremen, stonemasons, labourers, etc. The records also detail the amounts of different materials used.

Overview of Structures

Four gates

The fortress has four gates: Janganmun (north gate), Hwaseomun (west), Paldalmun (south) and Changnyongmun (east). Janganmun and Paldalmun are the largest of the four main gates and resemble Seoul's Namdaemun in roof design and stone and woodwork. Indeed, Janganmun is the largest gate in Korea. Both the north and south gates are topped with two-storey wooden pavilions, while Hwaseomun's and Changyongmun's, those of the west and east gates respectively, have only one storey. The four main gates are encircled by miniature fortresses, which were manned by guards.


The wall is 5.74 kilometres (3.57 mi) in length and varies between 4 to 6 metres (13–20 ft), originally enclosing 1.3 square kilometres (0.5 sq mi) of land. On flat terrain the wall was generally built higher than that on either of the two hills over which it passes, as higher walls were seen as less necessary along hilltops. The parapets are made of stone and brick, like most of the fortress, and were 1.2 metres (4 ft) in height.

Although the southern section between the south gate and the location of the former south floodgate has not been restored, the remaining ninety percent is well-maintained and can be walked on foot.

Other structures

There were originally 48 structures along the wall of the fortress but seven have been lost to flooding, wars, or wear and tear. The fortress today features a floodgate, four secret gates, four guard platforms, two observation towers, two command posts, two archers' platforms, five firearms bastions, five sentry posts, four pavilions, a beacon tower and nine turrets.

There were originally three watchtowers, but only two remain, both three-storeyed and with distinctive wooden pavilions on top and embrasures for guns and lookouts.

The beacon tower has five chimneys to make different signals with smoke or fire. When one was lit it signalled peace, two meant the enemy had been spotted, three warned that the enemy was approaching, four meant the enemy had made it into the city, and five signals lit was an alert that fighting had begun.


The structures along the wall are listed below in anti-clockwise order beginning in the south, as the South Gate is the most accessible by public transport.

South Gate (팔달문)

Paldalmun, known locally as Nammun (South Gate), sits in the middle of a roundabout on a busy main road in central Suwon. Its stone base is capped with a two-storey wooden pavilion surrounded by a stone wall. A small, semi-circular protective wall known as an ongseong, is located on the south side (outside) of the gate. The gate also houses a bell called Paldalmun Dongjong, which was originally cast in Gaeseong in 1080 and was refounded in 1687 by Dohwaseung, the chief priest of Manuisa Temple for use in Buddhist ceremonies. 123 cm tall and 75 cm in diameter, it hangs from a dragon-shaped suspension ring, has a flue pipe to set the tone and has a slightly curved body - features which are typical of Korean bells of that era. This particular bell's flue pipe has a design of the dragon's tail entwined around it and is topped with a lotus flower. The top of the bell has a line of Sanskrit words around it, while the bottom is decorated with arabesque designs. The decorative nipples are interspaced with Bodisattvas holding lotus flowers. The bell is very similar in design to that in Tongdosa, the bell at which differs notably from Paldalmun's only in size.

South-East Gate Guard Platform (남동적대)

Both the south and north gates originally had guard platforms to either side. Today, only those beside the north gate remain.

South-East Observation Tower (동남공심돈)

Dongnam Gongsimdon, like that standing by Hwaseomun, was an observation tower standing beside the Suwoncheon. It is part of the section of Hwaseong which has not been restored.

Namsumun (남수문)

Namsumun, meaning South Floodgate, sat across the Suwoncheon at the downstream end of the city walls. The gate was a little over a kilometre from Hwahongmun, the gate at the upstream end. Construction began on February 28, 1794, was interrupted, but continued in November 1795, the structure being completed on March 25, 1796, but having been fully operational since completion of its basic structure on January 16 that year. The bridge had nine arches for the water to flow beneath: two more than Hwahongmun because of increase in flow. Above the bridge there was a large brick structure instead of the usual gatehouse, as this section of Hwaseong was one of the most vulnerable. This took up two thirds of the space above the arches, the remaining third being the bridge. The structure was destroyed completely by a massive flood in July 1922.

South-East Pavilion (동남각루)

Dongnam Gangnu, the south-eastern pavilion, sits on top of a small rise above the former location of Namsumun. Its location serves its purpose as a lookout tower well, as much of Hwaseong and the area outside to the south and east can been seen from here.

East Turret 3 (동삼치)

Dongsam Chi, the third eastern turret, lies halfway from the south-east pavilion to the second eastern sentry post. Like other turrets, it extends a short distance perpendicularly from the wall to enable guards to see and attack assailants who had already reached the fortress.

East Sentry Post 2 (동이포루)

Dong-i Poru, the second eastern sentry post, like other sentry posts, is a wooden structure sitting on a turret. Construction of this post was completed on July 3, 1796 and it was intended to defend the beacon tower. For this purpose, it extends further out from the wall than the north-western sentry post. It also lacks wooden front doors.

Beacon Tower (봉돈)

Bongdon, the beacon tower, sits midway from Paldalmun to Changnyongmun. It is located intentionally in direct line with Haenggung so that the king could see its signals. Smokes and lights were used to signal the state of threats. The southernmost of its five chimneys was used during peacetime.

East Turret 2 (동이치)

Dong-i Chi, the second eastern turret, like the other nine turrets around Hwaseong, allowed soldiers to look out in many directions along the exterior of the wall. Unlike the other two eastern turrets, the outer corners of this structure are rounded, the others forming sharp right angles.

East Sentry Post (동포루)

Dong Poru, the eastern sentry post, lies between the two eastern turrets. Construction of the post was completed on July 16, 1796. As with other sentry posts in Hwaseong, the interior is of multiple levels to allow various angles for firearms and other weapons.

East Turret 1 (동일치)

Dong-il Chi, the first eastern turret, is the first turret south of the first eastern sentry post, lying 148 metres (486 ft) along the wall towards the beacon tower.

East Sentry Post 1 (동일포루)

Dong-il Poru, the first eastern sentry post, was completed on July 10, 1796. Like the second eastern sentry post, it extends further from the wall than most posts.

East Gate (창룡문)

Changnyongmun, known locally as Dongmun (East Gate), sits by a major road junction. Its stone base is capped with a one-storey wooden pavilion. The gate was destroyed during the Korean War, but was reconstructed in 1975.

North-East Crossbow Platform (동북노대)

Dongbuk Nodae is one of two crossbow platforms in the fortress and is situated within reach of the east gate and has a wide field of view as it sits on a corner of the wall, enabling archers to target assailants from many angles.

North-East Observation Tower (동북공심돈)

Dongbuk Gongsimdon, meaning the north-east observation tower, is situated beside Changnyongmun. Oval in shape, its three stories stand 6.8 metres (22 ft) tall. The roof is accessible by an internal spiral staircase

East Command Post (동장대)

Dongjangdae, meaning eastern command post, stands next to Dongbuk Gongsimdon, facing Changnyongmun across an archery field. When the king was in residence in Haenggung, within the fortress walls, there were two generals and four soldiers on guard in this command post at all times. (There were five night shifts.) Each officer was armed with a bow and arrow, sword and baton. The command post is nicknamed Yeonmudae, a reference to its second function as a training camp.

East Secret Gate (동암문)

Dongammun, the eastern secret gate, situated 140 metres (459 ft) from Dongjangdae, was used for passage of people, animals and munitions. Construction of the gate, which sits beneath a brick structure surmounted with a large round parapet, was completed on March 25, 1796.

North-East Sentry Post (북동포루)

There are two structures with the name Bukdong Poru in the north-east of the fortress. This particular post stands between the north and east secret gates.

North Secret Gate (북암문)

Bukammun, or officially the third north gate (제3북암문) is the only remaining secret gate of the three originals. It lies close to the north-east pavilion.

North-East Pavilion (동북각루)

The north-east pavilion is known as Dongbuk Gangnu and nicknamed Banghwasuryujeong. It sits above Yongyeon, a pond surrounded by a small garden. It was originally intended to be the second battle command post, though its scenic location made it a place favoured instead for feasts.

Hwahongmun (화홍문)

Hwahongmun, otherwise known as Buksumun, is the gate under which the Suwoncheon flows on entering the area encompassed by Hwaseong. (It formerly exited through Namsumun, but this gate no longer exists.) The gate has the obvious function of being a bridge, but also housed cannons for defensive purposes. The Suwoncheon was widened at this point and the gate has seven arches through which it passes.

North-East Sentry Post (북동포루)

Bukdong Poru is the name of two structures, both of which are sentry posts in the north-east of the fortress. This post sits between Janganmun and Hwahongmun and serves the same purpose as the other sentry posts around Hwaseong. It was completed on September 23, 1794.

North-East Turret (북동치)

Bukdong Chi, the north-eastern turret, sits immediately to the east of the north-eastern gate guard platform.

North-East Gate Guard Platform (북동적대)

Bukdong Jeokdae is a platform immediately to the east of Janganmun. It housed a cannon to protect the gate and its ongseong.

North Gate (장안문)

Janganmun, known locally as Bungmun (North Gate), is the largest such gate in South Korea. Some believe this is intentional, as it is through this gate that visitors from Seoul will have entered Suwon and this would be in keeping with King Jeongjo's original desire to move the capital of the country to Suwon. Janganmun's stone base is capped with a two-storey wooden pavilion. A small, semi-circular protective wall known as an ongseong, is located outside the gate. The gate was destroyed in the Korean War and was reconstructed in the 1970s.

North-West Gate Guard Platform (북서적대)

Bukseo Jeokdae is a platform immediately to the west of Janganmun. It housed a cannon to protect the gate and its ongseong.

North-West Sentry Post (북서포루)

Bukseo Poru is a bastion adjacent to Bukseo Jeokdae. Made from black bricks, it is divided into three storeys internally by boards. Firearms were secreted on these floors. The roof is unusual in design, being gabled on the inner side (towards the wall) and angled to the outer side (away from the wall). Construction was completed on September 24, 1794.

North Sentry Post (북포루)

Buk Poru is another bastion containing hidden firearms. This is closer to Hwaseomun than to Janganmun. Today a tourist information centre and public toilet stand on the north side of the bastion. Construction was completed on February 20, 1795.

North-West Observation Tower (서북공심돈)

Seobuk Gongsimdon is an observation tower standing directly adjacent to Hwaseomun, giving it the obvious function of being a lookout post to protect the gate. Built from bricks on three sides, its inside is partitioned into three storeys with two wooden floors, from which soldiers could fire cannons and other firearms. It is said that, in 1797, on visiting Suwon, King Jeongjo claimed to his companions that this was the first gongsimdon in Korea. Its construction was completed on March 10, 1796.

West Gate (화서문)

Hwaseomun is the west gate to Hwaseong. Its stone base is capped with a one-storey wooden pavilion.

North-West Pavilion (서북각루)

Seobuk Gangnu, facing a hill known as Sukjisan, is the lookout post immediately anti-clockwise from Hwaseomun. With less of an wide field of view than from the other side of the gate, it is shorter than the gongsimdon a short distance to the north-east. The pavilion's ground floor is fitted with an under-floor heating system.

West Turret 1 (서일치)

Seo-il Chi, meaning West Turret 1, is a small bulge in the wall to allow soldiers to fire upon anyone attempting to scale Hwaseong from the outside.

West Sentry Post (서포루)

There are two structures with the name Seo Poru, or West Sentry Post. From these, soldiers could fire concealed weapons. This particular structure, which sits partway up the hill named Paldalsan when heading anti-clockwise from Hwaseomun to Seojangdae, was completed on May 30, 1796. Because of its proximity to the western command post, it was one of Hwaseong's most heavily-armed posts.

West Turret 2 (서이치)

Seo-i Chi, the second turret on the west of Hwaseong, stands just below Seonodae on the slopes of Paldalsan. Its purpose, as with any turret, was to provide a location to attack people trying to scale the walls.

West Crossbow Platform (서노대)

Seonodae is an octagonal, steep-stepped, black brick platform directly adjacent to Seojangdae at the crest of Paldalsan when heading uphill from Hwaseomun. From here, archers could attack assailants in a wide range of directions and facing downhill, too.

West Command Post (서장대)

Seojangdae, meaning western command post, sits atop Paldalsan, a small hill over which the higher section of Hwaseong runs. Seojangdae was destroyed by a fire in 1996 and was reconstructed afterwards. However, on May 1, 2006, an arsonist attacked Seojangdae. The arsonist reportedly caused the fire by lighting his clothes and underwear with a cigarette lighter. The fire caused about ₩6 billion in damage (about $6 million), destroying the upper floor of the watchtower. Seojangdae was reconstructed in 2007.

West Secret Gate (서암문)

Seoammun, the West Secret Gate, lies 50 metres (164 ft) south of Seojangdae. Sitting on a forested part of the ridge of the hill Paldalsan, it was designed to provide access in and out under cover. Today, it is easily accessible from the road outside, being located near Jindallae (Azalea) Public Toilets.

West Sentry Post (서포루)

Seo Poru, the western sentry post, sits on a turret projecting from the wall 140 metres (459 ft) south of the West Secret Gate and has the same function as other sentry towers, being to house and secrete firearms. The structure was completed on August 18, 1796. It was intended to defend the western secret gate in the event of its discovery. The post shares its name with that between West Turrets 1 and 2.

West Turret 3 (서삼치)

Seosam Chi, the third western turret, has the same function as the other nine turrets around Hwaseong. It sits just north of the south-western spur.

South-West Secret Gate (서남암문)

Seonam Ammun is the beginning of a path to Seonam Gangnu, the south-western pavilion. The gate used to contain a house known as a posa, and Seonam Posa, the south-western posa, sat above the gate, enabling soldiers to keep watch and issue alerts.

South-West Spur (용도)

Hwaseong has a spur known as Yongdo to the south-west. It branches from the main ring at Seonam Ammun, at the top of the hill above Paldalmun, and runs to the south-west end of the ridge along Paldalsan, from the end of which Suwon Station can be seen. The pavilion here is known as Seonam Gangnu - the south-western pavilion - or Hwayangnu.

South-West Spur's Eastern Turret (용도동치)

Midway along the south-west spur from the South-West Secret Gate to the South-West Pavilion lies one of two turrets. This, the eastern turret, extends a short distance from the spur to the left and overlooks the wall towards Paldalmun (though this cannot be seen as the hill is thickly forested).

South-West Spur's Western Turret (용도서치)

Shortly after Yongdodongchi, on the other side of the spur, lies Yongdoseochi, the spur's western turret. This extends to the right and overlooks the city of Suwon towards Seoho.

South-West Pavilion (서남각루)

Seonam Gangnu, also called Hwayangnu, lies at the end of the spur from Seonam Ammun, from which a lot of Suwon can be seen, including Suwon Station.

South Pavilion (남포루)

Nam Poru, like the other pavilions, is a wooden structure sitting atop a turret jutting out from the wall. This pavilion is situated on the slopes of Paldalsan uphill from Paldalmun, yet below Seonam Ammun.

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Michelin Travel & Lifestyle
Expect to spend at least an hour walking the 5km of walls and taking in the views. There’s also a history museum on site. – Green Guide Editor
Pino B
13 October 2012
Beautiful fortress, alas ugly buildings are both side of the walls.
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132-5 Paldallo 2(i)-ga, Paldal-gu, Suwon-si, Gyeonggi-do, South Korea

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