Hwaseong Fortress Provides a Good Glimpse Into the PastHwaseong Fortress in Suwon city, Kyonggi province, is a place of antiquity and beauty. In the old days, walking along the fortress was even considered a sacred act. Today, the fortress is a well-known tourist attraction.
In 1789, King Jeongjo of the Choson dynasty moved his father's tomb from Mount Baebong to the current location of Mount Hwasan in Suwon. The king then decided to build Hwaseong Fortress as an expression of filial piety to his father and to strengthen royal authority. Completed in 1796, the fortress has a variety of structures, such as a lodge for the king, gates and towers.
To build the fortress, stones were carried and lifted using a crane that had been developed by Jeong Yak-yong, a renowned scholar of the period. The fortress boasts a magnificent size: The walls are a total of 5.7 kilometers long and 5 meters tall. The area encompassed by the fortress is more than 1.3 million square meters.
Originally, architects thought that up to 10 years would be needed to complete the fortress, but it took only 33 months due to the advanced equipment used. Construction workers were also paid based on the amount of work they completed as an added incentive for quickly completing the fortress. Hwaseong-haenggung, the king's lodge, is the main building of the fortress and it consists of numerous rooms including Bongsudang, Jangrakdang and Naknamheon. The fortress was registered as a World Cultural Heritage site in 1997.
Free Bus Tour
The best way to see the magnitude of the whole fortress at once is to join a free bus tour offered by the city of Suwon. The tour departs from the front of the General Information Desk of Jang-an Park and stops at Seojangdae (the commanding post at the summit of Mount Paldal), Hwaseomun (the west gate), Hwaseong-haenggung, Hwahongmun (another gate) and Dongjangdae (the place used for military training). At Dongjangdae, also called Yeonmudae, participants of the tour can try their hand at some traditional Korean archery, also free of charge.
While one can never know whether or not there will be a shortage of public restrooms at a tourist site, visitors will be happy to know that this tour ends with a stop at the Firefly Restroom. This famous restroom won an award for being one of the cleanest and most beautifully decorated public bathrooms in the nation.
The tour starts at 2:30 p.m. every Saturday and continues for about three hours. Admission is limited to 45 people each week. For reservations, call the information desk at 031-228-2766 (English service available). For more information on Suwon and other tourist attractions, visit the Web site www.suwon.ne.kr (English version available).
If you prefer walking, there are five courses from which to choose. One can either depart from Seojangdae, Paldalmun (the south gate), Hwaseomun, Jang-anmun (the north gate) or from Changryonggmun (the east gate).
It takes about two hours to finish one of the courses, and most of the courses include a stop at Seojangdae since the post is located at the top of the mountain and offers the best views. Of all the routes, the one that departs from Seojangdae is most recommended since it is easier to enjoy the scenery while walking downhill rather than up. Remember to wear a pair of comfy shoes on your walking tour since high heels or spikes may cause damage to the old walkways.
About 8 kilometers from Hwaseong Fortress is Yunggeon-reung, the site of the royal tombs of King Jeongjo and his father, Prince Sadoseja. Along the path to these tombs stand huge trees that provide shade and a nice place to sit under while taking in the views.
A statue of King Jeongjo and a memorial hall are located in Hyohaeng Park. The park itself was planned by the city to commemorate King Jeongjo's devotion to his father, and the name "hyohaeng" literally means filial deed. Inside the memorial hall, are paintings and calligraphy by King Jeongjo and a miniature of Hwaseong Fortress.
After a day of sightseeing be sure to enjoy some galbi, grilled short ribs, easily found at any of the restaurants in the vicinity of Hwaseong Fortress.
by Chung Chan-min