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  • 수원화성
  • 수원화성
  • 수원화성

Suwon Hwaseong Fortress was constructed by king Jeongjo (reigning 1777~1800), the 22nd king of Joseon dynasty (1392-1910) after moving the tomb of his father Sadoseja, Crown Prince, who had been victimized in faction struggles in the court, and put inside a rice chest and had died in it, from Mt. Baebong, Yangju, to Mt. Hwa, Suwon. and the moving of the local government headquarters from near Mt. hwa to the current location under Mt. Paldal, Suwon. The mountain was considered as the best place to build tombs according to the theory of geomancy in those days.

There were multiple reasons for constructing the Suwon Hwaseong Fortress. The most important reason was King Jeongjo's filial piety to his father. But, there were other reasons: his political strategy to eradicate faction struggles and establish the king-led politics; use of it as a fortress of national defense to the south.

Using Seonghwajuryak (1793) written by Jeong Yak Yong, government official at Gyujanggak, referring to technology books of the East and the West as the guidebook, the fortress started to be constructed in January 1794, and was completed in September 1796 under the general supervision of Chae Jae Gong, former prime minister and then yeongjungchubusa, and the direction of Jo Sim Tae.

In the process of constructing it, new machines like geojunggi and nokro was specifically designed to move and pile up big stones. When the fortress was built, many subsidiary facilities such as Hwaseong Haenggung, Jungposa, Neposa, and Sajikdan, etc. were also built. But, most of them have been destroyed in later wars and riots, except for Naknamheon, part of Hwaseong Haenggung. Passing though the Japanese Occupation Era (1910~1945), and the Korean War (1950~1953), parts of the fortress were destroyed or lost. But, during the period of 1975~1979, most of the destroyed or lost parts were repaired and recovered, referring to Hwaseong Seongyeok Euigwae.

The circumference of the fortress is 5,744m, and its area is 130ha. It is a pyeongsanseong, or flat and mountainous fortress, with its eastern part flat, and its western part straddling Mt. Paldal. There were originally 49 facilities in the fortress: 4 Gate(Munru), 2 Water Gate(Sumun), 3 Watchtower(Gongsimdon), 2 Command Post(Jangdae), 2 Crossbow Platform(Nodae), 5 Cannon fort(Poru), 5 Sentry Post(Poru), 4 Pavilion(Gangnu), 5 Secret Gate(Ammun), 1 Beacon Tower(Bongdong), 4 Guard Platform(Jeokdae), 10 Turret(Chiseong), 2 Eungu. Among them, 4 facilities have disappeared by floods or wars, and 45 remain intact.

The fortress walls of Suwon Hwaseong remain intact almost as the original form as it was constructed 200 years ago. The Suwoncheon River, which flowed through Buksumun (or Hwahongmun) watergate, still flows through the watergate, and the road network linking Paldalmun, Janganmun, Hwaseong Haenggung, and Changrongmun are still used as an important part of the road network of current Suwon city. The construction of the fortress was motivated by political and economic purposes as well as the filial piety of the king to his father, rather than by military one. Thus, the fortress can be said to symbolize "hyo," filial piety, part of East Asian philosophy, and so it has spiritual and philosophical value, in addition to cultural one.

The Suwon Hwaseong Fortress is of a pyeongsanseong, or flat and mountainous fortress, which cannot be found in other neighboring countries like China and Japan. It was constructed for dual functions ― military defense and commercial functions. With its scientific, rational, and practical structures, it can be called the finest among the fortresses in Asia. The walls were piled up applying the method of 'owechuknetak' in which while outer walls were piled up, the inner sides were made by raising the grounds using the natural topographical features. Influenced by the silhak which literally meant practical studies, and was the scholastic and social movement in those days to try to find practical challenges in real life of people avoiding unrealistic philosophical controversies in neo-Confucianism, various kinds of advanced technology ― mixed use of bricks and stones; device of hyeonan, or flutes on the wall to pour hot water to enemy soldiers climbing the wall, and nujo, or gutter on the wall; creation of geojunggi, or crane; and wall-piling up with wood and bricks ― were actively applied in constructing the fortress. It can be regarded as a rare superb example of fortress construction technology of Asian fortresses.

Especially, the fortress, the result of the fortress construction technologies of the East and the West based on sufficient researches and meticulous plans, is very important in the respect of architectural history. Hwaseong Seongyeok Euigwae published in 1801 after the fortress had been completed provides detailed descriptions about personal informations of those workers who participated in the project, sources and uses of various materials, calculation of budgets and wages, various machines used, the methods of processing materials, and construction diary, as well as the blueprint of construction, and related institutions and rules. So, the book is evaluated as having left an important footprint in architectural history, specifically on fortress building, and having a big historical value as records themselves.

The Suwon Hwaseong Fortress was designated as the Historical Remains No. 3, and has been managed as such. As subsidiary cultural assets, it has Paldalmon gate (Treasure No. 402), Hwaseomun gate (Treasure No. 403), Janganmun gate, and Gongsimdon, etc. The Suwon Hwaseong Fortress was chosen to be registered as an UNESCO World Heritage in December 1997.

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