Suwon Hwaseong Fortress was built in the late 18th century by King Yeongjo of the Joseon Dynasty in Suwon, South Korea. It was built to honor and house the remains of his father, Prince Sado who was killed by being locked alive inside a rice chest by his father, King Yeongjo because the prince had failed to obey his fathers command to commit suicide. The fortress is located about 19 miles south of Seoul and encloses much of Suwon, including King Jeongjo’s palace Haenggung. In 1997 Hwaseong Fortress was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list as an outstanding example of early modern military architecture which incorporates highly developed features from both east and west.
Started in 1794 and completed in two and a half years, Suwon Hwaseong Fortress was a built in response to two Japanese invasions led by Toyotomi Hideyoshi. At the time, the popular design for fortresses in Korea featured simple walls to fortify the town and a separate mountain fortress for the town folk to evacuate to in times of peril. Hwaseong Fortress was completely different; it was built within the town and includes the wall, town center, and the four main gates being used by the town. Although the fortress suffered damage during Japanese colonial rule and the Korean War, most of its original features have been restored thanks to a construction archive that was published after the fortress was completed. The four gates of Hwaseong are definitely a highlight of visiting guests; they are designed to resemble the historic gate in the heart of Seoul, Namdaemun. The north gate, Janganmun, is the largest in Korea and both the north and the south (Paldalmun) gates are topped with two story wooden pavilions while the east (Changnyongmun) and west (Hwaseomun) gates have only a single story. Each of the four main gates is surrounded by a miniature fortress that was once manned by guards.
Suwon Hwaseong Fortress is open to the public every day of the year except on Mondays, admission for adults will run you about $1 and $0.50-0.75 for children depending on age. Be sure to check out the Traditional Archery themed tour which lets visitors by wearing traditional clothes and shoot conventional bows at Yeonmundae, the fortresses easter command post which houses an archery field. Hwaseong is home to a variety of festivals and performances throughout the year with most of them taking place in the square in front of Haenggung, the adjoining palace within the fortress walls. You can see anything from martial arts performances used in King Jeongjo’s time to the Royal Guards Ceremony which reconstructs a ceremony held in the 1790s by the royal guards who had been promoted. With only seven of the original forty eight structures lost to flooding, wars or wear and tear, there is so much to see during a visit it will make you want to spend the entire day exploring the culture and history Hwaseong Fortress contains.