Hanyangdoseong (Seoul City Wall)
See & Do Tours
Most cities once had walls. Walls not only defended their cities from attacks but were physical borders that separated the cities from the outer lands. Although most cities once had walls, there aren’t a lot of cities left that still have them in the present. Hanyangdoseong is the name of the wall that once surrounded Seoul. And 600 years later, it continues to stand strong as one of Korea’s major historical monuments.
Writer Park Eui-ryung - Photos by Seoul Metropolitan Government
Hanyang, capital city of Joseon Dynasty, was Seoul’s old name. Having founded the Joseon Dynasty in 1392, King Yi Seong-gye established Hanyang as the new capital city in 1394 and built a city wall around it in 1396. Surrounding the city of Hanyang, the fortress city wall came to be called the Hanyangdoseong.
The past city of Seoul was surrounded by four mountains. Hanyangdoseong was built following the geographical terrains of Baegak (Bugaksan) Mountain, Naksan Park, Namsan Mountain, and Inwangsan Mountain, totaling a length of 18.6km. Currently 13km of it is preserved and undergoing restorations. The rest are buried underground, broken in ruins.
There’s much history surrounding the walls and gates of the Hanyangdoseong. Central to the city, the walls in Baegak (Bugaksan) Mountain symbolized the country of Korea. Even today, the walls in that area are still well-preserved and standing strong. As the smallest mountain out of the four, Naksan didn’t provide much of a defense, but it was closest to the hustle and bustle of city activity. In the area around Dongdaemun at the very end of Naksan Mountain, a marketplace was created just for the city’s soldiers manning the walls and their family. Although created back in the 18th century, it continues to remain as one of Seoul’s main marketplaces even today.
Namsan Mountain, along with Baegak (Bugaksan) Mountain, were seen as sacred places. Beacon mounds were set up and used as part of an ancient communication system. Today, the N Seoul Tower sits up there, functioning as another tool of communication. Inwangsan Mountain had such beautiful sceneries that Joseon poets and scholars would commonly gather there to appreciate the view. After all, standing on top of the walls in Inwangsan Mountain, one was able to view both the beauty of nature and the city at the same time. Although built a long time ago, these majestic walls continue to watch over us as silent guardians of the city.