The Suwon Hwaseong Fortress was originally built between 1794 and 1796 by King Jeongjo, the 22nd king from the Joseon Dynasty. The fortress was most impressive at the time and is still a powerful image of strength today. The fortress walls run approximately 5.7 kilometers (3.5 miles) and was the first fortress in Korea to be built with stones and brick together. This advancement made it powerfully strong against cannon, gun and spear attacks and considering its height on the top of a hill, it’s a behemoth – then and now.
The Beacon Tower was cool to see. It was used to send messages to soldiers and civilians about pending danger. For example, one fire lit meant everything was fine. Two fires lit meant the enemy was close to the national border. Three fires meant the enemy was at the border, four meant they had crossed over and five meant fighting was underway.
Despite the awesomeness of this fortress, it took a beating over the last 200 years, especially during the Korean War in the early 1950s. Luckily there were books found with detailed blueprints from the original fortress construction so repairing the stronghold to its former glory was easier for modern-day architects. Restoration began in 1975 and it was later registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.
The three pictures above are of one of two command posts used by military personnel. From these vantage points, soldiers could see in all directions.
We wanted to try the archery (approx. $2 for 10 arrows) but it was closed off due to Hanguel Day festivities taking place. Jon reenacted what it would have been like to try it out and I tried my hand and firing a cannon at the unknown enemy.
Instead of archery, we got to see a “guard ceremony” put on by actors to celebrate the long weekend festivities. First the guards marched to the main gate to meet the king and his mother. Later they put on an archery show for the crowd.
The King and his mother came out to greet the peasants and grace us with their presence.
After the guard ceremony we went inside the gate walls into the Hwaseong Haenggung, which means the Hwaseong temporary palace, as it was built as a secondary home for the king during times of war.
As an added bonus, the Hwaseong temporary palace is a popular filming site for period dramas. It’s also one of the palaces used in one of my favourite Korean dramas, Dae Janggeum (or Jewel in the Palace). For more on my Dae Janggeum adventures, click here.
We spent over four hours walking the fortress grounds and covered about 80% of the map. For those who would like to check it out, head to the city of Suwon in Gyeonggi province. There are bus, train and subway options so choose what works best from where you’re coming from. Until next time, happy trails!