|Namhansanseong is a large scale mountain fortress that Joseon Dynasty constructed for the war against Manchu Qing dynasty in the 17th century which was systematically managed and operated for over 300 years. It was part of the tactic to prepare a shelter for a small sovereign state like Joseon to protect its dynasty and people against an empire like the Qing. Namhansanseong was constructed on a rugged terrain nearby the capital city of Joseon, currently Seoul, as an emergency capital for prolonged wars. The fortress is placed at about 500m high above sea level, and is distant about 25km away southeast from the center of Seoul. Utilizing the mountainous terrain with steep slope and relative easy access from the capital is a distinguishable character different from others in China and Japan whose fortresses were commonly located on flat lands. Namhansanseong has been well preserved to see the original form to this day.|
|Namhansanseong ensured the security of Joseon Dynasty by offering shelter for the king and the people in wartimes. As such, Namhansanseong was a planned emergency capital with over 4,000 residents with military and administrative functions. For defensive purpose, the mountain fortress was equipped with the Emergency Palace, Shrines for the royal ancestry and deities of earth and grain and military facilities including the commanding post. For administrative purpose, it was the seat of town administration, so called Eupchi in normal times, lasting over 300 years from 1624 to 1917 when the Gwangju County office moved to Gyeongan in 1917. |
|In terms of urban planning, it had a structure that was adapted to Korea in applying the old Chinese construction record ‘Juryegogonggi (周禮考工記, Zhouli Kaogonggi, Construction Principles of the Zhou Dynasty)’ which provided urban construction principles for East Asian countries. |
|Namhansanseong made the best use of the steep natural terrain as a mountain fortress constructed on a high plateau encompassing the natural features of valleys and ridges called the Pogoksik type. It is a fortress showing the original form and periodical development of fortification in East Asia. It was originally constructed in 672 as Jujangseong Fortress, and later was officially reconstructed in 1624 in preparation for the Manchu Invasion of Korea. It underwent constant reinforcement and repair until the 19th century. |
|It was a battlefield where King Injo withstood for 47 days over 100,000-strong Chinese force under Emperor Taizong of Qing Dynasty in 1636. It withheld various foreign invasion forces as the regional powers competed for hegemony during the transition of Ming and Qing Dynasties in East Asia. The walls of Namhansanseong are the representative walls that show the progress of fortress walls before and after the advent of gunpowder artillery with outworks and bastions with embrasures against cannon attacks after the second Manchu Invasion of Korea. In particular, the walls have outworks (Ongseong), artillery bastions (Poru) and lookouts (Chi) not found in East Asian fortification systems or in any other Korean fortresses. In addition, it is a stone fortress that was constructed with the gneiss extracted nearby. The parapets are made of grey bricks for shock absorption from cannon attacks, and this was done in accordance with the opinions of the School of Practical Learning who were much influenced by the Chinese.|
| The construction of Namhansanseong and the installation of Gwangju administration office in 17th century are the first and last examples that implemented the fortress town theory that dialectically integrated the discussions on the mountain fortress superior theory and the walled town reinforcement theory over several centuries. The various theories were the result of discussions trying to satisfy the contrasting values of “protection and residence,” “wartime and peace time,” and “national defense and daily life.” The fortress town theory was the last theory that intended to integrate discussions on the issue, and Namhansanseong was the first and last case application of the fortress town theory in the Joseon Dynasty era.|
|Namhansanseong bears witness of the exchange of important values of mankind and embodies intangible values. The fortress was constructed by an army of Buddhist monks and managed for military purposes with 10 temples for the Buddhist monk army (Seungyeong Sachal) which were located inside the fortress for 300 years. In Joseon Dynasty where Confucianism was accepted as the state ideology, the construction and management of fortresses by Buddhist monks is indeed a rare and unique combination of circumstance and occurrence in world history. |
People have inhabited Namhansanseong since its construction in the 17th century to this day and, over the years, the intangible heritage of Confucianism, Buddhism, Catholicism and Shamanism has been produced. The symbolic order of Joseon Dynasty, which had taken Confucianism as its state ideology is manifested in the Emergency Palace, Sungryeoljeon Shrine of King Onjo and General Yi Seo, and Hyeonjeolsa Shrine. Buddhism contributed greatly to the management of Namhansanseong for about 300 years, operating the monk army headquarters and the monk army rotational recruitment system (Uiseungbangbeonje).
The Buddhist temples were the first to be destroyed during the Japanese colonial period in the early 20th century because the Buddhist temples were thought to pose a threat as an arsenal against the Japanese occupying forces. The currently remaining temples were reconstructed after liberation from Japan in 1945. The town of Gwangju located inside the fortress is where martyrdom took place as many Catholics died in protection of their faith during the introduction of Christianity in the 19th century.
It was also the center of independence movement and patriotic enlightenment campaign in the early 20th century. Namhansanseong was a densely populated town and commercially active, a place for exchange of various values of modern and traditional, Buddhist, Confucian, and Christian, and it offers evidence of being a stage for exchange of important values in the history of the world.
|However, Namhansanseong started to decline due to the intentional damage and reduction of its symbolism inflicted during the Japanese colonial era, also due to subsequent negligence after liberation, and the destruction of towns during the Korean War. Most of the wooden structures within the fortress were damaged during the Japanese colonial era and the Korean War. However, major structures of the Joseon Dynasty era within the fortress grounds, such as the Chimgwejeong Arsenal, Sueojangdae West Commanding Post, Yeonmugwan Pavilion for Command and Military Training and Jisudang Pavilion, are still preserved and protected as designated heritage. |
|There are also many intangible heritage that are safeguarded and have been handed down from generation to generation such as sacrificial rites at the Cheongryangdang Shaman Shrine and Hyeonjeolsa Shrine. Sanseong soju, the special liquor in the region, Hyojonggaeng hangover soup, and Shamanistic exorcism called the Cheongryangdang Dodanggut attest to the long and unique history that the fortress houses. In addition, Namhansanseong is the only place in Gyeonggi-do where the colony of pine trees originally planted by the residents still exists. It also has an exquisite view of the landscape, which can be enjoyed in the pavilions with stone inscriptions singing the beauty of the landscape.|
|Namhansanseong lies only 25km away from the center of Seoul, the capital city during the Joseon Dynasty. The reason why such a huge fortress was constructed near the capital city was to provide all facilities necessary for resistance and defense in case of emergency for the capital city. It was to provide protection for all the people inside the fortress and not just the ruling class in emergencies. Compared with other fortresses in Korea, Namhansanseong had sufficient water resource and an inside basin large enough to accommodate plenty of people, all the necessary facilities including an Emergency Palace, shrine of royal ancestors and an altar for the deities of earth and grain needed in an emergency capital. In this respect, Namhansanseong is unique and different from any other mountain fortresses in Korea or abroad.|
| Geographically Namhansanseong is located on a high flat top about 500m above sea level, which is surrounded by towering mountains. This is called the Gorobong type terrain, and also called the Pogoksik type which is topographically most ideal for constructing a fortress. Utilizing the steep slopes as part of the ramparts it was possible to construct walls following the natural curves of the ridges to maximize its defensive capacity. It also enabled good communication with outside and enabled superior transportation for supplies through the 16 auxiliary gates that were not easily exposed to the enemy being located in mountainous terrain. |
|Namhansanseong offers an advantage for protection thanks to the fortress being located on a flat top with a long natural terrain from east to west, surrounded by Cheongryangsan Mountain to the west, Bulbong Peak to the east and Geomdansan Mountain to the south. Its large Pogoksik flat top provides sufficient space for a good number of troops to stay in emergencies. It also has a natural moat provided by Hangang River to the north, Namhangang River to the east, Tancheon stream to the west and Gyeongancheon stream to the south. |
|Namhansanseong has four gates in all four directions: north, south, east and west. The east gate and south gate located on relatively gentle slopes were used as the main traffic route in normal times, whereas the west and north gates located on steep slopes were used as military routes connecting to the Hangang River. Passage from the east gate would lead to the south regions and passing the south gate would lead to the southwestern regions or to the main roads connecting to Seoul.|
|The fortress has a '十'-shaped road network in which the north-to-south street meets the east-to-west street in front of the Emergency Palace. This form of '十'-shaped street network still remains in the form of a rotary in front of the palace.|
|Cheongryangsan Mountain to the northwest of the fortress is the main guardian mountain of Namhansanseong, and therefore Sueojangdae, the West Commanding Post stands in the northwestern part of the fortress. There is a valley southeast from Cheongryangsan Mountain from which a small stream runs out to the east gate. The east-to-west street connecting the east gate to the town center is the main street which is divided into two branches near the Jisudang Pavilion. The lower east-to-west street runs along a small stream and the upper east-to-west street passes before Yeonmugwan Pavilion for command and military training. |
During Joseon Dynasty, the lower east-to-west street became the main street of the residential area. The upper east-to-west street was the center of the military and administrative district, with Yeonmugwan and the administrative complexes. There are two important public facilities, a market and a park in the open space lying between the upper and lower east-to-west streets. These two streets were connected by several small alleys. Today this area is occupied by a number of commercial facilities such as restaurants and shops.