Namhansanseong - Fortress

By Namhansanseong World Heritage Center

Namhansanseong World Heritage Center

Namhansanseong - Korean, From the collection of: Namhansanseong World Heritage Center
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Namhansanseong - English, From the collection of: Namhansanseong World Heritage Center
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Map of NamhansanseongNamhansanseong World Heritage Center

General history of architecture at Namhansanseong

Namhan Mountain Fortress features multiple examples of Korean fortress wall construction techniques. Yeojidoseo (黎地圖書), a report on the geographical circumstances of Namhan Mountain Fortress, describes the site as a "fortress made in heaven." The interior is flat, while the outside is steep, like a crown atop a mountain. The Annals of Taek Village (擇里志) also notes: "Namhan Mountain Fortress is low and shallow on the inside but high and steep on the outside. The Qing forces were unable to bring their weapons to bear and the fortress never fell during the Manchu Invasion of 1636. King Injo only left the compound for lack of food and the fall of Ganghwa Island." The fortress wall, more than 12km in circumference, follows a rugged terrain over 500 meters above sea level. The geographical position makes the fortress difficult to attack, even with many troops. The compound inside the walls is broad and flat, while water is plentiful: more than 80 wells and 45 lotus ponds. With a proper supply of food, tens of thousands of soldiers could be kept here. Structurally, Namhan Mountain Fortress was equipped with the necessities for an installation of its kind in the Joseon Period. Besides the main wall are two outer walls (Bongamseong and Hanbongseong). Two observation towers are on the south side of the fortress. The main wall are protected by 5 extended outer works (甕城 ongseong), and more than 20 reinforced works were installed. Four main gates and 16 hidden gates (暗門 ammun, a gate hidden from outside view, used to secretly transport weapons, food, other items, and people without letting the enemy know) were built into the walls. On top of the main fortress wall is a low, shallow wall (=parapet) called yeojang (女墻). This feature makes the overall wall appear taller from outside and blocks the view inside. The yeojang consists of 1,940 merlons with apertures for the defenders to shoot through. Some of the aperture are pointing straight out for shooting at targets in the distance, while others slant downward to shoot at enemies close to the fortress wall. Inside the fortress wall were 125 guardhouses (軍鋪 gunpo), with caches of salt and charcoal buried in more than 90 spots between them. Normally, provisions and military supplies were maintained inside the fortress as well. The main wall at Namhan Mountain Fortress used stones that were first employed in the building of Jujang Fortress during Unified Silla. The outer wall was constructed at different times than the main wall was. Thus, one can find wall construction methods used from the 7th century through the 17th century. Such a variety of styles at one location is an important asset for understanding how wall construction developed in Korea. These days, many TV dramas are filed with the walls as a backdrop, and they attract large numbers of tourists each year. The Annals of Namhan (南漢志) details the scale of Namhan Mountain Fortress: "The inner circumference is 6,290 paces (17.5 li), while the outer circumference is 7,295 paces (20 liplus 95 paces). These figures would convert to 7,854 meters and 9,108meters, respectively assuming one Korean foot (ja) is 20.81cm long. There are 1,940 merlons on top of the fortress walls, five extended outer works, 16 hidden gates, 125 guardhouses, and 5 command posts (將臺). Three different methods can be used to measure the circumference of the wall, depending on the reference point: (1) the base (基壇部) of the outside wall, (2) the inside base (基底部) of the yeojang, or (3) the center line of the yeojang top. The simplest and most common way is basing the measurement on the center line of the yeojang top, which would make the main wall (without counting the outer wall and ongseong) 7,545 meters long and the area within the wall 2,126,637 square meters. Add the auxiliary facilities and the total sale comes to 12.356 square kilometers.

Namhansanseong trailNamhansanseong World Heritage Center

The Main Wall and Extended Defensive Wall

The main wall at Namhan Mountain Fortress is the central wall, excluding the three outer walls: Bongamseong, Hanbongseong and Sinnamseong. The main wall can be described as overlapping the areas where Jujang Fortress stood in Unified Silla and where the wall was rebuilt during the reign of Joseon King Injo. The Joseon Period Namhan Mountain Fortress can be divided into the Southeastern and Northwestern Walls, with the South Gate and North Command Post as the dividing points. Yi Seo was in charge of the overall construction project. The Southeastern Wall was constructed by army troops under the direction of General Yi Hoe, while the Northwestern Wall was built by monk soldiers led by their commander, Great Monk Byeokam Gakseong.

The wall surrounds the outer rim of Mt. Cheongryang, which peaks at 497 meters. (From the southwest corner), it winds around the contour of the mountain at about 480 meters, then turns north, following a virtually straight ridgeline that drops to about the 450m elevation, where the West Gate is located. From here, the wall rises 56m and juts out 24.6m to form the northeast corner. Turning east, the wall reaches the base of a major north-south ridge. The Yeonjubong(Peak) Ongseong is built along this ridge.

OngseongNamhansanseong World Heritage Center

Ongseong, Outwork

This extended outer work is placed around the front of a gate for added protection. Invaders have to penetrate the ongseong to reach the gate, and defenders on top of the wall are able to fire down on the intruders from three directions.

Namhan Mountain Fortress has five ongseong in total, three on the South Wall, one on the East Wall (Yeonjubong Ongseong) and one on the North Wall (Janggyeongsasinji Ongseong).

Janggyeongsa-sinji OutworkNamhansanseong World Heritage Center

The Janggyeongsa-sinji Outwork is 159 meters in length, and has forty merlons and a pair of batteries at the end, with the embrasures opened towards the summit of Hanbong and the adjacent peaks. The left wall contains a facility called an Ebang, which is a storage compartment or space for weapons and gunpowder. The facility was built after the occupation of Hanbong Peak by Manchu forces during the Byeongjahoran (Second Manchu Invasion of Korea). The facility was restored after the excavation carried out in 2000 by a tea from the Land and Housing Museum.

2nd South OutworkNamhansanseong World Heritage Center

The Second South Outwork is regarded as the most strategically important of all three outworks built along the south wall of the fortress, and has more gun platforms than the others, making it an effective defense structure against enemy attacks on both sides of the wall. The outwork is 318 meters in circumference and 134 meters in length, and covers 3,583m².

The Second and Third South Outworks were built with the traditional technique of filling the gap between the inner and outer parts of the wall with rubble, by which the inner part is sloped while the outer part is vertical. While the curtain wall of the main fortress was built by piling up irregular, or partly hewn, stones on the ground, the gun platforms were built by stacking larger stones on the bedrock layer.

Historians have discovered that the parapets built along the wall of the outwork underwent two or more renovations during the second half of the Joseon Period, although the majority of the structures built during this period have been destroyed. The latest excavations resulted in the discovery of roof tiles, square bricks and lime plaster used in the construction of the parapets.

The most recent excavation also revealed traces of ditches in four areas of the Third South Outwork and one in the Second South Outwork, as well as vestiges of stairs leading to the artillery batteries, i.e. two in the Third South Outwork and four in the Second South Outwork, and the base of an arched gate leading to the battery of the Second South Outwork. Other discoveries include lime-covered passages and stairways leading to the artillery batteries.

Historic Stone Inscription and inscribed graffitiNamhansanseong World Heritage Center

This inscription on a roughly cut stone contains a text about the renovation of Namhansanseong, for which Hong Jeon (1606-1665), then serving as the Buyun (Magistrate of Administrative Unit) and Sueosa (Commander-in-Chief of Sueocheong), along with various junior officials, mobilized a group of skilled workers, carpenters, stonemasons, blacksmiths and plasterers to renovate the fortress. Considering the magistrate’s year of birth and death, the Muin Year inscribed on the stone must refer to 1638. The stone bearing the inscription was used in the abutment of an arched gate leading to the battery located at the end of the Second South Outwork. The inscription consists of 105 Chinese characters written in regular script and engraved in a space measuring 115 centimeters in length and 60 centimeters in breadth.

This inscription contains a record about the renovation of Namhansanseong, completed in the seventh month of 1638, which reads:
Docheong (Chief Officer): Hong Jeon, Buyun and Sueosa
Byeoljang (Adjunct Commandant): Choe Man-deuk, Jeolchung Janggun (Chief Negotiation Officer) and Cheomji Jungchubusa (Chief Royal Advisor),
Yeongjang (Assistant Officer): Song Hyo-sang, Eomo Janggun (Insult-defense Officer) and Haengyongyangwi Sagwa (Lieutenant Officer in the Dragon Rampant Guards),
Gamyeokgwan (Public Works Supervisors):
Kim Myeong-yul, Jeonbujang (Former Police Officer)
Gyeong I-hyo, Jeonsagwa (Former Lieutenant Officer)
Kim Ui-ryong, Jeonbujang (Former Police Officer)

Carpenters: 74 including Head Carpenter Yang Nam
Stonemasons: 13 including Head Stonemason Gang Bok
Blacksmiths: 2 including Yi Gi-tan
Plasterers: 7 including Kim Dol-si

Hong Jeon (1606-1665): Born a son of Hong U-jik and known by the courtesy names Baegyun and Jugam, Hong Jeon was one of the hardline anti-negotiation officials, together with Kim Sang-heon, O Dal-je and Hong Ik-han, who opposed the peace process during the Byeongjahoran. He served the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) in important administrative, ministerial and secretarial positions in many areas outside the capital, including Gwangju, Ganggye, Uiju, Gyeongsang-do, Hwanghae-do, Cheongju, Jeju, Gilju, and Chungju, as well as in Hanseong (present-day Seoul). In 1638, he was appointed as Buyun of Gwangju for a second time, following the promotion of its administrative division from Mok to Bu, and served as the chief supervisor of the renovation of Namhansanseong.

Yeonjubong OngseongNamhansanseong World Heritage Center

The defensive work built on Yeonjubong Peak measures 315 meters in circumference and covers an area of 865㎡, and originally had 73 merlons, as well as – according to the Map of Namhansanseong – a battery which no longer exists. The current work was restored after the excavation carried out in 2000 by a team from the Land and Housing Museum.

Extended Defensive WallNamhansanseong World Heritage Center

Extended Defensive Wall

The defensive walls of Namhansanseong largely consisted of two parts, the Bonseong or Wonseong (fortress body), which was built during the reign of King Injo (r. 1623-1649) of the Joseon dynasty, and the Oeseong (extended defensive wall), which was built during the reign of King Sukjong (r. 1674-1720), also of the Joseon dynasty. The fortress body generally covers the area protected by the old fortification (called the Jujangseong), which was originally built during the Silla period and renovated during the reign of King Injo, whereas the extended part of the fortress consists of the Bongam Extended Defensive Wall, Hanbong Extended Defensive Wall and Sinnam Outwork. The newer walls were designed to exploit the distinct physical features of the mountain ridges branching out in an east-west direction from the main ridge of Cheongnyangsan Mountain, which runs from south to north.

The construction of the extended defensive wall started in the third month of 1686, when Yun Ji-seon (1627-1704), then the Yusu of Gwangju, proposed the reinforcement of the fortress body by building an Bongamseong (auxiliary fortification), and provided labor drawn from the Sueocheong Army Corps Headquarters, along with financial support of about thousand-seok of grain (one seok is equivalent to approx. 180 liters). The construction work took fifty days to complete, resulting in the creation of a 300-meter-long wall with 294 merlons, 4 auxiliary gates, and 15 guard towers. A record of the construction of Bongamseong was found engraved in regular script on a natural stone used in the fortification . The Hanbong Oeseong (second auxiliary fortification) was built in 1693 under the supervision of O Si-bok, then serving as the Sueosa. Unlike the Bongam Extended Defensive Wall, which completely encloses the mountain top, the Hanbong Extended Defensive Wall was designed to provide a direct, safe passage to the summit of Hanbong Peak. The fortification was originally 851 feet in circumference, and had 227 merlons and one auxiliary gate. Part of the fortification was demolished in 1705 at the command of a Qing envoy, but the entire fortification was renovated in 1739 by Jo Hyeon-myeong, then the Sueosa, in order to create a 895-feet-long wall and 272 merlons. This was also the year that his successor Min Jin-hu continued to renovate the fortification, placing two batteries on Bongamseong, along with a casemated embrasure, so that it could join the gun on the Janggyeongsa Outwork in a pincer attack against an enemy assault. The renovation project led by Min Jin-hu in 1719 created a fortified area with a circumference of 743 feet, complete with 238 merlons and a casemate, which are now called the Sinnam Outwork and Namgyeokdae, respectively. Built on the summit of Geomdansan Mountain (534 meters), about 2.6 kilometers south of the fortress body, the renovated fortification was occupied by Qing forces during the Byeongjahoran, and was used to launch an artillery bombardment against the defending Joseon forces. The extended fortification had two observation towers in 1753, completing the system of defense of the temporary royal palace, which would eventually play a key role in defending the capital of the Joseon Dynasty.

East gateNamhansanseong World Heritage Center

Seongmun(main gate of fortress) - Dongmun Gate, East Fortress Gate

The main gates are used for entering and exiting the fortress. Their number depends on the topography upon which the fortress is built, but most compounds have one in each of the four cardinal directions. At Namhan Mountain Fortress, the East Gate (or Left-wing Gate 左翼門) and the South Gate are the most frequently used entranceways. The North Gate (or Total Victory Gate 全勝門) was built in 1624, and the West Gate (or Right-wing Gate 右翼門) was where King Injo and his Crown Prince left the fortress to surrender to the Qing army on the 30th day of the 1st moon in 1637.

West gateNamhansanseong World Heritage Center

Seongmun(main gate of fortress) - Seomun Gate, West Fortress Gate

It appears that Seomun (West gate) was part of the original fortress and it was restored in 1799, and renamed "Right Side Gate" since it was on the right when facing south from the secondary palace. In 1637, King Injo and the Crown Prince went through this gate to surrender to the Manchus. The slope on the west side of the fortress was too steep for provisions to come through, but those were easily sent through from Gwangnaru or Songpanaru ferry landings.

South gateNamhansanseong World Heritage Center

Seongmun(main gate of fortress) - Nammun Gate, South Fortress Gate

Nammun (South gate) was the grandest and most important one out of four main gates at Namhansanseong (Namhan Mountain Fortress) and it is still the most used for entry. From prior records, it appears that the gate existed before King Injo had the fortress built in 1624. It was restored in 1779. King Injo entered the fortress through this gate when taking refuge from the Manchu invasion of 1636.

North gateNamhansanseong World Heritage Center

Seongmun(main gate of fortress) - Bukmun Gate, North Fortress Gate

Bukmun (Northgate) was used to launch attacks from the fortress during the Manchu siege. According to the record, 300 soldiers went through the gate to attack the Manchus but fell into a trap and were annihilated in the greatest fight and loss of troops during the siege. During the rebuilding of 1779, the gate was renamed Jeonseungmun or "Battle Victory Gate" with the meaning to never forget the loss. The gate is thought to have been built in 1624.

Hidden gateNamhansanseong World Heritage Center

Ammun, Auxiliary gate

Ammun (literally “dark gate”) refers to an auxiliary gate that was built at a point on a fortress wall where it could avoid enemy observation and be used to secretly transport supplies and reinforcements and to launch surprise attacks against an enemy outside the wall. There are currently sixteen auxiliary gates along the walls of Namhansanseong, including eleven along the main wall, four along the Bongamseong Extended Defensive wall, and one on the Hanbong Extended Defensive Wall.

Sueojangdae Post, West Command PostNamhansanseong World Heritage Center

Jangdae(command post)

"Jangdae" refers to the a 2-story pavilion used as a lookout for commanders to direct the battle. Originally, Namhan Mountain Fortress had five (including ones in each of the four directions), but today only Sueojangdae (守禦將臺) remains.

ChiNamhansanseong World Heritage Center

Chi, Lookout

Namhansanseong was equipped with several defensive structures designed to project outward from the main curtain wall so they could be used to strike enemies approaching the wall more effectively.

ParapetsNamhansanseong World Heritage Center

Yeojang, Parapet

The greater part of the defensive walls of Namhansanseong is studded with parapets - low defensive walls with rectangular gaps or indentations placed at intervals to allow troops to fire arrows or other missiles from within the defenses without exposing them to enemy attack. The parapets of Namhansanseong are characterized by an upper structure built with bricks laid on stone bases.

Poru, BatteryNamhansanseong World Heritage Center

Poru, Battery/Redoubt

In 1638, two years after the Byeongjahoran, the Joseon Dynasty began to build structures that would allow artillery batteries to be positioned along the walls of Namhansanseong. Of the artillery batteries at Namhansanseong remaining today, those on the Third South Outwork originally featured the traditional keyhole shape, with two fixed armored housing positioned to east and west, although archaeologists believe that there used to be one more between the two. The original artillery batteries on the Second South Outwork had eleven casemates, but only nine remained after several renovation works involving the construction of new defensive walls above some of the gun platforms. The latest excavation of the site revealed one more barbette, which experts believe was used to defend the eighth auxiliary gate of the fortress body wall.

Credits: Story

Explore VR video of Namhansanseong Nammun (Southgate, Jihwamun)
Explore VR video of Namhansanseong Nammun (Southgate, Jihwamun) Sueojangdae

Souce : Namhansanseong World Heritage Center, Gyeonggi Cultural Foundation
Project Support : PR & Marketing Team, Gyeonggi Cultural Foundation

*The photographs and descriptions of this exhibition can not be modified or replicated without prior consent of Namhansanseong World Heritage Center of Gyeonggi Cultrual Foundation.

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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