Seoul City Wall ( Hangul: 서울성곽, Seoul Seonggwak ), or Hanyang Doseong ( Hangul : 한양도성, Hanja : 漢陽都城), is a boundary wall built by King Taejo in 1396 around the city of ‘Hanyang, now Seoul . The wall, 18 kilometers long, has eight gates  : four main ones which are Sukjeongmun , Donuimun , Sungnyemun and Heunginjimun and four secondary ones. Today, there are 12 kilometers of wall and six of the eight gates.

The ramparts, a historic site etched in the history of Seoul

In 1392, Yi Seong-gye overthrew the Goryeo Kingdom and became King Taejo , the first king of the Joseon dynasty (1392-1897). He decided in 1395 to make Hanyang (한양/漢陽), now Seoul (서울), the new capital of the kingdom. The city, located north of the Han River , is laid out according to the art of Feng Shui.

In order to protect the new capital and its palace, the king ordered the construction of a wall encircling the city. Construction began in 1396, mobilized nearly two hundred thousand men and lasted 98 days. The wall, with a total circumference of 18 km, extends from Mount Bugaksan in the north to Mount Namsan in the south.

Suseonjeondo, a map of Seoul dating from 1840.

The wall has four main gates and four secondary gates arranged according to the different cardinal points. So the four great gates are Sukjeongmun in the North, Sungnyemun in the South, Heunginjimun in the East and Donuimun in the West. And the four small gates are Hyehwamun in the northeast, Gwanghuimun in the southeast, Souimun in the southwest, and Changuimun in the northwest.

In 1422, King Sejong the Great launched a major renovation of the fortress.

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During the Japanese occupation (1910-1945), the South-West, West and North-East gates were destroyed in 1914, 1915 and 1928 respectively. Only the North-East gate was restored in 1975.

On January 21, 1963, the site was declared South Korean Historic Site No. 10.

theFebruary 10, 2008, the Great South Gate of Sungnyemun is reduced to ashes by an arsonist. InFebruary 2010, then began a major renovation project to rebuild the building. After three years of work, the door opens again to the public inApril 2013.

In December 2012, UNESCO accepts to study the request of the South Korean government concerning the inscription of the wall with the world heritage.

The original walls, built in the late-14th century were constructed of medium-sized round stones held together by mud. During King Sejong the Great’s reign in the mid-15th century, a large-scale refurbishment work was carried out on the wall, including the replacement of earthen wall sections with rectangular stone sections. A major restoration in 1704 by King Sukjong rebuilt sections of the wall using large, uniform stone slabs which mark the final and last unique characteristic of Hanyangdoseong.

The eastern section of Seoul was on lower ground than the other sections and was more susceptible to external attack. Thus, a lookout was added to the outside of the gate to reinforce its defense. A part of the walls in the section between Heunginjimun and Gwanghuimun was extended outside in a rectangular shape for such a purpose. Signal fire mounds, another component of the defense system, were first established in 1394 and remained in operation until 1894. Signals sent across the country from one mound to another, using smoke by day and fire at night, were received by the beacon at the top of Namsan and conveyed to the Royal Palace.

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Sungnyemun Gate, Seoul
Hanyangdoseong, which shows restoration efforts made by the Seoul government
A snowy view of Fortress Wall of Seoul
A night view from Naksan Mountain

The Eight Gates of Seoul

The Eight Gates of Seoul are eight historical gates that were located in the Fortress Wall of Seoul, South Korea, which surrounded the city in the Joseon Dynasty. Six of these gates exist today (2018). All eight gates were originally built between 1396 and 1398.

Heunginjimun, Seoul, South Korea

The Eight Gates were based roughly in the four cardinal and four intermediate directions of the compass. Of the eight gates, the North, South, East, and West were known as the “Four Great Gates” (사대문), while the Northwest, Northeast, Southeast, and Southwest gates were known as the “Four Small Gates” (사소문).

Of the eight gates, two (West and Southwest) no longer exist. Memorials are currently placed roughly where the West and Southwest gates once stood (July 2012). There has been discussion and announcements about rebuilding the West Gate,[1] but no construction has yet been undertaken (as of July 2012) for this gate.

On February 10, 2008, the South Gate was severely damaged in a fire set by an arsonist. The gate was rebuilt over five years, and reopened to the public on May 4, 2013.[2] This gate has the designation of National Treasure No. 1 of South Korea. Of the eight gates, the South and East gates are the largest, and both are located in busy market areas (Namdaemun Market and Dongdaemun Market, respectively).

Besides these eight cardinal gates, many other gates with important histories exist in Seoul, such as Gwanghwamun, the main gate of Gyeongbokgung Palace; Daehanmun, the main gate of Deoksugung Palace; Dongnimmun, also known as Independence Gate; and the remnants of Yeongeunmun, located next to Dongnimmun in Seoul’s Seodaemun Independence Park.

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Sukjeongmun Gate, Seoul, Korea
Sukjeongmun Gate, rear view, Seoul, Korea
Hyehwamun Gate, Seoul, Korea

List of doors 

Great Gates / 대문 / 大門
HeunginjimunHeunginjimunHeungin’s GateEast
Small doors / 소문 / 小門
GwanghuimunGwanghuimunKwangheemunSouth East
SouimunSouimunAkiyoshimonSouth West
Changuimuncreative doorChanguimun GateNorth West

Notes and references

  1. Return higher by:a and b The Fortresses of Korea  [ archive ] ,
  2. Return higher by:a et b The Magnificent Gates of Seoul [archive],
  3. Return higher by:a and b Seoul Fortress: A living historical testimony in the heart of the capital  [ archive ] ,
  4. ↑ Gwanghuimun Gate (Gwanghuimun)  [ archive ] ,
  5.  Remembering Sungnyemun [archive],
  6. ↑ South Korea: Sungnyemun Gate restored  [ archive ] ,
  7. ↑ Seoul Fortress added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List  [ archive ] ,
  8.  Seoul City Wall [archive],
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Mohamed SAKHRI

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On this blog you travel with us around the world and discover beautiful places, stories, cultures but also mysterious places and some are even bizarre.

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