The Value of Hanyangdoseong

Home Introduction The Value of Hanyangdoseong

Overview of the Heritage

• Heritage Name : Hanyangdoseong, Seoul City Wall
• Location : 26-19, Ogin 6-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul, Republic of Korea (Jongno-gu, Seongbuk-gu, Jung-gu, Yongsan-gu, Seodaemun-gu)
• Classification : Cultural Heritage
• Geographic Coordinates : N37 59 31.45 / E126 97 31.24
1) The Proposed Outstanding Universal Value of Hanyangdoseong
The Hanyangdoseong protected palaces, government offices Jongmyo Shrine and Sajikdan Altar and residents in the capital of the Joseon Dynasty for more than half a millennium. As such, the structure represents the capital and the very heart of the country. Moreover, the city walls around Seoul also carry on an indigenous tradition of wall construction on both flat and mountainous terrain that can also be seen in the walls around Goguryeo capital at Pyeongyang and Goguryeo capital at Gaeseong. Meanwhile, Hanyang, the Joseon capital, was laid out according to the Confucian world order and symbolism.

Hundreds of thousands of laborers were mobilized from around the country in 1396 to build the first walls around Hanyang. They were then repaired and partially rebuilt during the reigns of King Sejong and King Sukjong. Written records such as the Annals of the Joseon Dynasty and the Diary of the Royal Secretariat describe how these massive projects were carried out, while sections of the wall built or repaired at different periods in Joseon clearly show how the construction methods evolved over time. The wall also conforms to geomantic principles, as the sections on flat ground constructed differently than those that follow the ridgelines of Naesasan (the four inner mountains of the old capital) around the city. At the same time, the Hanyangdoseong has been a popular place for outings and has been the subject to paintings, poetry and stories throughout its history.

Hanyangdoseong today is a historical relic that graces the city of Seoul, with a population of over ten million. It enhances the natural cityscape and adds a historical landmark to a city that is now more than six centuries old. These features can be defined as proposed outstanding universal value (OUV) in the following ways:
A City-sized Wall Heritage that Surrounds the Old Downtown Area

The methods employed when building Hanyangdoseong are uniquely Korean, originating from those used on the Pyeongyang fortress in ancient Goguryeo and on Kaeseong City Wall and its extensions during Goryeo Kingdom. The wall structure on flat ground differs from that on mountainous terrain. Moreover, the city layout is in the Korean style, with Gyeongbokgung Palace, Jongmyo Shrine, Sajikdan Altar, markets and residences all located within the city walls.
A Legacy with Layers of History over 600 Years

The original shapes of the gate towers and main wall are intact, providing a clear look at the traditions followed at the time of construction. Currently, 14.5km of the original 18.627km wall has been preserved or restored, making this one of the longest among the traditional city walls that remain around the world. The foundations for some of the the unrestored parts survive as well. The Joseon Dynasty lasted for around five centuries, the longest Confucian dynasty in all of East Asia, and Hanyangdoseong protected the Joseon capital during all that time. Moreover, repair and reconstruction projects were conducted periodically during Joseon, and these were detailed in written records that survive, while the wall itself provides physical evidence of the wall-building techniques and styles employed at different times.
A Cultural Legacy Built in Harmony with the Earth

The location of the Hanyangdoseong was decided according to the theories of geomancy and the topography of Korean Peninsula, while the walls follow the ridgelines between the four inner mountains. The walls were built of stone and supported from behind by layered soil and rock that gently slopes to blend into the landscape. The walls’ use of the natural terrain, the contours of the four inner mountains, and the look of the wall on both sides combine for wonderfully scenic view in an urban area.
A Heritage Built with Collective Craftsmanship

Laborers were called up from Joseon to build Hanyangdoseong, and people from the same province were assigned specific wall sections. The names of the stonemasons and work bosses were inscribed in the stone blocks of these different sections to make them accountable for the quality of their work. The topography of the four inner mountains was carefully preserved to maintain the integrity of the walls remained, and the trees on the four mountains were cared for to control the amount of water runoff feeding the streams inside the city walls. Throughout the Joseon Dynasty for over 500 years, countless poems and paintings were produced on the city walls and the gates, and many survive today. Hanyangdoseong was closely connected to the lives the people who lived in the capital and stood in their midst, providing a place to express religious beliefs, conduct rituals, write, paint and enjoy leisure time.
2) Authenticity
Hanyangdoseong was built, rebuilt, repaired and maintained continuously for more than half a millennium. The differing wall materials, construction techniques, shape and design from each period are evident on the walls showing historical layers. At the same time, this edifice has been preserved to blend harmoniously with the terrain, making the wall an integral part of the four inner mountains that surround the old capital and verifying its authenticity.

In 2008, Sungnyemun, the most important of all the structures on Hanyangdoseong, was badly damaged in an arson attack. Extant written records were consulted to restore and rebuild the structure according to traditional techniques. As with Heunginjimung Gate, The authenticity and original appearance of the wall and its wooden structures are ascertained.

The Hanyangdoseong has been designated as cultural heritage and today the terrain of the four inner mountains, the course of the wall, the wall construction techniques and the wall structures are all carefully preserved. The wall is in the heart of today’s Seoul yet its historical value and placement significance as a capital demarcation line is being sustained.
3) Integrity
Hanyangdoseong is the product of uniquely Korean perceptions and practices. It is also the largest wall structure in Korea, with about 78% of the original wall, along with some remaining ruins now being preserved. The various major and minor gates, water gates and beacon platforms that once were integral parts of Hanyangdoseong are also being restored, rebuilt and preserved. Also preserved are the palaces, Jongmyo Shrine and Sajikdan Altar that Hanyangdoseong was originally built to protect.

Hanyangdoseong today has been designated as a national cultural property, with specific parts named National Treasure, Treasure or Historic Site. Meticulous historical research has been ongoing to locate and restore still more sections. The City of Seoul has established a comprehensive plan for preserving, managing and utilizing Hanyangdoseong, and the measures being taken conform to World Heritage Site conservation standards.