Namhansanseong - Ancient Fortified Military and Cultural Landscape of Mt. Namhansan

Date of Submission: 11/01/2010
Criteria: (ii)(iv)(vi)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Cultural Heritage Administration
State, Province or Region:
Gwangju-si, Gyeonggi-do
Coordinates: N37 28 44 E127 10 52
Ref.: 5483
Word File

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Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party


Namhansanseong is a mountain fortress with about 200 historic sites and buildings including palace facilities at an elevation of 480m above the sea level, immediately to the southeast of Seoul. Namhansanseong's history dates back to Baekje period which was found by King Onjo. In 672, a fortress called Jujangseong was built on the western edge of Mt. Namhansan to protect Silla from Tang China. Present fortified walls were built on this site in Joseon period. Geographically, it stands at a junction of different cities: Gwangju, Seongnam, and Hanam. Namhansanseong and its surroundings have witnessed and experienced a long period of development as military facilities and therefore facilitates a better understanding of different styles and techniques of fortress construction. In other words, the property reflects various facets of ancient Koreans' work.

Most of all, Namhansanseong heritage site contains fortifications that mostly date from the 7th through 17th century, and a number of historic buildings and temples. Most of the fortress that exists today dates from the Joseon period. A series of excavations have found a number of testimonies spanning several historic layers of human residence and defense facilities.

One of the most unique Namhansanseong's features lays on its temporary palace called Haenggung, Jongmyo (royal ancestral shrine), and Sajik (altar for the land and grain god, state guardian deities). King Injo built Jongmyo and Sajik nearby the palace building for making the place function just like real palace, since he and other Joseon kings actually stayed at Namhansanseong Haenggung.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

(ii) exhibit an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning or landscape design

For a long time from Baekje to Unified Silla, Goryeo, and Joseon, Namhansanseong served as defense facility for the capital. Haenggung in Namhansanseong is the only such palace with the royal ancestral shrine and the altar for the land and grain god. The king's stay in the temporary palace is also recorded in historic documents. In the 17th century, King Injo of Joseon decided to establish a planned city with military and administrative functions inside the fortified area called Namhansanseong. It also exhibits various layers of historic periods in terms of architectural styles and techniques: from Baekje to Joseon period. Namhansanseong fortified cultural landscape contains significant examples of development processes in architectural techniques and village-planning within the territory.


(iv) be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates (a) significant stage(s) in human history

Namhansanseong has a distinctive value as a unique tangible testimony of military and administrative architectural ensemble whose construction history illustrates different representations in defense techniques and reflection on changing socio-religious contexts.


(vi) be directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance.

Namhansanseong has an incomparable significance in Korea's history. A number of episodes related to the fortress from war stories, family separation and reunion, to faithful royal courtiers, have been popular references in Korea's literature and performances for a long time. Representing keywords of Namhansanseong, 'Patriotism' and 'Royalty' are still widely appreciated in forms of various artistic and literary representation.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

Namhansanseong conservation and restoration is carefully planned in accordance with a series of ancient official records like Jungjeong Namhanji, when conducting repair works or restorations. According to the regulations for state-designated heritage, the reconstruction and restoration of the fortress has been conducted, as much as possible, with the original materials and original techniques.

The perimeter length of Namhansanseong is 11.76 km, the entire compound consists of the wall body, 4 gates, 16 secret gates, 5 projecting walls called chi, water passes and 7 shooting spots called poru. Along with tangible elements, intangible practices such as shamanic rituals and liquorbrewing tradition have been actively transmitted by the local heritage holder groups, justifying the integrity of the heritage.

As a result of renovation in successive regimes in Joseon, the general feature of the rampart architecture is basically preserved mostly in Joseon style. The historical environmental styles and features have been preserved properly. The Namhansanseong and its affiliated buildings and sites have been identified, restored, and fully open to the public. Therefore, Namhansanseong is still authentic and integral.


Comparison with other similar properties

In Korea's history, many walls and fortresses including the walls of capitals and other cities were constructed. From a national perspective, there are three points in addressing Namhansanseong's distinctive features.

Firstly, Namhansanseong substantially differs from some other famous korean fortresses, Hwaseong Fortress, Dongnae Town Fortress, and Nagan Town Fortress which were built on flatland of big cities. Secondly, while other mountain fortified military landscapes such as Samnyeon Mountain Fortress and Sangdang Mountain Fortress, do not have temporary palace buildings, Namhansanseong has its palace facilities with Jongmyo and Sajik as well as its indigenous village. Thirdly, along with Seoul Fortress and Bukhan Mountain Fortress, Namhansamseung has become a rare and significant material evidence of ancient capital defense. In particular, in contrast to the two evidences, Namhansanseong contains relatively intact testimonies of the fortified environment. What is more, while the two former evidences reflect Joseon's typical architectural style, Namhansanseong has different aspects by time (Silla, Goryeo and Joseon).

The Dacian Fortresses of Romania and Namhansanseong share things in common, in that both properties are constructed on a mountain and made a ingenious use of the surrounding nature. On the other hand, Namhansanseong still has settlements both within and outside, while the fortress in Romania do not have any more civilian settlements. Another distinctive difference is that Romanian fortresses are formed with separate fortified lines, while Namhansanseong, in fact, consists of a single major fortified wall with some partly layered walls or extensively militarized zones for defensive reasons.

All things considered, compared with other fortresses and walls, Namhansanseong has outstanding major features as being,

1) The only mountain fortress with a complex of a royal palace which was actually used by Joseon kings.

2) Fortified walls and associate buildings built on the basis of an ingenious use of natural environment.

3) Native village within the territory surviving with distinct intangible traditional practices.