Ancient Mountain Fortresses in Central Korea
Cultural Heritage Administration
Boeun-gun, Cheongju-si, Goesan-gun, Chungju-si, Jecheon-si, Danyang-gun in Chungcheongbuk-do Province
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Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party
Samnyeon Sanseong: N36 29 14 E127 44 32
Sangdang Sanseong: N36 39 40 E127 32 25
Mireuk Sanseong: N36 48 07 E127 54 42
Chungju Sanseong: N36 57 23 E127 58 42
Jangmi Sanseong: N37 03 42 E127 54 09
Deokju Sanseong: N36 52 08 E128 05 54
Ondal Sanseong: N37°04'37 E128°29'53
The property refers to the sites of national defenses located in Chungcheongbuk-do, the central region of Korea, which display major characteristics of sanseong or mountain fortresses from ancient times, through the middle ages, to modern times.
Korea is called "a country of sanseong (mountain fortress)." The ancestors of present-day Korean people developed unique defense facilities by using the natural environment of the Korean peninsula where mountains and hills are abundant. To date, almost 2,400 mountain fortress sites large and small have been found in Korea. There are 212 mountain fortress sites in Chungcheongbuk-do, the central region of Korea.
The mountain fortresses of Korea have been consistently evolved in design and construction. Not only were the early types of mountain fortresses developed toward perfection by virtue of historical experience, but they were also developed to enhance defensive abilities in the process of repelling foreign invaders. In this respect, the mountain fortress in Korea can be identified as historical monuments achieved by the outstanding cultural ability of the Korean people.
With its long history, the whole country is dotted with mountain fortresses. However, the most representative and unique ones are concentrated in the central part of the nation.
The characteristics and features of mountain fortresses in central Korea are summarized as follows:
First, it contains prominent evidence that vividly demonstrates the culture of the past. In particular, it allows us to investigate the interaction between the culture that prospered in central Korea and neighboring cultures such as the southernmost site of the Goguryeo Kingdom, whose heritage was already inscribed on the World Heritage List, and the Tang Empire of China. It also permits us to conduct comparative research on the military facilities of such cultures.
Second, it shows a unique form. The mountain fortresses in central Korea have unique defensive system, in diverse forms, which make the best use of their topography and demonstrate distinctive technique in construction throughout the ages. They provide representative evidence for the research of both defense and offense military strategies since ancient times. With regard to the construction technology, they are comparable to fortresses of neighboring countries. There are seven representaative mountain fortresses in the central region of Korea. They include Samnyeon Sanseong Mountain Fortress in Boeun, Sangdang Sanseong Mountain Fortress of Cheongju, Chungju Sanseong Mountain Fortress at Chungju, Jangmi Sanseong Mountain Fortress in Chungju, Deokju Sanseong Mountain Fortress of Jecheon, Ondal Sanseong Mountain Fortress at Danyang, and Mireuk Sanseong Mountain Fortress in Goesan.
Samnyeon Sanseong at Boeun, a stone-built fortress, can be considered as a representative mountain fortress of ancient Korea since its date of construction is firmly recorded. Sangdang Sanseong in Cheongju was a fortress located at the center of traffic and defense of Korea's central region from the middle ages to modern times. As a cluster of historic sites, Deokju Sanseong in Jecheon, Chungju Sanseong, Jangmi Sanseong of Chungju, and Joryeong Gwanmun gateway are all defensive facilities for military purposes located in a single scenic area. These sites are linked by a traffic route between the Hangang River and the Nakdonggang River, which has been used since the ancient times onward. In addition, it is rich with a historical, intangible cultural heritage ranging from legends, religious and cultic remains.
Ondal Sanseong in Danyang is a representative site bearing the marks of the southward advance of the Goguryeo Kingdom and the northward expansion of the Silla Kingdom respectively. Its fortress wall attests to the respective methods of construction peculiar to the Goguryeo and Silla Kingdoms. Mireuk Sanseong at Goesan, constructed in the middle period of the Goryeo Dynasty, demonstrates characteristics of mountain fortresses built in the medieval period.
Each of these seven mountain fortresses constructs a unique defensive system which makes the best use of traffic routes, linking adjacent mountains and watercourses. All of the seven mountain fortresses, with their intact states, demonstrate the military, architectural, and construction technology of the time. Furthermore, they have reliable records. Thanks to academic research and preservation efforts, ample materials concerning these mountain fortresses have been handed down to us. In the vicinity of these mountain fortresses, there are ancient tomb mounds and diverse cultural sites of traditional cults, religions, and popular folk religions. In sum, these mountain fortresses are historical sites of outstanding value.
Justification of Outstanding Universal Value
Samnyeon Sanseong at Boeun (Korean Historic Site No. 235) is a masterpiece of fortifications. It is the highest and largest mountain fortress built of stone in Korea. It is not only representative of an ancient fortification (from the latter half of the fifth century) with its unique facilities, but also demonstrates the characteristics of a typical defensive city of ancient times. It is also accompanied by ancient tomb mounds.
Sangdang Sanseong of Cheongju (Korean Historic Site No. 212) is a typical mountain fortress that can explain the process of transformation of a provincial city, with ample written records on the nature of the fortress.
Chungju Sanseong in Chungju (Chungcheongbuk-do Monument No. 31) was used from a limited period from the sixth to the seventh century. As such, it represents cultural phenomena and defensive strategies peculiar to that period. In addition, like most mountain fortresses built of stone, it is located in a strategic position overlooking an uphill path and the Hangang River.
Deokju Sanseong in Jecheon (Chungcheongbuk-do Monument No. 35) is the only example of a four-layered mountain fortress. It is a mountain fortress which optimizes the local topography and the surrounding natural environment. In the vicinity of Deokju Sanseong, there are diverse Buddhist and folk religious historic sites such as a stone pagoda at the site of Sajabinsinsa Temple, the site of Mireuksa Temple, Deokjusa Temple, and the site of Wolgwangsa Temple.
Ondal Sanseong in Danyang (Korean Historic Site No. 264) is a notable example of stone-built mountain fortresses located at a riverside. There is a piercing, trapezoid drainage at the fortress wall which passes through the lowest point in the north. A unique, square spur is installed east of the north gate site. Both the sites of the north and east gates have remains of the gate with trapdoors.
Jangmi Sanseong of Chungju (Korean Historic Site No. 400) has storage facilities for missile stones used to throw at the enemy from the interior of the fortress wall. In addition, there is a spur built of wooden bastion dating to the Goguryeo Kingdom. It is also related to the nearby Goguryeo Stele in Jungwon and Baekje earthen fortress in Tangeumdae.
Mireuk Sanseong in Goesan (Korean Historic Site No. 401) illustrates characteristics of mountain fortresses built in medieval Korea. The well-preserved Mireuk Sanseong allows us to examine the diverse methods of construction prevalent in the Goryeo Dynasty. Particularly, it is equipped with an outer fortress in order to protect the large-scale main fortress and the site of the gate. It is an important site which allows us to investigate the method of construction at the time.
Statements of authenticity and/or integrity
The construction of Samnyeon Sanseong in Boeun, dating to the late fifth century, is clearly recorded in the section on King Jabi Maribgan of Samguk Sagi (Chronicles of The Three Kingdoms). It was used as storehouse from the Three Kingdoms Period, through the Goryeo Dynasty, to the early Joseon Dynasty.
The initial building of Sangdang Sanseong in Cheongju dates to the Three Kingdoms Period according to relevant records in Samguk sagi and Goryeosa (History of Gorye, 1451). It went through nine stages of repairs between the 42nd year of King Sukjong's reign (1716) and the 2nd year of King Heonjong's reign (1836), as it was designated as an army post of Chungcheong-do.
Chungju Sanseong in Chungju was a strategic point used by Silla for advancing toward the central region of Korea. It was a fortress located between Chungju-si, then Gukwon sogyeong (Secondary Capital city in the Silla Kingdom), and Gyerimryeong ridge. It is assumed that Chungju Sanseong was abandoned after being used as a military base of Gukwon sogyeong.
Deokju Sanseong in Jecheon was a site where the local residents of Chungju fought against the invading Mongolian army at the end of Goryeo Dynasty. It was constructed to defend Gyeripryeong ridge, the most important mountain path in the Sobaeksan Mountains.
As seen by the legend of Ondal's fortifications, Ondal Sanseong was located at the border between Goguryeo and Silla. It was built and operated by the Silla Kingdom as Silla expanded its territory northward across the Sobaeksan Mountains.
Jangmi Sanseong in Chungju was a strategic point where one could simultaneously command waterways and land routes. This site was constructed when the Baekje Kingdom held its court at Hanseong. It was used by Goguryeo after its southward advance, while it was reused by Silla during its northward advance.
Mireuk Sanseong in Goesan was the largest mountain fortress in Goesan built in the Goryeo Dynasty and the construction method of that period is preserved in a nearly perfectly intact state.
Since its construction in 470 A.D. by the Silla Kingdom, Samnyeon Sanseong had been operated until the early Joseon Dynasty. Although only one-fourth of the fortress wall has survived, the recent archaeological research investigating the construction method has revealed that the fortress wall of the time of initial construction still remains below the collapsed position.
The condition of Sangdang Sanseong in Cheongju is found in the Record of Historical Events of Sangdang Sanseong of All Times, compiled in 1744. The Map of Sangdang Sanseong, produced in 1764, illustrates several sites in the Sangdang Sanseong; they include a government office, a ruined gate, a main building of the government office, an office of the sucheobgun, a jipsacheong, an office of jaegagun, warehouses for arms and explosives, the western platform for a commander, the eastern platform for a commander, Guryongsa Temple, Namaksa Temple, Jangdaesa Temple, a library in the government office, a storehouse for the monk army, four ponds, and one well. It allows us to examine the features of the garrison of the Chungcheong army during the Joseon Dynasty. In addition, according to investigations of the main fortress wall, the remains at the time of initial construction, including the western platform for a commander, the eastern platform for a commander, a site of contravallation, and the west gate, have survived intact.
It is considered that Chungju Sanseong in Chungju, based on the peripheral remains of Gukwon sogyeong of Silla Kingdom, was used for a limited time. Archaeological investigation in central Korea identified a fortress gate with a trapdoor and the remains of a catchment made in the Silla style. Four-fifths of the fortress wall remains.
Deokju Sanseong in Jecheon is a single stonebuilt fortress, which consists of four-fold fortress walls of large scale with a circumference of approximately 15 km. The fortress wall is a structure of both inside and outside support. On a steep rock slope, the natural rock bed is used as the fortress wall. A battlement in the shape of '凸' between the inner fortress and the middle fortress remains intact. The inner side of the south wall of the middle fortress is built into a staircase. It is a construction method specific to the Joseon Dynasty.
A gwanseong on the north and the other gwanseong on the south are equipped with a north gate and south gate respectively. They were built to block Gyeripryeong ridge which was a main road that linked the Namhangang River with the Nakdonggang River and was a major traffic route in the Sobaeksan Mountains. Namely, it blocked the traffic route formed along the Songgyegyegok Valley, between Namhangang River, Soggyegyegok Valley, Haneuljae Ridge, and Mungyeong. In the Joseon Dynasty, the present middle fortress wall functioned as the inner fortress, while the fourth fortress wall, surrounded by the northern and southern gates, functioned as the outer fortress. The first fortress wall, which was an upper fortress and the third fortress wall, which was a lower fortress, are considered to be remains of the Goryeo Dynasty. The third fortress wall is related to the inner fortress wall that was newly built in the middle of the Joseon Dynasty. The south gate of Deokju Sanseong is equipped with a unique staircase for climbing up the fortress on the west, and has a pond within it. It possesses the most perfect gate with accompanying facilities. As such, it is very important site in the history of fortifications. Deokju Sanseong is a large-scale mountain fortress which optimizes the topography of layered valleys of Deokjugol Valley and Songgyegyegok Valley. It inherited a tradition of gwanseong of Goguryeo and demonstrates the further development of building methods. It served as a major traffic route after the opening of Gyeripryeong ridge. The remains of national defense sites and Buddhist sites are also preserved there.
Most fortress walls of Ondal Sanseong in Danyang remain. A recent archaeological survey confirmed that it was constructed by Silla in the identical style used in Samnyeon Sanseong.
Recent archaeological research confirmed that Jangmi Sanseong in Chungju was initially built by Baekje and later operated by Goguryeo and Silla by turns. Most of the fortress wall of Jangmi Sanseong was well-maintained and was in active use during the Silla period, confirming that the construction method was well preserved.
The recent investigation of Mireuk Sanseong in Goesan confirmed that it was built in the Goryeo Dynasty. The surviving three-fifths of the fortress wall, consisting of inner and outer walls, allow us to examine the characteristics of medieval fortress.
Comparison with other similar properties
In the country
Samnyeon Sanseong at Boeun remains the most impregnable fortress among ancient mountain fortresses. It has fortress walls, of which both the outer and inner sides are built of stone, measuring 20 meters high, reinforcement facilities which strengthens the lower base of the fortress wall, a high and solid fortress wall, and a gate with trapdoor. It is designed to show great defensive abilities. For example, the gate is placed slightly off from a valley or a ridge so as to lead the enemy, who approached from the valley or the gate, to make a detour along the fortress wall. It is optimized to watch over the approaching enemy by arranging half-circle shaped fortresses at both sides of the gate. In this respect, Samnyeon Sanseong can be said as the most defensive mountain fortress of the Three Kingdoms Period.
Sangdang Sanseong in Cheongju lies at the center of mid western Korea. It is located at an important intersection of traffic routes and is surrounded by wide, fertile plains. Sangdang Sanseong was used as a mountain fortress behind the eupseong (town fortress) on the plain since it was located at a key strategic point of political and military importance. It is larger than other mountain fortresses in Cheongju and used until the late Joseon Dynasty. The single-wall structure has been maintained until now.
Chungju Sanseong in Chungju was used during the Silla's northward advance and the unification war. It demonstrates the construction techniques and culture of Silla in the sixth and seventh century fairly well. Silla's mountain fortresses in the northern part of central Korea were constructed mainly for its northward advance. In contrast, Chungju Sanseong was constructed to secure Chungju by continuing its immigration policy and by the establishment of Gukwon sogyeong (one of the five secondary capitals).
Deokju Sanseong in Jecheon is a site where the structures of gwangseong and jangseong are combined. It is equipped with gwanseong to defend the valley, a major point of traffic routes. It is partially structured as a jangseong at a point where the fortress wall is constructed to connect to the mountain ridge stretching towards both ends of the valley. Instead of building an artificial fortress wall, a natural cliff was used as a fortress wall on a stiff and rocky slope.
Deokju Sanseong inherited the tradition of gwanseong that were built at Gyeripryeong ridge, Joryeong ridge, and Jukryeong ridge. It uniquely consists of four-fold fortress walls in order to enhance its defensive abilities. There are several gwanseongs with a similar form to Gwanmajang Gwanseong and Mangparyeong Gwanseong of Goguryeo, and Gyeribryeong Gwanseong, Jukryeong Gwanseong, and Joryeong Gwanseong, constructed by Silla in order to firmly defend a natural barrier, the Sobaeksan Mountains. Joryeongsam Gwanmun of later date is also comparable to Deokju Sanseong.
Ondal Sanseong in Danyang is connected with both Goguryeo's southward advance and Silla's northward advance. Like Jangmi Sanseong in Chungju, it was built to control the waterway of Namhangang River. Ondal Sanseong was built by means of traditional Silla construction methods. It is different from Jangmi Sanseong in Chungju in that the buttress for the foundation is found on the outer side of the fortress wall.
Jangmi Sanseong in Chungju was a key strategic point where one could simultaneously control the waterway and land route in the Three Kingdoms Period. It was built when the Baekje capital was in Hanseong. It was used by Goguryeo after it advanced southward and was reused later by Silla when it advanced northward. Jangmi Sanseong was built for the purpose of operating the waterway of Namhangang River. It is noticeable in that Jangmi Sanseong was operated by all three kingdoms. Compared to Samnyeon Sanseong, Chungju Sanseong, and Ondal Sanseong, which show traditional Silla construction methods, Jangmi Sanseong was equipped with neither a buttress for the foundation nor a gate with trapdoor. At Jangmi Sanseong, the stones were first chiseled into a rectangular shape and then piled up horizontally to form a fortress wall. Viewed from the outside, the resulting, peculiar surface of the fortress wall of Jangmi Sanseong is comparable to that of Sangdang Sanseong, built in the early years.
Mireuk Sanseong in Goesan is representative of medieval mountain fortress, with its two-layer fortress wall. It is a mountain fortress constructed on a grand scale, deep in a mountain in order to prepare against a foreign invasion. Compared to ancient fortresses like Samnyeon Sanseong, Chungju Sanseong and Ondal Sanseong, Mireuk Sanseong has a wider ground plan. However, the fortress wall becomes shorter in height and narrower in width like Deokju Sanseong in Jecheon. The cutting of stones prepared for building the fortress wall shows the technical retrogression as well.
The aforementioned mountain fortresses in central Korea are located in a mountainous region to defend against foreign invasion and used in times of emergency. In contrast, Suwon Hwaseong, al already inscribed on the World Heritage List, is a fortress with walls surrounding a modern city which link hill areas to the plain.
At Suwon Hwaseong, only the outer side of the fortress wall was built of stone, while the inner side was built of dirt and rubble. By contrast, at the ancient mountain fortresses like Samnyeon Sanseong, Chungju Sanseong, and Ondal Sanseong, both the outer and inner sides of the fortress walls are built of stone on a prepared base. Also, the space between the outer and inner sides of the fortress wall is filled with flagstones instead of dirt and rubble so as to construct a strong wall. Also, the structure of the fortress is fortified by installing reinforcement facilities on a base at the outer side of the fortress wall.
The mountain fortresses of central Korea were constructed by local inhabitants to protect their lives and property by using traditional method of construction.
Out of the country
The mountain fortresses in central Korea are conceptually completely different from those in China since the former were constructed on mountains, whereas the latter were built on a plain with a rectangular ground floor plan. Mountain fortresses in Korea utilize irregular shapes built on mountains. Fortresses in China were built of bricks and stamped earth, whereas mountain fortresses in Korea were largely built by stones that were found scattered in the neighboring area. Forest resources were largely damaged to make bricks in China. In contrast, Korean fortress walls were built of stones, and therefore fortifications did not do any damage to forest resources.
Most of all, Samnyeon Sanseong was built at the end of the fifth century. It is noteworthy that Samnyeon Sanseong is a product of civil engineering of the early period when the ancient kingdoms came into existence and were consolidated.
On the other hand, ancient fortresses of Japan demonstrate similarities in terms of location and structure to the mountain fortresses in the central region of Korea. It is because ancient fortresses in Japan were largely constructed and supervised by immigrants of Baekje origin. However, in terms of location, Japanese fortresses built after the medieval period (also known as Japanese style mountain fortresses) is comparable to eupseong (City fortress in Joseon Dynasty) in the fifteenth and sixteenth century of Korea. In particular, there are considerable differences in terms of ground plan, sectional plan, and elevation.