Travel: Bowing down to filial piety in Suwon

(From the Nation)

By Chusri Ngamprasert

The picturesque Hwaseong Fortress in Suwon, just outside Seoul, in South Korea, was built by King Jeongjo to honour his father

It is a sunny day in Suwon, the capital of Gyeonggi-do province. The city is just 30 kilometres south of Seoul, making it a convenient day trip from the South Korean capital and an easy commute for locals preferring not to live in the big city.

Hwaseong Fortress in Suwon

Hwaseong Fortress in Suwon

Suwon’s most famous historical attraction is Hwaseong Fortress, a Unesco World Cultural Heritage Site since 1997.

“You know the Korean series ‘Yi San’ (Lee San)? That series was based on the life of King Jeongjo, the ruler who built this fortress and Hwaseong Haenggung Palace,” says Kevin, our friendly local guide.

I find myself wishing my mother and my sisters were with me. Major fans of the series, I can picture them walking through the fortress and the palace reciting the characters’ conversations and telling me the story of Yi San.

Born as Yi San, King Jeongjo was the son of Crown Prince Sado or Sado Seja, who was put to death by his own father, King Yeongjo, by being placed in a sealed large wooden rice chest. Thirteen years after King Jeongjo acceded to the throne, he began making plans to relocate his father’s grave in order to grant him eternal peace. Searching the whole country for the perfect place for his father’s new tomb, King Jeongjo decided to re-inter his father in Suwon.

Suwon in winter

Suwon in winter

King Jeongjo, the 22nd king of the Joseon Dynasty, built Suwon Hwaseong Fortress as an expression of his will to reform the nation and to show his filial piety towards his father.

Suwon Hwaseong Fortress, a piled-stone and brick fortress, stretches for a total of 5.74 km and surrounds the centre of Suwon City. We have too little time to walk the full distance around the fortress so we jump on the Hwaseong Train, a tourist train that travels between Paldalsan Mountain and Yeonmudae. The front of the train is shaped like a powerful dragon to symbolise King Jeongjo while the guest cars resemble the palanquins that once carried the king during his excursions. Read more


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