Namdaemun

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Coordinates: 37°33′35.90″N 126°58′31.11″E / 37.5599722°N 126.9753083°E / 37.5599722; 126.9753083

Namdaemun
Sungnyemun
Sungnyemun restored.jpg
Namdaemun restored. Photographed April, 2013.
Korean name
Hangul /
Hanja /
Revised Romanization Sungnyemun / Namdaemun
McCune–Reischauer Sungryemun / Namdaemun

Namdaemun, officially known as the Sungnyemun (literally Gate of Exalted Ceremonies), is one of the Eight Gates in the Fortress Wall of Seoul, South Korea, which surrounded the city in the Joseon Dynasty. The gate is located in Jung-gu between Seoul Station and Seoul City Plaza, with the historic 24-hour Namdaemun market next to the gate.

The gate, dating back to the 14th century, is a historic pagoda-style gateway, and is designated as the first National Treasure of South Korea. It was once one of the three major gateways through Seoul's city walls which had a stone circuit of 18.2 kilometres (11.3 mi) and stood up to 6.1 metres (20 ft) high. It was first built in the last year of King Taejo of Joseon's reign in 1398, and rebuilt in 1447, during the 29th year of King Sejong the Great of Joseon's reign.[1]

In 2008, the wooden pagoda atop the gate was severely damaged by arson.[2] Restoration work on the gateway started in February 2010 and was completed in 29 April 2013.[3] It was officially reopened on 5 May 2013, after a five-year restoration period.[4]

Name[edit]

The plaque shows the name of the gate Sungnyemun in hanja. Photo May, 2013.

The South Korean government, as written in hanja on the wooden structure, officially calls the landmark, Sungnyemun, (English: Gate of Exalted Ceremonies) [5] even though it has been more commonly known as Namdaemun (English: Great Southern Gate) since the Joseon Dynasty. The disparity is due to the colonial period when the Japanese advocated the name Namdaemun.

In modern Korea, the common name has colonial overtones; a period when Korean identity was forcibly supplanted by Japanese culture. The official name Sungnyemun derives from policy to reclaim Korean heritage from Japanese imperialism. A process that has led to the removal of notable buildings.

History[edit]

Sungnyemun in 1904

Before the 2008 fire, Namdaemun was the oldest wooden structure in Seoul.[6] The city gate, made of wood and stone with a two-tiered, pagoda-shaped tiled roof, was completed in 1398 and originally used to greet foreign emissaries, control access to the capital city, and keep out Siberian Tigers, which have long been gone from the area. Construction began in 1395 during the fourth year of the reign of King Taejo of Joseon and was finished in 1398. The structure was rebuilt in 1447 and was renovated several times since.[6] It was originally one of three main gates, the others being the East Gate (Dongdaemun) and the now-demolished West Gate in the Seodaemun-gu district, named after the old gate.[7]

In the early part of the 20th century, the city walls that surrounded Seoul were demolished to make the traffic system more efficient.[8] A visit to Seoul by the Crown Prince of Japan prompted the demolition of the walls around Namdaemun, as the prince was deemed to be too exalted to pass through the gateway.[9] The gate was closed to the public in 1907 after the Japanese colonial authorities constructed an electric tramway nearby. In 1938, the government designated Namdaemun as Korean Treasure No. 1.[10]

Namdaemun was extensively damaged during the Korean War and was given its last major repair in 1961, with a completion ceremony held on 14 May 1963.[11] It was given the status of "National Treasure No.1"[12] on 20 December 1962. The Gate was renovated again in 2005 with the building of a lawn around the gate, before being opened once again to the public with much fanfare on 3 March 2006.[13] During the restoration, 182 pages of blueprints for the gate were made as a contingency against any emergencies which may damage the structure.[14] Three years later, such an emergency arose.

Fire[edit]

Fire crews fight to save the wooden gateway
Aftermath of the Namdaemun fire

At approximately 8:50 p.m. on 10 February 2008, a fire broke out and severely damaged the wooden structure at the top of the Namdaemun gate. The fire roared out of control again after midnight and finally destroyed the structure, despite the efforts of more than 360 firefighters. Many witnesses reported seeing a suspicious man shortly before the fire, and two disposable lighters were found where the fire was believed to have started.[15] A 69-year-old man identified as Chae Jong-gi was arrested on suspicion of arson and then later confessed to the crime.[16][17][18] A police captain reported that Chae sprayed paint thinner on the floor of the structure and then set fire to it.[19] Police say that Chae was upset about not being paid in full for land he had sold to developers.[17] The same man had been charged with setting a fire at Changgyeong Palace in Seoul in 2006.[20]

Restoration[edit]

Restoration work in July 2008

The Cultural Heritage Administration of South Korea said that it would undertake a three-year project that would cost an estimated 20 billion (approximately $14 million) to rebuild and restore the historic gate.[21] President Lee Myung-bak proposed starting a private donation campaign to finance the restoration of the structure.[22]

By January 2010, 70% of the pavilion gate, the first floor and 80 percent of the fortress wall has been completed. Work on the roof began in April after the completion of the wooden second floor, with 22,000 roof tiles produced in a traditional kiln in Buyeo, South Chungcheong Province. The wall and basic frame were scheduled to be finished in April and May respectively. The pillars and rafters are to be elaborately decorated, with the ornamental patterns and colors based on those used in the large-scale repair in 1963, which was closest to the early-Chosun original.[23]

In January, 2013, it was estimated by an official that restoration of the gate would be completed around May 2013.[24] Construction had been delayed by five months due to harsh weather conditions in Seoul. On 17 February 2013, the gate was 96% completed, and all steel-frame scaffolding had been removed.[25][26] On 29 April 2013, restoration work was completed, and the public opening was scheduled for Saturday, 4 May 2013, a day before Children's Day.[27][28]

Images[edit]

Namdaemun, in the Joseon Period.
Namdaemun in the Joseon Period. Photo from 1890s
Namdaemun, in the Japanese Period.
Nandaimon in the Japanese Period. Photo from 1935
Namdaemun, before the 2008 fire.
Namdaemun, before the fire. Photo from 2007
Namdaemun, front of gate, right side. Photographed in April, 2013.
Sungnyemun front restoration right
Namdaemun, front of gate, left side. (Note that signboard is still covered.) April, 2013.
Sungnyemun front restoration left
Namdaemun, back of gate, right side. April, 2013.
Sungnyemun back right
Namdaemun, back of gate, looking through open doors. April, 2013.
Sungnyemun back through gate
Namdaemun, back of gate, left side. April, 2013.
Sungnyemun back left
Namdaemun, back and left side of gate. April, 2013.
Sungnyemun left
Namdaemun, close up of restored gatehouse. April, 2013.
Sungnyemun gatehouse restored
Namdaemun, whole view. May, 2013.
Restored Namdaemun, Seoul

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Namdaemun: National Treasure No. 1". Joongang Daily. 30 January 2102. Retrieved 30 November 2012. 
  2. ^ "S. Korean landmark collapses in fire". Associated Press (CNN). 2008-02-11. [dead link]
  3. ^ Lee, Min-Sun (4 January 2013). "The South Gate Will Stay Closed a Little Longer". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 8 January 2013. 
  4. ^ Cha, Frances (9 May 2013). "South Korea's No. 1 national treasure reopens after five years". CNN Travel. Retrieved 27 May 2013. 
  5. ^ Kwang-Tae Kim (2008-02-11). "South Korea arrests man in landmark fire". Associated Press (Yahoo! News). 
  6. ^ a b "Fire ravages South Korea landmark". BBC News. 2008-02-11. Retrieved 2008-02-11. 
  7. ^ Seth, Michael J (2006). A Concise History of Korea: From The Neolithic Period Through the Nineteenth Century. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 204. 
  8. ^ Kim, Hyung-eun (18 May 2009). "Gateway to the Joseon capital". Joongang Daily. Retrieved 30 November 2012. 
  9. ^ Hong Seong-tae (2004). "From Mount Baekak to the Han River: A Road to Colonial Modernization". In LaMarre, Thomas; Kang, Nae-hŭi. Impacts of Modernities. Hong Kong University Press. p. 126. 
  10. ^ "監査院 国宝1号を変更すべき". Chosun Ilbo Japan (in Japanese). 28 November 2005. Archived from the original on 2008-02-15. Retrieved 2008-01-07. "監査院は '日帝は1938年の 朝鮮宝物令 で文化財を指定した際、南大門を宝物1号に、現在の東大門(現在の宝物1号)を宝物2号に指定したが、光復 (独立)後も1962年にようやく国宝と宝物を指定した際、そのほとんどが日帝の宝物令にそのまま従って指定された' と明らかにした" 
  11. ^ Rahn, Kim (2008-02-11). "Poor Security Blamed for Gate Burnout". Korea Times. 
  12. ^ Shin Hae-in (2008-02-13). "Controversy erupts over fundraising for historic gate". Yonhap News. 
  13. ^ Lankov, Andrei (2008-02-11). "Namdaemun Outlived War, Colonialism". Korea Times. 
  14. ^ Chung Ah-young (2008-02-11). "Three Years Needed for Restoration". Korea Times. 
  15. ^ Kwok, Vivian Wai-yin (2008-02-11). "Korea's Historic Namdaemun Gate Toppled By Fire". Forbes. 
  16. ^ "Man 'confesses to S Korea blaze'". BBC News. 2008-02-12. 
  17. ^ a b Kim Tae-jong (2008-12-12). "Suspect Admits Arson on Namdaemun". Korea Times. 
  18. ^ "Man 'Arsonist Blames President Roh'". Korea Times. 2008-02-14. 
  19. ^ "SKorea arsonist in Namdaemun fire had grudge over land dispute: police". Agence France-Presse (Google). 2008-02-12. 
  20. ^ Hyung-Jin Kim (2008-02-11). "Fire destroys South Korean landmark". Associated Press (Yahoo! News). Archived from the original on 2008-02-13. Retrieved 2008-02-11. 
  21. ^ Choe Sang-Hun (2008-02-12). "South Korean Gate Destroyed in Fire". The New York Times. 
  22. ^ Kim Yon-se (2008-02-12). "Donation for Gate Restoration Proposed". Korea Times. 
  23. ^ "Seoul Landmark Restorations to Be Completed This Year". Chosun Ilbo. 4 January 2012. Retrieved 23 April 2012. 
  24. ^ Lee, Min-Sun (4 January 2013). "The South Gate Will Stay Closed a Little Longer". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 8 January 2013. 
  25. ^ "Veil lifted". Korea JoongAng Daily. 15 February 2013. Retrieved 18 February 2013. 
  26. ^ "Finishing touches". The Korea Times. 17 February 2013. Retrieved 18 February 2013. 
  27. ^ "Sungnyemun to open to great fanfare after more than five years of renovation". The Korea Herald. 30 April 2013. Retrieved 1 May 2013. 
  28. ^ "Recovering Sungnyemun celebration congratulatory address". .The Blue House. 1 May 2013. Retrieved 1 May 2013.