I really wasn’t sure what I was going to do this Sunday. I mean, I had a ton of things planned for Friday night and Saturday, but nothing on the books for Sunday. In fact, I was almost tempted to stay in and do nothing but sit in the cool air conditioned room and finally get around to seeing the film Milk. But a while back, I promised myself that I would get out each day and go for a walk, as long as the weather was permitting. This meant I had to choose a destination.
I decided on an old reliable one: Suwon’s Hwaseong Fortress. Now I’ve written and shown you my trips before, so this trip was really for me. I just wanted to get outside and walk around the three mile wall and take everything in. To enjoy the company of people spending the day there with their families and hopefully learn something new. The truth is, that simple plan made all the difference in the world, because on this venture, I actually made time to stop by four areas that I hadn’t done so before.
I think one of the reasons I love this site is that it really brings people together. While the history is awesome and holds some amazing lessons for future generations, it’s the gathering of families at the pavilions that I really enjoy seeing. Having these groups laugh and play in the shade of up in the mountains always brings a smile to my face, as it is something I remember from my youth. Probably the most memorable outing of my jaunt was spending time with one Korean family who’s son decided to pose for some pictures and perform a Taekwondo form. Since I have no family here in Korea, spending time with these surrogates was a nice change. They welcomed me in and made me fell more than welcomed.
The other thing I did on this trip was meander through the markets. I’m not one for shopping, but on this occasion, I decided to take a little longer to see what was available. My eyes couldn’t really believe how much the place had grown since the last time I was there roughly a year ago. As I recall, there were several shops and merchants, but they were normally confined to the stalls. This trip had them spilling out into the street. It was awesome. I think I’ll have to come back just to spend a day sifting through all the storefronts to see what little special trinkets I can acquire.
The first of my educational stops was at the Bongdon (봉돈). Now I had previously visited these historic signal chimneys on my third trip to the Fortress last year. However, I never lost my sense of wonder with them. They are not like other structures you can see in Korea, most notably on Namsan. These are actually built into the Fortress’ architecture. They were used to communicate and alert other troops stationed on Seokseongsan (in Yongin) and Heungcheondae on the west shore. That’s a quite a bit of distance to say the least. Guards stationed here would stoke the chimneys around the clock and constantly update the state of affairs. During the day, smoke would rise and at night, burning flames would light up the sky. How I long to travel back to ancient times and see these in action. The number of chimneys lit corresponded to a particular state as outlined below:
One was lit at all times, signally a normal state of the countryside.
If two were lit, an enemy was approaching the national border or shore.
If three were lit, then the enemy had reached the national border or shore.
When four becans were lit, then the enemy had crossed the national border or shoreline.
Finally, if all five were lit, then fighting had commenced within the country.
Unlike my other trips that saw me confined to the Fortress walls, I finally made it outside to the pond near one of the pavilions. Yongyeon (용연) is a small man-made pond with an island in its middle. This pond is home to several rain rituals during times of drought and the reflection of the moon in its pools is one of the must-see sights in Suwon. Considering all the times I’ve been to the fortress, I still can’t believe I haven’t been at night… yet. It’s something I plan on correcting soon.
The rest of the trip was filled with just as much wonder, but i’ll spare you the commentary. However, here is a link to the plethora of pictures I took.