Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Namdaemun restored

It was over five years ago when a man angered over lack of compensation for his property set Namdaemun on fire, severely damaging it. It's set to reopen this Saturday after years of restoration work:
The Cultural Heritage Administration said it will hold a ceremony to mark the completion of the restoration of Sungnyemun, also known as Namdaemun meaning "south gate" in Korean, at 2 p.m. on Saturday at the site in central Seoul.

Severely damaged in the arson attack by an elderly man in January 2010, the gate underwent restoration with the participation of the nation's top-notch master carpenters and craftsmen, including those named intangible cultural treasures.

The administration said the gate made of stone and wood was restored to resemble its original form when it was first built in the late 14th century.[...]

The team also broadened the width of the stairway on its east side and lowered the ground around it by 30 to 50 centimeters in an effort to restore the gate to its original shape, officials said.
One of the good things to come out of the reconstruction was the excavations which took place around the gate, which revealed that the streets around the gate had risen by 1.4 meters during the past 500 years. It's nice to see that the restored gate will take that discovery into account.
Despite the restoration, the gate's value as a national treasure remains intact, according to experts.

"Many people think Sungnyemun was totally burnt down in the fire, but that's a misunderstanding," said Park Eon-kon, architecture professor at Seoul's Hongik University who headed the advisory group for the project. "Only part of it was destroyed."[...]

Lee Eui-sang, a 72-year-old mason who participated in the project, said the government's plan to restore Sungnyemun in a traditional way perplexed him at first.

"I didn't know what to do because all the tools used by the nation's traditional masons disappeared in the middle of 1970s," he said. So, he had to travel around the country in search of old tools.
Hopefully those tools and his knowledge get passed on.
The walls on both sides of the gate, which were demolished during the 1910-1945 Japanese colonial rule over Korea, have been rebuilt as well.
Actually, the walls were demolished in 1908, ostensibly at the behest of Korean government ministers, though the Japanese did have control of much of Korea's internal affairs by that point. Mentioned in the linked post is the assertion by the city that when Namdaemun's doors were opened in 2006, it was for the first time in 99 years, something which turned out not to be true at all. Here are photos of the restored gate:

When I saw the above photo, I thought it nice to see the walls restored, especially since they recall the image of Namdaemun from over 100 years ago:

On the other hand, I also regretted the loss of its iconic shape. As it turns out, however, the 'inside' part of the gate does still keep that shape, which is a pretty inspired compromise, I think.

 From here.
After the ceremony [this Saturday], the restored gate will be open to the public every day from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., except Mondays. The hours will be extended by one hour till 7 p.m. in May, the month it reopens.

On May 4, all four royal palaces -- Gyeongbok, Changdeok, Changgyeong and Deoksu -- and Jongmyo Shrine will be opened for free admission in celebration of Sungnyemun's reopening, the office said.
There you have it.

1 comment:

Will said...

2010? Yonhap didn't even get that right...

Returning to Seoul for a visit last weekend after a couple of years since living there, it was so odd to see new iterations of the old train station, city hall, and the gate...all in a 5 minute car ride.

Having lived in Seoul before though, perhaps it would be stranger to me if things hadn't changed so much.