Heunginjimun Gate (Dongdaemun Gate)

Heunginjimun Gate, more commonly known as Dongdaemun Gate
Heunginjimun Gate, more commonly known as Dongdaemun Gate

Heunginjimun Gate (Dongdaemun Gate), the historic Great East Gate on the Seoul Fortress Wall, dates back to the beginning of the Joseon Dynasty in 1398. Heunginjimun is now the oldest main gate remaining in Seoul after Sungnyemun Gate (Namdaemun Gate) was destroyed by a fire on February 10, 2008.

The gate was originally built in 1396 during the reign 4th year of the reign of King Taejo. King Danjong renovated it in 1453. It was last rebuilt by King Gojong in 1869.

in 1869, there were four large gates and four small gates found along the fortress wall. These gates were built in the north, south, east, and west sections to protect the city from enemies, both human and animal.

Each large gate had a tablet inscribed with letters that stood perfect virtue, justice, civility, and wisdom. The letter “ji” on the tablet Heunginjimun (Dongdaemun) was meant to reinforce the energy of the land in front of the gate.

Heunginjimun Gate (Dongdaemun Gate) colorfully lit up at night
The gate colorfully lit up at night

An arched passageway allowed people to pass through the gate and to the other side of the fortress wall.

A two story gatehouse was built for added protection. This feature is also found at Sungnyemun (Namdaemun). The gatehouse was always guarded by a commander. During times of emergency, the gatehouse was used as a command post.

An outer wall built of bricks and windows protected with wood plates were specifically built for the purpose of keeping out invaders.

The middle floor features five front sections and two side sections. Japsang statues of animals, which keep away evil spirits, can be seen on the eaves of the Ujingak style roof.

A side view of Heunginjimun Gate (Dongdaemun Gate) and the fortress wall
A side view of the gate and the fortress wall

Though more commonly known as Dongdaemun, during the reign of King Sejo (1455–1468), many people started calling it Heunginjimun. To this day, many call it by that name to preserve its history.

The simple structure of the gatehouse and the various decorations are a great example of architecture style during the late 19th century Joseon Dynasty.