Bosingak Belfry, or bell tower, was used to keep time and as a fire alarm to protect and alert the city in times of emergency during the Joseon Dynasty. First constructed in 1396, it has been destroyed and rebuilt many times over the years.
Originally the belfry was known as Jongnu and Jonggak. The name was changed to Bosingak in 1895, during the reign of King Gojong.
There were four gates at the time in the city of Seoul that allowed people in and out.
At 4:00 in the morning the bell in the tower would be rung 33 times. At this time, the gates to the city were opened and people could pass through. The 33 rings represented the 33 cheon of heaven in Buddhism.
At 19:00, the bell would be rung 28 times. At this time, the gates to the city were closed. The 28 rings represented the location of the stars of constellations.
The original bell in the tower was destroyed by a fire and melted in 1455. In 1468, it was reconstructed and still exists to this day. The original bell is now on display at the National Museum of Korea. The bell that hangs today in its place was built and mounted in 1985.
The pavilion, located on Jongno (Bell Street), is rung 33 times every New Year’s Eve at midnight. This event draws thousands of people each year.