Establishment of the King’s Residence
In 1394, King Taejo decided to have a new city built on the site of Hanyang, and this remained the capital through to the end of the dynasty. Hanyang was built in accordance with ancient Korean traditions, geomantic principles and Confucian ideology. With the relocation of the royal capital, the palace compound for the king was constructed alongside the initial city walls made from compressed earth. The construction of Gyeongbokgung Palace at the foot of Baegaksan Mountain, Jongmyo Royal Ancestral Shrine to the east, and Sajik Altar to the west transformed Hanyang into a true capital. In front of Gyeongbokgung Palace were the buildings for Six Ministries and the other major government agencies. The Sijeon (Licensed Stores), was established along the main street connecting east and west. As a result, Hanyang became more distinctive as the nation’s center over the next years.
Imjin Waeran (Japanese Invasion of Joseon in 1592) and Byungja Horan (Second Manchu Invasion in 1636) soon swept Joseon into two major wars. Public infrastructure around the country was damaged and the collapse of social and economic systems led to great national losses. As a result of the seven-year long Japanese invasions, urban infrastructure in the capital of Hanyang including palaces, shrines, most government offices, licensed stores and private homes were plundered or burnt to ashes. After the Japanese invasions came to an end, attempts were made to restore the capital during the reigns of King Seonjo and King Gwanghaegun by rebuilding facilities such as shrines and Changdeokgung Palace. However, before the postwar chaos had even settled, diplomatic conflict with the Ming and Qing dynasties led to the Second Manchu Invasion. Although the war was short, the defeat of Joseon led to massive damage including Crown Prince Sohyeon, Prince Bongrim, members of the royal family and 500,000 civilians being captured as hostages. After the two wars, many aspects of Joseon changed for the sake of postwar recovery, including state-run systems across politics, society and the economy.
It was during the late seventeenth century that Hanyang started to transform into a commercial city. During this time, a commodity money economy developed in Hanyang with the enactment of Daedongbeop (Uniform Land Tax Law) and the circulation of metal currency, and a trading system mediated mostly by currency was established. People with no particular skills or resources flooded into Hanyang as they were able to sell their labor. By the late eighteenth century, there was a sharp rise in commercial development, and major ports in Gyeonggang, such as Mapo, Seogang, and Yongsan, became commercial centers. Along with commercial development, growth in privately-managed handicrafts provided people with luxury goods of the finest quality such as gold, silver, and jade craft. As a result, Hanyang’s population soared, and merchants, artisans, and wage laborers made up the majority of the city’s citizenry.
During the Joseon Dynasty, Hanyang was divided into the areas inside the city wall and those outside the city wall. When the Hanseongbu government formed the city’s administration, these areas were arranged into five districts; the eastern district, western district, southern district, northern district and central district. In addition to these administrative districts, the area inside the city wall was also divided into Bukchon (Northern Neighbourhood), Namchon (Southern Neighbourhood), Jungchon (Central Neighbourhood), Dongchon (Eastern Neighbourhood), Seochon (Western Neighbourhood) or Utdae (Upper Area), and Araetdae (Lower Area) in line with the city’s topography. The local culture in each of these villages differed based on the natural landscape, environment and the social status of its residents.
In Joseon, the jurisdiction of Hanseongbu (Hanseong Magistracy) extended beyond the walls to include the area in a 10-li (about 4㎞) radius outside them. This area, which was referred to as Seongjeosimni (10-li beyond the wall), was only sparsely populated in early Joseon. However, in late Joseon about half of all the residents in the capital area lived outside the walls. The districts of Mapo, Yongsan, and Seogang were commercial centers, while Wangsimni and Salgojibeol, which were beyond Dongdaemun Gate, were dedicated to agriculture and grew vegetables and other produce for the capital populous. Seongjeosimni is the place where Hanyang transformed from being primarily a royal residence to a commercial city in late Joseon.