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Wongudan Altar, located in Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea, was built in 1897 to serve as a site for the performance of the rite of heaven. The site was also known by other names, such as Hwangudan (환구단, 圜丘壇), Jecheondan (제천단, ) and Wondan (원단, 圜壇).[1] Wongudan was designated South Korea's Historic Site No. 157 on July 15, 1967.

Wongudan
Hwankudan.JPG
Korean name
Hangul
Hanja
Revised RomanizationWon(-)gudan
McCune–ReischauerWŏn'gudan

HistoryEdit

The Rite of Heaven was performed during the pre-Three Kingdoms period. During the Goryeo Dynasty, King Seongjong was the first of the Goryeo kings to perform the rite, designed to ensure a bountiful harvest. King Seongjong standardized the Wonguje rituals. During the Goryeo Dynasty, the practice was abolished. King Sejo of Joseon briefly restarted the rite but stopped the practice in the tenth year of his reign in 1464. The ritual was restarted again when King Gojong proclaimed the Korean Empire in 1897, but it was subsequently abolished by the Japanese colonial government in 1910. The Gocheonje ritual was revived in 2002 with the intention of annual performance as a revival of Korean cultural heritage.

ArchitectureEdit

 
The altar complex before destruction

Wongudan was built in 1897. The site of the complex sat between Namsan and Bukhansan, and was considered highly auspicious by geomancers. The altar complex was also designed to mimic natural elements such as the sun and moon. It was a three-story altar made of granite and was used for animal sacrifice. The top center of the altar held a conical yellow-roofed building. The altar was destroyed by the Japanese in 1913.

 
Hwanggungu

Today, the Hwanggungu (hwang-gung-u, 皇穹宇, Imperial Vault of Heaven), a three-storied octagonal shrine built in 1899, remains at the site. The Hwanggungu, built on the north side of the altar complex, was designed for the worship of Heaven and respecting Taejo, the founder of Joseon. Along with the Hwanggungu, there are several other surviving relics such as the three stone drums (Seokgodan, 石鼓壇) featuring dragon decorations completed in 1902 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Gojong's enthronement, the gate leading to Hwanggungu, and the main entrance into the complex.

The imperial Japanese built the Railroad Chosen Hotel in the area where they had demolished Wongudan Altar. In 1968, that hotel was demolished and the Westin Chosun Hotel was built in its place. The Hwanggungu still stands in the hotel complex today and although it is not a well known tourist site, it is popular with the guests of the hotel.

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