Designated as both a Seoul Monument and a Korean National Treasure, Bosingak is a grand, stand-alone belfry in the central Jongno district of Seoul, and its juxtaposition next to hypermodern buildings such as the Jongno 33 Tower makes it even more of an anachronistic standout. Originally cast in 1396 during the Jeoseon dynasty, the bronze bell served to signal the opening and closing of the city’s then-eight gates, and also as an emergency siren. At 4AM, the gates would open as the bell rang 33 times, the number symbolizing the 33 heavens of Buddhism. At 10PM, the gates would close as the bell rang 28 times, the number representing the constellations in the sky.
The original bronze bell melted in a fire in 1455 and was recast in 1468. (That bell is now in the National Museum of Korea. A replica was installed in 1985.) The two-story, traditional Korean painted-wood pavilion that houses the enormous bell has itself been rebuilt over the past several centuries; the current structure dates from 1979. Every New Year’s Eve thousands of revelers gather around Bosingak for the countdown to midnight, at which time the bell rings 33 times. Since November 2006, the bell is rung at noon every day except Mondays and certain holidays during a re-enactment of the bell-ringing ceremony by the royal palace guards. Foreign visitors who arrive before 11:30 AM on Tuesdays can apply on-site at Bosingak Belfry to participate in the tolling, with four people chosen each day to ring the bell.
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