The "Altar to Heaven," hidden away in what is now the garden of the Westin Chosun Hotel in central Seoul, was one of the Joseon Dynasty's last architectural expressions of independence. In the tumult of the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, the "Hermit Kingdom" struggled to assert its sovereignty as China, Japan, and Russia warred among themselves. Alas, the wake-up call came too late and by 1910, the Joseon Dynasty, founded in 1392, found itself annexed by Japan; it would remain a Japanese colony until 1945.
Few visitors end up in this intimate garden; diners at the hotel's Ninth Gate Grille restaurant can enjoy this shrine (built in 1897) almost to themselves, and guests staying on the northwest side of the hotel overlook this tile-roofed gem, dwarfed by the nearby skyscrapers.
For Korean-history buffs, this is one of Seoul's most poignant enclaves.
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