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The Cheonggyecheon used to be a naturally formed stream before the Joseon Dynasty designated Seoul as its capital. As the city had always been surrounded by mountains, its water was flowing into downtown. Because of the influence of the monsoon weather, it was dried in spring and fall, and warm and humid in summer.
Thus, the stream remained dry in fall and spring, but was likely to get flooded during rainy days in summer. There were many houses and shops along the stream flowing across downtown. On many occasions, heavy rain in summertime caused flood, with houses getting inundated and bridges getting damaged, and many casualties.

Thus, the Joseon Dynasty rulers attached a particular importance in the construction of a drainage system as part of the refurbishment project for the city. During the reign of King Taejong, the third king of the Joseon Dynasty, the work for overhauling the Cheonggyecheon was on his first priorities. The work, which had been carried out for two years from 1406, included dredging and bolstering the banks on both sides of the stream.

In 1411, a temporary authority named "Gaecheondogam" was set up to take care of the task of overhauling the stream. Early in the following year, work was carried out on a large scale for a month, involving a total of 52,800 men per day. The work included stone embankment for the mainstream and building up some stone bridges like Gwangtonggyo and Hyejeonggyo.

During the reign of King Taejong, overhauling the main stream had been the main focus. In contrast, a lot of efforts had been made to overhaul tributaries and streamlets during the reign of King Sejong, the fourth king of the dynasty, to prevent floods in downtown Seoul.
In 1441, an underwater column (called Supyo in Korean), marked with notches, was set up in the west side of Majeongyo (Bridge) to measure the water level in an effort against floods.

During the reign of King Sejong, the Cheonggyecheon was recognized as an important achievement for people's everyday life. When Seoul was designated as the capital of the Joseon Dynasty, the theory of the configuration of the ground ("Pungsu" in Korean) came to birth: the Hangang (River) flowed from east to west along the outer boundary, while the Cheonggyecheon flowed from west to east into downtown.

At that time, there were no particular drainage systems. Thus, trash and wastewater flowed into the Cheonggyecheon in downtown Seoul. There were some officials insisting on the importance of the stream relying on the theory of the configuration of the ground and thus it should remain clean, while some others were supporting a more realistic opinion supporting the idea of the stream as a drain for people. King Sejong leaned to the latter's opinion. Thus, the stream came to act as drainage for people living in Seoul.

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