UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Jongmyo (Royal Shrine)



Jongmyo is a royal shrine dedicated to the performance of ancestral rites for the deceased kings and queens of the Joseon Dynasty. Being the place where the royal ancestral tablets are enshrined, Jongmyo's atmosphere is solemn and sacred rather than splendid like the royal palaces. The simple and elegant buildings of this shrine have faithfully kept their original forms since the 16th century. Jongmyo's main hall, Jeongjeon is where the royal ancestral rites are performed. The main hall is an outstanding example of traditional Korean architecture. Jongmyo was designated as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site together with Jongmyo Jerye and Jongmyo Jeryeak. Jongmyo Jerye is the royal ancestral ritual and has been performed for 600 years. The court music performed during the ritual is the Jongmyo Jeryeak.

Jongmyo Jeongjeon (Hall), a place steeped in royal history

Jongmyo is made up of Jeongjeon (the main hall), Yeongnyeongjeon (the hall of eternal peace), and auxiliary buildings such as Jeonsacheong, Eosuksil, Hyangdaecheong and Sindang. Jeongjeon, the main hall of Jongmyo, is a place steeped in royal history and is highly esteemed for its outstanding architecture. It is said to be the world's longest single wooden structure and its length measures 109 meters. The reason for the building's great length is that new chambers were added to the ends as necessary in order to hold more memorial tablets. Unlike other Korean buildings, Jeongjeon has a gabled roof rather than the traditional eaves. This gives the architecture of the main hall a beautiful and uniquely solemn aspect.

  • Hamabi

  • UNESCO World Cultural Heritage of Jongmyo
    UNESCO World Cultural Heritage of Jongmyo, Jongmyo Jerye and Jongmyo Jeryeak

Admittance with homage

During the Joseon Dynasty period (1392 – 1910), admittance to Jongmyo was only allowed to people paying formal homage to the royal ancestors. A sign-board still present at Jongmyo attests to this. The sign reads “Hamabi” which means “dismount from your horse”. During the Joseon era, the royal ancestors were worshiped like gods so anyone who entered Jongmyo, including kings, had to dismount from their horse.

  • Jungjidang
    Jungjidang (Pond)
  • Samdo
    Samdo (Path)

Jungjidang (Pond) and Samdo (Path)

Jungjidang is a pond in Jongmyo. The island in the middle of the pond with its juniper tree symbolizes the sky and the square shaped wall surrounding the pond symbolizes the earth.

Samdo is a path between the main gate and Jeongjeon. Samdo is made up of three paths so it is called Samdo (literally meaning three paths in Korean). The east path is for the king, the west path is for the crown prince and the middle path is for the spirits of the royal ancestors.

Jongmyo Jerye (Royal Ancestral Ritual) and Jongmyo Jeryeak (Court Music)

Jongmyo Jerye was the most important event of the shrine and was performed with Jongmyo Jeryeak. Jongmyo Jeryeak is highly appreciated for its artistic perfection so it has been designated as Important Intangible Cultural Heritage No.1 in Korea. In the Confucian tradition, ancestral rites are one of the most important ceremonies. Jongmyo Jerye is the most advanced and complete form of this Confucian rite. These days, Jongmyo Jerye is performed on the first Sunday in May and is the highlight of any Jongmyo tour. As it was also designated as World Intangible Cultural Heritage, its solemnity cannot be explained without experiencing it. The rite is performed twice a day, at Yeongnyeongjeon in the morning and at Jeongjeon in the afternoon. Guided tours in foreign languages are also conducted twice a day in the mornings and afternoons. The shrine is closed on Tuesdays.

  • Jungjidang
    Jungjidang (Pond)
  • Samdo
    Samdo (Path)

  • Jongmyo Jeryeak televised in Akgongcheong
    Jongmyo Jeryeak televised in Akgongcheong (Court musician's Pavilion)

  • Jongmyo Yeongnyeongjeon
    Jongmyo Yeongnyeongjeon

  • Water fountain
    Water fountain

  • View of Yeongnyeongjeon from Akgongcheong
    View of Yeongnyeongjeon from Akgongcheong

  • Tourist information board
    Tourist information board

  • Utensils used in the ancestral rite and a picture of the royal processions
    Utensils used in the ancestral rite and a picture of the royal processions
[2010-08-18 15:07 Input / 2014-04-14 13:38 Modify]