Jongmyo Shrine
Jongmyo Shrine
Cultural Republic Of Korea Asia And The Pacific Seoul

The Jongmyo Shrine is an outstanding example of the Confucian royal ancestral shrine, which has survived relatively intact since the 16th century, the importance of which is enhanced by the persistence of an important element of the intangible cultural heritage in the form of traditional ritual practices and forms.
Jongmyo is the royal ancestral shrine of the Joseon dynasty (1392-1910). Taejo, founder of the kingdom, transferred the seat of government to Hanyang (present-day Seoul) in 1394 and ordered the building of Jongmyo. The spirit tablets of four generations of Taejos ancestors were moved there from Gaeseong. Subsequently additional buildings were added to receive the spirit tablets of later Joseon kings, bringing the total of rooms in the former to 16 in Yeongnyeongjeon and 35 rooms in Jongmyo, respectively.

Jongmyo is situated in valleys and surrounded by low hills, artificial additions created to reinforce the balance of natural elements on the site as defined in traditional geomancy. Jongmyo is composed of three sets of buildings centred on Hyangdaecheong, a single building, on the main shrine, and the Hall of Eternal Peace, an auxiliary shrine. The main features are as follows: Changyeopmun (the main gate), built from thick wooden planks;Mangmyoru, a wooden structure with a tiled roof where the king waited before the ancestral rituals;Gongmingdang, the shrine to the Goryeo King, built by the Joseon King Taejo;Hyangdaecheong, the storage building for ritual utensils;Jaesil, a main hall and two wings, where participants waited for the rites to take place.

Jongmyo Jeongjeon is surrounded by rectangular walls with gates to the south, east and west. The rectangular inner court platform is floored with rough granite slabs. Three sets of steps ascend the front of the stone base and there are smaller sets of steps at the far ends on either side. Jeongjeon itself is a wooden structure, both the left and the right flanking chambers. The two wings jut out into the woldae. It is divided into several rooms, with the open corridors in front and the 19 inner shrine rooms, separated by wooden doors. The shrine rooms are divided into cubicles, for the 49 spirit tablets lodged there, and antechambers, which are in turn separated by screens. The gabled roof is supported by simple wooden brackets. The main entrance is reserved for the spirits and no one is allowed to pass through it. The east gate is used by the king and the smaller west gate by the musical performers.

Chilsadang houses seven deities, including the gods of palace gates, kitchens, roads, halls and rooms, entrances and exits, and those who die of epidemic diseases;Gongsindang houses the spirit tablets of 83 loyal subjects of the Joseon kings. Jonsacheong is where the ritual utensils and offerings used in the rites are prepared;Subokbang is the ground-keeper's residence, when the food offered during the rituals is examined.

Yeongnyeongjeon is the building in which the spirit tablets of kings not recognized worthy of being honoured indefinitely were lodged when they were removed after a set time from Jeongjeon. It is situated in a rectangular compound entered by three gates. It is built on a rectangular platform, paved with thin slabs of granite. The building has two side wings flanking the main chamber, different in size. Wooden brackets at the tops of the round pillars support the eaves of the gabled roof.