Jongmyo Shrine

 

History | Chongjon | Architecutre | Rites for Royal Ancestral Worship

The Main Hall  and the  Hall of  Everlasting Peace have  the same  basic spatial plan based on repetition,  symmetry and  symbolism, though  the former  is of a somewhat larger scale than the latter. Permeated  by a solemn atmosphere, the wooden structures are simple and functional with highly  restrained use of decoration, which  results in an austere aestheticism rarely found in Korean traditional  architecture. The steep roofs are imposing and the  round pillars running the entire length  of the facade symbolize the perpetuity of the royal lineage, while the broad stone terraces add  to the mystic feeling of tranquility. The Main  Hall is designated  National Treasure No.227  and the Hall of Everlasting Peace is Treasure No.821.
 

 Jongmyo is the royal ancestral shrine of the Choson dynasty (1392-1910) where the spirit tablets of its kings and queens are enshrined and memorial rites are observed in respect of time-old confucian traditions. the construction  of  the shrine, a major  state institution of Korea's last monarchy, began in the ninth month of 1394 after its founding ruler, Yi Song-gye or Taejo, chose seoul  as his new capital and was completed in the twelfth month of the next year.  The  shrine was  expanded and repaired on many occasions thereafter to accommodate the spirit tablets of succeeding kings and queens.  Currently, Chongjon (Main Hall) has 19rooms ensconcing a total of 49 tablets for kings commanding greater respect and their queens. Yongnyongjon (Hall of Everlasting Peace), a smaller annex, has 16 rooms housing 34tablets of kings considered not worthy of the Main Hall, posthumous kings, princes and their wives. The original structures were all burnt down by Japanese troops during the Hideyoshi invasions in 1592-1598. The present buildings were reconstructed in1608..


The Main Hall  and the  Hall of  Everlasting Peace have  the same  basic spatial plan based on repetition,  symmetry and  symbolism, though  the former  is of a somewhat larger scale than the latter. Permeated  by a solemn atmosphere, the wooden structures are simple and functional with highly  restrained use of decoration, which  results in an austere aestheticism rarely found in Korean traditional  architecture. The steep roofs are imposing and the  round pillars running the entire length  of the facade  symbolize the perpetuity of the royal lineage, while the broad stone terraces add  to the mystic feeling of tranquility. The Main  Hall is designated  National Treasure No.227  and the Hall of Everlasting Peace is Treasure No.821.


Chongmyo comprises two major ritual halls and seven auxiliary structures including Kongshindang(Hall of Meritorious Officials), a pavilion where the  kings  prepared themselves for rites, warehouses for storing ritual vessels and incense, and a dressing room for musicians. The shrine stands out among Korea's ancient architectural monuments for its simple and austere style stressing a solemn atmosphere. Both  the Main Hall and the Hall of Everlasting Peace, each enclosed with a square wall, consist of a large rectangular hall with a long front corridor connecting the individual rooms. The halls stand on broad two-tiered stone terraces occupying almost the entire expanse of the courtyards. Running through the stone terraces from south to north is a brick-covered central walkway which  is reserved for the royal spirits. There is not a single plant  in the two courtyards whereas the rest of the spacious compound is covered with thick woods, a deliberate scheme to better expose the halls to the ethereal energy of the heavens. The shrine is designated Historic Monument No.125.


The royal ancestral  rites at Chongmyo, designated Intangible Cultural Property No.56, represent the most majestic court customs from Korea's last monarchy.
The solemn but spectacular rite, officiated by the kings and featuring elaborate music and dance, were intended to appease the souls of the deceased rulers and seek their benevolence for peace and prosperity in the nation.
During Choson times, the rites were observed frequently around the year, including those held to offer the new harvest for each of the four seasons and  to report  on major events in the state and  court. The rites  were suspended temporarily during the turbulent years  earlier this century. Nowadays they are held once a year on the first Sunday of May.