|A Brief Note on Jongmyo
Jongmyo is the Royal Shrine where the past kings and their queens of the Joseon Dynasty, who founded the country and endeavored for the best of their people, are enshrined. Royal ancestral rites were observed here by the reigning king when the dynasty was in existence. Jongmyo Jerye, or ancestral rite, was held in Jongmyo, and was considered top of the five national ceremonies observed by the Joseon Dynasty. Accompanied by solemn music and dancing, the confirmed formalities of the service have been preserved almost in their original forms more than 500 years since 1464.
In this connection, Jongm,yo Jerye could be considered the oldest comprehensive Confucian-influenced ritual culture in the world. The main building of Jongmyo is a wooden structure, whose likes could hardly be found either in Europe or America, and was thus designated by UNESCO as one of the world cultural heritage in December, 1995. King Taejo started building the structure in October 1394, third year of his era. He moved the capital from Gaeseong to Hanyang, present Seoul, in December of that year, and completed the project on Jongmyo in September of the following year.
The instittion of Jongmyo was formalized by the Chou dynasty of China, adopting either the five-generation system or that of seven generations. Initially, the Joseon Dynasty also adopted the five-generation formula but as time went by, more rooms were added to accommodate more spirits, growing to the present 19-chamber main shrine. This is one characteristics of Jongmyo of the Joseon Dynasty. The structure of Jongmyo's main shrine is known for its wide frontal facade of the 19-chamber building, emphasizing its long horizontal roofline. This type of structure, featuring the beauty of Korean construction techniques, is distictively different from Chinese buildings of this kind, and is unfound even in China, where the institution of Jongmyo began.
Originally, Jongmyo referred to this 19-chamber main shrine called Jeongjeon, but nowadays Jongmyo means Jeongjeon and Yeongnyeongjeon, where additioanl royal spirit tablets are housed. Jeongjeon is flanked by Gongsindang, where the tablets of 83 meritorious subjects of the dynasty are enshrined, on the right, and by Shilsadang, shrine for gods of Heaven and Earth, on the left as if they are the guardians of Jeongjeon. On the compound are also other buildings such as Jeonsicheong, Jesil and Hyanggyocheong to help facilitate the magnificent and solemn rite of Jongmyo Jerye.