The Procedures of Jongmyo Jerye
Jongmyo Jerye largely consists of procedures for greeting the spirits, for entertaining the spirits and for receiving blessings from the spirits. Strict formalities accompany each procedure as Jongmyo Jerye was the nation's highest-ranked rite. As the parade of carrying chukham (a box containing incense and prayer papers) passes through the Nammun (south gate) of Jeongjeon along Sinro (spirit pathway) towards Jeongjeon, the rite officially starts.

At this time, the Choheongwan, acting for the king, comes out of Socha (resting room for the king) and moves to Jeongjeon. All officiants go to their designated positions. This procedure is called Chwii. Then, they wash their hands symbolically to purify their minds and bodies to greet the spirits. The ritual for greeting the ancestral spirits and various gods begins with Shingwanrye. The officiants burn incense three times to greet the souls from Heaven and pour wine three times on the ground, symbolically through Gwansetong, and offer white ramie as gifts for the spirits.

Cheonjorye is a procedure for ritual table setting. The raw livers of cow, pig and sheep are mixed with millet in oil, and then burned altogether with mugwort. This ritual is to pray for national security and bumper crops by offering sarifices of animal and plants. (Jongmyo Jerye during the Joseon Dynasty was of significance and importance in that the king personally prayed for national security and prosperity for the people with the aid of various gods and the royal virtue of filial piety.)

The ritual foods are prepared with utmost earnestness to befit a national ancestral rite. Among the ritual vessels are Byeon, made of bamboo, and Gu, made of wood, and also about 60 kinds of bronze vessels. There are a total of 63 kinds of vessels only for foods. Each vessel has a noble shape and a particular meaning based on the philosophies of "yin and yang" and "the five elements." As these vessels are arranged with utmost care, so are prepared the ritual foods. They are prepared in cleanest circumstances because it is believed that the spirits do not take any food stained even with a bit of dirt.

The procedures for entertaining the spirits start with Choheonrye. When the Choheongwan offers the first cup of wine, the Daechukgwan recites the prayer paper. By offering the wine to the ancestors,, the king prays for national security and prosperity as well as happinesses for the royal family. At this time, all Heongwans and officiants prostrate and bow four times.

For Aheonrye or the second offering, either the crown prince or the prime minister offers the second cup of wine. Nowadays, this role is done by Aheongwan,. and Jongheongwan offers the third and final cup of wine. The procedures of three separate offerings meant that the ancestral rite was conducted in utmost sincerity on the part of the king and all other officiants taking part in the services.

Befitting the most important national ceremony, Jongmyo Jerye during the Joseon Dynasty days was always accompanied by music and dancing in order to further dignify the event.

Jeryeak (ritual music) was divided into two groups depending on where they play and what kind of instruments they play. Deungga is the orchestra which plays on the upper terrace of Jeongjeon with no songs, while Heonga plays music with songs on the lower terrace. Among the Jeryeak numbers, 11 pieces of Botaepyeong and 11 pieces of Jeongdaeeop were composed personally by King Sejong to pray for national security and prosperity. King Sejo later made some revisions to complete the music.

The dance performed in Jongmyo Jerye is called Ilmu, broken into two versions of Munmu and Mumu. Munmu which is performed with the music of Botaepyeong is a version of civil servant dancing, with dancers holding Yak (a three-holed bamboo flute) in the left hand and Jk (a tasseled wooden bar) in the right hand. Mumu is a version of dance of military nature, performed with the music of Jeongdaeeop, holding wooden swords and spears. (It is interpreted that the songs, music and dancing, all combined, intend not only to please those officiants and all others on the scene but also entertain the spirits and gods in order to move Heaven to bless the country and people to enjoy national security and prosperity in the atmosphere of a festivity.) The ritual for Eumbok is for all the officiants, or the posterity, to share the food and wine once served to the ancestors.

The last procedure remaining in Jongmyo Jerye is the ritual for sending off the spirits, called Mangryorye. It was believed that the ancestral spirits, who had been to Jongmyo, would return to Heaven with the smokes raised when the white ramie and incense, in use for the ancestral rite, were burned in this final procedure. Now that the ancestral spirits were entertained and worshipped in utmost sincerity, they would take care of the country and people to be happy and prosperous, they believed.

(The fundamental idea of the ancestral rite is to worship the ancestors, and this kept alive the virtue of filial piety among the people to this date. That is why Jongmyo Jerye is of particular significance, and thereforre, it is hoped that Jongmyo Jerye of the 21st century is not only valued and observed as the Korean cultural heritage but also as world cultural heritage. Jongmyo Jerye was the most significant and dignified national ceremony in Joseon Dynasty days and the finest Confucian rite to pray for national security and prosperity through carefully arranged and observed ancestral rituals.)