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Making up the most of the musical program are two major musical works: Botaepyeong and Jeongdaeeop. The musical performance accompanies songs, named Jongmyo Akjang, and dances, named Ilmu. Ilmu consists of Botaepyeong-ji-mu, or dance to praise the civil achievements of former kings, and Jeongdaeeop-ji-mu, or dance to praise their military exploits.

In the early days of his reign, King Sejong composed many pieces of music work, but the king thought those pieces were not enough to cover all the meritorious achievements of past kings, and in 1448, the 31st year of his reign, the king completed the composition of new musical works, including Botaepyeong, Jeongdaeeop, Balsang and Bongraeui.

Botaepyeong comprises 11 musical pieces, and Jeongdaeeop 15. The king instructed that these pieces be sung with words in praise of royal achievements to be played with a variety of instruments used in Korean court music, Chinese ritual music and others with peformances of Ilmu, or dances in praise of civil and military achievements.

In 1463, the 9th year of King Sejo's reign, revisions were made to Botaepyeong and Jeongdaeeop, and in the following year, those two musical works were performed for the first time in the Jongmyo Ancestral Rite. The Jeryeak was to som degrees affected by the Japanese invasion of Korea during the reign of King Seonjo in 1592, but was gradually restored to its old shape in the days of King Kwanghae, and one more verse called Junggwangjang was inserted after Jeongmyeongjang in Botaepyeong to be played every year at royal parties until 1946.
They were temporarily suspended until 1971, when the Jongmyo Jeryeak, together with words and Ilmu dances, began to be performed every year at Jongmyo Grand Ancestral Rite on the first Sunday of May.
The arts of Jongmyo Jeryeak were handed down generation to generation by the members of Jangakweon (the office of court music) until the end of the Joseon Dynasty, and were restored alive by members of the office of former royal court music. Since Korean independence after World War Two, musicians of the National Orchestra of Korean Court Music have been taking care of learning and developing the traditional arts. Among those approved by the government as authentic maestros in their specific fields are Kim Jong-Hwi and a number of other artists.
The present version of Botaepyeong comprises a total of 11 pieces: Hwimun, Gimyeong, Gwiin, Hyeong-ga, Jipnyeong, Yunghwa, Hyeonmi, Yongwang-jeongyeong, Junggwang, Daeyu, Yeokseong, Jeongdaeeop is also made up of 11 musical pieces: Somu, Dokgyeong, Takjeong, Sinjeong, Buneum, Suneum, Chongsu, Jeongse, Hyeokjeong, and Yeosnggwan.( Botaepyeong is played on Hwangjonggung Pyeongjo (C-Sol), and Jeongdaeeop on Hwangjonggung Myeongjo (C-La).

Instruments for performance includes: bak (a fan-shaped wooden clapper), pyeonjong (a set of 16 tuned tin belts fastened in two rows), pyeongyeong (a set of 16 tuned jadeite chimes fastened in two rows), banghyang (a set of 16 tuned metal chimes fastened in two rows), piri (a three-holed bamboo flute), daegeum (a large transverse bamboo flute), chuk (a wooden gong), eo (a tiger-shaped wooden scraper), haegeum (a two-string fiddle), jingo (a large barrel drum), majochok, jeolgo (a drum placed on a wooden box), ajaeng (a seven-stringed bowed zither), and taepyeongso (a shawm).
For Yeongsin-rye, the welcome reception for ancestral spirits, and Jeonpye-rye, greeting the spirits, of Jongmyo Jerye, musicians perform the first piece of Botaepyeong, Hwimun, and while playing Botaepyeong for Choheon-rye (the first offering of wine), vocalist members chant the words in praise of civil achievements by past kings and danceers of a 64-member dancing group perform Munmu, in praise of royal achievements in civil administration, each holding yak (flute),and jeok (wooden bar).
For Ahyeon-rye and Jonghyeon-rye, the musicians perform the entire work of Jeondaeeop, accompanied by chanting of the words for military exploits of former kings and the Mumu of Palilmu, dances for military achievements, with dancers of the first two rows holding wooden swords, those of the next two rows wooden spears, and members of the last two rows bows.
For the rituals of Jinchan (ritual table setting), Cheolbyeondu (withdrawal of ritual tables and vessels) and Songsin-rye (sending off the spirits), the traditional court music is played with no verse chanting nor dancing. Jongmyo Jeryeak is a solemn and majestic assortment of music performances, an ensemble of ancestral ritual music refined from various ancient and traditional music works.