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According to a Chinese history book, Chunchu Jwajeon, Ilmu had four versions of dancing to be performed according to the status of the main guest. There were two opposing versions, however, regarding the number of dancers involved. One called for an equal number of dancers in line and row, while the other required more dancers in line than in row.

The Goryeo Dynasty adopted the former version, which needed 64 dancers for pal(8)-Ilmu, or eight each in row and line. Goryeo imported from China in 1116 36 sets of dancing suits and ornaments each used for munmu (civil dance) and mumu (military dance), and used them in memorial services. In the Joseon Dynasty, Ilmu was first introduced for parties in the court during the days of King Sejong, and King Sejo began using Ilmu for Jongmyo rituals, made of Botapyeong-ji-mu for munmu (civil dance) and Jeodaeeop-ji-mu for mumu (military dance).

This is a dance performed in praise of the meritorous civil achievements of former kings. Accompanied by the music of Botaepyeong-ji-ak, dancers dance holding yak (three-holed flute) in left hands and jeok (pheasant-feather tassled long bar) in right hands. According to an old book "Akhak Gwebeom" (literaly, court music code), munmu is performed by 36 of the 38 musician members, wearing hat gears called "jinhyeongwan", purple silk gowns and black-rimmed skirts. They also wore red belts, white cotton-made traditional Korean socks and black leather shoes.

The basic dance movement patterns that of a docile sheep, starting with a smooth left turn with hands and legs raised and then stoop. The main motive is calmness and grace as if "the moon moves through clouds," the book says. This dance is performed during the rituals of Yeongsin, Jeonpye and Choheon-rye.

This is a dance to extoll the military exploits of past kings, and there is no fixed formal movements, but dance to the music accompaniment of Jeongdaeeop-ji-ak, holding wooden swords, spears, bows and arrows. This dance is performed during the rituals of Aheon-rye and Jongheon-rye. The orchestra comprises 71 musicians, who wear leather hat gears and costumes are the same as used for Botaepyeong. Of the total, 36 take part in dancing, and the remaining 35 act, as if they are the honor guards of the dancing group, carrying gak, duk, buk (drum), jing (large gong), sora, and multi-colored flags, moving to the rythem of the music.

The basic movement is a right turn with right arms raised and stretching bodies. Dancers are required to make strong, quick movements to depict "a sweetfish swimming against a rapid strream" and fencing motions. In the early Joseon Dynasty days, the dance was performed by 36 members, six in each row and line, or Yuk(6)-Ilmu, but after the Empire of Daehan was declared in the late 19th century, the numbers of dancers was increased to 64, or Pal(8)-Ilmu.

There are two different versions in Botaepyeong and Jeongdaeeop, one performed at Jongmyo Jerye and the other at receptions and parties performed by Gisaeng, or professional ntertainers. As the accompanying music alternates between Botaepyeong and Jeongdaeeop, so the characters of the two dances, Munmu and Mumu, change because the attributes of Munmu are symbolic of 'yang' and those of Mumu are symblic of 'ying.' Accordingly, the dancers employ different movements and supporting items to better reflect their respective dances.