Munmyo (more specifically Seoul Munmyo or Sung Kyun Kwan Munmyo) is Korea's primary Confucian shrine ("munmyo" is also the general Korean term for "Confucian shrine"). Also, Munmyo Bae-hyang (문묘배향, 文廟配享) was considered the highest honor a scholar could achieve during the Joseon Dynasty. There were only 18 of them that were granted this honor and were called the 18 Sages of Korea or the 18 Confucian Scholars of the East (Dongbang 18 Hyeon, 동방 18현, 東方 18賢). It is located in central Seoul, South Korea, at 53 Myeongnyun-dong 3(sam)-ga, Jongno-gu, on the campus of Sungkyunkwan University.
The Munmyo origins come from China where scholars starting with Confucius and other successors to his teachings were honored and venerated. There was a temple where Confucius and other disciples were enshrined called the Temple of Confucius and became widespread during Tang China. This idea was brought to Korea where it was adopted. Munmyo started during the Unified Silla period, but it wasn't fully developed and completed until 1398 under King Taejo of Joseon. During Joseon, notable scholars during Silla Dynasty and Goryeo Dynasty were added to the Confucian shrine. Subsequently, other scholars during the Joseon Dynasty were also added. It was a tedious process where one had to request, apply, and wait well after their death. It was based on their knowledge of Confucianism. They had to be extremely learned scholars, good character, and have made significant contributions to be accepted and be put into the Munmyo shrine where they would be remembered, honored and venerated. Only a total of 18 were considered to be part of what is now called the 18 Sages of Korea.
A ritual called Munmyo jerye (Hangul: 문묘제례; Hanja: 文廟祭禮), which involves music and dance, is held there each year in the spring (April) and autumn (September); the ritual features ancient music of Chinese origin called Munmyo jeryeak (Hangul: 문묘제례악; Hanja: 文廟祭禮樂), which is a form of aak. Munmyo also served as the national shrine for Confucius, ten of his disciples, and 18 of Korea's most venerated Confucian scholars including (in the chronological order of enshrinement) Choe Chiwon, Seol Chong, An Yu (An Hyang), Jeong Mong-ju, Kim Gwoeng-pil, Jeong Yeo-chang, Jo Gwang-jo, Yi Eonjeok, Yi Hwang, Yi I, Seong Hon, Kim Jang-saeng, Song Siyeol, Song Jun-gil, Pak Se-chae, Kim Inhu, Jo Hun, and Kim Jip.
The musicians are provided by The National Center for Korean Traditional Performing Arts. The instruments used include flutes (hun, so, and bamboo flutes), zithers (seul and geum), stone chimes (pyeongyeong), bronze bells (pyeonjong), various drums played with sticks, tiger-shaped wooden scraper (eo), wooden box (chuk), and wooden clappers (bak).
Munmyo is designated by the South Korean government as Historic Site No. 143.
- Joseon Annals, March 19, 1409. No. 1
- Joseon Annals, November 20, 1883. No. 2
- Sung Kyun Kwan University
- Munmyo Shrine
- Asian Historical Architecture: Munmyo Confucian Shrine
- "Rare Confucian Musical Ritual at NCKTPA", by Kim Ju-young, from The Korea Times