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Jongmyo Shrine
UNESCO World Heritage Site
LocationJongno District, South Korea
CriteriaCultural: (iv)
Inscription1995 (19th Session)
Area19.4 ha (48 acres)
Coordinates37°34′30″N 126°59′38″E / 37.57500°N 126.99389°E / 37.57500; 126.99389Coordinates: 37°34′30″N 126°59′38″E / 37.57500°N 126.99389°E / 37.57500; 126.99389
Jongmyo is located in South Korea
Location of Jongmyo in South Korea
Revised RomanizationJongmyo

Jongmyo (Hangul: 종묘; Hanja: 宗廟) is a Confucian shrine dedicated to the perpetuation of memorial services for the deceased kings and queens of the Korean Joseon Dynasty (1392–1897). According to UNESCO, the shrine is the oldest royal Confucian shrine preserved and the ritual ceremonies continue a tradition established in the 14th century.[not verified in body] Such shrines existed during the Three Kingdoms of Korea period (57-668), but these have not survived.[not verified in body] The Jongmyo Shrine was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1995.[1]

Jongmyo is adjacent to Changdeokgung and Changgyeonggung in the south.[not verified in body] They used to be connected in the Joseon period, but were separated by a road built by Japanese colonists.[not verified in body] Currently[when?] there is a construction plan to recover the original structure of the shrine.[not verified in body] The main buildings of Jongmyo were constructed in October, 1394 when Taejo, first king of Joseon Dynasty, moved the capital to Seoul.[not verified in body] The shrine was destroyed by fire in the Japanese invasions of Korea (1592–98), then rebuilt in 1608.[not verified in body]


When it was built in 1394 by order of King Taejo, the Jongmyo Shrine was thought to be one of the longest buildings in Asia, if not the longest.[citation needed] The main hall, known as Jeongjeon (Hangul: 정전; Hanja: 正殿), had seven rooms.[citation needed] Each room, known as "myo-shil" (Hangul: 묘실; Hanja: 廟室, lit. "Temple Room", i.e.: Royal Shrine) was reserved for a king and his queen.[citation needed] The complex was expanded by King Sejong (r. 1418–50) who ordered the construction of Yeongnyeongjeon (Hangul: 영년전; Hanja: 永寧殿, "Hall of Eternal Comfort").[citation needed] This practice of expansion continued, with the growth of the complex moving from west to east, because of the need to house more memorial tablets during the reigns of later kings until there were a total of 19 rooms.[2] However, during the Seven-Year War (1592–98), Japanese invaders burned down the original shrine and a new complex was constructed in 1601 and has survived to this day.[citation needed] The original tablets were saved in the invasion by hiding them in the house of a commoner and also survive.[3] A king's tablets were enshrined three years after his death.[citation needed] There are 19 memorial tablets of kings and 30 of their queens, placed in the 19 chambers.[citation needed] Each room is very simple and plain in design.[citation needed] Only two kings' memorial tablets are not enshrined here.[4] In addition to the tablet, there is a panel listing each king's accomplishments.[citation needed]

The current Jeongjeon is National treasure of Korea No. 227 and is the longest building in Korea of traditional design.[4]


Viewed from the king's throne at Gyeongbokgung Palace, Jongmyo Shrine would have been on the king's left while the Sajik Shrine, another important Confucian shrine, was on the right.[citation needed] This arrangement was derived from Chinese practice.[citation needed] The main halls are surrounded by hills.[citation needed] In front of the main hall is the Woldae Courtyard, which is 150 meters in length and 100 meters in width.[citation needed]

The south entrance gate was reserved for spirits to enter and exit, the east gate was for the king, and the west gate was for the performers of the royal ritual.[5]

Rituals and performances[edit]

Performance of Jongmyo jeryeak, May 2007.

An elaborate performance of ancient court music (with accompanying dance) known as Jongmyo jeryeak (Hangul: 종묘제례악; Hanja: 宗廟祭禮樂) is performed there each year for the Jongmyo jerye ritual.[citation needed] Musicians, dancers, and scholars would perform Confucian rituals, such as the Jongmyo Daeje (Royal Shrine Ritual) in the courtyard five times a year.[4] Today the rituals have been reconstructed and revived.[citation needed] The Jongmyo Daeje has been designated as Important Intangible Cultural Property No. 56 and is performed every year on the first Sunday in May.[4] The Jongmyo Jerye-ak, the traditional court music of Joseon, is performed by the Royal Court Orchestra and has been designated as Important Intangible Cultural Property of South Korea No. 1.[4] This court music has its origins in Chinese court music that was brought to Korea during the Goryeo period (918-1392).[6] King Sejong composed new music for the ritual based largely on hyangak (with some dangak) in 1447 and 1462.[6]

The songs invite the ancestral spirits to descend from heaven to enjoy the kings achievements in founding the dynasty and defending the country in order to encourage their descendants to follow in their footsteps.[7] Today[when?] the members of the Jeonju Yi Royal Family Association perform the rites to the accompaniment of music and dance provided by musicians from the National Center for Korean Traditional Performing Arts and dancers from the Gukak National High School.[7]


  1. ^ Centre, UNESCO World Heritage. "Jongmyo Shrine". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Retrieved 2021-03-10.
  2. ^ Cho Eun Kyoung, ed. (2015). World Heritage in Korea. pp. 129–146. ISBN 978-89-6555-040-2.
  3. ^ Jongmyo Ancestral Shrine, Seoul, Korea, South at
  4. ^ a b c d e Jongmyo Shrine at
  5. ^ Confucianism - Jongmyo Royal Ancestral Shrine at
  6. ^ a b Performing Arts: Jongmyo Cherye-ak at
  7. ^ a b Korean Culture and Information Service (2010). Guide to Korean Culture. 13-13 Gwancheol-dong, Jongno-gu, Seul 110-11 Korea: Hollym. p. 75.CS1 maint: location (link)


  • Hoon, Shin Young (2008). The Royal Palaces of Korea: Six Centuries of Dynastic Grandeur (Hardback). Singapore: Stallion Press. ISBN 978-981-08-0806-8.

External links[edit]