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Monday, 29 July 2013

Jongmyo Shrine: A Requiem for Kings and Queens of Joseon Dynasty

Jongmyo (Hanja: 宗廟) is a Confucian shrine dedicated to the memorial services for the deceased kings and queens of the Korean Joseon Dynasty (1392~1910). It is located at 157 Jongno/Bell Road, Hunjeong-dong 1-2 beonji, Seoul Jongno-gu. According to UNESCO, the shrine is the oldest royal Confucian shrine preserved and the ritual ceremonies continue a tradition established since the 14th century. Such shrines existed during the Three Kingdoms of Korea period but only the shrines for the rulers of Joseon remain. The Jongmyo Shrine was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1995.

When it was built in 1394 by order of King Taejo Yi Seong-gye, it was thought to be one of the longest buildings in Asia, if not the longest. The main hall, known as Jeongjeon, had seven rooms. Each room was reserved for a king and his queen. The complex was expanded by King Sejong who ordered the construction of Yeongnyeongjeon (Hall of Eternal Comfort). 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 nineteen rooms. However, during the Imjin Japanese Invasion (1592~1598), Japanese invaders burned down the original shrine and a new complex was constructed in 1601 CE which has survived to this day. The original tablets were saved in the invasion by hiding them in the house of a commoner and also survive to this day. A king's tablets were enshrined three years after his death. There are 19 memorial tablets of kings and 30 of their queens, placed in 19 chambers. Each room is very simple and plain in design. Only two kings' memorial tablets are not enshrined here. In addition to the tablet, there is a panels listing the king's accomplishments.

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

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

The Festival: Jongmyo Daeje/Jongmyo Jerye (Royal Ancestral Rites of Jongmyo Shrine)
Jongmyo Jerye or Jongmyo Daeje (Hangul/Hanja: 종묘제례 or 종묘대제/宗廟祭禮 or 宗廟大祭) is a rite held for worshipping the late kings and queens of the Joseon Dynasty in Jongmyo ShrineSeoul Jongno-gu, South Korea. It is held every year on the first Sunday of May. The Jongmyo rite is usually accompanied with the court music playing (Jerye-ak) and dance called Ilmu or line Dance. Jongmyo Jerye and Jeryeak were designated as the first of South Korea's Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2001.

The Jongmyo rites originated from the ancient Chinese era. They were practiced in Korea for the first time in Silla era and preserved from the Goryeo Dynasty to the last Korean Dynasty of Joseon. Along with the ceremony for praying to the Gods of Earth for bountiful crops, it is considered Korea's highest-ranked rites. These practices have been lost in China but Korea still preserved it well.

The Jerye procedures were divided into three parts. It is regarded as Korea's highest-ranked ritual, so it was held strictly and solemnly. The first part is the procedures to invite and greet the spirits. Most of the rites are held by king, officiants and his family. The first part's procedures are jagye (purification). Chwiwi is the part when the king and choheongwan (people who bring the wine for offering rituals) take the position into the chamber of the shrine. Then they wash their hands for greeting the spirits (gwansewi). In the Cheonghaengrye and Singwanrye rituals, they begin the rite of greeting the gods of Heaven and Earth by offering wine.

The second is rituals for entertaining the spirits. It is started the rites of Jinchan, which serves 63 kinds of foods to the spirits. Then the king begin to serve the first wine offering to the ancestral rites (Choheonrye) followed by Aheongwan (Crown Prince) and Jongheongwan (Prime Minister). This ritual is followed by rite of reciting the prayer paper by people called Daechukgwan. Aheonrye and Jongheonryeare the rites of the second and third (last) of wine offering.

The third part is the last rites which are held to send off the spirits to heaven. Eumbok is an occasion of sharing foods and wine to the officiants. The Cheonbyeondu is the rite of removing all the foods served for the spirits. In Songsin, the Choheongwan and other officiants bows four times to send off the spirits to heaven. Mangryorye is the last rite held by burning the prayer papers and the king is reported by the Heongwan and Daechukgwan that the rituals and services are completed and all the officiants withdraw.

During the rituals of Jerye, it were held together with the court music playing (Jerye-ak) to bring an enjoyment for the spirits invited into the rites. Jerye-ak compositions played in the rites were Botaepyeong and Jeongdaeeop. There were also songs that accompanied the jerye-ak, named Jongmyo Akjang.

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. Musicians, dancers, and scholars would perform Confucian rituals, such as the Jongmyo Daeje (Royal Shrine Ritual) in the courtyard five times a year. Today the rituals have been reconstructed and revived. The Jongmyo Daeje has been designated as Important Intangible Cultural Property No. 56 and is performed every year in May. 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 No. 1. This court music has its origins in Chinese court music that was brought to Korea during the Goryeo period. King Sejong composed new music for the ritual based largely on hyangak (with some dangak) in 1447 and 1462.

The Jerye's dance is called Ilmu (line dance). Ilmu divided into Botaepyeong-ji-mu (dance to praise achievements of the former kings), and Jeongdaeeop-ji-mu, (dance to praise the king's military achievements). Ilmu dances are performed by a group of 84 women dancers wearing purpled-clothing dance. They called Palilmu because they dance in 8 lines and rows.

Ilmu divided into two types of dance, Munmu and Mumu. Munmu is accompanied by Botaepyeong-ji-ak, with Yak (a three-holed bamboo flute) in the left hand and Jeok (a pheasant-feather tasseled wooden bar) in the right hand. Mumu is a military dance. The dancers move fastly by holding wooden swords and the rear four rows wooden spears in the front four rows .