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Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Sunguijeon Shrine, Yeoncheon, Gyeonggi Province: Royal Shrine of Goryeo Dynasty, on par with Joseon's Dongmyo Shrine

Sunguijeon (Hanja: 崇義殿) is a shrine which is dedicated to the past Kings of Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392). This shrine is located on a hidden edge of Mount Ami at 382-27 Sunguijeon Avenue/Sunguijeonno, Ami-ri 7-beonji, Misan-myeon, Yeoncheon County, Gyeonggi Province that cherishes many stories and memories from the history of Korea; overlooking the Imjin/Rimjin River and located just few clicks away from DMZ

The shrine holds memorial tablets of King Taejo Wang Geon, King Hyeonjong Wang Soon, King Munjong Wang Hwi, King Wonjong Wang Shik, and 16 officials of the Goryeo Period which is listed below:
  • Bok Ji-gyeom
  • Hong Yu
  • General Shin Sung-gyeom
  • Yoo Geum-pil
  • Bae Hyeon-gyeong
  • Seo Hui
  • Field Marshal Inheon Kang Gam-chan
  • Yun Gwan
  • Kim Bu-sik (author of Samguk Sagi)
  • Kim Chwi-ryeo
  • Jo Chung
  • Kim Bang-gyeong
  • Ahn Woo
  • Yi Bang-sil
  • Kim Deuk-bae 
  • Po-eun Jeong Mong-ju 

The shrine was created in 1397 (6th year of King Taejo Yi Seong-gye’s reign) on the Angamsa Temple site, holding the memorial tablet of King Taejo Wang Geon and held ancestral rites for eight kings (King Taejo, King Hyejong Wang Moo, King Seongjong Wang Chi, King Hyeonjong, King Munjong, King Wonjong, King Chungnyeol Wang Geo, and King Gongmin Wang Jeon. Later, it was rebuilt in 1423 (5th year of King Sejong the Great’s reign) and 1452 (2nd year of King Munjong Yi Hyang’s reign). 

During the reign of King Munjong, the shrine was assigned to hold 16 memorial tablets of major officials of Goryeo including Bok Ji-gyeom, a major contributor to the founding of Goryeo, and to be managed by descendants of royal families of Goryeo. The name Sunguijeon was also created at that time. However, it was argued that a royal shrine in the Joseon Dynasty holds ancestral rites for only five kings.

Descendants of the Goryeo Dynasty were charged with the task of overall management and administration of the shrine. In fact, this was a political obligation enforced by the Joseon Dynasty to neutralize dissatisfaction on the part of members of royal family and drifting people who were oriented to the former dynasty.

The shrine experienced two tragic episodes. One was caused by King Sejong the Great. He believed that it was wrong to hold ancestral rites for eight kings and 16 officials of Goryeo, since the royal shrine of Joseon held ancestral rites for five kings only and the Goryeo Period already ended after King GongYang deposed by the former Goryeo General-Later King of Joseon Dynasty, King Taejo Yi Seong-gye in 1392. As such, he removed the memorial tablets of four kings. 

Another tragedy occurred during the Korean War (1950-1953). Before the war, the shrine boasted Jeongjeon Hall, Baesincheong, Jeonsacheong, Nammun Gate, Hyeopmun Gate, a storage facility, and Suboksa, but these were destroyed during the war. Beginning in 1972, a series of buildings including Sunguijeon Shrine, Baesincheong, and Jeonsacheong began to be restored.

Sunguijeon Shrine can be seen as a place of fidelity to the Goryeo Dynasty as well as affection for its past glory on the part of the former royal family and wandering people - the surname of the Goryeo royal family is Wang, which also means “king” in Sino-Korean Language. To be precise, all Goryeo Kings are originated from Kaesong Wang Clan, a clan which is originated from the Capital City of Goryeo, Kaesong in the present-day DPRK.