Jongmyo is the oldest and most authentic of the Confucian royal shrines to have been preserved. Dedicated to the forefathers of the Joseon dynasty (1392–1910), the shrine has existed in its present form since the 16th century and houses tablets bearing the teachings of members of the former royal family. Ritual ceremonies linking music, song and dance still take place there, perpetuating a tradition that goes back to the 14th century.
Outstanding Universal Value
Jongmyo is a shrine housing the spirit tablets of the former kings and queens of the Joseon Dynasty. The shrine is a symbolic structure that conveys the legitimacy of the royal family, where the king visited regularly to participate in the ancestral rites to wish for the safety and security of the people and state. Jongmyo is the oldest and most authentic of the Confucian royal ancestral shrines, with a unique spatial layout that has been preserved in its entirety. It was originally built in the late 14th century, but was destroyed during the Japanese invasion during the 16th century, and was rebuilt in the early 17th century with a few expansions made to the buildings thereafter.
Jongmyo and its grounds occupy a 19.4 ha oval site. The buildings are set in valleys and surrounded by low hills, with artificial additions built to reinforce the site’s balance of natural elements, in accordance with traditional pungsu principles. The main features of Jongmyo are Jeongjeon (the main shrine), and Yeongnyeongjeon (the Hall of Eternal Peace, an auxiliary shrine). Other features include Mangmyoru, a wooden structure where the king thought about the ancestral kings in memory; Gongmingdang, the shrine to the Goryeo King Gongmin, built by the Joseon King Taejo; Hyangdaecheong, the storage building for ritual utensils; and Jaegung, a main hall with two wings, where the King and participants waited for the rites to take place. Jongmyo was built faithfully abiding by the Confucian ideology of ancestral worship and its ritual formalities under strict royal supervision, and still maintains its original form dating from the Joseon Dynasty.
Traditions of ancestral worship rites – Jongmyo Jerye, are still carried out, together with the accompanying ritual music and dance performance. Construction and management of Jongmyo, and the operations of Jongmyo Jerye rituals, are all meticulously recorded in the royal protocols of the Joseon Dynasty.
Criterion (iv): Jongmyo Shrine is an outstanding example of the Confucian royal ancestral shrine, which has survived relatively intact since the 16th century, the importance of which is enhanced by the persistence there of an important element of the intangible cultural heritage in the form of traditional ritual practices and forms.
Jongmyo Shrine is composed of a main ritual space, buildings and facilities, together with auxiliary structures and facilities that serve supportive functions in the conduct of rituals, and is surrounded by a forest. The entire complex of buildings and landscape features has been included within the boundaries of the property, and the complex is surrounded by a buffer zone.
The buildings are generally in good condition. The greatest risk factor with respect to the protection of the wooden architecture of Jongmyo is fire.
Beyond the buffer zone of the property, there is considerable modern urbanization. The construction of high-rise buildings in these areas could adversely affect site-lines within Jongmyo.
The Royal Ancestral Rite and Ritual Music of Jongmyo continue to be performed annually and are designated as an Important Intangible Cultural Heritage. The preservation of the music, dance and ritual is carried out by the National Gugak Center, and the Jongmyo Jerye Safeguarding Society.
Jongmyo maintains a high degree of authenticity, having conserved both its physical form and traditional ritual practices. The site layout and architecture of Jongmyo have been kept intact in the original form, and the ancestral ritual music and dance have been handed down and continue to be regularly performed.
Rebuilt in the 17th century, Jongmyo has been expanded twice to enshrine the increasing number of ancestors. As with most buildings within the wooden architecture tradition of East Asia, the buildings have undergone a number of restorations involving dismantling and reconstruction. There has, however, been scrupulous respect for materials and techniques, which makes them authentic in this respect.
Protection and management requirements
The entire area of Jongmyo Shrine and the individual buildings of Jeongjeon and Yeongnyeongjeon have been designated as State-designated Cultural Heritage under the Cultural Heritage Protection Act, which imposes restrictions on alterations to the property.
The area extending 100 m from the boundary of Jongmyo is protected under the Cultural Heritage Protection Act and also by the Jongno-gu district office regulation as a Historic Cultural Environment Protection Area, and all construction within the area requires approval.
The Royal Ancestral Rite of Jongmyo together with the accompanying Ritual Music has been designated by the State as Important Intangible Cultural Heritage. The Jongmyo Jerye Safeguarding Society is designated as the major practicing group by the Cultural Heritage Administration and under the Cultural Heritage Protection Act receives subsidies and assistance in safeguarding the ritual.
At the national level, the Cultural Heritage Administration (CHA) is responsible for establishing and enforcing policies for the protection of Jongmyo, and allocating financial resources for its conservation. The Jongmyo Management Office, with a staff of approximately 25 employees, is in charge of day-to-day management of the site. Routine monitoring is carried out and in-depth professional monitoring is conducted on a 3-to-4 year basis.
The area around Jongmyo is managed by the Urban Planning Division, Traffic Policy Division and Cultural Heritage Division of the Seoul Metropolitan City, which work in cooperation. Seoul City periodically revises the Basic Scenery Plan and District Unit Plan for the areas surrounding Jongmyo, recommending systematic management policies and work plans.
Conservation work at Jongmyo is carried out by Cultural Heritage Conservation Specialists who have passed the National Certification Exams in relevant fields of expertise. The CHA is implementing the Integrated Security System Establishment Plan for the 5 Palaces and Jongmyo, in place since 2009, in preparation for accidents and/or disasters that could harm the heritage.
The general public is allowed to enter the heritage area on guided tours only, and access to the interior of the buildings is prohibited.
The Jongmyo Shrine is an outstanding example of the Confucian royal ancestral shrine, which has survived relatively intact since the 16th century, the importance of which is enhanced by the persistence of an important element of the intangible cultural heritage in the form of traditional ritual practices and forms.
Jongmyo is the royal ancestral shrine of the Joseon dynasty (1392-1910). Taejo, founder of the kingdom, transferred the seat of government to Hanyang (present-day Seoul) in 1394 and ordered the building of Jongmyo. The spirit tablets of four generations of Taejos ancestors were moved there from Gaeseong. Subsequently additional buildings were added to receive the spirit tablets of later Joseon kings, bringing the total of rooms in the former to 16 in Yeongnyeongjeon and 35 rooms in Jongmyo, respectively.
Jongmyo is situated in valleys and surrounded by low hills, artificial additions created to reinforce the balance of natural elements on the site as defined in traditional geomancy. Jongmyo is composed of three sets of buildings centred on Hyangdaecheong, a single building, on the main shrine, and the Hall of Eternal Peace, an auxiliary shrine. The main features are as follows: Changyeopmun (the main gate), built from thick wooden planks; Mangmyoru, a wooden structure with a tiled roof where the king waited before the ancestral rituals; Gongmingdang, the shrine to the Goryeo King, built by the Joseon King Taejo; Hyangdaecheong, the storage building for ritual utensils; Jaesil, a main hall and two wings, where participants waited for the rites to take place.
Jongmyo Jeongjeon is surrounded by rectangular walls with gates to the south, east and west. The rectangular inner court platform is floored with rough granite slabs. Three sets of steps ascend the front of the stone base and there are smaller sets of steps at the far ends on either side. Jeongjeon itself is a wooden structure, both the left and the right flanking chambers. The two wings jut out into the woldae. It is divided into several rooms, with the open corridors in front and the 19 inner shrine rooms, separated by wooden doors. The shrine rooms are divided into cubicles, for the 49 spirit tablets lodged there, and antechambers, which are in turn separated by screens. The gabled roof is supported by simple wooden brackets. The main entrance is reserved for the spirits and no one is allowed to pass through it. The east gate is used by the king and the smaller west gate by the musical performers.
Chilsadang houses seven deities, including the gods of palace gates, kitchens, roads, halls and rooms, entrances and exits, and those who die of epidemic diseases; Gongsindang houses the spirit tablets of 83 loyal subjects of the Joseon kings. Jonsacheong is where the ritual utensils and offerings used in the rites are prepared; Subokbang is the ground-keeper's residence, when the food offered during the rituals is examined.
Yeongnyeongjeon is the building in which the spirit tablets of kings not recognized worthy of being honoured indefinitely were lodged when they were removed after a set time from Jeongjeon. It is situated in a rectangular compound entered by three gates. It is built on a rectangular platform, paved with thin slabs of granite. The building has two side wings flanking the main chamber, different in size. Wooden brackets at the tops of the round pillars support the eaves of the gabled roof. Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC
Chongmyo is the royal ancestral shrine of the Joseon dynasty (1392-1910). Taejo, founder of the Choson Kingdom, transferred the seat of government to Hanyang (today's Seoul) in August 1394 and ordered Ch'oe Won, his director of government administration, to start building Chongmyo in December the same year. It was completed ten months later and named T'aemyo. The spirit tablets of four generations of T'aejo's ancestors were moved there from Kaesong.
During the fust year of the reign of Sejong (1419) an auxiliary building, Yeongnyeongjeon, was built to the west of Taemyo to receive the spirit tablet of the second Joseon king, Chongjong. Four shrine chambers were added to this structure in 1547 because of shortage of space.
Ali the buildings were destroyed by fire in May 1592, during the Hideyoshi invasions.- King Sorüo took the Chongmyo tablets with him when he fled before the Japanese, but the ancestral shrine was destroyed. Restoration was completed in 1608, on his retum to his capital.
More rooms were added to Yongnyongjon in 1667 and to Chongjon in 1778 and again in 1836, bringing the total of rooms in the former to eight and the latter to nineteen. Subsequent additions have brought them to 16 and 35 rooms respectively.
Chongmyo Cherye, the memorial services conducted each year at Chongjon, also constitute a heritage of great antiquity and significance in terms of intangible culture. They incorporate music, song, and dance, and owe their origins to court music imported from China by King T'aejo at the end of the 14th century.- Source: Advisory Body Evaluation