Jongmyo Jerye is a ceremony held for the kings and queens
of the Joseon Period in the shrine where the ancestral
tablets are preserved. Jongmyo, along with the
ritual services for the Gods of Earth and Crops were
performed, is considered as an important symbol which is
the foundation of national survival. Jongmyo Shrine is
made up of Jeongjeon(Main
Hall), enshrining 49 tablets in 19 spirit chambers, and
Yeongnyeongjeon (Hall of Eternal Peace), enshrining 33
tablets in 16 spirit chambers.
Jongmyo Jerye was one of the five kinds of rites performed
by the Joseon Dynasty's royal family. The five were
classified as gillye (auspicious rites), hyungnye (funural
rites), binnye (reception ceremonies), gunne (military rites),
and garye (wedding ceremonies). The gillye includes the
ritual service to the gods of heaven and earth and royal
ancestral spirits. Besides the rite worshipping the royal
ancestors, Jongmyo Jerye has also been dedicated to
meritorious civil and military retainers.
It was classified into regular and extraordinary ceremonies. The regular ceremony was held in January,
April, July, and October. Initially, an extraordinary ceremony was held when auspicious occasions and
national disasters occurred, but after the liberation from Japanese imperialist rule, it was held on
the first Sunday of May. As it was a model of all ceremonies for spirits, its order and procedures
were very strict and solemn.
Jongmyo Jerye proceeded in an order of rehearsal → ancestral tablet placing → welcoming
the spirits →
singwanrye → presenting food → first obeisance → second obeisance → last obeisance →
partake in sacrificial food and drink → cheolbyeondu → mangryo → closing. Before Jongmyo Jerye,
a monarch was prudent in his speech and action for 4 days and cleaned his body for 3 days.
'Filial piety' is one of the Confucian tenets and Jongmyo Jerye, as the national manifestation of filial piety,
took the role of enhancing the solidarity of people and bringing
them closer together through that very common denominator.
Jongmyo Jerye, as a standard of art in Confucian society, is a valuable cultural asset and the music, dance, ritual vessels,
and libation of foods of Jongmyo Jerye are essential manifestations of aesthetics of performing arts based on cosmic and
Jongmyo Jeryeak, Royal Ancestral Ritual Music, was performed when the
royal family held a ceremony for the
repose of their ancestors in the Shrine, simply named
'Jongmyoak.' Each procedure of the ceremony was
composed of various music such as 'Botaepyeong' and
'Jeongdaeeop,' songs called 'Jongmyoakjang' praising the
civil achievements of the Joseon kings and their military
exploits, and dances like 'Botaepyeong dance' and
The music, which was initially created in the reign of
the Joseon Dynasty's 4th
King, King Sejong, was used in royal palace
banquets, and then it was modified as suitable for the
ceremony under Sejo's reign, which has been handed
down to present. The music was performed in
Jongmyodaejae, which was discontinued in 1946 and then resumed in 1971, on the first Sunday of May every year.
Jongmyo Jeryeak performed in Jongmyo Shrine consists of Botaepyeong, which has 11 music
pieces, and Jeongdaeeop, which also has 11 music pieces. The musicians are divided into the
upper terrace orchestra in the foreground, called the Deungga, and the lower terrace orchestra,
called the Heonga. Some music pieces of Jongmyo Jeryeak have their roots in the Tang Dynasty
and Song Dynasty of China, and some grew in the native environment. These three different
styles of music pieces are played with different instrumental ensembles.
Line dances are performed to the orchestral accompaniment of Deungga or Heonga in
accordance with ritual procedures. Line dances aim at delineating the harmony of the negative
and positive cosmic forces of yin and yang while they shift between civil dance(Munmu),
delineating the positive force of yang to praise the civil achievements of the Joseon kings, and
military dance(Mumu), delineating the nature of negative force of yin to praise the military
achievements of the Joseon kings, for which the hand-held props are changed appropriately.
Hundreds of officiants, musicians, dancers, and attendants all create the ensemble of this
composite art reflecting solemnity and magnificence typical of Asia. That this original
property has continued without impairment for 500 years makes it indeed rare, so
that its value should be preserved as part of the World Intangible Cultural Heritage and its
benefits should be shared with a broad range of people worldwide.
Jongmyo Jeryeak, Important Intangible Cultural Property No. 1, was selected as 'Masterpieces
of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity,' with Jongmyo Jerye, Important Intangible
Cultural Property No. 56