Jeongjeon, the main hall and location of spirit chambers
Jongmyo Shrine is the supreme shrine of the state. Royal ancestors tablets are enshrined here and memorial services are performed for kings and queens of the Joseon Dynasty. Construction on the Confucian style shrine was completed in 1395 by the orders of King Taejo.
Taejo, the first Joseon king, built the shrine to honor deceased kings and queens. He also ordered construction of Gyeongbokgung Palace, which was built concurrently.
Know Before You Go
If you are visiting on weekdays or Sundays, you must join a tour. If you want to visit without a guided tour, plan on visiting on Saturdays.
The original shrine was then destroyed by the Japanese invasion in 1592. Luckily, the tablets were saved.
Spirit chambers of Jeongjeon Hall
Jeongjeon Hall was rebuilt in 1608 and featured eleven spirit chambers. Over the years, the building has been expanded. In 1726, the hall was expanded to fifteen spirit chambers. It was expanded once again to 19 spirit chambers in 1836.
Today, Jeongjeon houses 49 tables in 19 spirit chambers of past kings. The tablets of King Yeonsangun and King Gwanghaegun are not located here, as they were ousted from the throne.
Jeongjeon Hall is also one of the longest wooden buildings in East Asia.
Yeongnyeongjeon Hall holds 34 tablets in 16 spirit chambers
Yeongnyeongjeon Hall was also rebuilt in 1608. It was originally built with ten spirit chambers and was also expanded over the years. In 1667, the hall was expanded to 12 spirit chambers. It was expanded again in 1836 to 16 spirit chambers.
Today, Yeongnyeongjeon houses 34 tablets in 16 spirit chambers, including four generations of King Taejo’s ancestors and those crowned kings after their death.
Walking on a pathway through Jongmyo Shrine
Three years of mourning followed the death of a king or queen. After this period, a memorial tablet for the deceased was enshrined at Jongmyo. When more space was needed, the shrine was expanded.
Jongmyo is one of the only shrines in Asia that has preserved its royal shrine. To this day, it continues the same traditions of honoring them through ancestral rites known as Jongmyo Jaerye. Jongmyo Jaerye is performed on the first Sunday in May, and is one of the oldest ceremonies in the world.
Men playing board games such as badduk in the square near the main gate
Jongmyo Jerye, or the Royal Ancestral Rite, was an important state ritual conducted by the king five times a year at Jeongjeon Hall and two times a year at Yeongnyeongjeon Hall. These were attended by the prince, military goverment officials, and high ranking civilians and involved music, singing, and dancing.
The design of Jongmyo as seen today is simple. It emphasizes serenity and the deep meaning of life and death of Joseon Dynasty authority.
Jongmyo Shrine became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1995.
Akgongcheong was the court musician's pavilion, dressing room, and where musicians would rehearse songs that would be played during rituals at Jongmyo Shrine. At this pavilion, musicians would rehearse songs that would be played during rituals.
Chilsadang is a place of prayer and worship. It is an ancestral shrine and location of spirit tablets for the seven gods of heaven at Jongmyo Shrine. The gods enshrined here include the gods of gates including entrances and exits, halls, kitchens, and other rooms, roads, and those who have died of diseases.
Gongminwang Sindang Shrine is a small shrine that honors King Gongmin and his wife Nogukdaejang Gongju, a princess from Mongolia. King Gongmin, born on May 23, 1330, was the 31st monarch of the Goryeo Dynasty.
Hyangdaecheong is a storage room that held important supplies such as ritual paper, incense, and offerings used during ancestral rituals and sacrifices. On the day before an ancestral ritual, the king would send an official to Hyangdaecheong to retrieve supplies and utensils needed fro the ceremony.
Jejeong Well is a stone shrine well that was used to supply water needed before and during ancestral rituals and sacrifices at Jongmyo Shrine. Jejeong, meaning "ritual well", supplied clean water from the preparation of food and animals used during ritual. It was also used to cleaning those who took part in the ceremonies, including the king.
Jeongjeon Hall is the main hall and most important structure at Jongmyo Shrine. It is the location of the memorial tablets of 19 Joseon kings and queens. At 109 meters (357 feet) in length, the building is said be the longest single wooden structure in the world.
Mangmyoru Pavilion was a resting spot for the king. He would stop here to rest and pay tribute to deceased kings before conducting ancestral rituals. The king would often rest here when he was away from residing in the Jaegung area.
Seongsaengwi is an inspection table that was used to ensure proper preparation of animals such as sheep, cows, and pigs later sacrificed during rituals. Animals were placed on top of this stone table. It was here where they were inspected to ensure proper preparation.
Subokbang was used as the living and resting quarters by officials guarding Jongmyo Shrine. The building is located outside the east gate of Jeongjeon Hall. In front of the building are Chanmakdan and Seongsaengwi, which are food inspections tables used prior to rituals.
Yeongnyeongjeon (Hall of Eternal Peace) was built when Jeongjeon Hall could not hold any more tablets. Here, there are 16 spirit chambers of the royal family. Yeongnyeongjeon means "long live both ancestors and descendants of the royal family in peace."