Dongmyo Shrine is a shrine where ancestral sacrifices to the Chinese military commander Guan Yu were performed. It is also known as Seoul Donggwanwangmyo, which means Gwanwangmyo in the east of Seoul.
Guan Yu, who died in 219, was a general who played an important role in the downfall of the Han Dynasty (206 BC–220 AD). Yu helped establish Shu Han, one of three major states of China during the Three Kingdoms period (AD 220–280).
Construction on the shrine began in 1601 during the 34th year of the reign of King Seonjo.
During the Imjin War in 1592, the Japanese invaded Korea. The Ming Dynasty helped the Joseon Dynasty during this period. For their help, the Ming Dynasty requested this shrine to be built in honor of Guan Yu, who was worshiped in China. This is similar to many of the Munmyo shrines, such as Seoul Munmyo, which were built in honor of Confucius.
Dongmyo is composed of two main buildings which are attached to each other front and rear. The shape of the roof is based on the Chinese letter gong. Both these features are very common for temples and shrines in China.
Inside, the buildings are separated into two sections. The front section is known as jeonsil. This was the front room used for sacrificial rites. The rear section is known as bonsil. This is the main room which houses a statue of Guan Yu and other generals.
On the exterior, these buildings feature wide brick walls and pillars to the roofs.
There were three other similar shrines built in Seoul in the north, south, and west. Donggwanwangmyo, in the east, is the biggest and most brilliant. The Chinese style architecture is unique in terms of its construction, interesting roofs, brick walls, statues, and decorations.