Events & Festivals
The Jongmyo Jerye, or Jongmyo Royal Ancestral Ritual, is Korea’s Important Intangible Cultural Property No. 56, and its music, the Jongmyo Jeryeak, is No. 1. Together, they have been designated a UNESCO Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
The Jongmyo Jerye will be performed on Sunday, May 6th, supported by the Society for the Preservation of Jongmyo Jerye (Lee Hwan-ey, Chairman); the Society for the Preservation of Jongmyo Jeryeak (Choi Chung-ung, Chairman); the Cultural Heritage Administration; the Korea Cultural Heritage Foundation; the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism; the National Center for Korean Traditional Performing Arts; and the Korea Tourism Organization.
The event will be held from 1 p.m. until 6:30 p.m., first with the Yeongnyeongjeon Jehyang (Yeongnyeongjeon Rite) until 3 p.m. and then with the Jeongjeon Jehyang (Jeongjeon Rite) from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
A reenactment of the Eoga Haengnyeol (Royal Procession) will also be held, starting at about 11:30 a.m. and ending at 12:30 p.m. The procession departs from Gyeongbokgung (Palace), passing through Sejong Intersection and Jongno 1-3 Streets, and arriving at Jongmyo’s Jaegung area.
About 1,700 people will participate in the event, including roughly 500 people in the Yeongnyeongjeon Jehyang (Rite) and the Jeongjeon Jehyang (Rite) ceremonies and some 1,200 in the Eoga Haengnyeol (Royal Procession).
As the biggest and most important memorial service in the Joseon era, the Jongmyo Ancestral Ritual is also called the Jongmyo Grand Ancestral Ritual. The ritual of taking the ancestral tablets of kings and queens was performed five times a year during the Joseon era (spring, summer, fall, winter and in December), but ceased during the period of Japanese colonization and resumed in 1969 as an annual event.
During the ritual, the ancestral tablets of the Joseon dynasty kings and queens are taken to Jeongjeon and the greatest of those are carried to Yeongnyeongjeon. The tablets of subjects who performed great services to the kings are enshrined in Gongsindang.
The name Jongmyo originally referred only to Jeongjeon, but it now includes Yeongnyeongjeon as well. Jeongjeon has 19 rooms, holding 49 spirit tablets, including those of kings Taejo, Taejong, and Sejong. Yeongnyeongjeon, with 16 rooms, contains the tablets of 34 revered kings including Mokjo, Ikjo, Dojo, and Hwanjo. And housed in Gongsindang are the tablets of 83 distinguished commoners. (On the left side of the steps to Jeongjeon is the hall of the seven seasonal rites.)
The royal procession is reenacted in the afternoon with the king and crown prince arriving in a carriage to an audience at Jongmyo. The king then enters the palace in a sedan chair, followed by civil and military officials and with the Hyeonmu unit guarding his front and rear.
The Jeongjeon rite follows Confucian custom, with a reverent greeting to the gods to bring them joy. Throughout the ritual ceremony, Jongyo Jeryeak is performed with traditional instruments and 64 people dance the Pal Ilmu. Jongmyo Jeryeak is the instrumental music, song and dance invented by King Sejong and adopted for use in the Jongmyo Jerye during the reign of King Sejo. The songs are called "Jongmyo Akjang" and the dances are Botaepyeongjimu and Jeongdaeeopjimu.
Some 200 selected members of the royal family and descendents of the queen have also been appointed to perform the sacrifices and serve as royal stewards.
This event is a great opportunity to introduce traditional Korean rituals to both Korean and foreign tourists.