Ancestral Rites of Royal Family in Joseon Dynasty

National Palace Museum of Korea

Jongmyo is the name of the shrine where the ancestral spirits of Joseon’s kings and queens are honored with annual memorial rites. The various ritual vessels used in the rites and ceremonies are closely connected with the authority of the rulers honored at the shrine.

Jongmyo(宗廟) is the place to retain the successive kings' tablet.
Jeongjeon is the central building of Jongmyo.
It is now preserves only the kins with meritorious deeds in the Joseon Dynasty.
It is the place where memorial services were performed for those deceased kings.
Jongmyo, along with the rituals where services for the Gods of Earth and Crops were performed, was considered as the most important ritual, and the most significant for the architecture in Korea.

This is the folding screen that records contents about the Jongmyo. The screen is thought to have been produced during the reign of King Gojong(r.1863~1907) since the text lists only the shrines predating his reign.

The top half of the screen illustrates the performance of the Royal Ancestral Rites, while the bottom half explains the procedure in detail.

In the main hall of Jongmyo were the spirit tablets of Taejo, the founder of the dynasty, and of his four predecessors.

The spirit tablets of the other kings and queens were enshrined in the Yeongnyeongjeon Hall(永寧殿).

The food served in the ritual was prepared according to ancient rules and traditions.

The grain was uncooked and the meat was raw, and the vessels were arranged according to the principles of the Five Elements. The shape of the vessels depended upon the season or its use, holding the appropriate food for the vessel based on the yin and yang principles.

The yang food was placed to the east

, and yin food to the west.

Bo(簠), a rectangular vessel symbolizing the earth and yin(陰), contained rice and sorghum, and was placed at the center of the ritual table.

Gwe(簋), a round vessel symbolizing heaven or yang(陽), held glutinous and non-glutinous millet, and was placed in front of the bo(簠).

Goblets used for rituals and court ceremonies were called jak[爵 (tripod goblet with a loop handle)], and jakjeom[爵坫 (goblet stand)] were saucers on which goblets were placed.
At grand rituals such as the Royal Ancestral Rites[jongmyo jerye (宗廟祭禮)], three goblets were placed in front of each spirit tablet for three libations of sweet rice wine, white rice wine, and clear rice wine.

The type of the liquor containers placed on the wine table changed with the season. In the spring and summer, the containers were decorated with the phoenix, rooster, elephant, oxen, and mountains.

Ritual Liquor Container with Phoenix Motif[joi (鳥彝)]

Ritual Liquor Container with Rooster Motif[gyei (鷄彝)]

Ritual Liquor Container with Elephant-Jars[sangjun (象尊)]

Ritual Liquor Container with Ox-Jars[huijun (犧尊)]

Ritual Liquor Container with Mountain Motif[sanroe (山罍)]

The type of the liquor containers placed on the wine table changed with the season. In the fall and winter, rice plants, a pair of eyes, and mountains decorated the containers.

Ritual Liquor Container with Rice Motif[gai (斝彝)].

Ritual Liquor Container with Eyes Motif[hwangi (黃彝)].

Ritual Liquor Container in the Form Yang[chakjun (著尊)].

Ritual Liquor Container in the Form Yin[hojun (壺尊)].

Ritual Liquor Container with Mountain Motif[sanroe (山罍)].

Credits: Story


Su-hee Park.

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