English - Francais - UNESCO

Royal Ancestral Rite and Ritual Music in Jongmyo Shrine

Republic of Korea

Jongmyo, the royal Confucian shrine in Seoul dedicated to the ancestors of the Joseon dynasty, hosts a unique ritual of song, dance and music. Held on the first Sunday in May, it is organized by the descendents of the royal family. This typical Confucian ritual is based on classical Chinese writings on the cult of ancestors and filial piety with a prayer for the eternal peace of the ancestral spirits in their shrine.

Ritual Music - Jongmyo Shrine - Korea.jpg (193000 bytes)Religious officials, dressed in costumes with a crown for the king and diadems for the others, make offerings of food and wine in sacred vessels. The symbols of Yin and Yang are represented by the music of gongs, bells, lutes, sitars and flutes, and 64 dances. The Mumnu, a war dance, represents the actions of the kings and through its choreography, the forces of Yin and Yang.

Threats: Modernization is leading to a declining interest in the rite and ritual music of Jongmyo Shrine.

Action plan: The ritual and music are already protected on the List of the Intangible National Heritage and the 1982 law is protecting cultural properties and traditional artists. Training courses are proposed to increase the number of people skilled in participating in the ritual. A committee to revive the rituals is envisaged to undertake historical research, as well as studies for restoring the costumes, accessories, musical scores and instruments in co-operation with the Korean National Centre for Traditional Drama and the National Academy of Music.