The Jongmyo Shrine is not far off from the Changdeokgung and Changgyeonggung Palaces, but it most certainly gives off a different vibe from the rest. The royal ancestral rites (also known as Jongmyo Jerye) is still carried out to this day, along with ceremonies of memorial services and traditional music (Jongmyo Jeryeak). On top of the shrine itself, both ceremonies have also been designated as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage.
The main hall, Jeongjeon, houses the spirit tablets of the great kings and rulers of the country, and the order of importance is placed from west to east. There are 49 spirit tablets and 19 spirit chambers – each spirit chamber houses a king and his queen. Ancestors and descendants of the royal family are housed in Yeongnyeongjeon, the Hall of Eternal Peace. There are 34 spirit tablets and 16 spirit chambers currently in this hall.
Within the entire grounds, there are sealed off paths or black stone paths leading up to the halls and these are for the spirits, guiding them to their spirit tablets. Our guide had emphasized that we should not walk on them out of respect for the spirits. Believer or not, you should always respect someone else’s beliefs and wishes, especially when you’re in their country. Some of us watched in horror as a lady allowed her child to run rampant and even took a video/pictures of him running up and down the path. There were even adults walking on them, despite the many signs of warning so just bear that in mind if you are planning a visit.
//Note: Entry to the Jongmyo Shrine is only permitted through guided walks except on Saturdays and the last Wednesday of the month. Check the website for your preferred language and the corresponding time.
Closed Tuesdays, 9am-6pm (opening hours vary depending on the month – accurate timings on website)
Admission: Adults – 1,000won; children – 500won
Nearest station: Jongno 3-ga station