Monday, October 1, 2012

Seoul 4: Jongmyo Shrine (10/1/2012)

Monday, October 1, 2012
Oops, slept in. Good thing we had seen the National Assembly all lighted on the night tour. Didn't have to make a separate trip to see the "capital."
We took the Metro to Jongmyo Shrine, first passing through a crowded park:
The retired men were playing baduk, or what we know of as "Go:"
A statue of Yi or Lee Sang-jae, an early proponent of Korean independence:
We arrived at Jongmyo Shrine to learn that we could only enter if we joined a guided tour. We decided to join the next tour although it would be conducted in Korean; the next English language tour was still a couple hours away. But a man at the gate waved us over, took our tickets, and walked us in to join an English tour already in progress.
Jongmyo was the royal shrine to house the spirits of the royal ancestors/the kings and queens of the Joseon Dynasty. It was first built in 1395, but burned in 1592. It was rebuilt in 1608. Each year there is a re-enactment of the ceremony to pay respect to the ancestors, which was originally performed by the king and the crown prince.
The Jongmyo Shrine was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995, and the ancestor worship ceremony (Jongmyo Jerye) was designated a UNESCO Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2001, as well as the music of the ceremony (Jongmyo Jeryeak).
We went to the Jaegung, a compound of three buildings where the king and crown prince prepared for the ceremony.
The Eojaesil was the king's chamber:
Another screen:
The crown prince had his own chamber to the east, and this is the Eomokyokcheong, the bathing facility:
Here they would purify themselves in body and mind.
The king's sedan chair:
Behind the Jaegung is the Jeonsacheong:
Here the foods for the ritual were prepared.
The Chanmakdan, a raised platform, is where the foods were inspected:
Next was the immense Jeongjeon, the main hall where the ancestral tablets of the major kings are enshrined:
After being rebuilt in 1608, it had to be extended four times. There are now 19 garage-size sections housing 49 spirit tablets of 19 kings and 30 queens (the queens' tablets are in the section of their respective kings):
When it was built, Jeongjeon was the largest wooden building in the world. Jeongjeon faces a large courtyard:
Our guide was in a hanbok/traditional dress:
A tourist:
We entered through the same gate as the king and the celebrants would enter, at the east side. We were not allowed to enter through the central gate, which is the spirit gate. From that gate through the center of the courtyard runs the spirit path:
We, as living humans, were not to step on the spirit path.
It was noted that decorations were kept at a minimum, to represent the solemnity of the shrine:
There are a row of seven guardian animals on the eaves of Jeongjeon, the greater number signifying the importance of the building:
Next was Yeongnyeongjeon/Hall of Eternal Peace, a secondary hall that was built when it was decided that Jeongjeon could not be further extended:
It is a smaller version of Jeongjeon, and houses the lesser kings, as well as the ancestors of the first Joseon king. It contains 16 chambers with 34 tablets. Yeongnyeongjeon only has four guardian animals, and also has an even number of animals to balance the odd number on Jeongjeon:
As we headed back to the entrance, we passed a square pond with a round island. On this island is a Chinese juniper tree that happens to look like a spirit!
We followed the Sillo/spirit path all the way to the main gate:
The sign reads: Please do not walk on this path. It is for spirits. 
Onwards to Gyeongbokgung Palace.

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