December 5, 2014

1353 SOUTH KOREA (Seoul) - Jongmyo Shrine (UNESCO WHS) and Royal ancestral ritual in the Jongmyo Shrine and its music (UNESCO ICH)

Jongmyo is a Confucian shrine dedicated to the perpetuation of memorial services for the deceased kings and queens of the Korean Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), a symbolic structure that conveys the legitimacy of the royal family. Such shrines existed during the Three Kingdoms of Korea period (57-668), but few survived, Jongmyo being the oldest one. It is adjacent to Changdeokgung and Changgyeonggung, all three being connected in the Joseon period, but were separated with a road by Japanese colonialists. When was built in 1394 by King Taejo, first king of the dinasty, who moved the capital to Seoul, it was one of the longest buildings in Asia.

The main hall had seven rooms, each of them being reserved for a king and his queen. The complex was expanded by King Sejong (r. 1418-1450) who ordered the construction of Yeongnyeongjeon (Hall of Eternal Comfort). This practice continued, because of the need to house more memorial tablets, until there were a total of 19 rooms. During the Seven-Year War (1592-1598), the Japanese burned down the original shrine, but the tablets were saved by hiding them in the house of a commoner, and a new complex was built in 1601, which survived to this day.

The shrine is also the setting for a Confucian ritual (Jongmyo Jerye or Jongmyo Daeje) which occurs for worshipping the late kings and queens of the Joseon Dynasty, a tradition inspired by classical Chinese texts concerning the cult of ancestors and the notion of filial piety, which survived only in Korea, and, along with the ceremony for praying to the Gods of Earth for bountiful crops, is considered country's highest-ranked rites. Traditionally, the service was held five times a year, but now is practised only on the first Sunday in May, and is organized by the descendants of the royal family.

The main garments worn are, as can be seen in the postcard, Durumagi, a variety of Po, or overcoat in Hanbok, the Korean traditional garment, and Yanggwan, a ceremonial hat considered a crown. The order of the ceremony was defined in the 15th century and most elements have remained unchanged until today. The procedures are divided into three parts: the invitation and greeting of the spirits, the entertaining of the spirits, and the sending of the spirits to heaven.

The court music (Jerye-ak), played to bring an enjoyment for the spirits invited, is performed on Chinese-derived and native instruments, including bell chimes (Pyeonjong), stone chimes (Pyeongyeong - in the postcard), the cylindrical Chinese oboe (Dang Piri), the bowed zither (Ajaeng), and the transverse flute (Daegeum - in the postcard), which still capture the authentic form of the old court music. The dance, called Ilmu (line dance), are performed by 64 women dancers called Palilmu because they dance in 8 lines and rows, representing the opposing yet complementary forces of Yin and Yang. Ilmu is divided into two types of dance, Munmu and Mumu.

Munmu is accompanied by Botaepyeong-ji-ak, with Yak (a three-holed bamboo flute) in the left hand and Jeok (a pheasant-feather tasseled wooden bar) in the right hand, and it is characterized by a first step to the left. While the Munmu dance symbolizes the force of the Yang, the Mumu dance, accompanied by Jeongdaeeop-ji-ak, holding wooden swords, spears, bows and arrows, and characterized by a movement to the right, represents the force of the Yin. The musicians are divided into the upper terrace orchestra in the foreground, called the Deungga, and the lower terrace orchestra, called the Heonga. This ritual is deemed highly important in South Korea, to preserve and maintain basic social order, and was designated as the first of South Korea's Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2001.

About the stamps

According to the practice of periodic replacement of definitive postage stamps, the 70 KRW stamp featuring a Chinese lantern, issued on March 15, 1995, was replaced on July 10, 2007, by a stamp featuring an Arctous ruber (Rehder & Wilson) Nakai, designed by Roh Junghwa. Arctous ruber, which produces small and appetizing fruits, is designated as a rare and endangered species of wild flora, its only known habitat in South Korea being Seoraksan Mountain.

The second stamp was issued to mark the 1988 Summer Olympics, celebrated from 17 September to 2 October in Seoul.

The last stamp is part of the series Celebrated Mountains of Korea Series (5th) - Mt. Geumgangsan, about which I wrote here.:

Jongmyo - Wikipedia
Jongmyo Shrine - UNESCO official website
Korean Confucianism - Wikipedia
Royal ancestral ritual in the Jongmyo shrine and its music - UNESCO official website
Jongmyo jerye - Wikipedia
Royal ancestral ritual in the Jongmyo shrine and its music - Visit Korea
Ceremonies at Jongmyo shirine - Grace Travel

Sender: Wonsik
Sent from Incheon (Incheon / South Korea), on 20.08.2014

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