Jongmyo Jeryeak- Royal Ancestral Ritual Music

 Jongmyo Jerye and Jongmyo Jeryak are inclusive terms for the music, singing, and dancing used in performing the rites in honor of the successive generations of kings from the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) buried in the Jongmyo Shrine. Jongmyo Jerye, the Royal Ancestral Rite, is a solemn and reverent ceremony of strict propriety and harmonious music, praising the deeds of former kings, reporting them to the gods, and praying for a happy and prosperous posterity.

Designated Important Intangible Cultural Property No. 1, Jongmyo Jeryeak, or the Royal Ancestral Ritual Music consists of two pieces in the form of suites, "Botaepyeong" and "Jeongdaeeop". The words of "Botaepyeong" praise the civil works of the former kings, while "Jeongdaeeop" focuses on their military exploits. "Botaepyeong" is performed during the "first service" when the first cup of wine is offered, and "Jeongdaeeop" accompanies the offering of the second and third cup. 
"Botaepyeong" and "Jeongdaeeop" are thought to have been composed by King Sejong in 1449 on the basis of existing pieces. At first performed at various ceremonies and banquets within the court, the music was rearranged for use in the royal ancestral rites in 1463 during the reign of King Sejo, and began to be performed at Jongmyo Shrine in the following year.
Together, "Botaepyeong" and Jeongdae-op form a composite ceremonial performance combining song, dance, and the playing of specially constructed instruments. Following the principle of yin and yang, the ensemble is divided into an Orchestra on the Terrace that plays on the raised area where the shrines containing the royal mortuary tablets are located, and an Orchestra on the Ground that plays on the lower area adjacent terrace. The beginning and end of the music and the form of the movements are based on the ancient Chinese-derived ceremoial music aak (yayue in Chinese), while the main musical content, the melody, was created by adapting existing tunes of native Korean origin, such as songs from the preceding Goryeo Dynasty. The two orchestras perform separately and differ somewhat in instrumentation. Both include the pyeonjong (a set of tuned bells), pyeongyeong (a set of tuned L-shaped stone chimes), banghyang (a set of tuned metal chimes), daegeum (a bamboo flute), dangpiri ( type of oboe), janggu (hourglass-shaped drum), chuk (wooden box mortar), bak (wooden clapper), and singing. In addition, the Orchestra on the Terrace includes the ajaeng (bowed zither) and jeolgo (barrel drum), while the Orchestra on the Ground uses the taepyeongso (shawm), haegeum (two-string fiddle), jing (gong), and jingo (a different type of barrel drum).
In short, Jongmyo Jeryeak is remarkable for the elegance of its stately rhythms and tunes, and the native Korean instruments such as the bamboo flute that play together with the instruments of ancient music produce solemn and dignified melodies enriched with the bright percussive attacks of the pyeongjong bells and the pyeongyeong stone chimes. The dances performed in the time to this noble music comprise the "civil dance" to the music of "Botaepyeong" and the "military dance" accompanied by "Jeongdaeeop". Both dances are performed while holding the symbolic objects in the dancers' hands: for the civil dance, two kinds of flute, the yak and jeok (the latter made from a pheasant feather), and for the military dance, a wooden sword and spear. Both dances re-enact the founding of the Joseon dynasty through stylized movement.
The tradition of Jongmyo Jeryeak has been maintained by national musical institutions: the Jangagwon of the Joseon dynasty, the Yi Wagjik Aakbu of the Japanese colonial period, and today's National Center of Korean Traditional Performing Arts.
But Jongmyo Jeryeak is widely knwon not only for its music but for the unique architecture of the Jongmyo Shrine where it is performed. Although the individual chambers of the main hall are relatively simple in construction, each compartment houses the memorial  tablet of one king, which makes the facade extremely long and gives the building an unusual form with a strong emphasis on the horizontal dimension. The basic structural unit is the shrine containing one royal tablet and occupying one bay of the building's frame. All the chambers are identical in appearance and very simple in design. The same unit is repeated 19 times. This is the secret of Jongmyo Shrine's architectural gravity and formal impressiveness. The great terrace that spreads before the main hall also adds to the peace and solemnity of the space.
When Jongmyo Shrine was first built it contained only 7 chambers. Later, when there were more ancestral spirits to accommodate, a separate annex called Yeongnyeongjeon was constructed west of the main hall. This annex housed four generations of the ancestors of the first king, as well as direct lineal descendants who never succeded to the throne. To distingush it from the annex, the original structure came to be known as the Jeongjeon or "main hall". It was dedicated to the founder of the dynasty, King Taejo, and his direct lineal descendants who had achieved great works during their reign. The annex contained the tablets of taejo ancestors in the middle four compartments housing other tablets arranged in order of age from west to east.
The main hall of Jongmyo Shrine is a single-story wooden building situated at the rear of a huge low square terrace, The terrace is called the Woldae or "the moon pedestal" and each side is more than 100m long. During a ceremony it is completely filled with people, since all the activity takes place on the terrace: dancing and playing music as well as conducting the ceremony. The floor of the terrace is formed of rectangular stones which have deliberately been left with a rough abd irrecgular surface and not perfectly aligned in neat rows. It is this roughness and irregularity that gives the terrace its look of vitality. At Jongmyo Shrine, antiquity lives on in the midst of downtown Seoul. It seems hard to believe that a building whith 600 years of history behind it could coexist with skyscapers at the heart of a bustling metropolis of over 10 milion people. That the rites of 600 years ago should still be performed unchanged is surely a cultural marvel. This shrine of the Joseon Dynasty's royal ancestral tablets was designated in 1995 as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site, and in 2001, Jongmyo Jeryeak was singled out by UNESCO as a masterpiece of Human Oral and Intangible Heritage. The rites are re-enacted at Jongmyo Shrine each year on the first Sunday in May, while the music of Jongmyo Jeryeak can be appreciated through performances and recordings by the National Center for Korean Traditional Performing Arts.
source: the book Images of Korea


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