This is, in my opinion, the most beautiful of Korea's royal palaces. Built in 1395, it is dedicated to the monarchs of the Choson dynasty, who ruled Korea from 1392 to 1910 (when Japan took over). Like the other palaces, it was burned down by the Japanese during their 1592 invasion, but rebuilt in 1608. Since then, more buildings have been added.
The architecture and gardens are exquisite. Of particular interest are the "spirit tablets" of the Choson kings and queen, which are stored inside Chongjon and Yongnyongjon shrines.
Jongmyo is the burial site of Korean monarchs and is worth a visit. But don't expect any exciting architcture or 15th century re-enactors. While it is a UNESCO world heritage site and well worth a visit, it will disappoint those who don't have an interest in Korean history. There's just not much more than peace and quiet here -- as you would expect from what is essentially a high-class cemetary.
Chongmyo, the ancestral shrine of the Choson kings, is one of Korea's most precious cultural monuments. In 1995, UNESCO recognized the value of the shrine by including it on its World Heritage List.
The central role of Chongmyo is as the site for rituals honoring the country's kings and queens, with symbolism touching on spiritual communication with forefathers. Chongmyo was perceived as an extremely important place by kings and officials who wished to champion Confucian ideology. Chongmyo rituals, therefore, offer valuable hints on the underlying principles of life and politics during the Choson Dynasty.
Today the rites are held once a year in May. The holding of such rites was considered one of the government's most important acts. The rites begin with the receiving of the spirits of enshrined monarchs. Ritual officials and stewards offer wine and light incense before the spirit tablets, then kowtow four times. The process is repeated before each spirit tablet.
Where former royalty mourned and revered their ancestors. Set amidst the bustle of Seoul is a private, quiet, and a little sad but wonderful place. Where you can also remember those you love.