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Throughout much of traditional Asian culture, including China and Korea, rite has been highly important, and in modern society preserving rite carries with it the meaning of maintaining basic social order. There are a number of rituals which are considered important forms of rite, and the most significant of these in Korea are the Jongmyo and the Sajik rituals. Jongmyo is the term used for a place where memorial services are performed for deceased kings, and Sajik is the term for a place where services for the Gods of Earth and Crops are performed. These rituals are symbols for nations themselves in that they guarantee order and successful ruling of the nation.

Consequently, due to the importance of these rituals, the Jongmyo and Sajik shrines where the rituals are performed are classic in their architectural grace, detail and beauty.

Although such facilities existed in Korea as early as the Three Kingdoms Period, those that remain today in Seoul are from the Joseon Dynasty(1392-1910).

The first Jongmyo of the dynasty was erected in Seoul in 1395, and the main hall, Jeongjeon, contained 7 rooms, One room was used for the memorial tablets of one king and his queen. The 4th king of the dynasty, King Sejong, had an additional hall, Yeongnyeongjeon("Hall of Eternal comfort"), built beside the main hall to house all of the tablets which could not be housed in the main hall. With successive reigns and an increasingly large number of memorial tablets, however, additions had to be made to the facilities.

Rooms were added from west to east until there ware a total of 19. The original Jongmyo, however, was destroyed in 1592, and today's Jongmyo was built in 1601. Jongmyo was located to the left of the main palace, Gyeongbokgung, and Sajik was built to the right (as viewed from the king's throne), a tradition of planning which goes back to ancient China. The main hill of the Jongmyo complex is called Yeungbong, and from it a number of smaller hills extend southward until they encompass the Jongmyo compound of the Jeongjeon, Yeongnyeongjeon and other auxiliary buildings. They were built according to terrain, however, and in totality they appear to the modern eye not to be very balanced in distribution. Jeongjeon is comprised of 19 identical rooms, and they are extremely simple with no ornamentation. However, the building as a whole is both grand and impressive, and the twenty thick, round pillars sufficiently project the dignity and grandeur of royalty. In front of Jeongjeon is an impressive 150-meter-long, 100-meter-wide elevated stone yard called "Woldae" which is used during ceremonies by musicians, dancers and other participants. The large stone blocks which compose the yard provide a striking and solemn atmosphere as they lay in silence before Jeongjeon, and the yard greatly complements the architecture. The Jongmyo ritual itself has been designated an Important Intangible Cultural Property by the government not only for its historical importance but for the splendor of the music, dance and ceremony.