Park Junghoon

Seoul has many ancient buildings. To name a few, Deoksugung and Gyeongbokgung are them, which are palaces built in Joseon dynasty. However, from the perspective of the people who lived in that era, Jongmyo was more important than anything else because it was a shrine. Even today, the site is one of the UNESCO Heritage sites in Korea.

The Jongmyo Shrine is located near the Jongro 3-ga station. Find exit 11, and in a few minutes, you will find the main gate. However, to protect the site, you cannot enter the vicinity by yourself; only guided tours are available. Moreover, they aren’t open 24/7, so if you have plans to visit, check the timetable provided at the website The benefit of having a guided tour is the explanation provided by the guide. For foreigners, a site that keeps wooden bricks (spirit tablets as the website says) that engrave the name of the kings and queens, who have passed away, is a bit weird. By doing a guided tour, the guide can explain the concept in detail thereby reducing the confusion. However, because of time limitations, there are certain times that the tour starts. If you miss the time, you might not be able to enter.KakaoTalk_Photo_2018-10-10-13-46-48

When you enter, there is a pond, with a tree in the center. In Korean architecture which was built until Joseon dynasty, every part of a building or a garden has a meaning attached to it. Even the simple pond and a tree in the picture above has a philosophical meaning. Because I am not a history expert, I will leave the explanation to the instructor. The tour takes about 50 minutes if the weather is OK.

The hall that houses spiritual tablets is long. It is very difficult to take a photo of the entire hall because of its length. The reason for its length is that the construction started at the center of the structure, as time passes by, they extended the structure and even built an annex building to house the tablets.


Figure 2: Almost impossible to take a photo with a camera on an old phone

To sum up, Jongmyo is a place worth visiting because of its significance in the dynasty and as a UNESCO Heritage site. In addition to its significance, the cheap entrance fee (1000 won for university student if you are not Korean) makes it more enticing to visit. However, the area around Jongmyo is not worth a visit even considering its architectural importance in history. So, as the title implies, visit Jongmyo only if you want to visit the site.

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