Jongmyo once housed the tablets of the royal family ancestors and was where the memorial services for deceased kings and queens took place.
Constructed by King Taejo, the first king of the Joseon Dynasty, Jongmyo was thought to be one of the longest buildings in Asia. While older shrines existed during the Three Kingdoms period, this shrine is the oldest royal Confucian shrine that preserves various 14th-century traditions.
Unfortunately, during the Seven-Year War, Japanese invaders burned down the original shrine. A new complex was constructed in 1601 and remains standing today. The original tablets were saved during the invasion. The main hall, Jeongjeon, is the most important building in the complex as it is home to the spirit rooms.
Each of the 19 rooms or “myo-shil“ was reserved for a king and his queen. There are 19 chambers with the memorial tablets of 19 kings and 30 of their queens. Only the tablets of two kings Yeonsangun and Gwanghaegun, who were both deposed, are not kept at Jongmyo.