Seoul’s Jongmyo Shrine, one of the most important cultural sites in the country, originally served as the ancestral shrine for Joseon Dynasty kings. Built between 1335 and 1408 by Lee Seong Gye, the first king of the Joseon Dynasty, Jongmyo was registered as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site in 1995 based on its well-preserved and authentic Confucian architecture.
The shrine is divided into 19 rooms, each dedicated to a different Joseon king and has existed as is since the 1500s. On the first Sunday of May, Jongmyo hosts a memorial service called Jongmyo Jaery, a rite lasting around six hours and thought to be the oldest ceremony in the world. Attending the ceremony allows you to witness songs and dances dating back more than 500 years. No matter when you come, touring the world’s oldest Confucian sanctuary offers insight not only into Korean history, but into Confucianism as well.