Jongmyo is the royal shrine where the memorial services for the kings and queens of the Joseon Dynasty were performed. The structure represents the greatest religious implications from a Confucian perspective. Since the principal ideology of the Joseon Dynasty was based on Confucianism, the services performed in Jongmyo must also be viewed as an extension of political activities.
The Jongmyo Shrine, Seokguram Grotto and Bulguksa Temple in Gyeongju, and the Tripitaka Koreana of Haeinsa Temple were the first monuments to be listed on the UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. The Seokguram Grotto and Bulguksa Temple sites, are precious national treasures that feature the essence of Buddhist art from in the times of the Shilla. The Tripitaka Koreana, is the most complete corpus of Buddhist doctrinal text in the world. Korean people also view these sites as extremely precious and were not surprised in the least when they became World Heritage Sites.
The Jongmyo Shrine, however, is relatively small compared to Gyeongbokgung Palace, the main palace of the Joseon Dynasty, and has less aesthetic value than other structures like, for example, Changdeokgung Palace. In spite of this, the Jongmyo Shrine was one of the first Korean national monuments listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
This demonstrates that the Jongmyo Shrine has an indigenous value that has been largely neglected by the Korean people. The value of the shrine does not come from the structure itself, but rather from its historical background. The real value of the Jongmyo Shrine is in its excellent preservation of the history of the Joseon Dynasty through its dedication to all the deceased kings and queens over 500 years in one place. As more is learned about the Jongmyo Shrine, more values are discovered that justify the legitimacy of it as one of most precious national monuments in Korea.
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