Ancestral grave visit
Visiting ancestral graves to clean and look after them.
Seongmyo refers to visiting ancestral graves on major traditional holidays such as Chuseok (Kor. 추석, Chin. 秋夕, harvest moon festival, fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month) or seasonal occasions such as Hansik (Kor. 한식, Chin. 寒食, lit. cold food [day]) to clean and take care of them. Looking after the ancestral graves where the bodies are buried has been traditionally considered as important as holding ancestral rites in honor of the ancestal spirits. The custom of visiting the graves on Hansik originated in the Tang period of China (618-907). In the Goryeo dynasty of Korea (918-1392), the royal court performed memorial rites at Jongmyo (Kor. 종묘, Chin. 宗廟, Royal ancestral shrine) and the royal tombs, while the general public traveled to the burial sites of their ancestors.
The custom of seongmyo refers not just to the physical act of tending the burial site but rather a combination of caring and paying respects to the ancestors with ritual bows. These days it has become a common practice to visit the graves mainly on Hansik and Chuseok. On Hansik in the third lunar month, gaesacho (改莎草) is conducted— tombs damaged in the preceding winter to spring period are repaired by adding dirt and replanting grass on the parts of the burial mound which have collapsed or eroded away. At Chuseok, people travel to the ancestral grave sites after holding the memorial rites at home. They refurbish the site in preparation for the coming winter by cutting or plucking out weeds and bushes that have grown during summer after Hansik. In the past, when memorial rites were performed at the graveside in October, people did not hold the rites at Chuseok. These days, however, people generally conduct the graveside memorial rite at Chuseok also, as few can afford the time for another trip. Visiting ancestral graves and observing the rites there on Chuseok is of particular importance as the new crops of the year are first offered to the ancestors on the day as a symbolic gesture.