Ceremonies marking major stages in life
Ceremonies marking major transitions in the life of an individual.
Korea’s gwanhonsangje (the major ceremonies in life including coming of age, weddings, funerals, and ancestral rites) were heavily influenced by Confucianism and Chinese culture. As historical records show, it can be inferred that Korea had its own ilsaenguirye even before the Three Kingdoms period but due to the influence of “Jujagarye” (朱子家禮, Family Rituals of Zhu Xi) introduced during the Goryeo Dynasty along with Neo-Confucianism, Korean gwanhonsangje came to develop characteristics as Confucian rituals. Yet, the need for our own rules of propriety led to the publication of such books as “Saryepyeollam.”
Ilsaenguirye began with human history, including not only gwanhonsangje but rites related to giving birth and suyeollye (Kor. 수연례, Chin. 壽宴禮, lit. rite to celebrate longevity). They are the ceremonies making the major milestones in life. Ilsaenguirye is also called pyeongsaenguirye (lifetime rituals) or tonggwauirye (rites of passage), and has long been considered equivalent to gwanhonsangje: the ceremonies for the times a person becomes an adult, gets married, dies and pays respects to the ancestors. Korean society has regarded such occasions the most important as an individual grows up. Ilsaenguirye vividly portray diverse aspects of Korean life. Rites related with childbirth are not illustrated in books of rites but they are evident in Korean customs. Weddings, funerals and ancestral rites were fully established based upon such books as “Saryepyeollam” (Handbook of the Four Ceremonies) and actual practice in everyday life. Among ilsaenguirye, wedding ceremonies have gone through the biggest changes, while funeral rites have seen relatively little alteration. As for ancestral rites, the kinds of rites held have been reduced but the procedures of the rites have been maintained mostly in their original form.