Ritual food offered by the descendants to the ancestors during memorial rites.
Jemul refers to food offerings used in memorial rites. Those preparing the rite take great care to keep the offerings from impurities by cleansing themselves, body and soul. They do not say anything unnecessary when buying the food or try to get discount on them. While cooking, the food is not tasted and care is taken to prevent human hair from falling onto the food. It is believed that if these taboos are not observed, the ancestors would get angry or bring bad luck. “Jujagarye” (朱子家禮, Family Rituals of Zhu Xi) dictates that the offerings should not be consumed nor contaminated by cats, dogs, bugs and rats before the rite takes place.
There is little difference between families in terms of the number of offerings served on the ritual table. Basically offerings consist of steamed rice, soup (gaeng, 羹) or broth (tang, 湯), noodles (myeon, 麵), dried slices of meat or fish (po, 脯), sauces (jang, 醬), grilled meat or fish (jeok, 炙), chimchae (沈菜) or literally “soaked vegetables, ” cooked vegetables (sukchae, 熟菜), rice cake(pyeon, 䭏), fruits(gwa, 果) and liquor (ju, 酒). The rice served on the ritual table is particularly called me to differentiate it from everyday rice. According to books on ceremonies and rituals, beef, lamb or pork is generally used to make the soup but in the northern part of Gyeongsangbuk-do Province, soup with bean sprouts and radish is served. While broth, along with rice and soup, is an essential component of the offerings, it cannot be found in records of ancient ceremonies. As such, although the books on rites and ceremonies dictate the offerings must be arranged in four rows, another row has been added to include broth as well. Broth is prepared with fish (eotang, 魚湯), meat (yuktang, 肉湯), chicken (gyetang, 鷄湯), and clams or vegetables (sotang, 蔬湯). Jeok refers to grilled meat, fish or chicken. In large-scale rites such as bulcheonwijesa (Kor. 불천위제사, Chin. 不遷位祭祀, rites for ancestors honored in perpetuity) and myoje (Kor. 묘제, Chin. 墓祭, graveside rites), jeok is piled in three layers on a rectangular dish with a foot (jeokteul). Tang and jeok are basically made from umorin (Kor. 우모린, Chin. 羽毛鱗, lit. feathers, hair and scales), meaning feathered animals, quadruped hairy animals, and fish with scales.
As for pyeon, or rice cake on the ritual table, layers of sirutteok or steamed rice cake called bonpyeon forms the base upon which various types of rice cake are piled. As decorative elements, the upper layers of the rice cake vary in form, color, material and how they are made. Sukchae is prepared with three vegetables from among bracken, broad bellflowers, spinach, radish, bean sprouts and dropwort. Chimchae refers to watery kimchi prepared without chili peppers. Six kinds of fruit should be prepared according to “Family Rituals of Zhu Xi” but the exact types are not specified. In general, chestnuts, jujubes, pears and persimmons are used, sometimes accompanied by seasonal fruits. Dried slices of meat (yukpo) is made with beef while cod, octopus and dried pollack are the material for fish jerky (eopo) with frozen pollack, sea mussels and squid also possible candidates. Along with fruits and jerky, liquor constitutes the essentials of sacrificial offerings and refined rice wine (jeongjong) is generally served. In the past, almost every household would brew their own wine for use in rites.
The offerings in ancestral rites intend to serve the ancestors and invite blessings through the symbolic behavior of eumbok (Kor. 음복, Chin. 飮福, lit. receiving blessings), or partaking of the ritual food after the ceremony. They vary in number and type depending on each respective area’s natural environment, social or cultural background, and the etiquette of each family