Family shrine(祠堂)

Family shrine

Headword

사당 ( 祠堂 )

Location of the encyclopedia

Korean Rites of Passage > Korean Rites of Passage > Jerye

Writer KimMiyoung(金美榮)

The shrine where ancestral spirit tablets are kept.

In Korea, the Confucian shrines started to become wideapread when the Joseon Dynasty adopted Neo-Confucianism as the ruling ideology. The dynasty encouraged ruling class familities to set up Confucian shrines in the belief that the shrine and the ancestral spirit tablets were key factors in establishing a system of burial and memorial rites based on Confucian ideology. Initially, active encouragement and support from the state did not lead to any substantial results. It was after the reign of King Seonjo (r. 1567-1608) that Confucian shrines began to be established across the country. The practice of building family shrines as an institution representing the Confucian ritual system in this period flourished under state-level efforts to establish and spread clan regulations based on Confucianism as a way to deal with the social disorder caused by the Japanese invasions 1592-1598.

Confucian family shrines built during the Joseon period generally had a three-bay structure and typically had a southern orientation. At homes on a small site, the shrine could be reduced to a single-bay building. The shrine had a wooden floor inside, which was covered with mats. Other features included the jungmun (Kor. 중문, Chin. 中門, lit. middle gate) set up under the middle purlins and bunhammun (Kor. 분합문, Chin. 分闔門, four-panel folding door) on each bay. There were a pair of stone steps outside the folding doors called jogye (Kor. 조계, Chin. 祚階, lit. eastern step) and seogye (Kor. 서계, Chin. 西階, lit. western step) respectively. The eastern step was exclusively used by the family head, while the western step was used by all others. The shrine was typically enclosed by a wall with a gate called oemun (Kor. 외문, Chin. 外門, lit. outer gate), built on the front section of the wall. With its location in the south of the wall, the outer gate faced the middle gate. It was also connected with the walls on both sides, east and west.

The term sadang, or shrine, refers to any building where the spirit tablets of the dead are kept but is generally used in reference to a family shrine. As the place where the spirit tablets of the ancestors were kept, the family shrine was considered the most reverent place in the house, and accordingly entry was strictly regulated.

The spirit tablets of ancestors kept in the family shrine served to guide all descendants to lead a life faithful to Confucian propriety. Rites held at the Confucian family shrine largely consisted of sinallye (Kor. 신알례, Chin. 晨謁禮, lit. rite held at dawn), churimnye (Kor. 출입례, Chin. 出入禮, lit. rite of entry and exit), chamnye (Kor. 참례, Chin. 參禮, lit. rite of attendance), cheonsillye (Kor. 천신례, Chin. 薦新禮, lit. rite on the new harvest) and goyurye (Kor. 고유례, Chin. 告由禮, lit. ancestral consultation rite). Sinallye, in which the family head delivers the first greetings of the day to the ancestral spirits, was held in the early morning. Churimnye was held to inform the ancestral spirits whenever the family head left home or returned. Chamnye refers to the rites held on the first and fifteenth days of the month by the lunar calendar, lunar New Year’s Day, and the winter solstice, while cheonsillye is the offering of seasonal festive food to the ancestral spirits on the seasonal holidays of Cheongmyeong, Hansik, and Jungyang. Finally, goyurye is a rite held to inform the ancestral spirits of special family affairs.

These ceremonies held at the family shrine are distinguished from the ancestral rites held on the death anniversaries as they were held almost on a daily basis, as if the deceased ancestors were still part of the household. As the family shrines gradually disappeared, so did the associated rites, which were eventually incorporated into a single ceremony now called charye (Kor. 차례, Chin. 茶禮, lit. tea offering rite). Today, the family shrine ceremonies have been replaced by charye, which now refers not to a tea offering rite but the ancestral rites held twice a year on the major holidays, lunar New Year’s Day and Chuseok (Kor. 추석, Chin. 秋夕, harvest moon festival, fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month). Charye is one of two major ancestral memorial rites, the other being gijesa (Kor. 기제사, Chin. 忌祭祀, memorial rite for ancestors on their death anniversary).

Family shrine

Family shrine
Headword

사당 ( 祠堂 )

Location of the encyclopedia

Korean Rites of Passage > Korean Rites of Passage > Jerye

Writer KimMiyoung(金美榮)

The shrine where ancestral spirit tablets are kept.

In Korea, the Confucian shrines started to become wideapread when the Joseon Dynasty adopted Neo-Confucianism as the ruling ideology. The dynasty encouraged ruling class familities to set up Confucian shrines in the belief that the shrine and the ancestral spirit tablets were key factors in establishing a system of burial and memorial rites based on Confucian ideology. Initially, active encouragement and support from the state did not lead to any substantial results. It was after the reign of King Seonjo (r. 1567-1608) that Confucian shrines began to be established across the country. The practice of building family shrines as an institution representing the Confucian ritual system in this period flourished under state-level efforts to establish and spread clan regulations based on Confucianism as a way to deal with the social disorder caused by the Japanese invasions 1592-1598.

Confucian family shrines built during the Joseon period generally had a three-bay structure and typically had a southern orientation. At homes on a small site, the shrine could be reduced to a single-bay building. The shrine had a wooden floor inside, which was covered with mats. Other features included the jungmun (Kor. 중문, Chin. 中門, lit. middle gate) set up under the middle purlins and bunhammun (Kor. 분합문, Chin. 分闔門, four-panel folding door) on each bay. There were a pair of stone steps outside the folding doors called jogye (Kor. 조계, Chin. 祚階, lit. eastern step) and seogye (Kor. 서계, Chin. 西階, lit. western step) respectively. The eastern step was exclusively used by the family head, while the western step was used by all others. The shrine was typically enclosed by a wall with a gate called oemun (Kor. 외문, Chin. 外門, lit. outer gate), built on the front section of the wall. With its location in the south of the wall, the outer gate faced the middle gate. It was also connected with the walls on both sides, east and west.

The term sadang, or shrine, refers to any building where the spirit tablets of the dead are kept but is generally used in reference to a family shrine. As the place where the spirit tablets of the ancestors were kept, the family shrine was considered the most reverent place in the house, and accordingly entry was strictly regulated.

The spirit tablets of ancestors kept in the family shrine served to guide all descendants to lead a life faithful to Confucian propriety. Rites held at the Confucian family shrine largely consisted of sinallye (Kor. 신알례, Chin. 晨謁禮, lit. rite held at dawn), churimnye (Kor. 출입례, Chin. 出入禮, lit. rite of entry and exit), chamnye (Kor. 참례, Chin. 參禮, lit. rite of attendance), cheonsillye (Kor. 천신례, Chin. 薦新禮, lit. rite on the new harvest) and goyurye (Kor. 고유례, Chin. 告由禮, lit. ancestral consultation rite). Sinallye, in which the family head delivers the first greetings of the day to the ancestral spirits, was held in the early morning. Churimnye was held to inform the ancestral spirits whenever the family head left home or returned. Chamnye refers to the rites held on the first and fifteenth days of the month by the lunar calendar, lunar New Year’s Day, and the winter solstice, while cheonsillye is the offering of seasonal festive food to the ancestral spirits on the seasonal holidays of Cheongmyeong, Hansik, and Jungyang. Finally, goyurye is a rite held to inform the ancestral spirits of special family affairs.

These ceremonies held at the family shrine are distinguished from the ancestral rites held on the death anniversaries as they were held almost on a daily basis, as if the deceased ancestors were still part of the household. As the family shrines gradually disappeared, so did the associated rites, which were eventually incorporated into a single ceremony now called charye (Kor. 차례, Chin. 茶禮, lit. tea offering rite). Today, the family shrine ceremonies have been replaced by charye, which now refers not to a tea offering rite but the ancestral rites held twice a year on the major holidays, lunar New Year’s Day and Chuseok (Kor. 추석, Chin. 秋夕, harvest moon festival, fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month). Charye is one of two major ancestral memorial rites, the other being gijesa (Kor. 기제사, Chin. 忌祭祀, memorial rite for ancestors on their death anniversary).