Written prayer(祭文)

Written prayer

Headword

제문 ( 祭文 )

Location of the encyclopedia

Korean Rites of Passage > Korean Rites of Passage > Sangnye|Jangnye

Writer KimMiyoung(金美榮)

Written prayers recited at rites for the gods of heaven and earth or the deceased.

Jemun originated from written prayers to prevent rain or disaster. Originally prayers to deities, they changed in nature after the Middle Ages into prayers praising the deeds of the deceased and expressing grief over their death. As such, jemun from ancient times deal with reverence or respect for the deities and ancestors and obedience to them.

A Korean prototype of such a text is “Jemangmae-ga” (Kor. 제망매가, Chin. 祭亡妹歌, Requiem for the Deceased Sister), one of the extant hyangga works by Master Wolmyeong, a renowned monk during the reign of King Gyeongdeok (r. 742-765) of the Silla Kingdom. This particular type of text began to flourish in the late Goryeo dynasty (918–1392), with “Jecheo-mun” (Kor. 제처문, Chin. 祭妻文, Requiem for the Deceased Wife) by Yi Gyu-bo (1168-1241), one of the greatest classical Korean poets from the period, being one of the most famous.

Depending on the content, jemun is largely divided into texts to inform deities of services for them; those used for Buddhist or Taoist ceremonies; and those describing the deeds of the deceased in his or her lifetime and lamenting the death. More generally, those to the spirits of the deceased are referred to as jemun while those recited to deities such as village guardians and mountain gods are categorized as chungmun (Kor. 축문, Chin. 祝文, lit. invocation text)—this division, however, is not clearly defined.

While chungmun simply informs the deities of offerings presented to them, jemun is longer and cherishes the memory of the deceased and praises his or her achievements. The former conforms to a standardized style, describing the 5Ws regarding the offerings (when, who, to whom, why and what). By contrast, the latter is more literary in nature as it expresses the writer’s grief in a lyrical way.

Jemun consists of three parts—introduction, body and conclusion. The introduction deals with when and for whom the memorial rite takes place, while the body is largely on remembering and mourning the deceased by praising his or her character and deeds. The text ends by encouraging heumhyang (Kor. 흠향, Chin. 歆饗, the deceased’s taking the offerings) with a cup of liquor and the usual closing remark, “sanghyang” (尙饗), meaning “please enjoy the meal although it is not sufficient.”

Written prayer

Written prayer
Headword

제문 ( 祭文 )

Location of the encyclopedia

Korean Rites of Passage > Korean Rites of Passage > Sangnye|Jangnye

Writer KimMiyoung(金美榮)

Written prayers recited at rites for the gods of heaven and earth or the deceased.

Jemun originated from written prayers to prevent rain or disaster. Originally prayers to deities, they changed in nature after the Middle Ages into prayers praising the deeds of the deceased and expressing grief over their death. As such, jemun from ancient times deal with reverence or respect for the deities and ancestors and obedience to them.

A Korean prototype of such a text is “Jemangmae-ga” (Kor. 제망매가, Chin. 祭亡妹歌, Requiem for the Deceased Sister), one of the extant hyangga works by Master Wolmyeong, a renowned monk during the reign of King Gyeongdeok (r. 742-765) of the Silla Kingdom. This particular type of text began to flourish in the late Goryeo dynasty (918–1392), with “Jecheo-mun” (Kor. 제처문, Chin. 祭妻文, Requiem for the Deceased Wife) by Yi Gyu-bo (1168-1241), one of the greatest classical Korean poets from the period, being one of the most famous.

Depending on the content, jemun is largely divided into texts to inform deities of services for them; those used for Buddhist or Taoist ceremonies; and those describing the deeds of the deceased in his or her lifetime and lamenting the death. More generally, those to the spirits of the deceased are referred to as jemun while those recited to deities such as village guardians and mountain gods are categorized as chungmun (Kor. 축문, Chin. 祝文, lit. invocation text)—this division, however, is not clearly defined.

While chungmun simply informs the deities of offerings presented to them, jemun is longer and cherishes the memory of the deceased and praises his or her achievements. The former conforms to a standardized style, describing the 5Ws regarding the offerings (when, who, to whom, why and what). By contrast, the latter is more literary in nature as it expresses the writer’s grief in a lyrical way.

Jemun consists of three parts—introduction, body and conclusion. The introduction deals with when and for whom the memorial rite takes place, while the body is largely on remembering and mourning the deceased by praising his or her character and deeds. The text ends by encouraging heumhyang (Kor. 흠향, Chin. 歆饗, the deceased’s taking the offerings) with a cup of liquor and the usual closing remark, “sanghyang” (尙饗), meaning “please enjoy the meal although it is not sufficient.”