Value of Joseon Royal Tombs

  • CONVENTION CONCERNING THE PROTECTION OF THE WORLD CULTURAL AND NATURAL HERITAGE. The World Heritage Committee has inscribed Royal Tmobs the Joseon Dynasty on the World Heritage List Inscription on this List confirms the outstanding universal value of a cultural or natural property which requires protection for the benefit of all humanity.
  • The royal tombs of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) include the tombs of the kings and queens consort of Joseon established over a span of five centuries from 1407 to 1965. During this period, the construction of a royal tomb represented the chain of royal succession and strengthened the king’s authority by honoring the achievements of his royal ancestors. A total of forty-two Joseon royal tombs exist today, and forty of them were designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2009. Due to their location in Kaesong, North Korea, the original capital of Joseon, the remaining two tombs could not be included.
Joseon royal tombs were constructed in the lee of a mountain ridge according to the geomantic principle of baesan imsu (背山臨水, mountain in the background and a watercourse in front), and are consequently nestled within outstanding natural landscapes. These days, the dense forests surrounding the Joseon royal tombs provide a recreation area for local citizens / Joseon royal tombs consist of the upper ground featuring the bongbun (封墳) (the burial mound under which the body of the king or queen consort lies) and the stone objects adorning the mound and the lower ground, which accommodates other associated structures. The stone objects include sculptures of human figures, civil officials and military officials, animals (sheep, tigers and horses), and lanterns, as well as columns (望柱石, mangjuseok) and a rectangular platform (魂遊石, honyuseok) that invites the soul of the deceased to come out and play and also used as a table during a memorial ritual. On the lower ground are a stone stele honoring the achievements of the king, a shed for the stele (碑閣, bigak), and a T-shaped hall (丁字閣, jeongjagak) where memorial services are held. Also on the grounds are a building called a jaesil (齋室) where ritual utensils are stored and the official who arranges the rituals stays. Furthermore, there is the suragan (水刺間) where ritual foods are prepared, and the subokbang (守僕房) that provides living quarters for the tomb guards.