Out of the Shadow of Korean Colonial Experience: An Interpretation of Chongmyo-cheryeak, the Royal Ancestral Shrine Ritual Music

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This study concerns the significance of performing Chongmyo-cheryeak, the Korean Royal Ancestral Shrine Ritual Music, in Korea, past and present. Based on assumptions and methodology ranging from ethnomusicology and musicology to anthropology and cultural studies, it examines how the meaning and form of indigenous ritual music have changed over the course of Korean history. It especially considers how the significance of the music has been formulated, presented, and argued in a context of nationalism and postcolonialism.

Focusing particularly on the current performance of Chongmyo-cheryeak, this study finds that 1) the ritual music survives for the cultural benefit of contemporary Koreans who participate in or come to witness the performance, 2) the Korean government presents the performance of Chongmyo-cherye, including its music and dance to proclaim a Korean identity constructed as the collectivity of historicity and unique characteristics that serve to differentiate what is Korean from all else, and 3) the performance of the music is situated in postcolonial irony. The study concludes that the restoration of Chongmyo-cheryeak exemplifies that Koreans are in the process of coming out of the shadow of their colonial experience.