According to UNESCO, the shrine is the oldest royal Confucian shrine preserved and the ritual ceremonies continue a tradition established in the 14th century. Such shrines existed during the Three Kingdoms of Korea period (57-668), but these have not survived. The Jongmyo Shrine was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1995.
Jongmyo is adjacent to Changdeokgung and Changgyeonggung in the south. They used to be connected in the Joseon period, but were separated by a road built by Japanese colonialists. Nowadays there is a construction plan to recover the original structure of the shrine.
The main buildings of Jongmyo was constructed in October, 1394 when Taejo, first king of Joseon Dynasty, moved the capital to Seoul. It was destroyed by fire in the Japanese invasions of Korea (1592–98), then rebuilt in 1608.