The Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) had 27 kings, from the first king, Taejo (r. 1392-1398), to the last king, Sunjong (r. 1907- 1910), during its 518-year rule. Those who actually occupied the throne during their lifetime and those posthumously given sovereign titles after their direct offspring ascended to the throne, as well as their spouses, are buried in 42 royal graves. Of the 42 royal tombs of Joseon, 40 are in South Korea, mostly in the Seoul metropolitan area, and two are in North Korea.
The tombs were built to honour the memory of ancestors, to show respect for their achievements, to assert royal authority, to protect ancestral spirits from evil and to provide protection from vandalism. A royal tomb was a sacred place where the deceased could “live” in the afterlife amidst dynasty- protecting ancestral spirits.
A royal burial ground was divided into three areas: the sacred burial area for the dead, the ritual area where the dead and the living meet, and the entrance area which was regarded as part of the mundane world. Each burial ground was designated to integrate with the surrounding natural environment to fully benefit from its propitious energies.