A unique form of documentary heritage, the "Uigwe" is a collection of Royal Protocols of the over 500 year-long Joseon Dynasty (1392 - 1910), that both records and prescribes through prose and illustration the major ceremonies and rites of the royal family.
The exquisite value of the Uigwe lies within its rarity, in that it captures so many details of so many different aspects of the life of the royal family. Documenting not only the records of all the procedures, protocols, formalities and requirements needed to conduct important ceremonies such as weddings, funerals, banquets and receiving foreign missions, it also includes details on the construction of royal buildings and tombs as well as other various cultural activities of the royal family.
Categorized by time and theme and comprised of over 3,895 books, the Uigwe makes it possible to understand the changes that took place over time in royal ceremonies and allows for detailed comparisons with the other contemporaneous East Asian cultures. In particular, the pictorial materials, such as "Banchado" and "Doseol" illustrate the rituals and ceremonies of the time with a sophistication and vividness that matches the visual materials of the present day.
For example, the documentary painting of King Jeongjo's visit to the royal tomb of his father is composed of several scenes, and runs a full 15.4 meters length. Moreover, the authorship of this work is in itself unique, in that this visually oriented documentary heritage would not have been produced but for the cooperative efforts of professional, certified painters working in concert with official historians. Such collaboration in and of itself offers illuminating insight into the structure of cultural production during this time.
In short, the Uigwe is a comprehensive and systematic collection of writings and paintings that provides a detailed account of the important ceremonies and rites of the Joseon Dynasty. Its particular style of documentary heritage cannot be found anywhere else in the world, in either the East or West.