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  • Korean: 雅楽 (aak)

Aak (lit. "elegant music") was the primary form of formal ritual music of the royal court in the Korean kingdoms of Koryo (918-1392) and Joseon (1392-1897).

Though earlier Korean kingdoms such as Goguryeo had their own Tang-influenced court music which had a significant impact on the formation of Japanese gagaku, Koryo requested on numerous occasions that the Song dynasty aid Koryo in adopting "high" Song court culture, including court music, and ultimately received that assistance. Some sources identify 1116 as the year that Song-influenced aak was introduced into Korea, with the help of Song emperor Huizong.[1]

King Sejong of Joseon reformed or formalized aak further in the early 15th century, combining the formal aak tradition with dangak (唐楽, Tang music) and hyangak (郷楽, native Korean "village music") traditions into a new form of formal ritual aak court music.[2]

Aak continues to be performed today in particular contexts, including in formal annual Confucian ceremonies at the Jongmyo Shrine in Seoul.


  1. Chia-Ying Yeh, "The Revival and Restoration of Ryukyuan Court Music, Uzagaku: Classification and Performance Techniques, Language Usage, and Transmission," PhD thesis, University of Sheffield (2018), 16.
  2. Gallery labels, "Story of King Sejong," King Sejong Square, Seoul.