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Temple names are commonly used when naming most
Joseon periods), and
Vietnamese (such dynasties as
Lê) royalty. They should not be confused with
era names. Compared to
posthumous names, the use of temple names is more exclusive. Both titles were given after death to an emperor or king, but unlike the often elaborate posthumous name, a temple name almost always consists of only two
- an adjective: chosen to reflect the circumstances of the emperor's reign (such as "Martial" or "Lamentable"). The vocabulary overlaps with that of posthumous titles' adjectives, but for one emperor, the temple name's adjective character usually does not repeat as one of the many adjective characters in his posthumous name. The usual exception is "Filial" (孝). The founders are almost always either "High" (高) or "Grand" (太).
- "emperor": either zǔ (祖) or zōng (宗).
- Zu ("forefather") implies a progenitor, either a founder of a dynasty or a new line within an existing one. The equivalent in
Korean is jo (조), and tổ in Vietnamese
- Zong ("ancestor") is used in all other rulers. It is jong (종) in Korean, and tông in Vietnamese.
The "temple" in "temple name" refers to the "
grand temple" (太廟), also called "great temple" (大廟) or "ancestral temple" (祖廟), where
crown princes and other royalty gathered to worship their ancestors. The ancestral tablets in the grand temple recorded the temple names of the rulers.
In earlier times, only rulers had temple names, such as Taihao (太昊). Temple names were assigned sporadically from the Han Dynasty and regularly from the
Tang Dynasty. Some Han emperors had their temple names permanently removed by their descendants in 190. They are the usual way to refer to emperors from the Tang Dynasty up to (but not including) the
Ming Dynasty. For the Ming Dynasty and
Qing Dynasty (from 1368),
era names were used instead.
In Korea, temple names are used to refer to kings of the early
Goryeo (until 1274), and kings and emperors of the
Joseon Dynasty. For the
Korean Empire (1897–1910), era names should be used, but the temple names are often used instead.
In Vietnam, most rulers are known by their temple names, with the exception of
Tây Sơn and
Nguyễn Dynasty rulers, who are more well known by their era names.