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Posted : 2014-01-23 17:40
Updated : 2014-01-23 17:40

Queens selected on basis personality rather than good looks

Queens during Joseon Kingdom were selected on basis of their personality rather than exterior beauty. / Courtesy of OBS

By Kim Su-mi


If you expect queens of the Joseon Kingdom to be stunningly beautiful, you are mistaken.

During the period, kings valued a good-hearted and well-behaved woman as the most ideal type for a queen figure instead of going for her exterior beauty.

This finding was published in an academic journal, "Private lives of queens and concubines during the Joseon Kingdom."

It explores the lives of queens and concubines, especially shedding light on their Confucian norms and beliefs.

Kings of the Joseon Kingdom had to strictly abide by monogamy but as long as only one woman was enthroned as the Queen Consort, they could welcome as many concubines as they desired.

Aside from their Queen Consort, King Tae-jo kept 19 concubines, Gwang-hae 15, Sung-jong 14 and Dan-jong two.

Queens had to be of noble blood but concubines' backgrounds were less important as many of them were once slaves and widows.

Personality and codes of conduct were appreciated the most during the selection of a queen who was also expected to fulfill the role of a head figure for all women in the palace.

After dethroning Queen Dan-gyeong, Jung-jong of 1506 selected his new Queen Consort on the basis of the two traits.

The Queen Consort could exercise some political power by becoming regent on behalf of her young son.

Living in the palace for the queen and concubines were strict and exhausting.

They were obliged to fully submit themselves to a hierarchical order of Grand Royal Queen Dowager, Royal Queen Dowager, Queen Consort, Crown Prince, and concubines, with obedience and patience for the head figures as the most praised Confucian values.

They kept about 30-100 maids of honor but preferred to bring their own nannies and maids who were the only people they could confide in at the palace.

관련 한글 기사

조선시대 왕비 미모로 뽑혔을까?

조선시대 왕은 왕비의 가장 중요한 요소로 외모보다는 “얌전하고 착한 것”을 제일로 뽑았다. 이 내용은 최근이라는 학술연구용역 보고서에 기재되었다. 보고서는 조선왕실을 구성하는 핵심요소이면서 유교적 여성문화를 대표하는 왕비와 후궁을 집중 조명했다.

조선시대 왕에게 철저한 “일부일처제”가 적용됐다. 물론 중전은 한명 이지만 후궁은 여럿을 두어도 무방했다. 태조가 19명, 광해군이 15명, 성종이 13명의 후궁을 뒀고, 단종도 후궁이 2명이나 됐다.

왕비는 양반가의 여식이여야 했지만 후궁은 양반은 물론 중인, 노비, 과부까지 신분이 다양했다.

왕비는 왕통의 후계자를 낳았기에 수렴청정으로 정치에 직접관여 하기도 했다.

내명부와 외명부의 수장인 왕비를 뽑는 기준은 “얌전하고 착한 것이 제일” 이었다. 중종 1년 (1506년) 정현대비 (성종비)는 단경왕후를 폐위한 뒤 새 중전을 간택하면서 이 같은 기준을 제시했다.

왕비와 후궁들의 궁궐 내 삶은 고단했다. 대왕대비, 왕대비, 대비, 중전, 세자빈, 후궁 등 순으로 이어지는 엄격한 상하 위계질서 속에서 왕과 왕실 어른에 대한 순종과 인내라는 유교적 덕목을 종신토록 지켜야 했다.

처소별로 30~100명 정도의 궁녀가 배속됐지만 그들은 입궁 때 사가에서 몸종, 유모 등 사노비인 본방나인을 데려왔다. 왕비가 유일하게 속마음을 털어놓을 수 있는 존재였다.



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