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The Royal Concubine In the Early Years of the Joseon Dynasty -Focused on the Social Standing of the Royal Concubine from King Taejo(太祖) to King Seonjong(成宗)-

  • The Review of Korean History
  • 2009, (96), pp.39-90
  • Publisher : The Historical Society Of Korea
  • Research Area : Humanities > History

Mi sean Lee 1

1한국학중앙연구원

Accredited

ABSTRACT

This paper deals with the social standing of the royal concubine(後宮) in the early years of the Joseon dynasty(朝鮮) and aims to prove that their social positions at that time weren't as low as theirs in the later years of Joseon dynasty. To do this, I adopted 75 royal concubines in the early years of the Joseon dynasty as the object of study, and utilized the genealogy(族譜) of the royal concubine families(42 women) that were found out both their family names and ancestral homes(姓貫). Naemyeongbu(內命婦) was first established in 1397(King Taejo, 6), and enacted into laws in completing Gyeongguk-daejeon(經國大典), the Standard Statutes of Joseon dynasty. The status of a royal concubine could be obtained only by the relations with the king, and in those days, the grade among them couldn't be discriminated the higher from the lower. But this system established the status order or the court rank order in arranging properly the rank title(名號) of the lady of court. The royal concubine were divided into the chosen concubine(揀擇後宮) and the non-chosen concubine(非揀擇後宮). In early years, the chosen concubines were more. They were the royal concubines from noble families(班家) when they entered the palace, but they could be promoted to be queen. In contrast, most of the non-chosen concubine were from humble families or low origins. The system investing the royal concubines with the titles of nobility didn't grade on their social positions at first but gradually decided on their promotions according to the upper and lower of their background and by existence of establishment of the Garyesak(嘉禮色). But even the non-chosen concubines could be invested with the higher titles of nobility on the basis of the contributions to the royal family such as they stood high in the king's favors or gave birth to the king's children. The families of the chosen concubine were the officialdom who went into government service through the state examination or the ancestor's virtue(門蔭) and the ruling class who hold the political power based on their distinguished services. Also, their repeated marriages to the royal family had made increasing their links and bonds with each other for keeping their political power. Therefore I think we need to change the negative recognition that was considered the social standing of the royal concubine as humble status.

Citation status

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