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The Memoirs of Lady Hyegyong

The Memoirs of Lady Hyegyong: The Autobiographical Writings of a Crown Princess of Eighteenth-Century Korea

Translated with an Introduction and Annotations by JaHyun Kim Haboush
With a New Foreword by Dorothy Ko
Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: 1
Pages: 392
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  • Book Info
    The Memoirs of Lady Hyegyong
    Book Description:

    Lady Hyegyong's memoirs, which recount the chilling murder of her husband by his father, form one of the best known and most popular classics of Korean literature. From 1795 until 1805 Lady Hyegyong composed this masterpiece, depicting a court life Shakepearean in its pathos, drama, and grandeur. Presented in its social, cultural, and historical contexts, this first complete English translation opens a door into a world teeming with conflicting passions, political intrigue, and the daily preoccupations of a deeply intelligent and articulate woman. JaHyun Kim Haboush's accurate, fluid translation captures the intimate and expressive voice of this consummate storyteller. Reissued nearly twenty years after its initial publication with a new foreword by Dorothy Ko, The Memoirs of Lady Hyegyong is a unique exploration of Korean selfhood and an extraordinary example of autobiography in the premodern era.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95729-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. [Map]
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Foreword
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    Dorothy Ko

    JaHyun Kim Haboush, who passed away on January 30, 2011, was an original. All of her work bears the unmistakable imprint of her temperament, intellectual habits, and vision, and this is especially true of The Memoirs of Lady Hyegyŏng. One may even say that in more ways than one, Lady JaHyun was Lady Hyegyŏng.

    Ja Haboush wrote against the grain of conventional Korean history, especially those views shaped by the modern nationalistic agenda, by being attentive to the place of women, the politics of language, the richness of vernacular narratives, the power of emotions, and the global context. Neither Korea...

  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-36)

    The Memoirs of Lady Hyegyŏng consists of four autobiographical narratives written by Lady Hyegyŏng, an eighteenth-century Korean noblewoman. She was born in 1735, a daughter of Hong Ponghan (1713–1778) of the illustrious P’ungsan Hong family. As a consequence of Korean custom of the period, her personal name remains unknown.¹ In 1744, she married Crown Prince Sado (1735–1762). They were both nine years old at the time, and consummation did not take place until five years later. On the day of consummation, Prince Sado was appointed prince-regent and assumed an official role in governing. However, his father, King Yŏngjo...

  7. Translator’s Note
    (pp. 37-38)

    Naming conventions in eighteenth-century Korea were extremely complicated. It was impracticable to follow Lady Hyegyŏng’s usage faithfully in my English translation, and so I have made various modifications. Sometimes it has meant anachronistic usage, sometimes substituting for Lady Hyegyŏng’s usage a more commonly known name. For instance, she refers to her husband by the name of his shrine, Kyŏngmogung. Since he is popularly known as Prince Sado, I used this name instead.

    There is one rule to which I try to remain faithful. That is, during the eighteenth century, one’s given name unaccompanied by one’s family name was used almost...

  8. Principal Persons
    (pp. 39-46)

    Hong hyǒnbo (1688–1740). Lady Hyegyŏng’s paternal grandfather. He was a descendant of Princess Chŏngmyŏng, King Sŏnjo’s daughter, and had a respectable official career that included an appointment as Minister of Rites.

    Hong inhan (1722–1776). Hong Ponghan’s younger brother. After passing the civil service examination in 1753, he served in important posts. He was Minister of the Right in 1774 and Minister of the Left in 1775. He opposed Chŏngjo’s regency in 1775. Upon Chŏngjo’s accession in 1776, he was executed under charges of disloyalty to Chŏngjo.

    Hong nagim (1741–1801). Hong Ponghan’s third son. Referred to as the...


    • The Memoir of 1795
      (pp. 49-136)

      From the time I came to the palace as a child,* each morning and evening I exchanged letters of greeting with my parents, and many of those letters should have remained with my family. However, upon my departure, my father cautioned me, “It is not right that letters from the outside should be scattered about the palace. Nor would it be proper for you to write of anything at length aside from simple words of greeting. It would be best if, after reading the news from home, you wrote us on the same sheet of paper.” As he instructed, I...

    • The Memoir of 1801
      (pp. 137-196)

      Princess Hwap’yŏng was Lady Sŏnhŭi’s first daughter and His Majesty loved her above all his other children. Of a mild and kindly disposition, the Princess showed not the slightest trace of arrogance. Uncomfortable and distressed that she alone was showered with paternal affection while her brother, the Crown Prince, was not, the Princess pleaded ceaselessly with her father, “Please do not be like that.” Whenever the Prince was in dire straits, she could not rest, as if nothing else mattered to her until things improved for him. There were many occasions on which His Majesty’s anger was appeased through the...

    • Illustrations
      (pp. None)
    • The Memoir of 1802
      (pp. 197-240)

      It has been almost sixty years since I came to the palace as a child. During that period, my life has been extremely turbulent; I have encountered countless adversities. In addition to that incomparably painful event, I have suffered such an endless succession of devastating trials and tribulations that it is not logical that I should have lived. I sustained my life because, given the fact that the late King served me with utmost filial devotion, I could not bear to end my life. Heaven detested me more as time passed, however, and I suffered that truly unbearable loss. It...

    • The Memoir of 1805
      (pp. 241-336)

      The tragedy of the imo year (1762) is unparalleled. Early in pyŏngsin (1776) the late King [Chŏngjo], who was then still Crown Prince, sent a memorial to his grandfather. His Late Majesty King Yŏngjo, requesting the destruction of those portions of the Records of the Royal Secretariat [pertaining to that incident]. Once royal permission was obtained, those sections were washed away. The late King did this in filial affection; he was mortified that just anyone could read descriptions of the event in an atmosphere quite devoid of respect or solemnity.

      Much time has elapsed. Those who know the details of...

  10. Appendix 1: Genealogical Table of the Yi Royal House
    (pp. 338-339)
  11. Appendix 2: Genealogical Table of the Hong Family
    (pp. 340-341)
  12. Appendix 3: Genealogical Table of the Kyŏngju Kim Family
    (pp. 342-342)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 343-354)
  14. Glossary
    (pp. 355-362)
  15. Index
    (pp. 363-372)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 373-373)