An Introduction to Classical Korean Literature: From Hyangga to P'ansori

By Kichung Kim | Go to book overview

6
The Literature of
Chosŏn Dynasty Women

Palace Literature

Until the invention of hangŭl in 1446, wellborn and learned men enjoyed a near monopoly on the written word in Korea, because they alone were adequately educated in hanmun. Most women and ordinary people had neither the training nor the leisure to become proficient in hanmun, a difficult and alien written language. Even the women of yangban families were discouraged from any systematic training in reading and writing, since book learning was considered both unnecessary and improper for women, their sphere being strictly domestic. In fact, an absence of learning was thought to promote virtue in a woman, and if educated, she was expected not to exhibit her learning. If she wrote, her writing was not to go beyond her family, and for this reason her writings, including letters, were frequently destroyed by actually having the writing washed off the paper. The daughters of even the best yangban families were taught only hangŭl, so they might read those few works of Confucian moral instruction and manuals of exemplary womanly behavior that were translated into hangŭl.1 One of the real achievements of hangŭl, therefore, was that it conferred upon women and ordinary people a writing system that was not only native and phonetic but also easy to learn. Hanmun continued to be the written language of the yangban men; hangŭl thus became the written language mainly of upper- and middle-class Korean women who had some education as well as leisure. For this reason hangŭl has been called amgŭl, "female letters."2

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An Introduction to Classical Korean Literature: From Hyangga to P'ansori
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • 1 - What is Korean Literature? 3
  • 2 - The Mystery and Loveliness of the Hyangga 11
  • 3 - The Incomparable Lyricism of Koryŏ Songs 25
  • 4 Notes on the Samguk sagi and Samguk yusa 48
  • 5 - Notes on Shijo 75
  • 6 - The Literature of Chosŏn Dynasty Women 95
  • 7 - Hŏ Kyun: Hong Kiltong Chŏn and the Hanmun Lives 141
  • Notes 157
  • 9 - The Literature of Shirhak: Yŏnam, Pak Chi-Wŏn 171
  • 10 - Notes on P'Ansori 197
  • Toward Modern Korean Literature 209
  • Works Cited 219
  • Index 223
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