This article examines the notion of patriarchy and patrimonialism in Korean society during mid-Chosŏn through an empirical analysis of wedding and funeral rituals as portrayed in the sixteenth-century diaries of members of the Korean elite. Although Korean society during the Chosŏn era has been regarded as strongly patriarchal because of its Confucianization, the findings of this study provide further evidence of the fact that flexibility still existed. For instance, the diaries analyzed in this study show that newlywed couples resided temporarily at the bride’s house, thus indicating that the Confucian transformation of the wedding rite remained incomplete as late as the sixteenth century. This is also evidenced by transitional aspects associated with
Rituals are symbolic expressions of culturally standardized language and behavior that serve as important indicators of a given society’s understanding and interpretation of life’s most important events. Examining a society’s rituals makes it possible to better understand its values. Thus, in a Confucian society, rituals may serve as a barometer for assessing the degree of that society’s Confucian orientation. There was a constant effort during the first 150 years that followed the foundation of the Chosŏn dynasty to “Confucianize” the social life of the country, a task that was mainly attempted through the formalization of coming-of-age, marriage, funeral, and ancestral rituals. However, transforming what had been a Buddhist society during the preceding Koryŏ era into a Confucian one proved to be an arduous task that took several centuries to achieve.
Up until early-Chosŏn, daughters were not discriminated against in favor of sons (Yi 1992; Mun 2004). The importance of sons became emphasized following the implementation of the Clan code (
The ideological aspect of Chosŏn society was related to the Confucian piety on which social relations at all levels relied. The degree of individuals’ filial piety was seen as a measure of their potential loyalty to the king when it came to selecting government officials. It has been noted that this kind of filial piety in households also formed the basis of Western patriarchy. Ancient Rome had a strongly patriarchal system wherein fathers controlled all aspects of the lives of family members. The use of patriarchy here derives from Weber’s ideal type where the domination of patriarchy changed into patrimonialism (Weber 1997). Patri-monialism included a self-sufficient economic system based on the concept of the
Among East Asian countries, the term “patrimonial state” has been used to describe Chinese society (Weber 1951 ). Outwardly, Chosŏn claimed to be a “small China” (
The degree of Confucianization of sixteenth-century Chosŏn society has been a matter of debate. In one sense, sixteenth-century Chosŏn literati were in the process of adopting Confucian ethics. Prominent Confucian2 scholars emerged and several Confucian ethics textbooks of the period referenced ancient Chinese texts. On the other hand, there was also an awareness at the time that Chosŏn was not fully Confucianized. In fact, some scholars in sixteenth-century Chosŏn opposed the idea of blindly adopting and mimicking Chinese culture, and asserted that the culture of Chosŏn Korea differed from that of China in the areas of matrilocality and equal inheritance rights for daughters (Yi 1992).
It has been argued that the Confucianization of rituals became more pervasive in sixteenth-century Korea as a response to the discrepancies that existed between the Confucian ideal and the Korean reality. However, contrary to what some period theorists have advanced, wedding rituals had in actuality not yet become a true reflection of Confucian principles by the mid-Chosŏn era. Confucian-style wedding procedures, as outlined in the
Scholars have posited Korean weddings as the least Confucianized rite during the Chosŏn period (Deuchler 1992; Ch’oe 1983), while funerals, by contrast, have been argued to be the most Confucianized (Ch’oe 1983). This result has primarily been linked to the emphasis on the most typical form of piety manifested in Confucian culture, the parent-child relationship. The funeral ceremony became a prime vehicle for officials to express their sincere filial piety. Although the Chosŏn government encouraged the Confucianized funereal form and supported the burial ceremonies of high officials, the funeral ceremonies of the
With the exception of instances involving the royal court, wedding and funeral rites in early and mid-Chŏson were performed in transitional, hybrid ways not quite in accordance with strict Confucian principles. While a significant number of contemporary scholars have studied the rituals themselves, the transitional process underlying these Confucianized rituals has not yet been analyzed as a means of interpreting the degree of patriarchy in Chosŏn society during this period. Although the procedural details and implications of traditional Korean wedding rituals have been examined (Pak 1983) and Deuchler has made the distinction between the Korean wedding ceremony and its Chinese counter-part (Deuchler 1992), more research is needed on the distinguishing characteristics of Korean wedding ceremonies and their significance. A similar lack of analysis also applies to our understanding of Chosŏn funeral rites. This can be attributed to the fact that historians have thus far been more interested in presenting newly discovered data (Kim 2001) than exploring that data’s meaning. Despite the fact that scholars have long been aware of the need for historical research on patriarchy (Cho 1988; Yi 1990; Ch’oe 2004), such research was not seriously undertaken until Yi (2003), who tried to describe the patriarchy of the Chosŏn dynasty at the societal level.
This study examines the procedures and preparations of wedding and funeral rituals in order to understand the characteristics of patriarchy and patrimonialism in sixteenth-century Korean society. Analyzing these rituals will serve as a barometer for measuring the penetration of patriarchal ideology, or prevalence of Confucianism in society. Patriarchy in Weberian terminology focuses on the ideological aspects of domination. Here, patriarchy is defined as a system of domination in economic and ideological terms. Therefore, it can be divided into two aspects: a patriarchal domination from an ideological standpoint, and a patrimonial economic system. The structure of patriarchal domination as an expression of Confucian piety by those who participated in the rituals will be examined. The following points should be kept in mind: How strictly were Confucian ethics and the manifest practices enforced? Was there any stress or emphasis placed on paternal-side relations and kin? What was the self-sufficient economy, and how did the exercise of appropriation unfold in mid Chosŏn society?
1The oikos economy was the basic economic unit of ancient Greece and was comprised of a single extended household characterized by its self-sufficiency and self-manufacturing. 2The term Confucian is used herein in its broadest meaning, encompassing what is also called Neo-Confucian.
This study is based on data culled from the
Both diaries contain thorough accounts of the daily lives of
When an offspring approached a marriageable age in Chosŏn society, his or her potential future spouse was screened through their parents’ kin network and go-betweens. Several factors, such as the subject’s family wealth and his or her personality and appearance, were considered during this process. The series of procedural activities, from the initial marriage discussion to the conclusion of the wedding ceremony, reveals that marriage was a rather complicated matter com-prising varied interests. More to the point, marriage functioned, especially among elite families, as a means of both reproducing status and determining the in-heritance of property. For these reasons, a significant amount of time was spent in preparation before finally performing the actual wedding ritual.
(1) Wedding Ritual Procedures
In this section, the preparation and process of the wedding of Yu Hŭi-ch’un’s grandson, Yu Kwang-sŏn, with a daughter from the Kim family will be examined. Although both the Yu and Kim families could boast reputable backgrounds, Yu’s in-laws were more prosperous than Yu himself. The two families were un-acquainted prior to the marriage, as it was a marriage arranged by a go-between. As such, from the perspective of Yu’s in-laws, their interest in proceeding with the marriage was somewhat ambivalent, and as a result, the marriage between the two families was delayed. Though it was reported that there had been death and illness in the bride’s family, the postponement was primarily related to Yu’s declining social status and wealth. After receiving a gift sent from the groom’s house, the bride’s father expressed his delight about the perfect size of the groom’s clothing and the beauty of the bridal gift (
The main factor characterizing the hybrid
As shown in Table 1, Yu Hŭi-ch’un’s grandson’s wedding was performed in the form of
The process of this
The residential patterns of Yu’s grandson demonstrate the flexibility possible in the adoption of Confucian procedures and rules of residence, and thus the transitional stage of patriarchy that prevailed during this period at the household level. Such flexibility in terms of residency practices allowed for the maximization of the family’s resources for the grandson’s future. If the in-laws had a superior social background, the groom could opt to reside at the bridal home. However, according to the
(2) The Preparation of Wedding Rituals
During the early Chosŏn dynasty, giving extravagant bridal gifts was perceived as problematic at the societal level. Flaunting material wealth through wedding gifts and ceremonies was actually prohibited by the government. In keeping with this practice, the marriage of Yu Hŭi-ch’un’s grandson was kept modest despite the fact that Yu Hŭi-ch’un was a high government official. The nuptial clothing and fabrics were prepared in the groom’s house long before the wedding. Yu’s wife prepared a gift for her future granddaughter-in-law even before Yu’s grandson reached the age of marriage. Although coordinated by the bridegroom’s family, the preparation of other bridal gifts, such as the bridegroom’s horse-set and decoration of the wedding box, was actually carried out by special artisans. Other preparations for Kwang-sŏn’s wedding were made by people outside the bridegroom’s home, such as neighbors, other relatives, and members of Yu Hŭi-ch’un’s social network.
As shown in Table 2, wedding goods were provided in several ways. The preparations undertaken by the family of the bridegroom were related to the wedding ceremony itself. The groom’s father, who held the Junior Rank Nine position of Nŭngch’ambong (Keeper of royal tombs) was away from home, and therefore was not deeply involved in the preparations. However, he sent his son a new hat and belt, as well as a hat for his servant to wear on the wedding day. The groom’s mother was not healthy enough to take care of her son’s wedding. Yu Hŭi-ch’un, the bridegroom’s grandfather, hosted the marriage, bringing two servants from the southern part of the peninsula where he was born. As the wedding host, Yu Hŭi-ch’un ordered a special artisan to make the stirrup for the wedding horse, and to wrap the silk around the wedding letter box. His wife dyed silk fabrics and sewed the groom’s wedding clothing and wedding box for the bridal gift, which contained several lengths of silk fabric. As they mostly consisted of expensive and colorful silk fabrics that could not be immediately attained, the bridal gift preparations took place over a long period of time. Not all the wedding items were made at home. Some necessary items were borrowed from friends and kin. The fact that wedding ceremonies were occasionally held in his neighborhood allowed Yu to receive some community assistance. Some friends sent items before Yu even asked. Yu requested items related to the preparation and decoration of the horses which would be needed for the wedding day procession. The decorative arrow which would be worn by the groom was sent by a close friend. Some of Yu’s pupils sent the groom a ceremonial hat and shoes which had been used in the weddings of their own sons. A huge wrapping cloth and a wedding box carrier were borrowed from a friend. The groom’s decorative fan was sent by Yu’s son-in-law, who also sent three servants to accompany them on the wedding day. Additionally, Yu’s relatives and nephews sent servants and horses for the day of the nuptials.
Officials also contributed by giving or lending rare items that were hard to obtain. For instance, the saddle and decorations were borrowed from a super-intendant of post stations. The potassium nitrate used for the torches was sent by a governor’s aide (
As demonstrated by these wedding preparations, the steps undertaken by the groom’s family were confined to preparing the items necessary for the wedding ceremony itself. Influence and official positions were used to secure goods from relatives and friends. Moreover, Yu, who once held a high government position, utilized public resources and social capital for his grandson’s wedding ceremony. By extending invitations to his high-ranking friends and asking them to be special wedding guests, or
The most visible measure for judging an official in Chosŏn society was his adherence to Confucian standards. In order to be considered a loyal servant to the king, an official needed to maintain a strict adherence to Confucian procedures during his parents’ funerals. The degree of Confucianization observed in the performance of a funeral was considered a litmus test for an official’s Confucian piety. However, for most elites of the sixteenth century, funeral rites were practiced in a very mixed manner.
According to the
Yi was forced to move his father’s tomb because its location was going to overlap the boundaries of the royal tombs. The new grave for his father was to be united with his deceased mother’s tomb. Coincidentally, the tomb relocation period for Yi’s father overlapped the three year mourning period for his mother. The account in Yi Mun-gŏn’s diary reveals the mindset of
In the following section, the process and preparation of the tomb relocation rite for Yi Mun-gŏn’s father will be examined.5
(1) Funeral Rite Procedures
Unlike most members of the
As shown in Table 3, Confucian procedures for tomb relocation such as removing the dead body from the old tomb and dressing it in new clothes before transferring it to the new coffin were strictly followed. As each new procedure began early in the morning, Yi started preparations at dawn of each day. Sacrificial rites for the earth god, old grave god, and new grave god were performed separately. It can be inferred from this record that Yi tried to follow the Confucianized procedures for the relocation rite delineated in the
The first procedural step in the tomb relocation ritual was the opening of the old tomb (1). It was on a frigid winter day that Yi shoveled away the snow, and then performed the ceremony dedicated to the earth god. During this ceremony, Yi and his nephew had to change their clothing for Yi’s father’s funeral. They removed the
The scope of the relatives who participated in this ritual reflects the boundaries of Yi’s close kin. These included his cousin and his cousin’s son, whose roles were included in the five mourning grades, or so-called
As we can see in the performance of his father’s tomb relocation rituals, Yi Mun-gŏn did his best to strictly follow Confucian guidelines. However, his persistent concern for geomancy and his three-year mourning period for his mother were not part of standard Confucian practice. Rather, these seem to have been remnants of more traditional Korean society. The fact that the youngest son hosted the funeral rather than the eldest grandson is further evidence that the clan did not perform their roles in a strictly Confucian manner. Thus, patriarchy would appear to have been in a transitional phase when viewed within the confines of the funeral procedures undertaken by Yi Mun-gŏn.
(2) The Preparation of Funeral Rites
Although the rite itself was completed in a short period of time, the actual preparations began in the eleventh month of 1535 and did not conclude until the second month of the following year. One hundred days of preparation were necessary. This is because the mobilization of the resources required for the funeral rite demanded massive human and material effort. Some of the items were manufactured at home, and others were provided by members of the extended social and familial networks. Table 4 shows Yi’s preparation of the funeral rite using his own resources, as well as those of kin and non-familial social networks.
As shown in Table 4, Yi was very meticulous in his preparations for and performance of his father’s tomb relocation rituals. To make sure he was following the correct procedures, Yi borrowed a copy of the
While he was attending to his mother’s tomb, Yi asked his wife to make clothing to wear on the occasion of the opening of his father’s tomb. Food and drink for the day of the ceremony such as
Yi asked a blacksmith to make the tools, iron nails, and shovels necessary for making the coffin and tomb. Servants were ordered to make decorative instru-ments for the funeral ceremony. Thick white paper, wood, straw mats, cotton fabrics, and decorations for the funeral rite were sent by Yi’s kin and friends who were members of his and his father’s networks. Apart from these items, Yi’s cousin sent decorations which he had borrowed from members of his own network for the funeral ceremony.
The preparation of the coffin was completed in two phases with the manufacture of an inner- and outer-coffin. During this period, coffins were structured such that an outer-coffin covered the inner one that contained the corpse. The Hoegwangmyo, which consisted of an inner coffin, outer coffin, and lime-soil mixture, could be traced back to the
The most urgent issue however was finding carpenters and rulers to carve the wood. Since carpenters were not always available, Yi had to borrow measuring rulers from his neighbor. Yi recounted his extreme frustration from the beginning to the end of his supervision of the workers, regularly complaining about their negligence and laziness. Yi was even forced to delay the onset of the work on the first day because of snow. While he consistently made efforts to keep the carpenters happy and started each day by offering them a drink, the latter routinely arrived late, failed to show up without notice, or forgot to bring their tools. They would also regularly leave without having made any progress on their work. Yi’s servant’s requests for a carpenter to come were roundly ignored by the latter. When Yi asked for the main board for the coffin, the carpenter refused to send it. Instead, the carpenter requested a letter from Yi guaranteeing grain as compensation for his labor. Even though progress was hampered by the snow, Yi had to pay a half-day wage of cotton clothing to the carpenters. It was not until several days before the moving of the dead body that the inner-coffin and outer-coffin were finally completed.
The role of officials in carrying the outer-coffin carved by carpenters and resined by Yi’s nephew was critical because they provided the ships, drivers, and carriages needed to transport the coffin. The provincial governor provided massive amounts of such provisions as millet and rice to feed several hundred workers during the preparation of the new tomb. Most of the workers were provided by the official in charge of the district where the tomb was to be relocated. Yi wrote letters to government officials asking for food and other necessities. In addition, high officials sent materials essential for the construction of the tomb that were not attainable by Yi himself such as coal and resins. In short, Yi relied heavily on his social network when it came to the relocation of his father’s tomb.
3As far as the Miam ilgi is concerned, this article relies on the version produced by the Chosŏnsa p’yŏnsuhoe (1938) as well the version translated into modern Korean by the Tamyang hyangt’o munhwa yŏn’guhoe (1996). 4Namgwiyŏgahon indicated that a man stayed at his wife’s house after the marriage (sŏryubugahon 壻留婦家婚) or lived in one’s wife’s home (ch’ŏgasari). 5This study relies on the annotated version of the Mukchae ilgi published by Kim Hyŏnyŏng (1998). 6Yŏnbok (練服) indicated mourning clothes made of coarse silk. Such clothes were worn from the first anniversary of the death of a person until the memorial service held twenty-seven months after the funeral. 7In Confucian funeral rituals, the closeness of relatives to the deceased is clearly demarcated by five kinds of funeral clothing. 8A geomancer is a person who searches for auspicious sites for graves and houses based on the tenets of Eastasian philosophy regarding the interpretation and use of land and space. On the other hand, a fortuneteller is a person who recommends auspicious dates, informs people of inauspicious dates, makes predictions and gives advice regarding coming events. 9Kwa indicates Korean traditional cookies made by frying flour in oil. Although the original document referred to kwa (果), it appears to have denoted ‘making kwa’ (菓), a variant of the character kwa (果). References to chegwa (祭果) on other dates would seem to indicate that kwa (果) was in fact being referred to herein. Chu refers to Korean traditional wine and myŏn to Korean traditional noodles.
This study presents an empirical analysis of the underlying procedures and preparations for the wedding and funeral rites of two Korean
In the wedding, patriarchal domination was seen in terms of the rules of residence, utilization of family resources, and reciprocal family relations. Yu Hŭi-ch’un’s grandson’s wedding took the form of
A look at funeral procedures also reveals that patriarchal domination in mid-century Chosŏn elite families also seemed to take on a rather mixed form. It can be examined in the filial piety, less organized paternal kinship, emotion towards maternal kinship, and weak Confucian piety between social classes such as master and skilled workers. The tomb relocation ritual for Yi Mun-gŏn’s father reveals the preservation of filial piety. In preparation for the ceremony, Yi borrowed a textbook about the performance of funeral rites, and adhered to Confucian procedures as faithfully as he could. The relatives participating in the funeral included Yi’s nephew, uncle and cousin, and their sons. Patrilineal kinsmen were more involved in the funeral rites than maternal ones; nevertheless, their roles were not strictly organized. Yi’s emotional attachment to his mother and the proper observation of his mother’s mourning period were not easy for him to relinquish. These were customs handed down from the preceding Koryŏ period when mourning by the kin on the mother’s side was equally as emphasized as that by the kin of the father. Thus, the rule of primogeniture was not yet established at the societal level, nor strictly followed by some people, during mid-Chosŏn. Confucian piety between social classes was shown during the funeral preparations; however, relationships that both contravened and conformed to Confucianism co-existed.
Patriarchal domination or patrimonial characteristics can be seen in the preparation of both the wedding and funeral rites examined herein. Regarding the patrimonial economy of the rituals performed by Yu Hŭi-ch’un and Yi Mun-gŏn, one finds evidence of self-sufficient economies in that they manufactured ceremonial goods at home and obtained necessary items with the help of kin and governmental officials. Yu’s patriarchal control over resource mobilization extended to the artisans who crafted the decorations for his grandson’s wedding ceremony. Both Yu and Yi asked their kinsmen and friends to donate or lend necessary items. Goods which were not provided by kin were borrowed from neighbors and government officials. In keeping with their previous government positions, Yu and Yi primarily utilized their social rather than kinship networks, and as such lessened the patriarchal domination displayed with kinsmen. Exer-cising government power for an individual ceremony was a common form of appropriation of public goods among elites, and can be seen as having been a patrimonial characteristic of sixteenth-century Chosŏn society.
This demonstration of official support for funeral rites was not confined to Yi’s household. Throughout the Chosŏn dynasty, official support was given to high officials in similar positions to that of Yi Mun-gŏn (Miyajima 1996; Chŏng 2003). Such practices were based on the belief that the government should perform the role of parent on behalf of a loyal subject who was like a filial son to the king. Moreover, these duties were performed by local rather than high government officials. Thus, it would appear to have been standard practice for
Although, modern scholars have argued that the root of patriarchy can be traced back to the Chosŏn era, the characteristics of such patriarchal domination and patrimonial traits in sixteenth-century Chosŏn demonstrate that not only was it less strict than what has heretofore been thought, but this system was also operated in a rather flexible manner. Through an analysis of the marriage and funerary rites described in these diaries, this study has demonstrated that Chosŏn society during this period was in a transition towards Confucianization—although, unlike his contemporaries, Yi strictly adhered to Confucian rites and displayed sincere piety towards his dead father. For his part, Yu adopted a wedding style that was a compromise between a Confucian and indigenous one. Given that both individuals were dedicated neo-Confucian scholars during the mid-Chosŏn era, the differences in the degree of Confucianization exhibited during each ritual would seem to imply that filial piety was taken more seriously than wedding rites during this era.
The flexibility of patriarchy in the sixteenth century can be explained by the boundary between kin and related inheritance customs in Korea. As the mother’s and father’s sides were treated equally, daughters had an equal right to family property. Women held equal inheritance rights to the property the groom might acquire through the bride, such as land which existed near the bride’s family’s house (Kim 1969). Therefore, we can see that uxorilocality existed. During sixteenth-century Chosŏn, sons-in-law who resided with the bride’s family were regarded as a member of the in-law’s family. In terms of ancestral rituals, the son-in-law or the son of the host’s daughter could play a role and even inherit the position of the host in the performance of ancestral rituals. In keeping with this mentality, the tombs of famous sixteenth-century Confucian scholars were commonly found near their father-in-law’s lineage tombs (Yi 1992).
A more rigid degree of Confucianized patriarchy is believed to have emerged after the mid-seventeenth century. In fact, it was not until this time that the adopted son of a relative was treated as a formally legalized son in terms of ancestral rites and property inheritance (Pak 1999, 701). Patrilineal inheritance of property through the eldest son, even though he was an adopted son, was thus expected to empower the status of the patriarch within the family from both a material and ideological standpoint (Pak 1999). This can be construed to mean that the systematic organization of paternal kin, which would later exercise control over the status of women, had not yet become popular in mid-Chosŏn society (Park 2010).
10The term hyangyak refers to self-governance rules of a local community. It was introduced by the sarim faction during the reign of King Chungjong of Chosŏn. Yi Hwang and Yi Yi established the Yean Hyangyak and Haeju Hyangyak based on the Lushi Xiangyue (呂氏鄕約) of China.