Naemyeongbu (Korean: 내명부; Hanja: 內命婦), literally Women of the Internal Court, was a category of rank in the Joseon dynasty royal court that referred to concubines and female officials living within the palaces. It was separate from the oemyeongbu (Korean: 외명부; Hanja: 外命婦) category, which consisted of royal women living outside the palace.
Although regulations concerning court ladies were introduced under King Taejo, detailed definitions of ranks, titles, and duties were outlined in the State Code of Joseon, promulgated under King Seongjong, where the term naemyeongbu appears. Naemyeongbu comprised women serving at court and living in the palaces but excluded the queen, who was beyond rank and oversaw the court ladies. By contrast, gungnyeo refers to all women at court below the major 1st rank (1A).
Within the naemyeongbu, the naegwan (Korean: 내관; Hanja: 內官) were concubines from the major 1st rank (1A) to minor 4th rank (4B), and they did not play any role in the household chores of the palace. Ladies from the major 5th rank (5A) to minor 9th rank (9B) were called gunggwan (Korean: 궁관; Hanja: 宮官), or alternatively yeogwan and na-in. They were responsible for various palace chores depending on their position and might work in the royal chambers, kitchen, or laundry.
Queens and crown princessesEdit
The legal spouse of a king or crown prince during the Joseon was selected through a specific procedure that differed from matchmaking practices common outside the royal family. The government issued a ban on marriages in noble households throughout the country, indicating that unmarried daughters of the aristocracy between the ages of 13 and 17 were potential candidates. Depending on the age of the crown prince, girls as young as 9 were sometimes considered, which occurred in the selections of Lady Hyegyeong and Queen Shinjeong. A temporary department called the Office of the Royal Wedding (Korean: 가례도감; Hanja: 嘉禮都監) was installed to manage all relevant tasks.
On announcement of the marriage ban, aristocratic families were required to submit details of their unmarried daughters' birth dates and times, as well as the family's geneological records up to three generations. Candidates were required to be beautiful in appearance and virtuous in character. Those who were not considered physically attractive were disqualified, regardless of their family lineage or virtue. Five to six candidates were selected based on this, which was whittled down to two or three candidates in the second stage, with the bride-to-be selected in the third round. This third presentation was conducted in the presence of the king and queen dowager, who consulted three state councillors before making the final decision.
After selection, gifts of silk and jewellery were sent to the bride's family, and the bride moved to a detached palace where she was instructed in palace etiquette. The wife of a king was then formally invested as queen, after which she moved into the palace to undergo a consummation ceremony. The next day, she was greeted by all palace staff and herself went to greet the queen dowager and queen mother. An invested queen of Joseon would then receive formal recognition from the Emperor of China acknowledging her legitimacy.
Despite the benefits of one's daughter being selected as the king or crown prince's primary wife, aristocratic families were often reticent to marry their daughters into the royal family and quickly arranged marriages for their young daughters when a selection was anticipated. One lady of the Gwon clan even feigned insanity during the presentation to avoid being chosen as crown princess.
If the queen consort did not produce a male heir, similar formal procedures as those used to select the queen were followed to recruit royal concubines. Women thus selected entered the palace at the minor 2nd rank (2B) or higher, and they would be granted a special title if they had a son who became crown prince. Royal concubines were sometimes selected from women up to the age of 20.
Court ladies of the major 5th (5A) to minor 9th (9B) ranks were recruited through various processes depending on the role. They were originally selected from among female servants who worked for public offices or the daughters of gisaeng, but gradually daughters of respectable families came to be recruited. To avoid their daughters being taken into the palace, many such families married off their daughters very young, leading to a revision to the State Code that girls born to good families would not be recruited. However, Lee Bae-yong suggests that this rule probably only applied to court ladies of the lower ranks, whereas those working closely with the king or queen potentially continued to be recruited from good families.
Girls were recruited between ages four to 10, and successful candidates were bound to live their entire lives in the palace. The young girls were trained in their duties and taught to write in Korean vernacular script, as well as some Chinese characters. They began formally working around ages 11 to 12, with a coming-of-age ceremony held when they turned 18. A woman only became eligible to hold the rank of sanggung (5A) after 35 years of service. Both the head sanggung as well as the sanggung who personally attended the king or queen could hold tremendous influence and power, but they typically lost this if a new monarch or consort was installed.
The Queen Consort (jungjeon 중전) was followed by 4 categories of high-ranked royal consorts, with 2 levels each. Level a (jeong, 정) ranked above level b (jong, 종):
For the rank of Bin, the King or Queen consort would attach a prefix in association with the character/personality of the Royal Consort, such as Huibin (Hui = Radiant), Sukbin (Suk = Clarity/Purity), Euibin (Eui = Appropriate/Fitting), and so forth. However, they are all of the same rank "Bin" so they are all of equal rank.
5a. sanggung (상궁 or 尙宮) and sangeui (상의 or 尙儀) Court Ladies who served directly under the royal family members, and the head manager of their assigned department. Depending on their role and department, there would be internal ranking within the sanggung. For example, a sanggung who served the Queen has higher authority and ranking than a sanggung who serves a prince, princess, and/or concubine. A sanggung could also become a "Royal Concubine" if the King showed favor. They would be called "favored sanggung" and would be considered the highest rank of the 5a. However, since they are still in the rank of 5, the "favored sanggung" would not be considered a member of the royal family, part of the naegung, and considered a Royal Noble Consort. Instead, they would just be known as a concubine of the rank of sanggung. However, the favored sanggung would have a sanggung of her own to serve her. On some occasions the favored sanggung was promoted to the rank of Sukwon. The most notable case is Royal Noble Consort Hui of the Indong Jang clan. Officially admitted Royal Noble Consorts would start from the rank of Sukeui. Non-officially admitted Royal Noble Consorts would start from the rank of Sukwon. The most notable case is Royal Noble Consort Hui of the Indong Jang clan.
(Korean: 품계; Hanja: 品階)
|1A||正一品||Bin||빈||嬪||Supported the queen and discussed the etiquette of wives|
|2A||正二品||Soui||소의||昭儀||Supported the ceremonies of the queen|
|3A||正三品||Soyong||소용||昭容||Prepared ancestral rites and meals for guests|
|4A||正四品||Sowon||소원||昭媛||Oversaw the management of royal palaces on a daily basis|
|4B||從四品||Sukwon||숙원||淑媛||Wove silk and ramie cloth for presentation on a yearly basis|
|5A||正五品||Sanggung||상궁||尚宫||Escorted the queen; oversaw the sagi and jeoneon|
|Sangui||상의||尙儀||Responsible for all daily etiquette and procedures; oversawl saseol and jeondeung|
|5B||從五品||Sangbok||상복||尙服||Supplied clothing and embroidered badges and wrappings; oversaw saui and jeonsik|
|Sangsik||상식||尙食||Prepared meals and side dishes; oversaw saseon and jeonyak|
|6A||正六品||Sangchim||상침||尙寢||Responsible for the procedure of escorting the king to his chambers; oversaw saseol and jeondeung|
|Sanggong||상공||尙功||Managed the weaving and embroidery processes; oversaw saje and jeonchae|
|6B||從六品||Sangjeong (Gungjeong)||상정 (궁정)||尙正 (宮正)||Oversaw the conduct, work, and punishment of the court ladies|
|Sanggi||사기||司記||Responsible for documents inside palaces and had access to account books|
|7A||正七品||Jeonbin (Sabin)||전빈 (사빈)||典賓 (司賓)||Prepared meals for guests, looked after guests at banquets|
|Jeonui (Saui)||전의 (사의)||典衣 (司衣)||Responsible for the clothing and hair accessories of ladies in the gunggwan|
|Jeonseon (Saseol)||전선 (사선)||典膳 (司膳)||Prepared boiled and seasoned side dishes|
|7B||從七品||Jeonseol (Saseol)||전설 (사설)||典設 (司設)||Responsible for tents and rush mats, cleaning, and care of goods|
|Jeonje||전제 (사제)||典製 (司製)||Produced clothing|
|Jeoneon||전언 (사언)||典言 (司言)||Responsible for conveying messages between the king and the inner court|
|8A||正八品||Jeonchan||전찬||典贊||Helped with meals and guidance during guest receptions and events|
|Jeonsik||전식||典飾||Responsible for washing, combing, and clothing|
|Jeonyak||전약||典藥||Responsible for prescribed medicine|
|8B||從七品||Jeondeung||전등||典燈||Responsible for lights and candles|
|Jeonchae||전채||典彩||Wove silk and ramie cloth|
|Jeonjeong||전정||典正||Supported the gungjeong|
|9A||正九品||Jugung||주궁||奏宮||Affairs related to music|
In Korean history, Han clan of Cheongju produced 16 queens, the largest number of queens including 6 most queens in the Joseon dynasty. Queen Sohye wrote a book 'Naehun' introduction guide book for royal women.
- Queen Jeheon of the Haman Yun clan (1445–1482)
- Queen Sohye of the Cheongju Han clan
- Queen Jeonghui of the Papyeong Yun clan (1418–1483)
- Queen Munjeong of the Papyeong Yun clan (1501–1565)
- Queen Inhyeon of the Yeoheung Min clan (1667–1701)
- Queen Inwon of the Gyeongju Kim clan (1687–1757)
- Queen Jeongseong of the Dalsung Seo clan (1692–1757)
- Queen Jeongsun of the Gyeongju Kim clan (1745–1805)
- Queen Sunwon of the Andong Kim clan (1789–1857)
- Queen Cheonin of the Andong Kim clan (1837–1878)
- Empress Myeongseong of the Yeoheung Min clan (1851–1895, as Queen Consort)
- Empress Sunjeong of the Haepyeong Yun clan (1894–1966)
- Crown Princess Hwi of the Old Andong Kim Clan (1410–1429) – crown princess deposed for witchcraft
- Crown Princess Sun of the Haeum Bong Clan (1414–?) – crown princess deposed for relations with her maid
- Lady Hyegyeong (6 August 1735 – 13 January 1816) – author of the Memoirs of Lady Hyegyeong and wife of the executed crown prince Sado
- Lady Mishil (540-600), aristocrat instrumental in dethroning Jinji of Silla
- Noble Consort Hui of the Indong Jang clan (1659–1701), a key figure in the factional struggles during King Sukjong's reign, executed by poison for plotting murder
- Noble Consort Suk of the Haeju Choi clan (1670–1718), supporter of Queen Inhyeon during her deposition, mother to King Yeongjo
- Noble Consort Yeong of the Jeonui Lee clan (1696-1764), mother to the executed crown prince, Sado
- Noble Consort Ui of the Seong clan (1753–1786)
- Noble Consort Su of the Park clan (1770–1822)
- National Palace Museum of Korea (2016), p. 107.
- Yi 2008, p. 63.
- Yi 2008, p. 83.
- Yi 2008, p. 84.
- National Palace Museum of Korea (2016), p. 110.
- Kim Haboush 2013, p. 63–68.
- Yi 2008, p. 85.
- Yi 2008, p. 86–87.
- Yi 2008, p. 63–65.
- Yi 2008, p. 65.
- National Palace Museum of Korea (2016), p. 108.
- "MusicalAmerica - Terra Han introduces East Asian Royal women's identity through her own family traditions of Han clan of Cheongju". www.musicalamerica.com. Retrieved 12 May 2020.
- Kim Haboush, JaHyun (2013). The Memoirs of Lady Hyegyŏng: The Autobiographical Writings of a Crown Princess of Eighteenth-Century Korea (2 ed.). Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-20055-5.
- National Palace Museum of Korea (2016). Ro, Myounggu; Park, Suhee (eds.). The King at the Palace: Joseon Royal Court Culture at the National Palace Museum of Korea. Translated by Kwon, Cheeyun. Seoul: National Palace Museum of Korea. ISBN 9788997748297. Retrieved 23 September 2020.
- Yi, Bae-yong (2008). Chan, Ted (ed.). Women in Korean History. Seoul: Ewha Women's University Press. ISBN 9788973007721. Retrieved 23 September 2020.