Crown Prince Sado

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Crown Prince Sado (13 February 1735 – 12 July 1762), also known as Crown Prince Jangheon, was the second son of the Korean king Yeongjo of Joseon (1694 – 1776). Due to the prior death of Sado's older half-brother Crown Prince Hyojang (1728), the new prince was the probable royal heir. Prince Sado was not given an opportunity to reign. At the age of 27 he was executed by order of his father and died of starvation by being confined in a rice chest.[1] His father gave him the posthumous title Sado, meaning "Thinking of with great sorrow."

Yi Seon, Crown Prince Sado
이선 사도세자
Crown Prince of Joseon
Reign1744 - 1762
PredecessorCrown Prince Hyojang
SuccessorCrown Prince Yi San
Born13 February 1735
Hanseong, Kingdom of Joseon
Died12 July 1762 (1762-07-13) (aged 27)
Hanseong, Kingdom of Joseon
ConsortPrincess Consort Hyegyeong
Secondary Consort Yeongbin
Secondary Consort Pingae
IssueCrown Prince Uiso
Jeongjo of Joseon
Prince Euneon
Princess Cheongyeon
Prince Eunshin
Princess Cheongseon
Princess Cheonggeun
Prince Eunjeon
Posthumous name
King Jangjong Shinmun Hwanmu Jangheon Gwanghyo the Great of Korea
Temple name
Jangjong, Jangjo
HouseJeonju Yi
FatherYeongjo of Joseon
MotherRoyal Noble Consort Yeong
Crown Prince Sado
Revised RomanizationJangjo
Birth name
Revised RomanizationI Seon
McCune–ReischauerYi Sŏn
Posthumous name
Revised RomanizationSado Seja
McCune–ReischauerSado Seja



Letter written by Crown Prince Sado to his father-in-law Hong Bong-han.

Lady Hyegyeong, Sado's wife, wrote a memoir in 1805 detailing their life together. She records that the prince suffered a severe illness in 1745, during which he often lost consciousness.[2] Although he recovered, the tense relationship between Sado and King Yeongjo led to him experiencing severe anxiety whenever in his father's presence.[3] When Sado came of age at 15, his father appointed him regent, giving him the power to make decisions on administrative matters.[4] Lady Hyegyeong describes King Yeongjo as perpetually dissatisfied with whichever course of action Sado chose.[5] Yeongjo also did not permit Sado to visit the ancestral tombs until as late as 1756, nor was he allowed to attend auspicious court events.[6] Yeongjo also always made sure to chastise his son in front of a large crowd, either of ladies-in-waiting or eunuchs.[7] As a result, Sado formed a strong bond with his sister Princess Hwahyeop, who was similarly disfavoured by their father. When she died in 1752, Sado was reported to have grieved intensely.[8]

In 1752, Sado read a Taoist text called Okchugyeong (Korean옥추경; Hanja玉樞經). Whilst reading, he hallucinated that he saw the Thunder God. Henceforth, he was terrified of thunder and refused to touch any object engraved with the characters of the book.[9]

Sado took a secondary consort, Yeongbin (Royal Noble Consort Suk), with whom he had a son in 1754. Terrified of his father's anger, Sado forced her to take abortive medicines, but still, the child was born safely. Arrangements for Yeongbin's delivery and housing were made by Lady Hyegyeong.[10] Sado had another son with Yeongbin in 1755, from whom the first emperor of Korea was descended.[11]


In 1757, King Yeongjo's legal mother (Queen Inwon) and wife (Queen Jeongseong) died within a month of each other. Sado had been close to both of them and their deaths led to a marked deterioration in his mental health and relationship with his father.[12] As a way of dealing with his frustration and rage, Sado beat his eunuchs.[7] In the same month as the burial of Queen Jeongseong, Sado walked into his chambers holding the severed head of a eunuch whom he had killed, forcing the ladies-in-waiting and his wife to view it. After this, he frequently killed palace staff to release his emotions,[13] as well as assaulting and raping many ladies-in-waiting.[13] Lady Hyegyeong reported Sado's issues to Royal Noble Consort Yeong, but begged her not to speak to anyone of the matter, as she feared for her own safety if Sado discovered she had told someone.[13] By 1758, a previous phobia of Sado's regarding clothing (vestiphobia) became intensely problematic.

For him to get dressed, I had to have ten, twenty, or even thirty sets of clothes laid out. He would then burn some, supposedly on behalf of some ghost or other. Even after this, if he managed to get into a suit of clothes without incident, one had to count it as great good luck. If, however, those serving him were to make the slightest error, he would not be able to put his clothes on, no matter how hard he tried. In the process, people were hurt, even killed. It was truly dreadful.

Late in 1757, Sado took another secondary consort, Pingae (Royal Noble Consort Gyeong), who had been a lady-in-waiting to his grandmother, so his relations with her were considered to breach the incest taboo.[15] When Yeongjo found out, he berated his son and Sado eventually jumped down a well, but a guard pulled him out. Lady Hyegyeong had, by this point, managed to have Pingae hidden in the home of Sado's sister, Princess Hwawan.[16]

On his birthday in 1760, Sado suffered a burst of outrage at his parents, berating Royal Consort Yeong, as well his own son, and two daughters.[17] After this, he demanded that Princess Hwawan, use her influence over King Yeongjo to move palaces and allow Sado to visit the springs at Onyang.[18] He also threatened to kill her; an event witnessed by Lady Hyegyeong and Sado's mother.[19] Sado was physically violent toward his wife, which made it necessary for Lady Hyegyeong to avoid court events to hide the bruises.[20]

In 1761, Sado beat Pingae in a fit of rage. He left her on the floor, where she died. Lady Hyegyeong prepared her body for the funeral rites, but, on his return, Sado reportedly said nothing about Pingae's death.[21]


In the summer of 1762, an altercation with an official at court enraged Sado. In revenge, he threatened to kill the official's son[22] and attempted to sneak through a water passage to the upper palace. He failed to find the son and, instead, confiscated clothing and items belonging to him. Rumours that Sado had attempted to enter the upper palace to kill King Yeongjo spread around the court.[23] Fearing for the safety of her grandchildren, Royal Consort Yeong begged Yeongjo to deal with Sado.[24] By court rules, the body of a royal could not be defiled and, under the then-common practice of communal punishment, Sado's wife and son (the family's only direct male heir) could also face death or banishment if he were executed as a criminal.[25] As a solution, Yeongjo ordered Sado to climb into a wooden rice chest (roughly 4x4x4ft) on a hot July day in 1762.[26] According to Lady Hyegyeong's memoirs, Sado begged for his life before getting into the chest, though he attempted to get out again.[27]

Along with her children, Lady Hyegyeong was taken back to her father's house on the same day. After two days, King Yeongjo had the chest containing Sado tied with rope, covered with grass, and moved to the upper palace.[28] Sado responded from inside the chest until the night of the seventh day; the chest was opened and he was pronounced dead on the eighth day.[29] Yeongjo then restored him to the position of crown prince.[30]

Conspiracy theoryEdit

During the 19th century, there were rumors that Prince Sado had not been mentally ill, but had been framed; however, these rumors are contradicted by his wife, Lady Hyegyeong, in The Memoirs of Lady Hyegyeong. Sado's death remains an issue of debate as to whether his death was a retribution for his actual misconduct or if he was the victim of a conspiracy by his political opponents.


Crown Prince Sado was buried on Mt. BaebongSan in Yangju. His body was moved by his son, King Jeongjo, to its current location in 1789, then called Hyeollyungwon near Suwon, 30 kilometers south of Seoul. Five years later the Suwon Hwaseong Fortress was built by King Jeongjo, specifically to memorialize and honor his father's tomb (the construction lasted 1794-1796, while the official reception was 1795). Lady Hyegyeong died and was buried with her husband in 1816.

Prince Sado and Lady Hyegyeong were posthumously elevated in status and given the titles Emperor Yangjo and Empress Heonyeong in 1899 during the reign of Emperor Gwangmu (Gojong). Their tomb and the adjacent tomb of their son, King Jeongjo, and Queen Hyoui were upgraded accordingly and renamed Yungneung.

Taboo and reinstatementEdit

Prince Sado was reinstated fifteen days after he died but King Yeongjo banned any mention of the prince's name for the rest of his reign. Because of this decision, Prince Sado's son, Jeongjo, who ascended the throne following the passing of King Yeongjo, as the heir to his deceased half-uncle (Crown Prince Hyojang) instead. One of Jeongjo's first statements upon becoming king, however, was to declare, "I am the son of Prince Sado."[31] Jeongjo always showed great filial devotion to his father, Crown Prince Sado, and he changed the posthumous name of his father's to a longer one, which is the origin of the latter's alternative title, Crown Prince Jangheon.


  1. Princess Consort Hyegyeong of the Pungsan Hong clan (6 August 1735 – 13 January 1816) (혜경궁 홍씨) [34][35]
    1. Yi Jeong, Crown Prince Uiso (27 September 1750 – 17 April 1752) (이정 의소세자)
    2. King Jeongjo (28 October 1752 – 18 August 1800) (왕세손 이산)
    3. Princess Cheongyeon (1754 - 9 June 1821) (청연공주)
    4. Princess Cheongseon (1756 - 20 July 1802) (청선공주)
  2. Royal Noble Consort Suk of the Buan Im clan (? - 1773) (숙빈 임씨)
    1. Yi In, Prince Euneon (29 May 1754 – 30 June 1801) (이인 은언군) [36]
    2. Yi Jin, Prince Eunsin (11 January 1755 – 29 March 1771) (이진 은신군) [37]
  3. Royal Noble Consort Gyeong of the Park clan (? - January 1761) (경빈 박씨)
    1. Princess Cheonggeun (1758 – 1 September 1835) (청근옹주)
    2. Yi Chan, Prince Eunjeon (14 August 1759 – 26 August 1778) (이찬 은전군)

His full posthumous nameEdit

  • Prince Successor Sado Sudeok Dongyeong Hongin Gyeongji Jangryun Ryungbeom Kimyeong Changhyu Jangheon
  • 사도수덕돈경홍인경지장륜륭범기명창휴장헌세자
  • 思悼綏德敦慶弘仁景祉章倫隆範基命彰休莊獻世子

His imperial posthumous nameEdit

  • Emperor Jangjo ui
  • 장조의황제
  • 莊祖懿皇帝

In popular cultureEdit


See alsoEdit



  1. ^ The Memoirs of Lady Hyegyeong, translated JaHyun Kim Haboush, p. 321
  2. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 252.
  3. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 254.
  4. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 256.
  5. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 258.
  6. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 272.
  7. ^ a b Kim Haboush (2013), p. 281.
  8. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 263.
  9. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 265.
  10. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 266.
  11. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 338-339.
  12. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 274-278.
  13. ^ a b c Kim Haboush (2013), p. 282.
  14. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 289.
  15. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 283-284.
  16. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 284-285.
  17. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 294.
  18. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 295-296.
  19. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 296.
  20. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 297.
  21. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 301.
  22. ^ This son refers to the son of Sin Man, Sin Gwang-su, who is also the husband of Princess Hwahyeop.
  23. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 316.
  24. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 318.
  25. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 2.
  26. ^ The Memoirs of Lady Hyegyeong (한중록, 閑中錄)
  27. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 320.
  28. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 324.
  29. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 325.
  30. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 327.
  31. ^ "Veritable Records of Jeongjo, day 10, month 3, year 0 of Jeongjo's reign". Veritable Records of the Joseon dynasty. Retrieved 17 September 2020.
  32. ^ Daughter of Yi Yu-beon (이유번) and Madame Gim
  33. ^ Also known as Lady Seonhui
  34. ^ Daughter of Hong Bong-han (홍봉한) —great-great-grandson of Princess Jeongmyeong (1603-1685), the only legitimate daughter of King Seonjo— and Lady Yi of the Hansun Yi clan.
  35. ^ Dignified as Queen Heongyeong 헌경왕후 in 1899 by emperor Gojong of Korea.
  36. ^ Grandfather of Cheoljong, the 25th King (철종)
  37. ^ Posthumous step-father of Prince Namyeon and, therefore, ancestor of Gojong
  38. ^ Jin, Eun-soo (15 October 2015). "The ever-changing history of Prince Sado". Korea JoongAng Daily. Retrieved 22 October 2015.

Works citedEdit

External linksEdit