Queen Insu

Queen Sohye (舊1437 October 7 - 舊1504 May 11), of the Cheongju Han clan, was the only wife of Crown Prince Uigyeong. She never was the consort of a reigning king. Nevertheless, she was honored as Queen Insu (인수왕후) and later as Queen Dowager Insu (인수왕대비) during the reign of her son Yi Hyeol, King Seongjong. Moreover, she was later honored as Grand Queen Dowager Insu (인수대왕대비) during the reign of her grandson Yi Yung, Yeonsan-gun. After her death, she was posthumously honored with the title Queen Sohye (소혜왕후).

Queen Sohye
Naehun (Instructions for women)
Naehun (Instructions for women)
Grand Queen dowager of Joseon
인수 대왕대비
Queen dowager of Joseon
인수 대비
Queen with unspecified status
인수 왕비
Crown Princess consort of Joseon
Born7 October 1437
Hanseong, Joseon
Died11 May 1504 (aged 66)
Gyeongchun Hall, Changgyeong Palace Joseon
SpouseCrown Prince Uigyeong
IssueYi Jeong, Grand Prince Wolsan
Princess Myeongsuk
Yi Hyeol, King Seongjong
Posthumous name
HouseCheongju Han
FatherHan Hwak
MotherLady Hong of the Namyang Hong clan

She is mostly known for her proficiency in the Chinese Classics, Confucian and Buddhist as well, and for her involvement in the political affairs of her time,[2] from the accession of Prince Suyang to the throne to the reign of Yeonsangun. She authored the Naehun in 1475.

Lady Han, the Crown PrincessEdit

The future Queen Insu is born as a member of the Cheongju Han clan, a powerful yangban family with a long tradition of providing high-ranking officers and royal consorts as well. She was given a high education in Confucian values and the Chinese classics.

. Lady Han married to Yi Jang, Prince Dowon, during the reign of Munjong, the 5th Joseon ruler. Their families decided this union when Han Hwak, her father, was 4th Councilor (좌찬성) and Suyang, Dowon's father, a Grand Prince among the others. After the 1453 coup, aka Gyeyu Jeongnan (계유정난), Grand Prince Suyang became Chief State Councilor (영의정) and Minister of Personnel (이조 판서) as well. In the same move,[3] Han Hwak became Third State Councilor (우의정).

Moreover, Han Myeong-hoe (한명회 韓明澮), the organizer of the plot, was a third cousin (육촌오빠) of Lady Han, while Han Myeong-jin (한명진 韓明溍), another cousin, was also enlisted as 3,17 in the reward list (정난공신) for the coup.[4] This started the network of her political influence.[5]

In a second step, the 1455 coup deprived Danjong, the child King, of any power and instated Suyang to the trone, later honored with temple name Sejo. As a result, Dowon was elevated to the Crown Prince status as Crown Prince Uigyeong and Lady Han honored as Crown Princess Consort Su (수빈, Subin) on 舊1455-07-26.[6]

Insu, the Queen MotherEdit

In 1454, the Crown Princess bore Yi Jeong (Prince Wolsan), her first child, had a daughter (Princess Myeongsuk) the next year and gave birth to Yi Hyeol (Prince Jasan) in 1457. The same year, Uigyeong died on 舊1457 September 2. In the royal palace, the Crown Princess became known for her scholarly interest in Confucian education and she devoted herself to the education of the royal grandsons. She had a good relationship to King Sejo, who referred to her as a good daughter-in-law.[7] At the death of Sejo, the 2nd son of the late King accessed to the throne and the influence of Lady Han waned. But the reign of Yejong only lasted 14 months. And then, Jasan, the second son of Lady Han accessed to the throne in 1469.

Queen Sohye's grave

At this date, the status of Lady Han was not so clear, since Uigyeong never reigned. In a first step (1470), Uigyeong was elevated and honored posthumously as king without a temple name, so he was addressed as King Uigyeong (의경왕), and Lady Han received the ambiguous title Queen Insu (인수왕비, Insu Wangbi). The next year, several of Insu's direct relatives were enlisted as meritorious subjects:[8] Han Chi-hyeong (한치형, 淸城君) (2nd cousin 사천) as 3.17, together with her brothers Han Chi-in (한치인, 韓致仁), Han Chi-ui (한치의, 韓致義) and Han Chi-rye (한치례, 韓致禮) as 4.17, 4.23 and 4.26. Han Myeong-hoe himself was enlisted as 1.02.

In any case, the regency (1469–1476) was exerted by Grand Queen Dowager Jaseong, the mother-in-law of Insu, so that Insu's political influence was constrained to the point of not receiving a title acknowledging her as the mother of the reigning king. After some time, Insu's title still became matter of debate because queen consort title was reserved for primary consort of the reigning king, while Insu herself was the King's mother. But, in order to honour Insu as queen dowager, there was a need to determine the rank between her and Queen Dowager Inhye (Yejong's widow). Jaseong, as grand queen dowager and the most senior elder in the royal family, solved this problem with her statement that Insu had been entrusted with the task of protecting Yejong by the late King Sejo, implying her seniority above both the late Yejong and Queen Inhye. Thus, it was more appropriate to place Insu above Inhye. So Insu was honored as queen dowager in 1474 and had higher rank than Inhye, and her late husband received temple name Deokjong (덕종, 德宗), acknowledging them as Seongjong's formally recognized parents.

The young Queen Consort of the King died in 1474 at the age 17 and was posthumously honored as Queen Gonghye. The Ksitigarbha Pranidahana Sutra (The Great Vows of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva) was commissioned by the three queens dowager through the Royal Treasury Agency. This Sutra is now considered an important artifact for the study of printing and Buddhism during the Joseon Dynasty.[9]

Grand Queen Dowager Jaseong died in 1483 and was posthumously honored as Queen Jeonghui and Insu became the most influent elder in the palace, exerting a large part of the royal power. With the death of Seongjong and the accession of her grandson Yeonsangun, she became the Grand Queen Dowager (인수대왕대비) and gathered even more power. At the end, this led to a brutal clash and she died in 1504 after an altercation with Yeonsangun.

After her death, she was granted the posthumous name Queen Sohye (소혜왕후). Her tomb is at Gyeongneung Royal Tomb, Goyang (敬陵), [10] just beside Dowon's tomb. The later is a very simple one, since Dowon was only a Crown Prince at his death in 1457. On the other hand, Sohye's tomb was built in full regalia, and placed at the left of the Dowon's tomb since, in 1504, Sohye was deceased with the status of Grand Queen Dowager.


Queen Insu authored of the Naehun (Instructions for women) in 1475. This books appears as a Confucian morality guidebook for women, describing appropriate behavior in accordance with Confucian ideals. It can also be read as a manifesto describing self-cultivation as the most appropriate behavior for a women, endorsing the political activities of the author.

With the exception of a few poems, this book is the first known book written by a woman in Korea.[11]


  • Father: Han Hwak (1400 - 舊1456-09-11) (한확)
  • Mother: Lady Hong of the Namyang Hong clan (남양 홍씨)
  • Husband: Yi Jang, Crown Prince Uigyeong (1438 – 舊1457-09-02) (이장 의경세자)
    • Son: Yi Jeong, Grand Prince Wolsan (1454 - 舊1488-12-21) (이정 월산대군)
      • Daughter-in-law: Grand Princess Consort Seungpyeong of the Suncheon Park (1455 - 1506) (승평부대부인 박씨)[12][13]
    • Daughter: Princess Myeongsuk (1455 - 1482) (명숙공주)
      • Son-in-law: Hong Sang (1457–1513) (홍상)
    • Son: King Seongjong of Joseon (舊1547-07-30, 19 August 1457 – 20 January 1494) (조선 성종)
      • Daughter-in-law: Queen Gonghye of the Cheongju Han clan (8 November 1456 – 舊1474-04-15, 30 April 1474) (공혜왕후 한씨)
      • Daughter-in-law: Queen Jeheon of the Haman Yun clan (15 July 1455 – 舊1482-08-16, 29 August 1482) (제헌왕후 윤씨)
      • Daughter-in-law: Queen Jeonghyeon of the Papyeong Yun clan (1462–1530 ) (정현왕후 윤씨)

In popular cultureEdit


  • Ko, Dorothy; JaHyun Kim Haboush; Joan R. Piggott; Joan Piggott (2003). Women and Confucian Cultures in Premodern China, Korea, and Japan. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-23138-2. 250 pages.
  • Duncan, John (2015). "The Naehun and the Politics of Gender in Fifteenth-Century Korea". In Young-Key Kim-Renaud (ed.). Creative Women of Korea: The Fifteenth Through the Twentieth Centuries. pp. 26–57. ISBN 978-0-7656-3994-3.
  • Park, Si Nae (2005). Re-reading Queen Sohye's Naehun (Thesis). University of British Columbia. viii+105 pages.
  • Sillok (1471a). "Seongjong Sillok, 2년 3월 27일".
  • EncyKor (2020a). "계유정난" [Gyeyu Jeongnan, 1453]. Encyclopedia of Korean Culture.
  • Seoul History Compilation Center (2020b). "조선 단종 원년" [gyeyunyeon, 1453]. Seoul six hundred years history.
  • Seoul History Compilation Center (2020c). "조선 단종 3년 · 세조 원년" [eulhaenyeon, 1455]. Seoul six hundred years history.
  • "Queen Sohye's Instruction for Women (Queen mother Insu, Seongjong's mother)". Academy of Korean Studies. Retrieved 23 August 2019.
  • Cultural Heritage Administration (2020). "Royal Tombs". english.cha.go.kr. Retrieved 2020-05-12.
  • "Ksitigarbha pranidhana Sutra (Great Vows of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva), treasure=1567". Cultural Heritage Administration of Korea. 2008. Retrieved 2021-01-20.


External linksEdit

  1. Royal Ladies of Joseon Dynasty
  2. Royal Tombs of Joseon
Queen Insu
Cheongju Han clan
Royal titles
Preceded by
Queen Dowager Inhye (Ansun)
of the Cheongju Han clan

as sole queen dowager
Queen dowager of Joseon
1474 – 1494
with Queen Dowager Inhye (Ansun)
Succeeded by
Queen Dowager Jasun (Jeonghyeon)
of the Papyeong Yun clan
Preceded by
Grand Queen Dowager Jaseong (Jeonghui)
of the Papyeong Yun clan
Grand Queen dowager of Joseon
1494 – 1504
with Grand Queen Dowager Myeongui (Ansun) (1494–1498)
Succeeded by
Grand Queen Dowager Seongryeol (Munjeong)
of the Papyeong Yun clan