Queen Sindeok

Queen Sindeok (신덕왕후 강씨; 12 July 1356 – 15 September 1396[1]), of the Goksan Kang clan, was a posthumous name bestowed to the second wife and queen consort of Yi Dan, King Taejo; the first monarch of the Korean Joseon Dynasty. She was queen consort of Joseon and was honoured as Queen Hyeon (현비) from 1392 until her death in 1396. She was a political advisor of King Taejo and had a great influence on the founding of Joseon. She was posthumously called as Sindeok, the High Empress (신덕고황후, 神德高皇后).

Queen Sindeok
Queen consort of Joseon
Tenure17 July 1392 – 15 September 1396
PredecessorSun-bi No
SuccessorQueen Jeongan
Born12 July 1356
Goksan County, Seohae Province, Kingdom of Goryeo
Died15 September 1396 (1396-09-16) (aged 40)
Yi Deuk-bin’s (brother-in-law) residence, Hanseong, Kingdom of Joseon
(m. 1370⁠–⁠1396)
  • Princess Gyeongsun
  • Yi Bang-Beon, Grand Prince Muan
  • Yi Bang-Seok, Grand Prince Uian
Posthumous name
  • 순원현경신덕왕후; 順元顯敬神德王后
  • 신덕고황후; 神德高皇后 (1899)
HouseGoksan Kang
FatherKang Yun-seong
MotherInternal Princess Consort Jinsan of the Jinju Kang clan


Early lifeEdit

Lady Kang was born in Goksan County, Seohae Province (modern-day Goksan County, Hwanghae Province) on 12 July 1356, during the reign of King Chunghye of Goryeo, to Kang Yun-Seong of the Goksan Kang clan and his wife, Lady Kang of the Jinju Kang clan.

Through her father, Lady Kang is an ascendant of Kang Ho-gyeong and Kang Chung, who were the maternal ancestors of King Taejo of Goryeo, Wang Geon. She is also a descendant of Kang Bo-jeon, the third son of Kang Chung and uncle of Queen Jeonghwa, who re-established a family in the generation of his eighth-great-grandfather, Kang Ji-yeon, Internal Prince Shinseong, during the reign of King Gojong of Goryeo. Kang Ji-yeon was the progenitor of the Sincheon Kang clan (신천 강씨, 信川 康氏). Kang Bo-jeon eventually became the ancestors to Lady Sinjuwon, Kang Jo, Kang Ji-yeon, and Kang Yun-seong.

When Kang Ji-yeon's sixth great-grandson, Kang Seo, Lady Kang’s grandfather, was honored as Internal Prince Sangsan, he became the progenitor of the Goksan Kang clan (곡산 강씨, 谷山 康氏).

Lady Kang's uncle, Kang Yun-chung, was Taejo's uncle and the son-in-law of Hwanjo's older brother, Yi Ja-heung, Grand Prince Wanchang (King Dojo’s eldest son). Through this relationship, she was able to come into contact with Yi Seong-gye and soon became his second wife during his time on the battlefield.[2]

Meeting and MarriageEdit

There is a story on how Yi Seong-gye met his second wife, and it has been said that it’s a famous one.

According to the story, Yi Seong-gye's first meeting with Lady Kang was that one day, while hunting a tiger, Yi Seong-gye got thirsty and found a well, and there was a woman at the well. When Yi Seong-gye asked the woman to pour him some of her water, she poured water into a gourd and then floated a handful of her willow leaves on top of the water. At this, Yi Seong-gye rebuked her, saying, “What kind of evil is this?” The woman replied shyly that she had to rush because he was thirsty, and if Yi drank the cold water, he would get sick.

After hearing this, Yi Seong-gye, who was deeply moved by this, looked carefully at the woman, and her outstanding beauty. For a while, Yi Seong-gye was mesmerized by the woman's wisdom and beauty. The woman at the well was Lady Kang. This story is the same as the story of the meeting between King Taejo of Goryeo and Queen Janghwa. Queen Janghwa and Queen Sindeok are the second wives of the founder of the country, respectively, and are misleading in that they are the daughters of powerful local nobles, or the willow leaf tale handed down from many provinces is related to Yi Seong-gye, or that it may have been.

Lady Kang was eventually arranged to marry Yi Seong-gye around the 1370s. At the time of the marriage, Lady Kang was around 21 years younger than Yi. Because Lady Han had died in 1391, Lady Kang raised Lady Han’s children as her own despite them being around her age.

In March 1392, in the lunar calendar, when Yi Seong-gye fell and was seriously injured while riding a horse in Haeju, Jeong Mong-ju had tried to assassinate him. Lady Kang had them sent Yi Bang-won, who was living in the tomb of his birth mother, Lady Han, to Haeju in haste and get Yi Seong-gye safely to Haeju.

Lady Kang was also the one to mitigate the relationship between Yi Seong-gye and his fifth son, Yi Bang-won, from his first marriage. It was said that Lady Kang suppressed the anger of Yi Seong-gye, who severely rebuked Yi Bang-won for killing Jeong Mong-ju by sending an assassin in April of that year. This is a symbol of Lady Kang's resourcefulness and determination, and it can be said that it shows the serenity to do anything for her purpose of establishing a new country.

With the founding of Joseon, Lady Kang eventually became the first Queen Consort of Joseon on August 25 in 1392 (the 7th day of the 8th lunar month) and was given the title of Queen Hyeon (현비, 顯妃; Hyeonbi meaning Illustrious Consort).[3] She was also known by other titles such as Queen Kang (강비, 康妃; Kangbi) and Princess Boryeong (보령택주, 保寧宅主; Boryeong Taekju).

Involvement in Royal PoliticsEdit

Queen Hyeon tried to pass over the position of Crown Prince from the grown up princes of the deceased Queen Sinui, and pass on the throne onto one of her sons. To make her son successor to the throne, she made a political alliance with Jeong Do-jeon, who met her willingly, and successfully convinced Taejo to have her second son, Yi Bang-seok, Grand Prince Uian, as the next crown prince.[4]

However, it was not the eldest son or the sons and daughters of Queen Sinui. Yi Bang-won, Prince Jeongan could not accept the fact that the second son of his father’s second consort would become the crown prince. However, Yi Seong-gye still appointed Queen Hyeon’s son, Yi Bang-seok as the next heir. Yi Bang-won, the most politically ambitious, was outraged.

Death and AftermathEdit

Queen Hyeon soon died on 15 September 1396 after appointing her second son as crown prince.

Her death affected King Taejo immensely and held a mourning rite. The king built a small hermitage next to her tomb to pray for the Queen’s happiness, and had offered incense and tea every morning and evening. As soon as the Heungcheonsa Temple was completed, it became a daily routine for King Taejo to visit the tomb of his wife and temple. After visiting the tomb and temple, the king would spend the evenings with the remaining sons of Queen Sindeok, and would wait to hear the sound of the bell from the temple to put ashes on Queen Sindeok's tomb before going to bed.

Not only that, but during the Sura era, it was only after hearing the sutras pray for Queen Shindeok's happiness that King Taejo finally lifted a spoon and ate, showing sincerity and recovery to his wife.

Prime minister Jeong Do-jeon, planned to kill the sons of Queen Shinui to protect his position in the court and the position of the Crown Prince. Yi Bang-won, having heard about the plan and with the help with his wife, Princess Jeongnyeong, he came to palace where he killed Jeong Do-jeon and Queen Sindeok's two sons. The Prince also killed his younger half-sister’s husband, Yi Je, and those who supported the prime minister. Princess Gyeongsun was soon forced by her older half-brother to become a nun.

The anger of the princes and princesses of Queen Sinui fought against Queen Hyeon and her children where it reached a climax. In the end, that anger continued even after the Queen’s death, and later became the cause of Taejong's institutionalization of the Seo-eol ban and the Jeok-seo discrimination. This event is known as First Strife of Princes.[4]

The Queen bore Taejo three children; two sons who died in the strife and a daughter who lived to her twenties or thirties.



  • Great-Great-Grandfather
    • Kang Deuk-ham (강득함, 康得咸)[5]
  • Great-Grandfather
    • Kang Suk-jae (강숙재, 康淑才)
  • Grandfather
    • Kang Seo (강서) (1347 - 1424)[6]
  • Grandmother
  • Uncle - Kang Yun-gwi (강윤귀, 康允貴)
  • FatherKang Yun-seong (강윤성, 康允成) (? - December 1358)
  • Uncle - Kang Yun-chung (강윤충, 康允忠)[7]
  • Uncle - Kang Yun-ui (강윤의, 康允誼)
    • Uncle - Kang Yun-hwi (강윤휘, 康允暉)
    • Cousin - Kang Yeong (강영, 康永)
    • Cousin - Kang Woo (강우, 康祐)
  • Uncle - Kang Yun-bo (강윤부, 康允富)
  • Mother — Internal Princess Consort Jinsan of the Jinju Kang clan (증 진산부부인 진주 강씨, 晉山府夫人 晉州 姜氏)
    • Grandfather - Kang Eun (강은, 姜誾)
  • Siblings
    • Older brother - Kang Gye-kwon (강계권, 康繼權) (? - 1413)
    • Older brother - Kang Yun-kwon (강유권, 康有權)
      • Niece - Lady Kang of the Goksan Kang clan
        • Nephew-in-law - Lee Sang-hang (이상항, 李尙恒)



  • Daughter — Princess Gyeongsun (? – 8 September 1407) (경순공주)
    • Son-in-law - Yi Je (1365 – 1398) (이제, 李濟).[8]
      • Granddaughter - Lady Yi of the Seongju Yi clan (이씨, 李氏)
        • Grandson-in-law - Kim Deok-ryang (김덕령, 金德齡)[9]
          • Great-Grandson - Kim Wi-seong (김위성, 金潙聖)
      • Adoptive grandson - Yi Yun (이윤, 李潤)[10]
  • Son — Yi Bang-Beon, Grand Prince Muan (1381 – 6 October 1398) (이방번 무안대군)
    • Daughter-in-law - Grand Princess Consort Samhanguk of the Kaesong Wang clan (삼한국대부인 개성 왕씨).[11][12][13][14]
      • Adoptive grandson - Yi Hyo-sun, Prince Pungan (풍안군 이효손, 豊安君 李孝孫) (1403 - 1463)[15]
  • Son — Yi Bang-Seok, Grand Prince Uian (1382 – 6 October 1398) (이방석 의안대군)
    • Daughter-in-law - Deposed Crown Princess Hyeon of the Yu clan (폐세자빈 현빈 유씨)[16]
    • Daughter-in-law - Crown Princess Hyeon of the Buyu Sim clan (? – 1448) (현빈 심씨, 賢嬪 沈氏)[17]
      • Grandson - Yi Won-sun (원손, 元孫) (29 May/14 June 1398 - 26 August/6 October 1398)

In popular cultureEdit


  1. ^ In lunar calendar, the Queen was born on 14 June 1356 and died on 13 August 1396
  2. ^ 고려시대에는 경처와 향처라는 두 명의 정실부인을 둘 수 있었다. (Translation: During the Goryeo Dynasty, two court wives were allowed: Gyeongcheo (capital wife) and Hyangcheo (countryside wife).)
  3. ^ muchadoboutlove (2020-11-09). "Royal Titles of Joseon Consorts". the talking cupboard. Retrieved 2021-07-06.
  4. ^ a b "[신병주의 역사에서 길을찾다] 조선 태조의 무덤이 동쪽으로 간 까닭은?". [신병주의 역사에서 길을찾다] 조선 태조의 무덤이 동쪽으로 간 까닭은?세계일보 (in Korean). 2009-03-31. Retrieved 2021-07-06.
  5. ^ He is a 4th great-grandson of Kang Ji-yeon
  6. ^ The founder of the Goksan Kang clan
  7. ^ Yi Ja-chun, King Hwangjo’s (King Taejong’s father) older brother, Yi Ja-heung, Prince Wanchang (이자흥 완창대군, 完昌大君), became his cousin-in-law. Kang also became the uncle-in-law of Yi Ja-chun and the brother-in-law to Yi Ja-heung through his niece’s marriage
  8. ^ Was granted the royal title of “Prince Heungan, Yi Je” (흥안군 이제, 興安君 李濟). Son of Yi In-rip (이인립) of the Seongju Yi clan (성주 이씨, 星州 李氏)
  9. ^ He is the son of Lady Hong of the Namyang Hong clan (남양 홍씨, 南陽 洪氏; ? — 1376) and Kim Taek-jeong (김택정, 金澤精). Lady Hong is the daughter Hong Ryun and Royal Consort Ik of the Han clan (King Gongmin’s consort)
  10. ^ The son of Yi Bal (이발, 李潑; 1372 — 1426); the younger brother of Yi Je
  11. ^ Was also known as “Princess Gyeongnyeong” (경녕옹주, 慶寧翁主)
  12. ^ Eldest daughter and third child of Wang Woo, Prince Jeongyang (정양군 왕우, 定陽君 王瑀) (? - 23 March 1397) and Lady No of the Gyoha No clan (교하 노씨, 交河盧氏)
  13. ^ She is a 8th great-granddaughter of King Injong of Goryeo and a 5th great-granddaughter of King Shinjong of Goryeo through her father.
  14. ^ Her younger sister, Lady Wang of the Kaeseong Wang clan (개성 왕씨, 開城 王氏), married Queen Soheon’s uncle
  15. ^ He is a grandnephew of King Taejong through his older half-brother, Yi Wan-gye, Prince Wanpung (완풍대군, 完豊大君)
  16. ^ Was kicked out of the palace for killing an eunuch named Lee Man
  17. ^ After her husband was deposed and killed, she became known as Grand Lady of Han state (삼한국대부인, 三韓國大夫人)

External linksEdit

Queen Sindeok
Goksan Kang
Royal titles
New title
Queen consort of Joseon
1392 – 15 September 1396
Succeeded by
Queen Deok (Jeongan)
of the Gyeongju Kim clan