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Monday, 5 January 2015

Tomb of Shin Saimdang, Beobwon-Dongmun, Paju, Gyeonggi Province: Shin Saimdang (1504~1551) - Wise Mother of Yulgok Yi I

Shin Saimdang (Hanja: 申師任堂, Born: October 29th 1504 in Jukheon-dong, Gangneung City, Gangwon Province – Died: May 17th 1551 in Dongmun-ri, Beobwon-eup, Paju City, Gyeonggi Province) whose born as Shin Inseon (Hangul/Hanja: 신인선/申仁善) was a Korean artist, writer, calligraphist, noted poet, and the mother of the Korean Confucian scholar Yulgok Yi I (1536-1584). Often held up as a model of Confucian ideals, her respectful nickname was Eojin Eomeoni (어진 어머니; "Wise Mother"). Her pennames were Saimdang, Inimdang (인임당/姻姙堂) and Imsaje (임사제/姙師齊).

Shin Saimdang was born and raised in Gangneung at the home of her maternal grandparents. She was a member of Pyeongsan Shin Clan (평산 신씨/平山申氏), a clan which is originated from Pyeongsan County, Northern Hwanghae Province, North Korea - where the progenitor of the clan, General Shin Sung-gyeom (신숭겸/申崇謙) played the instrumental role behind the founding of Goryeo Dynasty, led by King Taejo Wanggeon of the Royal House of Kaesong Wang and assisted by his fellow generals -  Hong Yu (홍유/洪儒), Bae Hyeon-gyeong (배현경/ 裵玄慶) and Bok Ji-gyeom (복지겸/卜智謙).

Her father, Shin Myeong-hwa (신명화/申命和) was a government official but did not actively join politics. Her mother was Lady Lee, the daughter of Lee Sa-on (이사온/李思溫) of Yongin Yi Clan. Shin had four younger sisters. Her maternal grandfather taught his granddaughter as he would do a grandson, and being raised in that atmosphere, Shin Saimdang received an education that was not common in that period. Besides literature and poetry, she was adept at calligraphy, embroidery and painting.

As she was raised in a son-less household, she spent much time at her parents' house even after her marriage to Commander Yi Won-su (이원수/李元秀) at the age of 19, with her husband's consent. She accompanied her husband to his official posts in Seoul and rural towns, gave birth to Yi I in Ojukheon Villa at Gangneung, but suddenly died after moving to the Pyongan region at the age of 48.

Saimdang was able to cultivate her talents thanks to an unconventional household and understanding husband, in a rigid Confucian society. Having had no brothers, she received an education that would have only been bequeathed to a son, and this background greatly influenced the way she educated her children.

Shin Saimdang's artwork is known for their delicate beauty; insects, flowers, butterflies, orchids, grapes, fish and landscapes were favorite themes. Approximately 40 paintings of ink and stonepaint colors remain, although many others are assumed to exist.

Unfortunately, not much of her calligraphy is left but her style was greatly praised in her time, with high-ranking officials and connoisseurs writing records of her work. The scholar Eo Suk-gwon (어숙권/魚叔權), at the time of King Myeongjong, mentioned in his book entitled Paegwan Japgi (패관잡기/稗官雜記, "The Storyteller's Miscellany") that Saimdang's paintings of grapes and landscapes compared to those of the notable artist Ahn Gyeon (안견/安堅). Far later, in 1868, the governor of Gangneung remarked upon seeing Saimdang's work that "Saimdang's calligraphy is thoughtfully written, with nobility and elegance, serenity and purity, filled with the lady's virtue".

Shin Saimdang is the first woman to appear on the highest domination of South Korean won, the 50000 won note, first issued in June 2009. Feminist critics, however, have criticized her selection as reinforcing sexist stereotypes about women's roles.

The observe view of 50000 won - the highest domination of South Korean Won, featuring Lady Shin Saimdang and her painting, Chochungdo.