Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Memoirs of Lady Hyegyong: The Autobiographical Writings of a Crown Princess of Eighteenth-Century Korea” as Want to Read:
Blank 133x176
The Memoirs of Lady Hy...
JaHyun Kim Haboush
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Memoirs of Lady Hyegyong: The Autobiographical Writings of a Crown Princess of Eighteenth-Century Korea

3.9 of 5 stars 3.90  ·  rating details  ·  248 ratings  ·  33 reviews
Lady Hyegyong's memoirs, which recount the chilling murder of her husband by his father, is one of the best known and most popular classics of Korean literature. From 1795 until 1805 Lady Hyegyong composed this masterpiece, which depicts a court life whose drama and pathos is of Shakespearean proportions. Presented in its social, cultural, and historical contexts, this fir ...more
ebook, 376 pages
Published April 1st 1996 by University of California Press (first published January 1985)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Memoirs of Lady Hyegyong, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Memoirs of Lady Hyegyong

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,550)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Jun 19, 2013 Hadrian rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who like Historical K-Dramas
Recommended to Hadrian by: William T. Vollmann

Chrysanthemums painted by King Jeongjo of Joseon (r. 1776-1800).

This volume contains four separate writings from the decade of 1795-1805. Although the tone of these works varies wildly, they are all narratives of the Joseon royal court. Our author is only too familiar with this world, as she was forced into these labyrinths by marriage at the tender age of nine, and these writings date from her sixth decade.

Such a setting is different for the average Western reader, not only from the feuds of a
This is a tough book to get through. Try reading just the Introduction and the Memoir of 1805, if you're so inclined. It's a remarkable tragedy of 18th century Korean court life under the most impossible of situations written by woman's careful hand (a rare thing in pre-modern Asia). The Memoirs give "the facts" around the tragic life of Prince Sado, who appears to have suffered from an acute form of paranoia and schitzophrenia, and his wife, the Lady Hyegyong, who struggled daily to manage his ...more
Harry Rutherford
This is a properly remarkable book. It is, as the subtitle explains, ‘The Autobiographical Writings of a Crown Princess of Eighteenth-Century Korea’. Lady Hyegyŏng* was married into the royal family; she married Sado, the Crown Prince, when they were both nine years old. Sado never became king—he was executed in 1762 at the age of 27—but their son inherited the throne as King Chŏngjo. Remarkably, Hyegyŏng outlived him as well, and three of these four ‘memoirs’ were written after 1800, during the ...more
I found this book absolutely fascinating. The first 3 sections are take 'em or leave 'em, but the 4th section where she actually describes her husband's decent into madness is incredible. Plus the cultural history that goes a long with it really makes it great. If you like historical writings and are interested in Korean court life or Confucian court life, this book would engage you.
Justin Howe
Lady Hyegyong was married to the infamous Prince Sado, a probable paranoid schizophrenic, who was eventually sentenced to death by his parents.

Anyone interested in court intrigue and psychological character studies will find this book fascinating. Only I suggest reading it out of order, starting with the introduction and the first memoir then skipping to the fourth.
When Prince Sado was born in 1725, the long-awaited sole heir to the Korean throne, no one was happier than his father, King Yeongjo.

27 years later, on a hot summer day, the King forced his only son into a rice chest in the middle of a courtyard and left him there, without food or water, until he died 8 days later.

The memoirs of Prince Sado's wife, the Crown Princess Lady Hyegyong, explain why.

Made up of 4 memoirs, each directed at a different group of people and written in 1795, 1801, 1802,
Elijah Spector
I read bits of this for a Korean Civ class in '08 taught by Professor Haboush, who edited this book. I always meant to give the whole thing a read.

Near the end of 2013, I learned that JaHyun Kim Haboush died in early 2011. Now I want to give this a real read even more.
In this edition, the memoirs have been separated into the 4 sets of writings as they were originally written. Haboush makes clear the different purposes for which each set of histories were intended, and does well in clarifying the political or cultural situations that may be assumed or not made clear by Lady Hyegyong. As someone interested in Korean culture, I found the texts fascinating, though there is plenty there to recommend itself even for one without any particular interest in the countr ...more
The memoirs had the potential to be a fascinating book. The essential story of her husband Prince Sado's fate is one of jaw-dropping barbarity. I was very interested in the description of the King's neglect of and cruelty towards the prince- to the extent of blaming natural disasters on him- and how this may have caused his descent into madness.
The story is lamed by the narrator's intense Confucianism. Lady Hyegyong refuses to condemn any of her elders or relatives and worse, the reader is fo
I'll admit that there were parts of this book that I struggled reading a bit. There were bits that seemed repetitive and things that I'm sure were just cultural that I had a hard time wrapping my head around. But the final writing, when she explains what happened to lead up to her husband's eventual execution, is one of the more heartbreaking and fascinating things I've ever read. What an remarkable woman to have endured so much and have been brave enough to write about it in ways that were very ...more
Jun 20, 2007 Magid rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Korean princesses
A fascinating book about a culture of which I know nothing. These are the memoirs of Lady Hong, the daughter of a high-ranking 18th century Korean courtier/politician, who was plucked from the obscurity and innocence of her childhood home and groomed to be the future Queen of Korea. All that came to an end, though, when her husband, the Crown Prince, went mad, and was suffocated by being locked in a grain cabinet. I really got the sense of this woman's pragmatism, and how she seemed to deal with ...more
Helen Margarette Cortezano
An insider look on Joseon court life, the book vividly tells the tragedy of Crown Prince Sado and his struggling wife Lady Hyegyong. With its deglamorized accounts, this piece of literature will make you see Joseon monarchy in a different light.
Remarkable translation that makes clear that Kim Haboush is a wonderful writer. Intriguing politics wrapped up into the writing itself and the plot. I couldn't put it down once I picked it up.
Surprisingly easy to read--not sure if I should credit the translator, the original writer (who wrote in a vernacular Korean when others were still using a formal Chinese for "important" writing) or a combination.

The events of the Lady Hyegyong's life certainly lend credence to the claim that truth is stranger than fiction. There are four memoirs, all dealing with slightly different themes. I recommend reading all four but it is the final memoir that gives the story of her life with her husband
A very interesting look at 18th century Korea from the view point of a former Crown Princess and the mother of a king. The translation is really readable, but the four memoirs do cover a lot of the same ground so reading all in one go can feel repetitive. The last memoir (1802) is the most interesting, as it deals exclusively with Prince Sado's escalating derangement and eventual execution. The first section is a good over view, and the middle two section go into more detail about her family's f ...more
Fascinating look inside the Korean court of the eighteenth century. The first three memoirs are full of details about life in the royal palaces, intrigues and plots, as well as Lady Hyegyong's personal and family tragedies. The fourth memoir is the most powerful, however, as Lady Hyegyong describes what has only been alluded to in the previous writings. In addition, this translation has none of the stiffness of some translated works. It reads as if it was originally in English, without feeling a ...more
Sarah 서라
Real. Blunt. Informative.
There were four memoirs, but I only read the first and last. The other stuff was little boring for me since I don't know a lot about the people and the history of that time. The introduction said it's a very well-known book in Korea. She was married to a prince who became mentally ill and was put to death in the late 1700s. I learned a new, cool word. Affine means related to you by family. There was lot about filial piety in this book, very Confucian.
Irit Weinberg
Very important work of translation, offering a rare glimpse into 18th century court life in Korea from a female point of view. Haboush has done a great job in providing a translation accessible for a laymen, with illuminating footnotes and more in-depth end-notes, catering for more knowledgeable reader. A great book both for those interested in Korean culture and history and those interested in a compelling human drama.
A very intriguing look at Korea and at Lady Hyegyong in particular. Her memoirs are important historical evidence but they are also an inside view of her psyche and how she interacted within her world. The introduction by the translator was also very informative and helped fill in some of the context that the author assumed you knew.
This is a gut wrenching true story of mental illness with a tragic outcome. The Queen wrote this to clear up lies and misconceptions regarding the tragic death of her husband, who was the crown prince at the time. It is a terifying story of his descent into madness exacerbated by his Father, the King's own neurosis.
Unbelievably depressing. This poor woman went through things I could not even have conceived of happening. The introduction is really long but very insightful and helps shed light on Korean customs and traditions. I learned a lot about Korea through this book. It was a really interesting and instructive read.
Bridgette Reiss
Jan 04, 2012 Bridgette Reiss rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone - especially those who are interested in History or Shakespeare
One of my favorite books. When I was looking at it on, a review mentioned that it was like a Shakespearean play, with all the stuff that happens to this woman. I have to agree. Such a fascinating book, I would recommend it to anyone!
Liz Neale
Excellent book on the life of Crown Princess Lady Hyegyong. This biography goes into detail
about her life in the Palace. The death of her husband Prince Sado and the life she lead
while raising their son and future King.
Danielle Riccio
Had to read this for a Korean Culture class and you can get a jist of the entire story by reading the introduction. What the memoirs tell are how she felt and what she witnessed through out the years.
What a way to die. The final chapter is quite incredible. Revolving around the themes of filial piety and family manipulation ... this family gives the Fujiwara of Japan a run for their money.
Ashley Marie Holden
Political intrigue in itself is fascinating, but even more so when told from the point of view of someone who actually experienced it. This book reads like historical fiction, but it's real!
excellent book - non fiction and written by a crown princess of Korea in the 17th century -when women never put pen to paper in Korea
May 23, 2012 Hugs marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I learned about this from the Korean drama "Yi San" that is available at or CAN'T WAIT to read it!!!!!
Candace Joy
Most difficult to read; had to really stay with it, but I did.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 51 52 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
500 Great Books B...: Memoirs of a Korean Queen - Lady Hong 4 23 Jul 30, 2014 05:47PM  
  • Korea's Place in the Sun: A Modern History
  • To Kill a Tiger: A Memoir of Korea
  • The World Is Bigger Now: An American Journalist's Release from Captivity in North Korea . . . A Remarkable Story of Faith, Family, and Forgiveness
  • Your Republic Is Calling You
  • The Diary of Lady Murasaki
  • The Reluctant Communist: My Desertion, Court-Martial, and Forty-Year Imprisonment in North Korea
  • Tongue
  • Ten Thousand Lives
  • This is Paradise!: My North Korean Childhood
  • Secondhand World
  • The Gossamer Years: The Diary of a Noblewoman of Heian Japan
  • The Guest
  • Ten Thousand Sorrows : The Extraordinary Journey of a Korean War Orphan
  • The Two Koreas: A Contemporary History (Revised and Updated Edition)
  • The Interpreter
  • Long for This World: A Novel
  • Lost Names: Scenes from a Korean Boyhood
  • Korea Old and New: A History
The Confucian Kingship in Korea: Y?ngjo and the Politics of Sagacity Culture and the State in Late Choson Korea A heritage of kings: one man's monarchy in the Confucian world Epistolary Korea: Letters in the Communicative Space of the Choson, 1392-1910 Art of the Korean Renaissance, 1400-1600

Share This Book