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

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  398 Ratings  ·  50 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 22nd 1996 by Perseus - Ucal Pod (first published January 1985)
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Tuuli The trouble was that if they had executed Sado by ordering him to drink poison, that would have made him a condemned criminal. In that case his son…moreThe trouble was that if they had executed Sado by ordering him to drink poison, that would have made him a condemned criminal. In that case his son (the so-called 'royal grandson') couldn't have remained a legitimate heir (and the king didn't have other heirs). Apparently Sado tried to kill himself in other ways first, but as he was unsuccessful, they ended up with this, rather awful, way. But after all the murders he had committed, what else could they really do? Surely someone like him couldn't remain the crown prince and potentially become a king some day!(less)
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Jul 27, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  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
Aug 30, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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.
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 ...more
May 14, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Justin Howe
Apr 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jul 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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,
Al Anoud
Sep 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a translation of a true accounting (memoirs) of a Korean court lady named Lady Hyegyong during the Choson dynasty in 1800. Lady Hyegyong recounted the harrowing events that befell her and her family for simply associating with the royal family. It is truly a sad recounting that fills your heart with rage and sorrow over what happened to her Ladyship and makes you ponder about the past in quite refreshing way. It is truly one of those books that puts in the narrators shoes and change ...more
Nov 10, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Was so excited when I got my copy. There are so many details in the book and I felt I was lost because I couldn't memorize all the names, but as everyone else said the last chapter was great and so sad. [ SPOILER] Still can't see any reason why his mom told on him and why his father chose this cruel ending to punish him. As I see in dramas royal family drink poison, but here Prince Sado faced a worse ending.
Ana Marsh
Aug 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People with interest in Korean history
Interesting to read the view of the Widow of Crown Prince/ Prince-Regent's Sado's wife, and his descent into madness, which eventually resulted in his death.
A lot of Korean dramas portray the events much differently. While this is not a completely unbiased account, I think it is the closest to the truth we will ever have of this dark period in Joson (Choson) history.
It also provides information about the ins and outs of the palace residence, and the King's court, with all its inherent dangers
A great book to read in conjunction with The Memoirs of Lady Nijo and the Letters of the Nun Eshinni. A wonderful exploration of pre-modern East Asian court women's lives.
May 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
The most fascinating book I have read in years. Incredible.
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
This was an interesting read with a lot of historical value, and I learned about Korean court intrigue and politics (and also the history and culture of the Joseon dynasty in the 18th century). It is also one of the rare autobiographies written by a woman in the patriarchal Korean environment (or in the bigger Asian context, for that matter).

Through the narration of Crown Princess Hyegyong, the widow of Crown Prince Sado, we are brought to gain a better understanding of the circumstances surroun
Oct 18, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
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
Jun 20, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  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
Mar 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Since the first time I heard the story of Prince Sado and the existence of this book I wanted to read it. What an experience! Lady Hyegyong opens her heart in this memoir as much as she is allowed by the world she lives in and by her own pain and memories.
Even though at first my reason to read the book was Prince Sado's crazy story, I became interested in all the details she had to tell. Given, the first and last memoirs are the more cant-stop-reading-it's-so-good ones but the whole book is wor
Rana Adham
I am in awe. The Memoir of 1805 left me in tears.


I do not want to even risk mentioning a spoiler here about Crown Prince Sado's life, but to me, who knows a lot about Korean history, especially the Joseon Dynasty, his story is one-of-a-kind.

I will always be intrigued by it and by the reasons behind it and the consequences that followed. What made this book interesting is the fact that it was written by his wife, Crown Princess Hyegyong.

All I can say is that she is one tough woman, and I h
Sep 20, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, memoir
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
Sep 06, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir-esque
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
Aug 06, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 30, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 03, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: asia, nonfiction
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.
Apr 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The story of the unfortunate wife of infamous crown prince Sado and the mother of Prince Yi San -King Jeongjo- (22nd ruler) of Joseon dynasty Korea.
Lady Hyegyeong witnessed her husband's execution which was ordered by her father-in-law King Yeongjo of Joseon and later wrote the The Memoirs of Lady Hyegyeong detailing her life as the ill-fated Crown Princess, her husband's descent into madness and the deeds for which he was eventually put to death.
Irit Weinberg
May 27, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Nov 15, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Sep 13, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jul 24, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jul 13, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I actually grew more filial after reading this and performed a dutiful deed. And I had the feeling that if she could make it through her husband's execution, her child's death, and her family's disgrace, my back problems aren't so bad.
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.
Oct 08, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: textbooks, memoirs
A young girl becomes the bride of the crown prince in Yi Dynasty Korea. As they age, the Prince begins to suffer from a mental illness which makes him act aggressive, even violent.

The events that unfold throughout Lady Hyegyong's life are fascinating and terrible.
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JaHyun Kim Haboush Korean: 김자현, 金滋炫; born Seoul, Korea, 1940, died New York City, 2011) was a Korean-American scholar of Korean history and literature in the United States. Haboush was the King Sejong Professor of Korean Studies at Columbia University when she died on January 30, 2011.

Haboush attended Ewha Womans University and studied English literature in Seoul. She studied Chinese literature at
More about JaHyun Kim Haboush...