Taejong of Joseon
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|Taejong of Joseon|
|King of Joseon|
|Reign||November 13, 1400 – September 18, 1418|
|Born||May 18, 1367|
|Died||May 10, 1422(aged 54)|
|Place of death||Changgyeonggung|
|Predecessor||Jeongjong of Joseon|
|Successor||Sejong of Joseon|
|Issue||Sejong of Joseon|
|Royal House||House of Yi|
|Father||Taejo of Joseon|
|Taejong of Joseon|
|Revised Romanization||I Bang-won|
Founding of Joseon 
He was born as Yi Bang-won in 1367 as the fifth son of King Taejo, and was qualified as an official of Goryeo Dynasty in 1382. During his early days, he helped his father to extend his support with the citizenry and many influential figures of the government. Taejong helped his father found a new dynasty by assassinating powerful officials such as Jeong Mong-ju, who remained loyal to the Goryeo dynasty.
Strife of Princes 
In 1392, he helped his father to overthrow Goryeo and establish a new dynasty, Joseon. He expected to be appointed as the successor to the throne for he contributed most to the founding of Joseon, but his father Taejo and prime minister Jeong Dojeon favored Taejo's eighth son and Yi Bangwon's half-brother (second son of Queen Sindeok) Yi Bangseok as the crown prince in 1392. This conflict arose chiefly because Jeong Dojeon, who shaped and laid down ideological, institutional, and legal foundations of the new dynasty more than anyone else, saw Joseon as a kingdom led by ministers appointed by the king while Yi Bangwon wanted to establish the absolute monarchy ruled directly by the king. Both sides were well aware of each other's great animosity and were getting ready to strike first. After the sudden death of Queen Sindeok, and while King Taejo was still in mourning for his second wife, Yi Bang-won struck first by raiding the palace and killed Jeong Do-jeon and his supporters as well as Queen Sindeok's two sons including the crown prince in 1398. This incident became known as the First Strife of Princes.
Aghast at the fact that his sons were willing to kill each other for the crown, and psychologically exhausted from the death of his second wife, King Taejo abdicated and immediately crowned his second son Yi Bang-gwa, or King Jeongjong, as the new ruler. One of King Jeongjong's first acts as monarch was to revert the capital to Gaeseong, where he is believed to have been considerably more comfortable. Yet Yi Bangwon retained real power and was soon in conflict with his disgruntled older brother Yi Bang-gan, who also yearned for power. In 1400, General Bak Po, who was disappointed by Yi Bangwon for not rewarding him enough for his action in the First Strife of Princes, allied with Bangwon's older brother Yi Bang-gan (Prince Hoean) and rebelled against him in what to be known as the Second Strife of Princes. Yi Bangwon successfully defeated his brother's forces, then executed Bak Po and sent Yi Bang-gan into exile. King Jeongjong, who was afraid of his powerful brother, named Yi Bangwon as crown prince and abdicated in the same year. Yi Bangwon assumed the throne of Joseon at long last as King Taejong, the third king of Joseon.
Consolidation of royal power 
In the beginning of Taejong's reign, the Grand King Former, Taejo, refused to relinquish the royal seal that signified the legitimacy of any king's rule. Taejong began to initiate policies he believed would prove his qualification to rule. One of his first acts as king was to abolish the privilege enjoyed by the upper echelons of government and the aristocracy to maintain private armies. His revoking of such rights to field independent forces effectively severed their ability to muster large-scale revolts, and drastically increased the number of men employed in the national military. Taejong's next act as king was to revise the existing legislation concerning the taxation of land ownership and the recording of state of subjects. With the discovery of previously hidden land, national income increased twofold.
He also initiated the system of hopae, an early form of identification recording the bearer's name and residence, used to control the movement of people. He also set a big drum in front of his court, so that the common people, when they had some problems, could come to palace and consult the king.
Absolute monarchy 
In addition, he created a strong central government and an absolute monarchy. In 1399, Taejong had played an influential role in scrapping the Dopyeong Assembly, a council of the old government administration that held a monopoly in court power during the waning years of the Goryeo Dynasty, in favor of the State Council of Joseon (의정부), a new branch of central administration that revolved around the king and his edicts. After passing the subject documentation and taxation legislation, King Taejong issued a new decree in which all decisions passed by the State Council could only come into effect with the approval of the king. This ended the custom of court ministers and advisors making decisions through debate and negotiations amongst themselves, and thus brought the royal power to new heights. Shortly thereafter, Taejong installed an office, known as the Sinmun Office, to hear cases in which aggrieved subjects felt that they had been exploited or treated unjustly by government officials or aristocrats.
However, Taejong kept Jeong Dojeon's reforms intact for the most part. He promoted Confucianism, which was more like political philosophy rather than a religion, thus demoting Buddhism, which was far from daily living and decayed from the power given by Goryeo kings back then. He closed many temples that were established by Goryeo kings, and seized their large possessions and added them to the national treasury. Meanwhile, he honored Jeong Mon-ju with the posthumous title of Chief State Councillor (equivalent to Prime Minister) even though it was he who assassinated Jeong – leading to irony of history, in which Jeong Dojeon was vilified throughout the Joseon dynasty while Jeong Mong-ju was honored despite his opposition to its birth.
In foreign policy, he was a straight hardliner—he attacked the Jurchens on the northern border and Japanese pirates on the southern coast. Taejong is also known for being responsible for the Oei Invasion of Tsushima Island in 1419. He also promoted publications, commerce and education. He also founded and encouraged Uigeumbu, the royal guard and secret police at the same time. In 1418, he abdicated and gave the throne to Sejong the Great of Joseon but continued to rule with iron fist, deciding important matters and executing Sejong's father-in-law Shim On and Shim's brother.
Taejong executed or exiled many of his supporters who helped him ascend on the throne in order to strengthen the royal authority. To limit influence of in-laws, he also killed all four brothers of his Queen Won-gyeong and his son Sejong's in-laws. Taejong remains a controversial figure who killed many of his rivals (including Jeong Mong-ju and Jeong Do-jeon) and relatives to gain power and yet ruled effectively to improve the populace's lives, strengthen national defense, and lay down a solid foundations for his successor Sejong's rule. Taejong was known for his passion for hunting, considered unseemly in a ruler.
|Ancestors of Taejong of Joseon|
- Father: King Taejo (태조)
- Mother: Queen Shinui of the Anbyeon Han clan (신의왕후 한씨, September 1337-September 12, 1391)
- Consorts and their Respective Issue:
- Queen Wongyeong of the Yeoheung Min clan (원경왕후 민씨, July 11, 1365-July 10, 1420)
- 3 unnamed sons
- Yi Je, the Grand Prince Yangnyeong (이제 양녕대군, 1394-September 7, 1462), 4th son
- Yi Bo, the Grand Prince Hyoryeong (이보 효령대군, 1396–1486), 5th son
- Yi Do, the Grand Prince Chungnyeong (이도 충녕대군), 6th son - Sejong the Great of Joseon
- Yi Jong, the Grand Prince Seongnyeong (이종 성녕대군, July 9, 1405–February 4, 1418), 7th son
- Yi Yong, the Grand Prince Anpyeong (이용 안평대군, 1418–October 18, 1453), 1st adopted son; his older brother Sejong's 3rd son
- Yi Ui, the Prince Woncheon (이의 원천군, 1423-1476), 2nd adopted son; his older brother Prince Hyoryeong's 6th son
- Princess Jeongsun (정순공주, 1385–1460), 1st daughter
- Princess Gyeongjeong (경정공주, ?–1455), 2nd daughter
- Princess Gyeongan (경안공주, 1393–1415), 3rd daughter
- Princess Jeongseon (정선공주, 1404–January 25, 1424), 4th daughter
- Royal Concubine Hyo of the Cheongpung Kim clan (효빈 김씨, ?–1454)
- Yi Bi, the Prince Gyeongnyeong (이비 경녕군, 1395(?)–1458), Only son
- Royal Councubine Shin of the Yeongwol Shin clan (신빈 신씨, ?–1453)
- Yi In, Prince Hamnyeong (이인 함녕군, ?–1467), 1st son
- Yi Jeong, Prince Onnyeong (이정 온녕군, 1407–1453), 2nd son
- Princess Jeongshin (정신옹주, dates unknown), 1st daughter
- Princess Jeongjeong (정정옹주, dates unknown), 2nd daughter
- Princess Sukjeong (숙정옹주, dates unknown), 3rd daughter
- Princess Suknyeong (숙녕옹주, dates unknown), 4th daughter
- Princess Sukgyeong (숙경옹주, dates unknown), 5th daughter
- Princess Sukgeun (숙근옹주, ?–1450), 6th daughter
- Princess Soshin (소신옹주), 7th daughter
- Royal Concubine Seon of the Ahn clan (선빈 안씨, ?–1468)
- Royal Concubine Ui of the Kwon clan (의빈 권씨, dates unknown)
- Princess Jeonghye (정혜옹주, ?-1424), Only daughter
- Royal Concubine So of the No clan (소빈 노씨, ?–1479)
- Princess Sukhye (숙혜옹주, ?–1464), Only daughter
- Royal Concubine Myeong of the Andong Kim clan (명빈 김씨)
- Princess Sukan (숙안옹주, ?-1464), Only daughter
- Royal Concubine Jeong of the Go clan (정빈 고씨, ?–1426)
- Yi Nong, Prince Geunnyeong (이농 근녕군, 1411-1462), Only son
- Decent Beauty Lady Choi (숙의 최씨, dates unknown)
- Yi Ta, Prince Huiryeong (이타 희령군, ?-1465), Only son
- An unnamed daughter
- Princess Deoksuk of the Yi clan (덕숙옹주 이씨)
- Yi Gan, Prince Huryeong (이간 후령군, ?-1465), Only son
- Princess Suksun (숙순옹주, dates unknown), Only daughter
- Lady Ahn (안씨)
- Yi Ji, Prince Hyeryeong (이지 혜령군, 1407–1440), Only son
- Lady Sukgong of the Kim clan (숙공궁주 김씨) - No issue.
- Lady Uijeong of the Jo clan (의정궁주 조씨) - No issue.
- Lady Hyesun of the Yi clan (혜순궁주 이씨) - No issue.
- Lady Shinsun of the Yi clan (신순궁주 이씨) - No issue.
- Princess Hyeseon of the Hong clan (혜선옹주 홍씨) - No issue.
- Princess Sunhye of the Jang clan (순혜옹주 장씨) - No issue.
- Geum Yeong, Princess Seogyeong (금영 서경옹주) - No issue.
His full posthumous name 
- King Taejong Gongjeong Seongdeok Sin-gong Geoncheon Chegeuk Daejeong Gye-u Munmu Yecheol Seongnyeol Gwanghyo the Great
Modern depiction 
Tears of the Dragon, a popular KBS television historical drama that aired from 1996–8, portrayed Taejong's life. It depicts him as being committed to the stability of the kingdom, a commitment that translated into affection and devotion towards his father and heir (originally Taejong's firstborn son), although these feelings were not reciprocated due to anger about the 1398 assassinations. The anger culminated in the retired Taejo's efforts to remove Taejong by backing the Jo Sawi's rebellion and personally shooting an arrow at him during a reconciliation meeting. According to the series, Taejong grew to become perpetually suspicious of others around him (especially his in-laws), resulting in purges, a typical example being his execution of the queen's influence-peddling-but-loyal oldest brothers and naїvely-innocent youngest brothers. In disgusted response, his Crown Prince rejected the throne to become a playboy and his second-born son joined the Buddhist priesthood, deferring the position to the third-born son.
King Taejong is also depicted in the 2008 KBS historical drama King Sejong the Great (TV series) about his third son and successor, King Sejong, and also shortly in the 2011 SBS drama Deep Rooted Tree.
See also 
- Grayson, James Huntley (2002). Korea: A Religious History. United Kingdom: Routledge. ISBN 0-7007-1605-X. (p108)
- Second daughter of Min Je (민제, 1339–1408), Internal Prince Yeoheung (여흥부원군), Lord Munha, Second State Councillor (문하좌정승), Duke Mundo (문도공); and Lady Song (송씨), Lady Samhanguk, Princess Consort to the Internal Prince (삼한국대부인).
- 1st son born and to had lived past the traditional 100 days.
- Later married Yi Baek-gang (이백강), Duke Jeongjeol (정절공), created Internal Prince Consort Cheongpyeong (청평부원군); second son of Yi Geo-yi (이거이), Internal Prince Seowon (서원부원군), Duke Mundo (문도공).
- Her other titles include "Lady/Princess of Pyeongyang" (평양군궁주), "Lady/Princess Gyeongjeong" (경정궁주), and "Princess Jeonggyeong" (정경공주).
- Later married Jo Dae-rim (조대림), Duke Kangan (강안공), created Internal Prince Consort Pyeongyang (평양부원군); son of Jo Jun (조준), Chief State Councillor (영의정부사).
- Later married Kwon Gyu (권규, 1393-1421), created Prince Consort Gilchang (길창군); second son of Kwon Geun (권근, 1352-1409), Internal Prince Gilchang (길창부원군). His nephew (through his eldest brother Kwon Je (권제)) is Kwon Ram, one of Sejo's supporters who lead the 1453 coup that dethroned Sejo's nephew Danjong of Joseon and helped enthrone Sejo himself.
- Later married Nam Hwi (남휘), Duke Sogan (소간공), created Prince Consort Uisan (의산군); son of Nam Gyeong-mun (남경문).
- Formerly known by her title "Lady Hyosun" (효순궁주), she was raised to bin (嬪) status during Gojong's reign.
- Originally one of Queen Wongyeong's female servants back at her old household.
- Daughter of Shin Yeong-gwi (신영귀).
- Originally one of Queen Wongyeong's retinue of assistant court ladies (na-in).
- Also known by her titles "Lady Shinnyeong" (신녕궁주) and "Princess Shinnyeong" (신녕옹주), the latter granted in January 13, 1414, during her pregnancy.
- Later married Yoon Gye-dong (윤계동), created Prince Consort Yeongpyeong (영평군); son of Yoon Hang (윤항).
- Later married Jo Seon (조선), Duke Sohwoe (소회공), created Prince Consort Hanwon (한원군); son of Jo Mal-saeng (조말생), Minister of the Military and Defense (병조판서).
- Later married Jeong Hyo-jeon (정효전), Duke Chunggyeong (충경공), created Prince Consort Ilseong (일성군), and future Minister of the Military and Defense (병조판서); son of Minister (판서) Jeong Jin (정진).
- Later married Yoon Woo (윤우), created Prince Consort Paseong (파성군); son of Vice-Minister (참판) Yoon So-mi (윤수미).
- Later married Yoon Am (윤암), Duke Jedo (제도공), created Prince Consort Papyeong (파평군); son of Yoon Tae-san (윤태산).
- Later married Kwon Gong (권공), Duke Yanghyo (양효공), created Prince Consort Hwacheon (화천군); son of Kwon Bok (권복).
- Later married Byeon Hyo-sun (변효순), Duke Kangyi (강이공), created Military Officer Yoocheon (유천위); son of Byeon Sang-joo (변상주).
- Daughter of Ahn Eui (안의).
- Also known by her title "Princess Sukseon" (숙선옹주), granted in 1421.
- Later married Yoon Yeon-myeong (윤연명), Duke Pyeongdo (평도공), created Prince Consort Haepyeong (해평군); son of Yoon Dal-seong (윤달성).
- Later married Yi Wan (이완), created Prince Consort Jeonui (전의군); son of Yi Gong-jeon (이공전).
- Also known by her titles "Lady Jeongui" (정의궁주) & "Yeongsugung" (영수궁 寧壽宮; lit. "Palace of Repose and of Long Life").
- Daughter of Kwon Hong (권홍), an Akjeong of Seonggyungwan (악정).
- Taejong's first concubine.
- Later married Park Jong-woo (박종우), created Prince Consort Woonseong (운성군); son of Park Shin (박신), an official at the State Council (의정부참찬).
- Daughter of No Goo-san (노구산), Lord Miljik, Scholar of the Office of Special Advisors (밀직제학); and Lady Choi (최씨), whose father Choi Ryeom (최렴) is the Lord Geomgyo, Third State Councillor (검교의정부우의정).
- Also known by her title "Lady Sohye" (소혜궁주), granted in November 20, 1411.
- Later married Yi Jeong-nyeong (이정녕), Duke Jangjeol (장절공), created Military Officer Seongwon (성원위); son of Yi Sa-hu (이사후) and grandson of Yi Jik (이직), Internal Prince Seongsan (성산부원군).
- Later married Hwang Yoo (황유), Duke Yangdo (양도공), created Military Officer Hwoecheon (회천위); son of Hwang Ja-hu (황자후).
- Park Yeong-gyu's book (조선의 왕실과 외척) claims his real son is Prince Hyeryeong, not Prince Geunnyeong; but "Seonwon Gyebo Giryak (선원계보기략)" states that his real mother is another Lady Ahn, as Taejong had a son and three daughters by another Lady Ahn (Royal Concubine Seon).
- Sources claim his mother is Royal Councubine Shin, but sources "Seonwon-rok (선원록)" & "Seonwon Gyebo Giryak (선원계보기략)" indicate his real mother is Royal Concubine Jeong, since she died in 1426 and the other claimant died 9 years later.
- Later married Yoon Pyeong (윤평), created Military Officer Pawon (파원위); son of Yoon Chang (윤창).
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