Crown Prince Sado

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Yi Seon
Regent of Joseon
Tenure11 March 1749 – 4 July 1762
PredecessorCrown Prince Yi Geum
SuccessorGrand Heir Yi San
MonarchYeongjo of Joseon
Crown Prince of Joseon
Tenure25 April 1736 – 4 July 1762
InvestitureInjeongjeon Hall, Changdeok Palace, Hanseong, Kingdom of Joseon
PredecessorCrown Prince Yi Haeng
SuccessorCrown Prince Yi Sun
Born13 February 1735
Jibbokheon Hall, Changgyeong Palace, Hanseong, Kingdom of Joseon
Died12 July 1762 (1762-07-13) (aged 27)
Munjeongjeon Hall, Changgyeong Palace, Hanseong, Kingdom of Joseon
ConsortLady Hyegyeong
IssueYi San, King Jeongjo of Joseon
Posthumous name
  • Joseon Dynasty: Crown Prince Sado → Crown Prince Jangheon → King Sinmun Hwanmu Jangheon Gwanghyo the Great
    • 사도세자 → 장헌세자 → 신문환무장헌광효대왕
    • 莊獻世子 → 思悼世子 → 神文桓武莊獻廣孝大王
  • Korean Empire: Emperor Sinmun Hwanmu Jangheon Gwanghyo Ui
    • 신문환무장헌광효의황제
    • 文桓武莊獻廣孝懿皇帝
Temple name
Jangjong (장종, 莊宗) → Jangjo (장조, 莊祖)
ClanJeonju Yi clan
DynastyHouse of Yi
FatherYeongjo of Joseon
Korean name
Revised RomanizationSado Seja, later Jangheon Seja
McCune–ReischauerSato Secha, later Changhŏn Secha
Birth name
Revised RomanizationI Seon / I Hwon
McCune–ReischauerYi Sŏn / Yi Hwŏn
Courtesy name
Revised RomanizationYungwan
Art name
Revised RomanizationUijae
Temple name
Revised RomanizationJangjong / Jangjo
McCune–ReischauerChangchong / Changcho

Crown Prince Sado (Hangul: 사도세자, Hanja: 思悼 世子; 13 February 1735 – 12 July 1762), personal name Yi Seon (Hangul: 이선, Hanja: 李愃), was the second son of King Yeongjo of Joseon. His biological mother was Royal Noble Consort Yeong of the Jeonui Yi clan. Due to the prior death of Sado's older half-brother, Crown Prince Hyojang, the new prince was the probable future monarch. However, at the age of 27, he died, most likely of dehydration and possibly of starvation after being confined in a rice chest on the orders of his father in the heat of summer.[1]



Letter written by Crown Prince Sado to his father-in-law Hong Bong-han.

Lady Hyegyeong, Sado's wife, wrote a memoir in 1805 detailing their life together. She records that the prince suffered a severe illness in 1745, during which he often lost consciousness.[2] Although he recovered, the tense relationship between Sado and King Yeongjo led to him experiencing severe anxiety whenever in his father's presence.[3] When Sado came of age at 15, his father appointed him regent, giving him the power to make decisions on administrative matters.[4] Yeongjo wanted Sado to have an experience of ruling the country. At the same time, Yeongjo wanted stronger power. During Sado's regency, dispute between Soron and Noron became stronger, much to Yeongjo's disappointment.[5] Lady Hyegyeong describes King Yeongjo as perpetually dissatisfied with whichever course of action Sado chose.[6] Yeongjo also did not permit Sado to visit the ancestral tombs until as late as 1756, nor was he allowed to attend auspicious court events.[7] Yeongjo also always made sure to chastise his son in front of a large crowd, either of ladies-in-waiting or eunuchs.[8] As a result, Sado formed a strong bond with his sister Princess Hwahyeop, who was similarly disfavoured by their father. When she died in 1752, Sado was reported to have grieved intensely.[9]

In 1752, Sado read a Taoist text called Okchugyeong (옥추경, 玉樞經). Whilst reading, he hallucinated that he saw the Thunder God. Henceforth, he was terrified of thunder and refused to touch any object engraved with the characters of the book.[10]

Sado took a secondary consort, Yang-je (Royal Noble Consort Suk), with whom he had a son in 1754. Terrified of his father's anger, Sado forced her to take abortive medicines, but still, the child was born safely. Arrangements for the delivery and housing were made by Lady Hyegyeong.[11]


In 1757, King Yeongjo's adoptive mother (Queen Inwon) and wife (Queen Jeongseong) died within a month of each other. Sado had been close to both of them and their deaths led to a marked deterioration in his mental health and relationship with his father.[12] As a way of dealing with his frustration and rage, Sado beat his eunuchs.[8] In the same month as the burial of Queen Jeongseong, Sado walked into his chambers holding the severed head of a eunuch whom he had killed, forcing the ladies-in-waiting and his wife to view it. After this, he frequently killed palace staff to release his emotions,[13] as well as assaulting and raping many ladies-in-waiting.[13] Lady Hyegyeong reported Sado's issues to his mother Royal Noble Consort Yeong, but begged her not to speak to anyone about the matter, as she feared for her safety if Sado discovered she had told someone.[13] By 1758, a previous phobia of Sado's regarding clothing (vestiphobia) became intensely problematic.

For him to get dressed, I had to have ten, twenty, or even thirty sets of clothes laid out. He would then burn some, supposedly on behalf of some ghost or other. Even after this, if he managed to get into a suit of clothes without incident, one had to count it as great good luck. If, however, those serving him were to make the slightest error, he would not be able to put his clothes on, no matter how hard he tried. In the process, people were hurt, even killed. It was truly dreadful.

Late in 1757, Sado took another secondary consort, Park Bing-ae (Royal Noble Consort Gyeong), who had been a lady-in-waiting to his grandmother, so his relations with her were considered to breach the incest taboo.[15] When Yeongjo found out, he berated his son and Sado eventually jumped down a well to attempt drowning himself, but a guard pulled him out. Lady Hyegyeong had, by this point, managed to have Bing-ae hidden in the home of Sado's sister, Princess Hwawan.[16]

On his birthday in 1760, Sado suffered a burst of outrage at his parents, berating his mother Lady Yeong-bin, as well his own son, and two daughters.[17] After this, he demanded that Princess Hwawan, use her influence over King Yeongjo to move palaces and allow Sado to visit the springs at Onyang.[18] He also threatened to "slash Princess Hwawan with [his] sword", an event witnessed by Lady Hyegyeong and Lady Yeong-bin.[19] While Lady Hyegyeong said he was not violent to her she also noted he would beat any women who resisted his sexual overtures until he "rent their flesh" and they gave in. There was one documented incident where Sado was physically violent toward his wife, in which he threw a go board at her face and made it necessary for Lady Hyegyeong to avoid court events to hide the bruises.[20]

In 1761 Sado beat his secondary consort Bing-ae, who had birthed several of his children, in a fit of rage while getting dressed. He left her on the floor, where she died of her injuries. Lady Hyegyeong prepared her body for the funeral rites, but, on his return, Sado reportedly said nothing about Bing-ae's death.[21]


In the summer of 1762, an altercation with an official at court enraged Sado. In revenge, he threatened to kill the official's son,[22] and attempted to sneak through a water passage to the upper palace. He failed to find the son and, instead, confiscated clothing and items belonging to him. Rumours that Sado had attempted to enter the upper palace to kill King Yeongjo spread around the court.[23] Fearing for the safety of her grandchildren, Royal Consort Yeong begged Yeongjo to deal with Sado.[24] By court rules, the body of a royal could not be defiled and, under the then-common practice of communal punishment, Sado's wife and son (the family's only direct male heir) could also face death or banishment if he were executed as a criminal.[25] As a solution, Yeongjo ordered Sado to climb into a wooden rice chest (roughly 1.3m square / 4 feet square) on a hot July day in 1762.[26] According to Lady Hyegyeong's memoirs, Sado begged for his life before getting into the chest, though he attempted to get out again.[27]

Along with her children, Lady Hyegyeong was taken back to her father's house on the same day. After two days, King Yeongjo had the chest containing Sado tied with rope, covered with grass, and moved to the upper palace.[28] Sado responded from inside the chest until the night of the seventh day; the chest was opened and he was pronounced dead on the eighth day.[29] Yeongjo then restored him to the position of crown prince and gave him the posthumous title Sado, meaning "thinking of with great sorrow".[30]

Conspiracy theory[edit]

During the 19th century, there were rumors that Prince Sado had not been mentally ill, but had been framed; however, these rumors are contradicted by his wife, Lady Hyegyeong, in The Memoirs of Lady Hyegyeong. Sado's death remains an issue of debate as to whether his death was retribution for his actual misconduct or if he was the victim of a conspiracy by his political opponents.


Crown Prince Sado was buried on Mt. BaebongSan in Yangju. His body was moved by his son, King Jeongjo, to its current location in 1789, then called Hyeonnyungwon near Suwon, 30 kilometers south of Seoul. Five years later the Hwaseong Fortress was built by King Jeongjo, specifically to memorialize and honor his father's tomb (the construction lasted 1794-1796, while the official reception was 1795). Lady Hyegyeong died and was buried with her husband in 1816.

Prince Sado and Lady Hyegyeong were posthumously elevated in status and given the titles Emperor Yangjo and Empress Heonyeong in 1899 during the reign of Emperor Gwangmu (Gojong). Their tomb and the adjacent tomb of their son, King Jeongjo, and his wife, Queen Hyoui, were upgraded accordingly and renamed Yungneung.

Taboo and reinstatement[edit]

Prince Sado was reinstated fifteen days after he died but King Yeongjo banned any mention of the prince's name for the rest of his reign. Because of this decision, Prince Sado's son, Jeongjo, ascended the throne following the passing of King Yeongjo as the heir to his deceased half-uncle (Crown Prince Hyojang). Upon becoming king, however, one of Jeongjo's first statements was to declare, "I am the son of Prince Sado."[31] Jeongjo always showed great filial devotion to his father, Crown Prince Sado, and he changed the posthumous name of his father's to a longer one, which is the origin of the latter's alternative title, Crown Prince Jangheon.


Consorts and their Respective Issue(s):

  1. Queen Heongyeong of the Pungsan Hong clan (헌경왕후 홍씨) (6 August 1735 – 13 January 1816)[34][35]
    1. Yi Jeong, Crown Prince Uiso (의소세자 이정) (27 September 1750 – 17 April 1752), first son
    2. Grand Heir Yi San (28 October 1752 – 18 August 1800) (왕세손 이산), second son
    3. Royal Princess Cheongyeon (1754 – 9 June 1821) (청연공주), first daughter[36][37]
    4. Royal Princess Cheongseon (1756 – 20 July 1802) (청선공주), second daughter[38][39]
  2. Royal Noble Consort Suk of the Buan Im clan (? – 1773) (숙빈 임씨)[40][41][42]
    1. Yi In, Prince Euneon (은언군 이인) (1 February 1754 – 30 June 1801), third son[43][44]
    2. Yi Jin, Prince Eunsin (은신군 이진) (1755 – 1771), fourth son[45]
  3. Royal Noble Consort Gyeong of the Park clan (경빈 박씨) (? – 1761)[46][47][48]
    1. Princess Cheonggeun (청근옹주) (1758 – 1835), third daughter[49][50]
    2. Yi Chan, Prince Eunjeon (은전군 이찬) (14 August 1759 – 26 August 1778), fifth son[51]
  4. Court Lady Yi (수칙 이씨, 守則 李氏)[52]
  5. Ga-seon (가선, 假仙)[53]

In popular culture[edit]




  1. ^ The Memoirs of Lady Hyegyeong, translated JaHyun Kim Haboush, p. 321
  2. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 252.
  3. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 254.
  4. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 256.
  5. ^ "우리역사넷". Retrieved 6 April 2022.
  6. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 258.
  7. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 272.
  8. ^ a b Kim Haboush (2013), p. 281.
  9. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 263.
  10. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 265.
  11. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 266.
  12. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 274-278.
  13. ^ a b c Kim Haboush (2013), p. 282.
  14. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 289.
  15. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 283-284.
  16. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 284-285.
  17. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 294.
  18. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 295-296.
  19. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 296.
  20. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 297.
  21. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 301.
  22. ^ This son refers to the son of Sin Man, Sin Gwang-su, who is also the husband of Princess Hwahyeop.
  23. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 316.
  24. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 318.
  25. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 2.
  26. ^ The Memoirs of Lady Hyegyeong (한중록, 閑中錄)
  27. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 320.
  28. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 324.
  29. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 325.
  30. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 327.
  31. ^ "Veritable Records of Jeongjo, day 10, month 3, year 0 of Jeongjo's reign". Veritable Records of the Joseon dynasty. Retrieved 17 September 2020.
  32. ^ Daughter of Yi Yu-beon (이유번) and Lady Kim.
  33. ^ Also known as Lady Seonhui.
  34. ^ Daughter of Hong Bong-han (홍봉한) —a great-great-grandson of Princess Jeongmyeong (1603–1685), the only legitimate daughter of King Seonjo—and Lady Yi of the Hansan Yi clan.
  35. ^ Known as Lady Hyegyeong (혜경궁, 惠慶宮) during the reign of her son, King Jeongjo.
  36. ^ Known before as "Princess of Cheongyeon Commandery" or "Princess Cheongyeon of the Second Senior Rank" (청연군주, 淸衍郡主).
  37. ^ Married Kim Gi-seong (김기성, 金箕性) (1752 – 1811) of the Gwangsan Kim clan in 1765, and had issue (7 sons & 2 daughters, but 1 daughter and 5 sons died prematurely).
  38. ^ Known before as "Princess of Cheongseong Commandery" or "Princess Cheongseong of the Second Senior Rank" (청선군주, 淸璿郡主).
  39. ^ Married Jeong Jae-hwa (정재화, 鄭在和) (1754 – 1790) of the Yeonil Jeong clan in 1766, and had issue (1 son & 2 daughters).
  40. ^ Her personal name was Im Yu-hye (임유혜).
  41. ^ Daughter of Im Ji-beon (임지번, 林枝蕃) and Lady Kim of the Gimhae Kim clan (김해 김씨, 金海 金氏).
  42. ^ Before being posthumously elevated to Bin (first senior rank concubine of the king), she was known as "Consort Yang-je of the Buan Im clan" (양제 임씨, 良娣 林氏), a second junior rank concubine of the crown prince.
  43. ^ Married Princess Consort Sangsan of the Jincheon Song clan (상산군부인 송씨, 常山郡夫人 宋氏; 15 October 1753 – 17 March 1801), and had 5 children (4 sons, 1 daughter). His wife converted to Catholicism and received the name Maria, but was then prosecuted during the Catholic Persecution of 1801.
  44. ^ With an unnamed concubine, he had 2 sons. With another concubine, Princess Consort Jeonsan of the Jeonju Yi clan (전산군부인 이씨, 全山郡夫人 李氏; 1764 – 1819), he had 2 sons. Through one of his sons, he became the grandfather of King Cheoljong.
  45. ^ Married Princess Consort Namyang of the Namyang Hong clan (남양군부인 남양 홍씨, 南陽郡夫人 南陽 洪氏; 1755 – 21 March 1829), and had an adoptive son, Yi Gu, Prince Namyeon (남연군 이구); the grandfather of King Gojong.
  46. ^ Her personal name was Park Bing-ae (박빙애, 朴氷愛/彬愛).
  47. ^ During her lifetime, she was known as "Court Lady Park" or "Su-chik of the Park clan" (수칙 박씨, 守則 朴氏), a sixth junior rank lady-in-waiting of the crown prince.
  48. ^ Posthumously, she was firstly elevated to Gwi-in (first junior rank concubine of the King), and later to Bin (first senior rank concubine of the King) with the prefix "Gyeong".
  49. ^ Was known before as "Princess of Cheonggeun County" or "Princess Cheonggeun of the Third Senior Rank" (청근현주).
  50. ^ Married Hong Ik-don (홍익돈, 洪益惇), Prince Consort Dangeun (당은위, 唐恩尉), in 1768, and had a adoptive son, Hong Byeong-gi (홍병기, 洪秉箕).
  51. ^ Married Princess Consort Jo of the Pyeongyang Jo clan (군부인 평양 조씨, 郡夫人 平壤 趙氏; 28 October 1758 – 8 March 1817), and had an adoptive son, Yi Dang, Prince Punggye (풍계군 이당; 1 February 1783 – 8 May 1826).
  52. ^ She was not an official concubine, but a gungnyeo of the "Su-chik" rank (sixth junior level lady-in-waiting of the crown prince).
  53. ^ A woman brought by Crown Prince Sado from a trip to Pyongan Province, she was originally a nun. After Sado was imprisoned, Ga-seon was executed along with Park Pil-su (an eunuch) and five courtesans.
  54. ^ Jin, Eun-soo (15 October 2015). "The ever-changing history of Prince Sado". Korea JoongAng Daily. Retrieved 22 October 2015.
  55. ^ Shin Ji-won (15 November 2021). "도상우, '옷소매 붉은 끝동; 특별 출연...짧지만 강렬한 존재감" [Do Sang-woo, special appearance on 'Red Sleeves'...Short but strong presence] (in Korean). Ten Asia. Retrieved 30 November 2021 – via Naver.

Works cited[edit]

External links[edit]