Queen Munjeong

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Queen Munjeong
문정왕후
Queen Regent of Joseon
Regency 7 July 1545 – 7 April 1565
Monarch King Injong of Joseon
King Myeongjong of Joseon
Grand Queen Dowager of Joseon
Reign 1545 - 1565
Predecessor Queen Ansun
Queen Insu
Successor Queen Inmok
Queen Dowager of Joseon
Reign 1544 - 1545
Predecessor Queen Jeonghyeon
Successor Queen Inseong
Queen Consort of Joseon
Reign 1517 - 1544
Predecessor Queen Janggyeong
Successor Queen Inseong
Born 2 December 1501
Kingdom of Joseon
Died 5 May 1565 (1565-05-06) (aged 63)
Changdeok Palace, Kingdom of Joseon
Burial Taereung
Spouse King Jungjong of Joseon
Issue King Myeongjong of Joseon
Princess Uihye
Princess Hyosun
Princess Gyeonghyeon
Princess Insun
Posthumous name
성렬인명문정왕후
House Papyeong Yun
Father Yun Ji-Im
Mother Lady Lee of the Jeonui Lee clan

Queen Munjeong (Hangul: 문정왕후, Hanja: 文定王后) (2 December 1501 - 5 May 1565) also known as Queen Dowager Seongryeol (성렬왕대비) was Queen consort of Korea by marriage to King Jungjong of Joseon, and Regent of Korea from 1545 until 1565.

She was of the Papyeong Yun clan. She was regent for her son King Myeongjong when he was still too young to rule by himself until 1565. Known as a good administrator, she continued to rule even after he reached the age of majority. She gave out the land to common people who had been formerly owned by the nobility. It was only after her death that her son took over power.

She was given the posthumous title Seongryeol Inmyeong Munjong Wanghu (성렬인명문정왕후, 聖烈仁明文定王后).

Rise to Power[edit]

According to unofficial chronicles, there is a tale of Munjeong finally showing love for her "adoptive" son King Injong, after decades of polite indifference (in reality behind-the-scenes hatred).

As Injong went to pay his morning respects, Munjeong’s face started radiating with a smile only a mother could give to her child. Injong took it as a sign that the Queen Mother was finally acknowledging him as the king, and in particular as her own son. He ate the ddeok that his step-mother gave him, not knowing that it would be the beginning of the end. He fell ill slowly, not enough to create any suspicion, but quickly enough that historians would later pick up on the event. Three days passed before Injong mysteriously died (after only 9 months of rule).

Queen Munjong’s son became King Myeongjong, while Munjeong became Queen Regent. The chronicles also tell that Munjeong was frequently visited by spirits at night after Injong’s death.[1] So disturbed was she that she moved her residence from Gyeongbok Palace to Changdeok Palace.

Revival of Buddhism[edit]

Munjeong was the most influential supporter of Buddhism during the early dynasty; indeed, she lifted the official ban on Buddhist worship and instigated an impressive revival of Buddhim.

Two proofs of her strong support of Buddhism still exist.

Buddhist Paintings[edit]

During the time her son (the Royal Prince) fell ill, and at the same time her failure to produce another son, her concerns motivated her to order 400 Buddhist artworks (50 of which are in supplication for the recovery of the Royal Prince and the birth of another son). Also, the aim of the commission was to commemorate the opening of Hoeam Temple.[2] The project was started in 1563 and was completed 2 years later. Unfortunately, the Royal Prince died before the commission's completion.

The massive commission involved 100 scrolls on each of 4 triads:

  • The Historical Buddha Triad (Sanskrit: शाक्यमुनि Śākyamuni; Korean: 석가모니/석가 seokgamoni/seokga)
  • The Buddha of the Western Paradise Triad (अमिताभ Amitābha; 아미타불 amitabul)
  • The Buddha of the Future Triad (मैत्रेय Maitreya; 미륵보살 mireukbosal)
  • The Medicine Buddha Triad (भैषज्यगुरु Bhaiṣajyaguru; 약사여래/약사불 yaksayeorae/yaksabul)

In each set of 100, 50 were executed in colors and gold, the other 50 in gold only.

As of 2009,[3] only 6 of the commissioned 400 are still extant.

  • 1 painting in the Sakyamuni Triad – made in 1565, formerly belonging to the Hoeam Temple, discovered in Japan (in excellent condition[4]), and purchased and kept by the Mary Jackson Burke Collection in 1990 in New York. The painting is considered by experts in the field and in the Buddhist community to be one of the most important and representative Buddhist artworks produced during the Dynasty.[5]
  • 1 painting in the Bhaisajyaguru Triad – currently on display at the National Museum of Korea.
  • 4 paintings are in Japan.
    • 1 painting in the Sakyamuni Triad
    • 3 paintings in the Bhaisajyaguru Triad

Buddhist temples[edit]

Buddhist temples served as another proof of Munjeong's zealous aim of the revival of Buddhism. The cornerstone of the revival of Buddhism is the Bongeun-sa Temple (a major center of Zen Buddhism).

Bongeun-sa[6] was established in 794 by Ven. Yeon-hoe,[7] and was originally called Gyeonseong-sa.[8] It was rebuilt in 1498 (by Munjeong's patronage) and renamed Bongeun-sa; in 1562 it was moved about 1 km to its current location and rebuilt. Its fate will be destruction by fire (1592 and 1637) and repetitive rebuilding and renovations (1637, 1692, 1912, 1941, and 1981). A three-story stone stupa enshrines the Sari of Sakyamuni Buddha, brought from Sri Lanka in 1975.

The temple fell into decline during the late Goryeo era, but was reconstructed in 1498. Before the reconstruction, Buddhism fell under severe state-imposed oppression as the government maintained Neo-Confucianism as the sole state ideal. With Munjeong's strong support for the re-awakening of Buddhism, she reconstructed Bongeun-sa and it was to become a cornerstone for early-Joseon Buddhist revival.

Ven. Bo-woo played a key role at this critical period, having been assigned as the Chief Monk of Bongeun-sa in 1548. He revived an official system of training and selecting monks in both the Seon (meditation) and Gyo (doctrinal, scholastic) sects of Korean Buddhism.[9] In 1551, Bongeun-sa became the main temple of the Jogye Seon Order, then soon became the main base for the overall restoration of Korean Buddhism. This revived training system produced such illustrious monks as Ven. Seo-san, Ven. Sa-myeong, and Ven. Byeok-am. However, after Munjeong died, Ven. Bo-woo was killed by anti-Buddhist officials.

Family[edit]

  • Father: Yun Ji-Im (1475 - 14 April 1534) (윤지임)
    • Grandfather: Yun Uk (1459 – 1485) (윤욱)
      • Great-Grandfather: Yun Gye-Gyeom (1442 – 1483) (윤계겸)
        • Great-Great-Grandfather: Yun Sa-Heun (1422 – 1485) (윤사흔), brother to Queen Jeonghui
          • Great-Great-Great-Grandfather: Yun Beon (1384 – 1448) (윤번), Prime Minister during the reign of King Sejo of Joseon
    • Grandmother: Lady Jeong of the Yeongil Jeong (영일 정씨)
  • Mother: Lady Lee of the Jeonui Lee clan (1475 - 1511) (전의 이씨)
  • Brothers:
  1. Yun Won-Gae (윤원개)
  2. Yun Won-Ryang (1495 – 1569)(윤원량)
    1. Sister-in-law: Lady Jang (장씨)[10][11]
  3. Yun Won-Pil (1496 - 1547) (윤원필)
  4. Yun Won-Ro (? - 1547) (윤원로)
  5. Yun Won-Hyeong (1509 – 18 November 1565) (윤원형)
    1. Sister-in-law: Lady Kim ofthe Yeonan Kim clan (연안 김씨)[12]
    2. Sister-in-law: Jeong Nan-Jeong (? - 13 November 1565) (정난정)[13]
  1. King Myeongjong of Joseon (3 July 1534 – 3 August 1567) (이환 경원대군)
  2. Princess Uihye (1521 - 1564) (의혜공주)
  3. Princess Hyosun (1522 - 1538) (효순공주)
  4. Princess Gyeonghyeon (1530 - 1584) (경현공주)
  5. Princess Insun (1542 - 1545) (인순공주)

Actresses who have portrayed Queen Munjeong[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ According to the chronicles the spirit is supposedly Injong, screaming with grief at the woman who could never be a mother to him even in death.
  2. ^ A prominent Seon (Chinese: Chan; Japanese: Zen) Buddhist temple, in Yangju, Gyeonggi Province.
  3. ^ http://www.buddhistchannel.tv/index.php?id=45,7655,0,0,1,0
  4. ^ The engraved golden painting's provenance at the bottom of the painting still exists.
  5. ^ Buddhist art is rare as the state ideal was Neo-Confucianism.
  6. ^ "Offering Benefit"
  7. ^ The National Master Monk of Unified Silla at that time.
  8. ^ "Seeing True Nature"
  9. ^ First established by National Master-Monk Jinul Bojo-guksa in the 13th century.
  10. ^ Daughter of Jang Il-Chwi (장일취).
  11. ^ Their daughter became one of Injong's concubines.
  12. ^ Daughter of Kim An-soo (김안수).
  13. ^ Wife of the Prime Minister
Preceded by
Queen Janggyeong
Queen consort of Korea
1517-1544
Succeeded by
Queen Inseong