Shin Saimdang

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This is a Korean name; the family name is Shin.
Shin Saimdang
Shin Saimdang
Revised Romanization Sin Saimdang
McCune–Reischauer Sin Saimtang
Courtesy name
Revised Romanization Inseon
McCune–Reischauer Insŏn

Shin Saimdang (申師任堂, October 29, 1504 – May 17, 1551) was a Korean artist, writer, calligraphist, noted poet, and the mother of the Korean Confucian scholar Yi I. Often held up as a model of Confucian ideals, her respectful nickname was Eojin Eomeoni (어진 어머니; "Wise Mother").[1][2] Her real name was Inseon. Her pennames were Saimdang, Inimdang and Imsajae.


Shin Saimdang was born and raised in Gangneung at the home of her maternal grandparents. Her father, Shin Myeonggwa (申命和) was a government official but did not actively join politics. Her mother was Lady Yi, the daughter of Yi Saon (李思溫). Shin had four younger sisters. Her maternal grandfather taught his granddaughter as he would have a grandson, and being raised in that atmosphere, Shin Saimdang received an education that was not common in that period. Besides literature and poetry, she was adept at calligraphy, embroidery and painting.

As she was raised in a son-less household, she spent much time at her parents' house even after her marriage to Commander Yi Wonsu (李元秀) at the age of 19, with her husband's consent. She accompanied her husband to his official posts in Seoul and rural towns, gave birth to Yi I in Gangneung, but suddenly died after moving to the Pyongan region at the age of 48.[2]

Saimdang was able to cultivate her talents thanks to an unconventional household and understanding husband, in a rigid Confucian society. Having had no brothers, she received an education that would have only been bequeathed to a son, and this background greatly influenced the way she educated her children.


Shin Saimdang's artwork is known for their delicate beauty; insects, flowers, butterflies, orchids, grapes, fish and landscapes were favorite themes. Approximately 40 paintings of ink and stonepaint colors remain, although many others are assumed to exist.[2]

Unfortunately, not much of her calligraphy is left but her style was greatly praised in her time, with high-ranking officials and connoisseurs writing records of her work. The scholar Eo Sukgwon, at the time of Myeongjong, mentioned in his book Paegwan Japgi (hangul:패관잡기, hanja:稗官雜記, "The Storyteller's Miscellany") that Saimdang's paintings of grapes and landscapes compared to those of the notable artist Ahn Gyeon. Far later, in 1868, the governor of Gangneung remarked upon seeing Saimdang's work that "Saimdang's calligraphy is thoughtfully written, with nobility and elegance, serenity and purity, filled with the lady's virtue".[2]


  • Looking Back at my Parents' Home while Going Over Daegwallyeong Pass(hangul:유대관령망친정, hanja:踰大關嶺望親庭) - Poem written while leaving her parents' house, grief-stricken from leaving her mother alone.
  • Thinking of Parents (hangul:사친,hanja:思親) - A poem about filial devotion to her mother.


  • Landscape (hangul:자리도, hanja:紫鯉圖)
  • Mountains and rivers (hangul:산수도, hanja:山水圖)
  • Grass and insect painting(hangul:초충도, hanja:草蟲圖)
  • Geese among reeds (hangul:노안도, hanja:蘆雁圖)

In modern culture[edit]

50,000 KRW note
50,000 KRW note

Shin Saimdang is the first woman to appear on a South Korean banknote, the 50,000 won note, first issued in June 2009. Feminist critics, however, have criticized her selection as reinforcing sexist stereotypes about women's roles.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ (Korean) Shin Saimdang at Doosan Encyclopedia
  2. ^ a b c d (Korean) Shin Saimdang at The Academy of Korean Studies
  3. ^ "'Best mom' chosen as face of currency". Reuters. Nov 6, 2007. 

External links[edit]