Organized Panel Session
Social hierarchy prescribed by clan laws permeated the wedding ceremonies of royals during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). By comparing marriage ceremonies of princes with those of princesses, my paper shows how different ritualistic elements—socio-cultural meanings of marital age, spouse selection methods, a bride’s temporal stay in a Separate Palace, a groom’s entitlement, and residence rules after marriage—reveal conflicting gender norms and practices in seventeenth-century Korea. A king’s daughter, for example, did not follow contemporary Confucian rules for a woman moving into her spouse’s household after marriage. Instead, the groom “moved into the house (palace) of his father-in-law.” Also, only after passing a trio of candidate selection competitions (sam-gantaek) was he entitled to marry the king’s daughter. Still, certain rituals were incorporated into royal marriages to comply with Confucian rules: the groom had to bring the princess from a “separate house” and have a wedding at his own “temporary house.” Three days later, both went back to the palace, and in the following year, they moved into a kungga, a house next to the palace.
By examining such complex procedures, I argue that the Joseon court strategically developed marriage rituals that balanced contradictory elements—a princess’s gender, her exalted social status, and the Confucian family order ultimately received from China—to uphold the royal family’s prestige.