Forensic Fashion
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>Costume Studies
>>1776 Korean yangban
Subject: 양반, 兩班 scholar-official
Culture: Korean gentry
Setting: late Joseon dynasty, Korea 17-19thc

Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)

* Lee 2004-10 online
"Alongside the king, a class of men known collectively as the yangban governed society during the Joseon dynasty (1392–1910). The term yangban refers to members of the “two orders” of civil or military officialdom. Whether his post was civil or military (the former was considered more prestigious than the latter), a yangban was, essentially, a literati. The yangban was expected to hold public office, follow the Confucian doctrine through study and self-cultivation, and help cultivate the moral standards of Joseon society. As an elite class, the yangban enjoyed many privileges and actively sought to preserve the purity and exclusivity of their group—for instance, through marriage only among members of the yangban class. It was not a monolithic group, however. There were numerous internal distinctions, and the yangban strove to maintain a hierarchical order among themselves. Toward the end of the Joseon dynasty, the grievances and protests of large numbers of discontented or “fallen” yangban, especially those residing outside of the capital city of Hanyang (present-day Seoul), would erode the core of yangban society."

* National Academy of the Korean Language 2002 p241-243
​"The yangban system in the Goryeo Dynasty was just a formality; in fact, it was not practiced well.  Yet, the system took root in the bureaucratic hierarchy, no doubt, after it was expressly stipulated in the Joseon Dynasty in Gyeonggukdaejeon, the great law book on the ruling of the country.  With such promulgation, the concept of yangban was extended not only to bureaucrats, but also to their families and relatives.  This was due to the special importance placed on blood ties during the Joseon Dynasty.  Later on, anyone qualified for service in the royal court received the position of yangban even if he had no close relative in the bureaucracy.  In the end, yangban became the word for all the ruling people in the Joseon Dynasty.
    "In the time when social hierarchy was strictly observed, the yangban classes enjoyed many exclusive prerogatives.  From the economic point of view, they received some portion of the harvest from tenants as landowners, and they owned slaves.  They were exempt from labor for the government or their duties were lessened.  Lighter punishment was imposed on criminals from the upper classes than those from the lower classes.  Also, they sought to maintain their status by arranging marriage mostly among themselves.
    "The yangban position was hereditary; they enjoyed many privileges just because of their social status.  But they needed literary accomplishments to be treated as such, which, after all, meant they should succeed in the gwageo and be selected as government officials.  Moreover, Confucian doctrines had to be observed and practiced.  If not, they would not have been treated as yangban.  Therefore, they cared a great deal about their behavior, following strict rules with consideration for their responsibilities based on their privileges. ... In this way, they created and led the culture."

* New World Encyclopedia online > Yangban
"The Yangban (양반, 兩班 in Korean) were a well-educated scholarly class of male Confucian scholars who were part of the ruling elite in Korea prior to 1945 and during the Republics period of Korean history. The name yangban, literally "both classes," refers to the two classes it consists of: munban (문반;文班), the literary class, and muban (무반;武班), the martial class. The yangban were responsible for maintaining Confucian standards and elevating the morality of society.
    "The yangban tradition of a close network based on education, teachers, family background, and city of origin, has been perpetuated within the Korean ruling class of the partitioned Koreas. In modern day Korea, the yangban no longer possess an advantage but many Koreans boast of having a yangban ancestor. Yangban ancestry can be traced through the Chokbo, the Korean equivalent of a family tree which is passed down in each family through the eldest son. Yangban connotes a high and dignified class status, even in the absence of wealth, comparable with the Sangnom class rather than with the educated middle and servant classes."

* Britannia online > Yangban
"[Y]angban, (Korean: “two groups”), the highest social class of the Chosŏn (Yi) dynasty (1392–1910) of Korea. It consisted of both munban, or civilian officials, and muban, or military officials. The term yangban originated in the Koryŏ dynasty (935–1392), when civil service examinations were held under the two categories of munkwa (civilian) and mukwa (military). By the Yi dynasty, the term came to designate the entire landholding class. The Yi dynasty had a rigidly hierarchical class system composed broadly of four classes: yangban, chungin (intermediate class), sangmin (common people), and ch’ŏnmin (lowborn people).
    "The yangban were granted many privileges by the state, including land and stipends, according to their official grade and status. They alone were entitled to take civil service examinations and were exempt from military duty and corvée labour. They were even permitted to have their slaves serve their own terms of punishment.    
    "The rules to which the yangban were subjected were severe. Unless at least one of their family members within three successive generations was admitted to the officialdom, they were deprived of their yangban status. They were expected always to exhibit courtesy and righteousness and to be prepared to sacrifice their lives for a greater cause. No matter how poor, they were not supposed to show a shred of meanness in their behaviour."


* National Academy of the Korean Language 2002 p142-143
"A gat is a hat which Korean men in premodern times used to wear when they were dressed up to go out or participate in important events.  It has a broad, round brim called yangtae, and from its center rises a cylindrical crown with its lower part broader in diameter than the upper part.  The gat is held on by two straps hanging from its sides and tied together under the chin.
    "Gat-making is complex.  First, a brim is made with thread-like fine strings of split and trimmed bamboo of good quality.  Next, the crown, woven of horsehair, is fixed on the brim.  Finally, it is all wrapped with very thin hemp cloth and is finished by painting it with black lacquer.  At this point, it requires sophisticated and delicate skill to bend the brim of the gat somewhat indented downward all around.
    "Originally, in the period of the Three Kingdoms, men wore the gat just to protect themselves against rain or sunshine.  The social meaning of the gat was established in the middle of the Joseon Dynasty.  At that time, classical scholars began to wear the gat as a part of their daily costume, and it symbolized their high appearance and dignity.  Classical scholars made much of their clothes and hats; the gat had the most importance in that it distinguished them from barbarians, and the yangban, the nobility, from the common people.  Therefore, whenever they did not wear it, they used to put it in a hatbox or keep it by carefully hanging it on the wall or putting it in a high place such as on a cabinet out of everybody's reach.
    "As the gat was a symbol of the importance which classical scholars' [SIC] attached to courtesy, they had to observe formal etiquette in putting on the gat.  First they bound a wide woven horsehair headband called a manggeon around their foreheads to hold their hair in place and to keep it from sliding down from their topknots.  Next, they put on a small crown, tanggeon, also made of horsehair, and finally they put the gat on top.
    "The gat, once put on, made them feel very light as if they were not wearing a hat, as the wind went freely through it.  It has a subtle charm in that the delicately woven brim does not completely shut out the glaring sunshine but dimly screens it.  The gat is an original style hat expressing the grace and philosophy of Koreans who put importance on getting along with nature."

* Wilcox 1969 p188
"Korean hat a tall-crowned, wide-brimmed hat of woven horsehair, bamboo and silk, painted black, tied under the chin with black silk ribbons.  Traditionally worn by Korean men after marriage when the hair, worn in a queue by bachelors, is dressed into a tight bun on top of the head and confined by a strip of black horsehair covering the head like a skullcap.  The hat is never removed, not even for sleeping.  In wet weather it is covered with a conical hat of oiled paper or silk."

* Crow Collection of Asian Art
"Hats (gat and tang-geon) ...  During the Joseon period, all well-dressed men wore a tall hat (gat) with a cylindrical crown tapering slightly toward the top and a lightly arched brim of medium width.  When worn correctly, the brim did not encircle the forehead and temples like a Western hat, but rather sat well up and back on the head.  Either a black silk ribbon or a bamboo-link-covered cord (gatkkeun) ... was tied under the chin to keep the hat in place. ... 
    "If the wearer was a high official, he wore an official's skullcap (tang-geon) under his gat; the shape and material of the cap sometimes denoted his rank.  The simplest of these ... was used to cover a top-knot (sang-tu), and merely indicated the wearer was a married man.
    "Both of these hats are made of woven horsehair taken from either the mane or the tail of a horse.  The woven horsehair fabric was cut and formed over a mold, with layers of black lacquer applied to hold the shape.  A narrow wooden circular frame was often used as a short extension of the crown below the brim in order to give the hat strength, and to ensure the hat sat well up on the head."

* Clunas/Harrison-Hall eds. 2014 p70 f49 caption (Jessica Harrison-Hall, "Courts: Palaces, people and objects" p44-111)
"...  [T]he Great Canon of the Youngle reign (Yongle da dian) includes illustrations of such headgear.  This type of tall crowned hat later became popular in Korea through contacts between the Ming and Joseon courts."


* Dunhill 1969 p91-92
"The Chinese and Korean pipes are to be distinguished from the Japanese ... by their greater size.  Mr Lowell, an American who visited Korea in the eighties, says: 'We leaned back in our chairs and the attendants lit for us our pipes.  This service was hardly so gratuitous a luxury as it sounds.  The pipes were a yard long, and it was only just within bounds of possibility to light them one's self. ...  The pipes were made of slender bamboo fitted with brass bowls and mouthpieces, finished to resemble silver.  Though of the same form, it is much more nearly a full blown specimen of the pipe than the Japanese is; and what is especially pleasing, the bowls are much larger, so that one has not to be knocking out the ashes and refilling them.'  In the illustrations to Hemel's travels, already referred to, the Koreans are represented with very long-stemmed pipes, which confirms the suggestion that such was the original Japanese pipe."


​* National Academy of the Korean Language 2002 p120
"Hanbok is Korea's national costume, which has been and is worn by Koreans of all ages.  Hanbok as undergone many changes little by little for a long time, but it hasn't lost its original features.  They are still evident in modern-style hanbok.  Hanbok, however, is used as a term, in general, for the style of clothing worn in the Joseon Dynasty.
    "This traditional costume was characterized by its loose fit and roominess.  Men's hanbok usually consisted of a broad hip-length jacket called a jeogori and baggy pants called baji.  As baji were very roomy, they were bound with a belt of the same cloth at the waist, and the legs were tied at the ankles for convenience with straps called daenim.
    "[...] Men wore a jacket and a vest and covered them with an overcoat called a magoja. ...  Men and women both used to wear a durumagi, a long overcoat, for courtesy when going out and on special days.  Also, they always wore socks called beoseon."

* Woo ed. 2014 p186
"Garments known as dopo were worn by the Joseon king and male nobility as outerwear, and by Confucian scholars as their everyday dress.  After the seventeenth century, dopo were also incorporated into ceremonial costumes worn at events such as weddings (blue dopo) and ancestral rituals (white dopo).  Both blue and white dopo were worn as everyday outerwear, but only blue dopo were worn for important meetings.  When visiting others, Joseon men wore a basic outfit of pants (baji) and a short inner jacket (jeogori), a different type of topcoat known as durumagi, and dopo as the outermost layer.  The head was covered with a traditional hat of the gat type for visits, but ceremonial headgear was worn for rituals."

​* National Academy of the Korean Language 2002 p133
"A durumagi is the traditional outermost layer of clothing when wearing hanbok.  It looks similar to a jeogori, but it differs in length. It is long enough to reach the knees.  Its collar and sleeves are broader than those of a jeogori.
    "Durumagi can be seen in wall paintings from the era of the Three Kingdoms as it was worn by both men and women from ancient times.  This outer wear is not very different from the modern version; only the cloth belt tied around the waist has been replaced by a goreum.
    "All varieties of outer wear were called po (袍).  Meanwhile, all outer wear which was inconvenient to wear was prohibited by the government in 1884, and only the durumagi was allowed.
    "The durumagi was used for protection against the cold by women, while it was worn for courtesy by men.  The nobility of Korea, who put special importance on etiquette, considered it formal dress.  Thus, Koreans wore it when they went out, and they didn't take it off in someone else's house."

​​* National Academy of the Korean Language 2002 p125
"Baji are trousers worn as part of hanbok.  Korean traditional trousers are bound at the waist with a cloth belt because they are very baggy.  In addition, they are tied at the ankles with daenim because they are broad and long enough to go below the ankles.  They are suitable for Koreans' sedentary style of living as they are much longer than western trousers.
    "In ancient times, both men and women wore baji.  Old paintings on walls show that the upper class wore broad trousers with daenim while the lower class wore narrow trousers without daenim.  Men have used baji as an outer garment; on the other hand, women gradually came to use baji as underwear."




* National Academy of the Korean Language 2002 p156-157
"A jangdo is a small knife which men and women carried in the era of the Joseon Dynasty.  The eunjangdo, made of silver, as the representative type, is best known among Koreans today.
    "The length of a jangdo is usually 10-15 centimeters or so.  It is very short and a small ring is hung on it to attach it to a person's clothes.  The handle of the knife and its case are normally made of the same material, such as gold, silver, coral, amber, green jadeite, jade, wood, bone, etc.  Various delicate designs including a pattern of the taegeuk, the Great Absolute are used to decorate them.  They are named according to the material or carved pattern.
    "In the past both men and women ordinarily carried a jangdo, which was always put in a pocket or attached to the tie of a jacket in Korean dress.  Women used to attach it to their norigae, their dress decoration.  A pair of chopsticks of silver was most often attached to a jangdo, and it is said that they were used to examine whether there was poison in the food or not by putting those chopsticks in contact with the food.  In addition, it is also said that amber was not merely used for luxurious decoration, but also to stop bleeding by cutting it with a knife and applying a piece of the amber to the wounded spot when a person got hurt.
    "Reportedly, the custom for men and women to carry a jangdo had originally been affected by Mongolian styles in the Goryeo Dynasty.    But in the Joseon Dynasty, as it became widely generalized, it become [SIC] harmonized with the Confucian culture of Korea, taking on a unique meaning."

* Pitt Rivers Museum online > Jang Do (1907.80.15)
"The carrying of highly ornamental knives by men and women became popular in Korea during the second half of the long Choson period (1392-1910). Traditionally, these small, relatively concealed knives, known as jang do, were presented to young women before their wedding night by their parents, in order to provide them with a means by which to prevent rape. This reflects the newly married woman passing from the protection of her parents into fully independent adult status. Therefore, we can see that the jang do was intended to be both discrete and noticeable; a symbol of marital status, fidelity and personal honour as well as a visual warning to potential assailants.
    "Usually, men wore such knives slung from the belt and ... most women either wore their jang do hung from a woven silk strap at the front of their clothing, much like a necklace, or carried them in their personal bag. Jang do usually also featured a silk tassel, which could be knotted in elaborate ways, although these are often missing on antique knives ....
    "Jang do are justly considered to be one of the highest achievements of Korean metal- and silverwork, and often feature the working and insetting of semi-precious stone as well as a type of enamelling called cloisonné. ... Examples also exist with hilts in wood, bone, coral, gold and silver. The blades themselves are tempered and annealed for hardness and flexibility, and are highly functional."


​* National Academy of the Korean Language 2002 p145-147


* Woo ed. 2014 p181
"Pouches to contain small items were hung at the waist, compensating for the lack of pockets in traditional Korean garments."




​* National Academy of the Korean Language 2002 p129