King Sunjong's billiards and Seongjong's fireworks...royal hobbies of Joseon Dynasty

연합뉴스 / 2021-10-12 14:55:04
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▲ This photo, provided by the National Palace Museum of Korea, shows a billiards calculator. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap) 



SEOUL, Oct. 12 (Yonhap) -- There is a metal “Billiards Calculator” (translated) in the collection of the National Palace Museum of Korea. It is not much different from the ones we can see at billiard-rooms these days, but the poliage on its lower parts gives the historical artifact a luxurious look.

In Nisshotei’s (translated) pamphlet about its operation, a photo of a billiard table is printed under the phrase “Gu Hee-sil of Changdeokung Palace in Gyeonseong of the Joseon Dynasty” (translated). On the table, plum flowers symbolizing the Korean Empire are engraved.

King Sunjong resided in the palace at that time. Billiards was called “Okdol” (translated), King Sunjong is said to have regularly played Okdol on Mondays and Thursdays.

“Not only King Sunjong but also his father King Gojong and the women in the palace played billiards as well. Billiards would have been a hobby and a recreational activity that comforted the emperor’s sadness of losing their powers having been forced to be degraded to kings from an emperor,” explained Ahn Bo-ra (translated) liberal arts researcher of the National Palace Museum of Korea through her new book, “Joseon’s Secret Taste” (translated).

The book contains 31 strange and interesting hobbies of the Joseon royal people introduced by 12 liberal arts researchers of the National Palace Museum of Korea and the National Intangible Heritage Center.

King Seongjong who completed the Joseon Dynasty’s law code, “Gyeongguk Daejeon,” especially loved fireworks. The vassals repeatedly asked the king to stop the fireworks as it is costly and dangerous, but he refused saying that it is a part of military activities and necessary when driving out the bad energy.

“Large-scale fireworks that use up relatively a lot of gunpowder are focused on the early Joseon Dynasty and peaked at King Seonjong’s era. There were fireworks at events like a feast at Gyeonheolu Gyeongbokgung Palace welcoming the Chinese envoys during King Jungjong and Myeongjong’s era. But, after that it was hard to find fireworks-related events,” said Baek Eun-kyung, a liberal arts researcher of the National Palace Museum of Korea.

Like personalities differ, the kings’ hobbies were different as well. King Taejong enjoyed hunting and Sukjong was into looking at paintings. King Heonjong loved collecting seals and even wrote a book about seals, “Bosodanginjon” (translated).

Prince Yeonsan who is known to have been a tyrant, seems to have looked after plants as a hobby. He is said to have gifted seasonal flowers and drinks to vassals having a hard time due to work.

But when he became a tyrant, he was obsessed with plants and even made excessive orders. For example, he ordered to plant 10,000 Rhododendron indicums in the garden and during a rebel in 1506, he destroyed a temple site near the palace and changed into a garden.

“Prince Yeonsan’s case well shows how much harm can be done when king gets obsessed with something,” said the researcher.

There are intriguing episodes of other royal figures as well such as Lady Yi who devoured novels, Seongjong’s wife Queen Jeonghyeon who loved turnips and Namwhi (translated) who was married to King Sejong’s younger sister but couldn’t get his hands off Ssangnyuk, a kind of gambling.



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