How a medieval Korean rebel artist made watermelons and mice famous
How a medieval Korean rebel artist made watermelons and mice famous
Works by Shin Saimdan

She was named after the patroness of pregnant women and mothers, but all her life Shin Saimdan rebelled against the traditional female role. An excellent education that did not rely on Korean women in the Middle Ages, the tacit role of the head of the family, spiritual practices, poetry and paintings … In South Korea, she is considered a national heroine and is decorated with portraits of stamps and banknotes. And glorified her drawings depicting … watermelons and mice.

Sin began to draw when she was a child

Shin Saimdan was born in the 16th century into the old and noble Pensan Shin family, about which legends were made. The ancestor of this family was considered a well-aimed shooter, who pleased the first king of Korea with his hunting skills, and, miraculously, all Koreans named Sin were descendants. At birth, Shin Saimdan was named Ying Song.

The realism of Xing's works was legendary

There were no sons in the family, and the maternal grandmother, herself a very educated and well-read woman, suggested that the eldest daughter be taught all the sciences due to the heir. In noble circles, connections on the mother's side were appreciated, Father In Song listened to the opinion of his grandmother … and happily agreed. As a man of an outstanding mind, with a broad outlook, a true intellectual of his time - apolitical and free-thinking - he longed to pass on his vast store of knowledge to someone. Somehow it didn’t grow together with martial arts, but In Sung studied words, calligraphy, painting, along with “female arts”. Grandmother actively encouraged all of her interests. Most of all, the girl liked to draw, and there are legends about her early revealed talent - for example, birds tried to peck insects drawn by her. Saimdan is her middle name, given in honor of the ancient ruler of China, who was famous for her wisdom and researched methods of pregnancy, and also, as they would now say, methods of prenatal development of intelligence in children.

Embroidery was an acceptable technique for women

There was nothing revolutionary or scandalous in the plots that In Sung chose - insects, flowers and birds … But the technique of execution was atypical for a woman. For women's creativity, embroidery was considered acceptable, painting was considered a man's business.

But women in medieval Korea were not usually involved in painting

When In Sung turned nineteen, she was married to a young military man of no less glorious family. From that time on, she began to use mainly her middle name - Saimdan. A change of name was a normal practice for the highly educated nobles of the time. The first years of marriage were marred by quarrels between the newlyweds and problems in the Saimdan family. Since her relatives saw in her the head of the family, after the death of her father, she had to deal with household affairs, make decisions, take care of her mother and sisters.

Work with images of flowers

The young husband (the big age difference between the newlyweds was forbidden), who did not understand at all what kind of woman he got as his wife, took a concubine - according to the law, he had the right to do this, and most wives who did not please their husbands enough simply resigned themselves to the state of affairs … But Shin Saimdan, offended by treason, committed another act that was completely inappropriate for women in medieval Koryo. She … retired to a mountain retreat.

Works by Shin Saimdan

Women were prohibited from such practices as traveling alone over considerable distances - for this they were subject to severe punishment, which often ended in the death of the sentenced. But that didn't stop Shin Saimdan.Fortunately, the authorities did not find out about her act, and the husband was shocked by the willpower of his wife, and hastened to make peace with her. After a while, Saimdan returned home, and in the future her marriage served as an example of loyalty, trust and … raising children.

Arts and Parenting - Xing has been successful in both of these areas

Four sons of Saimdan and three of her daughters were brought up according to the canons of the royal namesake. One of the daughters and granddaughter of Xing also became famous artists, the sons became famous in military affairs, politics, poetry. Even during his lifetime, Shin Saimdan was revered as a mother who revealed the multifaceted talents of her children. But, while teaching the heirs, Saimdan did not forget about creativity. A woman successful in a man's business - it was strange, even indecent. But despite the fact that the works of Saimdan were not appreciated by contemporaries at first, there was a lot of talk about her. Soon her fame reached the royal court. And King Goryeo himself ordered a porcelain service with her drawings.

Contemporaries had difficulty understanding Xing's work due to gender serotypes But her drawings have earned the attention of the King of Korea himself

About a hundred of her works are known. Sin adored gardening, grew watermelons and eggplants - and, observing the work of her hands, sought to capture the transience of life. She lovingly painted garden birds, recreated in detail the images of tiny insects, the curves of shoots and shoots.

Drawings with garden plants Work with images of flowers

In European culture, women who have had the privilege of “treading the path” into art for other women have often left behind many self-portraits. It was not easy for women to find models and sitters, and self-reflection in painting was an accessible way to understand their feelings and aspirations. But Shin Saimdan's self-portraits have not survived - and, most likely, they simply did not exist. The ban on portraits of women (other than the wives of emperors) was so strong in those days that, perhaps, even Ms. Saimdan herself could not overcome it. All her portraits are the latest fictional fiction.

There are no images of people among Xing's works

Literature for Korean women in the Middle Ages was also considered obscene and was only the lot of courtesans - powerless and not particularly respected. However, Saimdan, who was well versed in Confucian literature, found a way to express her feelings in poetic form. Her surviving poems contain longing for her dead parents, nostalgia for her native land. Shin Saimdan died at the age of forty-eight. Her eldest son retired to the mountains, agonizing over the loss.

Works by Shin Saimdan Monument to Shin Saimdan

But real fame came to her … five hundred years later. Her portrait was placed on stamps and banknotes in South Korea, a monument to the artist was erected in Seoul, a magnificent costume drama featuring the stars of South Korean TV series is dedicated to her life, and Google dedicated a picture to her on the start page in honor of her five hundred and tenth birthday. Shin Saimdan is considered the most famous woman in Korean history.

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