In sageuk, especially those centered around Joseon Dynasty, we often see the female characters with hairpins and wigs but they rarely wear the usual accessories that we have today such as bracelets, earrings, necklaces, and rings. In fact, I’ve never seen any of the Joseon women wear earrings, something that perks up my interest. I become more intrigued when I see some of the male characters in Faith wearing earrings more often than the women. Hence, my curiosity ends when I find what I’ve been looking for.
I’ll start off with the earrings first.
It’s uncommon for men to wear earrings in my culture, thus my mother raised an eyebrow along with me when we saw this on KBSWorld:
King Jinpyung of Silla’s brother wearing dangling gold earrings
It’s interesting to know that earrings were once favored as daily accessories and worn not only by the women, but also the men. Dated back to the Three Kingdoms, they were popular and usually made of precious metals such as gold, silver, and bronze. Gold earrings were usually worn by the royalties, depicting their status as the rulers and those who held power in the country.
There were three types of earrings or eehwan (이환) in Silla Dynasty, where they were the most sought items: simple, dangling, and showy. Simple earrings consisted of single loop; dangling ones had a loop attached to the clasp; showy earrings were made as multiple loops with lavish decorations attached to a loop.
Empress Sado of Silla with a showy gold earrings. Notice that a curved jade bead was attached to each of the earring’s ends, like those put on the famous Silla’s gold crown.
Queen Seondeok wearing the infamous Silla’s earrings decorated with small gold leaves.
The men wore earrings as a symbol of youth and ability. Although both male and female could wear earrings, Men usually opted for thin earrings or sehwan, while women would choose taehwan, or thick earrings. The difference lied in the thickness of the upper ring or loop of the earrings.
Prince Deoksung of Goryeo, Kichul only wore one earring
Even the young Lee Seong-gye wore earrings!
The practice was continued during Goryeo Dynasty but not many earrings were found from the dynasty. However, earrings became unpopular during Joseon Dynasty because of the influence of Confucianism. According to the teaching, taking care of one’s body is a way of showing filial piety as the body is from the parents. Piercings were considered an undutiful act since it would hurt the body,thus limiting the usage of earrings in daily life.
In addition, there was a restriction called by the government to limit the usage of personal ornaments, especially those made of gold and silver. It was said that the policy was caused by the economic crisis due to importing gold and silver from Ming Dynasty of China. Earrings for men eventually disappeared and women only wore them when the occasion called for it, for instance wedding ceremony. Simple earrings were preferred over those dangling ones.
Now, onto the rings.
Rings were popular ornaments during Joseon Dynasty. They were commonly referred to as jihwan (지환) and they were two types of rings in Joseon Dynasty: garakji (가락지) and panji (반지). Panji was a single ring worn by single ladies. It indicated that the wearer was still single.
Arang with a jade panji on her finger
Garakji literally means “a pair of big rings” and they consisted of a pair of rings made from various metals and stones, according to the rank of the wearer. Garakji were reserved only for the married women. They held special meaning in marriage life, as they symbolized the harmony between husband and wife according to Confucianism. When the husband died, one of the ring would be given to the husband while the wife kept another one with her until she die, symbolizing faithfulness.
Garakji on Princess Kyung-hye’s finger
Garakji and binyeo were also used as wedding gifts to the bride. Giving garakji or binyeo to a single woman had the meaning of asking her hand in marriage and the man liked her. So that’s why Princess Kyung-hye was so mad when Seung-yoo gave her those rings, thinking that she’s Se-ryung.
Se-ryung, proposed by two men: garakji from Seung-yoo and binyeo from Myun
The types of the rings were also influenced by the seasons: gold rings for winter, silver rings for summer, and jade rings for autumn. Not sure about the spring, but maybe spring is the season to wear the prettiest one since it’s the season when the flowers bloom 🙂
This is just a short post and I don’t know if I’ll continue doing a focused post on other ornaments. However, they are so enchanting and I might try to do another one next time? What do you want to know about? Tell me about it! Questions are also welcomed if you have any 🙂