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Queen Munjeong

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Title: Queen Munjeong  
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Subject: Dae Jang Geum, Korean literati purges, Bongeunsa, House of Yi, 1501 births
Collection: 1501 Births, 1565 Deaths, 16Th-Century Korean People, Female Regents, House of Yi, Korean Royal Consorts, Regents of Korea
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Queen Munjeong

Queen Munjeong (Hangul: 문정왕후, Hanja: 文定王后) (1 February 1502 – 29 December 1565) was the wife of King Jungjong of Joseon.

She was of the Papyeong Yun clan. She was regent for her son King Myeongjong when he was still too young to rule by himself until 1565. Known as a good administrator, she continued to rule even after he reached the age of majority. She gave out the land to common people that had been formerly owned by the nobility. It was only after her death that her son took over power.

She was given the posthumous title Seongryeol Inmyeong Munjong Wanghu (성렬인명문정왕후, 聖烈仁明文定王后).

Rise to Power

According to unofficial chronicles, there is a tale of Munjeong finally showing love for her "adoptive" son King Injong, after decades of polite indifference (in reality behind-the-scenes hatred).

As Injong went to pay his morning respects, Munjeong’s face started radiating with a smile only a mother could give to her child. Injong took it as a sign that the Queen Mother was finally acknowledging him as the king, and in particular as her own son. He ate the ddeok that his step-mother gave him, not knowing that it would be the beginning of the end. He fell ill slowly, not enough to create any suspicion, but quickly enough that historians would later pick up on the event. Three days passed before Injong mysteriously died (after only 9 months of rule).

Queen Munjong’s son became King Myeongjong, while Munjeong became Queen Regent. The chronicles also tell that Munjeong was frequently visited by spirits at night after Injong’s death.[1] So disturbed was she that she moved her residence from Gyeongbok Palace to Changdeok Palace.

Resurgence of Buddhism

Munjeong was the most influential supporter of Buddhism during the early dynasty; indeed, she lifted the official ban on Buddhist worship and instigated an impressive resurgence of Buddhim.

Two proofs of her strong support of Buddhism still exist.

Buddhist Paintings

During the time her son (the Royal Prince) fell ill, and at the same time her failure to produce another son, her concerns motivated her to order 400 Buddhist artworks (50 of which are in supplication for the recovery of the Royal Prince and the birth of another son). Also, the aim of the commission was to commemorate the opening of Hoeam Temple.[2] The project was started in 1563 and was completed 2 years later. Unfortunately, the Royal Prince died before the commission's completion.

The massive commission involved 100 scrolls on each of 4 triads:

  • The Historical Buddha Triad (Sanskrit: शाक्यमुनि Śākyamuni; Korean: 석가모니/석가 seokgamoni/seokga)
  • The Buddha of the Western Paradise Triad (अमिताभ Amitābha; 아미타불 amitabul)
  • The Buddha of the Future Triad (मैत्रेय Maitreya; 미륵보살 mireukbosal)
  • The Medicine Buddha Triad (भैषज्यगुरु Bhaiṣajyaguru; 약사여래/약사불 yaksayeorae/yaksabul)

In each set of 100, 50 were executed in colors and gold, the other 50 in gold only.

As of 2009,[3] only 6 of the commissioned 400 are still extant.

  • 1 painting in the Sakyamuni Triad – made in 1565, formerly belonging to the Hoeam Temple, discovered in Japan (in excellent condition[4]), and purchased and kept by the Mary Jackson Burke Collection in 1990 in New York. The painting is considered by experts in the field and in the Buddhist community to be one of the most important and representative Buddhist artworks produced during the Dynasty.[5]
  • 1 painting in the Bhaisajyaguru Triad – currently on display at the National Museum of Korea.
  • 4 paintings are in Japan.
    • 1 painting in the Sakyamuni Triad
    • 3 paintings in the Bhaisajyaguru Triad

Buddhist temples

Buddhist temples served as another proof of Munjeong's zealous aim of the revival of Buddhism. The cornerstone of the revival of Buddhism is the Bongeun-sa Temple (a major center of Zen Buddhism).

Bongeun-sa[6] was established in 794 by Ven. Yeon-hoe,[7] and was originally called Gyeonseong-sa.[8] It was rebuilt in 1498 (by Munjeong's patronage) and renamed Bongeun-sa; in 1562 it was moved about 1 km to its current location and rebuilt. Its fate will be destruction by fire (1592 and 1637) and repetitive rebuilding and renovations (1637, 1692, 1912, 1941, and 1981). A three-story stone stupa enshrines the Sari of Sakyamuni Buddha, brought from Sri Lanka in 1975.

The temple fell into decline during the late Goryeo era, but was reconstructed in 1498. Before the reconstruction, Buddhism fell under severe state-imposed oppression as the government maintained Neo-Confucianism as the sole state ideal. With Munjeong's strong support for the re-awakening of Buddhism, she reconstructed Bongeun-sa and it was to become a cornerstone for early-Joseon Buddhist revival.

Ven. Bo-woo played a key role at this critical period, having been assigned as the Chief Monk of Bongeun-sa in 1548. He revived an official system of training and selecting monks in both the Seon (meditation) and Gyo (doctrinal, scholastic) sects of Korean Buddhism.[9] In 1551, Bongeun-sa became the main temple of the Jogye Seon Order, then soon became the main base for the overall restoration of Korean Buddhism. This revived training system produced such illustrious monks as Ven. Seo-san, Ven. Sa-myeong, and Ven. Byeok-am. However, after Munjeong died, Ven. Bo-woo was killed by anti-Buddhist officials.


  1. Grand Prince Gyeongwon (Hangul: 경원대군), later King Myeongjong of Joseon
  2. Princess Uihye (Hangul: 의혜공주, Hanja: 懿惠公主)
  3. Princess Hyosun (Hangul: 효순공주, Hanja: 孝順公主)
  4. Princess Gyeonghyeon (Hangul: 경현공주, Hanja: 敬顯公主)
  5. Princess Insun (Hangul: 인순공주, Hanja: 仁順公主), died young


  • Great-Great-Great-Grandfather: Yun Beon (Hangul: 윤번, Hanja: 尹璠) (1384–1448), Prime Minister during the reign of King Sejo of Joseon
  • Great-Great-Great-Grandmother: Lady Lee (Hangul: 이씨, Hanja: 李氏)
  • Great-Great-Grandfather: Yun Saheun (Hangul: 윤사흔, Hanja: 尹士昕) (1422–1485), brother to Queen Jeonghui
  • Great-Grandfather: Yun Gye-gyeom (Hangul: 윤계겸, Hanja: 尹繼謙) (1442–1483)
  • Grandfather: Yun Uk (Hangul: 성욱, Hanja: 尹頊) (1459–1485)
  • Grandmother: Lady Jeong, of the Yeongil Jeong clan (Hangul: 영일 정씨, Hanja: 迎日 鄭氏)
  • Father: Yoon Ji-im (Hangul: 윤지임, Hanja: 尹之任) (1475–1534), The Internal Prince Pasan (파산부원군)
  • Mother: Lady Lee, of the Jeonui Lee clan (Hangul: 이씨, Hanja: 全義 李氏) (1475–1511), The Internal Princess Consort Jeonseong (전성부부인 이씨)


  • Brothers
  1. Yun Won-gae (Hangul: 윤원개, Hanja: 尹元凱)
  2. Yun Won-ryang (Hangul: 윤원량, Hanja: 尹元亮) (1495–1569)
  3. Yun Won-pil (Hangul: 윤원필, Hanja: 尹元弼)
  4. Yoon Won-ro (Hangul: 윤원로, Hanja: 尹元老) (died 1547)
  5. Yoon Won-hyeong (Hangul: 윤원형, Hanja: 尹元衡) (1509–1567)
  • Known sisters-in-law
  1. Lady Jang (장씨),[10] wife of Yoon Won-ryang[11]
  2. Lady Kim (김씨 부인, ?-1551),[12] 1st Wife of Yoon Won-hyeong
  3. Jeong Nan-jeong (정난정, ?-1565), Lady Jeonggyeong[13] (정경부인), 2nd Wife of Yoon Won-hyeong, bore him one son: Yun Chung-won (Hangul: 윤충원, Hanja: 尹忠源)

Actresses who have portrayed Queen Munjeong

See also


  1. ^
Preceded by
Queen Janggyeong
Queen consort of Korea
Succeeded by
Queen Inseong
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