Record of Pak Uihwon's Property Distribution

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Primary Source Text

English Classical Chinese

1. On the tenth day of the third month of the thirtieth year of the Wanli reign (1602; the renyin year), I give this document to the surviving daughters and sons and the three deceased sons that I have fathered with the five previous wives of mine.

2. As for what this document pertains to, I, as the father, an ailing old men who might perish today or tomorrow, wrote this to distribute shares [of my property].

3. Of the five wives [of mine], a clear record is made to the best of my knowledge of the wrongdoings committed by four [ex-]wives.

4. The first wife, Eunhwa (Silver Flower), committed adultery in secret with another woman’s husband, Bak Eon-Geon, who took Eunhwa to wife; she lived with him until her death.

5. The second wife, Jindae, followed and lived [with me] when this old man was young, and there was a time when she practiced the Three Cardinal Principals and the Five Constant Virtues voluntarily. She committed adultery with a male slave, a crime punishable by death. When rumors abounded [about their illicit relationship], [they] fled to the region of Yeongam and wandered from place to place without a permanent home.

6. [She then met] Bak Sik, who lives in the village of Okcheon, on the road and they committed adultery. [She] followed and lived [with him] as man and wife until they died together.

7. Mongji who was the mother of my dead son, named Pak Ch’ŏn-sŏk, surreptitiously had an affair with Hong Ch’ŏn-gwi, and then produced many children. After Hong died, Mongji also followed him.

8. As for Kajilgŭm who was my next wife, I had an affair with her when I worked for the government office as a young clerk. And then I took her to wife and lived together in a remote town. Even after making love with me and giving birth to a daughter, as a fundamentally disorderly woman, this Kajilgŭm still led a promiscuous life with five or six different guys.

9. In the old town where she had lived with me but left for a while (now she came back), ...

10. When she came to live with our daughter, for whatever reason, towards this old man, who has done nothing wrong, she called to heaven day and night and implored rubbing her palms for my promptly death, for this reason I informed my relatives of this.

11. In brief, since this peculiar wife Kajilgŭm has now passed away, although not once repenting her adulterous crimes, her implorations for my death are a thing between the two of us and we shall not discuss that crime here. Nonetheless, the daughter whom she bore for me, called Yeyŏng, daughter of my flesh and blood, she follows her mother’s dictates and hence prays for my demise in that same way.

12. Also, there was a clear violation [of Confucian conduct] when she prepared meat within three days after her brothers Pak Kwangrip (朴光立) and Pak Chŏnsŏk (朴千石) both passed away (竝歿). Together with [the earlier matter of wishing my death], I was about to write up [this case] and report it (論文發狀) [but did not in the end]. It is not because I belittle the violation of three principles and five virtues (綱常大過) that I did not report to the authorities. I hereby record in this inheritance document (子息等許與論文) to deduct (減給) the land and slaves (田民) bequeathed [to Yeyŏng (禮榮)].

13. I hereby record that for the more than forty years I have been living with [my wife,] the mother of Bak Weonbung, we have purchased together in total eleven grain-piculs of fields and paddies and I inherited from my parents one grain-picul of paddies and one grain-picul of fields. In principle, the law is clear on the matter of property acquired when residing together; and according to accepted practice for the division of inheritance, the property of a father must be equally divided among the children of his other wives.

14. The sons-in-law of the other wives are all proficient in writing and notorious for suing others for unlawful reasons. For fear that they dispute the properties of our beloved sons, Bak Daebung and Bak Weonbung, to whom my present wife Yeobae and I gave birth, and our sons wander as vagabonds in other provinces, I have lamented day and night and shed a lot of tears. If there’s anybody who encroaches upon what I bequeath to [our sons] and the conditions of this general document, [the government] should confiscate their properties and return them [to my sons]. Following the Royal Instruction (of 1553), regardless of before or after the amnesty, all family members who committed crimes should be subject to punishment by law.

1. 萬曆參拾年壬寅1602參月初十日, 五妻幷産生存子息五娚妹, 及故子參兄弟等亦中(에게)許與明文

2. 右明文爲臥乎事段(하는 일인 )父亦(은)年深病人以(으로), 今明日生死難知, 各衿(깃, 몫 one share)幷論許與爲臥乎等用良(하는 바로써)

3. 大抵五妻之中肆妻所犯乙昭然現錄爲去乎

4. 本妻銀花段他夫朴彦巾乙潛奸娶夫居生仍爲身死

5. 次妻進代段老矣身年方隨居時自有綱常奴子通奸死罪失行所聞喧說之初{土+巴}走於流離靈岩地

6. 玉泉里居朴植乙路此相奸隨居夫妻仍爲竝歿

7. 故子朴千石母夢之段, 洪千貴乙潛奸, 多産子息. 先歿同人隨身

8. 次妻加叱今段, 老矣身年方時, 出入官門時, 和奸娶妻, 遠在邑中. 相奸時, 適出女子後, 同加叱今亦亂本女人以. 五六處, 至潛奸, 遆夫橫行爲如可.

9. 曾別老人居處同里良中,

10. 我身幷産其女子家隨居爲旀, 何以所術是喩, 秋毫不犯老矣身當爲晝夜仰天卽死亦攢手哀乞, 其理乙族親通知事是乎

11. 大槪別妻加叱今段, 永別老矣身乙不爲改奸之罪, 以死爲哀乞之事乙, 彼我不干之間, 勿論其罪爲乎喩良置, 同女人乙相奸時幷産女子禮榮段, 我身骨肉相産女子以其母矣從令皃如, 一樣老父乙, 亦歿攢手根因,

12. 及其同生娚朴光立朴千石竝歿, 未過參日, 卽時用肉分明之事, 幷以(아울러)論文發狀計料爲如可(하다가 | 무엇을 하다가 중지하는 뜻을 말하는 연결어미), 不小綱常大過, 不爲發狀爲有如乎(하였다는). 子息等許與論文良中(에), 減給田民現錄爲去乎(하므로),

13. 又次老矣身達貫率妻朴元鵬母乙, 肆拾餘年至率居時, 同備買得田畓幷全拾壹石落只, 及又次傳於父母應得畓全壹石落只, 田皮種全壹石落只等庫乙合錄許與爲在果. 大抵法典不懸夫妻累年同居買得之物, 則中分通論, 父矣衿以▣他妻子息中平均分給, 法例宜當爲乎.

14. 其他妻女婿等弋只(이, 주격조사), 皆是能文非理好訟之人以(으로)有入功.

“達貫率妻”女陪幷産愛恤子息朴大鵬朴元鵬等乙, 爭奪田民流離他道爲白乎去(하올까, 하옵신가), 晝夜悵嘆嚌嚌可斗. 通論之情, 許與之物乙, 欲奪者有去等(있으면), 父矣許與論文皃如(대로)某婿之中所犯田民乙, 依明典沒官當免良(--을, 목적조사), 曾經癸丑(1553)年依受敎乙用良, 勿揀赦前, 全家定罪施行敎事(하옵실 일).

Discussion Questions

  1. What does this document tell us about the nature of family relations in this period? Should we believe what the document tells us? How should revered models of family behaviour be understood in light of this document?
  2. Primogeniture, which stipulated that only the legitimate, firstborn son could inherit his parent's property, was firmly established by the end of the Chosŏn dynasty, and has been considered one of the defining characteristics of Korean traditional society. How was the situation different in 1602, as shown in this document?
  3. Was Korea always a “patrilineal” society? How did Neo-Confucianism affect women’s life during the Chosŏn dynasty? How does this document complicate our understandings of Chosŏn women? How reliable is the information provided by Pak Ŭihwŏn? Why so? What seem to be the crimes serious enough to warrant reduced inheritance? What can the document tell us about married life in this social group and time period? What was marriage? What can we infer from Bak's will in terms of distribution of property among children and spouse? Would it be safe for us to say that Bak's way of distribution of property is the norm in those days? Could it be that his will is "unique"?
  4. In the beginning of the document, the author talked about various wrongdoings of his previous wives. What is the purpose of it? Did he just want to blame them? Or, did he want to provide proper grounds why he divided his property such as such?
  5. His previous wives committed various adultery. But based on this document, they also had the right to get a certain share of his property, and a wife even claimed that she didn’t do anything wrong. Based on this document, did the people have any moral ethical idea that can be explained by Neo Confucianism?
  6. What does this text say about laws and inheritance in Joseon at the start of the 17th century? What is the social status of the narrator? Did he write this text himself? Why use 'idu'? What was 'idu' used for, and who by? Does it have a class affiliation? How many wives and children does the narrator have? What happened to his previous wives? How is the property divided up? Do you think the crimes that the narrator accuses his former wives of are true? What is the role of slaves in this document? Are women usually named in legal texts?
  7. According to this document, four out of five wives of the man committed adultery, but no legal punishment was mentioned. How do you think about the moral standard of that time? How serious is adultery as a crime? What were common people's life like under the guidance of the Confucian Norms?
  8. What can you surmise about the legal system of Chosŏn? How does Pak Ŭihwŏn claim his right? How did the government manage the family register? Was there marriage or divorce certificate? How did this document serve as an official legal document and how did the officials verify family relationship?

Further Readings