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Cover art for What's in a Banknote article by Joe Nickols. The art feature images of Shin Saimdang, the Korean artist.

What's in a Bank note: Controlling Legacy and Shaping the Ideal Confucian Woman


This article explores the complex history of the celebrated Korean woman artist, Shin Saimdang (1504-1551). In 2007, Saimdang was chosen to be featured on the redesigned 50,000-won banknote. This opened up a dialogue about the representation of women in South Korea and whether the use of Saimdang's image on the note actually reinforced Confucian patriarchal values within modern Korea. Consequently, this article examines the manipulation of Saimdang's legacy over nearly 500 years. As the mother of one of the most revered Korean Confucian scholars, Yulgok (1536- 1584), Saimdang was often held up as an example of appropriate womanhood, despite the fact that women were not encourage to pursue cultural endeavours. The surviving pen and ink works by Saimdang demonstrates that she was engaging in scholastic pursuits. Over the years many paintings have been ascribed to Saimdang's hand, often erroneously. This article probes into the reasons behind these wrongful attributions and the legacy of Saimdang. 

This article was written for the SOAS History Blog. The article can be read online here.  

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