‘Saimdang: Memoir Of Colors’ (or Saimdang, Light’s Diary)starring Lee Young-ae in the title role as Shin Saimdang, a famous Joseon-era artist, and calligrapher who lived in the early 16th century.The series marks Lee’s television comeback 14 years after her pan-Asia hit drama Dae Jang Geum (2003).
A Korean art history lecturer (Lee Young-ae) discovers the diary of a historical figure and unravels the secret of a mysterious portrait that helps her rediscover the extraordinary life of Shin Saimdang (also played by Lee), a renowned poet-artist in the Joseon era.
Shin Saimdang is the first woman to appear on a South Korean banknote, the 50,000 won note, first issued in June 2009. Feminist critics, however, have criticized this selection as reinforcing sexist stereotypes about women’s roles.
Shin Saimdang was born and raised in Gangneung at the home of her maternal grandparents. Her father, Shin Myeonggwa was a government official but did not actively join politics. Her mother was Lady Yi, the daughter of Yi Saon. Shin had four younger sisters. Her maternal grandfather taught her as he would have a grandson. Being raised in that atmosphere, Shin Saimdang received an education that was not common for women of that era. Besides literature and poetry, she was adept at calligraphy, embroidery, and painting.
Because she was raised in a household that had no sons, she spent much time at her parents’ home. At the age of 19, she married Commander Yi Wonsu and with the consent of her husband she continued to spend time at the home of her parents. She accompanied her husband to his official posts in Seoul and in rural towns and birth to Yi I in Gangneung. However, Shin Saimdang died suddenly after moving to the Pyongan region at the age of 48.
Saimdang was able to cultivate her talents despite the rigid Confucian society thanks to an unconventional household and an understanding husband. Having no brothers, she received an education that would have been bequeathed only to a son, and this background greatly influenced the way she educated her children.
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