Koreana AUTUMN 1995 Vol.9 No.3
Feature
Korean Clothes and Fabrics
Cho Hyo-Soon
Professor of Home Economics
Myongji University
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The earliest material evidence of Korea's clothing culture dates back to 3,000 B.C. and includes Neolithic relics of clothes making such as sewing needles and spinning tools and personal accessories such as earrings and bracelets, as well as shell necklaces and rings excavated from ancient shell mounds in Kimhae. Murals in Koguryo (37 B.C.-A.D. 668) tombs show that during the Three Kingdoms period (57 B.C.-A.D. 935) people wore jackets, vests, coats, ornaments such as necklaces, bracelets and rings, and waist belts and shoes.
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As weaving is requisite for making clothes, it can be assumed that weaving developed in Korea during the prehistoric era and would have been a major chore of women of that time. According to the Chinese history book San-kuo-chi (History of the Three Kingdoms) the people of Pyonhan, an ancient Korean kingdom, wove silk to make clothing. The book also includes references to Korean women weaving linen and silk fabrics.
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There is also a written record that during the Shilla Kingdom (37 B.C.-A.D. 935), King Hyokkose (r. 57 B.C.-A.D. 4) encouraged the development of sericulture and King Yuri (r. 19 B.C.-A.D. 18) held weaving contests around the time of Ch'usok, the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month. The Korean history book Samguksagi (History of the Three Kingdoms) records that the Shilla Kingdom sent 30 cartloads of extra-fine ramie fabric to Tang China to be used by the royal household.
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During the Koryo Dynasty (918-1392), King Ch'ungnyol (r.1274-1308) sent embroidered ramie fabric as tribute to the court of Yuan China, and during the reign of King Kongmin (r.1351-1374), Moon Ik-jom brought cottonseeds to Korea from China. By the time of the Choson Dynasty (1392-1910), the weaving of ramie, silk and cotton fabrics had become prevalent throughout the country, contributing greatly to the dress culture of Choson. As a result many customs of the Choson period were related to weaving.
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In Puyo, Ch'ungchongnam-do, and Yongju, Kyongsangbuk-do, where the weaving of cotton and hemp, respectively, was communalized, women worked together in late summer until late at night making cloth, exchanging jokes and funny stories as they wove. In some provinces on Ch'usok, rewards were given to those who had made the most cloth. Shilla had a similar custom called kabae. Women of the Choson period had to learn weaving before the age of ten and had to work at the looms all their lives. Weaving contests were a time for women to temporarily forget the exhaustion of weaving and concentrate on camaraderie. While weaving, women sang songs related to their work.
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The quality of hemp weaving remarkably improved during the Choson period and each region had its own variety. The hemp from Hamgyong-do was called pukp'o, from Kyongsang-do yongp'o, from Kang-won-do kangp'o, from Andong Andongp'o, and from Koksong tolshilnai. Among them, pukp'o from the Yukjin area of Hamgyong-do was regarded as the finest. The more inferior hemp of Andong and Koksong was used for summer clothes, while the coarser kangp'o was mostly used for farmers' and fishermen's clothing.
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The production of hemp fabric is a complicated process involving many steps, beginning with the cultivation and harvesting of hemp plants. Hemp is planted in the third lunar month and harvested in the sixth lunar month. After harvesting, the hemp is steamed and the bark peeled off. For the steaming process, the hemp is placed on a hot stone and covered with leaves. Water is poured on the stone to produce steam and the hemp turns yellow. The bark is then peeled off before it cools, tied into bundles, and soaked in water and dried. The hemp bark is tom into three strands from the top and the hemp fibers are shredded from them. The fibers are then bundled together and placed in water to soak. Next the fibers are spun into strands and, to keep them from becoming brittle, placed in a warm room for five to seven days, covered with a straw mat to keep the heat in.
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The strands are then boiled in water, rinsed and dried in the sun. The weaver then prepares threads of different density, depending on the intended use. One sae consisting of 80 strands, five sae were usually used for work clothes, seven sae for regular clothes and three sae for mourning clothes. After the strands are prepared, the hemp is tied together and dried again by a bonfire. Then the threads are wound on a reel. After this process is over, the thread is placed on the loom and woven into fabric.
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The most delicately woven ramie fabric was the Hansansejo which Shilla's King Kyongmun (r. 861-875) sent as a gift to the court of Tang China During the Koryo Dynasty, embroidered ramie fabric was introduced. The making of ramie is similar to the making of hemp. Ramie can be harvested three times a year-spring, summer and autumn.
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During the reign of Choson's King Taejong (r. 1400-1418), the court promoted the production of silk by establishing sericulture centers called chamshil, instituting a law to govern sericulture, and introducing silk-weaving contests. During the reign of King Songjong (r. 1469-1494), w hen even the ladies of the court participated in silk-weaving contests, sericulture flourished to such an extent that domestically-produced silk replaced imported Chinese silk for the making of court apparel.
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Silk making included not only the weaving of fabric but also the raising of silkworms, retting of cocoons and spinning of thread The best silk was said to be made from cocoons collected in spring because their thread was longer and thicker than that of autumn cocoons.
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After cotton was introduced in Korea during the reign of Koryo's King Kongmin, cotton culture flourished, especially in the provinces of Ch'ungch'ong-do, Cholla-do and kyongsang-do. Cotton cloth became so popular that it was used in place of money when there was a currency crisis during the reign of Choson's King Sejong (r. 1418-1450). However, the use of cotton as money was abused as cotton was collected in the form of taxes. Taxes were even levied on dead family members and the cloth used to pay these taxes was popularly called paekkolchingp'o, meaning "skeleton tax cloth." The amount of tax levied upon common people was so excessive that they took the cotton padding out of their clothes to weave into cloth. Soch'ongdaep'o, the cloth made from the used cotton padding, was coarse and had a smoky tinge. This form of taxation greatly hindered the development of quality cotton weaving.
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The weaving of cotton cloth began with the cultivation of cotton plants and the harvesting of cotton bolls, and involved many subsequent steps such as carding to remove the seeds and spinning the cotton fibers into thread for weaving. The best quality cloth was made with 15- to 2l-ply thread, while cloth for commoners was made with 5- to 8-ply thread.
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Garment Care
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The care of garments includes such processes as washing, patching, stain removal, starching, ironing and storing. Many of these processes reflect the wisdom of ancient Koreans.
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Koreans have long been fastidious about the care of their clothing. During the Choson Dynasty, in particular, cleanliness was considered a virtue and much emphasis was placed on one's appearance, including one's clothing. A Choson gentleman would not be seen in an outfit that was not spotlessly clean, so women had to do a lot of washing, starching and ironing and in the process developed many types of bleaches. Lye was used as a detergent Lye was made by boiling burned hay, wood and bean skins and was usually used for washing cotton and hemp clothes. Silk fabrics were cleaned with red bean powder, mung bean powder, rice water and tofu water.
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Clothes were starched to help them keep their shape, give the fabric a shine and to make them more stain resistant Starching was done with rice, flour, potato and buckwheat starch. After the starching was done, the still damp clothes were wrapped in a cloth, placed on the floor and trodden on to remove the wrinkles. Before being ironed, the clothes would be placed on a fulling block and beaten with clubs.
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To remove stains from clothes, water left from boiling herbal medicine was recommended. Rubbing with turnip was recommended for grease stains and the steam from boiling a cow's foot was recommended for blood stains. To remove tobacco stains it was recommended that the spot be rubbed with pear leaves and washed in cold water. Washing in ginkgo nut garlic and turnip juice was recommended for removing mildew, washing with water in which turnip was boiled was recommended for oil stains, and washing with ginger juice was recommended for rust stains. These cleaning methods developed by Koreans of olden days could well be used today in garment care.
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Ceremonial Dress and Ornamentation
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During the Choson period, the coming-of-age ceremony, marriage, funeral, and ancestral rites were the four most important ceremonies of one's life. Except for the coming-of-age ceremony, which was carried out only by aristocrats, the ceremonies were performed by both aristocrats and commoners.
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These ceremonies were first introduced to Korea from China in the late Koryo period. However, although the ancestral rites were notably influenced by China, Korea developed its own distinct ceremonial procedures, as is clearly evident in the Karye-chimnam (Exposition of Family Rites) of the early Choson period and Sarye-p'yollam (Procedures for Four Ceremonies) of the late Choson period.
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During the Choson period when Confucianism was the ruling political ideology, the four ceremonies were prescribed by law. As a result, these ceremonies became an integral part of daily life, serving as the basis for maintaining order in one's life and household.
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Attempts were made during the Choson period to adopt Chinese rites to Korea's own customs. However, as the Chinese procedures proved to be too complicated, many were modified to conform to Korean customs and lifestyles.
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The following is an introduction to the various ceremonies and the traditional dress and ornamentation for such occasions.
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Coming-of-Age Ceremony
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The coming-of-age ceremony involved doing up one's hair for the first time with an ornamental headpiece called kwan for males and with an ornamental hairpin called pinyo for females. For males, the ceremony was called kwallye and for females, kyerye. Originally, kwallye was held between the ages of fifteen and twenty, but due to the prevalence of early marriage, the age was lowered.
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The kwallye was usually held in the first or fourth lunar month before marriage. The youths to be crowned were called kwanja. Their hair was put up in a double topknot called ssangsangtu, and they were dressed in a special silk ensemble consisting of sagyusam (broad-sleeved robe) with belt and lustrous shoes. Kwania went through the three procedures of choga, chaega and samga before being "crowned" with the kwan. The kwallye ceremony was presided over by a man called the pin and his assistant called the chan. Pin were senior members of the family or society who were of high moral repute and chan were those who could tie a topknot well.
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Kwanja wore different costumes for each ceremonial procedure but, because the kwallye was very complicated and costly, many families only did the choga section. Kwallye procedures differed among regions and families, with some people wearing just the official outfits or full dress attire.
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Although the kyerye was to be held at the age of fifteen, most women went through the ceremony on the morning of their wedding day and thus it came to be considered a female wedding custom. The girl or bride was called kyeja for the ceremony, which was conducted by the kyebin and the girl's mother. After the kyeja was dressed in a long silk gown called samja, the kyebin did up her hair in a bun, attached a long, wide colorfully-decorated ribbon called taenggi to it, placed a pinyo in her hair, and placed a hwagwan, a cap exquisitely decorated with ornaments to look like a flower blossom, on top of her head.
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Wedding Ceremony
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In principle, marriage involved six steps: uihon, munmyong, napkil, napching, ch'onggi and ch'inyong. However, in 1844, during the reign of King Honjong, the process was reduced to include only uihon, napch'ae, nappae and ch'inyong.
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Uihon was the process of finding a proper match between two youths, with the families of both the boy and the girl agreeing to the marriage. Usually males over fifteen and females over twelve qualified for uihon. After both families agreed to the marriage, the boy's family sent to the girl's home a paper stating the boy's saju (four pillars), the year, month, day and hour of his birth This process of sending the saju was called napch'ae. Using the boy's and girl's saju, the girl's family selected a wedding date and sent it to the boy's family. When the marriage date was set, the bridegroom-to-be's family usually sent a ham, a box containing gifts and a letter confirming the marriage, to the bride-to-be's family. This was called nappae.
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The letter of marriage was considered legal proof of marriage. At the same time, it symbolized a woman's vow to remain faithful to her husband until death and was customarily placed inside the coffin at her death. Traditional gifts for the bride were yards of red and blue fabric for traditional red and blue dresses. The blue silk fabric was wrapped in red paper and tied with blue silk thread, while the red fabric was wrapped in blue paper and tied with red silk thread. In addition to the fabric, small bags containing cotton bolls and red beans were put inside the ham to symbolize wishes for fertility. The ham was usually delivered to the bride's house on the eve of the wedding ceremony by the hamjinabi, a married male friend of the bridegroom.
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Ch'inyong, the actual marriage ceremony, was an all day affair ending with the newlyweds retiring to the bridal chamber. The marriage ceremony ordinarily took place at the bride's house, and the newlyweds went to the bridegroom's house two to three days after the wedding. Going to the bridegroom's house for the first time was called ugui or shinhaeng. Sometimes the newly-married couple spent months, or a year at the longest, at the bride's house before moving to the bridegroom's house. But shinhaeng usually took place three days after the wedding. Upon arrival at the bridegroom's house, the bride greeted her parents-in-law for the first time in a ceremony called p'yebaek in which she presented them with food such as jujubes, chestnuts, wine, and dried beef that she brought from her home. After spending three to seven days there, the bridge and groom returned to the bride's house. This was called chaehaeng. The couple spent about three days at the bride's house, paying courtesy calls to the bride's family members and relatives. Then the couple returned to the husband's house to live. After autumn harvest, the new couple again visited the wife's house with newly harvested crops and spent a few days. This was called kunch'in. Depending on the region and family tradition, the couple stayed at the bride's house for up to a year or until the first baby was born before moving to the husband's house for good.
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For the wedding ceremony, the groom wore the samo headgear and tallyong silk robe with p'umdae belt and mokhwa felt boots, a wedding custom from the time of Choson's King Sukchong (r. 1674-1720). Regulations concerning the wearing of such clothes for weddings by both royalty and commoners were stipulated in the Sarye-p'yollam (Procedures for Four Ceremonies). The samo and tallyong were first used as the official uniform for government officials during the late Koryo period. They were used as burial clothes for civil officers and high government officials from the early Choson until late Choson period, when they were permitted to be used as wedding clothes for the general public.
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The dress for brides in early times was called the yomui. Then, with the increasing extravagance of royalty and aristocrats, ceremonial clothing such as the hwalot wonsam topcoat and tang-ui, an overblouse with hanging lapels, were adopted for use. During the mid-and late Choson period, hwalot and wonsam were the most popular wedding dresses for women. In particular, the hwalot was the most important and luxurious ceremonial dress worn by princesses, and the adoption of this attire by common people satisfied their deeply felt aspirations to climb up the social ladder.
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Even commoners were allowed to wear these clothes of royalty for weddings to let them enjoy the feeling of being a "king" or "queen" for a day. Because the preparation of such wedding clothes was costly, villagers would prepare one set to be used whenever someone in the village married, or families would pass down the wedding clothes from generation to generation. This practice of working together by villagers is an example of the keen cooperative spirit and collective wisdom of ancient Koreans.
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Funeral Rituals
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Of the four ceremonies, funerals were conducted with the most formality. Respect for ancestors being one of the basic teachings of Confucianism, every step of a funeral was carried out with utmost solemnity, especially funerals for one's parents. During the Choson period, great care was taken in preparing the burial clothes as death was not considered the end of life, but the beginning of a new life in the next world. The funeral process involved a variety of steps called ch'opng, supyom, songbok, ch'ijang and cheui.
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For ch'ojong, the period from the time of death until supyom, men in mourning loosened their hair and put on mourning clothes made of coarse, hand-woven hemp, worn loosely with only the interior coat string tied and collars folded However, toward the end of the Choson period, traditional full dress attire was worn instead of mourning clothes with the left sleeve folded once for the father's funeral, and the right sleeve for the mother's funeral Women in mourning loosened their hair, removed all ornamental accessories, and wore a white mourning dress. All family members of the deceased took off their socks, or poson.
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The preparation of the corpse, called supyom, required bathing the body and dressing it in specially prepared clothes made of silk or fine hemp cloth. The shrouds, called monung-ot or chugumae-ot, were often prepared while the deceased was alive. In making shrouds, the threads were not tied but hung loosely. This was because the thread was believed to connect the present world with the next.
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Burial clothes for men included inner and outer jackets (chogori), inner and outer pants (paji), a long white topcoat, and headpiece. Women's included an inner and outer jacket, pants, skirt (ch'ima) and a wonsam worn as a topcoat. Also used were ttongmo, cloth wrappings for the face, aksu, coverings for the hands, onang, a small pouch in which the fingernail and toenail clippings of the deceased were placed, pokpo, a cloth to cover the abdomen, along with socks, two blankets (ibul) and a pillow. Sometimes commoners dressed the corpse in just pants and a jacket, or in wedding clothes.
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Once the corpse was dressed, it was placed in the coffin and any remaining space was filled with old clothes, paper or straw.
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After the supyom, family members put on proper mourning clothes (sangbok), a process called songbook. Different types of sangbok were worn according to the mourner's relationship to the deceased. The quality of the fabric, the clothes design and the sewing technique of the various sangbok also differed. The sons of the deceased wore hemp hoods and outfits made of coarse hemp with a rope for a belt. They also wrapped their legs, wore straw shoes, and carried a mourning stick. Women traditionally wore white cotton outfits (ch'ima and chogori), with belts, headgear, hairpins made of wood and straw shoes.
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In a process called ch'ijang, the coffin was borne to the grave site. Funerals for the nobility lasted three months, for scholars and government officials one month and for commoners three days to a week. The bier was decorated with flowers and carried to the grave site, sometimes accompanied by funeral streamers. The coffin was buried in the grave which had already been dug for the process. A mound was then built on top of the grave and covered with sod, after which the mourners returned home. The rite for the first anniversary of one's death is called sosang, and for the second anniversary taesang. Taesang signified the end of the mourning period, when the mourning clothes were discarded and people returned to their former routine.
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Ancestral Rites
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During the Choson period, deceased family members were treated with the same care and respect as living ones. Thus ancestral rites, like funerals, were very fastidious and conducted with the utmost propriety and decorum. During the harvest season, people reserved the best grains, fruits and meat for ancestral offerings. People could not talk or laugh loudly while preparing the food for the rite, because it would disturb the spirits of the ancestors who were believed to enjoy the smell of the food being prepared. The ancestral rites were of three basic types: ch'arye, kije and shije. Ch'arye was usually performed on special days of the lunar calendar such as New Year's Day, Taeborum (First Full Moon Day), Hanshik (the l05th day after the winter solstice), Tano (the fifth day of the fifth lunar month), Ch'ilsok (the seventh day of the seventh lunar month). Ch'usok (Harvest Moon Day on the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month), Chungyang (the ninth day of the ninth lunar month) and Tongji (winter solstice), although many families only performed it on New Year's Day, Hanshik, Tano and Ch'usok.
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Kije was performed annually at midnight on the anniversary of the ancestor's death, beginning the year after taesang. According to tradition, kije was performed for ancestors four generations back. Myoje, also called shije or shih yangje, was performed for ancestors back to five generations at their graves, normally located in the family cemetery. Although the Saryep'yollam (Procedures For Four Ceremonies) stipulated that myoje were to be held annually early in the third lunar month, most families performed it in the tenth lunar month in appreciation for an abundant harvest.
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For performing the ancestral rites, men wore top'o, long overcoats and black headpieces for all ancestral rites, except for the kije for which they still wore mourning clothes made of hemp. Women in most cases did not participate in ancestral rites so they did not have any specific clothing for such occasions Nevertheless, women of the upper class wore plain white dresses made of thin silk and women of the lower classes wore plain white or light blue dresses. Given that white and light blue dresses were common among women during the Ch0son period, one can assume that they washed and wore their everyday clothes for such occasions.
 
 
 
     
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