Romantic guy or foolish prince? Who is Je-an Degun?


Hello, this is Jeongdong theatre. Kyubo Lee, a writer in the Joseon Dynasty commented about summer, “It is hot even with the wind as if the hot wind blows on me, the water that I am drinking is like boiled water.” It is a perfect comment to express the midsummer heat. Like the heat of ‘as is the hot wind blows on me’ these days, one of the best ways to overcome heat is by watching a theatre. Jeongdong theatre, located at the cool Jeongdong street on Doldam-gil and Garosu, offers cheerful performance at a cool and pleasant seat. There are various performances taking place in Jeongdong theatre such as <Palace: The story of Jang noksu>, a creative dance drama with the coolness of our dance, which we recommend the most. We believe that it is the best way to overcome this midsummer heat.

Je-an Degun<Palace: The story of Jang noksu> the man of Jang noksu, is the story of the best entertainer in the Joseon Dynasty who started from a slave, who finally became the royal concubine of the king. However, in this theater, Jang noksu isn’t portrayed as the femme fatale that we normally found in the movies or drama. In this theater, Jang noksu is portrayed as the best artist who changed one’s destiny with excellent artistic skills and talent. The main character in <Palace: The story of Jang noksu> is Jang noksu, Yeonsan-gun, and Je-an Degun. Frankly speaking, Je-an Degun isn’t as well knows as Yeonsan-hun or Jang noksu. In the Jeongdong theatre, the dancing team Jin-hong Jeon and Won-Seok Song are brought to act Je-an Degun.

To see Jang noksu’s handicrafts, classical scholars are crowded to Je-an Degun’s home, and Yeonsangun is one of them. Yeonsangun who was very interested in arts disguised as a dog to watch Jang noksu’s handicrafts at the Je-an Degun’s house then falls in love with Jang noksu. Instead of loving Je-an Degun her teacher and lover, Jang noksu chooses Yeonasangun who is in the hold of the greatest power. When Jang noksu follows Yeonsangun, Je-an Degun performs the sword dance, which well portrays Je-an Degun’s sorrow of a man who got betrayed. The sad and sharp emotion who got betrayed is well portrayed in the sword dance. At the end of the story, when Jang noksu fails after being intoxicated with power, the one who looks again for her is Je-an Degun.



Foolish prince, Je-an Degun

Then, who really is Je-an Degun? Je-an Degun was born as the second son of Yejong, the 8th king of the Joseon Dynasty. His real name is Hyeon Lee. He was dedicated as the next king, but when he was four years old, Yejong suddenly passed away, and Yoon, the queen places Jasan-gun(Seongjong in the future) as the king with the reason that Je-an Degun is too young. This was the result of the political fight in the royal family. At the age of nine, Je-an Degun gets adopted by Pyeong-won Degun(7th son of Sejong) and gets out of the palace. Je-an Degun put distance on politics and was a musical artist of wind instruments and string instruments. Yeonsangun often visited Je-an Degun’s home to enjoy the taste of the arts. Yeonsangun even installs Noeyeongwon and entertaining place in the house of Je-an Degun. This entertaining place was for young entertainers who have yet not entered the palace. This is where Jang noksu meets Yeonsangun.

According to the <Diary of Yeonsangun>, “Jang noksu was the home wife of Je-an Degun. She is smart and is very good in people’s minds. She had to get married several times because she was born in a very poor family. Then, she met Je-an Degun to get married. After giving birth to a son, she became an entertainer after learning singing and dancing. She was so well in singing that the sound was clear even without moving her lips, she was in her 30s, but her face looked like 16 years old. The king was impressed with her song and brought her to the palace, then became the favorite entertainer of the king, which her words became law(<Diary of Yeonsangun> 47th).”


Je-an Degun is evaluated as the ‘foolish prince’ in history. According to <Jeongjongsillok>, “Hyeon Lee is the prince of Yejong who is foolish that doesn’t know the role and relationship between men and women, always wanted to enjoy arts, and didn’t work but ate. However, some events he made were based on manners, which some people said that he was acting a fool(<Jeongjongsillok> 56th).” Maybe Je-an Degun acted the foolish prince to survive. Since he was the son of Yejong, he could have been involved in the fight of the royal family, but he acted a fool to avoid this. With such actions, even if he was a close relationship with Yeonsangun, Je-an Degun lived until the age of 60, 1525 20th year of Jeungjong, enjoying life as the royal family.


Unlucky prince, Je-an Degun

Je-an Degun avoided politics and lived quietly, but he also had difficulties with his marriage. Je-an Degun gets married to the daughter of Sumal Kim, the person in charge of receipt and payments of rice at the age of twelve. However, during the 2nd year of marriage(1479, 20th year of Seongjong), Seongjong orders divorce with the wife of Je-an Degun. “Je-an Degun’s wife is infected with disease since last June, showing dizziness and is unable to walk properly. (omit) Her symptom is serious that it is clear that she can’t be recuperated. (omit) The king is wishing for his grandson, but the queen has the same opinion, so how about getting divorced?”(<Seongjongsillok> 112th) Since Seongjong strongly gave pressure for divorce, Je-an Degun receives his second wife at the age of sixteen. However, right after the second marriage, Je-an Degun is involved with the sex scandal and surprises the court. It is said that Je-an Degun is still living with his first wife and that his second wife has done dirty things with the female slave. This incident was found to be a self-fabricated scenario of the female slave, and the second wife could get released from the false charge, but Je-an Degun divorces her and goes back to his first wife. Instead of pure love towards his first wife, it is seen as defiance towards his position of not being able to control his marriage. Afterward, Je-an Degun lived alone with no sex scandals until the end.


By knowing the character, you may enjoy the theater twice and triple. Je-an Degun in <Palace: The story of Jang noksu> was portrayed as the man of pure love, but in real history, he was the unlucky prince who was not related to love. <Palace: The story of Jang noksu> offers different fun to real history. How about having fun by knowing the characters in history by enjoying <Palace: The story of Jang noksu> at the cool and pleasant Jeongdong theatre?