Choesang(衰裳)

Choesang

Headword

최상 ( 衰裳 )

Location of the encyclopedia

Korean Clothing

Writer KimSiduk(金時德)

A lower garment worn by the chief mourner at a Confucian style funeral.

It can be inferred from the saying “No guest shall be met without wearing choebok” found in Confucius’ Family Teachings (孔子家語) that mourning clothes were worn by the Chinese people even before the common era. “Barbarians of the East” in the “History of Wei” from Record of the Three Kingdoms says that “white mourning dress is worn.” However, since no image of the white mourning clothes is provided, it is hard to know what this mourning dress looked like exactly. The Goryeo Dynasty introduced Confucian institutions from China and established five types of mourning clothes in 985 (4th year of the reign of King Seongjong); later in 1290 (16th year of the reign of King Chungnyeol) Family Rites of Zhu Xi (1130-1200) was introduced along with Neo-Confucianism. The four rites—coming of age, weddings, funerals, and ancestral rites—influenced by Neo-Confucianism were followed but failed to gain ground among the general populace. King Gongyang ordered the five-type mourning clothes system to be amended in 1391 (3rd year of reign) and the following year abolished observance of the three-year mourning period for deceased parents by children who were civil or military officials and narrowed the scope of the practice.

Entering the Joseon period, all family rites were conducted in Confucian style based on the Family Rites of Zhu Xi, as evidenced by Gyeongguk daejeon (Grand Code of State Administration) and Gukjo oryeui (Five Rites of State). As a result, the cultural tradition of family rites in Korea was established in Confucian style. In addition, funeral rites were also conducted according to Confucian principles; the three-year mourning practice was widely observed, and choeui and choesang (Kor. 최상, Chin. 衰裳, lit. lower mourning garment) became standard mourning dress. Sarye pyeollam (Easy Manual for the Four Rites) compiled by Doam Yi Jae (1680-1746) in 1844 says that the mourning clothes defined by Family Rites of Zhu Xi do not cover the overlapping front panel of the upper garment and proposes a new type of mourning dress, which demonstrates Confucian style family rites were highly developed in Korea.

In Family Rites of Zhu Xi the mourning clothes worn at Confucian-style funerals were called choebok but were not described more specifically. In Sarye pyeollam, however, the upper garment was called choeui and the lower garment choesang. Mourning dress was divided into five types as defined by obokjedo (system of five types of mourning clothes) depending on the degree of kinship with the dead. These five types comprise jeongbok, uibok, gangbok, janggi and bujanggi. In addition, the length of the period for wearing mourning clothes was stipulated, the thickness of the hemp’s ply varied based on the degree of mourning and different types of mourning dress worn; whether choe (cloth strip attached in front of the top), bupan (a long strip of hemp cloth attached to the back), and jeok had to be attached was determined depending on relations on the maternal and paternal sides. In this way, a very complex system was applied to the mourning clothes worn at Confucian-style funeral rites.

The quality of the fabric used to make choesang differed depending on the degree of kinship with the deceased. Hemp cloth was mostly used and the thickness differed under the system of five types of mourning clothes. In the order of chamchoe, jaechoe, sima, daegong, and sogong, choesang were made with cloth of varied quality, from unbeached hemp cloth to extremely fine, smooth hemp cloth.

Choesang

Choesang
Headword

최상 ( 衰裳 )

Location of the encyclopedia

Korean Clothing

Writer KimSiduk(金時德)

A lower garment worn by the chief mourner at a Confucian style funeral.

It can be inferred from the saying “No guest shall be met without wearing choebok” found in Confucius’ Family Teachings (孔子家語) that mourning clothes were worn by the Chinese people even before the common era. “Barbarians of the East” in the “History of Wei” from Record of the Three Kingdoms says that “white mourning dress is worn.” However, since no image of the white mourning clothes is provided, it is hard to know what this mourning dress looked like exactly. The Goryeo Dynasty introduced Confucian institutions from China and established five types of mourning clothes in 985 (4th year of the reign of King Seongjong); later in 1290 (16th year of the reign of King Chungnyeol) Family Rites of Zhu Xi (1130-1200) was introduced along with Neo-Confucianism. The four rites—coming of age, weddings, funerals, and ancestral rites—influenced by Neo-Confucianism were followed but failed to gain ground among the general populace. King Gongyang ordered the five-type mourning clothes system to be amended in 1391 (3rd year of reign) and the following year abolished observance of the three-year mourning period for deceased parents by children who were civil or military officials and narrowed the scope of the practice.

Entering the Joseon period, all family rites were conducted in Confucian style based on the Family Rites of Zhu Xi, as evidenced by Gyeongguk daejeon (Grand Code of State Administration) and Gukjo oryeui (Five Rites of State). As a result, the cultural tradition of family rites in Korea was established in Confucian style. In addition, funeral rites were also conducted according to Confucian principles; the three-year mourning practice was widely observed, and choeui and choesang (Kor. 최상, Chin. 衰裳, lit. lower mourning garment) became standard mourning dress. Sarye pyeollam (Easy Manual for the Four Rites) compiled by Doam Yi Jae (1680-1746) in 1844 says that the mourning clothes defined by Family Rites of Zhu Xi do not cover the overlapping front panel of the upper garment and proposes a new type of mourning dress, which demonstrates Confucian style family rites were highly developed in Korea.

In Family Rites of Zhu Xi the mourning clothes worn at Confucian-style funerals were called choebok but were not described more specifically. In Sarye pyeollam, however, the upper garment was called choeui and the lower garment choesang. Mourning dress was divided into five types as defined by obokjedo (system of five types of mourning clothes) depending on the degree of kinship with the dead. These five types comprise jeongbok, uibok, gangbok, janggi and bujanggi. In addition, the length of the period for wearing mourning clothes was stipulated, the thickness of the hemp’s ply varied based on the degree of mourning and different types of mourning dress worn; whether choe (cloth strip attached in front of the top), bupan (a long strip of hemp cloth attached to the back), and jeok had to be attached was determined depending on relations on the maternal and paternal sides. In this way, a very complex system was applied to the mourning clothes worn at Confucian-style funeral rites.

The quality of the fabric used to make choesang differed depending on the degree of kinship with the deceased. Hemp cloth was mostly used and the thickness differed under the system of five types of mourning clothes. In the order of chamchoe, jaechoe, sima, daegong, and sogong, choesang were made with cloth of varied quality, from unbeached hemp cloth to extremely fine, smooth hemp cloth.