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  • Record of the Virtue of Queen Inhyeon, Lady Min
  • Translated by Minsoo Kang (bio)

Queen Inhyeon, Lady Min, the second wife of King Sukjong the Great1 of Joseon,2 came from a noble lineage with its ancestral home in Yeoheung.3 Her father was Min Yujung, who served in the government as the minister of military affairs,4 and her maternal grandfather was Song Jungil, who was the chief state councilor.5 She was born on the twenty-third day of the fourth lunar month in the Year of the Red Sheep,6 after her mother Lady [End Page 275] Song had a strange dream. Auspicious marvels appeared above the house, and a sweet fragrance filled her birth room and lingered there for a long time. Her parents, seeing the signs as portents of momentous events to come, ordered everyone in the household to make no mention of them to outsiders.

She grew up quickly, sprouting up in an extraordinary manner. Her appearance was so fair that flowers and the moon hid themselves in embarrassment in her presence, and her visage was so radiant that even the sun lost its brilliance before her. Her beauty was incomparable in old times and new. Her abilities in the womanly tasks of weaving and sewing were so efficient and so skillful that it appeared as if she were aided by a hundred supernatural spirits. Yet she never displayed pride in her talents, always appearing pristine, calm, and solemn so that none could discern her thoughts. She also had a gentle and guileless personality with laudable generosity, and always seemed content with everything and undisturbed by worry. She was particularly notable for her righteous conduct, impeccable manners, and filial piety, all of which she practiced with modesty and politeness. A person of an upright mindset, dignified mien, considerable magnanimity, as well as faultless actions in all things, when she sat still throughout the day in a decorous manner, she became enveloped by a tranquil wind and a fair cloud. The grace and solemnity of her appearance were such that people dared not look at her in an impudent manner. The purity and freshness of her form evoked the fragrant waters of autumn, while her lofty and steadfast honor was as precious as gold and jade, and as sturdy as a pine tree. From an early age she did not care for frivolous jokes or unnecessary extravagance, and she did not often open her fair lips to speak. She dressed modestly but her extraordinary form made [End Page 276] her stand out, while her words and actions were always proper. She was outstanding in every way. She excelled in writing and knew everything about history, but she did not pick up a brush without careful thought. For all those reasons, she was greatly beloved by her parents, uncles, and siblings, and admired by her neighbors and relatives. So even at a young age, the future queen was revered by all and her beauteous name became renowned in the land.

The water she cleaned herself with in the morning always became filled with a reddish rainbow, so her father gathered that she was destined to become an exalted personage and resolved to raise her and teach her with great care. Her second uncle, Min Jeongjung, was a celebrated Confucian scholar and a man of serious disposition who loved her the most of all his nephews and nieces. He repeatedly commented that, "It has been said that when a body of water is too fresh, it invites the visitation of ghosts.7 So I worry that a child of such brilliance will not live a long life."

Her mother passed away early, which became a source of great sorrow to her and made her sickly. She grieved for such a long time that it surpassed the requirements of proper mourning. She also demonstrated ardent devotion to her stepmother, Lady Jo. Her maternal grandfather Master Dongchun8 loved her greatly and often summoned her. In private, he said of her, "She possesses the virtues of Tae Im and Tae Sa."9 He taught her the manners befitting a woman from a great lineage of Confucian scholars whose...