Womanhood & Cooking in the Inner Chamber
Reading the Recipes of Yi Bingheogak’s Gyuhab Chongseo
Jieun Kiaer & Niamh Calway
University of Oxford
Born in 1759 to a prestigious literary family, Yi Bingheogak was a female Korean writer. Yi’s life was fully encompassed by the mid-late Joseon dynasty, a period gripped by a fervour for tightening Neo-Confucian ideology and in which women were scarcely permitted an education stretching to literacy, let alone the opportunity to become published writers. Yi’s master work, Gyuhab Chongseo (A Women’s Encyclopaedia of the Inner Chamber), written in 1809, is a compendium of instructions and advice for women. The work is divided into five sections which focus on food and alcohol preparation, making and mending clothes and dishware, gardening and tending to livestock, childrearing and medicine, and the folkloric methods of maintaining spiritual equilibrium within one’s household. Yi is one of only a small handful of women to have been published in Joseon dynasty Korea, and as such, this work is widely considered to be a crucial source in reflecting the daily duties of yangban women as well as the state of women’s educational literature at the time.
In this book, it has been chosen to isolate and delve into the first volume of Gyuhab Chongseo which centres on food and drink, presenting a translation of some selected chapters of the work, alongside a commentary and analysis of its contents and their wider implications concerning the position of women at the time. This book demonstrates how Yi, and several other women like her, heralded a new era for women’s literary production and consumption, carving out a world of domestic literature through which women could share not just their expertise, but also their own conceptualisation of what being a Neo-Confucian woman meant to them.
ISBN 9783969391013 (Hardbound). LINCOM Cultural Studies 22. 120pp. 2023.