Korean Rulers’ Inalienable Insignias: The Seals of the Yi Dynasty (1392-1910)

Publication type Article
Status Published
Affiliation: National Research University Higher School of Economics
Address: Russian Federation, Moscow
Journal nameProblemy Dalnego Vostoka
EditionIssue 3

This article focuses on insignias that belonged to the Yi dynasty who ruled Joseon Kingdom (1392-1897) and the Korean empire (1897-1910). The main object of the study is the royal seals guksae, oksae and eobo.

Through the visual changes happened to the seals we examine how the status of the rulers of these states had been changing. Guksae and oksae were insignias symbolizing the status of the state. They belonged to the Yi clan while it had the state power. Eobo seals were inalienable insignias belonging to a specific person.

We divide Korean seals into three categories: -sae, -po, and less important —in. Every seal had its own role in the state ritual. Basing on the genesis of diplomatic relations between Korea and China, the article reveals that the seals of the —in type were sent to Joseon from China, but their status in Joseon was -sae (a.k.a. guksae, “state seal”). In the 1401-1894 the seals sent from China symbolized the subordination of the Korean ruler to emperor of China. After 1894, Korea became an independent country. In 1897 it proclaimed itself an empire. This changes influenced the appearance of the own Korean guksae.


The study is based on a research conducted in 2017-2018 in the Republic of Korea, electronic catalogues of museums in the Republic of Korea, and the royal chronicles Joseon wanjo sillok.

KeywordsJoseon, Daehan jeguk, royal seals, symbols of power, guksae, eobo
Publication date21.06.2022
Number of characters29459
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