Filed Under Artwork

The Face of Kinship

The purpose of this piece is to highlight the impact that Korean Kinship novels had on Korean history. As described in Ksenia Chizhova’s book Kinship Novels of Early Modern Korea “Lineage novels are vernacular Korean texts transcribed by elite women and circulated through kinship networks.” (Chizhova 21) However, these novels were more than just written documents. To simply call them texts downplays their influence, which often spanned across multiple generations in a family. These novels were also significant for capturing “ the structures of feelings that embedded the ritual, economic, and moral imperative of Chosŏn kinship in a life world, a space for living”.  Unlike texts by upper-class male Koreans who, due to their classical Chinese education, preferred using hanja (Chinese characters), these novels on the other hand solely used hangul, or vernacular Korean. Despite hangul’s creation in the 15th century, the continued usage of hanja by upper-class male Koreans created a class and gender divide between the people of the Chosŏn era. In the end, these novels are an example of how this left “women’s literacy and cultural activities relied heavily on Korean scriptural practices”. (Chizhova 31). The aim of the creation of this art piece is to highlight this unique gender divide in the literary creation Chosŏn era.


The Face of Kinship This piece is in a multimedia format, employing a variety of artistic tools: in this case, embroidery, and watercolor. The artwork features an embroidered figure of a Korean woman in traditional clothing. The figure is colored using watercolor pigments. The woman holds a brush in her hands, a gesture meant to represent the knowledge the authors of these novels possessed. Standing out in this piece is her face, which is fully embroidered in characters of the Korean alphabet, hangul. This detail represents the gendered use of vernacular Korean among women during this time period. Unfortunately despite the importance of these novels, “many of the details regarding authorship and circulation are unknown”. (Chizhova 21) In short, I was motivated to create this piece as a way to illustrate the segregated creation of literature and the influence it had over the nature of written language and linguistics. Creator: Emily Gross


Emily Gross, “The Face of Kinship,” UCLA Korean History and Culture Digital Museum, accessed July 12, 2024,