Is the Korean Wave a Repeat Phenomenon? A Look at “Goryeo Form” During the Yuan Dynasty



Some 700 years ago, there was dispersion of Korean culture similar to the modern day Korean wave, or Hallyu (韓流, 한류), in China during the Mongol Yuan Dynasty (元, 원, Weon, 1271-1368). The Mongol Invasions of Korea (麗蒙戰爭, 여몽전쟁, 1231-1270) and then subsequent 80 year subjugation were a sad, period in Korean history, but it was also a period of intercultural exchange between the Yuan and Goryeo (高麗, 고려, 918-1392). Many elements of Mongol culture were imported into Goryeo. These are referred to as “Mongol Style,” or Monggo Pung (蒙古風, 몽고풍), some of which still are seen today in Korea. Examples include:

  • Byeonbal (辨髮, 변발) – Queue hairstyle, in which the hair in front of the hair is shaved and behind is worn long and tied on in pony tail. (These hairstyles were banned after the collapse of the Yuan dynasty).
  • Jokduri (족두리) – The coronet worn by Korean women in traditional dress for special occasions, including weddings.
  • Yeonjigonji (臙脂–, 연지곤지) – The red dot make up that Korean women put on in traditional Korean wedding ceremonies.
  • Mongol loan words. Examples include postfixes –chi (치) and -achi (아치) as seen in such words as Jangsachi (장사치), meaning “peddler,” and Yang’achi (양아치), meaning “bully,” and the word Mal (말) meaning “horse.”
  • Food such as oxtail soup, or Seollongtang (설렁탕), and pork blood sausage, or Sundae (순대). 
  • The technique of alcohol distillation was brought from Arab lands through the Yuan dynasty into Korea, and along with it Soju (燒酒 ,소주) (pictured above). This is probably the most well known example of Mongo Pung. (It should be noted that traditional Soju is at least twice as strong as its watered down modern version).

This cultural exchange was not one way. Goryeo culture was also exported and was especially popular during the latter half of the Yuan Dynasty. These were referred to as “Goryeo Form,” or Goryeoyang (高麗樣, 고려양) or Goryeoyangja (高麗樣子, 고려양자).

Goryeo Women, the Enablers of Goryeo Form

Empress Ki

Empress Ki (奇皇后, 기황후, 1315-1369), the last Empress of Yuan Dyansty. She was the consort of Emperor Shundi (順帝, 순제, 1320-1370, r. 1330-1370).

As a tribute state, the Kings of Goryeo had to take Mongol names and marry Mongol princess. Goryeo also had to send hundreds of women as tribute, known as Gongnyeo (貢女, 공녀), to China when requested. Gongnyeo were typically maids and servants serving at the Goryeo royal palace, although later the Goryeo government issued a mandate requiring permission for women before they marry so that the government could determine whether to send them as tribute. The stated purpose of taking women as tribute was to encourage close “elder and younger brother diplomatic relationship,”or Buma (駙馬, 부마), between the Yuan Dynasty and Goryeo.

Regardless of the stated purpose, it became popular among Mongol royalty and nobility to marry Gongnyeo from Goryeo. The most famous of these was Empress Ki (奇皇后, 기황후, 1315-1369), who was the consort of Toghon Temür, or Emperor Shundi (順帝, 순제, Sunje, 1320-1370, r. 1330-1370), the last emperor of the Yuan Dynasty. The popularity of marrying Goryeo women, along with all things from Goryeo, is recorded in Another Country’s History of the Gengshen Year (庚申外史, 경신외사, Gyeongshin Oesa) by Quan Heng (權衡, 권형, Kwon Hyeong, ?-?), who was an early Ming Dynasty historian that chronicled the history of the Yuan Dynasty during the reign of Emperor Shundi:

庚申外史 경신외사

Another Country’s History of the Gengshen (庚申, 경신, Gyeongshin) Year

京師達官貴人, 必得高麗女然後為名家…
경사달관귀인, 필득고려녀연후위명가…

In the capital, those of high bureaucratic posts and noblemen must obtain a Goryeo woman to become a reputable household…

以故四方衣服鞋帽器物, 皆依高麗樣子. 此關系一時風氣, 豈偶然哉?
이고사방의복혜모기물, 개의고려양자. 차관계일시풍기, 기우연재?

For this reason, in four directions, clothes, shoes, and plates all are based on the Goryeo form (高麗樣子, 고려양자). This relationship at one time was the trend. How was this accidental?

The Popularity of Goryeo Clothing

Chinese Clothing

These Goryeo women also brought along with them Goryeo culture, including fashion. Goryeo’s women clothing, in particular, influenced how Chinese women dressed in the late Yuan Dynasty period, and even during the Ming dynasty period as indicated in the paintings above and from contemporary sources. Zhang Yu (張昱, 장욱, Jang Uk, 1330-?), a Yuan Dynasty period Chinese literati bureaucrat and poet, describes the popularity of Goryeo clothing at the Yuan Dynasty palace in the following poem:

宮中詞 궁중사

Words About the Court

宮衣新尙高麗樣 궁의신상고려양
方領過腰半臂裁 방령과요반비재
連夜內家爭借看 연야내가쟁차간
爲曾著過御前來 위증착과어전래

Clothes of the palace newly revere the Goryeo Form.
The jacket garment pass the waist, but half the arm is exposed.
On consecutive nights, the inner household members quarrel and take peeks.
Earlier, they dressed and came before the Emperor.

Palace • clothing • newly • to revere • high • splendor • style
Upper garment • upper garment • to pass • waist  • half  • arm • to be exposed
Consecutive • nights • inner • household • to quarrel • to borrow • to look
To do • earlier • to dress • to pass by • royalty • before • to come

  • 方領(방령) – Refers to the upper garment of Korean clothing, covering the chest and arms. Also known as Jeogori (저고리).
  • 著 is pronounced 저, if interpreted as “to appear” (나타나다), and read as 착, if interpreted as “to wear” (옷을 입다).

The Popularity of Goryeo Food

Ssam Jongryu

Along with clothing, Goryeo food was also popular in China during the Yuan Dyansty. Goryeo food that was exported to the Yuan Dynasty include rice cakes, or Ddeok (떡), Goryeo-style dumplings (高麗饅頭, 고려만두), and vegetable wrap (쌈 or 生菜, 생채). Some of these foods are still present even in Mongolian cuisine today. Yang Yunfu (楊允孚, 양윤부, Yang Yunbu, 1354-?), another Yuan Dynasty period Chinese poet, describes having Goryeo vegetable wrap in Dadu (大都, 대도, Daedo), the capital at the time:

灤京雜詠 난경잡영

Various Recitations on Luanjing (灤京, 난경, Nan’gyeong)

海紅不似花紅好 해홍불사화홍호
杏子何如巴欖良 행자하여파람량
更說高麗生菜美 갱설고려생채미
總輸山後麻菰香 총륜산후마고향

The annual seabite are not like the goodness of the pearleaf crabapple.
How are the gingko trees to the splendidness of the almonds?
I say again Goryeo’s fresh vegetable wrap are beautiful.
All carry the scent of the annual wild rice beyond the mountains.

Seas • red • not • to be like • flower • red • good
Gingko • grammar particle • how • how • almond • almond • splendid
Again • to say • high • splendid • raw • vegetable • beautiful
All • to carry • mountain • after • wild rice • wild rice • scent

海紅, 花紅, 巴攬仁, 皆果名.
해홍, 화홍, 파람인, 개과명.

Suaeda maritima, Malus asiatica, and Prunus amygdalus are all names of fruits.

高麗人以生菜裹飯食之. 尖山產麻菰.
고려인이생채리반식지. 첨산산마고.

The people of Goryeo eat with rice inside raw vegetable. Mount Jian (尖山, 첨산, Cheomsan) produces the Zizania aquatica.

  • 灤京(난경) – Luanjing was another name for the capital during the Mongol Yuan Dynasty.

Sources (All in Korean):

Nota Bene: Lest stumblers onto this blog post think this blogger is some crazy Korean Originist (韓國起源主義者), this is well-documented from both Korean and Chinese articles (from what I can tell from the pictures).  Furthermore, I have discredited it plenty of times in other blog posts.

  1. Seon Lee said:

    Cabbage is sometimes referred to in Chinese as 高麗菜. Does this have any relationship with Goryeo food?

      • Seon Lee said:

        Does 양배주 derive from 洋白菜?

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