Sunday, February 12, 2017

“Rebel: Thief Who Stole The People” spoiler-free synopsis by episode (Ep. 1-8)

Jump to synopsis of Episode 1; 2; 3; 4; 5; 6; 7; 8; 9; 10; 11; 12; 13; 14; 15; 16; 17; 18; 19; 20; 21; 22; 23; 24; 25; 26; 27; 28; 29; 30; How I made these synopses spoiler-free; Lessons in photography from “Rebel: Thief Who Stole The People”

How I made these synopses spoiler-free

I assumed that you will be reading these recaps and watching the videos chronologically.

(1) I narrated the main actions in each episode without revealing the plot’s twists and turns.

(2) At the beginning of each synopsis starting with Episode 2, I placed in a table some of the major twists and turns of the previous episode. But because you have already watched the video of the previous episode, they aren’t spoilers anymore.

(I used this same structure in my recaps of “Six Flying Dragons,” Moonlight Drawn by Clouds, The King’s Doctor,” “A Jewel in the Palace, and The Flower in Prison.”)

Episode 1: The Mighty Child

The drama opens with scenes of King Yeongsan confronting Hong Gil Dong, and Hong Gil Dong’s fortress surrounded by enemy forces, with his woman Ga Ryung held captive and tied to a pole.

Gil Dong is the second son of Ah Mo Gae and Geum Ok, who are both slaves of Lord Jo, a cruel noble. As Gil Dong grows up, Ah Mo Gae notices his great strength. Afraid that Gil Dong might be the prophesied Mighty Child, he plans to raise enough money to buy his family’s freedom.

Episode 2: Alliances

Episode 1 recap:

Ah Mo Gae tells Gil Dong that if the Mighty Child cannot restrain himself, he and all his family will die. From then on, Gil Dong hides his strength. But due to an incident with the nasty young master, Gil Dong’s mother is whipped because of him.

Ah Mo Gae is tricked by a group of robbers, but through ingenuity, he’s able to get his rightful share from what the robbers stole.

Ah Mo Gae returns home with lots of good things for his family and silk for Lord Jo’s wife. His master allows him to move to a better house and to become a merchant.

Gil Dong’s mother becomes pregnant, and Ah Mo Gae decides to join the group of robbers that tried to trick him.

For political gain, Lord Jo secretly joins forces with people supporting the deposed Queen.

Lord Jo and his wife become suspicious that Ah Mo Gae is hiding money and other goods from them. They connive with Lord Jo’s uncle to get all of Ah Mo Gae’s hidden wealth.

Episode 3: The tiger

Episode 2 recap:

Hoping to provoke Ah Mo Gae, Lord Jo and his wife ask an uncle to create a scandal with Ah Mo Gae’s wife. Gil Dong comes to his mother’s rescue, but when the soldiers arrive, Ah Mo Gae takes all the blame. Later on, he surrenders to Lord Jo all the wealth that he has accumulated.

Gil Dong’s mother gives birth to a baby girl but dies soon after.

Ah Mo Gae kills Lord Jo, with Gil Dong witnessing everything.

Ah Mo Gae’s alibi fails as Lord Jo’s wife charges him with murder.

Several witnesses come forward to testify on Ah Mo Gae’s behalf, but he’s still tortured.

Lord Jo’s wife begins thinking that Gil Dong is the Mighty Child.

Episode 4: Starting over

Episode 3 recap:

Gil Dong somehow survives his encounter with the tiger.

Ah Mo Gae uses the deposed Queen’s letter to pressure Lord Jo’s wife into dropping the murder charge against him.
Ah Mo Gae and his sons settle down in Ikhwa-ri, a place where runaway slaves, drifters, and ruffians have gathered.

Ah Mo Gae soon becomes the leader of a ragtag band, and they begin manufacturing Joseon’s black linen and selling them covertly on the high seas to Ming traders.

Ah Mo Gae and his group are able to get past the Joseon coast guard, but they’re caught later on by smugglers.

Episode 5: The magic peddler

Episode 4 recap:

With Ah Mo Gae’s help, Eomjachi (the magistrate’s secretary) catches the smuggling group’s leader. He is promoted as the District Magistrate and helps protect Ah Mo Gae’s businesses from corrupt government officials.

Having become prosperous, Ah Mo Gae dreams of making his eldest son Gil Hyeon into a government official and Gil Dong into a military officer. But his sons have different dreams for their lives.

Ah Mo Gae reminds Gil Dong that he is the prophesied Mighty Child, but Gil Dong has been traumatized by everything that has happened. He wants to become a peddler, traveling throughout the nation.

Gil Dong travels all over Joseon as a peddler and has become famous for making women’s dreams come true. In one of his travels, he meets Gong Hwa (a gisaeng) and her servant Ga Ryung.

Ah Mo Gae’s authority is challenged by Heo Tae Hak, a notorious thug who’s involved in selling slaves.

Gil Dong begs his father to leave with him and start a new life.

Ah Mo Gae is summoned by a member of the Royal family.

Episode 6: Musa Gil Dong!

Episode 5 recap:

Gil Dong becomes infatuated with Gong Hwa, an ambitious gisaeng who wants to make the King fall in love with her. He gets slapped by her servant, Ga Ryung, when he tells Gong Hwa to forget the King and be with him instead.

Ah Mo Gae refuses to be involved with Heo Tae Hak and his business of selling slaves. In the ensuing fight between their groups, Gil Dong couldn’t do anything because he has lost his strength.

Gil Dong begs his father to leave his illegal activities so that they can start anew as farmers. Ah Mo Gae agrees, but then, Prince Choong Won orders him to find and bring back a runaway female slave.

Ah Mo Gae and his men find the runaway slave.

Prince Choong Won learns that Ah Mo Gae was a slave who killed his master years ago. He then pressures all the local government officials to turn their backs on Ah Mo Gae.

Prince Choong Won sends thugs to kill Gil Dong and Gil Hyeon. He also wants their 13-year old sister Uh Ri Ni captured and brought to him.

Episode 7: Memories

Episode 6 recap:

Ah Mo Gae and his men release the runaway slave and fake her death. But through Heo Tae Hak, Prince Choong Won learns what really happened. He frames Ah Mo Gae for the slave’s death.

Prince Choong Won also learns from Lord Jo’s wife that Ah Mo Gae was a slave who killed a nobleman.

The District Magistrate betrays Ah Mo Gae and his men.

Gil Dong is beaten up and stabbed by thugs, but when he sees his sister being dragged off, he regains the strength that he had lost. He kills the thugs, but when more thugs come after them, he and his sister fall off a cliff.

Gil Dong and his sister Uh Ri Ni survive the fall from the cliff, but they get separated later on. Meanwhile, Gil Hyeon stumbles upon a mysterious hut in the forest.

Gil Dong ends up losing his memory at a gisaeng house where he meets again Gong Hwa (the ambitious gisaeng) and her servant Ga Ryung.

Gil Dong recovers from his wounds. He begins working for Gong Hwa to earn his keep; he also tries to find out who shot him and who he really is.

A traveling peddler tells Gong Hwa about the Mighty Child.

Episode 8: The gathering

Episode 7 recap:

A romance blossoms between Gil Dong and Gong Hwa, as Gil Dong wins her heart by praising her artistry and empathizing with her sad past that includes an unwanted son. But Ga Ryung also begins to have romantic feelings for Gil Dong.

From what the peddler tells Gong Hwa about the Mighty Child, she begins thinking that Gil Dong could be the Mighty Child.

Uh Ri Ni is captured by a mysterious man, while Gil Hyeon finds a dead man and a book inside the hut.

Gil Dong meets some hunters who can possibly tell him where he came from.

Yeonsan becomes King of Joseon.

Gil Dong regains his memories and starts looking for his sister Uh Ri Ni. Meanwhile, his brother Gil Hyeon acquires a new identity.

Thinking that Gil Dong isn’t coming back, Gong Hwa leaves the gisaeng house.

While searching for his sister, Gil Dong meets the magistrate who betrayed his father.

Episode 9

Episode 8 recap:

Gil Dong learns that his father is alive but severely injured. He starts looking for and gathering his father’s men; he urges them to reclaim their territory and seek revenge against Prince Choong Won and his thugs.

While still pining for Gil Dong, Gong Hwa goes to the Palace to serve King Yeonsan. Meanwhile, the lovestruck Ga Ryung starts following Gil Dong wherever he goes.

Gil Hyeon dresses up as a scholar and thinks about taking the civil service exams.

Lessons in photography from “Rebel: Thief Who Stole The People”

From Episode 1: aerial perspective,
quality and direction of light

From Episode 2: aerial perspective, rule of thirds

From Episode 4: low angle shot

From Episode 4: shooting against the light

From Episode 6: silhouette

From Episode 6: high angle shot, natural frame,
patterns, diagonal lines

From Episode 7: low angle shot

From Episode 7: shallow depth of field, bokeh,
background blur

From Episode 7: out-of-focus partial frame

From Episode 7: natural frame

From Episode 7: foreground blur as natural frame

From Episode 7: conveying depth through foreground
and background bur; partial frame

From Episode 7: shallow depth of field, background blur

From Episode 8: low angle shot, background blur

From Episode 8: shallow depth of field, background blur

From Episode 8: rack focus (focus in, focus out)

Monday, January 16, 2017

“Saimdang, Light’s Diary” spoiler-free synopsis by episode (Ep.1-10)

Lee Young-ae plays the role of Seo Ji-yoon, a fictional Korean art-history lecturer who discovers the diary of the historical Shin Saimdang, a renowned poet-artist-calligraphist during the Joseon dynasty. Lee (who also plays Saimdang) then unravels the secret of a mysterious portrait.

For the English transcription of the dialogues in the last video, please surf to the Dramabeans article.
Jump to synopsis of Episode 1; 2; 3; 4; 5; 6; 7; 8; 9; 10; 11; 12; 13; 14; 15; 16; 17; 18; 19; 20; 21; 22; 23; 24; 25; 26; 27; 28; 29; 30; How I made these synopses spoiler-free; Backgrounders on historical Shin Saimdang with video documentary “The Grand Heritage Ep 57: Shin Saimdang”; Related post: synopsis of “A Jewel in the Palace” aka “Dae Jang Geum” (Lee Young-ae’s first historical drama, which has been broadcast in nearly 100 countries since 2003); Significance of butterflies in Joseon culture; Related dramas: “Painter of the Wind” and “Yi San, Wind in the Palace”; OST videos; Kpop video interviews with Lee Young-ae about “Saimdang, Light’s Diary”; Lessons in photography from “Saimdang, Light’s Diary”

How I made these synopses spoiler-free

I assumed that you will be reading these recaps and watching the videos chronologically.

(1) I narrated the main actions in each episode without revealing the plot’s twists and turns.

(2) At the beginning of each synopsis starting with Episode 2, I placed in a table some of the major twists and turns of the previous episode. But because you have already watched the video of the previous episode, they aren’t spoilers anymore.

(I used this same structure in my recaps of “Six Flying Dragons,” “Moonlight Drawn by Clouds,” “The King’s Doctor,” “A Jewel in the Palace,” and “The Flower in Prison.”)

Episode 1: The portrait and the green mountains

The drama begins centuries ago in an Italian castle where there’s music and dancing amid a stormy night. Despite the festivities, Lee Gyeom locks himself up in his room, furiously painting a portrait.

The present time …

Seo Ji-yoon is a businessman’s wife and the mother of a young boy. She works as an instructor in Hankuk University’s Art Department while pursuing her PhD. She’s given a big career opportunity by Professor Min Jung Hak in presenting her evaluation of “Mount Geumgang”, a centuries-old painting of mountains by An Gyeon, a famous Joseon artist. But the presentation is disrupted by Han Sang-hyun, a young instructor who has previously been in conflict with Professor Min.

In an art conference in Bologna, Italy, Professor Min tells Seo Ji-yoon to change her major because he will not allow her to get her PhD. She gets locked out of her hotel room, and her problems worsen when she hears from her friend Hye Jung that Professor Min told the University that she must be fired from her job.

In despair, she wanders around Bologna. In an alley, she nearly gets run over by a bicyclist, and she stumbles over a book stand. The owner apologizes to her by giving her a stack of books.

Later, she discovers among the books an ancient diary that mentions the “Mount Geumgang” painting.

Episode 2: Saimdang and Lee Gyeom; Seo Ji-yoon and Saimdang

Episode 1 recap:

Professor Kim and the owner of the Sun Gallery connive to present “Mount Geumgang” as authentic, thus earning for both of them money, prestige, and power.

Seo Ji-yoon’s investigation leads her to the Italian castle known as “Siesta Di Luna” in Tuscany, Italy where the real estate agent shows her the enormous halls filled with all kinds of art works. She and Lee Gyeom’s spirit cross each other, and as if she’s possessed, she rushes to a room where she stares at a painting. The glass cover then breaks into a thousand pieces, and Seo Ji-yoon is stunned to find behind the painting a full-length portrait of a Joseon-era lady.

The University’s Disciplinary Committee terminates Seo Ji-yoon’s employment as lecturer.

Because of her husband’s legal problems, Seo Ji-yoon, her mother, and her boy are forced to relocate to a tough neighborhood. There, she meets Han Sang-hyun, the instructor who disrupted her presentation.

As Seo Ji-yoon and her friend Hye Jung (who works at the Conservation Science Department) examine the diary, they begin thinking that the “Mount Geumgang” painting authenticated by Professor Min is fake.

In Joseon …

The young Saimdang wants to see An Gyeon’s famous painting “Mount Geumgang”, and so she climbs over the wall of a house belonging to a member of the Royal family. She meets the young Lee Gyeom who’s in trouble again with her great aunt. When Lee Gyeom doesn’t stop teasing her about her skirt, she runs away, leaving behind her sketchbook. But Lee Gyeom comes up with a plan to be able to see her again.

At present …

After Seo Ji-yoon shows Hye Jung the portrait she got from Siesta Di Luna, they hurry off to a museum. As they’re looking at paintings by Saimdang and Lee Gyeom, Seo Ji-yoon gets a call from her husband. She meets her husband, and later on, they meet an accident. Her husband rushes her to a hospital, but she is unconscious and beginning to have visions.

Back to Joseon …

On their way to Hanyang, Saimdang and her children visit her childhood home in Gangneung for one last time. Unknown to Saimdang, Lee Gyeom has been watching out for her.

The adult Lee Gyeom leads a frivolous life, spending his time painting on the bodies of gisaengs. He visits his great aunt who wants him to get married and to stop pining for Saimdang. He wanders around his childhood home and sees the bracelet that Saimdang gave him decades ago.


(1) Seo Jin-yoon’s husband leaves money for her inside a locker. If you look closely, the money is in the denomination that features Shin Saimdang.

(2) In this episode, a butterfly appears when Seo Jin-yoon and her family are moving to their new home.

Is there something significant about butterflies in Joseon culture? Remember the butterfly in “The Moon That Embraces The Sun” (Episodes 1 and 7)? Remember the butterfly key chain of Lady Jang in “Dong Yi”? If I remember correctly, the ornate hair pin that Bang-won gave Boon-yi in Episode 46 of “Six Flying Dragons” was in the shape of a butterfly.

(3) The historical Shin Saimdang had a son who became one of Joseon’s highly-respected Confucian scholar; he was known by his pen name “Yulgok.” The street that Seo Jin-yoon and her family were traveling on as they moved to a new apartment is named “Yulgok.”

Episode 3: The poem, the goddess, and the paper

Episode 2 recap:

Unconscious at the hospital, Seo Ji-yoon begins having visions of herself in Joseon times as Saimdang who’s now the mother of several children. In a daze, she walks past Lee Gyeom whom she doesn’t recognize. She wanders around her childhood home until she enters a room where she sees An Gyeon’s famous painting “Mount Geumgang”.

After leaving the hospital, Seo Ji-yoon asks Han Sang-hyun for help in reading and translating the diary’s text.

In Joseon …

Lee Gyeom uses the “Mount Geumgang” painting in order to meet Saimdang again. On his way to Saimdang’s house, he meets Seok Soon, a scruffy-looking girl who’s hiding behind a wall and trying to listen in to Saimdang’s father teaching Saimdang and her sisters. He helps Seok Soon who begins to be infatuated with him.

Lee Gyeom teaches Saimdang how to mix colors. He also gives back her sketchbook, and in it, he places his portrait of Saimdang together with a poem. They begin spending time together.

Lee Gyeom remembers the times he and Saimdang spent together and how they fell in love.

Saimdang and Lee Gyeom climb up a mountain and admire the grand view. When Saimdang says that she wants to visit beautiful places like Mount Geumgang (Keumkangsando), Lee Gyeom tells her that they should visit those places together as husband and wife.

King Jungjong, along with his bodyguard, breaks away from the Royal procession in order to visit his cousin Lee Gyeom. In disguise, he meets Saimdang while she was painting; he also meets a scholar who has become infatuated with Saimdang.

King Jungjong finds out from Lee Gyeom who Saimdang’s father is. He writes a poem, signing it with his name, and sends it to Saimdang’s father.

Saimdang carves out a seal as a gift for Lee Gyeom. When she goes to her father to borrow an engraving tool, she happens to read the King’s poem.

At present ...

Debt collectors looking for Ji-yoon’s husband force their way into her apartment. But Han Sang-hyun comes to her rescue.

Later, Ji-yoon and Han Sang-hyun discover a clue that can prove that the “Mount Geumgang” painting that Professor Min authenticated is fake.

Back to Joseon …

While painting at a temple up in the mountain, Saimdang sees a painting of a goddess. She begins following the head monk, trying to convince him to show her the painting. She sees in the temple compound a paper mill that produces the famous Goryeo paper. She also sees some people who are starving and who have been beaten up.

While Saimdang is at the temple, a rowdy group of government officials, their bodyguards, and gisaengs arrives at the compound. Part of the group is Min Chi-hyung, a county mayor and a big businessman. He tries to convince the head monk to supply him with the Goryeo paper that everyone wants.

While painting near the temple compound, Saimdang meets a young, starving girl. She gives the girl her food and the painting on which she had written part of the poem that the King gave to her father.

Despite her father’s order for her not to return to the temple, Saimdang decides to go back and bring food to the starving people. She writes a letter asking Lee Gyeom to come with her.

The maid goes to deliver Saimdang’s letter to Lee Gyeom, but on her way, she suddenly feels the urgent need to go to the outhouse. She asks Seok Soon to deliver the letter to Lee Gyeom.

Episode 4: A wedding and a funeral

Episode 3 recap:

On the mountain, Saimdang tells Le Gyeom: “I wish I were the wind. I can move through those beautiful places I want to visit and go wherever I want. From north to south and from east to west, wherever I want.”

Lee Gyeom replies, “You can sketch Seorakan covered in snow. And you can sketch the camellias in Nando. You can also sketch the falling stars in the forest.”

Saimdang says. “I’ll go to Mount Geumgang (Keumkangsando) no matter what. I want to climb the mountain and see the beauty for myself before I die.”

Later, Lee Gyeom visits Saimdang’s parents with a marriage proposal for Saimdang. They tell him to wait for their answer.

Saimdang sets aside her copy of the “Mount Geumgang” painting. She tells the man (whom she doesn’t know is really King Jungjong) that her painting is fake: “I was just copying Mount Geumgang that I haven’t seen. There’s no soul in my painting.

“Even with the same tree leaf, it’s light green in the spring, dark green in summer, and the autumn colors are all different. They have different colors depending on the sunlight and the wind. I want to see all of that with my own eyes and draw it with my own feelings. But what can I do? A woman can’t climb Mount Geumgang all by herself. Why are there so many things a woman can’t do?”

King Jungjong remembers Saimdang’s father as one of four men who stood up against the treasonous plans of Sir Jo Gwang-jo and his group. In his poem, he says, “It’s tragic what my people are going through. Even the heavens have forgotten about them. It breaks my heart about those who were expelled in the Gi-myo year. There are no people in the kingdom, and no one knows how I feel. Who shall I speak about my agony?’

When Saimdang’s father realizes that the King wrote the poem, he rushes out of the house and runs after the King.

Saimdang gives Lee Gyeom the “biikjo” seal featuring a mythological bird with one eye and one wing.Together, Saimdang and Lee Gyeom write their poems on the “Mount Geumgang” painting and stamp it with the seal.

Ji-yoon discovers the seal’s mark on the portrait she got from Tuscany, Italy. She and Han Sang-hyun conclude that the real “Mount Geumgang” painting must have been stamped with Saimdang’s seal.

The head monk refuses make a deal with Min Chi-hyung, saying that the temple’s Goryeo paper is dedicated to Buddha.

Seok Soon goes to deliver Saimdang’s letter to Lee Gyeom. She sees and hears Lee Gyeom reciting a poem that she herself knows by heart. Lee Gyeom goes to her, thinking that she’s Saimdang.

Lee Gyeom is surprised that Seok Soon, a lowborn child of a tavern owner, knows how to write and the poem that he was reciting. He gives her a brush and encourages her to continue studying.

Lovestruck with Lee Gyeom, Seok Soon hides Saimdang’s letter.

Overwhelmed by her emotions, Seok Soon doesn’t give Saimdang’s letter to Lee Gyeom. Later, she goes to where Saimdang is waiting and offers to help her. Together, they go to Unpyeongsa Temple.

At the temple, the drunken revelry by the government officials, the nobles, and the gisaengs continues even as dozens of starving people are waiting be fed by the monks. When the child befriended earlier by Saimdang steals some fruits from the nobles, the drunken son of Lord Young-myung kills the child and the head monk who tried to intervene.

The monks and the people begin stoning the nobles. Min Chi-hyung arrives and orders the soldiers to kill all the monks and the people. Chaos erupts in the temple. Chased by soldiers, Saimdang and Seok Soon try to escape, but they fall into a ravine.

Meanwhile, news spreads about the riot, and Lee Gyeom finds out that Saimdang is at the temple. He rides out and finds Seok Soon carrying Saimdang on her back. Lee Gyeom takes Saimdang with him and leaves Seok Soon all by herself.

Seok Soon blames Saimdang for all her misfortunes and decides to seek revenge.

Meanwhile, the King overhears from some itinerant merchants about the massacre at the temple. One of the merchants says that the massacre was caused by a poem and begins reciting the poem. The King recognizes the poem and starts to panic. He fears that the ministers will misinterpret the poem and rebel against him, just like what they did with the former King.

The King orders his bodyguard to kill everyone who received the poem, including Saimdang’s father. When the bodyguard asks him about Saimdang and Lee Gyeom, the King tells him, “If Saimdang and Lee Gyeom’s marriage isn’t called off, kill them both!”

Episode 5: Lovers and enemies in Hanyang

Episode 4 recap:

Seok Soon befriends Saimdang as they walk towards the temple. She admires Saimdang’s ribbon and says that it must have been given by Saimdang’s lover.

Min Chi-hyung finds out the secret to making the temple’s famous Goryeo paper.

At the temple, the drunken son of Lord Young-myung takes the painting from the child and thinks that the poem refers to the traitor Sir Jo Gwang-jo and his followers. (From a hiding place, Saimdang recognizes her painting.) As the soldiers start killing the monks and the people, Saimdang and Seok Soon run for their lives.

Lee Gyeom brings the unconscious Saimdang to her house. He then rides out again to look for a doctor, but Seok Soon blocks his way. She asks Lee Gyeom, “ Can’t you see that I’m hurt and in pain, too?” Lee Gyeom gives her money to buy medicine for her wounds and rides away. Dejected, Seok Soon walks away, leaving the money on the ground.

In despair, Seok Soon blames Saimdang for all her misfortunes and wants revenge. She takes Saimdang’s ribbon and sketchbook containing her drawings of the drunken revelry at the temple to the river where Min Chi-hyung finds them. He orders the soldier to find and kill the ribbon’s owner. The soldiers start rampaging in village after village.

Saimdang’s parents learn that soldiers are looking for her. They order their servants to gather all the paintings and drawings from their house and burn them. Saimdang regains consciousness and tearfully protects the “Mount Geumgang” painting.

Saimdang’s father also learns that the scholars who stood up to Sir Jo Gwang-jo are being killed one by one and that he will be next.

The King’s bodyguard tells Saimdang’s parents that for Saimdang and Lee Gyeom to live, their wedding must be called of. Saimdang overhears her parents’s conversation and becomes concerned for Lee Gyeom’s safety. She agrees to marry someone else to protect Lee Gyeom.

Saimdang’s parents hastily arrange a marriage between her and Lee Won-su, the scholar who had been staying at their compound. As the marriage ceremonies begin, Lee Gyeom arrives, but he is stopped and locked up by men sent by his great aunt.

When Min Chi-hyung finds out that Saimdang is the ribbon’s owner, he and the soldiers rush to her house. But a masked warrior (actually the King’s bodyguard) easily beats them off. Min Chi-young and the soldiers retreat hastily.

The King’s bodyguard later kills Saimdang’s father, and just a day after the wedding, Saimdang begins to mourn for her father. A despondent Lee Gyeom arrives and begs her to run away with him. But she refuses.

In present time …

Ji-yoon and Han Sang-hyun think that the genuine “Mount Geumgang” painting is hidden somewhere in Saimdang’s ancestral house “Ojukheon” in Gangneum. They rush there, but they’re disappointed to learn that all the original structures have been demolished, except for the “Dragon Dream Room” (the room of Saimdang’s son, Yulgok).

Ji-yoon’s mother-in-law sees her and Han Sang-hyun arrive together on a motorcycle. She later scolds Ji-yoon and orders her to stop doing whatever she’s doing with Han Sang-hyun.

Ji-yoon reads Han Sang-hyun’s latest translation of Saimdang’s diary. In it, the adult Saimdang says, “Remembering my father is still a deep distress and a punishment for me. When my heart is like this, I wonder how lonely my mother would be when all her children have moved away.”

In Joseon time …

Saimdang prepares to leave for Hanyang with her children, and she visits her father’s burial mound for the last time.

Year 1540 in Joseon …

As Saimdang and her children leave for Hanyang (Joseon’s capital), Lee Gyeom creates a scandal during his wedding. Later, he goes to Hanyang to see the King.

Min Chi-hyung (the man who massacred the monks and people at the temple) has become a high government minister and an extremely rich paper merchant. His wife is Hwieumdang, formerly known as Seok Soon (the lowborn child who betrayed Saimdang) and who’s now an accomplished artist whose paintings are coveted by the wives of government ministers.

Hwieumdang later learns from Min Chi-hyung that Lee Gyeom is in Hanyang and will be among the guests in their house.

Meanwhile, Saimdang and her children find themselves homeless in Hanyang. To make matters worse, Saimdang’s youngest child becomes sick with measles.

Episode 6: Rekindling the flame

Episode 5 recap:

Saimdang returns the “Mount Geumgang” painting and other items to Lee Gyeom, but he refuses to accept them.

Lee Gyeom gets drunk the night before his wedding, remembering his and Saimdang’s final words to each other. At the marriage ceremonies, he creates a scandal by walking out. He then goes to Hanyang to ask the King to annul his marriage. The King agrees on the condition that he must serve as a government official from then on.

Lee Gyeom impresses everyone with his musical talent, but he soon offends the government ministers by his frank and irreverent opinions.

Hwieumdang (known before as Seok Soon) remembers her youthful love for Lee Gyeom. But during the feast at their house, she’s disappointed that Lee Gyeom doesn’t recognize her. Alone in her room later on, she looks at the scar on her hand, and her face becomes grim.

Saimdang and her children become homeless in Hanyang because their house has been sold by her husband who has been scammed. Using the expense money her mother gave her, she buys a broken-down house in a poor neighborhood.

When Saimdang’s son becomes sick with measles, she’s forced to sell the precious Ming ink stone that Lee Gyeom gave her during their youthful romance.

Through a chance meeting with the peddler who bought the ink stone, Lee Gyeom looks for Saimdang’s house. Finally, after 20 long years, they meet each other again.

Le Gyeom confronts Saimdang about how pathetic her husband is, leaving her and her children to fend for themselves, and how Saimdang’s life could have been so different if she had married him. But Saimdang defends the choices she has made for her life.

Later, Saimdang encourages her children to make the best of their situation. As they clean up the house and plant a garden, a tipsy Lee Gyeom watches them from afar. He walks away dejected, and on his way home, he sees a dog and its puppies.

At present …

Ji-yoon and Han Sang-hyun continue looking for the possible location of the real “Mount Guemgang” (Keumkangsando) painting.

In Joseon …

Lee Gyeom becomes popular in Hanyang, with women swooning over him. When the ministers begin complaining about him, the King asks everyone to visit Lee Gyeom at home.

Saimdang’s husband, Lee Won Su, comes home starving. He’s welcomed back home, but Saimdang firmly tells him that he must study hard and pass the civil service exams next year.

Later, Saimdang and her maid walk around the market to find out what kind of business she can put up. Just then, the King passes by on his way to see Lee Gyeom.

Returning home, Saimdang tries to be a good neighbor with the deposed Queen.

Suspicious of Lee Gyeom’s motives, Min Chi-yung visits him at Biikdang.

Saimdang’s son, Hyun-ryong, walks out of the house after an argument, and Woo (the youngest) follows him. Saimdang, her husband, her maid, and other children search frantically all over Hanyang for them.

Episode 7: The past, the present, and the future

Episode 6 recap:

Saimdang tells Lee Gyeom that he’s the one who’s truly pathetic, having wasted the last 20 years of his life. She says with fire in her eyes, “At least, I’m taking charge of my life. Do you know what’s the hardest thing for me? It seems like the brilliant man I loved so dearly 20 years ago is no longer here. Did the amazing times we had together even exist? That makes me more sad and miserable. Did you call my husband pathetic? To my eyes, you look just that right now!”

Later, after taking care of her children, Saimdang breaks down, remembering how she had sacrificed herself for Lee Gyeom’s sake.

Rebuked by Saimdang’s words, Lee Gyeom tries to paint again for the next several days. But he fails over and over again. Meanwhile, Saimdang and her children try to make the best of their situation. They clean up the house and plant a garden. Later on, a tipsy Lee Gyeom comes by and sees how happy Saimdang is with her children.

Dejected, Lee Gyeom walks away. On his way home, he sees a dog playing with its puppies. He’s reminded of Saimdang playing with her youngest son. The scene inspires him, and he starts painting again.

He sends a copy of his painting to Saimdang, who replies to him with a poem.

At present …

Ji-yoon and Han Sang-hyun begin looking for the present-day location of Saimdang’s home in Hanyang (now Seoul). But unknown to them, Professor Min’s assistants overhear their conversation.

In Joseon …

The King orders Lee Gyeom to establish an art center for Joseon where people, regardless of class, can hone their talents in arts and music for free. Lee Gyeom calls the center “Biikdang” after the seal that Saimdang gave him decades ago.

Min Chi-hyung, a tyrant feared by his children, becomes suspicious of Lee Gyeom’s motives. He orders his servant to watch Lee Gyeom and Biikdang.

As all sorts of people come to Biikdang, Hwieumdang passes by and watches Lee Gyeom from afar.

As the King passes by the market, Saimdang sees him and remembers how his father was killed because of the King’s poem.

The King asks Lee Gyeom to secretly investigate the corrupt activities of the ministers, including Min Chi-hyung.

When Saimdang tells her second son Hyun-ryong that he can’t attend Jungbu School, he walks out of the house. Together with Woo (Saimdang’s youngest son), they wander around until they reach Biikdang. But the man at the gate refuses to let them in.

Min Chi-hyung visits Lee Gyeom at Biikdang, bringing with him a peacock as a gift. In return, Lee Gyeom gives him a painting of flowers.

Afterwards, as Min Chi-hyung is leaving, he sees Woo (Saimdang’s youngest son) near his litter (“gama”). As he picks up Woo, Saimdang arrives and sees him. She recognizes Min Chi-hyung as the man who led the massacre of the monks and people at the temple.

As a frightened Saimdang takes her son Woo and starts to walk away, Min Chi-hyung orders her to stop.

After meeting Min Chi-hyung, Saimdang begins to have nightmares again of the temple massacre. She decides to write a letter for Lee Gyeom.

Lee Gyeom starts investigating Min Chi-hyung by visiting his paper factory.

Hwieumdang remembers how she met Min Chi-hyung.

At present …

Professor Min finds out that Ji-yoon and Han Sang-hyun are meeting Hye-jung, who’s working at the National Museum.

Hye-jung finds a poem hidden between the pages of Saimdang’s diary.

Back to Joseon …

Hyun-ryong (Saimdang’s second son) sits near a class in Jungbu School. Later he meets the Head Teacher and Hwieumdang. At that same time, Woo (Saimdang’s youngest child) wanders off to Biidang where Lee Gyeom meets him.

After an incident at the market, Saimdang takes her family to a place in the mountain.

Lee Gyeom visits Jungbu School; later, the school’s Head Teacher goes to see Saimdang.

Episode 8: The contest

Episode 7 recap:

Using her left hand to write so that she can’t be identified, Saimdang warns Lee Gyeom about Min Chi-hyung. Not knowing who sent the letter, Lee Gyeom thinks that one of Min Chi-hyung’s allies sent the letter to scare him off.

Min Chi-hyung sees a striking resemblance between the painting of flowers that Lee Gyeom gave and the ribbon of the girl who witnessed the temple massacre.

Hwieumdang remembers how she, as Seok Soon, became Min Chi-hyung’s servant. She remembers presenting herself to bear Min Chi-hyung’s children. When he scoffed at her saying she’s just a servant, she replied with a poem: “People loved the red peony, and their gardens were filled with them. Who knew that a beautiful flower bloomed even from desolate grounds?”

At present …

After meeting Hye-jung, Ji-yoon tells Han Sang-hyun not to stick close to her to prevent gossip in their neighborhood. Prof. Min’s assistants see them going into the same apartment complex and think that they’re having an affair.

Hye-jung finds a poem hidden between the pages of Saimdang’s diary. The poem, which was not written in ancient Korean, says: “Our two souls, therefore, which are one, Though I must go, endure not yet a breach, but an expansion like gold to airy thinness beat.” Ji-yoon says that the poem was written by John Donne, a 16th century English poet.

Prof. Min arrives and warns Ji-yoon, Hye-jung, and Han Sang-hyun that he’s watching out for them. Han Sang-hyun later offers a room at the club where they can continue studying Saimdang’s diary.

Back to Joseon …

Jungbu School’s Head Teacher becomes impressed with Hyun-ryong’s intelligence; he’s also surprised to know who Hyun-ryong’s grandfather was.

Hwieumdang sees Hyung-ryong in the school and scolds him for loitering there. Later, she warns the Head Teacher to keep the school’s tradition in accepting new students.

At Biidang, Lee Gyeom finds Woo adorable, not knowing that he is Saimdang’s son.

Saimdang’s children are caught stealing dried persimmons at the market. Finding out about it, Saimdang whips them repeatedly. Sun, the eldest child, shouts that they did it because they were hungry. He and the other children begin blaming their father.

Saimdang takes her family to a barren place in the mountain. She tells her children that’s the place their father bought in a scam. She inspires her children to look beyond the barren conditions of the place and imagine how better it can be if they work together. Later, they spend a happy time playing at the river.

Going back home, they meet Jungbu School’s Head Teacher. He tells Saimdang that he knew her father and how proud he was of her. He then tells Saimdang and her husband that the school has a place open for Hyun-ryong.

But when Hyun-ryong’s brother and sister tell him that they barely have enough to eat for tomorrow, he decides not to attend Jungbu School.

That evening, while Saimdang tends to her children’s wounds from the whipping, she finds Hyun-ryong’s notebook. In it, he has written a poem: “Autumn deepens at the gazebo in the woods, but the poet finds no solace in its beauty. River faraway is the color of the sky it touches; red leaves under frost are burning red.”

Saimdang’s husband, Lee Won Su, leaves their home.

Saimdang takes her son Hyun-ryong to Jungbu School. There, Saimdang, Hwieumdang (Seok Soon), and Lee Gyeom meet each other again.

Lee Gyeom goes up to the mountain and asks someone to help him investigate Min Chi-hyung’s illegal activities. Meanwhile, Min Chi-hyung learns more about Lee Gyeom’s past.

Hyun-ryong finds a letter in one of his grandfather’s books and gives it to Saimdang.

The mothers of the Jungbu School students complain to the Head Teacher that Hyun-ryong is not qualified to enter the school. Lee Gyeom arrives and suggests to the mothers that a contest be held between Hyun-ryong and the other student applying for the vacant slot.

The other student’s father is a very rich nobleman who has asked the Prime Minister and Min Chi-hyung to get his son (Jang Tae-ryong) admitted into the school.

At present …

Ji-yoon does what her husband asked her to do, but her mother-in-law accidentally finds out about it.

Back to Joseon …

Hwieumdang gets private tutors and puts Jang Tae-ryong through a crash course for the contest.

Episode 9: “Complacent clouds” (The painting and poetry contest)

Episode 8 recap:

Saimdang’s husband goes to a mountain temple to prepare for the civil service exams.

At the school, Hwieumdang recognizes Saimdang as Lee Gyeom arrives. She turns to avoid Saimdang, and Saimdang walks past Lee Gyeom without acknowledging him. Later, Hwieumdang goes to see where Saimdang lives.

Hwieumdang then asks the mothers to protest Hyun-ryong’s admission into the school. But on Lee Gyeom’s suggestion, the mothers agree to a contests between Hyun-ryong and the other student.

Min Chi-hyung learns that Lee Gyeom and Saimdang nearly got married years ago and that Lee Gyeom showed up in Hanyang just when Saimdang and her family have relocated there.

Lee Gyeom asks his friend (the leader of a bandit group) to find out what he can about Min Chi-hyung’s illegal activities.

Lee Gyeom tells the Head Teacher that he will anonymously sponsor Hyun-ryong and other intelligent but poor students.

At present …

Ji-yoon’s husband tells her to file for divorce. Her mother-in-law finds out about it and becomes angry at Ji-yoon’s ingratitude.

Back to Joseon …

Hyun-ryong finds his grandfather’s letter containing a copy of the King’s poem and gives it to Saimdang. Saimdang orders him never to talk about the letter. Remembering that the poem started all the sad turns in her life, she tries to burn the letter but could not.

Jang Tae-ryong, the other student applying for the vacant slot, turns out to be good at eating and nothing else. Despite a crash course with tutors arranged by a frustrated Hwieumdang, he still cannot understand or memorize what he’s being taught. But Hwieumdang later on gets a copy of the contest question and prepares Jang Tae-ryong for it.

Lee Gyeom finds out from a nervous Jang Tae-ryong that the contest question has been leaked. He arranges another contest where both Hyun-ryong and Jang Tae-ryong fail. (The two have become instant friends who do not want to deprive each other the opportunity to enter the school.) On Lee Gyeom’s suggestion, both of them are admitted.

Hwieumdang tells the other mothers that Saimdang could have influenced Lee Gyeom. The mothers go to Saimdang’s house and demand that she formally greet them. They also tell her that Hyun-ryong was admitted to the school only because Lee Gyeom intervened.

An angry Saimdang goes to the school to see the Head Teacher and Lee Gyeom.

Offended by what the mothers told her, Saimdang tells Lee Gyeom not to intervene in her life.

While tending to a fire in her kitchen and remembering Lee Gyeom’s words, Saimdang realizes that she can make and sell paper as her family’s source of income.

Lee Gyeom and Hwieumdang find out separately that Saimdang is putting up a small business of making and selling paper. Through his friend (the bandit group’s leader), Lee Gyeom also finds out more about Hwieumdang.

Hwieumdang vows that Saimdang will spend the rest of her life as a “worthless woman doing manual labor.” She then visits Lee Gyeom in Jungbu School and proposes that Biikdang host a painting and poetry contest among the students and their mothers.

Episode 10: Unpyeongsa (Unpyeong Temple)

Episode 9 recap:

Lee Gyeom justifies himself to Saimdang, saying the he didn’t know that Hyun-ryong was her son and that she should not let their sad past get in the way of Hyun-ryong’s education. Nevertheless, Saimdang tells him that to prevent misunderstandings, he should stay out of her family’s life. (Later, Lee Gyeom thinks that Saimdang might possibly still have feelings for him.)

Saimdang finds plenty of mulberry trees in the land that her husband was scammed into buying. To help her, she contacts an ornery, always drunk former artisan at the Office of Paper Production. But because of the broken down sheds and with only kitchen knives for tools, the artisan turns her down. He agrees only when Saimdang promises a 50-50 split in whatever they will be able to sell later on.

Hwieumdang thinks at first that Saimdang will use the paper for her paintings. When she finds out Saimdang’s real purpose, she orders all the paper merchants in Hanyang not to buy from or sell paper for Saimdang.

Lee Gyeom finds out that Hwieumdang has a mysterious past, with no relatives to speak of, and that Min Chi-hyung has another wife.

When Hwieumndang catches a female servant trying to flirt with Min Chi-hyung, she orders the servant to be whipped and sent away.

In Jungbu School, Lee Gyeom teaches his students not just to memorize things but to express what they have in their hearts. He’s moved when Hyun-ryong begins describing Saimdang as a great person: “My mother taught me that I have to make the most out of even difficult situations. She made the most out of the difficult things; my mother is a strong but soft-hearted person.”

The deposed Queen gratefully sends dried persimmons for Saimdang and her children. Later, Saimdang and her children visit the Queen. When Mae-chang (Saimdang’s daughter) says that she wants to visit again, the Queen tells Saimdang that it will do her no good being seen with a deposed queen. Saimdang touches the Queen’s heart by saying that being kind to neighbors is a virtue.

Looking at the paper that she has made, Saimdang begins tracing lines and shapes on it. (Like Lee Gyeom, she has been traumatized by what happened 20 years ago and has not painted anything since then.)

Hwieumdang tells herself that she is the best painter in Joseon and vows that Saimdang must never be able to compete with her again.

On the day of the contest, the mothers are all dressed up, hoping to impress Lee Gyeom. But Saimdang comes in her work clothes that offends the mothers. When Hwieumdang describes her silk dress as being in “Yeonji” color, Saimdang wonders who she is.

Not wanting Saimdang to continue being embarrassed by what she’s wearing, Lee Gyeom orders his nephew to buy aprons from the market. When the mothers complain that the aprons are like rags, he tells them that with the aprons, they don’t have to worry about spilling paint on their silk clothes.

Hwieumdang proposes that the contest theme be “Unpyeong” (“complacent clouds”). Saimdang and Lee Gyeom become agitated, remembering Unpyeong Temple from 20 years ago. As Saimdang agonizes, Hwieumdang watches her and thinks, “Are you suffering? What a pathetic sight. You’ll never be able to paint again. Because of your painting, nearly 100 people died. This is how you pay for your sin.”

When Saimdang overhears that Hwieumdang is the wife of Min Chi-hyung (the man who ordered the temple massacre), she panics and runs out of the contest hall. Hyun-ryongs follows her and, having been bullied in school, he cries that Saimdang cannot leave just like that. When Saimdang says that she simply cannot paint, Hyun-ryong storms off, saying that he’ll finish everything himself.

In his poem, Hyun-ryong writes, “In the chaotic world, a poet wanders around like complacent clouds. I’d like to stir up the clouds and let the sweet rains fall on the dry land.”

Later, Lee Gyeom sees the scar on Hwieumdang’s hand and remembers the lowborn girl Seok Soon from 20 years ago. At that same time, Saimdang is on the mountain; remembering the “Yeonji” color, she realizes that Hwieumdang and Seok Soon are one and the same person.

Saimdang and Lee Gyeom realize that Hwieumdang is none other than the lowborn girl Seok Soon whom they met 20 years ago.

Lee Gyeom starts investigating what happened at Unpyeong Temple that has scarred Saimdang’s life.

The King becomes anxious when the government ministers complain that newly-appointed government officials are flocking to Biikdang and meeting with Lee Gyeom.

Saimdang gets an order for 5,000 sheets of colored paper that she must deliver within five days. If she can’t deliver them, she must pay a penalty of 10 times the down payment. Unknown to Saimdang, the paper that she has at the workplace has been stolen by her paper artisan.

Episode 11:

Episode 10 recap:

Lee Gyeom warns Hwieumdang: “I don’t know your reason behind it, but if you’re trying to hurt someone, I hope that you don’t only look after your scar while putting daggers in someone else’s heart.

But Hwieumdang doesn’t back down and retorts: “If I want to hurt someone, don’t you think that person deserves it? An eye for an eye is only human nature.”

The Prime Minister’s insane son kills a woman, and Min Chi-hyung has to clean up the mess.

Hyun-ryong refuses to go home with Saimdang and tells her that he is no longer her son. Saimdang is assured by Lee Gyeom that he will bring Hyun-ryong home later on. As Saimdang begins to leave, Lee Gyeom tells her that Hyun-ryong is as stubborn as she was during her younger years.

Lee Gyeom tells Hyun-ryong that he regrets not having known his own mother. Hyun-ryong replies: “I’m frustrated. I’m studying for my mother and my family. I’m going to study very, very hard. I’m going to win first place in the civil service exam and become a government employee. I will buy a huge house where all my family members will have their own rooms. And I will also buy silk dresses so that my mother won’t have wear shabby clothes. How come my mother doesn’t understand how I feel?’

Lee Gyeom advises Hyun-ryong to tell her mother everything that’s in his heart.

Lee Gyeom brings Hyun-ryong home, and when he mentions that Hyun-ryong is a very intelligent boy, Saimdang says: “That’s why I’m careful with him. I don’t want him to become arrogant.” When Lee Gyeom repeats his offer to sponsor Hyun-ryong’s studies, Saimdang rejects the offer and walks away.

Saimdang freezes when Lee Gyeom mentions Unpyeong Temple. He asks: “Just what happened there? Why did you storm out trembling at the mention of the temple? Does the reason you stopped painting for 20 years have to do with the temple? The Saimdang I knew would have never given up painting. What happened to the daring girl who climbed over walls just to see the ‘Mount Geumgang’ painting?’

Later, Lee Gyeom goes to where Unpyeong Temple used to be. He meets an old man who tells him about the massacre and that Min Chi-hyung could have been involved.

The store manager at Jangwon Paper Store refuses to buy Saimdang’s paper because of their low quality. When Hwieumdang finds out that Saimdang is selling her paper, she sets up a plan to sink Saimdang deeply into debt. She orders the store manager to buy from Saimdang 5,000 sheets of colored paper that must be delivered within five days. If Saimdang is not able to deliver the paper, she must pay a penalty of ten times the down payment.

The paper artisan has stolen the paper that Saimdang has at the workplace. With only her servant to help her, Saimdang tries to produce the paper within the deadline. That night, Lee Gyeom and his nephew sneak into the workplace and try to produce as much paper pulp as they can.

When a boy steals their food, Saimdang, her servant, and her sons stumble upon a group of starving and sick drifters. Saimdang remembers the people she saw at Unpyeong Temple 20 years ago. Moved by their plight, she tells the drifters that if they help her make the paper, she will split the profits with them.

The store manager turns against Hwieumdang and reveals to Lee Gyeom the bribes that Min Chi-hyung has given to government officials. But later on, the store manager is killed by Min Chi-hyung.

Saimdang is shocked when the new store manager refuses to buy the 5,000 sheets of paper. She decides to sell the paper herself on the street. But Hwieumdang orders soldiers to break up the sale. As a soldier pushes Saimdang aside, she falls into Lee Gyeom’s arms.

Backgrounders on historical Shin Saimdang (from Wikipedia)

Shin Saimdang (October 29, 1504 – May 17, 1551) was a Korean artist, writer, calligraphist, and poet. She was the mother of the Korean Confucian scholar Yi I. Often held up as a model of Confucian ideals, her respectful nickname was Eojin Eomeoni (“Wise Mother”). Her real name was Inseon. Her pen names were Saimdang, Inimdang and Imsajae.

Shin Saimdang was born and raised in Gangneung at the home of her maternal grandparents. Her father, Shin Myeonggwa was a government official but did not actively join politics. Her mother was Lady Yi, the daughter of Yi Saon. Shin had four younger sisters. Her maternal grandfather taught her as he would have a grandson.

Being raised in that atmosphere, Shin Saimdang received an education that was not common for women of that era. Besides literature and poetry, she was adept at calligraphy, embroidery, and painting.

Because she was raised in a household that had no sons, she spent much time at her parents’ home. At the age of 19, she married Commander Yi Wonsu and with the consent of her husband she continued to spend time at the home of her parents. She accompanied her husband to his official posts in Seoul and in rural towns and birth to Yi I in Gangneung. However, Shin Saimdang died suddenly after moving to the Pyongan region at the age of 48.

Saimdang was able to cultivate her talents despite the rigid Confucian society thanks to an unconventional household and an understanding husband. Having no brothers, she received an education that would have been bequeathed only to a son, and this background greatly influenced the way she educated her children.

Shin Saimdang is the first woman to appear on a South Korean banknote, the 50,000 won note, first issued in June 2009. Feminist critics, however, have criticized this selection as reinforcing sexist stereotypes about women’s roles.

Significance of butterflies in Joseon culture

From opening credits
of “Saimdang, Light’s Diary”
The opening credits in “Saimdang, Light’s Diary” show a painting of three butterflies flitting near some flowers. In Episode 2, a butterfly appears when Seo Jin-yoon and her family are moving to their new home. The butterfly reappears when the drama transitions from past to present, as in the 47:08 mark of Episode 4.

Butterflies have been used in numerous Korean dramas:

1. The butterfly in “The Moon That Embraces The Sun” (Episodes 1 and 7).

2. Remember the butterfly key chain of Lady Jang in “Dong Yi”? Dong Yi searched for the butterfly key chain from Episode 5 to 14, I think.

3. If I remember correctly, the ornate hair pin that Bang-won gave Boon-yi in Episode 46 of “Six Flying Dragons” was in the shape of a butterfly.

Paintings of butterflies and flowers
by historical Shin Saimdang
A Korea Foundation newsletter article titled “Enduring Symbols of Korea’s Traditional Culture” (September 2010) describes the significance of butterflies in Joseon culture:

“In regard to Korea’s traditional culture and folk art, flowers and butterflies have been among the most popular subjects. Beautiful flowers with butterflies flitting about have long been associated with prosperity and a state of contentment, in addition to symbolizing the harmony between husband and wife and the family unit. Accordingly, flowers and butterflies are often depicted in paintings and everyday articles. Examples include folk paintings and everyday items like key charms decorated with colorful floral embroidery, butterfly-shaped locks, jewelry boxes with butterfly decorations, funeral biers decorated with floral engravings, and ornamental hairpins carved with floral and butterfly patterns.”

“The butterfly is another symbol of joy, pleasure, and a life of prosperity. ”

From The Talking Cupboard in “Joseon’s Court Attire: Kdrama Style (Part 1)”:

“Various patterns like peonies and lotuses along with waives, rocks, phoenixes and butterflies which symbolize long life and good luck are embroidered on the hwarot.”

“Hwarot is the lavish crimson robe with embroidered patterns on it. It is usually worn by princesses when they are going to get married. Underneath the robe, a yellow samhuijan jeogori (jacket) with crimson/blue daran chima (skirt with gold patterns) are worn by the princess.”

Hampyeong Butterfly Festival (modern-day Korea)

From Wikipedia:

“Hampyeong is famous for its annual butterfly festival which is the only one of its kind in South Korea. The county officially has upbrought tens of thousands of butterflies and other facilities like greenhouses for insects for the festival. Annually Hampyeong attracts more than 1 million people which, considering its size and scale is quite a large number.”

From Visit Korea:

“The Hampyeong Butterfly Festival offers visitors the opportunity to get a closer look at ecology, in particular the region’s butterflies. During the festival period, the whole town of Hampyeong is a 'Happy and bountiful world with butterfly,' covered with various hands-on program, exhibitions and performances themed on butterflies, flowers and insects.”


“During the festival, about 120,000 butterflies will be released over flower gardens spread across an area of one million square meters.”

Related dramas: “Painter of the Wind” and “Yi San, Wind in the Palace”

“Saimdang, Light's Diary” is a fictionalized account of Shin Saimdang, a historical figure considered as Joseon’s greatest female painter. Other Korean historical dramas that have female lead characters who are painters are “Painter of the Wind” and “Yi San, Wind in the Palace.”

“Painter of the Wind” (read the Wikipedia article or watch the videos on Dramacool)

“Shin Yoon Bok is a talented painter who disguises herself as a boy to search for her father's murderer and meets a master painter who guides her into being a great painter. Kim Hong Do is the man who teaches Yoon Bok how to paint, and they develop a strong friendship of mentor and disciple.” (From Dramacool description)

“Yi San, Wind in the Palace” (read the Wikipedia article or watch the videos on Dramacool)

OST videos

Kpop video interviews with Lee Young-ae on “Saimdang, Light’s Diary”

“Jewel In The Palace” Lee Young Ae Is Back In New Drama “Saimdang” (Part 1/7)

Who is “Saimdang”? Lee Young Ae Reveals (Part 2/7)

Lee Young Ae On Why She Chose “Saimdang” (Part 4/7)

Lee Young Ae Says Her Doctorate Degree Is Useful For “Saimdang” Role (Part 5/7)

Lee Young Ae Talks About Challenges Filming “Saimdang” (Part 6/7)

“More Meaningful Than The Ratings” - This Is What Lee Young Ae wishes For “Saimdang” (Part 7/7)

Lessons in photography from “Saimdang, Light’s Diary”

Rack focus (technique oftentimes used in Korean dramas)

From Episode 8 (I’ve edited the GIF to slow it down at certain stages):

Hwieumdang is in the foreground while Saimdang, with her son, is in the background.

(1) Hwieumdang is out of focus and Saimdang is in focus;

(2) Saimdang becomes out of focus and Hwieumdang becomes in focus;

(3) finally, Hwieumdang becomes out of focus and Saimdang becomes in focus.

Another example from Episode 8:

(1) As Saimdang leaves, Lee Gyeom is out of focus, while Hwieumdang is in focus.

(2) As Lee Gyeom turns his head around, he comes into focus, while Hwieumdang becomes out of focus.

From Episode 6: First picture - Saimdang is out of focus;
second picture - Saimdang is in focus

From Episode 2: rack focus

From Episode 1: reflection

From Episode 1: keystoning, natural frame

From Episode 1: converging lines scale, natural frame

From Episode 2: focal center of interest, converging lines

From Episode 2: rule of thirds, aerial perspective

From Episode 2: cool colors, aerial perspective

From Episode 2: line of direction

From Episode 2: shallow depth of field

From Episode 2: shallow depth of field, bokeh

From Episode 2: high angle shot, partial frame

From Episode 2: shallow depth of field, diagonal line, vanishing point

From Episode 3: scale, aerial perspective

From Episode 3: available light, existing light,
light filtered through foliage

From Episode 3:natural frame

From Episode 3: high angle shot, aerail perspective

From Episode 3: out-of-focus highlights

From Episode 3: natural frame

From Episode 3: reflection

From Episode 3: shooting against the light

From Episode 4: aerial perspective

From Episode 5: rule of thirds, cool colors, compressed perspective,
linear and aerial perspective

From Episode 5: reflection

From Episode 6: shallow depth of field,
focus on the eyes

From Episode 6: rule of thirds, aerial perspective

From Episode 7: aerial perspective

From Episode 8: shallow depth of field, bokeh

From Episode 8: establishing shot

From Episode 8: compressed perspective,
foreground and background blur

From Episode 8: line of direction, background blur

From Episode 9: conveying depth by overlapping forms

From Episode 9: focal center of interest, aerial perspective

From Episode 9: picture diagonal

From Episode 9: rule of thirds, aerial perspective

From Episode 9: shooting groups

From Episode 10: natural frames

From Episode 10: partial, out-of-focus frame

From Episode 10: rule of thirds, scale, aerial perspective

From Episode 10: silhouette

Rule of thirds, line of direction, shallow depth of field

Quality and direction of light, rule of thirds

Shooting against the light, out-of-focus highlights

Shooting against the light, out-of-focus highlights

Out-of-focus foreground foliage as natural frame,
color temperature, cool colors

Low-angle shot, rule of thirds

High-angle shot