Tuesday, April 04, 2017

“Yi San” (aka “Lee San, Wind of the Palace”) spoiler-free synopsis, Eps. 1-77






From Wikipedia: Yi San also known as Lee San, Wind of the Palace, is a 2007 South Korean historical drama, starring Lee Seo-jin and Han Ji-min. It aired on MBC from September 17, 2007 to June 16, 2008.

Yi San was popular and recorded a solid viewership rate (average) of 26.4% (Nationwide) and 28.6% (Seoul) and a peak of 35.3% (Nation Wide) and 38.6% (Seoul).

Notes: (1) In history, Yi San is King Jeongjo, 22nd ruler of the Joseon Dynasty of Korea. For more information, read “King Jeongjo an idol of Korean modern media.”


(2) Reenactment of King Jeongjo’s royal parade to Crown Prince Sado’s tomb in Suwon, September 2017



(3) Reenactment of King Jeongjo’s river crossing depicted in Episode 75 (0:54 mark)

Jump to synopsis of Episodes 1-2; 3-4; 5-7; 8-9; 10-14; 15-17; 18-19; 20-22; 23-26; 27-30; 31-32; 33-34; 35-36; 37-38; 39-40; 41-42; 43-44; 45-46; 47-48; 49-50; 51; 52-54; 55; 56-57; 58-59; 60-61; 62-63; 64-66; 67-68; 69-71; 72; 73; 74; 75; 76; 77; Historical backgrounders and other information; Free 500-plus interactive grammar and vocabulary exercises based on “Yi San” and other Korean historical dramas (external link); Lessons in photography from “Yi San”

How I made these synopses spoiler-free


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

2. I narrated the main actions in each episode (or series of episodes) without revealing the plot’s twists and turns.

3. For some episodes, I have embedded videos with no English subs but which may contain spoiler scenes; I have thus placed alerts for these videos.

Episodes 1-2


King Yeongjo punishes his son Crown Prince Sado by locking him up in a rice chest that’s exposed to the hot sun and the cold, night air.

On his way to sneak into the courtyard to visit his father Crown Prince Sado, Yi San meets and is helped by Sung Song-yeon (a young court maid) and Park Daesu (a boy who’s about to become a eunuch).

Crown Prince Sado tells Yi San to save him by giving a painting to King Yeongjo. Yi San finds the painting, but his grandfather has gone out of the palace and won’t be back for three to four days. With his father’s life at stake and Daesu being tortured, Yi San must meet King Yeongjo; he asks for Song-yeon’s help in escaping from the entourage that’s taking him to exile.

As Yi San rushes through the capital’s streets with Song-yeon, he gets captured by wine smugglers.

Note: Video below (no English subs) from Episode 1 shows the beginnings of the great friendship between Yi San (in disguise as Mu Duk), Daesu, and Song-yeon.





Episodes 3-4


After Crown Prince Sado dies, King Yeongjo recalls Yi San and his mother, Crown Princess Hae-kyung, from their exile. He begins testing Yi San if he has what it takes to be the next king. Yi San, however, soon gets into trouble by spending the entire East Palace’s budget of 3,000 yang.

Having promised to protect Yi San, Song-yeon and Daesu try to get back into the palace.

Crown Prince Sado’s political enemies from the Noron faction now make Yi San their next target by planting guns and swords in his former residence. Yi San’s maternal grandfather urges him to save himself and his mother by placing all the blame on his father Crown Prince Sado.

When one of his servants falsely confesses under torture, Yi San is arrested and charged with treason.

King Yeongjo secretly orders Eunuch Nam to investigate, and Eunuch Nam turns to Eunuch Park Dalho (Daesu’s uncle) and two other eunuchs for help.

Song-yeon tells Daesu that they must save Yi San. But later on, Song-yeon, Daesu, and Eunuch Dalho are pursued by assassins.

Episodes 5-7


Nine years later ...

Yi San survives an assassination attempt against him, but when the assassin’s body can’t be found, the rumor spreads in the palace that he is mentally-deranged just like his father Crown Prince Sado.

On Yi San’s order, Eunuch Nam investigates what kind of poison the assassin used; his investigation leads him to the Bureau of Paintings.

Song-yeon, Daesu, and his uncle Dalho have returned to the capital after years of hiding in faraway villages. Song-yeon works as a “damo” (slave) in the Bureau of Paintings (“Dohwaseo”), where she’s bullied by an older damo and some of the Royal Artists.

Song-yeon continuously reminds Daesu to stay away from the street thugs and of their promise to help protect Yi San.

With the arrival of the Qing envoy and his entourage, King Yeongjo assigns Yi San to take charge of collecting the tributes. But Princess Hwa-wan (Yi San’s aunt) orders the Minister of Personnel to sabotage Yi San’s preparations.

After the incident at the Bureau of Paintings, Director Park Young-moon decides to take Song-yeon to the palace as one of the attendant damos. Song-yeon begins planning how she can meet Yi San.

To cover up for what happened to the tributes, Yi San arranges a small feast for the Qing envoy; he also orders Director Park to create a painting for the envoy. With no other damo available, Director Park brings Song-yeon with him to help prepare the pigments. But when the Qing envoy notices how pretty Song-yeon is, the ministers order the eunuchs to take her to the envoy’s bed chambers.

With the worsening problem of the tributes, especially with the white cotton that Qing nobles desire, King Yeongjo summons Jung Hu-gyum (Yi San’s childhood study partner and Princess Hwa-wan’s adopted son).

Realizing that Yi San could be punished because of what he did, Daesu goes berserk.

Spoiler alert: In the video below (no English subs), Song-yeon amazes the Qing envoy with her “Kirin” painting; at this point in time, Yi San hasn’t recognized that Song-yeon is his childhood friend.



Episodes 8-9


When Yi San goes to the Bureau of Paintings, he finally finds out that Song-yeon is alive and working there as a damo. But Song-yeon isn’t at the bureau because Artist Yi has brought her with him as his damo for a portraiture assignment with a noble lady.

Unable to contain his joy, Yi San goes to Dalho’s house to meet Song-yeon and Daesu. But Daesu doesn’t recognize him, and Song-yeon has been kidnapped.

Yi San goes after the thugs who stole the tributes and kidnapped Song-yeon. He gets King Yeongjo’s authority to interrogate the thugs. But his political enemies meet at a mountain hideout and plan their counterattack against him.

As Daesu, Dalho, and Eunuch Nam continue to search for Song-yeon, the thugs sell her to a brothel in the capital. Meanwhile, Yi San’s enemies frame him by forging a decree stamped with his royal seal.

Spoiler alert: Video below (no English subs) from Episode 9 shows Yi San reuniting with Song-yeon after nine years.



Episodes 10-14


Yi San finally reunites with both Daesu and Song-yeon.

When King Yeongjo says that the forgery of Yi San’s seal can be confirmed in 30 days, Princess Hwa-wan panics and calls for a daylight meeting of the Noron ministers.

King Yeongjo recalls from exile Chae Jae Gong, Yi San’s childhood mentor.

Daesu decides to study for the military exams in order to be one of Yi San’s royal guards. He enrolls under an instructor named Hong Gook-young, who teaches him the secret of passing the exams.

When Yi San’s royal guards perform miserably during inspection, King Yeongjo challenges him to be a leader.

Tension erupts during the civil service exams when one of the scholars submits an essay that mocks King Yeongjo and extols Crown Prince Sado. Later, assassins break into the palace and cause chaos. King Yeongjo orders the arrest of the former officers of Crown Prince Sado for their alleged attempt to overthrow his government.

When Yi San refuses to interrogate the former officers, King Yeongjo gives him three days to prove their innocence or else, he himself will be charged with treason.

Hong Gook-young (now a Tutor with the Office of the Crown Prince) asks Daesu to begin watching the Minister of War’s trusted servant. On the other hand, with Artist Yi’s help, Song-yeon sneaks into the Bureau of Paintings storage area; she goes through the thousands of maps kept there to identify the artist who drew the map for the men who attacked the palace.

As Daesu reports what he discovered to the police headquarters, he meets Secretary Jung, who secretly orders his men to kill Daesu.

After Yi San reports the connivance between the War Minister and Princess Hwa-wan, King Yeongjo orders the arrest and interrogation of the War Minister.

Episode 15-17


Princess Hyo-eui (Yi San’s wife) and Secretary Jung separately find out about the friendship between Yi San, Song-yeon, and Daesu.

King Yeongjo exiles Princess Hwa-wan, but Queen Jung Soon (King Yeongjo’s wife) refuses to give up trying to get rid of Yi San.

Yi San orders Hong Gook-young to tutor Daesu for the military exams.

Song-yeon enters the palace to assist Bureau of Paintings Director Park in painting a folding screen with a fertility talisman for Princess Hyo-eui.

Using the Ancestral Visit as a cover, King Yeongjo decides to investigate the reports of corruption among the magistrates in the towns outside of the capital. But Yi San’s enemies (led by the Minister of Personnel and Secretary Jung) plan to kill him during the visit, and a mysterious plague strikes a village that King Yeongjo visits.

King Yeongjo becomes sick because of the plague, and Yi San must return to the palace to oversee the affairs of the government. But Queen Jung Soon orders the Minister of Personnel and Secretary Jung to kill Yi San at any cost.

Episodes 18-19


Despite King Yeongjo’s condition, the Noron officials force the Royal Physician to bring him back to the palace. When Yi San asserts his authority, Queen Jung Soon and the Noron officials fight back. Meanwhile, Hong Gook-young encourages his former classmates to support Yi San and overthrow the Noron faction.

Princess Hwa-wan sends medicines for King Yeongjo, but Yi San backs up the Royal Physician who refuses to prescribe the medicine.

Director Park asks Song-yeon to complete the painting for Princess Hyo-eui’s fertility talisman.

Because of his weakened condition, King Yeongjo orders Yi San to rule on his behalf.

Episodes 20-22


Despite protests by the Noron officials, Yi San starts implementing reforms in various ministries, including the Bureau of Paintings where Song-yeon gets caught in the middle of the conflict.

Through Hong Gook-young, Yi San also initiates talks between the government and the black market peddlers, so that the peddlers can legally be given trade rights. He aims to bring down the merchant clans who support the Noron faction with huge bribes.

Yi San and Hong Gook-young, however, become reactive rather than proactive, and the Noron faction strikes back using Secretary Jung’s strategy.

Meanwhile, Princess Hyo-eui allows Song-yeon to complete the painting of her fertility talisman, and Director Park says that it’s okay for Song-yeon to teach the other damos how to paint. But the assistant director starts agitating the artists into kicking Song-yeon out of the bureau.

Spoiler alert: In the video below (no English subs) from Episode 20, Song-yeon joins the competition among the Royal Artists. If she places in the top five, she will be trained as an artist. But acting on the orders of Secretary Jung, a corrupt official of the “Dohwaseo” (Bureau of Paintings) sabotages her pigments such that she can only use the black pigment. The competition’s topic, however, is to depict the colors of autumn.



Episodes 23-26


Because of the riot that injured and killed so many people, King Yeongjo recalls the authority to rule that he gave to Yi San.

Queen Jung Soon’s arrogant brother, Kim Gui-joo, arrives in the capital, begins gaining the favor of Yi San’s younger half-brothers, and throws his weight around.

Hong Gook-young resigns from his government post.

Encouraged by Song-yeon, Yi San’s depression is lifted, and he begins going out to the capital. While out one night with Daesu, he meets a mysterious, old man who’s knowledgeable not only with Confucianism but also with practical things like agriculture.

Princess Hwa-wan and Secretary Jung become suspicious of what Queen Jung Soon and her brother are planning with the Minister of Personnel for the year-end festivities.

Princess Hwa-wan calls Song-yeon to her quarters.

Daesu and the other royal guards look for Hong Gook-young; over drinks in a gisaeng house, Hong Gook-young explains to them his “Excrement Philosophy.”

Director Park gives more responsibilities to Song-yeon and the other damos whom she has been training.

Alarmed by the old man’s vision of Yi San’s death, Daesu consults Hong Gook-young, who then asks Song-yeon to sneak into the prohibited storage area of the Bureau of Paintings.

Despite Queen Jung Soon’s order, her brother Kim Gui-joo continues with his assassination plot against Yi San.

Hong Gook-young realizes how the assassination will be carried out, but as he tries to warn Yi San, he’s blocked from entering the palace.

Episodes 27-30


The Noron ministers begin covering up their tracks, and Queen Jung Soon’s brother wants to make it appear that Daesu and the other royal guards tried to assassinate King Yeongjo on Yi San’s order.

But King Yeongjo appoints Hong Gook-young as Chief Inspector and orders him to investigate what really happened during the year-end festivities. Hong Gook-young orders Daesu and the other royal guards to look for the missing Arsenal Chief.

When Kim Gui-joo goes missing, Queen Jung Soon, the Minister of Personnel, Princess Hwa-wan, Secretary Jung, and the other Noron officials suspect that Yi San has taken him. Things start unraveling, and with the Capital Army increasing the pressure, they soon turn against each other.

The Bureau of Paintings is ordered by the Ministry of Rites to prepare for the commissioning of the Royal Portrait.

Hong Gook-young enlists the help of Yi San’s mother (Crown Princess Hae-kyung); meanwhile, Daesu sees Queen Jung Soon secretly meeting Secretary Jung at night.

After refusing to meet either the ministers or members of the royal family for several days, King Yeongjo calls all the ministers to a meeting to reveal what happened at the year-end festivities.

Song-yeon enters the palace as attendant damo for Artist Tak who has been chosen to paint the Royal Portrait. After the sketching session, King Yeongjo orders the Head Eunuch to bring Song-yeon to his chambers.

Spoiler alert: In the video below (no English subs) from Episode 30, Song-yeon paints a “maehwa” (plum blossom) for King Yeongjo.



Episodes 31-32


King Yeongjo orders Queen Jung Soon confined to her quarters. Later, he gives a new assignment to Hong Gook-young.

Led by Princess Hwa-wan, the Noron ministers ostracize Queen Jung Soon.

Yi San’s mother (Crown Princess Hae-kyung) finds out about his special relationship with Song-yeon.

After a period of depression, Yi San begins thinking of implementing the “Equalization Policy” in order to clip the influence of the Noron faction.

Secretary Jung volunteers to head the trade delegation to Qing. Accompanying him are government officials, the merchant clans, and the Bureau of Paintings staff (Artist Yi, Artist Tak, Chobi, and Song-yeon).

After Princess Hyo-eui (Yi San’s wife) finds out what Crown Princess Hae-kyung is planning for Song-yeon, she visits Yi San at night to warn him.

Spoiler alert: In the video below (no English subs) from Episode 32, Yi San and Song-yeon spend some happy moments together. Unknown to Yi San, Song-yeon will be leaving the next day to train as an artist in Qing and won’t be coming back for at least ten years. (At the 1:31 mark, Yi San orders Song-yeon to call him by his first name “San” just like when they were kids.)



Episodes 33-34


King Yeongjo sends Yi San and Princess Hyo-eui on a vacation to the Ohnyang hot springs. He also grants Yi San’s request that all the senior ministers must go with him.

In Ohnyang, Yi San and his royal guards meet a scholar and a warrior. Yi San arranges a fight between the warrior and his royal guard Suh Jang-bo.

When Yi San challenges the Noron ministers to reform or else, the Minister of Personnel issues his own challenge.

In Qing, the Ministry of Culture refuses to accept Song-yeon as a student. But Lord Hong (Yi San’s maternal grandfather) tells Song-yeon that he cannot allow her to return to Joseon.

In the palace, King Yeongjo begins suffering from memory lapses that shock his staff, Princess Hwa-wan, and Queen Jung Soon.

During a meeting with King Yeongjo after Yi San and his entourage have returned from Ohnyang, the Minister of Personnel presents sweeping proposals that outrage his fellow Noron officials.

Spoiler alert: In the video below (no English subs) from Episode 33, Daesu and another royal guard get beaten up by a small guy from the countryside.



Spoiler alert: In the video below (no English subs) from Episode 34, Song-yeon must prove her talent in painting before she can be allowed to undergo training in Qing’s Ministry of Culture. She creates four paintings showing the four seasonal looks of the famous Mount Geumgang.



Episodes 35-36


With the Minister of Personnel’s support, Yi San begins implementing his reforms. But Princess Hwa-wan and Secretary Jung refuse to submit to Yi San.

Yi San begins to notice King Yeongjo’s memory lapses; meanwhile, having manipulated the Head Eunuch to report everything that’s happening, Queen Jung Soon becomes bolder in her actions and threatens the Royal Secretary.

Sent by Yi San to find out what’s happening to Song-yeon in Qing, Daesu learns that Song-yeon has been kicked out of the Ministry of Culture and is nowhere to be found.

As Queen Jung Soon’s brother returns to the capital, King Yeongjo finally finds out what his sickness is.

Episodes 37-38


Song-yeon recovers from her ordeal and returns to work at the Bureau of Paintings.

Queen Jung Soon shocks everyone by regaining King Yeongjo’s favor and having her brother reinstated.

Even as King Yeongjo takes the steps to deal with his dementia, it becomes worse, and he threatens to depose Yi San if he does not disown Crown Prince Sado as his father.

As Yi San remembers his father’s painting, Eunuch Nam suggests that Song-yeon study the painting and find out its secret.

The night before King Yeongjo’s deadline, Yi San’s mother (Crown Princess Hae-kyung) pleads with him, but he refuses to disown his father Crown Prince Sado.

Episodes 39-40


After Song-yeon brings Crown Prince Sado’s letter to him, King Yeongjo tells Yi San that he will abdicate in his favor. He then takes the steps to ensure that Yi San can ascend the throne the next day, beginning with secretly meeting the Minister of Personnel.

When Queen Jung Soon finds out about the planned abdication, she orders Secretary Jung to bring to her the commanding officer of the palace guards.

Based on the painting, Yi San thinks that the incriminating evidence against his father’s killers is buried in a special rock formation. Racing against time, he brings his royal guards and other soldiers to search the mountain.

In desperation, Queen Jung Soon orders the Head Eunuch to poison King Yeongjo.

Episodes 41-42


Queen Jung Soon orders the palace army and the palace guards to attack the East Palace and enforce King Yeongjo’s last order that deposes Yi San.

Yi San strikes back, but Queen Jung Soon and Princess Hwa-wan escape from the palace.

The Noron-controlled Five Armies numbering some 20,000 soldiers begin marching back to the capital to seize the palace. On the other hand, Yi San sends for help from the Pyongan army.

The palace army collapses with the arrest of its commanding officer by his Noron subordinates; Queen Jung Soon, Princess Hwa-wan, and the Noron ministers then march to the Grand Palace to arrest Yi San.

Episodes 43-44


King Yeongjo deposes Queen Jung Soon and sends her into exile in a detached palace. He also appoints Yi San as Regent.

As the rumor about Song-yeon and Yi San spreads in the Bureau of Paintings, Yi San’s mother (Crown Princess Hae-kyung) calls Song-yeon to the palace.

Enraged by how things turned out, Hong Gook-young compiles a “Death List” of all the people who have tried to assassinate Yi San.

King Yeongjo orders the cleansing of all historical records related to Crown Prince Sado. Later, he secretly leaves the palace and calls for Song-yeon.

With money coming in from the Noron ministers, Secretary Jung raises 10,000 silver coins as payment for a master assassin to kill Yi San.

Spoiler alert: Video below (no English subs) from Episode 44 shows Song-yeon painting a portrait of Crown Prince Sado based on King Yeongjo’s description. King Yeongjo wants to give the portrait to Yi San because, in his anger, he had ordered burned all of Crown Prince Sado’s portraits. As Song-yeon paints, King Yeongjo remembers Yi San and Crown Prince Sado’s happy days together. As he tenderly caresses the portrait, he says, “I will be a good father to you in the afterlife.”



Spoiler alert: Video below (no English subs) from Episode 44 shows Song-yeon remembering how King Yeongjo gave her the precious, double jade rings that his beloved mother gave to him. King Yeongjo pleads with Song-yeon to always be a friend and give comfort to Yi San. (If you have seen the drama “Dong Yi” starring Han Hyo-jo, you’ll remember that King Sukjong gave Dong Yi these double jade rings after she entered the palace as a Special Court Lady. King Yeongjo was the son named “Geum” of King Sukjong and Dong Yi.)



Episodes 45-46


Artist Tak, Artist Yi, and Song-yeon have been given the Bureau of Painting’s responsibilities for Yi San’s coronation as King, including the repainting of the Grand Palace. But the master assassin has disguised himself as one of the painters serving in Song-yeon’s crew.

Not being able to contact the master assassin for several days, Secretary Jung prepares more assassins to go after Yi San.

During his first assembly, Yi San proclaims something that strikes fear among the ministers.

After the coronation when security has been relaxed and using the cover of darkness, the master assassin attacks Yi San in his quarters.

Spoiler alert:
Video below (no English subs) from Episode 46 shows Yi San fighting off the master assassin sent by the Noron ministers.



Episodes 47-48


The Noron ministers who funded the assassination attempt against Yi San are arrested, while Secretary Jung and Princess Hwa-wan escape from the palace.

Despite the protest of the Minister of Personnel, Yi San orders the exile or execution by beheading of over a hundred officials.

After Queen Jung Soon’s arrest, she tries to end her life by taking poison. News spreads about her suicide attempt, and the Confucian scholars begin staging protests against Yi San’s actions.

As Yi San focuses on building the “Kyujanggak” (Imperial Library), his decision on promotions causes dissension among the royal guards.

Queen Hyo-eui wants to make Song-yeon the Royal Concubine, but the Queen Mother (former Crown Princess Hae-kyung) wants to strengthen Yi San’s rule by appointing Hong Gook-young’s sister as the Royal Concubine.

Yi San visits incognito the old man and invites him to see the Imperial Library. To counteract the influence of the Noron faction which has been opposing his reforms, he also announces that 2,000 new officials will be selected in the civil service exams.

Episodes 49-50


Led by the Minister of Personnel, the Noron ministers protest Yi San’s plan for the civil service exams by handing in their resignations.

Queen Hyo-eui visits Song-yeon at the Bureau of Paintings, while the Queen Mother (former Crown Princess Hae-kyung) calls for Hong Gook-young.

When Yi San starts accepting the resignations of the Noron officials, the Minister of Personnel reaches out for help from Lord Jang Tae-woo, who’s the former head of Noron, a fierce opponent of Queen Jung Soon, and a highly-respected Confucian scholar.

Plague hits the capital, but there aren’t enough doctors and nurses to take care of the sick because of the boycott ordered by Lord Jang.

With the plague becoming worse, Yi San calls for an emergency meeting of all the ministers, including the resigned Noron officials. When the Noron officials refuse to obey the summons, Yi San goes to the house of Lord Jang and says that he has learned the lesson that Lord Jang wanted him to learn.

The Queen Mother posts announcements on the search for the Royal Concubine all over the capital. But Queen Hyo-eui continues to fight for Song-yeon.

Episode 51


Eunuch Nam and Advisor Chae become concerned with the repercussions of Hong Gook-young’s sister becoming the Royal Concubine.

Because of his coming marriage to Mak-soon, Dalho encourages Song-yeon to marry Daesu.

The Noron ministers beg for Yi San’s forgiveness, but they’re caught between Yi San and Lord Jang who both remain defiant.

The conflict between the Queen Mother and Queen Hyo-eui over Song-yeon deepens.

Remembering Queen Hyo-eui's words, Yi San calls for Song-yeon to talk about her becoming a Royal Concubine. But he suddenly needs to be in the Grand Palace, and as Song-yeon waits for him in his study, the Queen Mother arrives.

The Ministry of Rites selects Song-yeon to paint Yi San’s Royal Portrait.



Episodes 52-54


Conflict arises between Councilor Ki Chun-yik (head custodian of the Imperial Library) and Lord Jang’s right-hand man Min Joo-shik. Later, Lord Jang himself complains to Yi San that Hong Gook-young is abusing his authority.

Lord Jang meets with Queen Jung Soon (Grand Dowager Queen).

Artist Yi begs on his knees for a master painter to accept him as a student.

Embarrassed that Yi San visited Song-yeon instead of consummating their marriage, Royal Concubine Hong vents her anger on Song-yeon. But Queen Hyo-eui finds out about it and disciplines her.

As the conflict between Queen Hyo-eui and Hong Gook-young begins, Hong Gook-young disobeys Yi San’s order.

Yi San prepares a decree that will shake Joseon’s foundation to its core.

Royal Concubine Hong challenges Queen Hyo-eui’s authority and orders Song-yeon to paint her fertility talisman.

The half-bloods managing Yi San’s Imperial Library, including head custodian Councilor Ki Chun-yik, are attacked simultaneously.

Later, several Noron officials are found murdered, with a mysterious sign drawn on their hands. Lord Jang and other Noron officials immediately accuse Hong Gook-young of masterminding the murders.

Believing in Hong Gook-young’s innocence, Yi San stops his interrogation, despite the protests of the Noron officials.

As Song-yeon becomes a student of former Royal Artist Chang Yong, she continues to work on the fertility talisman for Royal Concubine Hong. When the news spreads throughout the palace that Royal Concubine Hong is pregnant, Song-yeon’s fellow damo Chobi warns her that she will be bullied even more.

Queen Jung Soon strikes a deal so that she can bring down her nemesis Lord Jang and regain her entitlements as Grand Dowager Queen.

Episode 55


Royal Concubine Hong mocks Queen Hyo-eui, but later on, the Royal Physician tells her that something is wrong with her pregnancy.

Yi San tells the ministers that he wants to end slavery in Joseon. In response, the Noron ministers walk out in protest. Later on, however, the Noron faction gets split.

The slave who killed the Noron officials is sentenced to die by beheading; before his sentence is carried out, he’s brought before Yi San.

Former Royal Artist Chang Yong questions Song-yeon whether she can truly be happy if she becomes Joseon’s best painter.

Minister Min Joo-shik is arrested for the attack on the custodians of the Imperial Library.

Episodes 56-57


Hong Gook-young orders the Royal Physician to keep quiet about Royal Concubine Hong’s phantom pregnancy.

As Queen Jung Soon (Grand Dowager Queen) continues trying to exert influence over Yi San, Minister Min Joo-shik escapes while on his way to interrogation.

Hong Gook-young investigates the Noron ministers for Min Joo-shik’s escape, but Lord Jang and the other ministers protest his heavy-handed ways.

Artist Yi and Artist Tak continue learning how to paint erotica from former Royal Artist Chang Yong.

Through Queen Hyo-eui, the Queen Mother sends a tonic to test Royal Concubine Hong’s pregnancy. Later, while Royal Concubine Hong is bullying Song-yeon, a maid comes in, bringing with her motherwort tonic from Hong Gook-young.

During a celebration in honor of her pregnancy, Royal Concubine Hong acts according to Hong Gook-young’s plan.

The Queen Mother wants to investigate who’s responsible for Royal Concubine Hong’s miscarriage. All the Royal Physicians and nurses are brought in for questioning, but Hong Gook-young threatens the Royal Physician to keep quiet or else ...

The Royal Physician, Royal Concubine Hong, and Hong Gook-young begin blaming Queen Hyo-eui and her tonics for causing the miscarriage.

Episodes 58-59


As Song-yeon walks home after meeting Queen Hyo-eui, a mysterious man shadows her. Meanwhile, Queen Hyo-eui tells Hong Gook-young to confess everything to Yi San.

Lord Jang and the Noron ministers demand that Royal Concubine Hong be stripped of her title and that Hong Gook-young be interrogated.

Yi San goes out to the capital’s streets at night to find out how his people are faring: in a tavern, he meets members of the White Tower Club. Later on, however, someone shoots at him with a rifle, and his royal guards rush him back to the palace.

Hong Gook-young suspects the Noron officials of trying to kill Yi San, and he orders the arrest of some officials and the merchants who may have provided the rifle.

Royal Concubine Hong becomes seriously sick, but the Queen Mother refuses to let Queen Hyo-eui see her.

Song-yeon meets at the bookstore the young man who saved her from a drunk.

Queen Jung Soon (Grand Dowager Queen) tells Hong Gook-young to investigate a mysterious group of men in the capital that’s responsible for the attempt on Yi San’s life.

Hong Gook-young orders the Imperial Guards and Palace Guards to attack the men’s meeting place. Among the men in the group is the young man whom Song-yeon met at the bookstore.



Episodes 60-61


Song-yeon helps Wook, the wounded young man who escaped from the Imperial Guards.

Yi San questions Hong Gook-young why the arrested men did not fight back when the Imperial Guards attacked.

The Queen Mother tells Queen Hyo-eui to prepare for the selection of a new Royal Concubine.

Hong Gook-young tells Yi San that Royal Concubine Hong’s line will continue if Yi San allows her to posthumously adopt the eldest son of Prince Eun Un.

Yi San appoints the half-blood Deputy Administrator of the Imperial Library and some members of the White Tower Club to the Joseon delegation to the Qing royal court. But one member of the club questions Yi San’s true intentions.

Yi San finds out that the men arrested by Hong Gook-young are all Roman Catholics.

As the Imperial Guards hunt down Wook, Song-yeon goes to warn his associates.

Daesu helps Wook escape.

Yi San finds out about Song-yeon’s relationship to Wook, and he sends Eunuch Nam to find Wook.

In disguise, the Imperial Guards contact the smugglers who brought in the same type of rifle used in the assassination attempt against Yi San. They then raid the house of the official who brought the rifles into Joseon.

Yi San approves Hong Gook-young’s plea for the adoption of Prince Eun Un’s eldest son, Wan Poong. But Queen Hyo-eui confronts Hong Gook-young and tells him that she will not allow Wan Poong to become the heir to Yi San’s throne.



Episodes 62-63


Yi San brings Song-yeon to the palace and orders his attendants to prepare her to spend the night with him in his chambers. When the Queen Mother finds out about it, she rushes over to the Grand Palace, but Yi San and Song-yeon have already retired to his chambers.

Later, the Queen Mother scolds both Yi San and Queen Hyo-eui for their decision to bring in Song-yeon and warns them of the consequences.

The news spreads in the Bureau of Paintings that Song-yeon will become the next Royal Concubine.

Song-yeon begins learning from the Court Education Ladies. But the Queen Mother continues to ignore her and then announces the search for a new Royal Concubine.

Yi San goes out incognito to visit the black market peddlers in the capital.

Queen Hyo-eui orders her attendant to look for an attendant for Song-yeon from among the staff at the Bureau of Paintings.

Song-yeon meets Daesu at the palace, and she begins to realize how restricted her life has become.

As Queen Jung Soon (Grand Dowager Queen) prepares with the Minister of Personnel and Hong Gook-young for the designation of Wan Poong as the Crown Prince, she advises Hong Gook-young on how to silence Lord Jang.

Spoiler alert: Video below (no English subs) from Episode 62 shows Yi San and Song-yeon getting married.



Episodes 64-66


The Noron ministers begin petitioning Yi San to designate Prince Wan Poong as the Crown Prince.

Queen Hyo-eui appoints a new attendant for Song-yeon.

As Lord Jang is released from the Tribunal, Hong Gook-young orders the arrest and torture of the leaders of the merchant clans.

When the petitions in support of Prince Wan Poong continue to pour in, Queen Hyo-eui takes matters into her own hands. Later, she asks Daesu to watch Hong Gook-young’s dealings with Queen Jung Soon (Grand Dowager Queen).

Yi San promotes Lord Jang and demotes Hong Gook-young. Cornered and about to be exposed, Hong Gook-young plans to strike back at Queen Hyo-eui during the Ancestral Visit.

Song-yeon faints before the feast prepared for the elderly by Queen Hyo-eui. After visiting Song-yeon at the clinic, Yi San takes Queen Hyo-eui’s place at the feast.

As chaos erupts, Hong Gook-young orders one of his men to sneak the former attendant of Royal Concubine Hong out of the restricted area. But Daesu catches up with them.

Episodes 67-68


To the shock of Lord Jang, Advisor Chae, and the other ministers, Yi San sentences Hong Gook-young to exile, rather than execution.

The Queen Mother reminds Yi San of his duties to Royal Concubine Yoon.

After Daesu visits Hong Gook-young in his place of exile, Yi San disbands the Imperial Guards.

Acting on the reports of the Imperial Library’s custodians, Yi San leaves the palace and investigates the loan sharks who are selling their defaulting debtors off to Qing.

Out in the capital, Yi San meets a scholar who’s climbing over the wall of the Confucian Academy.

In exile, Hong Gook-young becomes critically sick.

Queen Hyo-eui wants to bring Song-yeon along to a meeting with some noble ladies about the upcoming silk ceremony. But the Queen Mother refuses, saying that Song-yeon might embarrass the royal family with her ignorance.



Episodes 69-71


Scholar Jung Ya-gyong places first in the civil service exams and immediately gains Yi San’s attention and favor. A member of the Nam In faction, he chooses to work for the Office of the Ministers Without Portfolio and begins making waves in the other ministries, thus angering the Noron ministers.

Daeso and the Imperial Guards attack the loan sharks who are selling off their defaulting debtors to slave traders from Qing.

Song-yeon meets in the palace her former superior in Qing’s Ministry of Culture.

Qing’s ambassador demands that Yi San release the slave traders that the Imperial Guards have arrested. Yi San refuses and immediately orders Jung Ya-gyong and the Imperial Library custodians to find a solution to the diplomatic impasse.

Crisis ensues when the Qing ambassador orders his personal guard to go to the police bureau and take the imprisoned slave traders.

Song-yeon asks permission from the Queen Mother to leave the palace.

As Jung Ya-gyong discerns Qing’s hostile intentions towards Joseon, Song-yeon brings to Yi San the painting given by the Qing ambassador.

After Yi San exiles Jung Ya-gyong, he schedules military exams where 2,000 new officers will be taken in. But the fugitive Min Joo-shik uses this opportunity to sneak his men into the newly-organized Dragon Guard.

Yi San also announces to the nervous ministers that he will move the royal tomb of Crown Prince Sado to Suwon. He also shows to Advisor Chae the contents of the secret box left by King Yeongjo.

Both Song-yeon and Royal Concubine Yoon become pregnant, but later, Song-yeon suffers from a life-threatening condition.

Episode 72


Prince Moon-hyo grows up, cherished by Yi San, Song-yeon, Queen Hyo-eui. and the Queen Mother. But the ministers refuse to acknowledge him as a royal prince because of Song-yeon’s lowborn status.

Yi San surprises Jung Ya-gyong and the custodians of the Imperial Library when he tells them the reason behind the transfer of Crown Prince Sado’s royal tomb to Suwon.

Yi San orders Daesu and the Dragon Troop to closely monitor Queen Jung Soon’s movements. But in retaliation, Queen Jung orders Min Joo-shik to attack the Grand Palace.

Yi San decides to designate Prince Moon-hyo as the Crown Prince, but on Queen Jung Soon’s orders, the Noron ministers support the protest of Minister Yoon (Royal Concubine Yoon’s father) against the designation.

Episode 73


While Song-yeon is pregnant with her second child, Crown Prince Moon-hyo dies of measles.

Yi San begins building Hwaseong Fortress in Suwon under the supervision of Jung Ja-gyung and the custodians of the Imperial Library. But Min Joo-shik’s men infiltrate the construction site.

Song-yeon asks permission from Queen Hyo-eui to leave the palace and stay with her brother for the last four months of her pregnancy.

Daesu breaks the promise that he made to Song-yeon.



Episode 74


Desperate to find a cure for Song-yeon’s sickness, Yi San calls for any physician in Joseon who may know the cure. He also begins considering Western medicine, despite the apprehensions of Eunuch Nam and Advisor Chae.

On Yi San’s order, Daesu goes to Qing to contact and bring back Western physicians to Joseon.

As construction of Hwaseong Fortress continues, Yi San announces to the ministers his plan to move Joseon’s capital from Hanyang to Suwon. His enemies (Queen Jung Soon, the Minister of Personnel, Min Joo-shik, and the military commanders) meet to plan their final battle with him.

Spoiler alert: Video below (no English subs) from Episode 74 shows Song-yeon painting her last portrait of Yi San. As she works on the portrait, her mind flashes back to the happy moments that she and Yi San have spent together.



Episode 75


As Jung Ja-gyong perfects his 5-pulley system, Yi San prepares to go to Suwon and hold a birthday feast for the Queen Mother (Princess Hae-kyung).

Suh Jang-bo of the Dragon Guard becomes angry at being excluded from the promotions that Yi San has approved. Meanwhile, Yi San orders Daesu to continue monitoring the Noron officials and the military commanders.

In Suwon, Lord Jang questions Yi San’s decision to build Hwaseong Fortress.

The Minister of Personnel gives Min Joo-shik the inside information on Yi San’s schedule of activities. When Yi San is briefly separated from his Dragon Guard at a temple, Min Joo-shik and his warriors attack.

Episode 76


Yi San’s Dragon Guard foils the assassination attempt during the nighttime training exhibition and arrests all the plotters from the Noron faction and the military commanders. Even Queen Jung Soon (Grand Dowager Queen) is arrested.

But even under torture, the plotters refuse to implicate Queen Jung Soon.

Lord Jang retires from government service, while Jung Ya-gyong becomes a Secret Inspector.

Episode 77: Finale


1800 — 24th year of Yi San’s reign as King Jeongjo ...

Just like the way his grandfather King Yeongjo tested him with a question, Yi San now tests the young Crown Prince. When his tutor Jung Ja-gyong offers to help him, the Crown Prince says he must find the answer to the question by himself.

Yi San goes out to the capital on market day and finds out that prices have dramatically deflated due to the shortage of coins. The price of copper that’s used in making coins has gone up, and to make matters worse, merchants and nobles are hoarding their coins.

Dalho and Mak-soon have adopted a child who’s as lazy and dimwitted the way Daesu was as a child.

Yi San receives the completed manual on military arts written by the small guy from the countryside who once beat up Daesu and Suh Jang-bo.

Despite his failing health, Yi San goes to the royal tombs and holds a memorial service for Song-yeon and Crown Prince Moon-hyo.

Riots break out in the capital because of the coin shortage.



Historical backgrounders and other information


King Jeongjo (Yi San)



Suwon Hwaseong Fortress (built by Yi San, aka King Jeongjo)



Grand beauty of Hwaseong Fortress



Royal tombs of Joseon Dynasty, memory of royals live on



Renaissance of Joseon King Jeongjo

King Jeongjo implemented “tangpyeongchaek,” an engagement policy toward rival factions, which was intended to give people equal footing in politics, even though the king suffered continuous threats of assassination from opposing factions.

King Jeongjo Cradle-to-Grave Tour

“I am sad that your majesty does not love me and terrified when you criticize me. All this turns to anger,” Sado confessed. Fine print in the old palace brochure reported, “It was on May 13, 1762, that the courtyard in front of Munjeongjeon witnessed the most tragic incident of the century. It had been reported to King Yeongjo that Crown Prince Sado was mentally ill and behaving erratically. Furious with the Crown Prince, his father ordered him sealed alive in a large rice chest.… It is believed that Crown Prince Sado was a victim of a conspiracy by his political adversaries."

King Jeongjo Tomb Parade Reenactment

For the first time in 220 years, the royal procession of King Jeongjo the Great visiting the tomb of his father (Crown Prince Sado) will be re-enacted. The 22nd ruler of the Joseon Dynasty, King Jeongjo moved his father’s tomb to Hwaseong, Suwon and thus visited the tomb 13 times to pay tribute to his father, making these rituals the biggest royal procession in the dynasty.

The Education of the Joseon Royal Household

Crown Prince Sadoseja was killed by his own father, King Yeongjo, who locked his son in a rice chest. This happened when Sadoseja’s son, who later became known as King Jeongjo, was 11 years old. It came as a huge shock to and confused young King Jeongjo. But despite his miserable childhood, he came to be known as one of the greatest kings of the late Joseon dynasty in the 18th Century who brought about a cultural renaissance.

Seven years after his eldest son died, Crown Prince Sadoseja was born to King Yeongjo. Upon his birth, the king decided to crown the newborn. To that end, the king distanced himself from his son and let others in his court take care of him in order to raise him as a future king. Later, King Yeongjo and Crown Prince Sadoseja felt uncomfortable with each other. Sadoseja was afraid of his father all the time, and King Yeongjo scolded his shy and nervous son. Crown Prince Sadoseja’s fear of his father led to mental problems. Whenever King Yeongjo reproached him, Sadoseja beat or killed people to relieve his stress. That made King Yeongjo more furious and provided an excuse for the king to put his son to death. The author explains that parental indifference in his childhood brought Sadoseja to a tragic death.

King Jeongjo’s parade turns back clock 222 years (Sep 26, 2017)

The reenactment of King Jeongjo’s procession to his father’s tomb was previously hosted separately by multiple local governments. This year, however, the city governments of Seoul, Suwon and Hwaseong co-hosted the procession for the first time.

The parade involved 4,391 people and 690 horses, and proceeded all the way along the 59.2-kilometer path from Changdeokgung Palace in Seoul to the Yungneung Royal Tombs in Hwaseong-si City, Gyeonggi-do Province, where the king’s father, Crown Prince Sado (1735-1762), is buried. The procession began with a reenactment of the ceremony to formally depart Changdeokgung Palace.

The highlight of the parade was crossing the baedari, a temporary bridge built on multiple pontoon boats anchored in a line that linked the neighborhood of Ichon with Nodeoulseom Island in the Hangang River.

Hwaseong Fortress: Haenggung, the Palace of King Jeongjo

King Jeongjo is regarded as one of the better Joseon rulers, and he attempted to move the capital of the Joseon Kingdom from Hanseong (Seoul) to Suwon. At the end of the 18th century he built Hwaseong fortress around the natural hill Paldalsan in Suwon, and built his new palace, Haenggung, inside the fortress.

King Jeongjo was the grandson of King Yeongjo, and the son of Crown Prince Sado and Lady Hyegyeong. The most famous story of royal intrigue in the Joseon dynasty is the tale of how King Yeongjo killed his own son, Crown Prince Sado. The best account of this story is The Memoirs of Lady Hyegyeong, which is also the first book known to have been written by a Korean woman.

The Memoirs of Lady Hyegyŏng: The Autobiographical Writings of a Crown Princess of Eighteenth-Century Korea by Lady Hyegyeong, JaHyun Kim Haboush (Editor)

Lady Hyegyong's memoirs, which recount the chilling murder of her husband by his father, is one of the best known and most popular classics of Korean literature. From 1795 until 1805 Lady Hyegyong composed this masterpiece, which depicts a court life whose drama and pathos is of Shakespearean proportions. Presented in its social, cultural, and historical contexts, this complete English translation opens a door into a world teeming with conflicting passions, political intrigue, and the daily preoccupations of a deeply intelligent and articulate woman.

Reading Machiavelli in the Letters of King Jeongjo

The discovery of a hoard of secret letters written by King Jeongjo (r. 1776-1800) came as a great surprise. As many as 299 letters were found, complete with dates and envelopes intact. But even more surprising were the contents of an academic paper on the find. Most of the letters were addressed to Shim Hwan-ji, a representative of the Byeokpa faction and the king’s sworn foe. Or so it has been believed, according to the contents of the annals of the Joseon Dynasty. But the letters tell another story — that Jeongjo was a typical Machiavellian ruler.

Lessons in photography from “Yi San”




Lessons in photography: background blur, shallow depth of field



Lessons in photography: sidelighting, shallow depth of field



Lesson in photography: conveying depth through selective or differential focusing



Lessons in photography: foreground and background blur



Lessons in photography: out-of-focus partial frame, rule of thirds



Lessons in photography: natural frame, hidden geometric pattern



Lessons in photography: cast and contained shadows



Lessons in photography: compressed perspective, shallow depth of field



Lesson in photography: direction of light



Lessons in photography: high angle shot



Lessons in photography: low angle shot, natural frames, lines



Lessons in photography: shallow depth of field, line of direction



Lessons in photography: bokeh (aesthetic quality of blurred areas), sidelighting



Lesson in photography: conveying depth through overlapping forms



Lessons in photography: diagonal lines, patterns, natural frames



Lesson in photography: lines



Lesson in photography: direction of light



Lesson in photography: low angle shot



Lesson in photography: natural frames



Lesson in photography: shooting odd-numbered groups is easier, natural frames



Lesson in photography: shooting odd-numbered groups is easier



Lessons in photography: compressed perspective, shallow depth of field



Lessons in photography: keystoning, low angle point of view



Lessons in photography: light and shadow, low-key lighting



Lessons in photography: linear perspective, natural frame



Lesson in photography: linear perspective



Lesson in photography: reflections



Lessons in photography: high angle shot, hidden geometric patterns, converging lines



Lessons in photography: linear perspective



Lessons in photography: rule of thirds, aerial perspective



Lesson in photography: foreground blur



Lesson in photography: Dutch tilt (Dutch angle)



Lessons in photography: lines of direction



Lessons in photography: background blur, selective or differential focusing



Lessons in photography: emotional content of colors, color temperature



Lesson in photography: conveying depth through selective or differential focusing



Lessons in photography: partial frame, foreground blur



Lesson in photography: rule of thirds



Lessons in photography: shooting against the light, rule of thirds, aerial perspective



Lesson in photography: natural frames



Lessons in photography: focus on the eyes, lines of direction, foreground blur, selective or differential focusing



Lessons in photography: foreground blur, selective or differential focusing



Lessons in photography: golden hours, silhouette, rule of thirds



Lesson in photography: local frame



Lessons in photography: golden hours, silhouette, rule of thirds



Lessons in photography: silhouette, golden hours



Lessons in photography: natural frame, high angle shot



Lessons in photography: conveying depth through overlapping forms, lines of direction



Lesson in photography: conveying depth through selective or differential focusing



Lessons in photography: low angle shot, Dutch tilt or Dutch angle



Lesson in photography: low-key lighting



Lesson in photography: natural frames



Lesson in photography: shooting odd-numbered groups is easier



Lessons in photography: vertical lines, diagonal lines



Lesson in photography: low angle shot (low angle point of view)



Lessons in photography: natural frames, converging lines, vanishing point



Lessons in photography: natural frames, partial frames



Lesson in photography: natural frames



Lesson in photography: diagonal lines



Lesson in photography: foreground blur



Lessons in photography: natural frames



Lessons in photography: out-of-focus highlights, bokeh (aesthetic quality of blurred areas)



Lesson in photography: shallow depth of field



Lessons in photography: high angle shot, shooting using available light



Lessons in photography: bokeh (aesthetic quality of blurred areas), shallow depth of field

Photographic device oftentimes used in “Yi San”: In wide shots, this drama’s cinematographer oftentimes uses foliage or flowers at the top, bottom, or side areas of the frame. Posted below are some sample scenes where this device is used.

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