Gisaeng [ kisɛŋ ] (also Kisaeng ) were entertainment artists in Korea.

Their task was to ensure the palace or in the drinking of the upper layer by music, dancing and reciting poems for good mood. After this activity, they are comparable to the geishas in Japan or the courtesans in ancient Greece. This distinct form of service of Gisaeng arose during the time of the Joseon Dynasty, although it from the 11th century - the time of the Goryeo Dynasty - gave women that occurred in the royal court or in a sophisticated society with musical performances. The Gisaeng beings has a diverse cultural history behind it and is now in Korea as good as extinct.

Word Meaning

The word gi ( 기 ,妓[ ki ] ) was apparently common for women, which presented at the Royal Festival music and dance already in the Goryeo Dynasty. The word was later in the Joseon dynasty, the suffix saeng added that ' means something like, life. However, the use of the word gi is complex (see " Origin of the Gisaeng "). Gisaeng was sometimes called Ginyeo ( 기녀 [ kiɲje ] ) without the word be accompanied by a special meaning.


The career of most Gisaengs was very short, reaching the age of 16 or 17 years its peak; at the age of 22 years had to give up the activities of the majority of Gisaengs. Very little Gisaengs were able to continue their work for a long time. Perhaps this was also the reason why Training Institute trainees girl accepted from the age of eight. All Gisaengs - even those who did not work as prostitutes or entertainers - were legally obliged to go at the age of 50 years in retirement.

Origin of Gisaeng

When exactly Gisaeng originated as a female profession in Korea, is unknown. As indicated above, Gisaeng was professionally engaged already in the Goryeo period. In this regard, socially serving women were accurately discriminated in one way or another. In the Goryeo Dynasty, there was the one the official ' entertainment musicians ' and on the other those women who played similar roles in society. These women were called Changgi ( 창기 唱 妓[c ʰ Angi ] literally: ' entertainer singing '). The two groups in turn be strictly distinguished from venal women. They are used as Yunyeo: referred ( 유녀 游 女[ juɲə ] literally ' vagabond '). This separation was taken over by the Joseon Dynasty, and the entire Gisaeng beings was further dissected.

Therefore, the strict separation of the Gisaeng official of the private was possible because there was a charge of Gisaeng authority in the capital, both in the time of Goryeo and in the Joseon Dynasty. In the Goryeo period, the Authority was Gyobang ( 교방 [ kjo.baŋ ] literally: ' establishment ') in the Joseon period Jangakwon ( 장악원 [ caŋakwən ] literally ' music authority '). The distinction was slowly flowing with time, so that Gisaeng more and more became the epitome of light for each girl. They were given the metaphorical term ' pasture on the road ', ' flower under the wall' ( 노류 장화 [ norjujaŋhwa ] ) that anyone can pick when passing. This worn-out picture of the Gisaeng has remained today's Koreans left. Most of what is now known in Korea as a Gisaeng, is from the Joseon Dynasty. In literature and painting of this period there is enough information about the nature of Gisaeng. In addition, a dozen names have survived more or less known Gisaengs from this period, about Hwang Jin -i, Nongae and the literary famous character Chunhyang. Therefore, the design below is limited to the Gisaeng during the Joseon Dynasty.

Importance of Gisaeng

The Korean society of the Joseon Dynasty was a feudal society. Every citizen belonged to a certain level. There were three classes: the upper class yangban ( 양반 [ jaŋban ] ), the middle class Pyeongmin ( 평민 [ p ʰ jəŋmin ] ) and the lower layer cheonmin ( 천민 [c ʰ ənmin ] ). These stands were hereditary. Gisaeng were members of the cheonmin. As briefly indicated above, Gisaeng are those maids who provide the male Yangban Society Entertainment. They do it professionally and are trained.

In the Annals of the Joseon Dynasty everything that had to do with Gisaeng was arrested meticulously. The roles that filled Gisaeng in the palace were surprisingly diverse. In addition to its main task of arts entertainment they were doing deals in diplomacy, ceremonies, propaganda, military, dismissal and admission procedures and recruitment from the province, teaching position, charges, penalties, affairs with officials in their investigation, the status issue of their children, clothing question and much more.


As the Japanese geishas differed the Gisaengs of the normal women. This is noticeable not only in clothing. In the Joseon Dynasty, the Gisaengs usually wore the traditional Korean costume, where there was a noticeable difference to the everyday clothing: normal skirt ( chima ) in women has been bound over to the chest, but the Gisaengs wore the chima to the waist. He was very padded, usually with multiple layers, so that the skirt was very far. He also was worn over the CHOGORI ( the typical blouse ). In addition, they got stuck in the rock more elaborate knots, often decorated with precious stones. On her head she wore elaborate wigs ( Gache ). This usually consisted of a very long braid, which was artfully tied on the head.

Later in the 19th century, the clothing Gisaengs was again completely different from the Joseon Dynasty of the 16th century: the skirts were no longer wide, the Gache wigs disappeared and the sleeves were very wide and " piled up " at the end. Instead of huge wigs Gisaengs wore traditional headdress, which is still used today.

Structure of Gisaeng

There are various types of Gisaeng. Gwangi ( 관기 ) is the oldest name for Gisaeng. It literally means "official Gisaeng ", which meant that women who pursue the above-mentioned activities, must register officially. They both belong to the respective public authority to which they also get the necessary training.

Famous Gisaengs

  • Hwang Jin -i
  • Chunhyang
  • Nongae
  • Aengmu
  • Gijeok
  • Gwonbeon
  • Gyobang
  • Yi Mae -chang