Farewell to the General

On April 11, 2011, one Joseon general who was dead about 400 years ago retureed to dust after intensive scientific examinations. On November 2007, a male mummy was found within the LSMB tomb located in Gangneung City, Korea. During the reburial process of their ancestors’ age-old tombs into a newly constructed family vault, the members of the Gangneung Choi clan found a very well-preserved ancestor mummy fully wrapped in the clothes of those times. The brief information provided on the tomb had already been grasped by the descendants. When we arrived at the excavation field, the dead body had already
been pulled out of the coffin. The tomb included single wooden coffin within it, which was further encapsulated by the outermost LSMB.
Thanks to the records in the Lineage Book of the Gangneung Choi Clan, the contents inscribed upon the tombstone and the other historical documents, we could obtain a personal profile of the mummified person and his family members. The founder of this clan, named Munhan (1320–1395 A.D.) was a son-in-law of the King of the Goryeo Dynasty (918–1392). After the Goryeo Dynasty was toppled, he and his family
moved to settle in Gangneung City. Gyeongsun, the mummified subject of the present study, was Munhan’s eighth-generation descendant. According to the historical records, Gyeongsun was born in 1561 and died in 1622 at the age of 61. As his father (named Unwoo) was very famous scholar, rubbing shoulders with men of great scholarship of the Kingdom, he belonged to one of the most distinguished families in the county. Though his father expected that his sons could become successful scholars or officials; and Gyeongsun
himself also hoped to receive a classics licentiate degree by passing the national examination, he might not have been so successful in realizing his ambition. Rather, he could have made his entrance into office only by a special appointment for the sons of prominent people. Therefore, his assumption of the office in Royal Court is open to question because the official post inscribed on his tombstone (i.e., deputy general of Military Commands of the Kingdom) was given to an important member of the countryside as an honorary post in most cases. In addition, as we could not find any evidence for his involvement in political strife of those days during our historical literature research, he might have spent his life as a prominent gentleman in countryside.
After he was dead, the Royal Court conferred posthumous honors of Commander (jeolchung janggun) to him. He was survived by three sons and three daughters.

After the general's body was moved to our lab, various anthropological studies were done on it. You can see our achievements in previous publications. And studies have not been ended yet. Much more interesting studies are still ongoing with the samples we have obtained during the dissection. Anyway, this was really epoch-making studies for Korean mummies during the past several decades.

And finally, on April this year, we decided to return him to ash in accordance with the hopes of the descendants. They were really good, warm people who know clearly about the importance of scientific researches on the Joseon general's dead body. We are very grateful to the generous and courageous decision of the Gangneung Choi clan, for providing us with the opportunity to examine their respectful ancestor, General Gyeongsun Choi, which could make a great contribution to related scholars in Korea.


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