Marriage is a universal ideology that continues to be a timeless component of society. Though Western and Eastern cultures value this concept, each uphold societal norms that are representative of their own beliefs. Tree With Deep Roots showcases the Asian cultural perspective of marriage and social expectations of both spouses.
Over the course of the series, several marriages are highlighted that further reinforce the Confucian relationship between a husband and his wife. First, it is important to note that Confucius believed that the most important aspect of any family as well as society, is the marriage between two individuals. This special commitment must be founded upon values of love, harmony and virtue. However, unlike most Western cultures, Confucius’ Eastern standpoint emphasizes the idea of arranged marriage; matches are less about the individuals being married and more about what is in the best interests of the families.
The most prevalent and obvious marriage illustrated throughout the drama is the relationship between King Lee Do and Queen Sohun. As the King of the Joseon Dynasty, Lee Do serves as the figurehead; yet, his father, Taejong, actually acts as the governing ruler who maintains absolute power over the entire country. Notoriously known for his violent, murderous actions, Taejong eventually takes the life of Queen Sohun’s own father. In most marriages, the husband is considered as the fighter and protector; however, Eastern cultures highly impress respect upon family members. Moreover, rather than standing up for his wife and his now deceased father-in-law’s honor, King Lee Do actually fears his own father. In the earliest episodes, he allows Taejong to intimdate him, which ultimately affects his own marriage to Queen Sohun. Arguments begin to arise between them as a result of the queen being outraged of her husband’s lack of stamina and retaliation against his outlandish, unruly father.
Understandably, Queen Sohun is overcome with grief upon the death of her own father. Once she begins to feel a sense of resentment and anger towards Taejong, she expects her husband to do something about it. Yet, King Lee Do instructs her not to do anything, for fear of having more innocent victims killed. Thus, the queen must grasp with the reality that she has no other choice but to sacrifice her own feelings for the sake of the people. This foreboding presence of a disliked family member–especially one of authority–proves to drive a slight wedge between the married couple. Rather focusing on just his marriage, King Lee Do channels his Eastern values of respect for his elders before attempting to strategize a way to challenge his father in later episodes.
Tree With Deep Roots is an intense, captivating Korean drama that spotlights various aspects of ancient Korean culture ranging from samurai society to familial ties and war. However, it also accentuates the royal relationship, thus providing the audience with the opportunity to see the inner dynamics of an Asian marriage.
Tree With Deep Roots. Dir. Lee Jeong Myeong. Perf. Jang Hyuk and Shin Se Kyung. Drama Fever, 2011.
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