One point I have tried to make repeatedly is that there are tons of resources on Classical Chinese in Korean in print and online — and not to mention, free. This is one reason why I do not post my own Korean translations, and instead include a link to another source that has them. In this post, I would like to highlight the resources on Classical Chinese available on Naver’s encyclopedia (네이버 지식백과). I hope that readers, who are interested in this subject and already know Korean at a high level, will take advantage of these resources and stroll through some of the articles there. The resources listed below have been included in the resources tab at the top of this blog.
Learning Chinese Literature Through History (역사 따라 배우는 중국사)
Chinese literature has a very long history extending more than three millennia. It is therefore beneficial to be acquainted with its history to fully appreciate Classical Chinese literature — even those from Korean sources. This resource goes through the world of Chinese literature, and its poems, songs, plays, and novels, from the Classic of Poems (詩經, 시경) in the 12th century BC to The Bureaucracy Exposed (官場現形記, 관장현형기) of the end of Qing dynasty period. It also covers literature even from the Khitan Liao (遼, 요, 907-1125), Jurchen Jin (金, 금, 1115-1234), and Mongol Yuan (元, 원, 1271-1368) dynasties, which are often left out from anthologies on this subject.
Encyclopedia of Classical Chinese Poets and Their Poetry (한시작가작품사전)
This resource includes short biographies of select Chinese and Korean Classical Chinese poets (810 total) from various periods and their poetry. Unlike most Korean books on Classical Chinese poems, it also details the tonal meter (平仄, 평측) and rime (押韻, 압운) of each poem. (I have been meaning to explain this crucial aspect of Classical Chinese poetry more in my blog.) As such, it is an excellent resource for learning poetic forms.
Korea itself has produced a large number of fine Classical Chinese poetry. These three resources cover poems by Korean authors dating from the 10th to the early 20th centuries. For each poem, the author gives a detailed explanation on its content and form as well as the historical background of each poet. The author also lists the definitions of difficult characters in the excerpts.
Korean Classical Poetry by Women (한국고전여성시사)
There are also resources on Classical Chinese literature that focus on particular groups in Korean history. This one focuses on women and their Classical Chinese poems and vernacular Sijo (詩調, 시조). The time period covered ranges from the beginning of the Three Kingdoms Period (三國時代, 삼국시대) in the 1st century BC to the Japanese colonial era (日帝時代, 일제시대) in the early 20th century, with most poems from the Chosun dynasty period (朝鮮, 조선, 1392-1910). The poets are drawn from various classes such as royalty, gentry, courtesans (妓生, 기생), commoners, and Buddhist monks. Of interest is that the resource also takes a look at women’s opinions on Confucianism, both positive and negative. It points out that Confucian scholars took serious efforts to improve literacy among Korean women.
Culture of the Common People – Literary Arts (문예 – 여항문화)
Another group that has had some attention are the literature of commoners, or literally “culture of hamlets and streets” (閭巷文化, 여항문화). This resource includes short biographies of poets and their Classical Chinese poems. All of these poets are from the Chosun dynasty period, most of whom are from the period’s latter half. Unfortunately, though it does have the Classical Chinese original, the resource does not give explanations of the text. I referred to this resource when covering the Classical Chinese poets from non-gentry backgrounds last year.
Dictionary of Words in Classical Chinese Poetry (한시어사전)
Many Classical Chinese poets, especially from later periods, make allusions that seem very esoteric to modern audiences. This resource includes explanations of such words used in Classical Chinese poetry. For each entry, it includes examples from both Korean and Chinese poets from various periods.