Naver Encyclopedia

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.

Reading Classical Chinese Poetry of the Chosun Dynasty (Parts I and II) and Goryeo Dynasty
(조선시대 한시읽기: 상) (조선시대 한시읽기: 하) (고려시대 한시 읽기)

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.

Song Luo (宋犖, 송락, 1634-1713) was a Qing dynasty (淸, 청, 1644-1912) bureaucrat, calligrapher, and poet. He was born in Shangqiu (丘, 상구) in Henan Province (河南省, 하남성); his courtesy name was Muzhong (牧仲, 목중); and his pen names (號, 호) were Mantang (漫堂, 만당), Xipi (西陂, 서파), Mianjinshan Ren (綿津山人, 면진산인), Xipi Laoren (西陂老人, 서파노인), and Xipi Fangyaweng (西陂放鴨翁, 서파방압옹). He was the son of Song Quan (宋權, 송권, 1598-1652), an official who served both the Ming and Qing dynasties. By his father’s recommendation to the court, Song Luo was able to attain a government position without having taken the civil service examination. He served various roles in the Qing dynasty government, including the Magistrate of Huangzhou (黃州通判, 황주통판), Inspector-General of Jiangsu (江蘇巡撫, 강소순무), Minister of Civil Service Affairs (吏部尚書, 이부상서), and Tutor to the Crown Prince (太子少師, 태자소사). From an early age, he is said to have enjoyed the classics and excelled at poetry. During his career, he composed poems with the top Chinese poets of his time and wrote critiques of Tang and Song dynasty poets. 

In the poem below, Song Luo writes about the “peonies of Chosun,” which do not refer to actual peonies but to a flower known as bleeding hearts (錦囊花, 금낭화 or 荷包牡丹) that are native to not only Korea but also Japan and northern China. He also alludes to the Grain Rain Day (穀雨, 곡우). As a solar term, the Grain Rain Day falls on April 20 or 21 every year and marks when the Sun is between the celestial longitude of 30 to 45 degrees. It is also supposed to mark the days that see the most rain in spring.

朝鮮牡丹 조선모란

The Peonies of Chosun

花葉羅羅旁檻披 화엽라라방람파
也從穀雨鬪芳姿 야종곡우투방자
沈香亭暖柯全改 침향정난가전개
鴨綠江空種乍移 압록강공종사리
苞奪臙肢明霽日 포탈연지명제일
穗分纓珞颺微颸 수분영락양미시
殷勤一剪濃春色 은근일전농춘색
會遣朝雲識此奇 회견조운식차기

The flowers and leaves vividly and distinctly open leaning against the rails.
From the Grain Rain Day, they boast their fragrant figure.
As the Shenxiang Pavilion (沈香亭, 침향정) becomes warm, the branches have completely changed;
With the Yalu River (鴨綠江, 압록강) emptied, the seeds are quickly dispersed.
Flower buds, surpassing rouge in brilliance, brighten the rain-cleared day;
Grain ears, separating into tassels, sway in the light breeze.
Attentively and cautiously, I cut one of these, intense with the colors of spring.
Chao Yun (朝雲, 조운, 1062-1095) must be made acquainted with this marvel.

Definitions:

Flowers • leaves • vivid • vivid • side • rails • to open
Grammatical particle • from • grain • rain • to compete • fragrant • form
To soak • fragrance • pavilion • warm • branch • entirely • to change
Duck • green • river • empty • seeds • quickly • to move
Buds • to lose • rouge • limbs • to brighten • rain-clear • day
Ears • to divide • string • jade • to sway • light • breeze
Quietly • subtly • once • cut • to become dense • spring • colors
Must • to make • morning • clouds • to know • this • new thing

Notes:

  • Heptasyllabic regulated poem (七言律詩, 칠언율시). Riming character (韻, 운) is 支(기).
  • 沈香亭(침향정) – Refers to Shenxiang Pavilion, a pavilion that stood east of Xingqing Pond (興慶池, 흥경지) in the Tang dynasty royal palace during the reign of Emperor Xuanzong of Tang (唐宗, 당 현종, 685-762, r. 712-756). Several types of flowers were planted there.
  • 朝雲(조운) – Refers to a concubine of the Song dynasty poet Su Shi (蘇軾, 소식, 1037-1101).
  • Korean translation available here.

Yi Jehyeon (李齊賢, 이제현, 1287-1367) was a late Goryeo dynasty (高麗, 고려, 918-1392) bureaucrat, Neo-Confucian scholar, and poet. He was of the Gyeongju Yi Clan (慶州李氏, 경주이씨); his courtesy name (字, 자) was Jungsa (仲思, 중사); his pen name (號, 호) was Ikjae (益齋, 익재); and his posthumous name (諡, 시) was Munchung (文忠, 문충).

He was recognized for his abilities from a young age and advanced to the top of Goryeo dynasty bureaucracy. In 1301 at the age of 14, Yi Jehyeon passed the civil service examination for entering the National Academy (國子監, 국자감 or 成均館, 성균관) in first place, and promoted quickly through the bureaucratic ranks. In 1314, at the request of King Chungseon (忠宣王, 충선왕, 1275-1325, r. 1298, 1308-1313), who spent most of his reign in China, Yi Jehyeon traveled to the Yuan dynasty’s capital of Yenjing (京, 연경) to advance his studies at the Hall of Ten Thousand Volumes (萬堂, 만권당). While in China, he became acquainted with many Chinese scholars and traveled across the continent. In 1320, when King Chungseon was banished to Tibet (吐蕃, 토번), Yi Jehyeon traveled all the way to meet King Chungseon. He later plead to Mongol officials to release the King and worked to minimize Mongol interference in internal affairs. In 1324, he returned to Korea and continued serving in government. In 1339, however, with the chaotic situation on the Goryeo royal court, he decided to seclude himself away from politics to study and write a series of works, which would be compiled as the Scribbles of Old Man Oak (櫟翁稗說, 역옹패설). In 1344, Yi Jehyeon returned to public life and proposed reforms, emphasizing the Confucian tenets of “analyzing things and reaching knowledge” (格物致知, 격물치지) and “making the will sincere and rectifying the mind” (誠心, 성의정심). In 1356, as the Yuan dynasty was collapsing, he took the side of the pro-Ming faction. Shortly thereafter, however, Yi Jehyeon retired permanently from politics and spent the remainder of his life studying and composing a history of the Goryeo dynasty. He passed away in 1367, and is survived by members of the Ikjae-gong Branch (益齋公派, 익재공파) of the Gyeongju Yi Clan. 

He was also renowned for his Classical Chinese poetry, in particular, lyric poems (詞, 사) and music bureau poems (樂府, 악부) — though the poem here is neither form. Below is one of eight poems he wrote on various scenes in Gaeseong (開城, 개성), the capital of the Goryeo dynasty. In it, Yi Jehyeon writes about the Cleansing Drink Day (禊飮日, 계음일). This festival falls on the third day of the third month on the Lunar Calendar and falls on April 21 this year. It has several names, including First Rat Day (上巳日, 상사일), Field Outing Day (踏靑節, 답청절), Double Third Day (重三日, 중삼일), and Samjitnal (삼짇날). The festival traditionally marked the day swallows migrated and returned from the south. There are many customs associated with this festival. The custom alluded below is to bathe in a river and drink alcohol thereafter.

松都八詠 熊川禊飮 송도팔영 웅천계음

Eight Poems on Songdo – Cleansing Drinks at Ungcheon

沙頭酒盡欲斜暉 사두주진욕사휘
濯足淸流看鳥飛 탁족청류간조비
此意自佳誰領取 차의자가수령취
孔門吾與舞雩歸 공문오여무우귀

Atop the sandy banks, with my wine deplete, I wish that the sunshine inclines.
Washing my feet in the clear stream, I gaze at birds flying.
This meaning by itself is beautiful — Who shall receive it?
As a student of Confucius, I too dance upon the rain altar and return home.

Definitions:

Sand • head • wine • deplete • wish • aslant • shine
Wash • feet • clear • stream • to see • bird • to fly
This • intent • by itself • beautiful • who • to receive • to handle
Confucius • student • I • together • dance • rain • to return

Notes:

  • Heptasyllabic truncated verse (七言絶句, 칠언절구). Riming character (韻, 운) is 微(미). Though the last character of the third line may appear to be a rime, 取(취) is a rising tone (上聲, 상성) character.
  • 松都(송도) – Literally, “pine tree capital.” Refers to Gaeseong. It is located just north of the North-South Korean border.
  • 熊川(웅천) – Refers to a stream near Gaeseong.
  • 孔門吾與舞雩歸(공문오여무우귀) – Allusion to Analects of Confucius (論語, 논어), Xianjin Chapter (先進, 선진). In the story, Confucius asks four of disciples what their wishes were. Three of the four replied that they wished to enter government service and manage a state. The fourth, remaining disciple, Zeng Xi (曾皙, 증석), replied that he wished to bathe in the waters of Yishou (沂水, 기수), enjoy the breeze upon the rain altar, and return home singing. Confucius, in response, commended him.

Read More

Kim Yunshik (金允植, 김윤식, 1835-1922) was a late Chosun dynasty bureaucrat, diplomat, and reformist. He was of the Cheongpung Kim Clan (淸風金氏, 청풍김씨); his courtesy name (字, 자) was Sungyeong (卿, 순경); and his pen name was Unyang (雲養, 운양).

Kim Yunshik was born into an impoverished family in Gwangju (廣州, 광주) in Gyeonggi Province (京畿道, 경기도). At the age of 8, he lost both his parents and was adopted by his younger uncle. At the age of 14, he started learning Chinese classics together with his cousins. In 1874, he passed the civil service examination (科擧, 과거) and quickly rose through the ranks. In 1881, Kim Yunshik was made a Delegate to the Qing Dynasty (領使, 영선사) to observe China’s modernization efforts, which thoroughly impressed him. During his visit, he also had an audience with Viceroy Li Hongzhang (李章, 이홍장, 1823-1901) to discuss opening diplomatic connections with the United States. When the Imo Mutiny (壬午軍亂, 임오군란) arose the following year, Kim Yunshik returned to Korea with Chinese troops to quash the mutineers. That year, he oversaw modernization of Korea’s army and his diplomatic efforts lead to the signing of the United States-Korea Treaty of 1882 (朝美修好通商條約, 조미수호통상조약). In 1884, when the Gapsin Coup (甲申政變, 갑신정변) occurred, Kim Yunshik requested military assistance from General Yuan Shikai (袁世凱, 원세개, 1859-1916). His diplomatic efforts lead to the signing of the Russia-Korea Treaty of Amity and resolution of the Port Hamilton Incident (巨件, 거문도사건). Regardless, in 1887, Kim Yunshik was banished to Myeoncheon (沔川, 면천) for his pro-Qing stance and opposition to closer ties with Russia. Upon his release and return to the capital in 1894, he was appointed as a minister in the Foreign Office (外務省, 외무성). However, just one year later, when Empress Myeongseong (明成皇后, 명성황후, 1851-1895) was assassinated by Japanese troops, Kim Yunshik was accused of not acting upon foreknowledge of the plot and was banished to Jeju Island (濟州島, 제주도). He was released from exile in 1907 by a general amnesty order for those above the age of 70.

In 1910, upon the news that the treaty annexing Korea had been signed, Kim Yunshik lamented sighing, “This cannot be! This cannot be!” (不可, 不可 불가, 불가). Pro-Japanese collaborators spread the misinterpretation that he meant “It cannot be any other way,” having parsed the characters as 不可不, 可(불가불, 가). The colonial general-government offered him a pension and the Japanese nobility title of viscount (子爵, 자작). He initially refused, but later accepted at the advice of the deposed Emperor Sunjong (純宗, 순종, 1874-1926, r. 1907-1910). Japan also later offered him a position at the Institute of Confucian Classics Studies (經院, 경학원), an organization for collaborationist Confucian scholars, and the Central Council (中樞院, 중추원), an arm of the general-government. He again accepted both positions, but did not participate much in their activities. Nevertheless, viewing Kim Yunshik as an ideal collaborationist, the Japanese-established Bank of Chosen (朝鮮銀行, 조선은행) chose him as the face on the 1, 5, and 10 Yen currency notes

100 Yen Chosen Bank

Kim Yunshik’s portrait on the colonial Bank of Chosen’s 10 yen note (Source)

Despite his associations, Kim Yunshik was somewhat active in independence activist movements. He was acquainted with some of the independence activist leaders. One of his pupils was Na Cheol (羅喆, 나철, 1863-1916), an independence activist and the founder of Daejonggyo (大倧敎, 대종교), a religion centered around Dangun (檀君, 단군), the mythical founder of Korea. Furthermore, in 1919, when Emperor Gojong (高宗, 고종, 1852-1919, r. 1863-1907) passed away, he denounced the posthumous title that Japan bestowed, because it included the words “of Former Korea” (前韓國, 전한국). Later that year, Kim Yunshik joined the March 1 Movement independence protests and wrote a letter entitled A Long Letter to Japan (書, 대일본장서) supporting the independence. For this act, he was sentenced to two years in prison and stripped of his aristocratic title, but was released early on probation because of his old age. (The Korean government commission investigating colonial era activities chose not to formally recognize him as a pro-Japanese collaborator because of his opposition albeit passive.) He spent the remainder of life in solitude and passed away in Seoul. Kim Yunshik is survived by still living grandchildren. 

Kim Yunshik also was well renowned for his Classical Chinese. Through his diplomatic career, he became acquainted with intellectuals from China, Korea, and Japan. In 1915, Kim Yunshik received enormous praise for publishing his opus magnum, Collection of Unyang’s Writings (雲養集, 운양집). Critics acclaimed him as “The Han Yu (韓愈, 한유, 768-824) and Ouyang Xiu (歐陽脩, 구양수, 1007-1072) of the Eastern Country.” The Japan Academy (日本學士院, 일본학사원), which is still existent, awarded him the Japan Academy Prize. Below is just one of the poems from his widely lauded work. It is set to the tonal meter of the well-known Chinese lyric poem (詞, 사), Filling the River Red (滿江紅, 만강홍), typically associated with the Southern Song Dynasty’s (南宋, 남송, 1127-1279) General Yue Fei (岳飛, 악비, 1103-1142), famous for having curbed the Jurchen Jin invasions. Kim Yunshik wrote this poem in 1900, during his exile on Jeju Island. In it, he reminiscences about his hometown of Gwangju and the not too distant Seoul. He also alludes to the Pure Brightness Festival (淸明, 청명) and the Cold Food Festival (寒食, 한식). Both of these festivals fall on consecutive days around April 4-5 on the Western Gregorian Calendar.

滿江紅 南城餞春
만강홍 남성전춘

Filling the River Red, During the Last Month of Spring in Namseong (南城, 남성)

  • 南城(남성) – Another name for Gwangju in Gyeonggi Province.

閉戶三春 폐호삼춘
經過了 경과료
花朝上巳  화조상사
又過了 우과료
淸明寒食 청명한식
光陰如水 광음여수

With the doors closed for the three months of spring,
Already gone through and passed:
Are the blossoming morning of the First Snake Day (上巳, 상사),
And again passed:
Are the Pure Brightness and the Cold Food Festivals.
Time is like the flowing waters.

  • 上巳(상사) – Refers to the first day with the character 巳(사) in a month in the sexagenary cycle. More specifically, he is referring to the third day of the third month on the Lunar calendar.
  • 光陰(광음) – Literally, “light and darkness.” Refers to time.

澗草細鋪開餞席 간초세포개전석
林風輕拂摧行李 림풍경불최행리
更可恨 갱가한
觸忤旅人愁 촉오려인수
勞延企 로연기

Atop the ravine’s grass thinly scattered, I host a farewell soiree;
With the forest’s wind lightly blowing, I retire with my traveling luggage.
Again, how sorrowful it is!
To have offensively disobeyed a wandering traveler’s worries;
Laboriously continuing, he endeavors.

  • 觸忤(촉오) – To be angered by someone else’s disobedience.

回首六街三市 회수륙가삼시
不見萬紅千紫 불견만홍천자
覓芳菲 멱방비
秪有汀蘭岸芷 지유정란안지

Turning my head, are six avenues and three markets.
I do not see ten-thousand roses or thousand violets.
I try to find flowery turnips;
Instead, there are only orchids on the riverbank and angelicas on the hills.

  • 六街三市(육가삼시) – Literally, “six avenues and three markets.” Rewording of the four character idiom 六街三陌(육가삼맥). The idiom originally referred to the busy, bustling scene of Chang’an (長安, 장안), the capital of many Chinese dynasties, which is modern day Xian (西安, 서안). During the Tang dynasty (唐, 당, 618-907), Chang’an had six main avenues and three markets, the grand market (大市, 대시), morning market (朝市, 조시), and evening market (夕市, 석시). Here, the poem is referring to Seoul.

撫迹恍疑尋舊夢 무적황의심구몽
解携那肯回芳躧 해휴나긍회방사
暗思想 암사상
浮世片時榮 부세편시영
都如此 도여차

Fumbling through the vestiges, as if searching for old dreams,
How can those who severed ties willingly return to the flowery paths?
I quietly ponder:
This transient life’s brief glories,
Are all like this.

  • 恍疑(황의) – Literally, “to be bewildered and stupefied.”
  • 解携(해휴) – Literally, “to dissolve a connection.” Refers to someone cutting off connections with another.
  • 滿江紅(만강홍) – The tonal meter specified by the lyric poem Filling the River Red is:

〇仄平平, 平〇仄, 〇平〇仄. 平仄仄, 仄平平仄, 仄平〇仄.
〇仄〇平平仄仄, 〇平〇仄平平仄. 〇〇〇, 〇仄仄平平, 平平仄.
〇〇仄, 平仄仄. 平仄仄, 平平仄. 仄平平〇仄, 仄平平仄.
〇仄〇平平仄仄, 〇平〇仄平平仄. 〇〇〇, 〇仄仄平平, 平平仄.

In the third line, although Kim Yunshik has the proper number of characters, he did not exactly follow the line specifications.

Huang Tingjian (黃庭堅, 황정견, 1045-1105) was a Song Dynasty (宋, 송, 960-1279) bureaucrat and a poet. He was born in what is now Xiushui (水, 수수) in Jiangxi Province (江西省, 강서성); his courtesy name (字, 자) was Luzhi (魯直, 노직); and his pen names (號, 호) were Shan’gu Daoren (山谷道人, 산곡도인) and Fuweng (涪翁, 부옹).

From an early age, Huang Tingjian was interested in studies of Taoism (道學, 도학) and Buddhism (佛學, 불학). In 1066, he passed the civil service examination and just five years later became a tutor at the Imperial Academy (國監, 국자감) before attaining even higher ranking positions. During this time, he became acquainted with and then became a pupil of another famous contemporary poet, Su Shi (蘇軾, 소식, 1037-1101). This association, however, would later be problematic for Huang Tingjian’s political career. In 1095, he was banished to Pengshui (彭水, 팽수) in Sichuan Province (四川省, 사천성) for supposedly expressing opposition through a poem to Wang Anshi’s (王安石, 왕안석, 1021-1086) New Policy Faction (新黨, 신법당) and their socioeconomic reforms, which was opposed by Su Shi and his Old Policy Faction (舊黨, 구법당). In 1100, when Emperor Huizong (宋徽宗, 송 휘종, 1082-1135, r. 1100-1135) rose to the throne, Huang Tingjian was reinstated and given a government post. He was, however, banished just two years later to Yizhou (宜州, 의주) in Guangxi Province (廣西省, 광서성), when the political winds shifted once again. Huang Tingjian passed away a few years after, away from his family.

Throughout his political career, Huang Tingjian was renowned for his poetry, becoming one of the most distinguished poets of the Northern Song Period (北宋, 북송, 960-1127). His poems became famous for skirting around the normal, already complicated ground rules of recent poetry style (近體詩, 근체시) by invoking an even more complicated technique called “Crooked Form” (拗體, 요체). In the poem below — which does not employ Crooked Form –, Huang Tingjian writes about the Pure Brightness Festival (淸明, 청명). The festival falls on the day following the Cold Food Festival (寒食, 한식) usually around April 5 or 6 on the Western Gregorian Calendar. The traditional custom is to sweep and clean up the burial mounds of ancestors and to offer ancestral rites. Though this custom has not fared well in modern times, Huang Tingjian too laments about the custom’s neglect almost a thousand years ago.

淸明 청명

The Pure Brightness Festival

佳節淸明桃李笑 가절청명도리소
野田荒塚只生愁 야전황총지생수
雷驚天地龍蛇蟄 뢰경천지룡사칩
雨足郊原草木柔 우족교원초목유
人乞祭餘驕妾婦 인걸제여교첩부
士甘焚死不公侯 사감분사불공후
賢愚千載知誰是 현우천재지수시
滿眼蓬蒿共一坵 만안봉호공일구

On the beautiful day of the Pure Brightness Festival, the peaches and apricots smile;
But in the fields and paddies, the neglected tombs only give rise to grief.
A thunderbolt startles heaven and earth, causing the dragons and snakes to hide;
The rains are plentiful on the outer fields, making the grass and trees luxuriant.
Men who have engorged on leftover offerings flaunt to their concubines;
Scholars favor death by fire over becoming feudal lords.
The sagely and the stupid for thousands of years have known who are like this.
Filling the sight, the mugworts and wormwood together are one mound.

Definitions:

Beautiful • festival • clear • bright • peaches • apricots • laugh
Fields • rice paddies • desolate • burial mound • only • to create • worries
Thunder • to startle • heaven • earth • dragons • snakes • to hide
Rain • to suffice • outskirt • field • grass • trees • to be meek
People • to beg • ceremony • leftover • to flaunt • concubines • wives
Scholar • to be sweet • to burn • death • not • dukes • lords
Sages • fools • thousand • years • to know • who • this
To fill • eyes • mugworts • wormwood • together • one • hill

Notes:

  • Heptasyllabic regulated poem (七言律詩, 칠언율시). Riming character (韻, 운) is 尤(우).
  • 人乞祭餘驕妾婦(인걸제여교첩부) – Allusion to Mencius (孟子, 맹자), Lilou Chapter II (離婁下, 이루하). In the story, a man brags to his wife everyday that he has engorged himself with his rich friends. His wife becomes suspicious and track his movements one day, only to find him stuffing himself with leftover offerings.
  • 士甘焚死不公侯(사감금사불공후) – Allusion to Jiezitui (介子推, 개자추, ?-636BC), a minister of the Jin state (晉, 진, 1042-376BC). When Duke Wen of Jin (公, 문공, 697-628BC) had to flee the Jin state, Jiezitui is said to have cut his own thigh to offer as meat to feed to the Duke. Sometime later, he retired to the mountains to live in seclusion. Duke Wen invited Jiezitui as a minister back into the court, but he refused. The Duke in response set the mountain on fire hoping that he would come down. Instead, Jiezitui remained on the mountain and died, grabbing onto a trunk of a tree. The Duke in remorse ordered that each year for three days that no fires be lit in commemoration of his death. This is the origin tale for the Cold Food Festival. 
  • Korean translation available here.

Song Zhiwen (宋之問, 송지문, 656-712) was a Tang dynasty (唐, 당, 618-907) bureaucratic official and a renowned poet. He was born in Fenyang (, 분양) in Shanxi Province (山西省, 산서성) and his courtesy name (字, 자) was Yanqing (淸, 연청). 

Song Zhiwen’s personality was widely reviled, perhaps because of his associations with other reviled figures. In 675, at the young age of 19, he passed the imperial civil examinations (科擧, 과거). Soon thereafter, Song Zhiwen caught the attention of Empress Consort Wu Zetian (則天武后, 즉천무후, 624-705, r. 690-705). On numerous occasions, he attempted to flatter the Empress Consort, going as far as offering her a chamber pot as a gift. The Empress Consort nonetheless did award Song Zhiwen with the bureaucratic positions of Practitioner of the Arts (習藝館, 습예관) and Proctor of Civil Affairs (尚文監丞, 상문감승). Song Zhiwen also tried to blandish Zhang Yizhi (張易之, 장역지, ?-705), one of Empress Consort’s close ministers and lover (佞臣, 영신). For this behavior, he was banished to the countryside. After he returned to the capital, Song Zhiwen again tried to flatter Wu Sansi (武思, 무삼사, ?-707), the Empress Consort’s nephew and a high-ranking minister, and was awarded a bureaucratic position. During the short reign of Tang Emperor Zhongzong (唐中宗, 당 중종, 656-710, r. 684), he fell in favor with the Emperor for his talents and was awarded the positions of Auxiliary Academician (直士, 직학사) and Institute for the Refinement of Letters (修館, 수문관). There was also one incident where he fell very drunk at a feast, and was rude even to the Emperor. Song Zhiwen also tried to woo Princess Taiping (太平公主, 태평공주, 665-713), one of the daughters of Empress Consort Wu. Sometime after, however, he seems to have fallen out of favor in the imperial court. When Tang Emperor Ruizong (唐睿宗, 당 예종, 662-716, r. 710-712) came to power, he banished Song Zhiwen to Qinzhou (欽州, 흠주). Shortly after Tang Emperor Xuanzong’s (唐玄宗, 당 현종, 686-762, r. 712-756) ascendancy to the throne, the Emperor accused Song Zhiwen of being a follower of Zhang Yizhi and sentenced him to death by suicide with poison (賜死, 사사).

Despite his despicable personality, Song Zhiwen was renowned for his poetry. In particular, he excelled at pentasyllabic regulated poems (五言律詩, 오언율시) so much that they were called Shen-Song Poetic Form (沈宋體, 심송체), named also after his contemporary Shen Quanqi (沈佺期, 심전기, 656-714). Below is one of his pentasyllabic regulated poems, which he wrote on his It alludes to the Cold Food Festival (寒食, 한식). The festival falls 105 days after the Winter Solstice, falling either on April 5 or 6 on the Gregorian Calendar. As the name insinuates, traditional customs on this festival include abstinence from cooked meals and consumption of raw food. Other customs include sowing seeds in rice paddies. Traditional customs in Korea are similar, although the Festival is not much celebrated in modern times.  

途中寒食 도중한식
題黃梅臨江驛寄崔融 제황매림강역기최융

On the Road During the Cold Food Festival,
Inscribed on the Post Station at Huangmei (黃梅, 황매), Also Known as Linjiang (臨江, 임강), and Sent to Cui Rong (崔融, 최융, 635-706)

馬上逢寒食 마상봉한식  Atop of my horse, I meet the Cold Food Festival;
途中屬暮春 도중속모춘  On the road, I am subject to the late spring.
可憐江浦望 가련강포망  O what a pity! As a I gaze at the riverside’s piers,
不見洛橋人 불견락교인  I do not see anyone from the bridge of Luoyang (洛陽, 낙양).
北極懷明主 북극회명주  The North Star embraces our illustrious king;
南溟作逐臣 남명작축신  The Southern Seas harbor the chased out ministers.
故園腸斷處 고원장단처  My home village, where my intestines were pierced,
日夜柳條新 일야류조신  In one night, the willow trees’ branches become anew.

Definitions:

Horse • above • to meet • cold • food
Roads • amid • to belong to • late • spring
Can • pity • river • bank • to gaze
Not • to see • geographical name • geographical name • people
North • extreme • to embrace • bright • lord
South • sea • to make • to be chased out • minister
Old • garden • intestines • to piece • place
One day • night • willow tree • branch • anew

Notes:

  • Pentasyllabic regulated poem (五言律詩, 오언율시). Riming character (韻, 운) is 眞(진).
  • 臨江(임강) – Old name for Hangzhou (杭州, 항주).
  • 崔融(최융) – Tang dynasty poet, contemporary of Song Zhiwen.
  • 腸斷(장단) – Literally “to pierce the innards.” Refers to being heartbroken.
  • Korean translation available here.

Bai Juyi (白居易, 백거이, 772-846) was a Tang dynasty (唐, 당, 618-907) bureaucratic official and one of the most renowned Classical Chinese poets. His family was originally from Taiyuan (太原, 태원), Shanxi Province (山西省, 산서성), but he was born in Xinzheng (鄭, 신정), Henan Province (河南省, 하남성). His courtesy name (字, 자) was Letian (樂天, 낙천); his pen names (號, 호) were Xiangshan Jushi (香山居士, 향산거사) and Zuiyin Xiansheng (醉吟先生, 취음선생) (“Master of Drunken Poetry”). Bai Juyi was recognized for his poetry at the early age of 5. In 800, he passed the imperial civil examinations (科擧, 과거) and rose quickly through the bureaucratic ranks. In 807, he became a Hanlin Academy Scholar (翰林學士, 한림학사), and wrote Confucian-inspired tracts criticizing the government and society, some of which lead to his brief exile later. However, in 811, when both his mother and daughter passed away, he pondered about death and became very interested in Buddhism. After the three year mourning period for his mother, Bai Juyi returned to government and served in various positions, including the Assistant Secretary to the Prince’s Tutor (左夫, 좌천선태부), Provincial Inspector (刺史, 자사) of Zhongzhou (忠州, 충주), Hangzhou (杭州, 항주), and Suzhou (蘇州, 소주), and finally the Gazetteer (秘監, 비서감) on the imperial court. He finally retired in 842, and moved to a Buddhist monastery near Luoyang (洛陽, 낙양). Throughout his career, he was also a prolific writer, composing several pieces of prose and poetry. Indeed, out of all of the Tang dynasty poets, Bai Juyi not only has the most number of poems that have survived to this day, but also the most varied in breadth of topics. His earlier writings are said to have expressed optimism and romanticism, but later reflect realism. In Korea, Bai Juyi’s influence was not only limited to his prose and poetry. One of his cousins, Baek Ugyeong (白宇經, 백우경, ?-?), who became an official on the Shilla dynasty court (新羅, 신라, 57BC – 935), is the progenitor of the Suwon Baek Clan (水原白氏, 수원백씨).

The excerpt below is just one verse from his poem Where Is It Difficult to Forget About the Wine? (何處難忘酒, 하처난망주). Throughout the verses, Bai Juyi — true to one of his pen names — expresses his affinity for alcohol. The first line (“Where is it difficult to forget about the wine?”) and seventh line (“At this time, if one did not even have one cup [of wine]”) are repeated throughout each verse in the poem. The excerpt also alludes to the Vernal Equinox (春分, 춘분), which marks the days when the Sun reaches the celestial longitude of 0 to 15 degrees. As a solar term, it falls around March 20 of every year on the Western Gregorian Calendar but varies on the Chinese Lunar Calendar. In ancient China, the Vernal Equinox also marked the day when swallows returned from the south and the first thunderstorms could be heard.

何處難忘酒 하처난망주

Where Is It Difficult to Forget About the Wine? (Third Verse)

何處難忘酒 하처난망주  Where is it difficult to forget about the wine?
朱門羨少年 주문선소년  Behind the vermilion doors, the rich grow jealous of the young.
春分花發後 춘분화발후  After the Vernal Equinox’s flowers bloom,
寒食月明前 한식월명전  The Cold Food Festival’s bright moon will lead.
小院廻羅綺 소원회라기  In the small courtyard, the sleeves of silk are swirled about;
深房理管弦 심방리관현  Within the secluded room, the reeds and zither are tuned.
此時無一盞 차시무일잔  At this time, if one did not have even one cup for wine,
爭過豔陽天 쟁과염양천  How can he pass by this elegant and lush day?

Definitions:

Which • place • difficult • to forget • wine
Red • doors • to be jealous • youth • years
Spring • divide • flowers • to blossom • after
Cold • food • bright • moon • to lead
Small • garden • to spin • to lay out • silk
Deep • room • to handle • pipe • zither
This • time • to not have • one • wine cup
To quarrel • to pass • beautiful • warm • days

Notes:

  • Pentasyllabic regulated poem (五言律詩, 오언율시). Riming character (韻, 운) is 先(선).
  • 朱門(주문) – Literally “red doors.” Refers to an affluent household.
  • 寒食(한식) – The Cold Food Festival falls on April 5.
  • 前(전) – Here means “to lead” or “to proceed.”
  • Korean translation available here.
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 305 other followers