Yang Sa’eon – Mount Tai

Videos above show a five year old Korean child who is quite proficient at Hanja.  Korean children in the upcoming generation know Hanja fairly well. I even know of some Korean-American children that are learning it from their parents. This is in contrast to my generation, who were born in the early 1980s to late 1990s when the English craze first struck and do not know Hanja that well, with a good number of us not knowing how to write their own names in Hanja let alone any of their family members. I started learning Hanja at a fairly young age too, about a year or so after the child in the video started learning.

Mount Tai

The poem the child recites in the first video is composed by Yang Sa’eon (陽士彦, 양사언; 1517-1584), a Chosun dynasty literati scholar and bureaucrat. Yang Sa’eon was of the Cheongju Yang Clan (淸州陽氏, 청주양씨). His courtesy name (字, 자) was Eungbing (應聘, 응빙) and his pen name was Bongrae (蓬萊, 봉래). He was also known for his love of nature and left behind calligraphy, “Where Bongrae and Pung’ak become one and connect with Heaven” (蓬萊楓嶽元化洞天, 봉래풍악원화동천, Bongrae Pung’ak Weonhwa Dongcheon) on the Manpokdong (萬瀑洞, 만폭동) Boulder in Mount Geumgang (金剛山, 금강산) which can still be seen today.

泰山 태산

Mount Tai

泰山雖高是亦山 태산수고시역산
登登不已有何難 등등불이유하난
世人不肯勞身力 세인불긍로신력
只道山高不可攀 지도산고불가반

Although Mount Tai is high, this still is a mountain.
Climbing and climbing but not reaching, what difficulty is there?
The people of this world do not take joy in exerting the body’s strength;
But only say, “The mountain is so high that I cannot pull myself to climb it.”

Notes:

  • Mount Geumgang is a mountain in modern day North Korea
  • Although Bongrae (蓬萊, 봉래) is his pen name, it is another name for Mount Geumgang.
  • Pung’ak (楓嶽, 풍악) is another name for Mount Geumgang.
  • Mount Tai is a mountain in Shandong Province, China (山東省, 산동성, Sandong Seong).

Characters:

  • 彦(언) – Scholar (선비)
  • 聘(빙) – To call (부르다)
  • 蓬(봉) – Mugwort (쑥)
  • 萊(래) – Goosefoot (명아주)
  • 攀(반) – To climb by pulling oneself up (더위잡다)

Lastly, the child in the video made up his own word for “swing set,” calling it “動橋(동교),” literally “moving bridge.” The Classical Chinese word for a swing set is 鞦韆(추천) or 秋千(추천).

4 comments
    • 歸源 said:

      The translation looks good, but I would be hesitant on making such etymological claims without any more evidence besides coincidence. I’m not too familiar with the influence of Chinese culture on the Philippines.

  1. hi. thanks for that comment. actually i can’t find such “actual” reference suggesting that etymology but having two things, (1) the word for crow in Philippine language (2) it’s usage in a similar idiom with similar meaning makes me suspect such a thing. anyway, i will update it if new evidence or theories come up. by the way, i noticed your posts are getting longer and longer. thanks for providing these posts.

    • 歸源 said:

      I would still be cautionary. There are plenty of false cognates and similar phrases among various languages.

      I have been able to make posts of longer length, because I have break now. Please let me know how I could improve these posts.

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