Yi Seokhyeong – Baduk

Yi Seokhyeong (李石亨, 이석형, 1415-1477) was a Chosun dynasty literati bureaucrat. He was of the Yeon’an Yi Clan (延安李氏, 연안이씨). His courtesy name (字, 자) was Baek’ok (白玉, 백옥); his pen name (號, 호) was Jeoheon (樗軒, 저헌); and his posthumous name (諡, 시) was Mun’gang (文康, 문강). He primarily wrote texts on governance, but as any gentleman of the Korean gentry in his time wrote poetry and played Baduk, which is also known as Go (碁, 기, Gi) in the West and Japan and as Weiqi (圍棋, 위기, Wigi) in China. This board game originated from China about 2500 years ago. It is played on a 19 by 19 grid with black and white stones and the objective is to surround the most territory by the end of the game. The rules are very simple: stones which are entirely surrounded on the intersections are taken off the board; and no repetition of the previous move. The number of possible Baduk games is said to exceed the number of molecules in the universe, making the game an interesting artificial intelligence problem.

圍棋 위기

Baduk

幸是公餘暫得閑 행시공여잠득한
却思棋局足交懽 각사기국족교환
機心萬變須臾裏 기심만변수유리
險路千回尺寸間 험로천회척촌간
危似楚兵臨漢塹 위사초병림한참
急如齊客度秦關 급여제객도진관
直須快決雌雄耳 직수쾌결자웅이
枉過高軒拭目看 왕과고헌식목간

Fortunately having a break from public work, I can briefly take respite.
Suddenly, I think about the Baduk board and enthused over mutual joy.
A scheming mind and ten-thousand variations are temporarily within this;
Steep paths and thousand turns are in a space of inches and feet.
Dangerous, like when the Chu (楚, 초) State’s armies confronted the Han (漢, 한) State’s battalions;
Quick, like when the Qi (齊, 제) State’s visiting official crossed the Qin (秦, 진) State’s gates.
One direct move and a thrilling decision are only what victory and defeat are!
The elderly pass by the high veranda and rub their eyes to see carefully.

Notes:

Characters:

  • 公餘(공여) – Abbreviation of 公務餘暇(공무여가), which means leisure time from public work.
  • 機心(기심) – Abbreviation of 機械之心(기계지심), which means a mind that is hatching plans.
  • 雌熊(자웅) – Here, it means “victory and loss.”
  • 耳(이) –  Here, it is a grammatical particle.
  • 枉(왕) – To be crooked physically (굽다); or to make a mistake (잘못하다).
  • 拭(식) – To cleanse (씻다).

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