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.
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.
- The states referred to in the poem are from the Warring States Period of Chinese history.
- 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).