Kwon Geun (權近, 권근, 1352-1409) was a late Goryeo dynasty and early Chosun dynasty literati bureaucrat. He was of the Andong Kwon Clan (安東權氏, 안동권씨); his courtesy name (字, 자) was Gaweon (可遠, 가원); his pen name was Yangchon (陽村, 양촌); and his posthumous name was Munchung (文忠, 문충). During the latter years of the Goryeo Dynasty, Neo-Confucianism became popular. Kwon Geun was a student of Yi Saek (李穡, 이색, 1328-1396) and became an important Neo-Confucian scholar. He wrote an annotation to Jeong Dojeon’s (鄭道傳, 정도전, 1342-1398) anti-Buddhist polemic work, Buddha’s Confused Thinking (佛氏雜辨, 불씨잡변). He also annotated Confucian works. Kwon Geun’s works can be found in the Yangchon Collection (陽村集, 양촌집).
In the poem below, he describes the preparing and storing Kimchi (김장) for the Winter. Kimchi was made so that vegetables could be enjoyed during the Winter. It was originally not peppered, as chili peppers, from the new world, were not introduced into Korea until the 16th century. The word “Kimchi” is a palatalization of the word Dimchae, which later became Chimchae (沈菜, 침채). Another word used to refer to Kimchi is Jeo (菹, 저), which can be found in the Lesser Court Hymns (小雅, 소아, Soa) in the Classic of Poetry (詩經, 시경), which dates back to the Zhou Dynasty (周, 주, 1050BC-256BC), the earliest referenced to pickled cabbage.
In the tenth month, the winds are high and stern is the dawn’s frost.
Within the garden, the cultivated vegetables were all gathered and stored.
The Kimchi must be stored and made delicious in order to protect against the poverty of winter;
Although I will not be having feasts, it will provide me a daily taste.
Working in the cold is naturally pitiful; its loneliness and gloominess is harsh;
In my remaining life, I have began to sense that my sentiments have become long.
From now, how much longer can I drink and nibble?
A hundred years in time is as busy as flowing waters.
- The reference to pickled vegetables can be found in the in a poem titled Xin Nan Shan (信南山, 신남산, Shin Nam San) in the Classic of Poetry (詩經, 시경):
In the middle of the field, there are farmers’ huts;
Along the boundaries of the yard, there are gourds.
These are sliced; these are picked;
And presented to our deceased ancestors:
That our great grandchildren live long;
And that they receive the blessings of Heaven.
- 禦(어) – To defend against (방어하다).
- 旨(지) – Here, to be delicious (맛있다).
- 珍羞(진수) – Abbreviation for 珍羞盛饌(진수성찬).
- 牢落(뇌락) – To be gloomy or melancholy.
- 殘年(잔년) – Literally means “cruel years.” It refers to the latter years of one’s life.
- 啄(탁) – To eat by pecking.
- 光陰(광음) – Literally means “light and shade.” It refers to time.
- 剝(박) – To strip or remove (벗기다).