Cho Sanggyeong (趙尙絅, 조상경, 1681-1746) was a Chosun literati bureaucrat. He was of the Pungyang Cho Clan (豊壤趙氏, 풍양조씨); his courtesy name (字, 자) was Jajang (子章, 자장); his pen name (號, 호) was Hakdang (鶴塘, 학당); and his posthumous name (諡, 시) was Gyeongheon (景獻, 경헌). Since he was affiliated with the Old Doctrines Faction (老論派, 노론파, Noronpa), during the Literati Purge of 1721-1722 (辛壬士禍, 신임사화), he was imprisoned and exiled. After the purge, he was released and allowed to attain government posts.
In the poem below, he writes about rice cake soup, more commonly known as Ddeokguk (떡국) and less commonly as Byeongtang (餠湯, 병탕). Similar to today, the eating of Ddeokguk was associated with the New Year (설날) during Cho Sanggyeong’s time. Indeed, one of the other names for Ddeokguk is “Rice cakes that add on one year of age,” or Cheomsebyeong (添歲餠, 첨세병). The origin of Ddeokguk and the custom of eating it on the New Year are unknown.
New Year Morning
At age of the fifty-two years, my age is already is cruel.
The work and enterprise of men and children is to look frequently at a mirror.
In my weak appearance, as I send off the year, it is easy to add to worries;
On a guest’s table, as I meet Spring, it is difficult to assist the sickness.
My cup of wine strongly depends on the work of Eastern customs;
My rice cake soup (餠湯, 병탕) distantly considers the joys of young children.
The mountains of my hometown are far and distant and between heaven’s end.
Who ponders within the empty window that he alone during the night is cold?
- Second line of the poem is possibly a reference to the fifth line of a poem by Du Fu (杜甫, 두보, 712-770). The fifth and sixths lines are considered famous lines (名句, 명구).
Above the River
Above the river, all day, it has rained much;
The lonely and melancholy thornbush and bramble are like autumn.
The high wind knocks down the leaves of a tree;
The eternal night clutches the marten’s fur clothes.
Meritorious work looks frequently at the mirror;
Travelling and hiding is to lean on the tower.
When the times are dangerous, to think about repaying the lord,
Is to thank weakly and to not be able to rest.
- 餞(전) – To send off (보내다).
- 榻(탑) – Table (卓子, 탁자).
- 憑(빙) – To lean or depend (기대다).
- 辦(판) – To work (힘들다).
- 家山(가산) – Hometown.
- 杳(묘) – To be vast (아득하다).
- 行藏(행장) – Literally, to travel and to hide. It refers to one’s temperament.
- 貂裘(초구) – Marten fur clothes.