Chae Jegong (蔡濟恭, 채제공, 1720-1799) was a Chosun dynasty literati bureaucrat. He was of the Pyeonggang Chae Clan (平康菜氏, 평강채씨); his courtesy name (字, 자) was Baekgyu (伯規, 백규); his pen name (號, 호) was Beon’am (樊巖, 번암); and his posthumous name (諡, 시) was Munsuk (文肅, 문숙). He passed the regional civil examination (鄕試, 향시) at the age of 15, and held high government offices throughout his life.
In the poem below, Chae Jegong describes the cosmology and scenery of the Day of the Awakening Insects, or Gyeongchip (驚蟄, 경칩), which is when the Earth is 345 degrees around the celestial longitude. This day falls around March 3rd every year on the Gregorian calendar. As it is one of the 24 solar terms, it falls on different days each year on the traditional lunar calendar. Another word used to refer to this day is Gyechip (啓蟄, 계칩). On this day, insects and animals that have hibernated throughout the winter are said to arise and awake. One traditional Korean custom to mark this day was to capture and eat frog eggs.
On the Day of the Awakening Insects, A Playful Composition
For cultivated things, the heavens do not even briefly rest.
The hinge seal truly lies here and is a strange cycle.
That which is sighing, coaxed into rising, are the groups of insects.
They are many and numerous, dizzying and troublesome, being noisy in the world.
- 樞(추) – Important portion; hinge (지도리).
- 緘(함) – To seal (봉하다, 封也).
- 亶(단) – Truly (참으로).
- 穰(양) – To be plentiful (넉넉하다).
- 閙(료) – To be noisy (시끄럽다). Variant of 鬧(료).