Kim Byeongyeon (金炳淵, 김병연, 1807-1863) is perhaps the most famous Chosun dynasty poet. He is better known as Kim Satgat (김삿갓; 金笠, 김립). He was of the Andong Kim Clan (安東金氏, 안동김씨); his courtesy name (字, 자) was Seongshim (性深, 성심); and his pen name (號, 호) was Nan’go (蘭皐, 난고). Although he was born into a Yangban (兩班, 양반) family, since his grandfather had surrendered to Hong Gyeongrae’s Rebellion (洪景來의 亂, 홍경래의 난, 1811-1812) his family faced punishment by association. He spent wondering Chosun in a bamboo hat and writing poetry mostly in Classical Chinese, although he did write a few poems in mixed script and Hangul.
In the poem below, Kim Satgat writes about Baduk. Baduk is known as Go in Japanese and Weiqi in Mandarin. It is played on a grid board, typically 19×19. The objective is to encircle the most amount of territory by the end of the game. Baduk originates from ancient China. The earliest record of Baduk is in the Chronicles of Zuo of the Spring and Autumn Period (春秋左氏傳, 춘추좌씨전), which dates back to the 4th century BC. It was originally believed that Baduk may have been used for fortune telling and may have been associated with star charting. The game entered Korea sometime during the Three Kingdoms Period (三國時代, 삼국시대, 57-668) and entered Japan sometime during the Tang dynasty (唐, 당, 618-907). The game of Baduk is still popular in Korea, China, and Japan and professional Baduk players make as much money as professional Golf players do in the US. A variant of Baduk known as Sunjang Baduk (巡將바둑, 순장바둑) later developed on the Korean peninsula and was widely played during the Chosun dynasty, but its popularity has waned since the first half of the 20th century.
Crisscrossing, black and white, lined up like a siege.
Victory and defeat only arise from gaining and losing opportunity.
The four graybeards leisurely playing on the board, forgetting their worldly positions;
In the three pure places, hermits played matches, rotting away the ax helve on return.
With a deceitful plan, a chance is gained; the raised head gains a point;
With a mistaken move, a comeback is obtained; the lifted hand brandished.
Half the way, winning and losing and again fighting and combating.
Click-clack, like echoes, arriving is the oblique luster.
- The four graybeards (四皓, 사호, Saho) refer to the four men who fled from the calamities during Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi’s (秦始皇, 진시황, Jin Shi Hwang, 295BC-210BC) reign to Mount Shang (商山, 상산, Sang San) and became Taoist hermits. They were: Duke Dongyuan (東圓公, 동원공, Dongweon Gong); Duke Xiahuang (夏黃公, 하황공, Hahwang Gong), who wrote the Three Strategies (三略, 삼략, Samryak); Master Luli (甪里先生, 녹리선생, Nokri Seonsaeng); and Qi Liji (綺里季, 기리계, Girigye). They are collectively referred to as the Four Graybeards of Mount Shang (商山四皓, 상산사호). The Chinese poet Li Bai (李白, 이백, Yi Baek, 701-762) has a poem dedicated to these men.
- The three pure places (三淸, 삼청, Samcheong) refers to three places where Taoist hermits reside and they are: Okcheong (玉,淸, 옥청); Sangcheong (上淸, 상청); and Taecheong (太淸, 태청).
- “Rotting away the ax helve” (爛柯, 난가) is a reference to famous legend concerning the game of Baduk. It seems to appear in many works and is referenced in the painting above. Here it is summarized in the Book of Jin (晉書, 진서):
王質入山斫木, 見二童圍棋, 坐觀之. 及起, 斧柯已爛矣.
왕질입산작목, 견이동위기, 좌관지, 급기, 부가이란의.
Wang Zhi (王質, 왕질) entered the mountain to cut wood. He saw two children playing Baduk and sat down to watch them. When he rose up, his axe helve had already rotten.
- 皓(호) – To be white (희다); to be clean (깨끗하다).
- 爛(찬) – Here, to rot (썩다).
- 詭(궤) – To deceive (속이다).
- 擡(대) – To raise the head (들다).
- 斜暉(사휘) – Refers to the sun right before sunset.