Choe Sukjeong – On the Road During the Day of the Cold Food Festival

Giryeohaengryeo - Danweon

Choe Sukjeong (崔淑精, 최숙정, 1433-1480) was a Chosun dynasty literati bureaucrat. He was of the Yangcheon Choe Clan (陽川崔氏, 양천최씨); his courtesy name (字, 자) was Gukhwa (國華, 국화); and his pen names (堂號, 당호) were Soyojae (逍遙齋, 소요재) and Sasukjae (私淑齋, 사숙재). He is known for having helped composing the Summary of the History of the Three Kingdoms (三國史要節, 삼국사요절), pursuant to royal mandate. He excelled in poetry and as hinted in the poem below loved alcohol, so much so that he died of alcohol poisoning.

In the poem below, he writes about his being stationed at the Ming-Chosun border on the day of Cold Food Festival, or Hanshik (寒食, 한식). Hanshik refers to the 105th day after the Winter Solstice or Dongji (冬至, 동지). Since it is one of the solar terms, it falls on the same day every year on the solar Gregorian calendar, but varies on the traditional lunar calendar. The historical custom of this day was to not to use fire to cook food and eat only cold food. Hence, one of the names of Hanshik is “no smoke day” (禁烟日, 금연일). Another custom was to clean the ancestral tombs.

途中寒食 도중한식

On the Road During the Day of the Cold Food Festival

去年寒食長安道 거년한식장안도
百花香裏深醉倒 백화리향심취도
今年寒食塞上城 금년한식색상성
瀟瀟風雨隨行旌 소소풍우수행정

Last year, on the day of the Cold Food Festival, on the road to Jang’an,
Amid the fragrance of hundreds of flowers, I became deeply inebriated and fell.
This year, on the day of the Cold Food Festival, atop of the of rampart of the fort,
Rustling and crackling, the windy rain follows and travels with the standard.

循環歲事年復年 순환세사년부년
男兒行止皆關天 남아행지개관천
邊庭日暮人煙稀 변정일모인연희
孤村楊柳搖春霏 고촌양류요춘비

Round and around go the affairs of the world, year after returning year.
The boys’ manners and behavior are all related to Heaven.
On the frontier house, the day grows dim and the man’s smoke are few.
In the lonely village, the willow trees’ branches shake in the Spring drizzle.

龍灣江上把一杯 룡만강상파일배
杏花消息來不來 행화소식래불래
風光不減兩鬢改 풍광불감량빈개
明年何處更相待 명년하처갱상대

A top of the riverbank at Yongman, I hold onto one wineglass.
Is news of the apricot blossoms coming or not coming?
The beautiful scenery has not decreased, but both my sideburns have changed.
Next year, at what place will I again mutually wait?

Notes:

  • Yongman (龍灣, 용만), or literally “Dragon’s riverbend,” refers to a house in Euiju (義州, 의주), where Chinese diplomats were received.
  • “News of the apricot blossoms” (杏花消息, 행화소식) is a reference to a famous Chinese poem by Chen Yuyi (陳與義, 진여의, Jin Yeo’eui, 1090-1139). The painting above is also an allusion to this poem. 

客子光陰詩卷裏 객자광음시권리
杏花消息雨聲中 행화소식우성중

A guest’s times are stored inside a book of poems;
An apricot blossom’s news are stored in the sound of rain.

光陰(광음) – Literally means “light and shade.” Refers to time.

Characters:

  • 旌(정) – Standard or flag (깃발).
  • 瀟瀟(소소) – The sound of rain (비내리는 소리).
  • 霏(비) – Here, rain (비).
  • 杏(행) – Apricot blossom (살구꽃).
  • 鬢(빈) – Sideburns (귀밑털).

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