Yi I – At Hodang Sitting Throughout the Night

5000 Won - Yi I

Yi I (李珥, 이이, 1536-1584) was a Chosun dynasty literati bureaucrat and a Neo-Confucian scholar. He was of the Deoksu Yi Clan (德水李氏, 덕수이씨); his courtesy name (字, 자) was Sukheon (叔獻, 숙헌); his pen name (號, 호) was Yulgok (栗谷, 율곡). He is revered as not only a Neo-Confucian scholar who wrote many treatises but also as a political reformer. One of his notable proposed reforms but that was ultimately rejected was strengthening the military, in response to the threat of an imminent Japanese invasion, which occurred some eight years after his death. He first appeared on the 5000 Won note in 1972 and still appears on Korean currency today.

湖堂夜坐 호당야좌

At Hodang, Sitting Throughout the Night

湖堂久不寐 호당구불매
夜氣著人淸 야기저인청
葉盡知秋老 엽진지추로
江明見月生 강명견월생
疎松搖榻影 소송요탑영
塞鴈落沙聲 새응락사성
自愧紅塵客 자괴홍진객
臨流未濯纓 림류미탁영

In Hodang (湖堂, 호당), as for a long time I have been unable to sleep,
The energy of the night appears to me vividly.
The leaves have all fallen and know the Autumn’s elderliness;
And the river is clear and see the Moon’s liveliness.
The loose pine tree shakes its shadow atop the stool;
And the frontier wild goose drops its voice on the sand.
I naturally become ashamed: the red dust’s guest
Faces the flowing waters, but has not yet washed his hat string.

Notes:

  • Hodang (湖堂, 호당) is a library first established in 1426 by King Sejong (世宗, 세종, 1397-1450, r. 1418–1450) where renowned scholars and literati bureaucrats would be sent to study and cultivate their knowledge. In 1491, King Seongjong (成宗, 성종, 1457-1494, r. 1469-1494) renovated a dilapidated Buddhist temple that is now located in Yongsan (龍山, 용산) and made it into a Hodang. King Jeongjo (正祖, 정조, 1752-1800, r. 1776-1800) abolished the Hodang, and expanded the Gyujanggak Royal Library (奎章閣, 규장각).
  • “Has not yet washed his hat string” (未濯纓, 미탁영) is a reference to Qu Yuan’s (屈原, 굴원, Gul Weon, 343-278 BC) Fisherman’s Song (漁父辭, 어부사):

滄浪之水淸兮 可以濯吾纓
창랑지수청혜 가이탁오영
滄浪之水濁兮 可以濯吾足
창랑지수탁혜 가이탁오족

“If the waters of the ocean waves are clean, I can wash my hat-string.
If the waters of the ocean waves are muddy, I can wash my feet.”

Characters:

  • 榻(탑) – Stool (걸상).
  • 紅塵(홍진) – Literally means “red dust” and refers to the secular mundane world.
  • 纓(영) – Hat string (갓끈).

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