King Sejong (世宗大王, 세종대왕, 1397-1450, r. 1418-1450) was the fourth monarch of the Chosun dynasty. He is famous for many deeds, including expanding Korea’s borders, renewing the sciences, and promulgating the Hangul alphabet. One of the first works in Hangul was the “Songs of Dragons Flying to Heaven.” Even today, many Koreans know at least the first line of one of this song in Korean (“뿌리 깊은 나무는…”). What most Koreans do not know is that this was a translation of Classical Chinese poems written by the Chosun court. King Sejong first appeared on the 100 Won note in 1962 and has been on the 10,000 Won note since 1973.
Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven
根深之木 風亦不扤 근심지목 풍역불올
有灼其華 有蕡其實 유작기화 유분기실
源遠之水 旱亦不竭 원원지수 한역불갈
有斯爲川 于海必達 유사위천 우해필달
A tree with deep roots in the wind also does not shake.
Flourishing are its blossoms; Many are its fruits.
A water with a distant fountainhead in drought does not dry.
This becomes a stream and to the sea it surely reaches.
- 扤(올) – To shake (흔들리다).
- 灼(작) – To be flourishing (성하다).
- 蕡(분) – To have many fruits.