Shin Saimdang – Longing for Parents

50000 Won - Shin Saimdang

Shin Saimdang (申師任堂, 신사임당, 1504-1551) was a Chosun dynasty artist, calligrapher, and poet. She is the mother of Yi I (李珥, 이이, 1536-1584), who appears on the 5,000 won note. She was of the Pyeongsan Shin clan (平山申氏, 평산신씨); her courtesy name (字, 자 or 堂號, 당호) was Inseon (仁善, 인선); and her pen name (號, 호) was Saimdang (師任堂, 사임당).  Shinsaimdang is viewed as the model of Confucian motherhood, and is called a “benevolent mother and good wife” (賢母良妻, 현모양처,Hyeonmoyangcheo), for being not only fulfilling household duties but also being well versed in Confucian Classics.

She first appeared on Korean currency in 2006 on the 50,000 Won note, making her the first woman to appear on a Korean currency note. This decision was not without controversy, as Korean feminists criticized the addition. It should be noted, however, that women writers in Classical Chinese do not start appearing until the Ming Dynasty in China and Chosun Dynasty in Korea, at the same time that Neo-Confucianism became the adopted philosophy. There was indeed a movement by Chosun Neo-Confucianist scholars to educate women.

思親 사친

Longing for Parents

千里家山萬疊峯 천리가산만첩봉
歸心長在夢魂中 귀심장재몽혼중
寒松亭畔孤輪月 한송정반고윤월
鏡浦臺前一陣風 경포대전일진풍
沙上白鷗恒聚散 사상백구항취산
海門漁艇任西東 해문어정임서동
何時重踏臨瀛路 하시중답임영로
更着斑衣藤下縫 경착반의등하봉

Thousand Li away my hometown’s mountains and the ten-thousand layered peaks
Return to my mind and remains long within my dreaming soul.
On the ridge of the Hansong Pavilion, the lonely wheeled moon shines;
In front of the Gyeongpo Gazebo, one sudden wind blows.
Above the sands, the white gulls always gather and scatter;
At the sea gate, the fishing boats ably go West and east.
At what time may I again walk the roads of Imyeong
And again wearing my colorful dress and below the wisteria tree sew?


  • Hansong Pavilion (寒松亭, 한송정, Hansongjeong) is a pavilion located in Hashidongri (下詩洞里, 하시동리) in Gangreung (江陵, 강릉). It is one of the oldest structures in Korea.
  • Gyeongpodae Gazebo (鏡浦臺, 경포대, Gyeongpodae) is a storied structured located in Jeodong (苧洞, 저동) in Gangreung.
  • Imyeong (臨瀛, 임영) is the old name for Gangreung.


  • 疊(첩) – To be layered (첩첩하다).
  • 畔(반) – Ridge (밭두둑).
  • 白鷗(백구) – White gull.
  • 艇(정) – Small boat.
  • 斑衣(반의) – Colorful dress.
  1. I think you meant the 50,000 won note^^

    This is off topic, but I was talking to my co-teacher and she mentioned something that I also noticed: the Chinese people we know seem to speak English much better than Koreans. She said this was due to the fact that Chinese sentence structure (word order) is similar to English while Korean (and Japanese) are different. I was confused by this because if that is so, then are classical texts written in Hanja differently than the way it would be read in Korean? Is the word order different? At least based on what you’ve posted, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

    • 歸源 said:

      What your co-teacher said is true. Chinese (both modern and Classical) word order is in general subject-verb-object, while Japanese and Korean word order is subject-object-verb. In my point of view, Classical Chinese word order is actually hauntingly similar to English word order in many respects. For instance, the phrase “A is better than B” in Classical Chinese would be 甲(A) 勝(is better) 於(than) 乙(B) (I believe in Mandarin, it would be 比乙甲加勝, which is “Compared to B, A is better”). In the poem above, it may appear that way to you, because most of the lines have are subject+verb, without any direct object. I direct your attention to the title, 思親 (to long for + parents). Note that this is verb+object, which does not occur in Korean.

  2. Jeff said:

    Again through the eyes of a Chinese 🙂

    思親 사친 Longing for Parents1

    千里家山萬疊峯 천리가산만첩봉
    歸心2長在夢魂中 귀심장재몽혼중
    寒松亭畔3孤輪月 한송정반고윤월
    鏡浦臺前一陣風 경포대전일진풍
    沙上白鷗恒聚散 사상백구항취산
    海門4漁艇任西東 해문어정임서동
    何時重踏臨瀛路 하시중답임영로
    更着斑衣藤下縫 경착반의등하봉

    A thousand miles away, hometown mountains, ten-thousand peaks heaping upon one another,
    Long has my home yearning heart is within the soul of my dreams.
    By the banks of the Cold Pine Pavilion, a lonely full moon,
    While a gust of wind; fleeting in front of the Mirror Bank Terrace.
    On the sands, white gulls are constantly congregating and scattering,
    And Little boats freely zipping by the east and west of the port.
    When will I again tread upon the road to Imyeong?
    [Once more] Wearing my colored dress and sewing under the wisteria?

    1. This is fine. “Thinking of Parents” would be the literal translation.
    2. A longing heart for home.
    3. This can be a pun. For the sound of 畔 (river bank) is the same as 伴 (to accompany). Hence she could be describing that the moon her only companion in the pavilion where she was.
    4. In modern Chinese, this is a place name in Mainland China. Literally, the “ocean’s gate” to mean a port.

  3. As for word order, I have noticed that Classical Chinese is a combination of English and Korean word order. For example, Chinese relative clauses seem to follow the same word order as Korean relative clauses. There are also other times when it is easier to think with a Korean mind when translating Chinese than with an English mind. Recently I came across the combination 代爲 while translating some Chinese from the 1800s. The sentence was as follows:

    客歲美國領事官託人代爲買地, 蓋起公館

    “Last year (客歲) the American (美國) consul (領事官) asked someone (託人) to act on his behalf (代爲) to buy (買) land (地) to build (蓋起) an official residence (公館).”

    At first I had a little trouble making sense of the character 爲 with my English mind, feeling like it was unnecessary, but then I searched through Korea’s “Annals of the Joseon Dynasty” and noticed that 代爲 appeared quite often. Then I started using my Korean mind, and it suddenly made perfect sense. I now interpret 代爲 as being the Chinese version of the Korean word 대신하여, 代 representing 대신 and 爲 representing 하여.

    After more than 1500 years of writing in Chinese, one would assume that Koreans have adopted many Chinese literary styles. I think 代爲 is just one of many, even though the combination does not appear in Naver’s Chinese character dictionary.

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