Kim Iman – Two Days Before the Autumnal Equinox

Chubun

Kim Iman (金履萬, 김이만, 1683-1758) was a Chosun dynasty literati bureaucrat. He was of the Yecheon Kim Clan (醴泉金氏, 예천김씨); his courtesy name (字, 자) was Jungsu (仲綏, 중수); his pen name was Hakgo (鶴臯, 학고). He is most noted for his actions during the flood in modern day Yangsan (梁山, 양산) in 1740. To divert that flood, it is said that he spent all his wealth in constructing embankments. He also took great pains in fighting against regional tax collector corruption exploiting commoners.

In the poem below, Kim Iman commemorates the Autumnal Equinox, or Chubun (秋分, 추분) as it in known in Korean. As a solar term, the autumnal equinox always falls around September 23rd on the Western Gregorian Calendar, but varies on the traditional Lunar Calendar. On this day, the sun reaches the celestial longitude of 180 degrees: that is, the earth is not tilted with respect to the Sun and the length day and night are approximately the same at all points along the Earth’s surface. One Korean custom on Chubun, as depicted above, is to collect red peppers and lay them out in the sun to dry.

秋分前二日 獨坐次農巖韻
추분전이일 독좌차농암운

Two Days Before the Autumnal Equinox, Sitting Alone and Borrowing Nong’am’s Rimes

天時晝夜欲平分 천시주야욕평분
寂寞山齋坐到曛 적막산재좌도훈
蕎麥綴花知白雪 교맥철화지백설
稻秔垂穗見黃雲 도갱수삭견화운
九衢車馬從他閙 구구차마종타시
三峽漁樵亦自羣 산협어초역자군
幽獨久拚無伴侶 유독구변무반려
隔林啼鳥只堪聞 격림제조지감문

Heaven’s timing and the daytime and nighttime will be evenly allocated.
In my still and quiet mountain cabin, I sit for the arriving sunset glow.
The buckwheat’s woven flowers recognize the white snow;
The rice plants’ leaning ears see the yellow clouds.
On the nine intersections, carriages and horses follow each others’ noise;
Along the three gorges, fishermen and lumberjacks also naturally gather.
Secluded and alone, I clap for awhile, without any companions.
Amid the forest, the chirping birds can only bare to hear it.

Definitions:

Heaven • time • daytime • night • to intend • evenly • to allocate
Still • quiet • mountain • hut • to sit • to arrive • evening sun’s rays
Buckwheat • barley • to weave • flowers • to know • white • snow
Rice (벼) • rice (메벼) • to lean • ears • to see • yellow • clouds
Nine • intersections • carriages • horses • to follow • other • to be noisy
Three • peaks • fishermen • lumberjacks • also • naturally • to gather
To be secluded • alone • for awhile • to clap with hands • to not have • companion • companion
Amid • forest • to chirp • birds • only • to endure • to hear

Notes:

  • 九衢(구구) – Literally means “nine forks” or “nine intersections.” Refers to the busy streets of larger cities.
  • 三峽(삼협) – Refers to the Three Gorges in China.

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