Choi Ikhyeon (崔益鉉, 최익현, 1833-1906) was a late Chosun dynasty literati bureaucrat and a Korean independence activist. He was of the Gyeongju Choe Clan (慶州崔氏, 경주최씨); his courtesy name (字, 자) was Chan’gyeom (贊謙, 찬겸); and his pen name (號, 호) was Myeon’am (勉菴, 면암). He is most remembered for his deeds after the signing of the Japan-Korea Protectorate Treaty of 1905, or the Eulsa Treaty (乙巳條約, 을사조약). Not only did he protest by refusing to pay taxes, not using Japanese railroads, and boycotting Japanese goods, Choi Ikhyeon formed an irregular army, or Euibyeong (義兵, 의병), of a few hundred men and fought against Japanese troops. He was apprehended during a battle in Sunchang (淳昌, 순창) in 1905 and was banished to Tsushima Island (對馬島, 대마도, Daemado), where he in died in 1906. He was posthumously awarded the Order of Merit for National Foundation (建國勳章, 건국훈장) by the South Korean government for patriotic deeds in 1962.
In the poem below, Choi Ikhyeon commemorates the Double Ninth Festival, or Jung’yangjeol (重陽節, 중양절). The Double Ninth Festival is the 9th day of the 9th month on the Lunar Calendar, and falls on October 13th of this year. On this day, the Korean custom was to consume food and drink related to chrysanthemums, such as chrysanthemum pancakes (菊花煎, 국화전) and chrysanthemum wine (菊花酒, 국화주). Another custom was to hold ancestral rites for ancestors whose date of passing away is unknown and for deceased relatives without offspring. Unfortunately, while chrysanthemum pancakes are still around, the Double Ninth Festival has not been widely celebrated in Korea since the 1970s.
是日, 卽重陽也. 山川雖異, 黃花猶在, 感物述懷.
시일, 즉중양야. 산천수이, 황화유재, 감물술회.
Today Is the Double Ninth Festival. Although The Mountains and Streams Are Different, There Are Yellow Flowers. Feeling Something, I Describe My Thoughts.
From strange lands, I send my children, dreaming more and more about the new.
Overseas, who will pity the people on the my side of the sea?
Idly, I reminisce about my hometown’s mountains and the Autumn-ripened days.
The yellow flowers and the white wine call out for my friends and neighbors.
Strange lands (客地, 객지) • amid • to send • children • dreams • more and more • anew
Sea • outside • who • to pity • sea • inside • people
Idly • to reminisce • village • mountain • autumn • to be ripened • days
Yellow • flowers • white • wine • to call • friends • neighbors
- 海內(해내) – Refers to one’s own country, which in this case is Korea.
- 黃花(황화) – Refers to chrysanthemums (菊花, 국화).