Han Yong’un (韓龍雲, 한용운, 1879-1944) was a Korean independence activist and a Buddhist reformer and monk. He was of the Cheongju Han Clan (淸州韓氏, 청주한씨); his worldly name (俗名, 속명), which is the name before he became a Buddhist monk, was Yucheon (裕天, 유천); his dharma name (法名, 법명), which is the name he took after becoming a Buddhist monk, was Bongwan (奉玩, 봉완); his courtesy name (字, 자) was Jeong’ok (貞玉, 정옥); and his pen name (號, 호) was Manhae (卍海/萬海, 만해). He joined the Eastern Learning Movement (東學, 동학) in 1894, protesting Chosun government policies. Afterward, in 1905, he was ordained a Buddhist monk at White Pond Monastery (百潭寺, 백담사, Baekdamsa) in Inje (麟蹄, 인제), Gangweon Province (江原道, 강원도). In reaction to the Japanese annexation of Korea in 1910, he fled Korea and wandered around Manchuria and Siberia. Han Yong’un returned to Korea in 1913 and started writing several works, including vernacular Korean translations of Buddhist sacred texts using Hangul. During the March 1st Movement of 1919, he was one of the signers of the Declaration of Korean Independence (大韓獨立宣言, 대한독립선언). In 1931, he formed the Korean Buddhist Youth’s Union (朝鮮佛敎靑年同盟, 조선불교청년동맹). In 1944, he passed away from a stroke. Despite advocating Buddhist works should be made available in the Korean vernacular, Han Yong’un composed several poems in Classical Chinese.
A Solitary Night
At heaven’s end, the speck-less bright moon departs.
Alone sleeping, during the long night, I hear the pine tree zither.
One thought does not leave out the village gates.
There is only the heart longing for the thousand mountains and ten-thousand waters.
The jade forest casts on the dew moonlight like snow pellets.
Between the water, with the sound of pounding, the riverside lady grows cold.
The two hills and the blue mountains are all like the old, ancient times.
When the plum flower first blossoms, surely the Buddhist monk will return.
Heaven • end • to not have • speck • bright • moon • to depart
Lonely • pillow • long • night • to hear • pine tree • zither
One • thought • not • to exit • village • moon • outside
Only • to have • thousand • mountain • ten-thousand • water • heart
Jade • forest • to cast • dew • moon • like • snow pellets
Between • water • anvil • sound • rivers • woman • to become cold
Two • hills • blue • mountains • all • ten-thousand • ancient
Plum • flower • first • to blossom • surely • Buddhist monk • to return
- Both quartets are heptasyllabic ancient style poems (七言 古體詩, 칠언 고체시).
- 孤枕(고침) – Literally “a lonely pillow.” Refers to sleeping alone.
- 砧聲(침성) – The sound of pounding. Refers to the traditional Korean method of doing laundry.
- 萬古(만고) – Literally “ten-thousand ancient.” Refers to something very ancient.