Shin Chaeho – On the Road to Mount Baekdu

Shin ChaehoShin Chaeho (申采浩, 신채호, 1880-1936) was a Korean independence activist and a very controversial but influential historian. He was of the Goryeong Shin Clan (高靈申氏, 고령신씨); his pen name (號, 호) was Danjae (丹齋, 단재). In 1897, he entered to study Sungkyunkwan (成均館, 성균관). In 1905, he graduated with a doctorate from Sungkyunkwan was appointed as a teacher that year, but resigned in protest of the Japanese Protectorate Treaty of 1905 (乙巳勒約, 을사늑약). He joined the editorial boards of the Capital Gazette (皇城新聞, 황성신문) and the Korean Daily Newspaper (大韓每日申報, 대한매일신보) to further the cause of the Patriotic Enlightenment Movement (愛國啓夢運動, 애국계몽운동). In 1910, in response to the Japanese annexation of Korea, Shin Chaeho emigrated to China and participated in various Korean independence organizations. During this time, he wrote extensively on Korean history and nationalism, including the concept of the Korean race (韓民族, 한민족), rejection of China-centered view, which he called “Sadaejueui” (事大主義, 사대주의), and irredentist claims over Manchuria. He also was an anarchist and part of an organization called the Eastern Anarchist Union (東方無政府主義聯盟, 동방무정부주의연맹). In 1928, Shin Chaeho was arrested in Jilong (基隆, 기륭, Giryung) in modern day Taiwan for having forged papers while working to support the anarchist organization. He died of a stroke while in jail in 1936. Despite his quite negative opinions on China in Korea’s history — in fact, he refused to call China, the “middle Kingdom” (中國, 중국) –, he had no problems with using Hanja, as most of his works were in mixed script and he wrote a number of Classical Chinese poetry, including the following composed presumably around 1920.

白頭山途中 백두산도중

On the Road to Mount Baekdu

人生四十太支離 인생사십태지리
貧病相隨暫不移 빈병상수잠불이
最恨水窮山盡處 최한수궁산진처
任情歌曲亦難爲 임정가곡역난위

The fortieth year of my life has been quite dull and boring.
Poverty and infirmity follow one another, and do not even for a short moment leave.
Most sorrowful is the place where the waters have been depleted and the mountains have worn out.
To sing a tune to my heart’s content is also difficult to do.

南來北走動經年 남래북주동경년
來亦然然去亦然 내역연연거역연
從知萬事須自斷 종지만사수자단
俯仰隨人最可憐 부앙수인최가련

Coming south and running north, I move passing by this year.
To come also is like so and so; to depart is like so.
Even if one knows all affairs, one must have self-determination.
To bow down and gaze up to follow another is the most pathetic.


Human • life • four • ten • greatly • to be boring • to be dull
Poverty • illness • mutually • to follow • briefly • not • to move
Most • resentment • water • to exhaust • mountains • to exhaust • place
As one pleases • passion • to sing • tune • also • difficult • to do

South • to come • north • to run • to move • to pass • year
To come • also • like so • like so • to depart • also • like so
Although • to know • ten-thousand • things • must • oneself • to determine
To stoop down • to gaze up • to follow • another • most • can • pitiable


  • 白頭山(백두산) – Mount Baekdu is a famous mountain on the Korea-China border. Its Chinese name is Mount Changbai (長白山, 장백산).
  • 支離(지리) – To be boring. In colloquial Korean, the pronunciation of this word has been corrupted to Jiru as in Jiruhada (지루하다).
  1. Kim Dong Ryeong said:

    nice post. I didn’t know that 지루하다 was 한자말. all dictionaries that i have don’t show the origin as 支離. 🙂

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