Infinite Challenge – Yoo Jaeseok Reads a Petition in Classical Chinese

I do not often watch Korean television shows (and only occasionally follow K-dramas or K-pop). It was thus a pleasant surprise to see Classical Chinese (漢文, 한문) in the context of modern Korean comedy show called Infinite Challenge, or Muhandojeon (無限挑戰, 무한도전). In an episode played about two weeks ago, comedian Yoo Jaeseok (劉在錫, 유재석, 1972-),  whom many might remember from the music video Gangnam Style, plays a member of the aristocratic Yangban class (兩班, 양반) in the episode and opens up a scroll and starts reciting a petition to the King in actual Classical Chinese with Korean grammatical particles, known as Hyeonto (懸吐, 현토). The relevant portion of the clip starts at about the 2:20 mark. While Yoo Jaeseok is reading, the other comedians give puzzled looks. After the petition is read, the others ask him to rap the petition and he proceeds to do so accordingly. The Korean translation shown in the clip is mostly correct, and only deviates in the last line.

上疏文
상소문

Petition

不以一己之偏見으로 爲是爲非하시고
불이일기지편견으로 위시위비하시고

Do not (不) with (以) biases (偏見) of (之) oneself (一己), declare (爲) what is right (是) and declare (爲) what is wrong (非),

而朝廷之所共是者是之는 所共非者非之하시어
이조정지소공시자시지는 소공비자비지하시어

But instead (而) what (所…者) all (共) in the Royal Court (朝廷) [consider as] right (是), [declare] it (之) right (是) and what (所…者) all (共) [consider as] wrong (非), [declare] it (之) wrong (非).

一念慮之萌이나 一言事之發에
일념려지몽이나 일언사지발에

When there is (萌) one (一) worry (念慮) or when there arises (發) one (一) petition (言事),

少無瑕翳하시어 然後渙汗大號하소서
소무하예하시어 연후환한대호하소서

Eliminate (無) even the slightest (少) of flaws (瑕翳) and afterward (然後) disperse (渙) the perspiration (汗) as if [you were making] a great (大) announcement (號).

Notes:

  • This is the first time I have ever read a petition to a king. Based on a quick internet search, the last two lines seem to be jargon used at the Court.
  • 少無瑕翳(소무하예) – Reference to some sayings of Zhu Xi (朱子, 주자, Juja, 1130-1200):

此先王之治, 所以由內及外, 自微至著, 精粹純白, 無少瑕翳, 而其遺風餘烈, 猶可爲後世法也.
차선왕지치, 소이유내급외, 자미지저, 정순순백, 무소하예, 이기유풍여렬, 유가위후세법야.

This is the reason for which the previous King’s governance spread from inside to the outside, from obscurity to the distinct, was polished and pure, without even the slightest of flaws, and its remnant customs and remaining strength indeed was made the laws of future generations.

  • 渙汗大號(환호대호) – In the petition, with these words, Yoo Jaeseok is beseeching the king to make an order according to his request. Reference to a line in the Wind and Water Dispersion (風水渙, 풍수환) Chapter of the Book of Changes (易經, 역경):

九五: 渙汗其大號, 渙王居, 无咎. 象曰: 王居无咎, 正位也.
구오: 환한기대호, 환왕거, 무구. 상왈: 왕거무구, 정위야.

The Fifth-Nine: When it disperses, the perspiration is like its great announcement. When there is a dispersion, the King sits. There are no flaws. The Form (象, 상) states, “‘When the King sits, there are no flaws’ is because of his proper position.

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