Book Review – 漢詩作法의 定石 (한시작법의 정석) – 하영섭 황필홍

Hanshi Jakbeop eui Jeongseko

漢詩作法의 定石 (한시작법의 정석) – 하영섭 황필홍 저
Established Principles of Composing Classical Chinese Poetry
By Ha Yeongseop and Hwang Pilhong

Bibliographic Summary

  • Title: 漢詩作法의 定石 (한시작법의 정석)  (Established Principles of Composing Classical Chinese Poetry)
  • Author: Ha Yeongseop (河永燮, 하영섭), Director of the Korean Classical Chinese Poetry Academy (韓國漢詩學堂, 한국한시학당), and Hwang Pilhong (黃必洪, 황필홍), Philosophy Professor at Danguk University (檀國大學校, 단국대학교) and Research Professor at the Korean Classical Chinese Poetry Academy.
  • Publisher: Danguk University Publishing, 2009
  • ISBN: 978-89-7092-427-4
  • Price: 20,000 Won
  • Language: Korean (Mixed Script: most of the words written in Hanja are jargon or proper nouns)
  • Pages: 384 pages.


There still are hobbyists, albeit unfortunately graying, and professors in Korea that compose and publish Classical Chinese Poetry (漢詩, 한시, Hanshi). As such, there are few Korean books on composition. Interested in further understanding and possibly composing this form of poetry myself someday, I obtained this book and a few others. One of them was the Established Principles of Composing Classical Chinese Poetry (漢詩作法의 定石, 한시작법의 정석). The primary focus of the book is on Recent Style Poetry (近體詩, 근체시), which was the most common form of poetry during the Chosun dynasty and still the most popular among Korean hobbyist composers today.

Contents of the Book

This book is arranged into fourteen sections. Section I is the preface and explains the dire need for Classical Chinese Poetry composition studies in Korean Literature academia. (Apparently, almost no university in Korea teaches how to compose). Section II explains poetry in general. Section III gives a quick overview of the history of Classical Chinese Poetry. Section IV diagrams the structures, such as rime and meter, of various forms of Classical Chinese Poetry. Section V explicates Truncated Verse poetry (絶句, 절구, Jeolgu). Section VI gives an overview of the various rules of Regulated Poetry (律詩, 율시, Yulshi). Section VII then goes into detail about the rules concerning opposing pairs (對偶法, 대우법) in Regulated Poetry. Section VIII explains the “expression” of Classical Chinese Poetry. Section IX discusses the grammar in Tang Dynasty (唐, 당, 618-907) poems. Section X examines how to appreciate Classical Chinese Poems. Section XI gives information on what hobbyists composing should know. Section XII goes through examples of compositions. Section XIII are answers to frequently asked questions. Section XIV is the epilogue. The appendix includes a list of characters by their tone. The rest of this post will show sample pages from a few of these sections.

Hanshijeongseok 1

This is from Section IV, which explains the formulaic structure of Classical Chinese. This page summarizes the tonal meters of Recent Style Poetry (近體詩, 근체시). An empty circle (○) represents level tone (平聲, 평성); and a filled circle (●) represents an oblique tone (仄聲, 측성).

Hanshijeongseok 2

The scan above is from Section VI, which discusses the structure of Regulated Poetry (律詩, 율시). Regulated Poems are always octets, consisting of four couplets. This page diagrams the tones of a poem and gives an explanation of how its substantive content is developed.

Hanshijeongseok 3

This is from Section VII, which further elucidates Regulated Poetry and goes into detail about the Opposing Pair Rule (對偶法, 대우법). The Opposing Pair Rule specifies that the substantive contents of the middle two couplets of a Regulated Poetry must be parallel.


The first poem I can remember reading was Zhu Xi’s (朱子, 주자, Juja, 1130-1200) Poem on Promoting Learning (勸學詩, 권학시). Not knowing much, I did not recognize this or any of the other poems I had come across as poems. It was not until much later in my hobby that I learned the patterns and rules of Classical Chinese Poetry and recognized them as such. Reading how intricate these rules were made much more appreciative of these poems and the poets, who took great meticulous efforts in adhering to these rules in compositions.

There is a lot of information on the rules of Classical Chinese Poetry in the Established Principles of Composing Classical Chinese Poetry. The book may be, however, a bit intimidating as an introductory level guide. Furthermore, it seemed somewhat overly repetitive. This is not to say that repetition itself is bad: the repetitive explanations of various rules gave different perspectives and theories on them. Nonetheless, I would still recommend this book as a next step to those who already have a rudimentary understanding of Classical Chinese and would like to expand their knowledge, and eventually learn how to compose. 


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