Shin Heum – Songs of the Rice Paddy Families


Shin Heum (申欽, 신흠, 1566-1628) was a literati bureaucrat of the Chosun dynasty. He was of the Pyeongsan Shin Clan (平山申氏, 평산신씨); his courtesy name (字, 자) was Gyeongsuk (敬叔, 경숙); his pen names (號, 호) were Hyeonheon (玄軒, 현헌), Sangchon (象村, 상촌), Hyeon’ong (玄翁, 현옹), and Bang’ong (放翁, 방옹). He passed his first civil examination test in 1585, and served on various bureaucratic posts. When the Japanese invaded in 1592, he served as an aid to the military. After the war in 1601, he was awarded the high position of Gaseondaebu (嘉善大夫, 가선대부) in the Ministry of Arts (藝文館, 예문관) for compiling all the annotations for the Annals of the Spring and Autumn Period (春秋諸氏傳, 춘추제씨전).

In the poem below, Shin Heum commemorates the First Moon Festival, or Jeongweol Daeboreum (正月大–, 정월대보름), which is equivalent to the Chinese Lantern Festival. Culinary customs on this day include eating Yakshik (藥食, 약식), nuts, and five-grain meal (五穀-, 오곡밥), which is alluded below. Other customs include: drinking alcohol to the point of making one ear’s hear “brighter” or “better” (귀밝이술 or 耳明酒, 이명주), lighting a canister with sweet potato inside and spinning it around, and burning a pile of wood in anticipation of the full moon (달집태우기), as depicted above.

田家謠 전가요

Songs of the Rice Paddy Families

月高高田熟 월고고전숙
(田家占正月十五日月生高低, 占一年農祥)
(전가점정월십오일월생고저, 점일년농상)
月低低田穰 월저저전양
今年占新月 금년점신월
高低無不當 고저무부당

When the moon is high, the higher rice paddies will ripen;
(Farmers read fortunes on the fifteenth day of the first month based on whether the moon rises high or low and foretell whether that year’s harvest will be auspicious).
When the moon is low, the lower rice paddies will thrive.
This year, we read fortunes based on the new moon:
High or low, nothing will be not right.

Moon • high • high • rice paddy • to be ripe
(Rice paddy • family • to tell fortune • new year • month • ten • five • day • moon • to rise • high • low • to tell fortune • one • year • farming • auspicious)
Moon • low • low • rice paddy • to thrive
Now • year • to tell fortune • new • moon
High • low • to have not • not • to be right

翁婦喜且慶 옹부희차경
蹈舞迎休祥 도무영휴상
亥日燻豕喙 해일훈시훼
子日焚鼠腸 자일분서장

Father-in-laws and daughter-in-laws being happy celebrate;
They jump dancing, welcoming the beautiful sign.
On the days marked “Hae” (亥日, 해일), they roast the heads of pigs.
On the days marked “Ja” (子日, 자일), they burn the entrails of rats.

Old man • young woman • to be happy • and • happy occasion
To jump • to dance • to welcome • beautiful • sign
Pig • day • to roast • pigs • beaks
Rat • day • to burn • rat • innards

  • 休祥(휴상) – A beautiful portent or sign, foretelling the future.
  • 亥日(해일) and 子日(자일) – Refers to the Earthly Branches (地支, 지지), which are rat (子,자), ox (丑,축), tiger (寅,인), rabbit (卯,묘), dragon (龍,용), snake (巳,사), horse (午,오), lamb (羊,양), monkey (申,신), rooster (酉,유), and pig (亥,해).

芒苗祛螟蠹 망묘거명두
場圃除災殃 장포제재앙
汚邪與甌窶 오사여구구
五穀盈倉箱 오곡영창상

From the rice husks and barley, they pluck out planthoppers and moths.
On the yard’s garden, they have removed calamitous portents.
From filthy grounds and poor bowls,
Five types of grains fill the storage bins.

Rice husks • barley • to pluck out • planthoppers • moths
Yard • garden • to remove • disaster • calamity
Dirty • evil • and • small bowl • poor
Five • grains • to fill • storage • bin

  • 場圃(장포) – Literally “yard and garden.” Refers to “threshing ground” in the yard of a house.
  • 汚邪(오사) – Literally, “dirty and evil.” Can refer to “dirty and improper work” or “sunken in place.”
  • 窶 – Has two pronunciations. When pronounced 구, it is interpreted as “to be poor” (가난하다); when pronounced 루, it is interpreted as “a place that is high but narrow.”

滿腹志願畢 만복지원필
身外莫思量 신외막사량

The will and wish of filling a stomach is complete;
Outside the body, there is no need to think and count.

To fill • stomach • volition • wish • to complete
Body • outside • nothing • to think • to count

  1. Always interesting stuff, Kuiwon. However, where did you get the story about 耳明酒 (이명주)? In Korean 耳明 would translate as 귀가 밝다, which means “to have sharp hearing.” Since it is alcohol that is drank on the morning of the first moon festival, it seems it would be referring to alcohol that wakes up your ears rather than to alcohol that makes your ears red. 붉다, not 밝다, is the Korean word for red.

    • 歸源 said:

      Actually, on second reading I misinterpreted. Some of the other Hanja words are: 명이주(明耳酒)·총이주(聰耳酒)·치롱주(治聾酒)·청이주(聽耳酒). This would be closer to your interpretation.

    • Ignore my second post, Kuiwon. I wrote it before seeing your second reply.

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