Kim Deukryeon – In Canada Riding a Steam Locomotive

Kim Deukryeon in Russia

Kim Deukryeon (金得鍊, 김득련, 1852-1930) (pictured in the middle of the bottom row) was a translator officer (譯官, 역관). He was of the Ubong Kim Clan (牛峰金氏, 우봉김씨); his courtesy name (字, 자) was Yun’gu (允九, 윤구); and his pen name (號, 호) was Chunpa (春坡, 춘파). The Ubong Kim Clan was known for its long line of translators starting from the 17th century. Translators were a part of the skilled Chung’in (中人, 중인) class, which was below the aristocratic Yangban (兩班, 양반) class but above free commoner (良民, 양민) class. From 1895 to 1896, Kim Deukryeon was part of a diplomatic delegation along with Min Yeonghwan (閔泳煥, 민영환, 1861-1905), Kim Do’il (金道一, 김도일, ?-?), Yun Chiho (尹致昊, 윤치호, 1865-1945). Each had different language abilities: Kim Deukryeon knew Classical Chinese and Mandarin; Min Yeonghwan also knew Classical Chinese; Kim Do’il had emigrated to Russia and knew the language, and did not know Chinese Characters; and Yun Chiho had studied in America and knew English. Together, they traveled around world visiting China, Japan, Canada, United States, England, Germany, and Russia. They had intended to attend Tsar Nicholas II’s (1868-1918, r. 1894-1917) coronation ceremony, but the Korean and Chinese delegations were denied admittance because of their refusal to take off their hats. After his return, in 1867 Kim Deukryeon published the 120 plus poems that he wrote during his travels in a book titled Hwan’gueumcho (環璆唫艸, 환구음초). The following is from that work and is his description of riding a steam engine train through Canada.

坎拿大乘火輪車向東行九千餘里
감나대승화륜차향동행구천여리

In Canada, Riding a Steam Locomotive Towards the East Travelling for 9000 Plus Li

汽輪駕鐵迅如飛 기륜가철신여비
行止隨心少不違 행지수심소불위
透理何人知此法 투리하인지차법
泡茶一葉創神機 포차일엽창신기

The steam wheels ride the iron, fast as if flying;
Travelling and halting, they follow their own mind, not even slightly faltering.
Having mastered the theory, what kind of person realized this method?
Bubbling the tea’s one leaf has created a divine machine.

Steam • wheel • to ride • iron • to be quick • like • to fly
To travel • to halt • to follow • mind • few • not • to fail
To pierce • logic • what • person • to know • this • method
Bubbles • tea • one • leaf • to invent • divine • device

Notes:

  • 坎拿大(감나대) – “Gamnadae” is Canada phonetically transliterated using Hanja.
  • 火輪車(화륜차) – Literally, “fire wheel carriage.” Refers to a steam train.
  • 九千餘里(구천여리) – 1 Li (里,리) is about 394m (0.24 miles). 9000 Li is about 3537km (2197 miles).
  • 泡茶一葉創神機(포차일엽창신기) – Possible reference to James Watt, whose invention of the steam engine is said to have been inspired by a boiling tea kettle.

Source:

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