Cha Jwail (車佐一, 차좌일, 1753-1809) was a Chosun dynasty poet and petty official. He was of the Yeon’an Cha Clan (延安車氏, 연안차씨); his courtesy name (字, 자) was Sukjang (叔章, 숙장); and his pen name (號, 호) was Samyeongja (四名子, 사명자). It was said his mother saw the Chinese poet He Zhizhang (賀知章, 하지장, Ha Jijang, 659-744) in a dream, shortly before she conceived him, and Cha Jwail created his courtesy and pen names based on this. Although he was well versed in Classical Chinese, he was stuck in a petty, low-ranking official in the military called the Manho (萬戶, 만호), because he was born into an illegitimate line. For this reason, he resented the Chosun government going as far as to say “In all my next lives, I do not want to be a person of this country [ever again]” (世世生生, 不願爲本邦人也 / 세세생생, 불원위본방인야). As a petty official, he lived a fairly impoverished life, and went into despair after his sons died at premature ages. Cha Jwail was also one of the leading poets at the non-aristocratic poets’ circle known as the Songseokweon Shisa (宋石園詩社, 송석원시사). From 1786 to 1818, the circle met in what is now Ok’indong (玉仁洞, 옥인동) in Seoul at the base of Mount Inwang (仁王山, 인왕산). Members of the circle also taught Chinese classics and poetry to commoners, merchants, and members of the Chung’in Class (中人, 중인). Today, the only remnant of the circle’s meeting place is a plaque and an engraving on the side of a cliff indicating the former grounds. As for a contemporary depiction, the painting above is Kim Hongdo’s (金弘道, 김홍도, 1754-1806) Painting of a Soiree at Songseokweon Shisa (松石園詩社夜宴圖, 송석원시사야연도).
Seeing a Scroll in the Morning at Songseok
A poem is able to become one scroll;
Wine also is passed around three times.
Lying down sick is to be like Hyeon An (玄晏, 현안);
Breaking promises brings shame to the end of my life.
The valley’s ice are thousand pieces of white;
The mountain’s moon is ten-fold bright.
Quietly contemplating about the meaning of the gathering of sages,
I very much realize Noja’s (老子, 노자) compassion.
Poem • to be able • to form • one • scroll
Wine • too • to pass around • three • travels
To lie down • to be sick • to be same • surname • name
To break • promises • to be ashamed of • tail-end • life
Valley • ice • thousand • pieces • white
Mountain • moon • ten • parts • bright
Quietly • to think • group • sages • meaning
Very much • to know • name • honorific title • compassion
- 玄晏(현안, Hyeon An, 215-282) – In Mandarin, Xian Yan. Refers to Huangfu Mi (皇甫 謐 , 황보 밀, Hwangbo Mil), who was a Chinese physician and scholar during the Three Kingdoms Period (三國時代, 삼국시대, 220-280). He was said to be lazy and stupid during his youth. At the age of 20, he decided to start devote himself to studying and reading, while working as a poor farmer. Sometime later, he was struck with a disease and decided to read medicinal books to attempt to cure himself. Huangfu Mi later wrote historical chronicles.
- 澗(간) – Refers to a stream flowing through mountains.
- 老子(노자, Noja, ?-?) – Refers to Laozi, the founder of Taoism.
- 차좌일(18세기)-아침에 송석원 시사의 축을 보다 (Korean translation)