Yu Heuigyeong – Presented to Gyeryang


Yu Heuigyeong (劉希慶, 유희경, 1545-1636) was a Chosun dynasty poet. He was of the Ganghwa Yu Clan (江華劉氏, 강화유씨); his courtesy name (字, 자) was Eunggil (應吉, 응길); and his pen name (號, 호) was Chon’eun (村隱, 촌은). He was originally of the slave caste (賤民, 천민), although he later became a freed commoner and eventually a high-ranking literati bureaucrat. As a child, Yu Heuigyeong was known for his filial piety (孝, 효). After his father passed away when Yu Heuigyeong was 13, he mourned by his father’s grave all day and refused to leave it. His neighbors, pitying him, built a mud hut next the grave for him to stay. Furthermore, when his mother became ill, he attended to her day and night. Later on, Yu Heuigyeong became a disciple of Nam Eon’gyeong (南彦經, 남언경, ?-?), a literati bureaucrat, and learned Chinese Classics under his tutelage. He became particularly interested in Confucian mourning rites (喪禮, 상례). He also a member of the non-aristocratic poet’s circle known as the Pungweolhyangdo (風月香徒, 풍월향도), and a friend of Baek Daebung (白大鵬, 백대붕, ?-1592), who was also of that circle. In 1590, Yu Heuigyeong met a well-known courtesan (妓生, 기생) named Yi Maechang (李梅窓, 이매창, 1573-1610) in Bu’an (扶安, 부안) in modern day North Jeolla Province (全羅北道, 전라북도). Yi Maechang had already heard of Yu Heuigyeong. They both fell in love with each other, and corresponded in poetry. The following is one of their correspondences:

贈癸娘 증계량

Presented to Gyeryang

我有一仙藥 아유일선약
能醫玉頰嚬 능의옥협빈
深藏錦囊裏 심장금낭리
欲與有情人 욕여유정인

I have one magical elixir.
It can cure a jade cheek’s frown.
Having stored it deep inside my silk pocket,
I intend to give to a lover.

I • to have • one • magical • drug
To be able • to cure • jade • cheek • frown
Deep • to store • silk • pocket • inside
To intend • to give • one • love • person

    • 玉頰(옥협) – Literally “jade cheek.” Refers to the countenance of a beautiful woman.

贈別 증별

Presented While Departing

我有古奏箏 아유고진쟁
一彈百感生 일탄백감생
世無知此曲 세무지차곡
遙和緱山笙 요화구산생

I have an old Jin Jaeng (奏箏, 진쟁).
One pluck, and a hundred feelings arise.
In the world, there is no one that knows this tune.
From afar, reply to the Saeng (笙,생) on Mount Gu (緱山, 구산).

I • to have • old • Jin • Jaeng
One • to pluck • hundred • feelings • to arise
World • to not have • to know • this • tune
Afar • to reply • Gu • Mountain • Saeng

    • 奏箏(진쟁) – A type of plucked zither. Also called Gujaeng (古箏, 고쟁) or Jaeng (箏,쟁). During the Song (宋, 송, 960-1279) and Tang Dynasty (唐, 당, 618-907), it had 13 strings. Later on, there were versions of the instrument with 16, 18, 21, and 25 strings.
    • 笙(생) – A reed wind instrument with 17 pipes. Also called Saenghwang (笙簧, 생황).
    • 緱山(구산) – Mount Goushi (緱氏山, 구씨산, Guss’isan) or Guoling (緱嶺, 구령, Guryeong) is located in Yanxi County (偃師縣, 언사현,  Eonsa Hyeon) of Henan Province (河南省, 하남성, Hanam Seong). The mountain is frequently mentioned in Classical Chinese poetry because of an event from the life of King Ling of Zhou’s (周靈王, 주영왕, ?-545BC) son and heir Jin (晉, 진, Jin). After he directly reproved the King, Jin was made a commoner. He then decided to become an apprentice of the Taoist hermit Fuqiu Ba (浮丘伯, 부구백, Bugu Baek, ?-?) and lived in seclusion on Mount Goushi. This is recorded in the Collected Biographies of the Immortals (列仙傳, 열선전), a collection of hagiographies of Taoist hermits:

王子喬者, 周靈王太子晉也. 好吹笙, 作鳳凰鳴.
왕자교자, 주령왕태자진야. 호취생, 작봉황명.

Wangzi Qiao (王子喬, 왕자교, Wangja Gyo) is King Ling of Zhou’s heir Jin. [He] enjoyed playing the Sheng (笙, 생) (Mandarin name for the same instrument), making the songs of a phoenix.

游伊洛之間, 道士浮丘公接以上嵩高山三十餘年.
유윤락지간, 도사부구공접이상숭고산삼십여년.

He wandered about between [the cities of] Yin (伊, 윤, Yun) and Lou (洛, 락, Rak). The Taoist scholar Fuqui met [him] and ascended Mount Songgao (嵩高山, 숭고산, Sunggo San) [and resided there] for thirty some years.

後求之於山上, 見桓良曰: “告我家 ,七月七日待我於緱氏山巔.”
후구지어산상, 견황량왈: “고아가, 칠월칠일대아어구씨산령.”

Afterward, [Jin] requested to go to the mountain top. As he saw Huanliang (桓良, 환량, Hwanryang), he said, “Inform my house to await me on the 7th day of the 7th month at Mount Goushi’s peak.”

至時, 果乘白鶴駐山頭, 望之不得到. 舉手謝時人, 數日而去.
지시, 과승백학주산두, 만지불득도. 거수사시인, 수일이거.

When that time arrived, indeed they rode a white crane and stopped by the mountaintop. They gazed at them, thanking the people of that time. Many days [passed] and they left.

亦立祠於緱氏山下, 及嵩高首焉.
역립사어구씨산하, 급숭고수언.

Also, they erected shrines below Mount Goushi and at the top of [Mount] Songgao.

Unfortunately, their time together was short. When Yu Heuigyeong returned to Seoul in 1592, the Japanese started their invasion of Korea (壬辰倭亂, 임진왜란, 1592-1598). He joined an irregular righteous army (義兵, 의병) and fought against the Japanese. After the war, he was lauded by King Seonjo (宣朝, 선조, 1552-1608, r. 1567-1608) for his efforts and was manumitted. A few years later, for revealing embezzlement at the Ministry of Finance (戶曹, 호조), Yu Heuigyeong was awarded the high-ranking bureaucratic position of Tongjeongdaebu (通政大夫, 통정대부). Fifteen years after their first meeting, he eventually was reunited with Yi Maechang in 1607. Unfortunately, she passed away just three years later in 1610.


  1. 笙 many be translated as “panpipes”
    鳴 = “to crow”, “to cry”, “to chirp”, etc, it is best translated as “to sing” when used in conjunction with the phoenix. “to crow” is to insult the dignity of this creature.

    • 歸源 said:

      When I first saw what a 笙 was, I thought about pan flute, but that seemed slightly inaccurate.

      As for 鳴, I will change “to sing.”

      • Yes, they are both different in design. One is flat from ancient Greece and the Chinese is curved like a phoenix and hence why it is so important in ancient Chinese music. Chinese love form and allusions. By the way, the panpipes were supposed to be invented by the Goddess Athena. However, she threw it away because it made her look ugly in her puffy cheeks when she played it. Then Satyr found it and as he liked it. Hence in western art, you see them with the pipes.

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