Song Luo (宋犖, 송락, 1634-1713) was a Qing dynasty (淸, 청, 1644-1912) bureaucrat, calligrapher, and poet. He was born in Shangqiu (商丘, 상구) in Henan Province (河南省, 하남성); his courtesy name was Muzhong (牧仲, 목중); and his pen names (號, 호) were Mantang (漫堂, 만당), Xipi (西陂, 서파), Mianjinshan Ren (綿津山人, 면진산인), Xipi Laoren (西陂老人, 서파노인), and Xipi Fangyaweng (西陂放鴨翁, 서파방압옹). He was the son of Song Quan (宋權, 송권, 1598-1652), an official who served both the Ming and Qing dynasties. By his father’s recommendation to the court, Song Luo was able to attain a government position without having taken the civil service examination. He served various roles in the Qing dynasty government, including the Magistrate of Huangzhou (黃州通判, 황주통판), Inspector-General of Jiangsu (江蘇巡撫, 강소순무), Minister of Civil Service Affairs (吏部尚書, 이부상서), and Tutor to the Crown Prince (太子少師, 태자소사). From an early age, he is said to have enjoyed the classics and excelled at poetry. During his career, he composed poems with the top Chinese poets of his time and wrote critiques of Tang and Song dynasty poets.
In the poem below, Song Luo writes about the “peonies of Chosun,” which do not refer to actual peonies but to a flower known as bleeding hearts (錦囊花, 금낭화 or 荷包牡丹) that are native to not only Korea but also Japan and northern China. He also alludes to the Grain Rain Day (穀雨, 곡우). As a solar term, the Grain Rain Day falls on April 20 or 21 every year and marks when the Sun is between the celestial longitude of 30 to 45 degrees. It is also supposed to mark the days that see the most rain in spring.
The Peonies of Chosun
The flowers and leaves vividly and distinctly open leaning against the rails.
From the Grain Rain Day, they boast their fragrant figure.
As the Shenxiang Pavilion (沈香亭, 침향정) becomes warm, the branches have completely changed;
With the Yalu River (鴨綠江, 압록강) emptied, the seeds are quickly dispersed.
Flower buds, surpassing rouge in brilliance, brighten the rain-cleared day;
Grain ears, separating into tassels, sway in the light breeze.
Attentively and cautiously, I cut one of these, intense with the colors of spring.
Chao Yun (朝雲, 조운, 1062-1095) must be made acquainted with this marvel.
Flowers • leaves • vivid • vivid • side • rails • to open
Grammatical particle • from • grain • rain • to compete • fragrant • form
To soak • fragrance • pavilion • warm • branch • entirely • to change
Duck • green • river • empty • seeds • quickly • to move
Buds • to lose • rouge • limbs • to brighten • rain-clear • day
Ears • to divide • string • jade • to sway • light • breeze
Quietly • subtly • once • cut • to become dense • spring • colors
Must • to make • morning • clouds • to know • this • new thing
- Heptasyllabic regulated poem (七言律詩, 칠언율시). Riming character (韻, 운) is 支(기).
- 沈香亭(침향정) – Refers to Shenxiang Pavilion, a pavilion that stood east of Xingqing Pond (興慶池, 흥경지) in the Tang dynasty royal palace during the reign of Emperor Xuanzong of Tang (唐玄宗, 당 현종, 685-762, r. 712-756). Several types of flowers were planted there.
- 朝雲(조운) – Refers to a concubine of the Song dynasty poet Su Shi (蘇軾, 소식, 1037-1101).
- Korean translation available here.