Jeong Manjo (鄭萬朝, 정만조, 1858-1936) was a late Chosun dynasty bureaucrat and colonial era historian and scholar. He was born in Seoul into the Dongrae Jeong Clan (東萊鄭氏, 동래정씨); his courtesy name (字, 자) was Daegyeong (大卿, 대경); and his pen name (號, 호) was Mujeong (茂亭, 무정). In 1889, he passed the civil service examination and arose quickly through the ranks, becoming the Third Minister of the Six Ministries (參議, 참의) by 1894. In 1896, however, Jeong Manjo was implicated in the assassination of Empress Myeongseong (明成皇后, 명성황후, 1851-1895), and was sentenced to a 15 year banishment to Jindo (珍島, 진도), an island off the southwestern corner of the Korean peninsula. While in exile, Jeong Manjo established a Confucian school (書堂, 서당) to teach Confucian classics to the locals (including the painter above). He was released early from his banishment in 1907 by the Japanese. He was soon reinstated to what remained of the Chosun bureaucracy as the First Counselor at the Gyujanggak (奎章閣副提學, 규장각부제학), and tasked with compiling a history titled The Precious Mirror of Succeeding Dynasties (國朝寶鑑, 국조보감) for the reigns of King Heonjong (憲宗, 헌종, 1827-1849, r. 1834-1849) and Cheoljong (哲宗, 철종, 1831-1863, r. 1849-1863). When Korea was annexed in 1910, the Japanese colonial general-government (朝鮮總督府, 조선총독부) offered him positions in the Office of Managing the Rites of the Yi Dynasty (李王職典祀官, 이왕직전사관), Central Directorate (中樞院, 중추원), and the Chosun History Compilation Committee (朝鮮史編修會, 조선사편수회). As part of the History Compilation Committee, Jeong Manjo was tasked with compiling the records of Emperors Gojong (高宗, 고종, 1852-1919, r. 1897-1907) and Sunjong (純宗, 순종, 1874-1926, r. 1907-1910) to lend legitimacy to Japan’s occupation of the peninsula. He also later became a professor at Keijou Imperial University (京城帝國大學, 경성제국대학) (now Seoul National University) and the Director (大提學, 대제학) at the Institute of Confucian Classics Studies (經學院, 경학원), an association of pro-Japanese Confucian scholars.
While Jeong Manjo is formally recognized by a Korean government commission responsible for investigating colonial era activities as a pro-Japanese collaborator, like many other collaborators, some of his works are still considered valuable. He excelled at Classical Chinese, especially in composing poetry and a specific type of prose known as four-six character lines (四六文, 사륙문 or 駢儷文, 변려문). During his exile in Jindo, Jeong Manjo composed a poetry collection detailing the customs of the islanders titled The Kind Waves’ Drippy Brush (恩波濡筆, 은파유필). In the poem below, he describes the scenery of the island and its people during the Dano Festival (端午, 단오). It falls on the fifth day of the fifth month on the Lunar Calendar, which is June 20 this year on the Gregorian Calendar. While seldom celebrated today, the festival is associated with various traditional Korean customs including women washing their hair in water that was boiled with sweet flags (菖蒲, 창포), which is hinted below.
家家楊柳彩繩飛 가가양류채승비 平平平仄仄平平(韻)
隊隊菖蒲寶髻輝 대대창포보계휘 仄仄平平仄仄平(韻)
映街紫奈朱櫻實 영가자내주앵실 仄平仄仄平平仄
烘日香羅細葛衣 홍일향라세갈의 平仄平平仄仄平(韻)
此鄕不識繁華好 차향불식번화호 仄平仄仄平平仄
遠客飜疑節序違 원객번의절서위 仄仄平平仄仄平(韻)
出色石榴花一樹 출색석류화일수 仄仄仄平平仄仄
短墻西甬對斜暉 단장서용대사휘 仄平平仄仄平平(韻)
House by house, the willows’ beautiful twines fly;
Bunch by bunch, the sweet flags’ precious topknots gleam.
Covering the streets are purple crab apples and red cherry trees’ fruits;
Shimmering in the sun are fragrant silks and thin arrowroot clothe.
These villagers do not know how to indulge in luxuries;
Travelers from afar fall flat in confusion over their etiquette transgressions.
The streaming, colorful pomegranate flowers on one tree,
Along the street bounded by low walls on the west, face the inclining sunshine.
House • house • willows • willows • color • string • fly
Group • group • iris • iris • treasure • topknot • shine
Cover • streets • purple • crab apples • red • cherry tree • fruits
Shimmer • sun • fragrant • silk • thin • arrowroot • clothe
This • village • not • know • luxury • extravagance • enjoy
Distant • traveler • fall • confuse • order • order • transgress
Special • color • stone • pomegranate • flower • one • tree
Short • wall • west • street • face • aslant • sunshine
- Heptasyllabic regulated poem (七言律詩, 칠언율시). Riming character (韻, 운) is 微(미). The poem generally complies with the rules of recent style poetry (近體詩, 근체시), except for the loss of inversion and adhesion rules (反粘法, 반점법) between the first and second and between the second and third couplets (失粘, 실점 or 失簾, 실렴). The second character of each line is: 平/仄/平/仄/平/仄/仄/平. The inversion and adhesion rules were not considered set-in-stone rules until the late Tang dynasty period, and most poems from pre- and early Tang dynasty times did not follow them. Regardless, there are many examples after this period.
- 甬(용) – The character by itself refers to a street surrounded by walls.
- Korean translation available here.
- Korean newspaper article on Jeong Manjo’s legacy here.