Song Namsu – Avoiding the Heat at Geum’un Pavillion

Sunghyeon Seoweon

Sunghyeon Confucian Academy (崇賢書院, 숭현서원), located in Daejeon (大田, 대전). It was destroyed during the Japanese invasions of 1592-1598 and reconstructed in 1609 at the direction of Song Namsu. The academy fell into ruin shortly after a decree by Prince Heungseon (興宣大院君, 흥선대원군, 1820-1898, r. 1863-1873) ordering the shutdown of all private academies. It was rebuilt for the second time in 1994. (Source)

Song Namsu (宋柟壽, 송남수, 1537-1626) was a Chosun dynasty scholar, poet, and civil bureaucrat. He was of the Eunjin Song Clan (恩津宋氏, 은진송씨); his courtesy name (字, 자) was Yeongro (靈老, 영로); and his pen names (號, 호) were Songdam (松潭, 송담), Sangshimheon (賞心軒, 상심헌), and Odosan’in (吾道山人, 오도산인). In 1578, Song Namsu was appointed to a bureaucratic position based upon the attainment of office by successive generations of his ancestors (蔭仕, 음사). Afterwards, he was posted in various offices, including Chief Clerk at the Royal Clothing Office (尙衣院判官, 상의원판관), Section Chief of the Board of Taxation (郞, 호조정랑), and County Magistrate of  Imcheon (林川郡守, 임천군수). After the 1597 Japanese invasion of Korea (丁酉再亂, 정유재란), Song Namsu was accused of abandoning his post in Imcheon and fleeing from the Japanese. However, he was absolved upon appeal of his initial judgment. Regardless, for sometime after, he decided to stay out of politics and rusticate. In 1607, Song Namsu returned to government, obtaining the title of Auxiliary Military Protector in Resisting Assaults (折衝副護軍, 절충부호군), an office in charge of transporting rations for troops. In 1609, he directed the reconstruction of Sunghyeon Confucian Academy (崇賢書院, 숭현서원), which was destroyed during the invasions. Upon attaining the age of 80, Song Namsu received the title of Grand Master of Excellent Justice (?) (嘉義大夫, 가의대부). During the latter years of his life, he retired to his home village, where he composed histories and poetry.

In the poem below, Song Namsu writes about trying to ward off the summer heat. In Korea, the end of July and start of August typically see the hottest days of the year. These are marked on the calendar by the Great Heat day (大暑, 대서), which falls on July 23, and the latter two of the Three Hottest Periods (三伏, 삼복). Through the poem, he describes the vivid summer scenery around a pavilion named Geum’un Pavilion (錦雲亭, 금운정) and reflects upon his own life while drinking.

錦雲亭避暑, 示主人 금운정피서, 시주인

Avoiding the Heat at Geum’un Pavilion, Seen by the Owner

月臨山檻外 월림산함외 仄平平仄仄
花落藕塘中 화락우당중 平仄仄平平(韻)
勝境逢知己 승경봉지기 仄仄平平仄
淸樽幸不空 청준행불공 平平仄仄平(韻)

The moonlight comes down upon the mountain beyond the balustrade;
Flower petals drop into the lotus pond.
In this wondrous scenery, I meet and discover myself:
Luckily, my clear wine bottle is not yet empty.

Moon • to come down • mountain • balustrade • outside
Flower • to drop • lotus • pond • amid
Wondrous • place • to meet • to know • oneself
Clear • wine bottle • fortuitously • not • to be empty

林月向人明 림월향인명 平仄仄平平(韻)
荷香透檻淸 하향투함청 平平仄仄平(韻)
肝腸托樽酒 간장탁준주 平平平平仄
一笑話平生 일소화평생 仄仄仄平平(韻)

The forest’s moon turns towards mankind, shimmering.
The lotus’ fragrance surpasses the balustrade’s distinctiveness.
Entrusting my liver and innards to my bottle of wine,
With one burst of laughter, I have conversed all my life.

Forest • moon • to face • man • bright
Lotus • fragrance • to pass through • balustrade • distinct
Liver • innards • to entrust • wine bottle • wine
One • laughter • to converse • all • life


  • Two pentasyllabic truncated verses (五言絶句, 오언절구). The riming character (韻, 운) of first verse is 東(동) and of the second verse is 庚(경). The first verse complies with the rules of recent style poetry (近體詩, 근체시). Furthermore, the second verse does not comply: the fourth line, the second and fourth character are of the same tone. In addition, ending in a riming character in the first line of a pentasyllabic poem is generally rare. (This sudden and perhaps intentional break in form in the second verse may be an indication of the poet’s inebriated state.)
  • 錦雲亭(금운정) – It seems that there have been a number of pavilions with the same name, including two that are still existent. It is uncertain which one Song Namsu is referring to.
  • Korean translation of the poem available here (한국어번역).
  1. riroriro said:

    Sorry , in 3rd line : 知 己 is a binome , meaning assuredly soulmate ,most intimate friend

    • 歸源 said:

      That is a possible interpretation.

      On another note, what do you mean by bionome here? Do you mean 連綿詞? If so, it is not.

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