Jang Yu – Mid-Autumn Moon

Full Moon

Jang Yu (張維, 장유, 1587-1638) was a Chosun dynasty civil bureaucrat and father of Queen Inseon (仁宣王后, 인성왕후, 1619-1674), one of the queen consorts of King Hyojong (孝宗, 효종, 1619-1659, r. 1649-1659). He was of the Deoksu Jang Clan (德水張氏, 덕수장씨); his courtesy name (字, 자) was Jiguk (持國, 지국); his pen names (號, 호) were Gyegok (谿谷, 계곡) and Mukso (默所, 묵소); and his posthumous name (諡, 시) was Munchung (文忠, 문충). Jang Yu began his political career when he passed the civil service examination in 1609, and rose through the ranks. A few years later in 1612, he was forced out of office due to his implication in the arrest of another bureaucrat. But he was not completely out of politics. In 1623, he participated in the Injo Restoration (仁祖反正, 인조반정) that usurped Prince Gwanghae (光海君, 광해군, 1575-1641, r. 1608-1623) and placed King Injo (仁祖, 인조, 1559-1649, r. 1623-1649) on the throne. For this, Jang Yu was placed back into government positions. During the First Manchu Invasions of 1627 (丁卯胡亂, 정묘호란), he accompanied King Injo as they fled the capital to Ganghwa Island, off the western coast of Korea. During the next Manchu Invasion in 1636 (丙子胡亂, 병자호란), despite being of the pro-Ming faction that brought King Injo to power, Jang Yu advocated for peace with the Manchus. In 1637, Jang Yu was promoted to Right State Councillor (右議政, 우의정) but retired soon thereafter. He died from exhaustion after holding funeral rites for his mother in 1638.

As for his erudition, Jang Yu was well-versed in a number of fields, ranging from astronomy to military strategy. Moreover, unlike most Korean Confucians, who were followers of Zhu Xi (朱子學, 주자학), Jang Yu found value in learning from the Yangming School (陽明學, 양명학) of Neo-Confucian thought. He was also esteemed for his literary talents, and is considered one of four masters (四大家, 사대가) of Classical Chinese of the Chosun middle period. In the poem below, Jang Yu describes the moonlit night scenery of the Mid-Autumn Festival (仲秋節, 중추절) or Chuseok (秋夕, 추석). This festival falls on the fifteenth day of full moon of the eighth month on the lunar calendar, which is September 27 on the Gregorian calendar this year, and is one of the major holidays in Korea.

中秋月 중추월

Mid-Autumn Moon

今夜中秋月 금야중추월 平仄平平仄
高開萬里雲 고개만리운 平平仄仄平(韻)
遙空添爽氣 요공첨상기 平平平仄仄
列宿掩繁文 렬수엄번문 仄仄仄平平(韻)
蟾兎初誰見 섬토초수견 平仄平平仄
山河乍可分 산하사가분 平平仄仄平(韻)
茅齋看不厭 모재간불염 平平平仄仄
凉影坐紛紜 량영좌분운 平仄仄平平(韻)

Tonight, the mid-autumn moon
Opens from high the ten thousand li clouds.
The distant emptiness adds to the crisp air;
Arranged constellations cover splendid colors.
Who first saw the toad and hare?
The mountains and rivers for a brief moment can be told apart.
From my thatched-roof house, I watch without annoyance:
The moonlit shadows by themselves swaying and shaking.


Today • night • middle • autumn • moon
High • to open • ten thousand • li • clouds
Afar • emptiness • to add • cool • mood
Arranged • constellation • to cover • splendid • patterns
Toad • hare • first • who • to see
Mountains • rivers • briefly • to be able • to divide
Reed • shack • to watch • not • to be vexed
Thin • shadow • to sit • to be intricate • to be complicated


  • Pentasyllabic regulated poem (五言律詩, 오언율시). Riming characters (韻, 운) is 文(문).
  • 蟾兎(섬토) – Literally “toad” and “hare.” Refers to surface features on the Moon.
  • 茅齋(모재) – Refers to a house or shack with a roof made of reeds (띳집).
  • 凉影(양영) – Refers to shadows of objects lit by the moonlight.
  • 紛紜(분운) – Riming binome (雙韻連綿詞, 쌍운 연면사) meaning “to be noisy and complicated” or “to be intricate and complex.”
  • Korean translation available here.
  1. Sean L said:

    I think 宿 is pronounced 수 when referring to constellations like in 星宿(성수)

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