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Jeong Yak’yong (丁若鏞 정약용)

Mount Baekbyeong (Source)

Mount Baekbyeong (白屛山, 백병산) in Gangweon Province (江原道, 강원도) (Source)

Jeong Yakyong (丁若鏞, 정약용, 1762-1836) was a late Chosun dynasty philosopher, bureaucrat, poet, and civil engineer. He was of the Naju Jeong Clan (羅州丁氏, 나주정씨); his courtesy names (字, 자) were Miyong (美鏞, 미용) and Songbo (甫, 송보); his pen names (號, 호) were Dasan (茶山, 다산), Sammi (三眉, 삼미), and Yeoyudang (與猶堂, 여유당), among several others; and his posthumous name (諡, 시) was Mundo (文度, 문도). He was born to a gentry family in Namyang (南楊, 남양) in Gyeonggi Province (京畿道, 경기도), just east of Seoul. In 1783 at the age of 21, Jeong Yakyong passed his first civil service examination. Thereafter, he continued his studies at the Sungkyunkwan (成均館, 성균관) and also rose through the bureaucratic ranks. Through his studies, he became introduced to Western Learning (西學, 서학), i.e., Catholicism, through fellow scholar Yi Byeok (李蘗, 이벽, 1754-1786). While there is no proof that Jeong Yakyong himself had ever converted, some of his close family members and friends were baptized into the Catholic Church. His associations with early Korean Catholics and with the Southerners’ Faction (南人派, 남인파) would later embroil him. Beginning in 1791, members of the rivaling Old Doctrines Faction (老論派, 노론파) started accusing him of being Catholic, an assertion that he repeatedly denied. For some time, however, Jeong Yakyong was still favored on the royal court. In 1792, for instance, already known for his knowledge of Western civil engineering techniques, he was asked to supervise the construction of Hwaseong (華城, 화성), a fortress in Suwon (水原, 수원). His fortunes changed with the Shinyu Year Persecutions (辛酉敎難, 신유교난) in 1801, when Jeong Yakyong was arrested and banished for his associations with Catholics. He was released in 1818, but remained out of politics and passed away in 1836 near Seoul. 

From an early age, Jeong Yakyong was recognized for his Classical Chinese composition. By the age of 10, he had already amassed a collection of his own poetry. During his banishment, he devoted himself to studying Confucian classics and started writing several notable works, including Remaining Thoughts on Managing the Nation (經世遺表, 경세유표) and Mind of Governing the People (牧民心書, 목민심서). It was also during this time that Jeong Yakyong wrote several Lyric Poetry or Ci (詞, 사).  The poem below was probably written when he was banished to Gangweon Province (江原道, 강원도). In it, Jeong Yakyong expresses his desire to return to his hometown.

水調歌頭 수조가두
思鄕 사향

To the Tune of Prelude to the Water Melodies:
Longing for Home

瀟洒粤溪水 소쇄월계수 平仄仄平仄
澹蕩白屛山 담탕백병산 仄仄仄平平(韻)
我家茅屋寄在 아가모옥기재 仄平平仄仄仄
煙靄杳茫間 연애묘망간 平仄仄平平(韻)
欲與雲鴻高擧 욕여운홍고거 仄仄平平平仄
怪有重巒疊嶂 괴유중만첩장 仄仄平平仄仄
不許爾同還 불허이동환 仄仄仄平平(韻)
一醉落花底 일취락화저 仄仄仄平仄
歸夢繞沙灣 귀몽요사만 平仄仄平平(韻)

Clear and pure are the waters of Weolgye (粤溪, 월계);
Placid and quiet is Mount Baekbyeong (白屛山, 백병산).
In my home, a thatched shack, I temporarily reside.
Amid the wide and expansive clouds and mist,
I would like to ascend on high with the geese of the clouds.
But strangely, there are arrayed peaks and layered cliffs,
Not permitting to return together with you.
Once inebriated, upon the bed of fallen leaves,
Dreams of returning home surround sandy bay.

  • 瀟洒(소쇄) – Alliterating binome (疊聲聯綿辭, 첩성연면사) meaning “to be clear and pure.”

釣魚子 조어자 仄平仄
塵網外 진망외 平仄仄
十分閒 십분한 仄平平(韻)
昔年何事 석년하사 仄平平仄
狂走漂泊抵衰顔 광주표박저쇠안 平仄平仄仄平平(韻)
風裏一團黃帽 풍리일단황모 平仄仄平平仄
雨外一尖靑蒻 우외일열청약 仄仄仄仄平仄
此個勝簪綸 차개승잠륜 仄仄仄平平(韻)
幾日湖亭上 기일호정상 仄仄平平仄
高枕看波瀾 고침간파란 平仄仄平平(韻)

The fishermen,
Outside the dusty world’s snare,
Are much at leisure.
In past years, for what reason,
Did they crazily run about and drift astray only to come to have senile appearances?
Within the winds, one round, yellow cap;
Exterior to the raindrops, one pointed, green reeded hat.
These items surpass hairpins and silk clothing.
For how many days, atop the lake’s pavilion,
Upon a tall pillow, will I be able to gaze the waves and billows?

  • 黃帽(황모) – Literally “yellow hat.” Refers to headgear worn by boatmen.

Notes:

  • The poem follows the tune Prelude to the Water Melodies (Shuidiao Getou). It has two verses of ninety-five characters in total (雙調九十五字). The former verse has nine lines with four plain tone rimes (前段九句四平韻). The latter verse has ten lines with four plain tone rimes (後段十句四平韻). This poem employs near rimes (通韻, 통운). All riming characters, except one, rime with the character 刪(산). The third rime of the second verse 綸(륜) rimes with the character 眞(진). As described in the Imperial Compilation of Lyric Poetry Rubrics (欽定詞譜, 흠정사보):

雙調九十五字, 前段九句四平韻, 後段十句四平韻

OOOO仄 O仄仄平平(韻) O平平仄 OO平仄仄平平(韻) O仄O平O仄 O仄O平O仄 O仄仄平平(韻) OOO平仄 O仄仄平平(韻)

OOO OO仄 仄O平(韻) O平O仄 O仄O仄仄平平(韻) O仄O平O仄 O仄O平O仄 O仄仄平平(韻) O仄O平仄 O仄仄平平(韻)

Source:

Jeong Yakyong (丁若鏞, 정약용, 1762-1836) was a late Chosun dynasty philosopher, bureaucrat, poet, and civil engineer. He was of the Naju Jeong Clan (羅州丁氏, 나주정씨); his courtesy names (字, 자) were Miyong (美鏞, 미용) and Songbo (甫, 송보); his pen names (號, 호) were Dasan (茶山, 다산), Sammi (三眉, 삼미), and Yeoyudang (與猶堂, 여유당), among several others; and his posthumous name (諡, 시) was Mundo (文度, 문도). At the age of 21, in 1783, Jeong Yakyong passed his first civil service examination. Thereafter, he continued his studies at the Sungkyunkwan (成均館, 성균관) and also rose through the bureaucratic ranks. Through his studies, he became introduced to Western Learning (西學, 서학), i.e., Catholicism, through fellow scholar Yi Byeok (李蘗, 이벽, 1754-1786). While there is no proof that Jeong Yakyong himself had ever converted, some of his close family members and friends were baptized into the Catholic Church. His associations with early Korean Catholics and more importantly with the Southerners’ Faction (南人派, 남인파) would later embroil him. Beginning in 1791, members of the rivaling Old Doctrines Faction (老論派, 노론파) started accusing him of being Catholic, an assertion that he repeatedly denied. For some time, however, Jeong Yakyong was still favored on the royal court. In 1792, for instance, already known for his knowledge of Western civil engineering techniques, he was asked to supervise the construction of Hwaseong (華城, 화성), a fortress in Suwon (水原, 수원). This changed with the start of the Shinyu Year Persecutions (辛難, 신유교난) in 1801, when Jeong Yakyong was arrested and banished for his associations with Catholics. During his banishment, he devoted himself to studying Confucian classics and started writing several notable works, including Remaining Thoughts on Managing the Nation (經世遺表, 경세유표) and Mind of Governing the People (牧民心書, 목민심서). He was released in 1818, but remained out of politics and passed away in 1836 near Seoul. 

From an early age, Jeong Yakyong was recognized for his Classical Chinese poetry. By the age of 10, he had already amassed a collection of his own poetry. Jeong Yakyong’s style was somewhat unconventional in that he explicitly disliked the strict rules of recent style poetry (近體詩, 근체시) and preferred freer archaic style poetry (古體詩, 고체시). In one particular poem from his banishment, he remarked, “I am a man of Chosun / Gleefully writing Chosun poetry” (我是朝鮮人 甘作朝鮮詩 – 아시조선인 감작조선시). This line is surprising, because he brazenly ignores conventional tonal meter. (Also note that Hangul and Korean vernacular poetry written in Hangul had existed for well over three centuries when he wrote this line.) The poem below also does not conform to the strict rules of recent style poetry. In it, he describes farmers threshing barley. In Korea, the agricultural custom of threshing the barley (–打作, 보리타작) was traditionally associated with Grain in Ear Day (芒種, 망종). As a solar term, the day marks when the Sun is between the celestial longitudes of 75 to 90 degrees and falls around June 6-7 on the western Gregorian calendar every year. Barley has a long history in Korea, as the grain was introduced to the peninsula already domesticated from either China or Central Asia sometime during prehistoric times.

打麥行 타맥행

Threshing the Barley

新芻濁酒如湩白 신추탁주여동백
大碗麥飯高一尺 대완맥반고일척
飯罷取耞登場立 반파취가등장립
雙肩漆澤飜日赤 쌍견칠택번일적

The new hay and cloudy wine are milky white;
The large bowl is with barley feed one feet high.
Having finished their meal, they grab flails and go out to stand in the yard.
Twin shoulders, lacquered with sweat, overturn in the redness of the sun.

  • 濁酒(탁주) – Literally “cloudy alcohol.” Refers to an unrefined rice wine known as Makgeolli (막걸리).

呼邪作聲擧趾齊 호아작성거지제
須臾麥穗都狼藉 수유맥수도랑자
雜歌互答聲轉高 잡가호답성전고
但見屋角紛飛麥 단견옥각분비맥

Oh, alas! Making noise, their feet are in lockstep.
For a brief moment, barley ears are stacked all over the place.
Various tunes call and answer in antiphony, with their voices becoming gradually louder.
But only seen are the barley flying scattered about upon the corner of the ceiling.

  • 須臾(수유) – Binome word (連綿辭, 연면사) meaning “briefly.”
  • 狼藉(낭자) – Binome word meaning “to be messy.”

觀其氣色樂莫樂 관기기색락막락
了不以心爲形役 료불이심위형역
樂園樂郊不遠有 락원락교불원유
何苦去作風塵客 하고거작풍진객

Having observed their complexions, they cannot be any more joyous:
In the end, they do not regard their spirits to be servile to their bodies.
The paradisaical garden and paradisaical purlieu do not exist afar.
Oh, how I agonize over having left to become a traveler amid the windblown dust!

  • 樂莫樂(낙막락) – Literally, “joy unlike joy.” Refers to extreme joy.
  • 風塵客(풍진객) – Literally, “windblown dust’s guest.” The term “windblown dust” refers to the mundane world (俗世, 속세). The phrase as a whole refers to someone in bureaucracy.
  • Heptasyllabic archaic poem (七言古詩, 칠언고시) with no riming scheme. The poem has been broken into three parts for the purposes of presentation.
  • Korean translation available here.

Naengmyeon

Jeong Yak’yong (丁若鏞, 정약용, 1762-1836) was a literati scholar and was a literati bureaucrat. He is of the Naju Jeong Clan (羅州丁氏, 나주정씨). He had a number of pen names (號, 호), the most well known of which is Dasan (茶山, 다산). His courtesy name (字, 자) was Miyong (美庸, 미용). He was interested in a variety of knowledge that was floating about his time, including philosophy, religion, maths, and sciences. Jeong Yak’yong was of the Practical Learning Movement (實學, 실학, Silhak), a school of thought in Neo-Confucianism during the Chosun Dynasty. Like many in the movement, he converted to Catholicism, known as Western Learning (西學, 서학, Seohak) at the time. He later left the Church over the issue of ancestral rites, although that did not prevent him from being exiled by the Chosun government for his links to other Korean Catholics.

In the poem below, Jeong Yak’yong lampoons Im Seong’un (林性雲, 임성운), who had been recently appointed the position of Chief Magistrate, or Dohobusa (都護府使, 도호부사), of Seoheung (瑞興, 서흥). He also describes the eating of Naengmyeon (冷麵, 냉면) at this time, which apparently was garnished with deer meat and cabbage and was enjoyed during in cooler seasons. According to the Record of the Times and Years of the Eastern Country (東國歲時記, 동국세시기), it was usually eaten during the 11th Month on the lunar calendar and was garnished with pork, and radish and cabbage Kimchi. Naengmyeon today is a dish associated with Summer and is usually garnished with beef and cucumbers.

戲贈瑞興都護林君性運 희증서흥도호임군성운

Sent As a Joke to the Chief Magistrate of Seoheung Lord Im Seong’un

瑞興都護太憨生 서흥도호태감생
曲房鎖妓如籠鸚 곡방쇄기여롱앵
金絲煙葉斑竹袋 금사연엽반죽대
倩妓燒進作風情 청기효진작풍정

The Magistrate (都護, 도호) of Seoheung (瑞興, 서흥) was born a great fool.
In his music room, he locked up Gisaeng, like a bamboo cage for parrots.
The golden threads of the smokey leaves stain his bamboo pipe.
Employing Gisaeng to start the fire, he made beautiful affection.

西關十月雪盈尺 서관십월설영척
複帳軟氍留欸客 복장연구류애객
笠樣溫銚鹿臠紅 립양온요록련홍
拉條冷麪菘菹碧 랍조랭명숭저벽

At Seogwan (西關, 서관), in October, the snow is piled a foot high.
In the overlapping curtains, within the soft blankets, to keep a resting guest:
In a conical bamboo hat shaped warm pot, heat a broth of red deer meat;
Cut branches on cold noodles (冷麪, 냉면), garnished  with blue cabbages.

聖朝恩愛屬君家 성조은애속군가
二十專城衆所嗟 이십전성중소차
三十分符至四五 삼십분부지사오
韶顔猶是半開花 소안유시반개화

From the King’s court, graces and favors gather at your house.
When you were twenty years old, you had your will over a city and the multitude’s lamentations;
Becoming thirty years old, you divide your debt notes till you’re forty or fifty.
But with your pretty face, you are still like this half-blossomed flower.

Notes:

  • Dohobusa (都護府使, 도호부사) was a title of a government post. In the Chosun Dynasty, it was the of the Jong 3 Rank (從三品, 종삼품). 
  • Seoheung (瑞興, 서흥) is in Hwanghaedo Province (黃海道, 황해도).
  • Seogwan (西關, 서관) refers to the Northwestern region of Korea, which includes Pyeong’ando (平安道, 평안도) and Hwanghaedo (黃海道, 황해도).

Characters:

  • 憨(감) – To be foolish (어리석다).
  • 籠(롱) – Bamboo basket (대바구니).
  • 鸚(앵) – Parrot (앵무새).
  • 斑(반) – To stain (아롱지다).
  • 倩(청) – To employ (고용하다).
  • 氍(구) – Blanket (담요).
  • 笠(립) – Bamboo Hat (삿갓).
  • 銚(요) – Pot (냄비).
  • 臠(련) – Minced meat (저민고기).
  • 菘(송) – Cabbage (배추).
  • 菹(저) – Cabbage (배추); Kimchi (김치).
  • 專(전) – Here, it means to have one’s way (멋대로 하다).
  • 韶(소) – A type of court music (풍류이름); To be beautiful (아름답다).