Chosun Late Period (朝鮮後期 조선후기 1637-1897)

Mecca Andreus Magnus Hunglinger

Cho Susam (趙秀三, 조수삼, 1762-1849) was a Chosun dynasty poet. He was of the Hanyang Cho Clan (漢陽趙氏, 한양조씨); his original name (本名, 본명) was Gyeongyu (景濰, 경유); his courtesy names (字, 자) were Jiweon (芝園, 지원) and Jaik (子翼, 자익); his pen names (號, 호) were Chujae (秋齋, 추재) and Gyeongweon (景畹 , 경원). He was from a skilled Chung’in class (中人, 중인) family, although he did pass the first civil examination to become a literati bureaucrat at the late age of 83. Cho Susam was one of the leading poets of the non-aristocratic poetry circle known as the Songseokweon Shisa (松石園詩社, 송석원시사). He was fascinated in the world outside Seoul and Korea. He traveled around the Korean peninsula, and wrote a series of poems detailing the toils of commoners living in Hamgyeong Province (咸鏡道, 함경도). Furthermore, Cho Susam visited Qing Dynasty China six times and became acquainted with some of the literati there. After having read Fang Yu Sheng Lue (方輿勝略, 방여승략, Bang Yeo Seung Ryak), a work written during the Ming Dynasty describing 82 countries in Asia around China, he wrote 133 poems titled the Bamboo Branch Songs on the Foreign Barbarians, or Oei Jukjisa (外夷竹枝詞, 외이죽지사). A Bamboo Branch Song or Jukjisa (竹枝詞, 죽지사) is a type of lyrical poetry (樂府, 악부) — which I am not too familiar with. The following is from that work and is Cho Susam’s impression of Mecca.

天方 천방

Direction to Heaven (Mecca)

天方一名天堂. 明宣德五年入貢, 獻天堂圖.
천방이명천당. 명선덕오년입공, 헌천당도.

“Direction to Heaven” (天方, 천방, Cheonbang) is another name for the “House of Heaven” (天堂, 천당, Cheondang). In the fifth year of his reign, Ming Emperor Xuande (宣德帝, 선덕제, Seondeokje, 1399-1435, r. 1425-1435) gave tribute and offered a painting of the “House of Heaven” (天堂圖, 천당도).

其地四時皆春, 田沃稻饒, 人以馬乳飯, 故多肥美. 俗好善無盜賊
기지사시개춘, 전요도요, 인이마유반, 고다비미. 속호선무도적.

In their lands, the four seasons are all spring. The fields are abundant; their grains are plentiful. People used horse milk as food, and therefore many are fat and beautiful. Their customary preference is [towards] the good and they have no thieves.

國內有禮拜寺, 寺分四方, 方各九十間, 白玉柱黃金地.
국내유례배사, 사분사방, 방각구십간, 백옥주황금지.

Within their country, there exists a temple for ritual prostration (worship). The temple is divided into four directions. Each direction is 90 gan (間,간) with white jade columns and a golden ground.

    • 間(간) – About 180 meters (590 ft).

地中有黑石, 云漢初天降也.
지중유흑석, 운한초천강야.

In the middle of the grounds, there is a black stone. It is said that during the early Han Dynasty (漢, 한, Han, 206 BC-220 AD) [the stone] fell down from heaven.

墻壁和薔薇龍涎水泥之. 馨香不絶, 紵絲葢罩之.
장벽화장미룡연수니지. 형향불절, 저사개조지.

The walls together with roses are stained by the fragrance of ambergris. Flowery fragrances do not end. Ramie grass threads cover them.

    • 龍涎(용연) – Refers to ambergris, which is a substance found in the digestive tract of whales used to make fragrance and perfume.
    • 葢(개) – Variant of 蓋(개).

二獅子守中門, 每歲十二月十日, 各番回回, 雖萬里之外皆來. 割罩葢一方以爲記
이사자수중문, 매세십이월십일, 각번회회, 수만리지외개래. 할조개일방이위기

Two lions guard the middle gate. Every year, on the tenth day of the twelfth month, each time, all the Muslims, even though [they reside] ten-thousand Li away, come. They cut the [ramie grass] covers and use one side as a record.

    • 回回(회회) – Refers to Muslims. The Sino-Korean word for “Islam” is 回敎(회교).

日熱常, 爲夜市, 有幕底城. 王墓夜放光. 物產纏花樹阿必糝水.
일열상, 위야시, 유막저성. 옥묘야방광. 물산전화수아필삼수.

The weather is hot always and for night markets they have a city of sand floors. The King’s tombs at night emit light. Goods produced are Jeonhwa trees (纏花樹, 전화수) and Apilsam (阿必糝, 아필삼) well waters.

    • 幕(막) – Here, means “sandy plains” (모래 벌판, 漠也).
    • 王墓(왕묘), 纏花樹(전화수), and 阿必糝(아필삼) – Descriptions of these were found in The Records of Paying Tribute in the Kingdoms of the Western Oceans (西洋朝貢典録, 서양조공전록) by Huang Xingzeng (黃省曾, 황성증, Hwang Seongjeung, 1496-1546):

城之東曰: 謨罕驀德神人之墓. 墓頂有五色光, 旦夕輝煌不絶.
성지동왈: 막한맥덕신인지묘. 묘정유오색광, 단석휘황불절.

East of the city, it says, “Mohammed (謨罕驀德, 모한맥덕), the divinely inspired man’s tomb.” At the top of the tomb, there are five colored lights. During dawn and even, [the lights] are glittering and dazzling without end.

墓後有泉, 其名阿必糝糝. 其味甘美, 其泉能息波濤.
묘후유천, 기명아필삼삼. 기미감미, 기천능식파도.

Behind the tomb, there is a spring. Its name is Abisansan (阿必糝糝, 아필삼삼, Apilsamsam). Its flavor is sweet and beautiful. The well can quiet large waves…

其花有纏枝花, 樹如大桑, 高二丈, 歲二收.
기화유전기화, 수여대상, 고이장, 세이수.

Among their flowers, there is the coiled branch flower. The tree is like a great mulberry tree. Its height is two jang (丈, 장) (about 6m or 20ft) and on its second year [can be] harvested.

天方自古號天堂 천방자고호천당
極樂圖成傳十方 극락도성전십방
春風不老纏花樹 춘풍불로전화수
幕底城中望墓光 막저성중망묘광

The “Direction of Heaven” was from long ago called the “House of Heaven.”
Their plan for paradise was formed and transmitted in ten directions.
The spring winds do not become tired of the coiled blossom trees.
In the middle of the sand floored city, there is a famed tomb’s light.

Heaven • direction • from • old times • to call • heaven • house
Extreme • joy • illustration/plan • to achieve • to transmit • ten • directions
Spring • winds • not • to be tired • to be rolled • flowers • trees
Sand • floor • city • middle • to be famous • tomb • light

    • 極樂圖(극락도) – Also refers to a painting with Buddha and his disciples.
    • 十方(십방) – Literally “ten directions.” Refers to all directions. Islam was spread to Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe.

獅子中門夜市開 사자중문야시개
何年黑石降天來 하년흑석강천래
絲籠競割馨香壁 사롱경할형향벽
歲歲回回禮拜回 세세회회례배회

At the lions in the middle gate, the night market opens.
In what year did the black stone fall and come from heaven?
Threaded baskets contend and cut the flowery fragrance wall.
Year after year, all the Muslims return for the prostration rites.

Lions • grammatical particle • door • middle • night • market • to open
What • year • black • stone • to fall • heaven • to come
Threads • bamboo basket • to be high • to cut • flowery • fragrance • wall
Year • year • Muslim • Muslim • ritual • to prostrate • to return



Songseokweon Shisa

Cha Jwail (車佐一, 차좌일, 1753-1809) was a Chosun dynasty poet and petty official. He was of the Yeon’an Cha Clan (延安車氏, 연안차씨); his courtesy name (字, 자) was Sukjang (叔章, 숙장); and his pen name (號, 호) was Samyeongja (四名子, 사명자). It was said his mother saw the Chinese poet He Zhizhang (賀知章, 하지장, Ha Jijang, 659-744) in a dream, shortly before she conceived him, and Cha Jwail created his courtesy and pen names based on this. Although he was well versed in Classical Chinese, he was stuck in a petty, low-ranking official in the military called the Manho (萬戶, 만호), because he was born into an illegitimate line. For this reason, he resented the Chosun government going as far as to say “In all my next lives, I do not want to be a person of this country [ever again]” (世世生生, 不願爲本邦人也 / 세세생생, 불원위본방인야). As a petty official, he lived a fairly impoverished life, and went into despair after his sons died at premature ages. Cha Jwail was also one of the leading poets at the non-aristocratic poets’ circle known as the Songseokweon Shisa (宋石園詩社, 송석원시사). From 1786 to 1818, the circle met in what is now Ok’indong (玉仁洞, 옥인동) in Seoul at the base of Mount Inwang (仁王山, 인왕산). Members of the circle also taught Chinese classics and poetry to commoners, merchants, and members of the Chung’in Class (中人, 중인). Today, the only remnant of the circle’s meeting place is a plaque and an engraving on the side of a cliff indicating the former grounds. As for a contemporary depiction, the painting above is Kim Hongdo’s (金弘道, 김홍도, 1754-1806) Painting of a Soiree at Songseokweon Shisa (松石園詩社夜宴圖, 송석원시사야연도).

朝見松石軸 조견송석축

Seeing a Scroll in the Morning at Songseok

詩能成一軸 시능성일축
酒亦過三行 주역과삼행
卧病同玄晏 와병동현안
違期愧尾生 위기괴미생
澗冰千片白 한빙천편백
山月十分明 산월십분명
默想羣賢意 묵상군현의
頗知老子情 파지로자정

A poem is able to become one scroll;
Wine also is passed around three times.
Lying down sick is to be like Hyeon An (玄晏, 현안);
Breaking promises brings shame to the end of my life.
The valley’s ice are thousand pieces of white;
The mountain’s moon is ten-fold bright.
Quietly contemplating about the meaning of the gathering of sages,
I very much realize Noja’s (老子, 노자) compassion.


Poem • to be able • to form • one • scroll
Wine • too • to pass around • three • travels
To lie down • to be sick • to be same • surname • name
To break • promises • to be ashamed of • tail-end • life
Valley • ice • thousand • pieces • white
Mountain • moon • ten • parts • bright
Quietly • to think • group • sages • meaning
Very much • to know • name • honorific title • compassion


  • 玄晏(현안, Hyeon An, 215-282) – In Mandarin, Xian Yan. Refers to Huangfu Mi (皇甫 謐 , 황보 밀, Hwangbo Mil), who was a Chinese physician and scholar during the Three Kingdoms Period (三國時代, 삼국시대, 220-280). He was said to be lazy and stupid during his youth. At the age of 20, he decided to start devote himself to studying and reading, while working as a poor farmer. Sometime later, he was struck with a disease and decided to read medicinal books to attempt to cure himself. Huangfu Mi later wrote historical chronicles.
  • 澗(간) – Refers to a stream flowing through mountains.
  • 老子(노자, Noja, ?-?) – Refers to Laozi, the founder of Taoism.


Kim Hongdo - Jeong Chobu

Jeong Chobu (鄭樵夫, 정초부, 1714-1789) was a Chosun Dynasty poet and of the slave class (賤民, 천민). Unlike many of the other poets who were born into the slave class, Jeong Chobu did not have a father that was of the aristocratic Yangban class (兩班, 양반) to emancipate him early in his life. His original name (本名, 본명) was Bong (鳳, 봉); his later name was Ijae (彛載, 이재). He lived near modern day Sucheong-ri (水靑里, 수청리) near Yangpyeong (楊平, 양평) in Gyeonggi Province (京畿道, 경기도), just east of Seoul. He worked in a household belonging to members of the Hamyang Yeo Clan (咸陽呂氏, 함양여씨). When he was young, Jeong Chobu first started learning Classical Chinese by peering over the shoulders of the household’s children as they were reciting. His then-master quickly recognized his aptitude in memorizing Chinese characters and had him taught Confucian classics along with the other children. One of these children was Yeo Chunyeong (呂春永, 여춘영, 1734-1812), who was twenty years his junior and later became his master. Yeo Chunyeong distributed Jeong Chobu’s poetry in Seoul. Jeong Chobu soon became well-known for his poetry and went to become one of the most famous poets of the 18th century. Members of the Yangban class regularly invited him to compose with them. One of his poems became the subject of one of Kim Hongdo’s (金弘道, 김홍도,1745-1806) painting titled Crossing the River (渡江圖, 도강도) (picture above). In 19th century and early 20th century poetry collections, his name and works appear along with those of other Yangban poets. Out of all the known slave poets of the Chosun dynasty, he has the largest amount of poetry that has survived to date.

樵夫 초부

A Woodcutter

翰墨餘生老採樵 한묵여생로채초
滿肩秋色動蕭蕭 만견추색동소소
東風吹送長安路 동풍취송장안로
曉踏靑門第二橋 효답청문제이교

The remaining life of the letters and ink in this old man is in gathering wood.
On his packed shoulders, the autumn colors sway lonely and desolate.
Winds from the east blow and are sent off to the roads of Jang’an (長安, 장안).
At dawn, he steps upon the Blue Gate’s second bridge.

Letters • ink • remaining • life • old • to gather • to cut wood
To fill • shoulders • autumn • colors • to sway • to be lonely • to be lonely
East • wind • to blow • to send • long • peace • roads
Dawn • to step • blue • gate • order • second • bridge

  • 翰墨(한묵) – Literally “letters and ink.” Can refer to a literary writer.
  • 長安(장안) – Jang’an, or in Mandarin Chang’an, was one of the major capitals in ancient China. It is now modern day Xi’an (西安, 서안, Seoan). Chosun poets referred to Seoul by this name.
  • 靑門(청문) – “Blue Gate” is the name of the south-east gate in Jang’an. Refers to the Dongdaemun (東大門, 동대문), also known as Heunginjimun (興仁之門, 흥인지문), in Seoul.

Because of Jeong Chobu’s abilities, Yeo Chunyeong recognized the injustice of his situation, lamenting that the world valued status and money over talent, and eventually burned his slave documents to emancipate him. Even after his emancipation, Jeong Chobu lived a rather squalid life, and continued cutting wood and traveled back and forth from Seoul to his village to sell wood. When Jeong Chobu passed away, Yeo Chunyeong mourned composing a number of poems for him, including the following:

詩祭樵夫文 시제초부문

Obituary Poem for the Woodcutter

黃壚亦樵否 황로역초부
霜葉雨空汀 상엽우공정
三韓多氏族 삼한다씨족
來世托寧馨 래세탁녕형

Down in the yellow clay, are there also woodcutters?
The frosted leaves rain down upon the empty riverbanks.
In the Three Han States, there are many named family clans.
In the next life, I plead that you become one of them.

Yellow • clay • also • to cut wood • or not
Frost • leaves • to rain down • empty • riverbank
Three • Han states • many • surname • family clan
Coming • world • to plead • like so • like so

  • 黃壚(황로) – Literally “yellow earth” or “yellow clay.” A Buddhist term referring to the afterlife.
  • 三韓(삼한) – Three Han States are Mahan (馬韓, 마한), Byeonhan (弁韓, 변한), and Jinhan (辰韓, 진한). Here, refers to Korea as a whole.
  • 寧馨(녕형) – Monomorphemic word (衍聲複詞, 연성복사) for “like so.” Here, refers to becoming a member of an illustrious family clan.


Hong Setae

Hong Setae (洪世泰, 홍세태, 1653-1725) was a Chosun Dynasty poet and petty bureaucrat. He was of the Namyang Hong Clan (南陽洪氏, 남양홍씨); his courtesy name (字, 자) was Dojang (道長, 도장); and his pen names (號, 호) were Changrang (滄浪, 창랑) and Yuha (柳下, 유하). His father, Hong Ikha (洪翊夏, 홍익하, ?-?) was a military official (武官, 무관); his mother, however, was a slave and the laws at the time dictated that Hong Setae be born in the slave caste (賤民, 천민). His aptitude in Classical Chinese was recognized from a young age. Sometime after, he became a freed commoner (良人, 양인). He accompanied a diplomatic trip to Japan and then passed a service exam to be a translator official (譯官, 역관). Hong Setae was so renowned for his poetry that he was promoted to a low-rank bureaucratic office. In addition, his works were not only known in Japan, but also in Qing Dynasty China: when a Chinese diplomat asked to see Korean poetry, the State Councilor (左議政, 좌의정) Choi Seokjeong (崔錫鼎, 최석정, 1646-1715) recommended Hong Setae’s poems to King Sukjong (肅宗, 숙종, 1661-1720, r. 1674-1720), who stated that he already knew of his poetry and approved the selection. As someone not from an aristocratic background, Hong Setae described the plight of commoners often in his poems. Despite his promotions, he did not have a very fortunate life: all of his children died at a premature age as hinted in the poem below.

鹽谷七歌 염곡칠가

Seven Songs of Yeomgok

其一 기일

First Song

有客有客字道長 유객유객자도장
自謂平生志慨忼 자위평생지개강
讀書萬卷何所用 독서만권하소용
遲暮雄圖落草莽 지모웅도락초망
誰敎騏驥伏鹽車 수교기기복염차
太行山高不可上 태항산고불가상
嗚呼一歌兮歌欲發 오호일가혜가욕발
白日浮雲忽陰結 백일부운홀음결

There is a guest! There is a guest! His courtesy name is Dojang.
By himself he says that all his life his will was indignant and fervent.
Having read books, what use is there for these ten thousand volumes?
Who will make a well-bred horse submit to a salt carriage?
Delaying the sunset, a sublime plan falls to the grasses and thickets.
Mount Taehaeng (太行山, 태행산) is high and cannot be ascended.
Oh, alas! This is the first song, the song that I wish to emit.
The white sun and the floating clouds suddenly become dim and tied.

To have • guest • to have • guest • courtesy name • name • name
By oneself • to call • entire • life • will • to be indignant • to be fervent
To read • books • ten thousand • volumes • how • grammar particle • to use
To delay • evening • sublime • plan • to fall • grass • thicket
Great • travel • mountain • to be high • not • to be able • to ascend
Oh • oh • first • song • song • to intend • to emit
White • sun • to float • clouds • suddenly • to be dim • to tie

  • Yeomgok (鹽谷, 염곡), literally “salt valley,” is modern day Mugyo-Dong (武橋洞, 무교동) in Seoul.
  • 遲暮(지모) – Literally, “delayed evening” or “delayed sunset.” Refers to one’s aging. 
  • 騏驥(기기) – Literally, “well-bred horse.” Refers to an erudite scholar. 
  • 太行山(태행산) – Mount Taehaeng is a mountain in modern day North Gyeongsang Province (慶尙北道, 경상북도), Cheongsong County (靑松郡, 청송군).


其三 기삼

Third Song

有女有女在九原 유녀유녀재구원
想爾抱恨爲寃魂 상이포한위원혼
上有父母下兒女 상유부모하아녀
哀哉不忍聽遺言 애재불인청유언
經霜老木猶未死 경상로목유미사
縱復花開可庇根 종복화개가비근
嗚呼三歌兮歌轉惻 오호삼가가전측
麥飯何由作寒食 맥반하유작한식

There’s a daughter! There’s a daughter! She resides in the Ninth Origin.
Thinking of you, you held your grief and became a resentful spirit.
Above, there is her father and mother; below, sons and daughters.
O, how sad it is! To have not endured hearing your remaining words.
Passing by the frost, the old tree nonetheless does not die,
Even though again the flowers blossom and can protect their roots.
Oh, alas! This is the third song, a song that is more sorrowful.
With barley rice, how can I make a cold food?

To have • daughter • to have • daughter • to reside • ninth • origin
To think • you • to hold inside • grief • to become • resentful • soul
Above • to have • father • mother • below • children • daughter
To be sad • grammar particle • not • to endure • to hear • remaining • saying
To pass by • again • flowers • to blossom • can • to cover • roots
Oh • oh • third • song • song • more • to be sad
Barley • meal • how • from • to make • cold • food

  • 九原(구원) – Literally, “ninth origin.” Refers to death or afterlife.
  • 寒食(한식) – Refers to the Cold Food Festival, which falls on April 5th.


Kim Deukshin Pajeokdo

Pajeokdo (破寂圖, 파적도) by Kim Deukshin (金得臣, 김득신, 1754-1822)

Im Gwangtaek (林光澤, 임광택, 1719?-1799?) was a Chosun Dynasty poet and petty official. He was of the Boseong Im Clan (寶城林氏, 보성임씨); his courtesy name (字, 자) was Shijae (施哉, 시재); and his pen name (號, 호) was Ssangbaekdang (雙栢堂, 쌍백당). Not much of his known about his life. He served in a petty government position called Seori (胥理, 서리) in an office at the capital primarily run by the skilled Chung’in class (中人, 중인) named the Gyeong’ajeon (京衙前, 경아전). Also, although he wrote about the same themes as those of his status, it seems that Im Gwangtaek was not active in any of the non-aristocratic poet circles (閭巷詩社, 여항시사). After his death, his grandson-in-law, Kim Jinhang (金鎭恒, 김진항, ?-?), compiled Im Gwangtaek’s poetry and published it in 1817. In the poem below, he complains about his cat — showing that perhaps cats have not changed much in their insolence since the 18th century.

責猫 책묘

Scolding the Cat

不捉穴中鼠 불착혈중서
常偸盤上肉 상투반상육
無肉餒我腹 무육뇌아복
有鼠竊我粟 유서절아속

You do not capture in its rathole the rat;
You always steal the meat off my table.
Not having meat makes my stomach hungry;
Having rats make my grains be stolen.

Not • to capture • hole • inside • rat
Always • to steal • table • above • meat
To not have • meat • to starve • my • stomach
To have • rats • to steal • my • grains

養汝要捉賊 양여요착적
奈汝自作賊 내여자작적
快意一痛打 쾌의일통타
遠逐大路側 원축대로측

I raised you because I need you to capture these thieves,
But why do you yourself become a thief?
With a delighted disposition, I strike you hard once,
Chasing you far away to the side of a large road!

To raise • you • to need • to capture • thieves
How • you • by oneself • to become • thief
Delightful • intent • once • hard • to strike
Afar • to chase • large • road • side

佪偟終不去 회황종불거
暗入床下伏 암입상하복
狡黠良可惡 교힐양가오
題詩寄深責 제시기심책

Roaming and wandering, in the end you do not leave,
Furtively entering beneath my wooden floor to lie down.
Your craftiness and slyness truly can be despised.
Writing this poem, I send you a severe scolding.

To turn • to ramble • in the end • not • to leave
Secretly • to enter • wood floor • below • to lie down
To be crafty • to be tricky • surely • to be able • to hate
To write • poem • to send • to be profound • to scold

Kim Deukryeon in Russia

Kim Deukryeon (金得鍊, 김득련, 1852-1930) (pictured in the middle of the bottom row) was a translator officer (譯官, 역관). He was of the Ubong Kim Clan (牛峰金氏, 우봉김씨); his courtesy name (字, 자) was Yun’gu (允九, 윤구); and his pen name (號, 호) was Chunpa (春坡, 춘파). The Ubong Kim Clan was known for its long line of translators starting from the 17th century. Translators were a part of the skilled Chung’in (中人, 중인) class, which was below the aristocratic Yangban (兩班, 양반) class but above free commoner (良民, 양민) class. From 1895 to 1896, Kim Deukryeon was part of a diplomatic delegation along with Min Yeonghwan (閔泳煥, 민영환, 1861-1905), Kim Do’il (金道一, 김도일, ?-?), Yun Chiho (尹致昊, 윤치호, 1865-1945). Each had different language abilities: Kim Deukryeon knew Classical Chinese and Mandarin; Min Yeonghwan also knew Classical Chinese; Kim Do’il had emigrated to Russia and knew the language, and did not know Chinese Characters; and Yun Chiho had studied in America and knew English. Together, they traveled around world visiting China, Japan, Canada, United States, England, Germany, and Russia. They had intended to attend Tsar Nicholas II’s (1868-1918, r. 1894-1917) coronation ceremony, but the Korean and Chinese delegations were denied admittance because of their refusal to take off their hats. After his return, in 1867 Kim Deukryeon published the 120 plus poems that he wrote during his travels in a book titled Hwan’gueumcho (環璆唫艸, 환구음초). The following is from that work and is his description of riding a steam engine train through Canada.


In Canada, Riding a Steam Locomotive Towards the East Travelling for 9000 Plus Li

汽輪駕鐵迅如飛 기륜가철신여비
行止隨心少不違 행지수심소불위
透理何人知此法 투리하인지차법
泡茶一葉創神機 포차일엽창신기

The steam wheels ride the iron, fast as if flying;
Travelling and halting, they follow their own mind, not even slightly faltering.
Having mastered the theory, what kind of person realized this method?
Bubbling the tea’s one leaf has created a divine machine.

Steam • wheel • to ride • iron • to be quick • like • to fly
To travel • to halt • to follow • mind • few • not • to fail
To pierce • logic • what • person • to know • this • method
Bubbles • tea • one • leaf • to invent • divine • device


  • 坎拿大(감나대) – “Gamnadae” is Canada phonetically transliterated using Hanja.
  • 火輪車(화륜차) – Literally, “fire wheel carriage.” Refers to a steam train.
  • 九千餘里(구천여리) – 1 Li (里,리) is about 394m (0.24 miles). 9000 Li is about 3537km (2197 miles).
  • 泡茶一葉創神機(포차일엽창신기) – Possible reference to James Watt, whose invention of the steam engine is said to have been inspired by a boiling tea kettle.



Kim Iman (金履萬, 김이만, 1683-1758) was a Chosun dynasty literati bureaucrat. He was of the Yecheon Kim Clan (醴泉金氏, 예천김씨); his courtesy name (字, 자) was Jungsu (仲綏, 중수); his pen name was Hakgo (鶴臯, 학고). He is most noted for his actions during the flood in modern day Yangsan (梁山, 양산) in 1740. To divert that flood, it is said that he spent all his wealth in constructing embankments. He also took great pains in fighting against regional tax collector corruption exploiting commoners.

In the poem below, Kim Iman commemorates the Autumnal Equinox, or Chubun (秋分, 추분) as it in known in Korean. As a solar term, the autumnal equinox always falls around September 23rd on the Western Gregorian Calendar, but varies on the traditional Lunar Calendar. On this day, the sun reaches the celestial longitude of 180 degrees: that is, the earth is not tilted with respect to the Sun and the length day and night are approximately the same at all points along the Earth’s surface. One Korean custom on Chubun, as depicted above, is to collect red peppers and lay them out in the sun to dry.

秋分前二日 獨坐次農巖韻
추분전이일 독좌차농암운

Two Days Before the Autumnal Equinox, Sitting Alone and Borrowing Nong’am’s Rimes

天時晝夜欲平分 천시주야욕평분
寂寞山齋坐到曛 적막산재좌도훈
蕎麥綴花知白雪 교맥철화지백설
稻秔垂穗見黃雲 도갱수삭견화운
九衢車馬從他閙 구구차마종타시
三峽漁樵亦自羣 산협어초역자군
幽獨久拚無伴侶 유독구변무반려
隔林啼鳥只堪聞 격림제조지감문

Heaven’s timing and the daytime and nighttime will be evenly allocated.
In my still and quiet mountain cabin, I sit for the arriving sunset glow.
The buckwheat’s woven flowers recognize the white snow;
The rice plants’ leaning ears see the yellow clouds.
On the nine intersections, carriages and horses follow each others’ noise;
Along the three gorges, fishermen and lumberjacks also naturally gather.
Secluded and alone, I clap for awhile, without any companions.
Amid the forest, the chirping birds can only bare to hear it.


Heaven • time • daytime • night • to intend • evenly • to allocate
Still • quiet • mountain • hut • to sit • to arrive • evening sun’s rays
Buckwheat • barley • to weave • flowers • to know • white • snow
Rice (벼) • rice (메벼) • to lean • ears • to see • yellow • clouds
Nine • intersections • carriages • horses • to follow • other • to be noisy
Three • peaks • fishermen • lumberjacks • also • naturally • to gather
To be secluded • alone • for awhile • to clap with hands • to not have • companion • companion
Amid • forest • to chirp • birds • only • to endure • to hear


  • 九衢(구구) – Literally means “nine forks” or “nine intersections.” Refers to the busy streets of larger cities.
  • 三峽(삼협) – Refers to the Three Gorges in China.