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Chosun Middle Period (朝鮮中期 조선중기 1506-1637)

Heo Choheui (許楚姬, 허초희, 1563-1589) was a Chosun dynasty poet and artist, better known by her pen name (號, 호) Nanseolheon (蘭雪軒, 난설헌). She was of the Yangcheon Heo Clan (陽川許氏, 양천허씨); Her courtesy name (字, 자) was Gyeongbeon (景樊, 경번). She was born in Gangreung (江陵, 강릉) in Gangweon Province (江原道, 강원도) as the third child in a gentry family. Her younger brother was Heo Gyun (許均, 허균, 1569-1618), the author of the first novel in Hangul, Tale of Hong Gildong (洪吉東傳, 홍길동전). Heo Choheui learned Classical Chinese from a young age and composed her first Classical Chinese poem at the age of 8. She married Kim Seongrip (金誠立, 김성립, 1562-1592), also another member of a gentry class and civil bureaucrat, at the age of 15. But it was not a happy marriage. Because of her ability to write well, Heo Choheui’s husband while literate was embarrassed by his own lack of proficiency, and tried to avoid staying at the household. For the same reasons, her mother-in-law was abusive toward Heo Choheui. Moreover, none of the two children that she bore survived past infancy. Outside the home, her older brother was banished and suddenly passed away in 1588, exacerbating her anguish. To cope with the problems at home and outside, Heo Choheui continued composing poetry and drawing paintings. She passed away at the young age of 27, instructing her younger brother Heo Gyun to burn her writings.

Her brother, however, decided not to destroy Heo Choheui’s writings. After the chaos wrought by the Japanese invasions (1592-1598), Heo Gyun scraped together Heo Choheui’s remaining Classical Chinese poems. Heo Gyun first showed his sister’s poems to Zhu Zhifan (朱之蕃, 주지번, ?-1624), a Chinese emissary who was visiting Korea, asking him to publish her works in China. Zhu Zhifan was greatly impressed by the quality of Heo Choheui’s writings and agreed to do so. Her poems became very popular in China and eventually reached Japan. In Korea, however, Heo Choheui’s works were not initially popular, partly because she was a noble woman. Although literacy was encouraged, women writing poetry in Korea was considered until the 18th and 19th centuries the province of courtesans (妓生, 기생). At any rate, Heo Choheui wrote several Lyric Poetry or Ci (詞, 사), unfortunately only one of which survives. In the passage below, her brother Heo Gyun critiques her lyric poem by comparing it to a rubric to see whether the poem was written properly. This excerpt also gives not only showcases Heo Choheui’s unhappy marriage, but also a sense of how complex Classical Chinese poems can be from a formal and structural perspective. 

娣氏甞自稱作詞, 則合律喜爲小令.
제씨상자칭작사, 즉합률희위소령.

My sister prided herself in writing Lyric Poetry (詞, 사). Following the poetic meter, she joyfully wrote short melodies (小令, 소령).

余意其誑人及見詩餘圖譜, 則句句之傍, 盡圈點以某字,
여의기광인급견시여도보, 즉구구지방, 진권점이모자,

I thought that she was tricking others, so I took a look at the Classifications of Besides-Poetry (詩餘圖譜, 시여도보). There, next to each and every line, there were circular marks for each character.

則全淸全濁某字, 則半淸半濁逐字註音.
즉전청전탁모자, 즉반청반탁축자주음.

Also, there were indications of wholly-clear (全淸, 전청) and wholly-muddy sounds (全濁, 전탁) for each character. Furthermore, there were annotations of sounds following each character for half-clear and half-muddy (半淸半濁, 반청반탁) sounds.

  • This is a reference to pre-modern Chinese phonology. Some Classical Chinese poets followed not only rules on tonal meter (平仄, 평측) and rime (押韻, 압운), but also rules on which types of consonants could be used. (Most did not follow the latter.) There were thirty-six initial consonant sounds (三十六字母, 삼십육자모) in middle Chinese that were classified into the following four categories:
    • 全淸(전청) Wholly Clear Sounds – Referred to unvoiced, unaspirated, obstruent consonants. In middle Chinese, these consonants were 幫[p]·非[f]·端[t]·知[ʈ]·見[k]·精[ts]·心[s]·照[tʂ]·審[ʂ]·曉[x]·影[ʔ]. In Hangul, these consonants originally correspond to ㄱ[g]·ㄷ[d]·ㅂ[b]·ㅅ[s]·ㅈ[dz]·ᇹ[ʔ].
    • 次淸(차청) Partially Clear Sounds – Referred to unvoiced, aspirated, obstruent consonants. In middle Chinese, these consonants were: 滂[pʰ]·敷[fʰ]·透[tʰ]·徹[ʈʰ]·淸[tsʰ]·穿[ʨʰ]·溪[kʰ]. In Hangul, these consonants originally corresponded to ㅋ[k]·ㅌ[t]·ㅍ[p]·ㅊ[tʃ]·ㅎ[h].
    • 全濁(전탁) Wholly Muddy Sounds – Referred to voiced, obstruent consonants. In middle Chinese, these consonants were 竝[pɦ]·奉[fɦ]·定[tɦ]·澄[ʈɦ]·群[kɦ]·從[tsɦ]·邪[sɦ]·牀[ʂɦ∼tʂɦ]·審[ʂɦ]·匣[xɦ]. In Hangul, these consonants originally corresponded to ㄲ[kk]·ㄸ[tt]·ㅃ[pp]·ㅉ[cc]·ㅆ[ss]·ᅘ[hh].
    • 半淸半濁(반청반탁) Half-Clear, Half-Muddy Sounds – Referred to sonorant consonants. In middle Chinese, these consonants were 明[m]·微[ɱ]·泥[n]·娘[ɳ]·疑[ŋ]·喩[j]·來[l] 日·[ɲ]. In Hangul, these consonants originally corresponded to ㄴ[n]·ㅁ[m]·ㆁ[ŋ]·ㅇ[ø]·ㄹ[l]·ㅿ[z]. Also referred to as 次濁(차탁) and 不淸不濁(불청불탁).

試取所作符之, 則或有五字之誤, 或有三字之誤, 其大相舛謬者, 則無一焉.
시취소작부지, 즉혹유오자지오, 혹유삼자지오. 기대상걸류자, 즉무일언.

I tested [and juxtaposed her compositions] against what was marked [in the rubrics]. Some had errors in five characters; others had errors in three characters. But there was not even one that had significant discrepancies or errors.

乃知天才俊邁, 俯而就之, 故其用切約, 而成就如此.
내지천재준매, 부이취지, 고기용절약, 이성취여차.

Then, I realized her endowed genius and incredible talent, that she endeavored in this while holding her head low, and thus was modest while successfully accomplished like this.

其漁家傲一篇, 緫合音律而一字不合. 詞曰:
기오가오일편, 총합음률이일자불하. 사왈:

One of her compositions of the tune, Idling at the Fisherman’s Abode (漁家傲, 어가오), perfectly matched the poetic tones and meter, and not even one character was in disagreement with the rubrics. The lyric poem composition went:

漁家傲 어가오

To the Tune of Idling at a Fisherman’s Abode:
Easterly Winds in the Courtyard

庭院東風惻惻 정원동풍측측 平仄平平仄仄(韻)
墻頭一樹梨花白 장두일수리화백 平平仄仄平平仄(韻)
斜倚玉欄思故國 사기옥란사고국 平仄仄平平仄仄(韻)
歸不得 귀불득 平仄仄(韻)
連天芳草萋萋色 련천방초처처색 平平平仄平平仄(韻)

Within the courtyard, the easterly winds are sorrowful and doleful.
Atop the walls, one tree’s pear blossoms turn white.
Leaning upon the jade railings, I long for the old country.
But return, I cannot.
Connecting with the heavens, the flowery grass are dense and thick in color.

羅幙綺牕扃寂寞 라막기총경적막 平仄仄平平仄仄(韻)
雙行粉淚霑朱臆 쌍행분루점주억 平平平仄平平仄(韻)
江北江南煙樹隔 강북강남연수격 平仄平平平仄仄(韻)
情何極 정하극 平平仄(韻)
山長水遠無消息 산장수원무소식 平平仄仄平平仄(韻)

The lustrous curtains and silken window block me out, alone and lonesome.
Two trails of powdered tears run down, dousing my red heart.
North of the river and south of the river, smoke rises amid the trees.
How extreme are these emotions?
The mountain are long and the waters are far, but there is no news.

朱字當用半濁字, 而朱字則全濁. 才如蘇長公者, 亦强不中律, 況其下者乎?
주자당용반탁자, 이주자즉전탁. 재여소장공자, 역강불중률, 황기하자호?

The character 朱(주) should have been a character with a half-muddy sound (sonorant), but the character 朱(주) is a wholly-muddy sound (voiced). Even one with talent like Su Shi (蘇軾, 소식, 1037-1101), who also did not conform to the rules, how much more so is one inferior to him?

Notes:

  • The poem follows the tune Idling at the Fisherman’s Abode (Yujiaao). It has two verses of sixty two characters in total (雙調六十二字). The former and the latter verses each have five lines with five oblique tone rimes (前後段各五句, 五仄韻). The poem uses near rimes (通韻, 통운). All the rimes are near rimes (通韻, 통운) of the entering tone (入聲, 입성) ending in the terminal consonant -k(ㄱ). As described in the Imperial Compilation of Lyric Poetry Rubrics (欽定詞譜, 흠정사보):

雙調六十二字, 前後段各五句, 五仄韻
OOOO平O仄(韻) O平O仄O平仄(韻) O仄O平平仄仄(韻) 平O仄(韻) OOOO平平仄(韻)
O仄O平平仄仄(韻) O平OO平平仄(韻) O仄O平平O仄(韻) OO仄(韻) O平O仄平平仄(韻)

  • I have not been able to find the work Classifications of Besides-Poetry (詩餘圖譜, 시여도보) that Heo Gyun used to check his sister’s compositions. The first example for the rubric in Imperial Compilation of Lyric Poetry Rubrics, however, shows the character 年(년), a sonorant consonant, in the same position as 朱(주).

Source:

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.

Definitions:

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

Notes:

  • 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.
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

Notes:

  • 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).

Choeunjip

Yu Heuigyeong (劉希慶, 유희경, 1545-1636) was a Chosun dynasty poet. He was of the Ganghwa Yu Clan (江華劉氏, 강화유씨); his courtesy name (字, 자) was Eunggil (應吉, 응길); and his pen name (號, 호) was Chon’eun (村隱, 촌은). He was originally of the slave caste (賤民, 천민), although he later became a freed commoner and eventually a high-ranking literati bureaucrat. As a child, Yu Heuigyeong was known for his filial piety (孝, 효). After his father passed away when Yu Heuigyeong was 13, he mourned by his father’s grave all day and refused to leave it. His neighbors, pitying him, built a mud hut next the grave for him to stay. Furthermore, when his mother became ill, he attended to her day and night. Later on, Yu Heuigyeong became a disciple of Nam Eon’gyeong (南彦經, 남언경, ?-?), a literati bureaucrat, and learned Chinese Classics under his tutelage. He became particularly interested in Confucian mourning rites (喪禮, 상례). He also a member of the non-aristocratic poet’s circle known as the Pungweolhyangdo (風月香徒, 풍월향도), and a friend of Baek Daebung (白大鵬, 백대붕, ?-1592), who was also of that circle. In 1590, Yu Heuigyeong met a well-known courtesan (妓生, 기생) named Yi Maechang (李梅窓, 이매창, 1573-1610) in Bu’an (扶安, 부안) in modern day North Jeolla Province (全羅北道, 전라북도). Yi Maechang had already heard of Yu Heuigyeong. They both fell in love with each other, and corresponded in poetry. The following is one of their correspondences:

贈癸娘 증계량

Presented to Gyeryang

我有一仙藥 아유일선약
能醫玉頰嚬 능의옥협빈
深藏錦囊裏 심장금낭리
欲與有情人 욕여유정인

I have one magical elixir.
It can cure a jade cheek’s frown.
Having stored it deep inside my silk pocket,
I intend to give to a lover.

I • to have • one • magical • drug
To be able • to cure • jade • cheek • frown
Deep • to store • silk • pocket • inside
To intend • to give • one • love • person

    • 玉頰(옥협) – Literally “jade cheek.” Refers to the countenance of a beautiful woman.

贈別 증별

Presented While Departing

我有古奏箏 아유고진쟁
一彈百感生 일탄백감생
世無知此曲 세무지차곡
遙和緱山笙 요화구산생

I have an old Jin Jaeng (奏箏, 진쟁).
One pluck, and a hundred feelings arise.
In the world, there is no one that knows this tune.
From afar, reply to the Saeng (笙,생) on Mount Gu (緱山, 구산).

I • to have • old • Jin • Jaeng
One • to pluck • hundred • feelings • to arise
World • to not have • to know • this • tune
Afar • to reply • Gu • Mountain • Saeng

    • 奏箏(진쟁) – A type of plucked zither. Also called Gujaeng (古箏, 고쟁) or Jaeng (箏,쟁). During the Song (宋, 송, 960-1279) and Tang Dynasty (唐, 당, 618-907), it had 13 strings. Later on, there were versions of the instrument with 16, 18, 21, and 25 strings.
    • 笙(생) – A reed wind instrument with 17 pipes. Also called Saenghwang (笙簧, 생황).
    • 緱山(구산) – Mount Goushi (緱氏山, 구씨산, Guss’isan) or Guoling (緱嶺, 구령, Guryeong) is located in Yanxi County (偃師縣, 언사현,  Eonsa Hyeon) of Henan Province (河南省, 하남성, Hanam Seong). The mountain is frequently mentioned in Classical Chinese poetry because of an event from the life of King Ling of Zhou’s (周靈王, 주영왕, ?-545BC) son and heir Jin (晉, 진, Jin). After he directly reproved the King, Jin was made a commoner. He then decided to become an apprentice of the Taoist hermit Fuqiu Ba (浮丘伯, 부구백, Bugu Baek, ?-?) and lived in seclusion on Mount Goushi. This is recorded in the Collected Biographies of the Immortals (列仙傳, 열선전), a collection of hagiographies of Taoist hermits:

王子喬者, 周靈王太子晉也. 好吹笙, 作鳳凰鳴.
왕자교자, 주령왕태자진야. 호취생, 작봉황명.

Wangzi Qiao (王子喬, 왕자교, Wangja Gyo) is King Ling of Zhou’s heir Jin. [He] enjoyed playing the Sheng (笙, 생) (Mandarin name for the same instrument), making the songs of a phoenix.

游伊洛之間, 道士浮丘公接以上嵩高山三十餘年.
유윤락지간, 도사부구공접이상숭고산삼십여년.

He wandered about between [the cities of] Yin (伊, 윤, Yun) and Lou (洛, 락, Rak). The Taoist scholar Fuqui met [him] and ascended Mount Songgao (嵩高山, 숭고산, Sunggo San) [and resided there] for thirty some years.

後求之於山上, 見桓良曰: “告我家 ,七月七日待我於緱氏山巔.”
후구지어산상, 견황량왈: “고아가, 칠월칠일대아어구씨산령.”

Afterward, [Jin] requested to go to the mountain top. As he saw Huanliang (桓良, 환량, Hwanryang), he said, “Inform my house to await me on the 7th day of the 7th month at Mount Goushi’s peak.”

至時, 果乘白鶴駐山頭, 望之不得到. 舉手謝時人, 數日而去.
지시, 과승백학주산두, 만지불득도. 거수사시인, 수일이거.

When that time arrived, indeed they rode a white crane and stopped by the mountaintop. They gazed at them, thanking the people of that time. Many days [passed] and they left.

亦立祠於緱氏山下, 及嵩高首焉.
역립사어구씨산하, 급숭고수언.

Also, they erected shrines below Mount Goushi and at the top of [Mount] Songgao.

Unfortunately, their time together was short. When Yu Heuigyeong returned to Seoul in 1592, the Japanese started their invasion of Korea (壬辰倭亂, 임진왜란, 1592-1598). He joined an irregular righteous army (義兵, 의병) and fought against the Japanese. After the war, he was lauded by King Seonjo (宣朝, 선조, 1552-1608, r. 1567-1608) for his efforts and was manumitted. A few years later, for revealing embezzlement at the Ministry of Finance (戶曹, 호조), Yu Heuigyeong was awarded the high-ranking bureaucratic position of Tongjeongdaebu (通政大夫, 통정대부). Fifteen years after their first meeting, he eventually was reunited with Yi Maechang in 1607. Unfortunately, she passed away just three years later in 1610.

Source:

Baek Daebung Double Ninth Poem

Baek Daebung (白大鵬, 백대붕, ?-1592) was a poet and of the slave caste (賤民, 천민). He was of the Imcheon Baek Clan (林川白氏, 임천백씨); his courtesy name (字, 자) was Manri (萬里, 만리). He was a slave working for one of the petty bureaucratic offices. He was a member of the non-aristocratic poetry circle in Seoul at that time called the Pungweolhyangdo (風月香徒, 풍월향도). He was also known for his poetry among Chosun’s elite literati bureaucrats. In 1590, Baek Daebung accompanied Heo Seong (許筬, 허성, 1548-1612) on a diplomatic trip to Japan. During the Japanese invasion of Korea in 1592 (壬辰倭亂, 임진왜란), he accompanied Yi Il (李鎰, 이일, 1538-1601), a military official, and fought in the Battle of Sangju (尙州戰鬪, 상주전투), where he perished. Despite being renowned in poetry during his time, sadly only two of his poems survive.

九日醉吟 구일취음

On the Double Ninth Festival, Reciting While Inebriated

醉揷茱萸獨自娛 취삽수유독자오
滿山明月枕空壺 만산명월침공호
旁人莫問何爲者 방인막문하위자
白首風塵典艦奴 백수풍진전함노

Inebriated, I pin a rue tree’s flower and alone by myself am joyed.
Filling the mountain is the bright moon; upon the pillow is an empty bottle.
To those next to me, do not ask, “What does this person do?”
I am a white-haired — among the winds and the dust — slave of the Jeonhamsa (典艦司, 전함사).

To be inebriated • to pin • rue tree • rue tree • alone • by oneself • to enjoy
To fill • mountains • bright • moon • pillow • empty • bottle
Adjacent • people • not • to ask • what • to do • grammar particle
White • head • winds • dust • to be in charge of • ships • slave

Notes:

  • Jeonhamsa (典艦司, 전함사) – A bureaucratic office in charge of vessel management, shipbuilding, and transportation.
  • 風塵(풍진) – Literally “winds and dusts.” Refers to the mundane world.

Source:

Daeboreum

Shin Heum (申欽, 신흠, 1566-1628) was a literati bureaucrat of the Chosun dynasty. He was of the Pyeongsan Shin Clan (平山申氏, 평산신씨); his courtesy name (字, 자) was Gyeongsuk (敬叔, 경숙); his pen names (號, 호) were Hyeonheon (玄軒, 현헌), Sangchon (象村, 상촌), Hyeon’ong (玄翁, 현옹), and Bang’ong (放翁, 방옹). He passed his first civil examination test in 1585, and served on various bureaucratic posts. When the Japanese invaded in 1592, he served as an aid to the military. After the war in 1601, he was awarded the high position of Gaseondaebu (嘉善大夫, 가선대부) in the Ministry of Arts (藝文館, 예문관) for compiling all the annotations for the Annals of the Spring and Autumn Period (春秋諸氏傳, 춘추제씨전).

In the poem below, Shin Heum commemorates the First Moon Festival, or Jeongweol Daeboreum (正月大–, 정월대보름), which is equivalent to the Chinese Lantern Festival. Culinary customs on this day include eating Yakshik (藥食, 약식), nuts, and five-grain meal (五穀-, 오곡밥), which is alluded below. Other customs include: drinking alcohol to the point of making one ear’s hear “brighter” or “better” (귀밝이술 or 耳明酒, 이명주), lighting a canister with sweet potato inside and spinning it around, and burning a pile of wood in anticipation of the full moon (달집태우기), as depicted above.

田家謠 전가요

Songs of the Rice Paddy Families

月高高田熟 월고고전숙
(田家占正月十五日月生高低, 占一年農祥)
(전가점정월십오일월생고저, 점일년농상)
月低低田穰 월저저전양
今年占新月 금년점신월
高低無不當 고저무부당

When the moon is high, the higher rice paddies will ripen;
(Farmers read fortunes on the fifteenth day of the first month based on whether the moon rises high or low and foretell whether that year’s harvest will be auspicious).
When the moon is low, the lower rice paddies will thrive.
This year, we read fortunes based on the new moon:
High or low, nothing will be not right.

Moon • high • high • rice paddy • to be ripe
(Rice paddy • family • to tell fortune • new year • month • ten • five • day • moon • to rise • high • low • to tell fortune • one • year • farming • auspicious)
Moon • low • low • rice paddy • to thrive
Now • year • to tell fortune • new • moon
High • low • to have not • not • to be right

翁婦喜且慶 옹부희차경
蹈舞迎休祥 도무영휴상
亥日燻豕喙 해일훈시훼
子日焚鼠腸 자일분서장

Father-in-laws and daughter-in-laws being happy celebrate;
They jump dancing, welcoming the beautiful sign.
On the days marked “Hae” (亥日, 해일), they roast the heads of pigs.
On the days marked “Ja” (子日, 자일), they burn the entrails of rats.

Old man • young woman • to be happy • and • happy occasion
To jump • to dance • to welcome • beautiful • sign
Pig • day • to roast • pigs • beaks
Rat • day • to burn • rat • innards

  • 休祥(휴상) – A beautiful portent or sign, foretelling the future.
  • 亥日(해일) and 子日(자일) – Refers to the Earthly Branches (地支, 지지), which are rat (子,자), ox (丑,축), tiger (寅,인), rabbit (卯,묘), dragon (龍,용), snake (巳,사), horse (午,오), lamb (羊,양), monkey (申,신), rooster (酉,유), and pig (亥,해).

芒苗祛螟蠹 망묘거명두
場圃除災殃 장포제재앙
汚邪與甌窶 오사여구구
五穀盈倉箱 오곡영창상

From the rice husks and barley, they pluck out planthoppers and moths.
On the yard’s garden, they have removed calamitous portents.
From filthy grounds and poor bowls,
Five types of grains fill the storage bins.

Rice husks • barley • to pluck out • planthoppers • moths
Yard • garden • to remove • disaster • calamity
Dirty • evil • and • small bowl • poor
Five • grains • to fill • storage • bin

  • 場圃(장포) – Literally “yard and garden.” Refers to “threshing ground” in the yard of a house.
  • 汚邪(오사) – Literally, “dirty and evil.” Can refer to “dirty and improper work” or “sunken in place.”
  • 窶 – Has two pronunciations. When pronounced 구, it is interpreted as “to be poor” (가난하다); when pronounced 루, it is interpreted as “a place that is high but narrow.”

滿腹志願畢 만복지원필
身外莫思量 신외막사량

The will and wish of filling a stomach is complete;
Outside the body, there is no need to think and count.

To fill • stomach • volition • wish • to complete
Body • outside • nothing • to think • to count

Ipchun

Yi Hwang (李滉, 이황, 1501-1570) was a Chosun dynasty Neo-Confucian scholar and literati bureaucrat. He was of the Jinbo Yi Clan (眞寶李氏, 진보이씨); his courtesy name (字, 자) was Gyeongho (景浩, 경호); his pen name (號, 호) was Toegye (退溪, 퇴계); and his posthumous name (諡, 시) was Munsun (文純, 문순). In 1534, he passed the civil service examination (科擧, 과거) in second place (乙科, 을과), and served on various bureaucratic posts. As for his philosophical contributions, he is most remembered for his Neo-Confucian metaphysics debates with Ki Daeseung (奇大升, 기대승, 1527-1572) and his founding of the Dosan Confucian Academy (陶山書院, 도산서원) in 1570, which would produce many scholars and literati. Today, most Koreans recognize him as the figure whose face graces the 1000 Won Korean currency note.

In the poem below, Yi Hwang describes his thoughts during the Start of Spring, or Ipchun (立春, 입춘), one of the 24 solar terms. It falls on February 4th on the Gregorian calendar and varies on the traditional Lunar calendar, as Ipchun begins when the Sun reaches the celestial longitude of 315 and ends when it passes 330 degrees.

正月二日立春 정월이일입춘

Second Day of the First Month, Start of Spring

黃卷中間對聖賢 황권중간대성현
虛明一室坐超然 허명일실좌초연
梅窓又見春消息 매창우견춘소식
莫向瑤琴嘆絶絃 막향요금탄절현

Within these yellow-stained volumes, I encounter the saints and sages.
In the empty but bright single room, I sit solitarily.
The plum tree outside my window again sees the news of Spring’s arrival.
Facing my jade zither, I do not sigh over a broken string.

Definitions:

Yellow • books • middle • space • to face • saints • sages
Empty • bright • one • room • to sit • to be aloof • grammar particle
Plum tree • window • again • to see • Spring • news • news
Not • to face • jade • zither • to sigh • broken • string