Goryeo Dynasty (高麗 고려 918-1392)


Mount Chiak (雉岳山, 치악산) in Gangweon Province (江原道, 강원도) (Source)

Won Cheonseok (元天錫, 원천석, 1330-?) was a Neo-Confucian scholar that lived during late Goryeo dynasty (高麗, 고려, 918-1392) and early Chosun dynasty (朝鮮, 조선, 1392-1897) periods. He was of the Weonju Won Clan (原州元氏, 원주원씨); his courtesy name (字, 자) was Jajeong (子正, 자정); and his pen name (號, 호) was Ungok (谷, 운곡). Recognized for his abilities from a young age, Won Cheonseok passed the Goryeo dynasty civil service examination. He, however, did not take any positions in government, realizing that the 400 year-old Goryeo dynasty was waning. When Yi Seonggye (李成桂, 이성계, 1335-1408) took power from the royal court, Won Cheonseok left the capital of Gaeseong (開城, 개성) and rusticated to Mount Chiak (雉岳山, 치악산) in present day Gangweon Province (江原道, 강원도). There, he built a farm that he worked himself, supported his parents, and wrote several works lamenting the downfall of the Goryeo dynasty. Sometime before his departure, Won Cheonseok was the tutor of Yi Bangwon (李芳遠, 이방원, 1367-1422), who would later become King Taejong of Chosun (太宗, 태종, r. 1400-1418), the third monarch of the Chosun dynasty. Because of this, after King Taejong ascended to the throne in 1400, the King requested Won Cheonseok to join his court several times, but each time he refused. When the King tried to personally visit him, Weon Cheonseok fled deep into the woods of the mountain. Unable to meet him, King Taejong instead went up to his house, and bestowed his grandmother a present and granted the position of county magistrate (현감, 縣監) to his son.

He continued writing histories and poems grieving over the fall of the Goryeo dynasty. While Won Cheonseok was renowned for his literary talents, because his writings often conflicted with the official histories, many were intentionally burned in later generations. Among Won Cheonseok’s surviving writings, however, are a few Lyric Poetry or Ci (詞, 사). The poem below was most likely written during his self-imposed exile on Mount Chiak. In it, Won Cheonseok reminiscences about his past close to the former royal court and despairs over his own current seclusion by likening his thoughts and feelings to that of a lonely traveler longing for his home village and in search for a place of belonging.

蝶戀花 접련화
處 처

To the Tune of the Butterfly Endearing the Flowers:
A Place

客裏應難爰得所 객리응난원득소 仄仄平平平仄仄(韻)
鄕思悽然 향사처연 平仄平平
夢繞秋蓮渚 몽요추련저 仄平平平仄(韻)
日暮長安愁幾許 일모장안수기허 仄仄平平平仄仄(韻)
羨他孤鳥高飛去 선타고조고비거 仄平平仄平平仄(韻)

To a sojourner, it is surely difficult to obtain a location.
Longing for the home village is wistful:
Dreams of walking around the autumn’s lotus by the riverbank
And of the sun setting upon the Jang’an (長安, 장안), how many times has he pondered?
He envies that lonely bird flying high in the air and away.

Traveler • within • should • to be difficult • henceforth • to obtain • place
Village • longing • despair • grammatical particle
To dream • to walk about • autumn • lotus flowers • riverbank
Sun • to set • long • peace • to worry over • how many • grammatical particle
To envy • that • lonely • bird • highly • to fly • to leave

  • 長安(장안) – Refers to Chang’an, which is present day Xi’an (西安, 서안) and served as the capital of many Chinese dynasties. Korean poets often used this term to refer to the capital.

我亦凉凉無伴侶 아역량량무반려 仄仄平平平仄仄(韻)
閒寂幽居 한적유거 平仄仄平
只有山禽語 지유산금어 仄仄平平仄(韻)
忽憶前遊多意緖 홀억전유다의서 仄仄平平平仄仄(韻)
悠悠往事尋無處 유유왕사심무처 平平仄仄平平仄(韻)

I too am alone and lonesome, with neither friends nor companions.
From my free and silent, remote abode,
All there is are the birds on the mountain chattering.
Suddenly, I reminisce about my prior journeys with many wound-up aims:
Far and distant, past events cannot be found in any place.

I • also • alone • alone • to not have • friends • companions
Leisure •  silence • seclusion • residence
Only • to have • mountain • birds • talking
Suddenly • to remember • previous • journeys • many • intentions • threaded
Far • far • to leave • affairs • to find • to not have • place

  • 意緖(의서) – Refers to complicated, multifaceted thoughts.
  • 悠悠(유유) – While the meaning of this word in modern Korean is largely limited to “to be at leisure,” here it refers to something that is very far away.


  • This poem follows the tune the Butterfly Endearing the Flowers (Dielianhua). Its rubric has two verses of sixty characters in total (雙調六十字). The former and latter verses each have five lines with four oblique tones (前後段各五句, 四仄韻). The oblique tone rime used throughout the poem is 語(어). As described in the Imperial Compilation of Lyric Poetry Rubrics (欽定詞譜, 흠정사보):

雙調六十字, 前後段各五句, 四仄韻
O仄O平平仄仄(韻) O仄平平 O仄平平仄(韻) O仄O平平仄仄(韻) O平O仄平平仄(韻)
O仄O平平仄仄(韻) O仄平平 O仄平平仄(韻) O仄O平平仄仄(韻) O平O仄平平仄(韻)


Goryeo Baekjawan

White porcelain cup dating back to Goryeo period (Source)

Yi Jehyeon (李齊賢, 이제현, 1287-1367) was a civil bureaucrat of the Goryeo dynasty (高麗, 고려, 918-1392) and the Mongol Yuan dynasty (元, 원, 1271-1368), Neo-Confucian scholar, poet, and painter. He was of the Gyeongju Yi Clan (慶州李氏, 경주이씨); his courtesy name (字, 자) was Jungsa (仲思, 중사); his pen name (號, 호) was Ikjae (益齋, 익재) and Yeokong (櫟翁, 역옹); and his posthumous name (諡, 시) was Munchung (文忠, 문충). He was recognized for his abilities from a young age. In 1301 at the age of 14, Yi Jehyeon passed the Goryeo civil service examination in first place for entering the National Academy (國子監, 국자감), and was promoted quickly through the ranks. In 1314, he traveled to the Yuan capital of Dadu (大都, 대도) at the request of King Chungseon (忠宣王, 충선왕, 1275-1325, r. 1298, 1308-1313). The King spent most of his reign in Yuan capital as not only the King of Goryeo but also the Prince of Shenyang (瀋陽王, 심양왕) over the Korean and Liaodong Peninsulas. While in China, Yi Jehyeon passed the Yuan civil service examination and befriended several Chinese scholars and artisans. In 1320, when King Chunseong was banished to Tibet (吐蕃, 토번), Yi Jehyeon journeyed all the way to meet the King. This experience lead him to later begin a movement seeking to minimize Mongol interference in internal affairs and bring the Goryeo monarchs back to Goryeo. In 1324, Yi Jehyeon himself returned to Korea and continued serving in government. With the situation on the Korean court turning chaotic in 1339, he retired from public office to turn his efforts to his studies on Confucianism. But Yi Jehyeon returned to public office in 1344, proposing a series of reforms. As the Mongol Yuan dynasty waned, in 1356 he took the side of the anti-Yuan faction. Shortly thereafter, Yi Jehyeon retired again, this time permanently to devote to more studying and writing. When the Red Turbans (紅巾賊之亂, 홍건적의 난) invaded Korea in 1365, he answered the court’s call for assistance and escorted the King as he retreated from the capital. Yi Jehyeon passed away a few years later in 1367. 

In addition to his service in two governments, he was a renowned writer. Yi Jehyeon composed in all varieties of genres and poetic forms, even creating a new genre called “Minor Music Bureau poetry (小樂府, 소악부)” for translating vernacular Korean songs into Classical Chinese. He was also one of the most prolific composers of Lyric Poetry or Ci (詞, 사) from Goryeo. The poem below was written when Yi Jehyeon was in China. In the poem, most likely inebriated, he is enamored by “barley ale (麥酒, 맥주),” describing its taste and even brewing process in some detail. Though it has the same characters and might fall under a broad definition of the beverage, the “barley ale” mentioned in the poem is not the same as beer as it is known today. What Yi Jehyeon drank was probably similar to a rice ale known as Makgeolli (막걸리).

其法不篘不壓, 揷竹筒甕中, 座客以次就而吸之.
기법불추불압, 삽죽통옹중, 좌객이차취이흡지.

Its method does not involve using a straining basket or a press. Rather, a bamboo tube is inserted into a pottery jar, and seated guests would then proceed to draw from it.

傍置杯水, 量所飮多少, 挹注其中, 酒若不盡, 其味不渝.
방치배수, 량소음다소, 읍주기중, 주약불진, 기미불륜.

The cup of water is placed to the side, and the amount each would like to drink is poured therein. If the ale is not depleted, its flavor does not change.

鷓鴣天 자고천
飮麥酒 음맥주

To the Tune of Partridges in the Sky:
Drinking Barley Ale

未用眞珠滴夜風 미용진주적야풍 仄仄平平仄仄平(韻)
碧筩醇酎氣相通 벽통순주기상통 仄平平仄仄平平(韻)
舌頭金液疑初滿 설두금액의초만 仄平平仄平平仄
眼底黃雲陷欲空 안저황운함욕공 仄仄平平仄仄平(韻)

The pearl-like raindrops have not yet been spent on the night’s winds.
Within the jade-blue jar, rich ale and vigor are interconnected.
The golden liquid at the tip of my tongue, I doubted at first that it was full;
As the yellow clouds fall into the bottom of my eye, I wish to empty it.

Not • to use • true • pearl • water drop • night • wind
Blue • jar • thick ale • raw ale • energy • mutual • to pass
Tongue • end • golden • liquid • to doubt • initially • to fill
Eye • bottom • yellow • cloud • to fall • to intend • to empty

香不斷 향불단 平仄仄
味難窮 미난궁 仄平平(韻)
更添春露吸長虹 갱첨춘로흡장홍 仄平平仄仄平平(韻)
飮中妙訣人如問 음중묘결인여문 仄平仄仄平平仄
會得吹笙便可工 회득취생편가공 仄仄平平平仄平(韻)

Its fragrance unceasing;
Its flavor hardly expended.
Again, the added spring dew is slurped from the long rainbow.
Should another ask what is the wondrous secret to drinking, tell him:
If he can blow a reed-pipe, he will soon master it well.

Fragrance • not • to cut
Taste • difficult • to consume
Again • to add • spring • dew • to slurp • long • rainbow
To drink • amid • marvelous • secret • person • if • to inquire
To be able • to obtain • to below • reed instrument • soon • to be able • to master


  • This poem follows the tune Partridges in the Sky (Zhegu Tian). Its rubric has two verses and is fifty-five characters in total (雙調五十五字). The former verse has four lines with three plain tones (前段四句三平韻). The latter verse has five lines with three plain tones (後段五句三平韻). The plain tone rime used throughout the poem is 東(동). As described in the Imperial Compilation of Lyric Poetry Rubrics (欽定詞譜, 흠정사보):

雙調五十五字, 前段四句三平韻, 後段五句三平韻
OOOOOO平(韻) O平O仄仄平平(韻) O平O仄O平仄 O仄平平O仄平(韻)
OO仄 仄平平(韻) O平O仄仄平平(韻) O平O仄平平仄 O仄平平O仄平(韻)


Baduk Board

Baduk board (바둑판). This picture shows the initial stone positions of Sunjang Baduk (巡將棋, 순장바둑), a Korean variant that would not be developed until probably the 16th or 17th centuries. (Source)

Yi Gyubo (李奎報, 이규보, 1168-1241) was a civil bureaucrat and scholar of the Goryeo dynasty (高麗, 고려, 918–1392). He was of the Yeoju Yi Clan (驪州李氏, 여주이씨); his original name (初名, 초명) was Injeo (仁氐, 인저); his courtesy name (字, 자) was Chungyeong (春卿, 춘경); his pen names (號, 호) were Baekun Geosa (白雲居士, 백운거사) (“Resident Scholar of White Clouds”), Jiheon (止軒, 지헌), and Samhokho (三酷好, 삼혹호); and his posthumous name (諡, 시) was Munsun (文順, 문순). The son of a high-ranking official, he spent most of his childhood in Gaeseong (開城, 개성), the capital of the Goryeo dynasty. While recognized for his brilliance and literary talent from an early age, Yi Gyubo spent most of his youth debauching and drinking excessively, so much so that he failed the civil service examination (科擧, 과거) thrice. Eventually, he did sober up and passed at the age of twenty-one in 1189. Yi Gyubo rose through the bureaucratic ranks, working in offices requiring his literary skills, starting from the Office Recorder of Jeonju (全州錄) and Military Recorder and Editor (兵馬錄事兼修製, 병마녹사겸수제). After General Choi Chungheon (崔忠獻 최충헌, 1149-1219) took control of Goryeo court, Yi Gyubo became fully supportive of the Choi regime (崔氏政權, 최씨 정권, 1196-1258), and attained even higher ranks. Although he was demoted and even banished once for offending General Choi Chungheon and his successors, Yi Gyubo was eventually appointed to the prestigious office of the Hanlim Academy (翰林院, 한림원). When the Mongols invaded Korea in 1231, he wrote a letter to the Khan, persuading him to temporarily halt the campaign. Yi Gyubo also convinced the Goryeo court to move to Ganghwa Island (江華島, 강화도), an island off the coast near the capital. From there, the Goryeo government directed their stubborn defense of the peninsula from Mongol forces. He retired from public office in 1237, and passed away on the island. 

Though he sobered up, his carefree spirit from his youth never left and remained in his writings. In line with his personality, Yi Gyubo’s favorite Chinese classic was Zhuangzi (莊子, 장자). He took one of his pen names from one of its passages: “Ride that white cloud over there and reach the home of the gods (乘彼白雲 至乎帝鄕 – 승피백운 지호제향).” Compared to his contemporaries, Yi Gyubo did not overly rely as much on allusions to other works or people of antiquity (典故, 전고), particularly those from China. Rather, he created new expressions and composed poems on Korean historical figures. In addition, Yi Gyubo criticized his peers for excessively focusing on minutiae of poetic form and structure. It was not because he did not know form or structure. On the contrary, Yi Gyubo knew them very well, and composed several of the earliest surviving Lyric Poetry or Ci (詞, 사) by a Korean poet. He was also an avid player of Baduk (바둑) (better known as “Go” in the West), which appears in several of his poems including the following. 

臨江仙 임강선
希禪師方丈觀棋 희선수방장관기

To the Tune of Immortals by the River
Watching a Baduk Match at the Chief Buddhist Monk’s Abode

夜靜紅燈香落地 야정홍등향락지 仄仄平平平仄仄
蛇頭兎勢縱橫 타두토세종횡 平平仄仄平平(韻)
但聞玉子響紋枰 단문옥자향문평 仄平仄仄仄平平(韻)
誰饒誰勝 수요수승 平平平仄
山月西傾 산월서경 平仄平平(韻)

The night is quiet; the red lantern’s fragrance falls upon the ground.
A snake’s head and a hare’s movements lay vertically and horizontally.
The only sound heard are the echoes of the jade pieces upon the patterned board.
Who will be better off? Who will be victorious?
The mountain’s moon declines westward.

Night • quiet  • red • lantern • fragrance • to fall • ground
Snake • head • rabbit • form • vertical • horizontal
Only • to hear • jade • (grammar particle) • echoes • patterned • Baduk board
Who • to prosper • who • to win
Mountain • moon • west • to incline

  • 希禪師(희선사) – Name of a Buddhist monk.
  • 方丈(방장) – Refers to the residence of a high-ranking Buddhist monk.
  • 蛇頭兎勢(타두토세) – Probably refers to particular patterns in Baduk. “A snake’s head (蛇頭, 타두)” may be referring to a ladder and “a hare’s movement (兎勢, 토세)” may be referring to various jumps.

十九條中千萬態 구십조중천만태 仄仄平平平仄仄
世間興廢分明 세간흥폐분명 仄平仄仄平平(韻)
箇中一換幾人生 개중일환기인생 仄平平仄仄平平(韻)
仙柯欲爛 선가욕란 平平仄仄
回首忽相驚 회수홀상경 平仄仄平平(韻)

Upon the nineteen lines, thousands upon tens of thousands of variations.
In the real world, what flourishes and what flounders is stark and apparent.
Within all this, how many men’s lives are there in one exchange?
As the hermit’s axe helve becomes rotten,
All the turned heads suddenly become startled.

Ten • nine • strips • amid •  thousand •  ten-thousand • shapes
World • between •  to rise •  to be abolished • one • clear • bright
Each • amid • one • to exchange • man • life
Hermit • axe helve •  to become • to rot
Turn •  head •  sudden •  mutually • to startle

  • Third line is probably referring to a common tactic in Baduk, in which a player sacrifices a few stones to gain greater territory (捨石作戰, 사석작전).
  • Last two lines are in reference to a famous story on how onlookers of the board game can become so mesmerized that they forget their sense of time. Here it is summarized in the Book of Jin (晉書, 진서):

王質入山斫木, 見二童圍棋, 坐觀之. 及起, 斧柯已爛矣.
왕질입산작목, 견이동위기, 좌관지, 급기, 부가이란의.

Wang Zhi (王質, 왕질) entered the mountain to cut wood. He saw two children playing Baduk and sat down to watch them. When he rose up, his axe helve had already rotten.


  • This poem follows a variant of the tune, Immortals by the River (Linjiang Xian). The variant rubric has two verses of fifty eight characters (雙調五十八字). The former and latter verses each have five lines (前後段各五句) with three plain tone rimes (三平韻).  The plain tone rime used throughout the poem is 庚(경). As described in the Imperial Compilation of Lyric Poetry Rubrics (欽定詞譜, 흠정사보):

又一體 雙調五十八字, 前後段各五句, 三平韻
OO平O平O仄, O平O仄平平(韻), O平O仄仄平平(韻), O平O仄, O仄仄平平(韻)
OO仄O平O仄, O平O仄平平(韻), O平O仄仄平平(韻), O平O仄, O仄仄平平(韻)

Note that the former and latter verses are identical.



Ruins of the former palace of the Goryeo dynasty in Gaesong (開城, 개성) in present day North Korea (Source)

King Seonjong (宣宗, 선종, 1049-1094, r. 1083-1094) was the thirteenth monarch of the Goryeo dynasty (高麗, 고려 918-1392). He was of the Gaesong Wang Clan (開城王氏, 개성왕씨); his original names (初名, 초명) were Jeung (蒸, 증) and Gi (祈, 기); his courtesy name (字, 자) was Gyecheon (繼天, 계천); his exalted name (諱, 휘) was Un (運, 운); and his posthumous title (諡, 시) was Sahyo (思孝, 사효). King Seonjong was the second son between King Munjong (文宗, 문종, 1019-1083, r. 1046-1083) and Queen Inye of Yi (仁睿太后李氏, 인예태후이씨, ?-1092), and the younger brother of Sunjong (順宗, 순종, 1047-1083, r. 1083) who died within two months of his ascension. His reign saw great stability and peace throughout the Goryeo realm. On the domestic front, King Seonjong greatly contributed to the further development of Buddhism. In 1084, he established service examinations for Buddhist monks (僧科, 승과). The King had his brother Euicheon (義天, 의천, 1055-1101) import Buddhist works from China. In commemoration of his mother’s death in 1089, he constructed a thirteen story tall golden pagoda on palace grounds, leading to some resentment among common people. On the diplomatic front, King Seonjong managed peaceful relations with the Jurchens (女眞, 여진), Khitan (契丹, 거란) Liao dynasty (遼, 요, 907-1125), and the Song dynasty (宋, 송, 960-1279). On a few occasions, the King dispatched emissaries to the Liao dynasty to negotiate the halting of operations of markets (榷場, 각장) monopolizing trade near the border, and sent troops to reinforce forts along the Yalu river. He also sent diplomats to the Song dynasty to learn and adopt Confucianism and the civil bureaucratic structure. King Seonjong became ill in 1092 and died two years later at the age of forty-five.

The King was recognized for his intelligence and comprehension of Chinese classics from an early age. He enjoyed composing poems, only a few of which still remain. One of these is the earliest surviving Lyric Poetry or Ci (詞, 사) by a Korean author. It has a definite year, month, and even day. The poem is also remarkably reflective of how cosmopolitan Classical Chinese was. King Seonjong wrote the poem for a Khitan envoy who was sent to attend the King’s birthday. In the poem, the King shows not only his gratitude but also his intent to maintain peace between the two formerly warring peoples.

己巳年 九月
기사년 구월

Ninth Month (1089)

乙亥, 遼遣永州管內觀察使楊璘來, 賀生辰.
을해, 료견영천관내관찰사양린래, 하생신.

On the Eulhae day (乙亥, 을해), a Liao dynasty Surveillance Commissioner of Yingzhou (永州管內觀察使, 영주관내관찰사), Yang Lin (楊璘, 양린), arrived to celebrate the King’s birthday.

  • 永州(영주) – Located in present day Inner Mongolia (内蒙古, 내몽고).

丁丑, 以天元節, 宴遼使于乾德殿, 王製:
정축, 이천원절, 연료사우건덕전, 왕제:

On the Jeongchuk day (丁丑, 정축), as it was the Feast of the Heavenly Origin (天元節, 천원절), the Liao dynasty commissioner was invited to a banquet at the Hall of Celestial Virtue (乾德殿, 건덕전). The King wrote:

  • 天元節(천원절) – Term used to refer to the birthday of a monarch during King Seonjong’s reign.

添聲楊柳枝 첨성양류지
賀聖朝詞 하성조사

To the Tune of Adding Sounds to the Willow Tree Branches:
Congratulating the Holy Court

露冷風高秋夜淸 로랭풍고추야청 仄仄平平平仄平(韻)
月華明 월화명 仄平平(韻)
披香殿裏欲三更 피향전리욕삼경 平平仄仄仄平平(韻)
沸歌聲 비가성 仄平平(韻)

The dew becomes cold, the winds high, and the autumn night clear.
The moon is splendidly bright.
All inside the Hall of Spread Fragrance (披香殿, 피향전) wish for the three strikes of the bell,
But it is teeming with the noise of singing.

Dew • cool • wind • high • autumn • night • clear
Moon • brilliant • bright
To spread • fragrance • hall • inside • to wish • three • again
To teem • songs • sounds

擾擾人生都似幻 요요인생도사환 仄仄平平平仄仄
莫貪榮 막탐영 仄平平(韻)
好將美醁滿金觥 호장미록만금굉 仄平仄仄仄平平(韻)
暢歡情 창환정 仄平平(韻)

Clamorous and boisterous, mankind’s life is all but a fantasy.
Therefore, do not covet glory.
Instead, enjoy the delectable ale filling the golden horn-chalice,
And be at ease in joviality and merriment!

Noisy • noisy • mankind • life • all • as if • fantasy
Do not • to covet • glory
To like • to intend • beautiful • wine • to fill • golden • horn cup
To be free • to be joyous • emotion


  • A Variant on Adding Sounds to the Willow Tree Branches (Tiansheng Yangliuzhi), titled Era of Great Peace (太平時, 태평시), has two verses of forty characters in total (雙調四十字). The former verse is four lines with four plain tone rimes (前段四句四平韻). The latter verse also is four lines but with three plain tone rimes (後段四句三平韻). The plain tone rime used throughout the poem is 庚(경). As described in the Imperial Compilation of Lyric Poetry Rubrics (欽定詞譜, 흠정사보):

又一體, 雙調四十字, 前段四句四平韻, 後段四句三平韻.
O仄平平O仄韻, 仄平韻, O平平仄仄平韻, 仄平韻
O仄O平平仄仄, 仄平韻, O平平仄仄平韻, 仄平韻


Yi Jehyeon (李齊賢, 이제현, 1287-1367) was a late Goryeo dynasty (高麗, 고려, 918-1392) bureaucrat, Neo-Confucian scholar, and poet. He was of the Gyeongju Yi Clan (慶州李氏, 경주이씨); his courtesy name (字, 자) was Jungsa (仲思, 중사); his pen name (號, 호) was Ikjae (益齋, 익재); and his posthumous name (諡, 시) was Munchung (文忠, 문충).

He was recognized for his abilities from a young age and advanced to the top of Goryeo dynasty bureaucracy. In 1301 at the age of 14, Yi Jehyeon passed the civil service examination for entering the National Academy (國子監, 국자감 or 成均館, 성균관) in first place, and promoted quickly through the bureaucratic ranks. In 1314, at the request of King Chungseon (忠宣王, 충선왕, 1275-1325, r. 1298, 1308-1313), who spent most of his reign in China, Yi Jehyeon traveled to the Yuan dynasty’s capital of Yenjing (京, 연경) to advance his studies at the Hall of Ten Thousand Volumes (萬堂, 만권당). While in China, he became acquainted with many Chinese scholars and traveled across the continent. In 1320, when King Chungseon was banished to Tibet (吐蕃, 토번), Yi Jehyeon traveled all the way to meet the King. He later plead to Mongol officials to release the King and worked to minimize Mongol interference in internal affairs. In 1324, he returned to Korea and continued serving in government. In 1339, however, with the chaotic situation on the Goryeo royal court, he decided to seclude himself away from politics to study and write a series of works, which would be compiled as the Scribbles of Old Man Oak (櫟翁稗說, 역옹패설). In 1344, Yi Jehyeon returned to public life and proposed reforms, emphasizing the Confucian tenets of “analyzing things and reaching knowledge” (格物致知, 격물치지) and “making the will sincere and rectifying the mind” (誠心, 성의정심). In 1356, as the Yuan dynasty was collapsing, he took the side of the pro-Ming faction. Shortly thereafter, however, Yi Jehyeon retired permanently from politics and spent the remainder of his life studying and composing a history of the Goryeo dynasty. He passed away in 1367, and is survived by members of the Ikjae-gong Branch (益齋公派, 익재공파) of the Gyeongju Yi Clan. 

He was also renowned for his Classical Chinese poetry, in particular, lyric poems (詞, 사) and music bureau poems (樂府, 악부) — though the poem here is neither form. Below is one of eight poems he wrote on various scenes in Gaeseong (開城, 개성), the capital of the Goryeo dynasty. In it, Yi Jehyeon writes about the Cleansing Drink Day (禊飮日, 계음일). This festival falls on the third day of the third month on the Lunar Calendar and falls on April 21 this year. It has several names, including First Rat Day (上巳日, 상사일), Field Outing Day (踏靑節, 답청절), Double Third Day (重三日, 중삼일), and Samjitnal (삼짇날). The festival traditionally marked the day swallows migrated and returned from the south. There are many customs associated with this festival. The custom alluded below is to bathe in a river and drink alcohol thereafter.

松都八詠 熊川禊飮 송도팔영 웅천계음

Eight Poems on Songdo – Cleansing Drinks at Ungcheon

沙頭酒盡欲斜暉 사두주진욕사휘
濯足淸流看鳥飛 탁족청류간조비
此意自佳誰領取 차의자가수령취
孔門吾與舞雩歸 공문오여무우귀

Atop the sandy banks, with my wine deplete, I wish that the sunshine inclines.
Washing my feet in the clear stream, I gaze at birds flying.
This meaning by itself is beautiful — Who shall receive it?
As a student of Confucius, I too dance upon the rain altar and return home.


Sand • head • wine • deplete • wish • aslant • shine
Wash • feet • clear • stream • to see • bird • to fly
This • intent • by itself • beautiful • who • to receive • to handle
Confucius • student • I • together • dance • rain • to return


  • Heptasyllabic truncated verse (七言絶句, 칠언절구). Riming character (韻, 운) is 微(미). Though the last character of the third line may appear to be a rime, 取(취) is a rising tone (上聲, 상성) character.
  • 松都(송도) – Literally, “pine tree capital.” Refers to Gaeseong. It is located just north of the North-South Korean border.
  • 熊川(웅천) – Refers to a stream near Gaeseong.
  • 孔門吾與舞雩歸(공문오여무우귀) – Allusion to Analects of Confucius (論語, 논어), Xianjin Chapter (先進, 선진). In the story, Confucius asks four of disciples what their wishes were. Three of the four replied that they wished to enter government service and manage a state. The fourth, remaining disciple, Zeng Xi (曾皙, 증석), replied that he wished to bathe in the waters of Yishou (沂水, 기수), enjoy the breeze upon the rain altar, and return home singing. Confucius, in response, commended him.

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Kwon Jeok (權適, 권적, 1094-1147) was a Goryeo Dynasty (高麗, 고려, 918-1392) and Song Dynasty (宋, 송, 960-1279) bureaucrat and scholar. He was of the Andong Kwon Clan (安東權氏, 안동권씨) and his courtesy name (字, 자) was Deukjeong (得正, 득정). During the reign of Emperor Yejong (睿宗, 예종, 1079-1122, r. 1105-1122), Kwon Jeok was selected to be sent over to China to study at the Imperial Academy (太學, 태학, Taehak). In 1117, he passed the Song Dynasty imperial civil examinations (科擧, 과거) but returned to Goryeo shortly thereafter. After his return, he served on various bureaucratic positions.

In the poem below, he describes the winter scenery of Major Snow, or Daeseol (大雪, 대설), one of the twenty-four solar terms. As a solar term, the Major Snow always falls around December 6th or 7th on the Western Gregorian Calendar, but varies on the lunar calendar. On this day, the Sun reaches the celestial longitude of 255 degrees.

安北寺詠竹 안북사영죽

At Anbuk Temple, A Recitation on Bamboo Trees

大雪漫天萬木嶊 대설만천만목최
琅玕相映一枝梅 랑간상영일지매
不如六月炎蒸酷 불여유월염증혹
呼召淸風分外來 호소청풍분외래

Large snow fill the heavens; ten-thousand trees are piled.
The jade bamboo trees mutually illuminate one branch on the plum tree.
It is not like the severity of the Sixth Month’s steaming heat.
Calling out to the clear winds, a portion comes from the outside.


Large • snow • to fill • heavens • ten-thousand • trees • to be piled
Jade • jade • mutually • to shine upon • one • branch • plum tree
Not • like • sixth • month • heat • steaming • severity
To call • to call out • clear • winds • to share • outside • to come


  • The blogger is uncertain of the location of Anbuk Temple (安北寺, 안북사).
  • 琅玕(낭간) – A sobriquet for bamboo trees.


Yi Saek (李穡, 이색, 1328-1396) was a Neo-Confucian scholar and Goryeo Dynasty bureaucrat. He was of the Hansan Yi Clan (韓山李氏, 한산이씨); his courtesy name (字, 자) was Yeongsuk (潁叔, 영숙); his pen name (號, 호) was Mokeun (牧隱, 목은). He was a contemporary of Jeong Mongju (鄭夢周, 정몽주), who was killed after the collapsed of the Goryeo dynasty for refusing to serve the new Chosun dynasty. For being associated with Jeong Mongju, Yi Saek was exiled. He was allowed to return to government office, but passed away shortly after.

In the poem below, he describes people playing a board game known as Seongbuldo (成佛圖, 성불도), or literally “a drawing of becoming Buddha.” It is very similar to Seunggyeongdo (陞卿圖, 승경도): instead of bureaucratic rankings, players advance through Buddhist eschatology. Buddhism was introduced into Korea during the Three Kingdoms Period (三國時代, 삼국시대, 57-668). Seongbuldo was first played sometime during the Goryeo Dynasty (高麗, 고려,  918-1392). Unlike Seunggyeongdo, this game has not died out and seems to be well known among Korean Buddhist circles. There is even an Android app for this board game.

遣悶. 金上將携酒來. 栗及靑豆侑之.
견민. 김상장휴주래. 률급청두유지.

Dispelling the Stuffiness. Kim Sangjang carrying wine came. Chestnuts and peas, I offered him.

看來喧寂不殊塗 간래훤적불수도
胡乃操戈欲逐儒 호내조과욕축유
晩景深居避人處 만경심거피인처
高聲大叫成佛圖 고성대규성불도
閑敎童子八州府 한교동자팔주주
靜愛族親携酒壺 정애족친휴조호
築室臨流眞素願 축실림류진소원
何須浩蕩歸五湖 한수호탕귀오호

It appears as if noise and silence are not on different paths.
How is it that grabbing spears they intentionally drove out the Confucian scholars?
In my late age, in seclusion I live and places of men I have avoided;
Loud sounds and great shouts at the drawing of becoming Buddha (成佛圖, 성불도).
Leisurely, I asked the children to do errands to the magistrates of the eight states;
Quietly, I esteem my kinsmen and carry a bottle of wine.
To construct a house in the presence of river flow has truly been my original wish.
Why must in this vastness and endlessness return to the five lakes (五湖, 오호)?


  • “Different paths” (殊塗, 수도) may be a reference to The Great Treatise II Chapter (繫辭下, 계사하, Gyesaha) of Book of Changes (易經, 역경, Yeok Gyeong):

易曰: “憧憧往來, 朋從爾思.”
역왈: “동동왕래, 붕종이사.”

It is said in the Yi, “Full of anxious thoughts you go and come; (only) friends will follow you and think with you.”

子曰: “天下何思何慮? 天下同歸而殊塗, 一致而百慮, 天下何思何慮?”
자왈: “천하하사하려? 천하동귀이수도, 일치이백려, 천하하사하려?”

The Master said: “In all (the processes taking place) under heaven, what is there of thinking? what is there of anxious scheming? They all come to the same (successful) issue, though by different paths; there is one result, though there might be a hundred anxious schemes. What is there of thinking? what is there of anxious scheming?”

Translation by James Legge

  • “Grabbing spears they intentionally drove out the Confucian scholars” (操戈欲逐儒, 조과욕축유) is a reference to the King Mu of Zhou Chapter (周穆王, 주목왕, Ju Mok Wang) of Liezi (列子, 열자, Yeolja):

儒生欣然告其子曰: “疾可已也. 然吾之方密傳世, 不以告人. 試屏左右, 獨與居室七日.”
유생흔연고기자왈: “질가이야. 연오지방밀전세, 불이고인. 시병좌우, 독여거실칠일.”

The Confucian scholar joyfully informed his son, “The disease can be stopped. However, our method must be secret from being transmitted to the world so that it will not be informed to others. Send out your left and right servants from the room, so that I along can reside together with him in the room for seven days.”

從之. 莫知其所施爲也, 而積年之疾, 一朝都除.
종지. 막지기소시위야, 이적녀이질, 일조도제.

He followed [the instruction]. No one knew his what work was being given, but after many years of disease, in one morning he fully eliminated the disease.

華子旣悟, 迺大怒, 黜妻罰子, 操戈逐儒生. 宋人執而問其以.
화자기오, 내대노, 출처벌자, 조과축유생. 송인집이문기이.

Hua Zi (華子, 화자, Hwa Ja) had come to his sense and become very furious, kicking out his wife, chastising his son, and grabbing a spear to drive out the Confucian scholar. The people of Song (宋, 송) held him and asked his reason.

華子曰: “曩吾忘也, 蕩蕩然不覺天地之有无.
화자왈: “낭오망야, 탕탕연불각천지지유무.

Hua Zi replied, “First, [because of] my amnesia. It was vast and wide. I did sense the existence and non-existence of the heavens and earth.

今頓識, 旣往數十年來, 存亡得失, 哀樂好惡, 擾擾萬緒起矣.
금돈식, 기왕수십년래, 존망득실, 애락호오, 우우만서기의.

Now that I have suddenly realized: In the past tens of years that life and death, profit and loss, sadness and joy, and liking and disliking were all noisy and troublesome, and ten-thousand affairs have arisen.

吾恐將來之, 存亡得失哀樂好惡之亂, 吾心如此也, 須臾之忘, 可復得乎?”
오공장래지, 존망득실애락호오지란, 오심여차야, 수유지망, 가부득호?”

I fear what the future will bring, the disturbance from life and death, profit and loss, sadness and joy, liking and disliking. My heart is like this: an amnesia for a brief moment, can I have that again?”

  • “Eight states” (八州, 팔주) refers to the eight states of China outside the capital. Yi Saek is referring to all the provinces of Korea outside of capital area (畿甸, 기전).
  • “Five lakes” (五湖, 오호) refers to lakes in ancient Chinese history.


  • 看來(간래) – “It appears as if” or “seemingly.”
  • 晩景(만경) – Literally refers to the scenery around sunset.
  • 深居(심거) – Refers to living at home and not pursuing activities outside there.