Ancient Style Poetry (古體詩 고체시)

Blog Pic 2-29-2016

Confectioneries and fruits laid out at a traditional Korean wedding ceremony (Source)

Naver’s Encyclopedia (네이버 백과사전) is an incredibly useful resource especially on all things Korean (in Korean), such as Korean literature, history, culture, customs, and so forth. A few days ago, I came across an entry about a rather humorous regional folktale originating from Yangju (楊州, 양주) in Gyeonggi Province (京畿道, 경기도), a city just north of Seoul, titled An Illiterate Bridegroom’s Classical Chinese Poem (無識한 新郞의 漢詩, 무식한 신랑의 한시). The tale is said to have passed on by word of mouth among the residents of this area, and was first recorded sometime during the colonial period. It uses word play requiring an understanding of not only Classical Chinese — as the title suggests — but also native Korean. This might seem complex, but such jokes can be actually found in other Korean stories and poems from the pre-modern era, and even in memes today. Below is my quick translation:

An Illiterate Bridegroom’s Classical Chinese Poem

Long ago, a young man was to be married to the daughter of an erudite man’s household. The bride’s family wanted to see their soon-to-be son-in-law’s literary talents on the day of the wedding. However, the bridegroom’s father knew that his son barely knew how to write. Because of this, he was afraid that his son would be humiliated by the bride’s family members. The father thus went to a well-educated, literate man and asked him to be his son’s attendant as a guest of honor at the wedding, so that his son would not be humiliated.

After the wedding ceremony, surely enough the bride’s family gathered around the bridegroom with a table and brush, and asked him to write a poem. Flustered and not knowing what to write, the bridegroom gazed all around the room. He saw a spider web on the ceiling, and shouted, “Cheon-jang-e geo-mi-jip (천장에 거미집)” (“There’s a spider web on the ceiling”). The attendant immediately wrote:

天長去無執 천장거미집 Cheon-jang-geo-mi-jip

The heavens are so expansive that there is nowhere to go to grab a hold of.

The bridegroom then looked toward the yard, and saw the smoke of husks of grain being burnt (겻불내) rising. He then interjected, “Hwa-ro-e gyeo-bb’ul-lae (화로에 겨뿔내)” (“In the stove, the smell of grain husks burning”). The attendant quickly scribbled:

花老蝶不來 화로접불래 Hwa-ro-jeop-bul-lae

As the flower has grown old, butterflies do not come.

Next, he turned his attention to the table and the food laid thereupon. The bridegroom first saw one bowl of noodles and called out, “Guk-su han sa-bal (국수 한 사발)” (“One bowl of noodles”). The attendant hastenly scribed:

菊秀寒士發 국수한사발 Guk-sa-han-sa-bal

The chrysanthemums are elegant, blossoming like a poor scholar.

Lastly, the bridegroom turned to the sweets and fruits on the table, and exclaimed, “Gang-jeong, bin-sa-gwadae-chu, bok-sung-a! (강정, 빈사과, 대추, 복숭아!)” (“Glutinous rice crackers, molasses-coated sweets, dates, and peaches!”). The attendant briskly penned:

江亭貧士過 강정빈사과 Gang-jeong-bin-sa-gwa
大醉伏松下 대취복송하 Dae-chwi-bok-song-ha

The poor scholar passes by the river’s pavilion;
Greatly inebriated, he lays flat down beneath the pine tree.

The bride’s family praised the bridegroom for his writing, and was pleased to see that their new son-in-law was literate.

This folktale reveals that Korean common folk had accepted or were at least exposed to Classical Chinese to some degree. This is seen not only from the bride’s family putting value in literacy in Chinese characters but also from the whole story itself treating Classical Chinese poetry with great levity. (As further evidence of this, there was even an entire genre of native Korean poetry called Eonmun-pungweol (諺文風月, 언문풍월) that was popular into the early 20th century that mimicked Classical Chinese poetry.) This is contradictory to some Korean nationalists’ baseless assertions, whose opinions are too common online, that Sinitic elements of Korean culture were limited to just the very elite.



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.

Yang Wanli (楊萬里, 양만리, 1127-1206) was a Song dynasty (宋, 송, 960-1279) bureaucrat and poet. He was born in what is now Ji’an (安, 길안) in Jiangxi Province (江西省, 강서성); his courtesy name (字, 자) is Tingxiu (廷秀, 정수); and his pen name (號, 호) is Chengzhai (誠齋, 성재). Yang Wanli grew up during the Jurchen Jin invasions, one of many turbulent times in Chinese history. In 1154, he passed the civil service exam, and became appointed to various bureaucratic positions around China, the first in Lingling (零陵, 영릉). During the reign of Song Emperor Xiaozong (宋孝宗, 송 효종, 1127-1194, r. 1162-1189), Yang Wanli was promoted to various high ranking positions, such as the Imperial Academy (國監, 국자감), Head Scholar of the Ministry of Ceremonies (太士, 태상박사), and Reader-in-Waiting for the Heir Apparent (太讀, 태자시독). In 1187, however, for opposing the memorialization of a widely criticized minister named Lu Yihao (呂頤浩, 여이호, 1071-1139) at the royal shrine (廟祀, 묘사), Yang Wanli was banished from the capital and demoted to Administer of Yunzhou (州, 균주), which is in Jiangxi Province (江西省, 강서성). His status was restored and he was reappointed to the Imperial Academy, during the reign of Song Emperor Guangzong (宋光宗, 송 광종, 1147-1200, r. 1189-1194). Regardless, few years later, shortly after Song Emperor Ningzong (宋寧宗, 송 영종, 1168-1224, r. 1194-1224) took the throne, Yang Wanli offered a retirement request to the Emperor, who accepted it. The court called him back repeatedly from retirement, but he refused every time. Throughout his political career, even well after the signing of the Treaty of Shaoxing (紹興和議, 소흥화의) ending the Jin-Song conflict in 1142, Yang Wanli repeatedly submitted petitions (上疏, 상소) demanding the court send troops to reclaim territories lost to the Jurchen. He grew bitter over the fact that his call for action went unheard. 

In addition, Yang Wanli was a prolific Classical Chinese poet. During his appointments across China, he wrote a volume of poems about the regions he was stationed. In total, Yang Wanli wrote over 4,000 poems, just shy of the record set by his contemporary and friend, Lu You (陸游, 육유, 1125-1209). The following is from 1179, when Yang Wanli was appointed as the Superintendent of Guangdong (?) (廣東常平提學, 광동상평제학). He composed this poem as he was traveling from Quzhou (衢州, 구주) to Jiangshan (江山, 강산) during the fourth month of that year. In the poem, Yang Wanli captures the toil and labor of farmers planting rice in the countryside. Planting rice the usual agricultural practice from Grain Budding Day (小滿, 소만) to Grain in Ear Day (芒種, 망종). Both these days are solar terms and thus fall every year around May 21 and June 6 respectively. Rice farming has a long history in China, as rice (Oryza sativa) was first domesticated in southern China sometime between 8,000 to 13,000 years ago.

揷秧歌 삽앙가

Rice Planting Song

田夫抛秧田婦接 전부포앙전부접 平平平平平仄仄(韻)
小兒拔秧大兒揷 소아발앙대아삽 仄平仄平仄平仄(韻)
笠是兜鍪蓑是甲 립시두무사시갑 仄仄平平平仄仄(韻)
雨從頭上濕到胛 우종두상습도갑 仄仄平仄仄仄仄(韻)
唤渠朝餐歇半霎 환거조찬헐반삽 仄平平平仄仄仄(韻)
低頭折腰只不答 저두절요지불답 平平仄平仄仄仄(韻)
秧根未牢蒔未匝 앙근미뢰시미잡 平仄仄平平仄仄(韻)
照管鵝兒與雛鴨 조관아아여추압 仄仄平平仄平仄(韻)

The farm husbands throw the rice seedlings; the farm wives receive.
The smaller children pick the rice seedlings; the larger children plant.
Bamboo hats are like war helmets; straw raincoats like armor.
Rain waters flow from top of the head and soak down to the collar bone.
Those people, having been called to breakfast, respite for half a second.
Lowering their heads and bending their waists, they only do not answer.
Since the rice seedlings’ roots are not yet firm and the planted seedlings have not yet spread,
Take care of the young goslings and ducklings!


Rice paddy • husband • throw • seedlings • rice paddy • wife • treat
Small • children • pluck • seedlings • large • children • plant
Bamboo hat • to be • helmet • helmet • straw raincoat • to be • armor
Rain • from • head • top • soak • reach • collar bone
Call • that • morning • meal • respite • half • moment
Lower • head • bend • waist • only • not  • answer
Seedling • root • not yet • firm • seedling • not yet • go around
Inform • take care • geese • child • and • chick • duck


  • Heptasyllabic archaic poem (七言古詩, 칠언고시) with each line ending with an oblique tone rime (仄韻, 측운). The riming characters (韻, 운) are 合(합), 葉(엽), and 洽(흡), all entering tones (入聲, 입성) of -p (ㅂ). (Entering tones no longer exist in Mandarin Chinese.)
  • Korean translation available here.

Wei Yingwu (韋應物, 위응물, 737-792) was a Tang dynasty (唐, 당, 618-907) bureaucrat and poet. He was born in Jingzhao (兆, 경조), Wannian (萬年, 만년), near modern day Xi’an (西安, 서안). At the age of fifteen, he became one of the Three Guardsmen (三衛郎, 삼위랑) and assisted to Emperor Xuanzong (玄宗, 현종, 685-762, r. 712-756); however, he was dismissed for poor behavior during the An Lushan Rebellion (安史之亂, 안사의 난, 755-763) that devastated China. After the rebellion, during the reign of Tang Emperor Suzong (肅宗, 숙종, 711-762, r. 756-762), he passed the imperial civil service examinations (科擧, 과거) and served in various bureaucratic positions, most notably being appointed to the successive Provincial Governorship positions (刺史, 자사) of Chuzhou (滁州, 저주), Jiangzhou (江州, 강주), and Suzhou (蘇州, 소주). Since Wei Yingwu’s last office was as Provincial Governor of Suzhou, his nickname was “Wei Suzhou.” He was also renowned for his poetry. Some five hundred thirty six poems composed by Wei Yingwu can be found in the Complete Tang Poems (全詩, 전당시), another historic anthology of Tang Dynasty poems. In particular, he was highly regarded for his pentasyllabic archaic style poetry (五言古詩, 오언고시). Wei Yingwu’s poetry was said to have been very much influenced by Tao Yuanming’s poetry (陶淵明, 도연명, 365-427), and thus was called “Tao-Wei” (陶·韋, 도·위). Another renowned Tang dynasty poet, Bai Juyi (白居易, 백거이, 772-846), gave high evaluations Wei Yingwu’s poetry, commenting that his poetry can be considered as “having achieved its own class by itself” (自體, 자성일가지체). 

In the poem below, Wei Yingwu writes about the Day of Awakening of Insects (驚蟄, 경칩). The day marks when the Sun is between the celestial longitudes of 345-360 degrees. As it is a solar term, it falls around March 5 of every year on the Western Gregorian Calendar, but varies on the Chinese Lunar Calendar. The day traditionally marked when spring’s warm air returned, along with the thunderstorms that would startle or awaken (驚, 경) insects. In Korea, it also marked when frogs and toads come out of hibernation and lay eggs in the water.

觀田家 관전가

Gazing at the Farmhouse

微雨衆卉新 미우중훼신  Fine rain renews packs of flowers.
一雷驚蟄始 일뢰경칩시  One thunder, and the Awakening of Insects begin.
田家幾日閑 전가기일한  For how many days, will the farmhouse be at leisure?
耕種從此起 경종종차기  Plowing and planting will start from now.
丁壯俱在野 정장구재야  All then men in their prime age are in the fields;
場圃亦就理 장포역취리  To the vegetable garden, they also go out to administer.
歸來景常晏 귀래경상안  When they return and come, the scene is always late;
飮犢西澗水 음독서간수  They feed the calves with the waters from the western ravines.
飢劬不自苦 기구불자고  Hungering and toiling, they do not agonize by themselves;
膏澤且爲喜 고택차위희  With well time rain, they are gratified.
倉廩無蓄儲 창름무축저  In the silo, nothing is stored up;
徭役猶未已 요역유미이  The conscripted laborers too still have not finished.
方愧不耕者 방괴불경자  I now pity those that have not plowed;
祿食出閭里 녹식출려리  Our allowance and food comes from these hamlets and villages!


Small • rain • many • flora • new
One • thunder • to startle • insects • to begin
Rice paddy • house • how many • days • leisurely
To plow • seeds • from • this • to arise
Prime age • men • all • to reside • fields
Yard • vegetable garden • also • to go out • to administer
To return • to come • scene • always • late
Feed • calves • west • ravine • water
To hunger • to toil • not • by itself • agony
Oil • moisture •  also • to become • happy
Storage • storage • to have not •  to store •  to store
Forced labor • labor • still • not • to cease
About to • to pity • not • to plow • indefinite noun marker
Salary • food • to originate • hamlets • villages


  • Pentasyllabic archaic style poetry (五言古詩, 오언고시). Riming character (韻, 운) is 紙(지), an oblique tone (仄聲, 측성).
  • Korean translation available here.

Short Biography on Hwang Hyeon

Hwang Hyeon (黃玹, 황현, 1855-1910) was a Confucian scholar, poet, and Korean independence activist. He was of the Jangsu Hwang Clan (長水黃氏, 장수황씨); his courtesy name (字) was Un’gyeong (雲卿, 운경); and his pen name (號, 호) was Maecheon (梅泉, 매천). He was born in Gwangyang (光陽, 광양) in South Jeolla Province (全羅南道, 전라남도), and started studying Confucian texts from a young age. In 1870, he married Lady Oh of the Haeju Clan (海州吳氏, 해주오씨, ?-?), with whom he had two sons and one daughter. (Both of his sons also became Confucian scholars and independence activists.) In 1878, Hwang Hyeon moved to Seoul to study under the tutelage of Yi Geonchang (李昌, 이건창, 1852-1898), a Confucian scholar of the Yangming School of Thought (陽明學, 양명학), which was considered heterodox in Korea. In 1888, he passed the civil service examinations (科擧, 과거), but despaired at the corruption of the Chosun government and decided to rusticate soon thereafter to Gurye (求禮, 구례) near his hometown.

In Gurye, Hwang Hyeon established a den named Gu’andang (苟安堂, 구안당), and devoted himself to studying the classics. He also wrote a number of works. His most important works were his chronicles on the turmoil and numerous developments in Korea, which he started writing in 1894 in reaction to the Donghak Peasant Revolt (東學農民運動, 동학농민운동), Gabo Reforms (甲午改革, 갑오개혁), and the First Sino-Japanese War (淸日戰爭, 청일전쟁), all of which occurred that year. His chronicles include the Unofficial Records of Maecheon (梅泉野錄, 매천야록), Records of the Hearsay Under the Paulowonia Tree (梧下紀聞, 오하기문), and Collection of Maecheon’s Writings (集, 매천집). In addition, he composed over 1,000 Classical Chinese poems (漢詩, 한시).

First Sino-Japanese War

Japanese troops marching through the countryside in Korea during the First Sino-Japanese War (淸日戰爭, 청일전쟁) (Source)

Assorted Compositions on the First Full Moon Festival

Sometime during the first months of 1906, Hwang Hyeon wrote Assorted Compositions on the First Full Moon Festival (上元雜詠, 상원잡영). The First Full Moon Festival (正月 大–, 정월대보름 or 上元, 상원) occurs fifteen days after the Lunar New Year, which is on March 5 of this year. Ten heptasyllabic poems in all, they describe various traditional Korean folk customs on this day, covering offering food for crows (祭烏, 제오), giving feed to an ox (飼牛, 사오), drinking wine to gain sharp hearing (治聾, 치롱), selling heat (賣暑, 매서), planting reed flutes (植風竿, 식풍간), building a bridge out of straw thatch (苫橋, 섬교), setting ridges between rice paddies on fire (燒田, 소전), gazing at the full moon (候月, 후월), playing tug-of-war (繂曳, 솔예), and exorcism of evil spirits (罷儺, 파나). The rest of the blog post will focus on the first in this collection, on the custom of offering for crows (祭烏, 제오 or 까마귀 밥주기).

Read More

Shigyeong - Gukpung

Classic of Poetry (詩經, 시경) – Airs of States (國風, 국풍) (Source)


Since most of the posts on this blog are translations of Classical Chinese poetry (漢詩, 한시), I thought it would be beneficial to briefly outline forms and the tonal meters. Most of what is written in this post I gathered from a book I reviewed awhile ago and on various Korean blogs. For the sake of brevity, I will be glossing over some of the minute details. There are tomes written about this subject.

Overview of Poetic Forms

Classical Chinese Poetic Forms

Classical Chinese poetic form (詩體, 시체) can be generally broken down into two categories: (1) archaic style poetry (古體詩, 고체시) and (2) recent style poetry (近體詩, 근체시). These categories have their own characteristics and can be further broken down into subcategories.

1. Archaic Style Poetry (古體詩, 고체시)

The most tale-telling indicator of archaic style poetry is the lack of strict adherence to form or rime. The term “archaic” in archaic style poetry is a bit of a misnomer, as there were plenty of archaic style poems written after recent style poetry was developed. Archaic style poems can have a varying number of lines and number of syllables per line (雜言, 잡언). To the extent an archaic style poem follows even a riming scheme, it uses near rimes (通韻, 통운) and may use oblique tones as rimes (仄韻, 측운). Other miscellaneous characteristics include the repetition of same character often throughout the poem, a trait not seen too often in recent style poetry.

2. Recent Style Poetry (近體詩, 근체시)

Recent style poetry first developed during the Southern and Northern Dynasties Period (南北朝時代, 남북조시대, 420-589) and fully formed during the middle period of the Tang Dynasty in the 8th and 9th centuries. In contrast to archaic style poetry, recent style poetry is marked by strict adherence to form. They are typically either quartets (絶句, 절구) or octets (律詩, 율시). Some are “extended regulation” poems (排律, 배율), which are extended versions of either quartets or octets and are typically 12 lines. For each line, recent style poems are either pentasyllabic (五言, 오언) or heptasyllabic (七言, 칠언). There is also a strict tonal meter of plain and oblique tones, and a riming scheme. With quartets and octets, there are additional rules regarding how the content should progress within the poem. The rest of this post will focus on the rules of recent style poetry.

Tonal Meter in Recent Style Poetry (平仄原則, 평측원칙)

For the purposes of this explanation, I will use the following, widely used notation. The basic rules are stated in terms of heptasyllablic poems, but can be generalized to pentasyllabic poems.

○ Plain tone (平聲, 평성)
● Oblique tone (仄聲, 측성)
◐ Preferably oblique tone, plain tone allowed
◑ Preferably plain tone, oblique tone allowed
◎ Rime (押韻, 압운)

1. Second and Sixth Syllables Should Be the Same; Second and Fourth Should Be Different (二六對, 이륙대; 二四不同, 이사불동)

The second, fourth, and sixth syllables of a heptasyllabic poem set the rhythm (節奏點, 절주점) in each line. In fact, a heptasyllabic line is meant to be read and interpreted in 2-2-3. (Rarely is it 3-2-2.) Under this rule, the second and sixth syllable should be of the same tone. In contrast, the second and fourth characters should be of different tones. For example, if the second syllable is of a plain tone (○), the fourth syllable should be oblique (●) and the sixth syllable should be again plain (○).  The first phrase in this rule is sometimes called 二六同(이륙동).

2. Over First, Third, and Fifth Syllables, Do Not Argue; Second, Fourth, and Sixth Syllables Must Be Certain (一三五不論, 일삼오불론; 二四六分明, 이사륙분명)

As for the other syllables, typically the first, third, and fifth syllables of each line follow the tone as the syllable respectively after each. They are, however, not strictly restricted in terms of which tone they have to be. Hence, “do not argue” (不論, 불론). On the other hand, the second, fourth, and sixth syllables cannot be changed. An exemplary line that complies with this rule is  雪花遣霰作前鋒(설화견산작전봉) (●○●●●○◎). In this example, the first syllable is an oblique tone, even though the second syllable is a plain tone.

3. Unaccompanied Plain Tones and Unaccompanied Oblique Tones Should Be Avoided (避孤平孤仄, 피고평고측)

A plain tone syllable that follows and comes before oblique tone syllables is called an unaccompanied plain tone (孤平, 고평). An oblique tone syllable that follows and comes before plain tone syllables is called an unaccompanied oblique tone (孤仄, 고측). Generally, unaccompanied plain and oblique tones should be avoided for the second, fourth, and sixth syllables in each line, because it is considered to break the rhythm and flow of the poem. This rule is not strictly followed, however, as it is not uncommon to see unaccompanied oblique tones in Classical Chinese poems. With Korean Classical Chinese poets, the rule was more strictly followed for the second syllable in a heptasyllabic poem and the fourth syllable in a pentasyllablic poem.

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Louxuan Poetry Collection

Wu Jiaji (吳嘉紀, 오가기, 1618-1684) was a late Ming dynasty and early Qing dynasty poet. He was born in Taizhou (泰州, 태주), Jiangsu Province (江蘇省, 강소성); his courtesy name (字, 자) was Binxian (賢, 빈현); and his pen name (號, 호) was Yeren (野人, 야인). Wu Jiaji was from an impoverished background, and had very little to eat even during bumper years. Although he worked as a laborer, he enjoyed reading and composing poetry. When the Manchus invaded China, he joined the Ming loyalist forces fight against the Qing. During this time, he witnessed many atrocities committed by the pillaging Manchu army. After Ming loyalist forces capitulated, he decided to retire to his home village where he continued to live in solitude and in abject poverty. He wrote several poems, many of which portray in vivid detail the brutalities of the Manchu army. In his composition below, he describes one story from the Yangzhou massacre (揚州大虐殺, 양주대학살), which took place in 1645 after the city’s capitulation. His poems can be found in the Louxuan Poetry Collection (陋軒詩集, 누헌시집). Please do note that the following poem may be a bit gory. 

李家娘 이가낭

The Li Family’s Daughter-in-Law

乙酉夏, 兵陷郡城, 李氏婦被掠.
을유하, 병함군성, 리씨부피략.

In the summer of the Yiyou year (乙酉, 을유) (1645), [Manchu] soldiers took control of Juncheng (郡城, 군성) and the Mr. Li’s wife was captured.

  • 郡城(군성) – Refers to Yangzhou (揚州, 양주).

掠者百計求近, 不屈. 越七日夜, 聞其夫歿, 婦哀號撞壁, 顱碎腦出而死.
략자백계구근, 불굴. 월칠일야, 문기부몰, 부애호동벽, 로쇄뇌출이사.

The pillagers attempted a hundred times demanding her to come near, but she did not yield. When the seventh day’s night had passed, she heard that her husband had perished. The wife sorrowfully cried, striking [her head] into the wall. Her cranium broke and her brain poured out, leading to her death.

時掠者他出, 歸乃怒裂婦尸, 剖腹取心肺示人. 見者莫不驚悼, 感稱李家娘云.
시략자타출, 귀내노렬부시, 배복취심폐시인. 견자막불경도, 감칭리가낭운.

At that time, the pillagers were outside elsewhere and when they returned angrily cut up the wife’s corpse. They sliced her stomach, took her heart and lungs, and showed it to the others. Among those who saw, no one could not but be in shock and mourn. It is said that all praised the daughter-in-law of the Li family.

城中山白死人骨 城外水赤死人血
성중산백사인골 성외수적사인혈
殺人一百四十萬 新城舊城內有幾人活
살인일백사십만 신성구성내유기인활

Inside the fortress, the mountain is white with the bones of the dead;
Outside the fortress, the waters are red with the blood of the dead.
The murdered number one million and four hundred thousand.
Within the new fortress and the old fortress, how many men are alive?
First stanza.

妻方對鏡 夫已墮首
처방대경 부이타수
腥刀入鞘 紅顏隨走
성도입초 홍안수주
西家女 東家婦
서가녀 동가부
如花李家娘 亦落强梁手
여화리가낭 역락강량수

Just as the wife faces the mirror,
Her husband’s head has already fallen.
With the bloody sword having entered its sheath,
The red faced woman is pulled and taken away.
The west house’s miss,
The east house’s wife,
And the Li family’s daughter-in-law,
Altogether have fallen into the hands of the aggressive and raven.
Second stanza.

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