Lyric Poetry (詞 사)

Mount Baekbyeong (Source)

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

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

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

水調歌頭 수조가두
思鄕 사향

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

雙調九十五字, 前段九句四平韻, 後段十句四平韻

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

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



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?


  • 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).



New Tales of the Golden Terrapin (金鰲新話, 금오신화) (Source)

Kim Shiseup (金時習, 김시습, 1435-1493) was a Chosun dynasty Confucian and Buddhist scholar. He was of the Gangreung Kim Clan (江陵金氏, 강릉김씨); his courtesy name (字, 자) was Yeolgyeong (悅卿, 열경); his pen name (號, 호) was Maeweoldang (梅月堂, 매월당) among many others; his dharma name (法名, 법명) was Seoljam (雪岑, 설잠); his posthumous name (諡, 시) was Cheonggan (淸簡, 청간). Born to a military family in Seoul, Kim Shiseup was immediately recognized as a child prodigy. He learned how to read at eight-months old and composed his first Classical Chinese poem at the age of three. (I suspect Kim Shiseup may have been a high-functioning autistic savant, as he suffered from stuttering all his life and was not very sociable.) News of his genius soon traveled around Seoul and reached the court. When Kim Shiseup was just five years old, King Sejong (世宗, 세종, 1397-1450, r. 1418-1450) invited him to the Royal Secretariat (承政院, 승정원) to write poetry. While the King did not personally meet him, he gave Kim Shiseup silk cloth as a gift. Because of this monumental event, he received the nickname “the five year old (五歲, 오세).” Others poking fun of him would later twist his nickname to “arrogant toward the world (傲世, 오세)” as a pun. In 1452, after the three-year mourning period for his mother, Kim Shiseup married a woman from another gentry family, but still feeling downcast decided to enter a Buddhist monastery to study Buddhism. While at the monastery, he heard news that Prince Suyang (首陽大君, 수양대군) had usurped the throne from his nephew King Danjong (端宗, 단종, 1441-1457, r. 1452-1455) to become King Sejo (世祖, 세조, 1417-1468, r. 1455-1468). He lamented the situation, and burned all his writings and books. Kim Shiseup then received tonsure and became a Buddhist monk. Since he survived King Sejo’s purges, he would later become known as one of the “Six Surviving Ministers (生六臣, 생육신).” For some number of years, Kim Shiseup traveled vagabond around the countryside, but eventually became a hermit on Mount Geumo (山, 금오산) near Gyeongju (慶州, 경주). In 1471, after King Sejo and his successor passed away, he decided to move to a mountain near the capital. Ten years later in 1481, Kim Shiseup gave up being a Buddhist monk (還俗, 환속) and married again. Soon after, however, when Lady Yoon (淑儀尹氏, 숙의 윤씨, 1455-1482) was dethroned for scratching the face of the monarch, Kim Shiseup again fled from the capital to wander around the countryside. He passed away in 1493 from illness with no children. 

Throughout his life, he was renowned for his poetry and writing. During his vagabond years on Mount Geumo from 1465 to 1471, Kim Shiseup wrote several works on Confucianism and Buddhism in an attempt to resolve the two, when the latter was deemed by many of his contemporary intellectuals as heterodox. It was also during this time period that he authored what is considered to be the first ever Korean novel, the New Tales of the Golden Terrapin (金鰲新話, 금오신화) . Written in Classical Chinese, this work is a collection of six stories, containing a mix of prose and poetry. Two of the poems in this novel are Lyric Poetry or Ci (詞, 사), one of which is from the first story in the novel, Playing Jeopo at the Temple of Ten-Thousand Fortunes (萬福寺摴蒲記, 만복사저포기). In this story, an old man named Yang (梁生, 양생), who lost his parents at an early age, laments his bachelor status. At a nearby Buddhist temple, Yang bets with Buddha to grant him a wife, throwing betting sticks used in the board-game Jeopo (摴蒲, 저포), and wins. The next day, a young woman shows up to the temple to supplicate for her parents that were killed in a raid by Japanese pirates (倭寇, 왜구). They both converse and welcome each other, and become husband and wife.

生雖疑怪, 談笑淸婉, 儀貌舒遲, 意必貴家處子, 踰墻而出, 亦不之疑也.
생수의괴, 담소청완, 의모서지, 의필귀가처자, 유장이출, 역불지의야.

Although Master [Yang] doubted and thought it was strange — [the young handmaiden’s] laughter was clear and elegant; her appearance as leisurely and composed –, he thought to himself that she must have come from a rich household, and stepped over a wall to escape. He then stopped doubting.

觴進, 命侍兒, 歌以侑之, 謂生曰: “兒定仍舊曲, 請自製一章以侑, 如何?”
상진, 명시아, 가이유지, 위생왈: “아정잉구곡, 청자제일장이유, 여하?”

With a chalice of wine put forward, he directed the handmaiden to sing to enliven [the aura]. Calling Master [Yang], she said, “This young one can only fit to old tunes. Please write one verse to suggest for enlivening [the aura]. Would you?”

生欣然應之曰: “諾.” 乃製滿江紅一闋, 命侍兒歌之, 曰:
생흔연응지왈: “락.” 내제만강홍일결, 명시아가지, 왈:

Master Yang was enthralled and responded, “Certainly!” He then wrote one verse of the tune Filling the River Red (滿江紅, 만강홍) and directed the young handmaiden to sing it:


To the Tune of Filling the River Red:
Sorrowful and Doleful, Chilly Spring

惻惻春寒 측측춘한 仄仄平平
羅衫薄 라삼박 平平仄
幾回腸斷 기회창단 仄平平仄(韻)
金鴨冷 금압랭 平仄仄
晩山凝黛 만산응대 仄平平仄
暮雲張繖 모운장산 仄平平仄(韻)
錦帳鴛衾無與伴 금장원금무여반 平仄平平平仄仄(韻)
寶釵半倒吹龍管 보채반도취룡관 仄平仄仄平平仄(韻)
可惜許 가석허 仄仄仄
光陰易跳丸 광음이도환 平平仄仄平
中情懣 중정만 平平仄(韻)

Sorrowful and doleful, the spring is chilly;
My silk jacket is thin.
How many times have I had my liver cut?
My golden duck-shaped burner grows cold;
Eventide mountains congeal as if eyebrow paint;
Dusk clouds open up as though an umbrella.
Upon silken curtains and feathered quilts, I have no companions to be together with:
The precious hairpin half-turned calls for the dragon-shaped pipe.
Oh, how pitiful this is!
Light and darkness easily bolt away as if a pellet.
My inner emotions remain dejected.

  • 腸斷(창단) – Literally, “to cut a liver.” Refers to heartbreak.
  • 金鴨(금압) – Literally, “metal duck” or “golden duck.” Refers to an incense burner in the shape of a duck.
  • 光陰(광음) – Literally “light and shadow.” Refers to time.

燈無焰 등무염 平平仄
銀屛短 은병단 平平仄(韻)
徒收淚 도수루 平平仄
誰從款 수종관 平平仄(韻)
喜今宵鄒律 희금소추률 仄平平平仄
一吹回暖 일취회난 仄平平仄(韻)
破我佳城千古恨 파아가성천고한 仄仄平平平仄仄(韻)
細歌金縷傾銀椀 세가금루경은완 仄平平仄平平仄(韻)
悔昔時 회석시 仄仄平
抱恨蹙眉兒 포한축미아 仄仄仄平平
眠孤館 면고관 平平仄(韻)

The lamp has no flame;
The silver folding-screen is short.
My lonely collected tears,
Who will follow and like?
Jovial, tonight’s Chu’s tunes (鄒律, 추률),
Once played, bring back the warmth,
And smash the resentments of the thousands of ancients in our beautiful town.
The delicate song, the Golden Silk-thread (金縷曲, 금루곡), overturns my silver bowl.
Regretting the times of the past,
I embrace resentment, with a worried frown.
And I slumber in my lonely room.


  • The poem follows the a variant of tune, Filling the River Red (Manjianghong). The variant is Spring Waters Connects with the Heavens (春水連天, 춘수연천). Its rubric has two verses of ninety three characters in total (雙調九十三字). The former verse has eight lines with five oblique tone rimes (前段八句五仄韻). The latter verse has ten lines with six oblique tone rimes (後段十句六仄韻). The oblique tone rime used throughout the poem is 旱(한). As described in the Imperial Compilation of Lyric Poetry Rubrics (欽定詞譜, 흠정사보):

雙調九十三字, 前段八句五仄韻, 後段十句六仄韻

平仄平平, 平平仄, 仄平平仄(韻), 平仄仄, 仄平平仄, 仄平平仄(韻), 仄仄平平平仄仄(韻), 仄平仄仄平平仄(韻), 仄仄平, 平仄仄平平, 平平仄(韻)

平平仄, 平平仄(韻), 平仄仄, 平平仄(韻), 仄平平平仄, 仄平平仄(韻), 平仄平平平仄仄(韻), 仄平平仄平平仄(韻), 仄仄平, 仄仄仄平平, 平平仄(韻)



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