Heptasyllabic Truncated Verse (七言絶句 칠언절구)

Wang Anshi (王安石, 왕안석, 1021-1086) was a Song dynasty era (宋, 송, 960-1279) bureaucrat, reformist, and a renowned writer. He was born in Fuzhou (撫州, 무주) in Jiangxi Province (西省, 강서성); his courtesy name (字, 자) is Jiefu (介甫, 개보); and his pen name was Banshan (半山, 반산). His ancestors originally had been farmers until his grandfather, who passed the civil service exam and attained a bureaucratic position. Growing up, Wang Anshi followed his father who was a bureaucrat as he moved from one government post to another from one region to another region in China. From a young age, he was recognized for his erudition in the Chinese classics. In 1041, Wang Anshi began his political career when he passed the civil service examination. He soon became well known for his competency in public affairs and for his essays advocating reform of the government bureaucracy. In 1058, Wang Anshi was selected to serve in the high-ranking position of Hanlin Scholar (翰林學士, 한림학사). Starting in 1069, after the reform-minded young Emperor Shenzong (宋神宗, 송 신종, 1048-1085, r. 1067-1085) ascended the throne, Wang Anshi was tasked with initiating a series of wide-sweeping and controversial reforms known as the New Policies (新法, 신법). China had been beset by military losses to both the Tangut Western Xia (西夏, 서하, 1038-1227) and Khitan Liao (遼, 요, 907-1125) empires in the north and social strife within. His programs were intended to strength the military and lessen burdens on those of the lower class. For example, the Green Sprout Law (靑苗法, 청묘법) lowered interested rates on capital for poorer farmers. However, after a severe drought struck the Hebei region (河北, 하북) in 1074, the Old Policy Faction (舊法派, 구법파) that had opposed Wang Anshi’s New Policies found an opportunity to strike back and convinced the Emperor to repeal most of his reforms. Wang Anshi was soon demoted to the lowly position of an Administrative Clerk (知事, 지사) in Jiangning Prefecture (江寧府, 강녕부). He retired two years after in 1076 when he lost his son, and passed away in 1086. Even after his death, Wang Anshi’s New Policies continued to be denounced with some detractors even blaming them for the downfall of the Song dynasty. 

Although Wang Anshi’s socioeconomic reforms were largely wiped away in his lifetime, he left his mark in Chinese literature. In fact, Wang Anshi become so renowned for his poetry and prose that later generations would consider him as one of the Eight Masters of Tang-Song Dynasty Era (唐宋八大家, 당송팔대가). Given his aspirations, many of his writings touch upon social, economic, and political themes. This is shown in Wang Anshi’s poem below, which not only commemorates the Lunar New Year, which falls on February 8 this year, but also is reflective of his reformist persona.

元日 원일

First Day of the New Year

爆竹聲中一歲除 폭죽성중일세제 仄仄平平仄仄平(韻)
春風送暖入屠蘇 춘풍송난입도소 平平平仄仄平平(韻)
千門萬戶曈曈日 천문만호동동일 平平仄仄平平仄
總把新桃換舊符 총파신도환구부 仄仄平平平仄平(韻)

Amidst the sounds of fireworks, one year slips away.
Spring winds send warmth and enter the Tusu wine (屠蘇, 도소).
Upon a thousand doors and ten-thousand houses, the bright and glistening sun.
All grab a hold of the new peach-wood to replace the old talisman.


To explode • bamboo • sound • amid • one • year • to remove
Spring • wind • to send • warmth • to enter • geographic name • herbs
Thousand • gates • ten-thousand • houses • bright • bright • sun
All • to grab • new • peach-wood • to exchange • old • talisman


  • Heptasyllabic truncated verse (七言絶句, 칠언절구). The poem slightly deviates from the riming rules of Recent Style Poetry (近體詩, 근체시), as it uses near rimes (通韻, 통운), 魚(어) and 虞(우). Specifically, it invokes the “Flying Goose Entering a Formation” Rule (飛雁入群格, 비안입군격): the last character of the first line 除(제) is of the riming character 魚(어), whereas the last characters of the second and fourth lines 蘇(소) and 符(부) are of the riming character 虞(우).
  • 爆竹(폭죽) – Literally “exploding bamboo.” Refers to fireworks.
  • 屠蘇(도소) – Refers to an alcoholic elixir made using various herbs. Its creation is attributed to the Han dynasty era (漢, 한, 206 BC-220 AD) physician Hua Tuo (華佗, 화타, 140?-208?) or the Tang dynasty era (唐, 당, 618-907) doctor Sun Simiao (孫思邈, 손사막, 581-682). Historically, it was customary to drink Tusu wine on New Years to ward off evil spirits. It was said that “If one person drinks it, the household will suffer no affliction. If the household drinks it, the entire village will suffer no affliction (一人飲,一家無疫.一家飲,一里無疫 – 일인음, 일가무역. 일가음, 일리무역).” This practice first started in China and later spread to Korea and Japan. The traditional Korean custom involved gathering all the family together, including young children, to drink the wine. This custom has largely died out in China and Korea in modern times, but still continues in some regions of Japan.
  • 曈曈(동동) – Refers to the sun at the break of dawn.
  • 桃符(도보) – Refers to a talisman made out of peach-wood. It was placed on both sides of the main double gates of houses to ward off ghosts and calamities. The custom first took root in China and later spread to Korea. In Korea, the custom later morphed into placing drawings or calligraphy on paper (春聯, 춘련) on the main gate during the Start of Spring (立春, 입춘).
  • Korean translation available here.

Kim Changsuk (金昌淑, 김창숙, 1879-1962) was a Confucian scholar, Korean independence activist, a politician, and the founder of the Sungkyunkwan University (成均館大學, 성균관대학). He was of the Euiseong Kim Clan (義城金氏, 의성김씨); his courtesy name (字, 자) was Munjwa (文佐, 문좌); and his pen names (號, 호) were Shimsan (心山, 심산) and Byeok’ong (躄翁, 벽옹) (“crippled old man”).

He was born in Seongju (星州, 성주) in North Gyeongsang Province (慶尙北道, 경상북도), and started learning Confucian classics from a young age. In 1905, when the Japan-Korea Protectorate Treaty was signed, Kim Changsuk protested and petitioned the the government to punish the signers of the treaty. He also took part in various patriotic organizations (including one dedicated to curbing smoking) and established a modern style school. But in 1910, with the Japan-Korea Treaty annexing Korea, Kim Changsuk went into despair and alcoholism, spending his days on drinking and debauchery. A few years after, however, at the advice of his mother, he sobered up and devoted himself to further studying Confucianism. In reaction to the March 1 Movement of 1919, Kim Changsuk assembled over hundred Confucian scholars across the peninsula and drafted a letter in support of Korean independence. He fled Korea and emigrated to Shanghai, where he had the letter delivered to the delegates of Paris Peace Conference of 1919. Kim Changsuk’s letter, written in Classical Chinese and known simply as the Paris Letter (巴里長書, 파리장서), was an diplomatic embarrassment to Japan, whose delegates had been trying to convince other major world powers that they came to Korea with the support of Koreans. He also published many other works in support of the Korean independence movement and participated in the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea in China. But in 1924, his work for Korean independence was interrupted, when Kim Changsuk was apprehended while at the British Concession of Shanghai by the Japanese. He was soon sent back to Korea to Daegu (大邱, 대구) Prison, and there prison guards tortured him until he became crippled from the waist down. (Hence, the one of his pen names, “crippled old man.”) Kim Changsuk was released in 1934, and continued participating in independence activities albeit more passively. 

With the liberation of Korea on August 15, 1945, Kim Changsuk, having been again arrested earlier that year for independence activities, welcomed the news of from his prison cell. He was elected to a position in the Democratic Assembly (民主議院, 민주의원) formed by the US Army Military Government in Korea, but did not participate much in its activities. Instead, Kim Changsuk focused on regrouping the remaining Confucian scholars and seeing that Korea be united. In 1946, he became the head of committee for the Korean National Confucians’ Association and re-established Sungkyunkwan, the former national Confucian academy, as a modern University. He also heavily criticized the South Korean government for keeping the Korean peninsula divided. In particular, Kim Changsuk sharply denounced President Rhee Syngman (李承晩, 이승만, 1875-1965) for his dictatorial policies. For his criticism of President Rhee, Kim Changsuk was not only imprisoned for 40 days in Busan (釜山, 부산) but also later attacked by a mob of President Rhee’s supporters. After the Korean War ended in 1953, he reorganized Confucian village schools (鄕校, 향교) under one umbrella organization and attempted to modernize Confucianism as the head of Sungkyunkwan University. Kim Changsuk passed away in 1962, and received a civil funeral ceremony (社會葬, 사회장). He was posthumously awarded with the Order of Merit for National Foundation (建國勳章, 건국훈장) later that year.

Like most educated Koreans of the early modern era, Kim Changsuk was well versed in Classical Chinese. Below is just one of his poems expressing desire for Korean independence, which he composed while imprisoned in Daegu. This past August 15 marked the 70th anniversary of liberation of Korea from Japanese colonial rule.

大邱警部獄中 대구경부옥중

From the Daegu Police Station Prison

籌謀光復十年間 수모광복십년간 平平平仄仄平平(韻)
性命身家摠不關 성명신가총불관 仄仄平平仄仄平(韻)
磊落平生如白日 뢰락평생여백일 仄仄平平平仄仄
何須刑訊故多端 하수형신고다단 平平平仄仄平平(韻)

I have set out and planned for independence for tens of years.
My life and my possessions are always not of concern.
Sincerely and earnestly, all my life has been pure like the white sun:
What need is there for torture with such fixed intent in all sorts of manners?


To set out • to plan • glory • return • ten • years • space
Nature • fate • body • house • generally • not • to concern
Open • sincere • all • life • like • white • sun
How • must • punishment • interrogation • intent •  many • ends


  • Heptasyllabic truncated verse (七言絶句, 칠언절구). Riming character (韻, 운) is 刪(산). The poem complies with the rules of recent style poetry (近體詩, 근체시).
  • 磊落(뇌락) – Alliterating bionome (雙聲連綿詞, 쌍성 연면사), meaning “to be open-hearted and sincere.”
  • Korean translation available here (한국어 번역).

Zong Le (宗泐, 종륵, 1317-1391) was a Ming dynasty Buddhist monk of the Linji School (宗, 임제종). He was born in Taizhou (臺州, 대주) in Zhejiang Province (浙江省, 절강성); his original surname (俗姓, 속성) was Zhou (周, 주); his courtesy name (字, 자) was Jitan (季潭, 계담); and his pen name (號, 호) was Quanshi (全室, 전실). From childhood, Zong Le disliked the mundane world. At the age of 8, he entered Jingci Temple (淨寺, 정자사) to study under the tutelage of the head monk, Xiaoyin Daxin (笑訢, 소은대흔). He progressed, and attained tonsure (剃度, 체도) at the age of 14 and was ordained a monk (具戒, 구족계) at the age of 20. After being ordained, Zong Le continued his studies and resided at various temples, including Shuixi (水西寺, 수서사) and Zhongtianzhu (中寺, 중천축사) Temples. At the command of the Ming Emperor, he was posted at Tianjie Temple (天寺, 천계사), where he was tasked with compiling and editing the Chinese Buddhist Canon (大經, 대장경). To further his work, Zong Le traveled to the countries west of China to retrieve more texts. Upon his return, Zong Le was appointed as the head monk of all of China (僧祿世, 승록사우선세). Because of his run-ins with jealous court officials, however, Zong Le did not stay long and retired from the post to live in solitude. At the age of 74, he passed away (入寂, 입적) at Shifo Temple (石佛寺, 석불사) in Jiangpu (江浦, 강포). 

In the poem below, Zong Le frets about the heat of a summer night. Under the solar terms of the traditional Chinese calendar, the hottest days of the season were supposed to fall between the Minor Heat (小暑, 소서) and the Major Heat (大暑, 대서). These days fall around July 7 and July 22 respectively every year on the Western Gregorian Calendar, and mark when the Sun is between the celestial longitudes of 105 and 130 degrees.

暑夜 서야

Blistering Night

此夜炎蒸不可當 차야염증불가당 仄仄平平仄仄平(韻)
開門高樹月蒼蒼 개문고수월창창 平平平仄仄平平(韻)
天河只在南樓上 천하지재남루상 平平仄仄平平仄
不借人間一滴凉 불차인간일적량 仄仄平平仄仄平(韻)

This night’s sweltering dampness — I cannot bear.
With the door opened, upon the tall tree, the moon is blue and azure.
The heavenly stream only lies above the southern pavilion,
But does not even lend mankind one droplet of its coolness.


This • night • heat • steam • not • can • to suffer
To open • door • high • tree • moon • blue • blue
Heaven • stream • only • to exist • south • pavilion • above
Not • to borrow • man • among • one • droplet • cool


  • Heptasyllabic truncated verse (七言絶句, 칠언절구). Riming character (韻, 운) is 陽(양). The poem generally complies with the rules of recent style poetry (近體詩, 근체시).
  • 天河(천하) – Literally “heavenly stream.” Refers to the Milky Way.
  • Korean translation available here.

Big Dipper asterism, part of the Ursa Major constellation (Source)

Quan Deyu (權德輿, 권덕여, 759-818) was a mid-Tang dynasty period (唐, 당, 618-907) bureaucrat and poet. He was born in Tianshui (天水, 천수); his courtesy name (字, 자) was Zaizhi (載之, 재지); and his posthumous name (諡, 시) was Wengong (文公, 문공). From an early age, Quan Deyu was recognized for his literary talents. By the age of 15, he had already published a volume containing hundreds of his poems in the Collection by a Child Ignoramus (童蒙集, 동몽집). When Tang Emperor Dezong (唐德宗, 당 덕종, 742-805, r. 779-805) heard of him, he appointed Quan Deyu to the prestigious positions of the Scholar of the Ministry of Ceremonies (士, 태상박사) and Drafting Official of the Secretariat (中書舍人, 중서서인). During his time at the Ministry of Rites, Quan Deyu was tasked on three occasions with selecting qualified candidates from the imperial examination. He especially excelled at choosing candidates from the countryside, who were often overlooked, thereby earning the nickname “Obtainer of [Talented] Men” (得人, 득인). By being favored at the imperial court, Quan Deyu was promoted to higher positions later on. During the reign of Tang Emperor Xianzong (唐憲宗, 당 헌종, 778-820, r. 805-820), he became the Minister of Rites (禮部尚書, 예부상서) and Regional Governor of the Shannan West Circuit (山西道節度使, 산남서도 절도사). Few years into his last post, Quan Deyu became gravely ill, and decided to return to his home village but passed away en route.

His own literary talents were recognized well after his death. His works appear in both the Complete Literary Works of Tang (文, 전당문) and the Complete Tang Poems (全唐詩, 전당시), anthologies that were compiled in the 19th and 18th centuries respectively. In the poem below, Quan Deyu tersely describes the celestial order in relation to the Earth’s seasons, in particular reflecting upon the Summer Solstice (夏至, 하지). The Summer Solstice marks the day when the Sun is at the celestial longitude of 90 degrees, and falls around June 21 or 22 on the Western Gregorian Calendar. 

夏至日作 하지일작

Written on Summer Solstice Day

璇樞無停運 선구무정운 平平平平仄
四序相錯行 사서상착행 仄仄平仄平(韻)
寄言赫羲景 기언혁희경 仄平仄平仄
今日一陰生 금일일음생 平仄仄平平(韻)

The celestial jade and pivot, without stopping, translate;
The four orders mutually staggered travel.
Send a message to the bright, shining sun:
Today, the first of the Yin (陰, 음) arises.


Star name • pivot • without • to stop • to move
Four • arrangement • mutually • to stagger • to travel
To send • message • bright • bright • sunlight
Today • day • one • Yin • to arise


  • Pentasyllabic truncated verse (五言絶句, 오언절구) with an invocation of an exception. Riming character (韻, 운) is 庚(경). This poem has — I believe — two examples of broken form (拗體, 요체), which refers to specific types of violation of the conventional tonal meter that were considered acceptable, and were frequently employed in recent style poems during the Tang and Song dynasty periods in China.
    • The first couplet exhibits a doubly broken form (雙拗, 쌍요). In the first line, the fourth character (停, 정) should be an oblique tone (仄, 측), but is a plain tone (平, 평) thereby breaking (拗, 요) the tonal meter (平仄, 평측); however, the couplet is “saved” (救, 구) with the use of a plain tone in the third character (相, 상) of the second line.
    • The third line exhibits a singly broken form (單拗, 단요). In this line, the third character (赫, 혁) should be a plain tone, but is an oblique tone; however, the line is saved with the use of a level tone in the fourth character (羲, 희).
  • 璇(선) – Literally “jade.” Refers to Beta Ursae Majoris, which is also referred to as Merak in English.
  • 樞(구) – Literally “pivot.” Refers to Alpha Ursae Majoris, which is also referred to as Dhube in English. It is at the front of the Big Dipper asterism.
  • 四序(사서) – Literally “four orders.” Refers to the four seasons.
  • 今日一陰生(금일일음생) – Under the Yin and Yang duality (陰陽, 음양), the Yin is said to arise between during the the Summer Solstice and the Winter Solstice, as the days become shorter.
  • Korean translation available here.

Seo Geojeong (徐居正, 서거정, 1420-1488) was a early Chosun dynasty period bureaucrat, diplomat, Neo-Confucian scholar, and poet. He was of the Dalseong Seo Clan (達城徐氏, 달성서씨); his courtesy name (字, 자) was Gangjung (剛中, 강중); his pen names (號, 호) were Sagajeong (亭, 사가정) and Jeongjeongjeong (亭亭, 정정정); and his posthumous name (諡, 시) was Munchung (文忠, 문충). At the age of 24 in 1444, Seo Geojeong passed the civil service examination (科擧, 과거), and rose through bureaucratic ranks. In 1451, he was made a At-Leisure Reader (賜暇讀書, 사가독서) and a member of the Hall of Worthies (集賢殿, 집현전). In 1460, he was made Envoy to the Ming Dynasty (謝恩使, 사은사) and traveled to China a number of times throughout his career. In the following year, Seo Geojeong was made Inspector General (大司憲, 대사헌). In 1464, he was appointed as Director of the Office of Royal Decrees (大提學, 대제학) and then two years after in 1466 progressed to Minister of Six Bureaus (六曹判書, 육조판서), one of the highest bureaucratic position in the government. In 1487, he was appointed as tutor to the crown prince, but passed away the following year.

Throughout this time, Seo Geojeong was a prolific compiler of Classical Chinese works. He participated in the compiling of various legal documents and histories, such as the Great Code of Managing the Country (經典, 경국대전), Comprehensive Mirror of the Eastern Kingdom (東鑑, 동국통감), A Geographical Survey of the Eastern Kingdom (東輿覽, 동국여지승람). Seo Geojeong put together a number of anthologies of Classical Chinese writings by Korean authors, such as the Poetry Discourses of the Eastern People (東人詩話, 동인시화), Anthology of Eastern Texts (東文選, 동문선), and Poetry and Prose of the Eastern People (東文, 동인시문). He arranged one of the earliest works of humor in Korean history in a publication titled the Comical Tales of Great Peace and Leisurely Chatter (太平閑話滑稽傳, 태평한화골계전). (Seo Geojeong also translated a number of Classical Chinese works into Korean using Hangul.) 

Furthermore, his own compositions were very well renowned. He is considered perhaps the best writer of the early Chosun dynasty period. One story has it that when Seo Geojeong met Ming officials in China, they were shocked by the high quality of his poems and invited him to compose poetry with them. Back home in Korea, his colleagues acclaimed his writings as equal in quality to that of the famous Tang dynasty poet Han Yu (韓愈, 한유, 768-824). In the poem below, Seo Geojeong describes the scenery of Seoul when returning home drunk from a friend’s place during Buddha’s Birthday (釋迦誕辰日, 석가탄신일 or 初八日, 초파일), and opines on Buddhism. The day traditionally falls on the eight day of the fourth month on the Lunar Calendar, which is May 25 on the Western Gregorian Calendar this year. The custom even today is to light lanterns, as he describes below.

四月八日, 友人家, 扶醉而歸.
사월팔일, 우인가, 부취이귀.

On the Fourth Month, Eighth Day, Returning Home from a Friend’s House, Inebriated and Slumped Over.

佛祖生辰四八日 불조생신사팔일 仄仄平平仄仄仄
都人發願千百燈 도인발원천백등 仄平仄仄平仄平 (韻)
明月梨花吾醉去 명월리화오취거 平仄平平平仄仄
人間妄想夢何曾 인간망상몽하증 平平仄仄仄平平 (韻)

The founder of Buddhism’s birthday is on the fourth month, eighth day.
People around the city send off their prayers with thousands and hundreds of lanterns.
The bright moon is like pear blossoms, as I leave in my inebriated state.
Why do mankind’s delusions and dreams overlap?


Buddha • progenitor • birth • day • four • eight • day
Capital • people • to send off • prayer • thousand • hundred • lantern
Bright • moon • pear • blossom • I  • drunk • to leave
People • among • absurd • to think • dreams • how • to overlap


  • Heptasyllabic truncated verse (七言絶句, 칠언절구) with the end of the second and fourth line riming (韻, 운) with the character 蒸(승). There is also an interesting progression in the tonal meter. It is as though the poet intended to write a recent style poem (近體詩, 근체시), but is so inebriated he falls short. The first couplet violates the rules of recent style poetry. In the first line, the last three characters are all oblique ones (下三仄, 하삼측). Furthermore, in the second line, the second and fifth characters are an isolated plain tone (孤平, 고평) and the second and sixth are not of the same tone (二四不同二六對, 이사부동이륙대). In contrast, the second couplet complies with the rules. Nevertheless between the two couplets, the adhesion rule (粘法, 점법) was not followed.
  • 扶醉(부취) – Literally “supporting a drunkard.” Here, it refers to being hauled by others to go back home.
  • 佛祖(불조) – Literally “founder of Buddhism.” Refers to Buddha.
  • Korean translation available here.

Staying at a Mountain on a Summer Day (夏日山居, 하일산거) by Hua Yan (華喦, 화암, 1682-1756) (Source)

Gao Pian (高騈, 고병, ?-887) was a late Tang dynasty period (唐, 당, 618-907) military general. He was born in Youzhou (幽州, 유주) in what is now Hebei Province (河北省, 하북성); and his courtesy name (字, 자) was Qianli (千里, 천리). He began his military career as a royal guard (禁軍, 금군) and initially gained fame for military campaigns in southwestern China against the Nanzhao (南詔, 남조). During the reign of Emperor Xizong of Tang (唐僖宗, 당 희종, 862-888, r. 873-888), Gao Pian was successively appointed as the Regional Military Governor (使, 절도사) of Tianping (天平, 천평), Zhenhai (鎭海, 진해), and then Huainan (淮南, 회남). When an affluent commoner named Huang Chao (黃巢, 황소, ?-884) started a rebellion in 875, Gao Pian was made Commanding General of All Circuits (諸統, 제도행영도총) and began a long campaign against the rebellion. Around this time, he became acquainted with the Shilla-born scholar Choe Chiwon (崔致遠, 최치원, 857-?) and made him an attendant (從事官, 종사관) for his campaign. (Choe Chiwon became renowned for penning A Manifesto Condemning Huang Chao (討文, 토황소격문) on behalf of Gao Pian.) Though Huang Chao’s rebellion was eventually quashed by 884 by Gao Pian and other Tang dynasty generals, it heavily destabilized the central government, as these very military generals effectively ruled the subdued territories by themselves. Gao Pian himself controlled the area in and around Yangzhou (陽州, 양주). In 887, Bi Shiduo (畢師鐸, 필사탁, ?-888), a military official who had assisted Gao Pian in quashing the rebellion, rose up against him, took the city, and had him executed. 

He was also an accomplished poet, and some of his poems appear in the anthology Complete Tang Dynasty Poems (全唐詩, 전당시). In the poem below, Gao Pian describes the mountain scenery on a summer day. Traditionally, the Start of Summer (立夏, 입하) was marked by the days when the Sun is between the celestial longitudes of 45 and 60 degrees. As a solar term, this date is fixed to May 6 on the Western Gregorian Calendar, but varies on the Chinese Lunar Calendar. The day also marked the day that “Leopard frogs croaked, earthworms crawled out, and melons started growing” (螻蟈鳴, 丘螾出, 王瓜生 – 뇌괵명, 구인출, 왕과생).

夏日山亭 하일산정

綠樹濃陰夏日長 록수농음하일장 仄仄平平仄仄平(韻)
樓臺倒影入池塘 루대도영입지당 平平仄仄仄平平(韻)
水晶簾動微風起 수정렴동미풍기 平平平仄平平仄
滿架薔薇一院香 만가장미일원향 仄仄平平仄仄平(韻)

Green trees thicken the shade; the summer day is long.
A tower’s inverted shadow enters the pond.
The crystal-beaded curtain sways, with the light breeze arising.
Filling the trellis are roses and the entire garden’s fragrance.


Green • trees • dense • shade • summer • day • long
Tower • platform • invert • shadow • enter • pond • pond
Water • crystal • screens • sway • little • wind • arise
Fill • rack • roses • roses • all • garden • fragrance


  • Heptasyllabic truncated verse (七言絶句, 칠언절구). Riming character (韻, 운) is 陽(양). The poem generally complies with the rules of recent style poetry (近體詩, 근체시). A very minor deviation, called “transgressing the rime scheme” (冒韻, 모운), can be seen in the fourth line, as 薔(장) is of the same rime as the riming character, but it is not the last character of the line.
  • Korean translation available here.

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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