[KS] Use of tones and rhyme scheme in hansi poetry

Andrew zatouichi at gmail.com
Fri Aug 10 09:05:31 EDT 2012

Dear all,

I want to ask if anyone knows of, or could offer, a clear guide or
explanation of the tonal rhyme scheme used in Korean hansi (Chinese poems)
quatrains.  The most comprehensive explanation I've found so far is in <漢詩의
理解> by Jo Du-hyeon (조두현).  I currently understand that the rhyming
technique was known as apunbeop 押韻法 (압운법), that it utilizes the four tones
(平聲 ,上聲 ,去聲,入聲) and that the basic rhyme comes on the last character of the
second and fourth line (and sometimes the first).  Below are four specific
areas I'm most curious about.

1.) Is there any knowledge of how hansi were recited out loud during the
late Joseon period?  It's sometimes mentioned in sources how a scholar
would recite poems so much that everyone in the household learnt them too,
so what was he singing?  Was there a set melody?  Were the tones and their
rhymes distinguishable?

2.) There were also meant to have been manuals of rhymes to help less
talented poets compose: do any of these still exist?  Were they Chinese or
Korean authored?

3.)  In modern Korean hanja dictionaries, if you look up a character it
also gives the associated tone (平,上,去 or 入) and beside that another
character which possesses the same tone.  For each of the four tones, there
are up to 25 of these "representative characters," but what is their
relation to the particular character you look up?  What decides which of
the "representative characters" for that tone is associated with any one
particular character?  Sometimes it appears potentially semantic, but not
always.  For example, if you look up 水, it's tone is 入, whilst the
associated "representative character" is 紙: so how does that work?

4.)  Sometimes a given character has more than one tone, depending on usage
and occasionally pronunciation.  However, I am surprised that this is not
always related to a semantic difference (ie that the character has two
distinct meanings), but often it is only grammatical, eg the tone changes
depending on whether the character is being used as a noun or as a verb (eg
知, 下, 風, 衣, 王, 雨) or sometimes simply between whether the verb is being
used in a transitive or intransitive function (eg 湯).  This seems
significant as it implies, if the tone of the character is known, the
interpretation of the poem can be slightly more explicit.

I would be very grateful for any advice or general pointers!

Andrew Logie
(University of Helsinki)
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