[KS] Korean Tea Ceremony and other wonders

Frank Hoffmann hoffmann at koreaweb.ws
Mon Aug 13 00:41:15 EDT 2012

  十年을 經營하야 草廬三間지어내니

Translated as:

  It took ten years to build / my little thatched hut.

What about the kyŏngyŏng-haya part?
That just seems so essential. Isn't he saying that it took 10 years of 
his life to plan that hut (not to actually build a small house), and is 
that not just a poetic way to say he needed an awful long time to get 
his life straight, to understand what all is about, what's important 
and what not? Reminds me a lot of Tang period poetry, clearly informed 
by Buddhist thought. I like how you translate the third and last line 
ending in -porira, kind of really reflects the a fresh and imposing, 
early Korean Buddhist spirit (that somehow disappeared during Chosŏn 
times) while being very contemporary in feeling.

The late Richard Rutt, whom I very much admire for his translations, 
rendered the poem as follows:

  At the end of ten years’ work
        I have a hut with a straw roof.
  The clear wind lives in one half,
        and the bright moon in the other.
  There’s no space to invite the hills--
        they will have to stay outside.

I like the translation of the first line, for it seems to reflect the 
meaning of kyŏngyŏng more pointedly, and "hut with a straw roof" seems 
not to be so overly cute than "little thatched hut" also. But your 
ending, on the other hand, that seems far more Korean in spirit (almost 
pre-Chosŏn Buddhist) than the all too passive ending by Rutt. 

Beautiful, absolutely beautiful this spirit! No family, no social life, 
no responsibilities, just an old man enjoying himself and his endless 
wisdom. Today you have to be a Facebook executive, sell your stock 
portfolio early enough, and get a house in the Berkeley Hills to enjoy 
this kind of life. Also gives you some hints as to why there were 
peasant unrests in Korea almost every single year all through the 
Chosŏn period--they just did not achieve the same yangban wisdom, did 
not invest into the right portfolio to relax the same way Mr. Song Sun 
was privileged to. 

Let's return to garden culture and garden architecture: A "hut" is 
little by definition. The phrase "little thatched hut" (in the 
translation) is an often used phrase in English, and familiarity with 
phrases is good for translations, maybe. But, and since this comes up 
within the context of garden culture (and architecture), I think the 
term ch'oryŏ samgan, other than ch'oga samgan, is a rather unusual one, 
but also referring to a native Korean measurement--that is kan, ca. 
1.82 meters times 1.82 meters. "3 kan" therefore comes to about 30 
square meters--that's what, the size of a student's studio? The 
standard Korean house was in traditional times more around five kan 
large. Of course, there were all kinds of variations, regional ones and 
by status. A poor peasant family house could have well been only three 
kan large. In any case, this is "just" poetry: we may simply take this 
to mean a reference to a smaller house "in the hills" (or mountains), 
which COULD be a kind of pavilion but also just a standard 
Korean-style, smaller house--not the normal yangban residence. Now, 
that is for sure a classical poetic setting in both China and Korea. 
But please note how very 'loose' and non-pointed the references to 
nature are, pretty much in line with what Werner described. There are 
no specific references to specific locations (e.g. specific mountains 
and rivers, as so often in landscape painting, for example, and other 
poems, usually referring to places in China, at least until the 
mid-Chosŏn period). This is therefore *not* an example for poetry in 
the context of "garden culture" (and garden architecture) but more so 
of the sort of gardens (and possibly related buildings) that Werner 
described, and that again is something I would see as proof for the 
absence of garden culture. … A single short poem, of course, is by no 
means sufficient to proof anything. 

Maybe Dr. Kim-Renaud could kindly summarize how the mentioned 
conference paper by In-Souk Cho interprets this particular poem in 
relation to Korean architecture? I'd again fear the worst here. That 
MIGHT then be a great example of exactly the kind of manipulative 
writing I was referring to (or it might not). 


Frank Hoffmann

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