(Translation) 薄命妾原情所志

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Introduction

From 平民 民願文書 規式集

Original Script

Classical Chinese English

1. 薄命妾 原情 所志

白等 天地之間 寃痛事段 古有薄命妾 或色衰而見薄者 或情疎而見薄者有之

2. 而矣女之見薄 非色衰而然也 非情疎而然也 大槩矣女襁褓之秊 俱失父母 見養於外家 芳年二十出嫁於錦城人 則郞年二十五歲也 男兒二十五歲 孰無陰陽之心

3. 自相逢夜 今至六七之間 不見一番衾裡之樂 以靑春之心 不勝其情 每於深夜 觧裙就枕 手撫全身 强要合歡 則聽而不聞

4. 虛送長夜 苦待明朝 做其好容 巧其言笑 以挑其心 則視而不見爲臥乎所 今宵明宵 枕席流泉 房帷之中 便成楚越 夫婦之間 有若仇敵 琴瑟之樂 吾未見之也 關雎之興 吾未知之也

5. 身上新衣 自然而緩 頭邊黛髻猶是虛文乙仍于 痛哭歸來 方欲自決是如乎所 姑母唐突呈狀推尋設計爲乎所 所謂郎子 以外皃見之 則面目肌髥 太似人矣 而至於房事 有同僧流 具體未達 徒大無力 則猛虎之猶豫 不如蜂 蛘之螫 人皆曰 無用將軍

6. 將軍無用武之術 則<函關>萬無自闢之理是如乎 乘夜渡盧 深入不毛者 諸葛征伐立策 而髥婦良君 不知合變之術則已矣已矣 不去何俟 女子所仰望[放]良人者果何事耶 望其矣衣乎耶 望其食耶 非衣非食

7. 而所大望者 惟枕席上一事而矣 旣失耶望且無興 況則衣亦不足貴也 食亦不足貴也

8. 三生佳緣亦仍事 前生今生後生謂之三 而前後生猶不可信 而生於今之世 不見今之世樂 可憐此生

9. 生不如死是乎厼 且以天生之物理言之 則禽有䲶鴦 木有連理 雄飛從雌者 禽鳥之情也

連枝交柯 草木之情也 男兒情欲稟於陰陽 可以人不如禽鳥草木乎

10. 夫唱婦隨 夫婦之義也 女必從夫 男女之情也 而使有情之物 隨無益之夫 必不肯從 天性之固然

11. 一女抱怨 飛霜夜擊 內無怨女 文王之治 男女區區私情 仰訴於積善之下 無使靑春之女人虛老於無用將軍之家下 遂物理宜 千萬望良爲只爲

A petition for the wish of an unfortunate woman

Please let me state:

Among the unjust and bitter cases between heaven and earth,

since old there are [tales] unfortunate women.

Some face misfortune due to the waning of their beauty,

some face misfortune due to the estrangement of feelings.

However, this lady faced misfortune

neither due to the waning of beauty,

nor due to the estrangement of feelings.

About the time this lady was wrapped in a baby quilt,

I lost both of my parents, and was raised by maternal relatives.

At the youthful age of twenty, I was married off to a man in Kŭmsŏng. [1]

At that time my husband was twenty-five-years of age.

Among twenty-five-year-old lads,

who does not have sensual desires?

Since the night we faced each other, till now it has been six or seven years,

but not once have we met the joy beneath the blankets.

With my youthful mind I cannot subdue my passion.

Every time deep in the night I loosen my skirt and proceed to the bed.

I stroke his whole body, pressing for mutual delight.

He hears and does not understand.[2]

Long nights we vainly spent, painfully waiting for the next day.

I prettied my face, and artfully teased,

to steal his mind

However he looks and does not see.[3]

This night and the next, in bed there is a spring of tears.

Inside the bedchamber, it has become a war between Chu and Yue.[4]

The relationship between husband and wife is almost like that of enemies.

The pleasures of martial harmony,[5] I have never seen,

The stimulus of the osprey,[6] I have never known.

New clothing on the body, naturally will loosen.

Bluish eyeshadow and bound-up hair are rather empty decorations of the face, due to which

I return sobbing aloud wishing to take my own life.

My father’s sister came up with a daring plan to regain my endowment by plea

The so-called husband of mine, looking at his appearance

his face, his eyes, his skin, his hairs, all resemble a man,

but when it comes to affairs of the bedroom, he is like a Buddhist monk.

The body as it is equipped is far from perfect, merely large but without prowess

The hesitation of the fierce tiger is inferior to the sting of any bug.

The people say, he is a useless general

If a general does not exert his military talents,

then by no means would the Hangu Pass[7] open by itself.

Crossing the Lu River in the night and going deep into badlands,

that was the attack strategy of Zhuge Liang.[8]

However, my husband is woman with a moustache,

not knowing the skills of transforming together; its over; its over.

If I don’t go, what should I wait for?

All a lady wishes from her husband, indeed what is that?

Is it clothing that I wish for?

Is it food I wish for?

It is neither clothing nor food,

but my great wish,

is merely an affair on the bed, nothing more.

I already lost my hope and passion,

as also the clothes are not satisfactorily valuable

and the food is also not suitably exquisite.

The auspicious karmic connection of three lives is also so.

The past, present and future reincarnations are called these three [lives].

The past and future reincarnations cannot be counted upon.

Born into the present world without being able to enjoy the pleasure of the present,

How pitiful this life is.

Life is not as good as death

More so, to speak of the nature of all things created by heaven,

then among the birds there are mandarin ducks,[9]

among the trees there are those that grow together as one. [10]

The male bird flies to follow the female; this is the sentiment of fauna

Two trees interlocking, this is the sentiment of flora.

Sensual yearnings of a man are endowed by nature

Could it be possible that a man is not like this flora[birds] and fauna [trees]?

The husband sings and the wife follows along, this is rightness between husband and wife.

The woman must follow her husband, this is natural sentiment of man and woman.

So all things having this sentiment,

[me] having this useless husband,

necessarily I cannot agree to follow,

heavens nature is surely like this.

A lady bearing a grudge, is like the frost suddenly striking at night

A country without women harboring grudges, is like the rule of king Wen.[11]

These are trifling private emotions of man and woman; [yet] I look up and make an appeal under your accumulation of merit,

Don’t allow a youthful woman to become old in vain under the roof of an useless general.

Accordingly it should be in line with the nature of all things

I wish of this ten-thousandfold.

Discussion Questions


Further Readings


References

  1. Present-day Naju, South Chŏlla-Province
  2. Reference to the Great Learning 大學, translation following James Legge
  3. Reference to the Great Learning 大學, translation following James Legge
  4. Ancient Chinese states described i.e. in the Records of the Grand Historian 史記, the Zhanguo ce 戰國策 and others, as being in a constant state of war
  5. Literally harmony of Kŭm 琴 and sŭl 瑟, two string instruments considered to create a beautiful harmony
  6. Reference to the Guanju 關雎 poem in the Classic of Poetry 詩經, Odes of Zhou and the South, 南周 later commentators conferred the idea of stimulus 興 from the poem, see Pauline Yu, The Reading of Imagery in the Chinese Poetic Tradition (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987), pp. 49-50, 56-67, 74.
  7. Hangu Pass 函谷關 was a strategically important chokepoint protecting the Qin- and Han-Empires from attacks from the north
  8. In the Romance of the Three Kingdoms 三國演義, Chapter 88, Zhuge Liang offers sacrifice in the middle of night to the River to successfully calm a storm that was hindering his men to cross over
  9. Mandarin ducks are a symbol for affectionate couples
  10. Two trees intersecting are a symbol for a conjugal union
  11. King Wen of the Zhou Dynasty 周文王 is usually credited with overthrowing the last tyrannical ruler of Shang Dynasty. While he indeed rebelled against King Zhou of the Shang 商紂王 it was his second son King Wu of the Zhou 周武王 that finished his rebellion. King Wen's rule was often employed as a model of the ideal ruler and state structure.

Translation

Student 1 : (Irina)

薄命妾 原情 所志

白等 天地之間 寃痛事段 古有薄命妾 或色衰而見薄者 或情疎而見薄者有之

A petition of an unfortunate woman

Well known Under heaven are old stories about sorrowful and unfair cases of women, when their beauty goes with time or their love feelings do not meet a response.


  • Discussion Questions:

Well-known are the duties of man and woman in their family (rituals, responsibilities to other family members etc). According to Choseon's legal code, has been harmonious sexual life treated as part of a harmonious family?

Student 2 : (Kim Young)


2. 而矣女之見薄 非色衰而然也 非情疎而然也 大槩矣女襁褓之秊 俱失父母 見養於外家 芳年二十出嫁於錦城人 則郞年二十五歲也 男兒二十五歲 孰無陰陽之心

But as for this woman's meeting of misfortune, it is not due to the waning of beauty, it is not due to the estrangement of feelings. Since I was wrapped in a baby quilt, I lost both of my parents, and I was raised by my maternal relatives. At the young age of twenty, I was married off to a man in Geumseong. (1) At that time my husband was twenty-five-years old. Among twenty-five-year-old lads, who could possibly not have sexual desires?


(1) Present-day Naju.


  • Discussion Questions:

1. Do you think this piece was written by a man or a woman? Who do think was the intended audience, men, women, or both? If this piece was written by a man, what can we make of the exaggerated description of female sexual desire?

2. Could sexual impotence really be a legitimate reason for divorce in the late-Joseon period?

3. In the writing, how does the speaker justify her sexual desire? How does she claim her sexual desire to be appropriate and natural, instead of licentious and degenerate?

Student 3 : (Masha)


3. 自相逢夜 今至六七之間 不見一番衾裡之樂 以靑春之心 不勝其情 每於深夜 觧裙就枕 手撫全身 强要合歡 則聽而不聞
Since the night we faced each other it has already been six-seven years, but we have not seen even one single moment of joy underneath the blankets. With my youthful mind I cannot contain my passion. Every time deep in the night I loosen my skirt and proceed to the bed. I stroke his whole body craving for a mutual delight. He listens yet does not heed.

  • Discussion Questions:

1. If we evaluate from the perspective of a literary piece and perspective of a formal document, what differences can we find? Does the perspective change if we read it in male vs female voice? Based on the language and classical allusions used can we compare this piece to pieces of the similar genre in China? Was the format/style/vocabulary similar?

Student 4 : (Jong Woo Park)


4. 虛送長夜 苦待明朝 做其好容 巧其言笑 以挑其心 則視而不見爲臥乎所 今宵明宵 枕席流泉 房帷之中 便成楚越 夫婦之間 有若仇敵 琴瑟之樂 吾未見之也 關雎之興 吾未知之也

I have spent useless long nights and have painfully waited for next days. I have tried to seduce him with my beautiful face and I have intentionally made good words to steal his mind. However, he sees me without watching. Tonight and tomorrow night, there has been a fountain in my bed. Inside the screen in the room, it has become a war between Chu and Yue. The relationship between husband and wife is almost like that of enemies. I have never seen a joy between husband and wife. I have never known a delight of an osprey.




  • Discussion Questions:

How could they get married to each other?

What will happen if her husband do not agree upon divorce?

Student 5 : (Kanghun Ahn)


身上新衣 自然而緩 頭邊黛髻猶是虛文乙仍于 痛哭歸來 方欲自決是如乎所 姑母唐突呈狀推尋設計爲乎所 所謂郎子 以外皃見之 則面目肌髥 太似人矣 而至於房事 有同僧流 具體未達 徒大無力 則猛虎之猶豫 不如蜂 蛘之螫 人皆曰 無用將軍.

Discussion questions: Prof. Jisoo Kim published a book on the significance of resentment (怨) in Choson society, especially in the rubric of its legal discourses. Then, how did Choson bureaucracy consider such instances as a whole? 1) Did the local government accept her appeal? 2) Was it a common case for women to sue their husbands because of impotence?

3) To what extent did the legal documents contain one's private sexual experiences during the Choson period?

Student 6 : (Hu Jing)


將軍無用武之術 則<函關>萬無自闢之理是如乎 乘夜渡盧 深入不毛者 諸葛征伐立策 而髥婦良君 不知合變之術則已矣已矣 不去何俟 女子所仰望[放]良人者果何事耶 望其矣衣乎耶 望其食耶 非衣非食

If a general didn't exert his military talents, by no means would the Hangu Pass open the gate itself. Zhuge Liang [led the troops,] crossed the Lu River and went deep into badlands. That was his strategy for the conquest. However, my husband is almost same as a bearded woman, without knowing the strategy to treat a woman. Forget it. What should I wait for If I don't end this relationship? As a woman, what I am expecting is merely my husband. I don't look forward to the clothing and diet.

  • Discussion Questions:

As a piece of petition templet, we can infer two possibilities from this document: 1. Joseon female were allowed to propose a divorce, which seems to go against the three cardinal guides of Confucian(三纲). How could that happen in the Joseon society? 2. There were many divorce cases caused by sexual discontent. Was it common for women to file for a divorce?

Student 7 : King Kwong Wong


7. 而所大望者 惟枕席上一事而矣 旣失耶望且無興 況則衣亦不足貴也 食亦不足貴也

And what I hope greatly is merely an affair on the bed, nothing more. I already lost my hope and passion. Not to mention the dress I wear does not amount to be expensive, and the food I eat does not amount to be exquisite.

  • Discussion Questions:
  1. What does this document tell us about the sexuality of Chosŏn society? How does it differ from the traditional view?
  2. What is the purpose of this document? Considering its writing style, do you think that it was an actual legal petition or a literary satire of the period?

Student 8 : (Zhijun Ren)


三生佳緣亦仍事 前生今生後生謂之三 而前後生猶不可信 而生於今之世 不見今之世樂 可憐此生

the auspicious predestined bond is also so. The past, present and future reincarnations are the three lives. The Past and future reincarnations could not be counted on. Born to this life without being able to enjoy the pleasure of this life, what a pitiful life


  • Discussion Questions:

With neo-Confucianism as the predominating ideology in Chosŏn society, a woman’s open demanding for spousal love and sexual desire audaciously challenge the neo-Confucian ideal of “存天理滅人慾subdue human desire with heavenly principle”.

How common was it for Chosŏn women to make such demands through legal means?

Was male impotent or homosexuality a valid and commonly accepted reason for divorces?

If a young couple was not reproducing, who would bear the blame?

Student 9 : Martin


生不如死是乎厼 then life is worse than death

且以天生之物理言之 To speak of the principle of things created by heaven

則禽有䲶鴦 Then among the birds there are pairs mandarin ducks#1

木有連理 Among the trees there are those that grow together as one #2

雄飛從雌者 禽鳥之情也 The male bird flies to follow the female; this is the sentiment of all fauna

連枝交柯 草木之情也 Two interlocking trees, this is the sentiment of all flora

男兒情欲稟於陰陽 Sensual yearnings of a man are endowed from nature

可以人不如禽鳥草木乎 Can it be possible that a man is not like flora and fauna?

1 mandarin ducks are a symbol for affectionate couples

2 two trees intersecting are a symbol for a conjugal union


  • Discussion Questions:

1. Could we understand this document as a piece of erotic literature to entertain the reader, disguised as an official document?

Student 10 : (YoungSuk)


夫唱婦隨 夫婦之義也 女必從夫 男女之情也 而使有情之物 隨無益之夫 必不肯從 天性之固然

Having harmonious relationship between husband and wife is considered as couple's rightness. That the woman should follow her husband is natural sentiment of man and woman. If a human should have emotions, concerning the relationship, the woman should not be willing to follow a man who has no emotions. It is definitely in accordance with Nature's law.

  • Discussion Questions:

1. Is this a format for legal document or a piece of satire based on a true life story of a woman?

2. Does this document reveal some aspect of Chosŏn women's sexuality? Is it realistic that Chosŏn women would file a suit for divorce because of her sexual dissatisfaction? Or is it a consideration for the law of Nature?

3. Is this written by a woman, by a man, or by a couple?

Student 11 : (Write your name)


  • Discussion Questions:


Student 12 : (dohee jeong)


一女抱怨 飛霜夜擊 內無怨女 文王之治 男女區區私情 仰訴於積善之下 無使靑春之女人虛老於無用將軍之家下 遂物理宜 千萬望良爲只爲

if woman bear regrets, There is frost at night. in this country, a woman no bear a grudge that is king Wen's government. Very small personal relations with man and woman complain of you who habitual doing of good deeds. Should not let young lady to put old needless general at home. Should succeed natural laws. I hope so a ten thousand times.

  • Discussion Questions:

this document writer is woman. so is it possible example of man?

Student 13 : (Write your name)


  • Discussion Questions:


Student 14 : (Write your name)


  • Discussion Questions:


Further Readings