(Translation) 送二女子歸序

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Kim Samŭidang was born in 1769 to the humble yangban family of Kim Inhyŏk (김인혁 金仁赫) in Namwon, North Chŏlla Province.[1] Although her family was not affluent, Kim applied herself to learning how to read and write and was praised for her quick intelligence. In 1786, at the age of 18, she married Tamraktang (湛樂堂) Hauk (河욱) [2] (or Harip [3] ), a man from the same village who was born on the same day and year as she was.[4] Hauk’s family was also a yangban family, but they had not produced a government official in several generations.[5] Desirous of her husband’s advancement, Kim supported her husband’s long sojourn in Hanyang while he attempted to pass the civil service examinations. In the letters and poems which the couple exchanged during this time, Kim encourages her husband in his studies and chastises him whenever he thinks about his home and family.[6] In order for her husband to remain in Hanyang and not worry about the expense, Kim even cut off and sold her hair and her hairpins.[7] Hauk never managed to pass the exams and get a government position, so in 1801, at the age of 32, Kim moved with Hauk to his family’s ancestral seat in Chinan, North Chŏlla Province.[8] She lived there until her death around 1823.[9]

Kim Samŭidang is one of the most prolific women writers of the Chosŏn Dynasty. Her poems and prose offer valuable insights into her relationship with her husband, the raising of her children, the joys and sorrows of farming, and everyday life in the country. In 1930, 253 of her poems and 22 pieces of prose were compiled and published two volumes titled Samŭidangjip.[10] [11]

Among Kim Samŭidang's prose writings there is a letter which she wrote to her second daughter when she married. In her introduction to the chapter “Mothers’Letters of Instruction to Their Children,” in which another English translation of this letter may be found, Haboush points out that it was “common that a verbal admonition was accompanied by a written text, which was given to the addressee, and that the text was meant to be treasured by the receiver.” She also adds that, while the history of this particular text’s readership is unknown, other such letters were commonly circulated within the family and consulted by multiple people. There are many examples of instructions given to a daughter at the time of her marriage but, unlike other examples which are written in hankŭl, Kim Samŭidang’s letter is rare in that it is written in hanmun. [12]

I have selected this text for my translation because it in an uncommon example of direct communication between women. Moreover, it expresses the relationship between mother and daughter and a woman’s duties within the family from the perspective of a woman.

Original Script

Classical Chinese English


(Work in progress)

On Sending My Second Daughter to Her Husband's House[13]

My second daughter got married to a person of Chŏnju,[14] Song Tohwan. On the day of her going to her husband’s house, [15] we arrived at the door and I exhorted her saying:

Going to your family, you must respect and you must obey. There is no disobeying your husband. Moreover, in your husband’s family, above you [16] there are the grandparents. They have arrived at the years of white hair. [17] Also, there are the worthy parents. Their splendid countenance is not near the end. [18] Both generations provide an occasion for celebration and this one branch of the family is outstanding.[19] When you go,[20] you assume the responsibility to respect and you assume the responsibility of sincerity. Do not be negligent and do not be lazy. Ordinarily regarding their biological parents, children’s love exceeds their respect. When it comes to serving the father-in-law and the mother-in-law, respect exceeds love even more. Also, this one word ‘respect’ is truly the example set by the deceased which we pass down from generation to generation! This year you are only 18. Observing the old rituals, one would turn twenty and get married. Your age has not reached that and your knowledge and thoughts are also not fully developed. Therefore, this summer I ordered an old female tutor to receive one volume of the Rules of the Inner Chambers.[21] She will cause you to know the way of serving parents and elders. You exert yourself and perform it! Also, when you go to your husband’s family, the road will pass below P'unpae,[22] a Tangŭm.[23] I hope that when you see the magnificence of morals and manners, your heart will necessarily rise in excitement and be moved and inspired. In the old days Zhao Bai [24] rested in the southern country. Of the southern country married women there was no one who did not each benefit her place.[25] ‘ P'yoae,’ ‘Yagyun,’ ‘Kangt'a,’ and ‘Nonghwa’ were sung.[26] Our Inspector [27] whom his majesty ordered came and controlled Honam. [28] Since this change was declared it has now been two years. In the prefecture there is the practice of JiangHan [29] and in the countryside there are no lamentations of one’s path in life. We can see the transformation of Sonam [30] again today. Also, I have been particularly favoured and I send you to that place which is near to the Inspector![31] You re now going to your husband’s family. Your new sedan chair is said to be harnessed.[32] A slave girl guides you forward. The mountains and the streams are long and vast and the road is very far from villages. According to the affection of a mother’s love for her children, how could there be no secret anxiety at parting? You will join a worthy family so I will therefore delay my sorrow and increase my happiness.

  1. "김삼의당." 한국고전여성시사. Accessed August 02, 2018. https://terms.naver.com/entry.nhn?docId=1979148&cid=60549&categoryId=60549
  2. 한국고전여성시사; Lee Hai-Soon, and Chŏng Hayŏng. Hanguk Kojŏn Yŏsŏng Mnhak Ŭi Segye. Sŏul Tŭkpyŏlsi: Ihwa Yŏja Taehakkyo Chulpanbu, 1998, 241.
  3. "김삼의당." 향토문화전자대전. Accessed August 02, 2018. https://terms.naver.com/entry.nhn?docId=2689676&cid=51949&categoryId=55214; Lee, Hai-Soon. The Poetic World of Classic Korean Women Writers. Translated by Won-Jae Hur. Vol. 9. Seoul: Ewha Womans University Press, 2005, 63.
  4. 향토문화전자대전.
  5. Haboush, Jahyun Kim. "Mothers' Letters of Instruction to Their Children." In Epistolary Korea: Letters in the Communicative Space of Chosŏn, 1392-1910. New York: Columbia University Press, 2009, 288.
  6. Lee Hai-Soon, The Poetic World of Classic Korean Women Writers, 66-67.
  7. Lee Hai-Soon and Chŏng Hayŏng, 241.
  8. 향토문화전자대전; Lee Hai-Soon and Chŏng Hayŏng, 241.
  9. 향토문화전자대전.
  10. Lee Hai-Soon and Chŏng Hayŏng, 241.
  11. Also called Samŭidanggo (삼의당고 三宜堂稿) (향토문화전자대전.)
  12. Haboush, 288-289.
  13. The original text in hanmun comes from 한국 고전 여성 문학의 세계 (Yi Hyesun, and Chŏng Hayŏng. Hanguk Kojŏn Yŏsŏng Mnhak Ŭi Segye. Sŏul Tŭkpyŏlsi: Ihwa Yŏja Taehakkyo Chulpanbu, 1998, p.266) The same book also contains a Korean translation (pp. 264-265). Another English translation is available in Epistolary Korea (Haboush, Jahyun Kim. "Mothers' Letters of Instruction to Their Children." In Epistolary Korea: Letters in the Communicative Space of Chosŏn, 1392-1910. New York: Columbia University Press, 2009, p.90-292.)
  14. Chŏnju is a city in the North Chŏlla Province.
  15. 歸 (K. 시집가다) translates literally as "go to in-law's house" or "go to husband's family's house." As of the middle of the Chosŏn Dynasty (1392-1897), women increasingly lived with their husband's family following their marriage, and so 歸 also came to mean "to get married." I have chosen to translate it as “going to her husband’s house” since the act of arriving at the door and bestowing a parting letter necessitates the understanding that the daughter is about to go somewhere.
  16. 上 in this case refers to a higher status or position in the family hierarchy.
  17. 鶴髮 means “hair that is white like a crane’s feathers.” This is used to refer to elderly people. 臨 translates as “to arrive.” Yi Hyesun and Chŏng Hayŏng translate this section as “연세가 높으신 조부모님 (Grandparents whose age is high).” Haboush translates it as simply “elderly grandparents.” I have decided to try and maintain the imagery of the original hanmun text.
  18. Yi Hyesun and Chŏng Hayŏng translate this as “늙지 않으신 부모님 (Parents who are not old).” Haboush similarily translates it as “parents-in-law who are not yet old.” Again, .” I have decided to try and maintain the imagery of the original hanmun text.
  19. I understand this to be Kim Samŭitang telling her daughter that she ought to treat the elders in her husband’s family respectfully as though she celebrates their presence, and that she ought to think highly of her husband’s family because they come from a good lineage. Here I translate 門 as “branch of a family.” However, others have translated this this section very differently. Yi Hyesun and Chŏng Hayŏng translate this as “두 대 어른이 모두 살아 계신다 (Both generations of adults live there).” Haboush simplifies the entire section 而況汝之夫家, 上有祖父母, 鶴髮臨年, 又有賢父母, 韶顏未暮, 兩世具慶,一門崢嶸 as “You will have two older generations to serve – elderly grandparents-in-law, and parents-in-law who are not yet old."
  20. Yi Hyesun and Chŏng Hayŏng begin this section with “그 가문에는 일이 많을 것이니 네가 가거든… (In that family there will be a lot of work and because you go…)” Haboush also translates it as “There will be much work at your new home, and when you arrive there…” I am not sure where in the original text these translations comes from. My only guess if that it somehow come from the previous 一門崢嶸 due to the presence of the character 門.
  21. I have used Haboush’s translation for 내칙 (Naech'ik). Haboush explains Naech'ik as “an instructional manual for women. The text’s authorship and publication date are unknown, but it appears to have been circulated during the late Chosŏn period.” Yi Hyesun and Chŏng Hayŏng describe Naech’ik as “여성들이 지켜야 할 도리를 담은 교훈서 (An instructional text of the duties that women must protect.).” According to I Hyesun (이혜순. 조선조 후기 여성 지성사. 서울: 이화여자대학교출판부, 2007, p.181; 이혜순. "고통을 발판 삼아 피어난 지성: 조선 여성 지성이들의 계보." In 조선 여성의 일생, 서울: 규장각한국학연구원, 2010, p. 96) Naech’ik is a chapter of the Yegi (예기), Confucian scriptures composed of the words and writings of Confucius and his disciples. It was compiled sometime up until the Han Dynasty. The chapter called Naech’ik consisted of various things which a married woman must know. (조선 여성의 일생).
  22. P’ungpae is the name of the place in China where the founder of the Han Dynasty, Liu Bang, was born. In this case, however, P’ungpae refers to Chŏnju, since that was where the ancestors of Yi Sŏnggye, founder of the Chŏson Dynasty, lived. Calling Chŏnju “P’ungpae” serves to equate the Chŏson Dynasty with the Han Dynasty. (박광영. "先賢들의 멋이 깃든 亭子이야기 32 寒碧堂. 차가운 못에 청풍(淸風)과 고절(高節)이 비쳐 푸르네." 유교신문. May 30, 2017. Accessed August 01, 2018. http://www.cfnews.kr/coding/news.aspx/2/1/7048#.W2EfstJKjIU)
  23. Haboush describes “Tangŭm” as “a symbol of a well-ordered place under a virtuous ruler.” Yi Hyesun and Chŏng Hayŏng similarly explain Tangŭm as “왕의 어진 다스림으로 풍속이 순화된 곳 (A place where customs are refined by the king’s virtuous rule.)” Neither of them give a specific location but understand Tangŭm to be an abstract description. In that case, it seems odd to position the abstract location of Tangŭm with specific location of P’ungpae as two places which the daughter will pass on her journey. Perhaps Tangŭm should instead be understood as a description of P’ungpae/ Chŏnju, much like how the term “Camelot” could be used to describe a place as ideal. This would mean that Kim Samŭidang thinks of P’ungpae/ Chŏnju as a “well-ordered place under a virtuous ruler.” Another possibility is that she is referring to the hometown of 민종효, Min Jonghyo, a civil official born in 1547 whose pen name was Tangŭm. However, his family seat was Yŏhŭng (여흥/驪興) which is the old name for Yŏju in Kyŏnggi Province ("민종효." 두산백과. Accessed August 01, 2018. https://terms.naver.com/entry.nhn?docId=1312648&cid=40942&categoryId=34465.). Since Kim Samŭidang lived in Namwon in North Chŏlla Province and her daughter as marrying a man from Chŏnju, also in North Chŏlla Province, it would be highly unlikely that her daughter would pass Yŏju.
  24. Zhao Bai (K.소백) was the son of Munwang, a king of the Zhou Dynasty in China. He is famous for administering a just rule ("소백." 한국고전용어사전. Accessed August 01, 2018. https://terms.naver.com/entry.nhn?docId=98523&cid=41826&categoryId=41826).
  25. This is a reference to the poem “Paths with Dew” in the Book of Poetry in which the moral of rule of Zhao Bai inspired the people to change their obscene customs and women to practice chastity. (Yi Hyesun and Chŏng Hayŏng, 265; Haboush, 293))
  26. The first three are poems from the Book of Poetry which extoll women who protect their chastity are not jealous. Yi Hyesun and Chŏng Hayŏng say that the fourth poem also appears in the Book of Poetry but Haboush claims that it does not. Either way, the contents of the poem seem to be unknown.
  27. Yi Hyesun and Chŏng Hayŏng translate 巡相 as“순찰사 (Inspector) while Haboush translates it as “Governor.” 巡相 means an envoy who goes abroad and temporarily receives the government position of Chancellor of the second rank. Or it means a temporary government post as inspector of military affairs in the countryside during times of disturbance.
  28. Meaning “south of the lake,” Honam (호남) is another name for the Chŏlla provinces. Exactly which lake is used as a reference point is unclear. Possibilities include Pyŏkgolcheho in Kimche and Ŭirimji in Chech’ŏn (박재천. "호남·호서의 '호(湖)'는 어디...벽골제? 의림지?" 연합뉴스. March 1, 2015. Accessed August 01, 2018. http://www.yonhapnews.co.kr/bulletin/2015/02/27/0200000000AKR20150227162400064.HTML).
  29. “The practice of JiangHan” comes from a poem, “The Air of JiangHan” in “The Major Odes” section of the Book of Poetry. “The practice of JiangHan” “refers to the state of peace and strength of the Zhou Dynasty after King Cheng defeated the barbarians.” (Haboush, 293)
  30. Sonam (소남) refers to Zhao Bai’s rule of the southern country. ("소백." 한국고전용어사전. Accessed August 01, 2018. https://terms.naver.com/entry.nhn?docId=98523&cid=41826&categoryId=41826)
  31. 玉節 is a jade seal/tally which was given to government officials as a certificate of their position. Provincial governors also had a seal made of jade. 孔can mean a hole or a coin, which most likely refers to the shape of the jade seal/tally. 玉節孔therefore refers to a government official. I have translated it as “Inspector” because that is the translation I used previously and I like Kim Samŭidang is talking about the same person. Haboush translates 玉節孔as “he” referring to the governor. Yi Hyesun and Chŏng Hayŏng translate it as “순찰사 (Inspector).
  32. I have taken 言as “to say” and 駕 as “to harness.” Yi Hyesun and Chŏng Hayŏng similarly translate 駕as “멍에를 메고 (the yoke is shouldered).” However, Haboush’s translation does not make any references to harness or yoke. She translates the whole section新轎言駕侍婢前導.as “carried in a newly decorated high palanquin escorted by female slaves.”

Further Readings