Sunday, November 06, 2005

What does 두문불출(杜門不出) mean?

두문불출(杜門不出) means "close one's door and do not go out." In other words, it means "seclude onself." The characters are as follows:
  • 杜 막을 close; shut
  • 門 문 door
  • 不 아니 not
  • 出 날 exit; come out; go out

I like the character 杜(두) because it is simple and natural. Afterall, how many things are more simple and natural than "a tree" and "earth"? However, I do understand why the Chinese would choose this character combination to mean "shut."

I mention the expression because I have been secluding myself recently. After my classes, I come straight home and lock myself in my apartment. For some reason, I would rather be with my books than with people.

I will be turning fifty soon, which means that I have been studying Korean for almost thirty years. My first "descent" Korean textbook was Myongdo Korean 1, given to me by a guy I knew in the navy who was nicknamed "Tex." That book was like the Rosetta stone to me because I finally got a logical explanation of the Korean language, something I did not get in the 32-week course I had recently completed at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California. I loved that Myongdo book and carried it with me almost everywhere I went. With that book, I felt that it was only a matter of time before I would be speaking Korean like a Korean. Boy, was I naive.

After almost thirty years of studying Korean, I am only now beginnning to see a light at the end of the tunnel, but even that may be a mirage since I have seen similar lights in the past. Korean has been like a carrot dangling from a stick in in front of my nose, tempting me to keep trudging along on my path to master the language, but always staying just out of reach. Sometimes I feel like a Guinea pig in some alien experiment in an episode of the Twilight Zone.

I wonder how my life would be different if I had not gotten addicted to Korean? Would I have married one of the women I pushed aside in my pursuit of the language. Would I now have a house, a family, and a dog somewhere in the US? Would I enjoy more the company of friends and family?

It has been so long that I cannot remember what it feels like to live a day without feeling obligated to pick up a Korean book and study. Sometimes I do not know if I am in heaven or hell.


  1. Have been checking your stuff out regularly of late.
    Thank you very much for the interesting appoach to learning Korean; it's been useful and entertaining.
    Anyway keep it up.

  2. You don't mention what is your Myongdo's Korean these days. What do you study now?

  3. Thanks, Annoymous.

    I still have my Myongdo 2 and 3 books, but I have misplaced my 1 and 4. Anyway, I have not looked at them in a long time.

    I am not studying any one book, but I am spending a lot of time on Chinese characters these days. On the subway on my way to school, I have been reading the autobiography of 김병걸, entitled, "실패한 문학, 실패한 인생." I am reading it because he talks a little bit about life during colonial Korea.

    I also like reading the stories on the Korean Lab Web site because they make me feel good. And there are eight other books on my desk right now that I have been looking at off and on, including an atlas on Korean history. I really like that atlas because it has a lot of great maps.

    Well, that is about it.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.