Sunday, July 10, 2016

Do you believe in flying dragons?

The following is my translation of a 1906 entry from the Korean text Maecheon Yarok (梅泉野錄 - 매천야록), which was written by poet, scholar, and activist Hwang Hyeon (黃玹 - 황현), whose pen name was Maecheon (梅泉 - 매천). Maecheon Yarok seems to have been the private "field (野) journal (錄)" of Mr. Hwang, who used it to record news, events, and opinion from about 1864 until 1910. Actually, 野錄 seems to be an abbreviation of 野史記錄, which means "Record of Unofficial History."  野史 (야사) means "unofficial history," and 記錄 (기록) means "a record." The opposite of  野史 (야사)  would be 正史 (정사), which means "official history" or "authentic history." There are many, many interesting stories in his journals, but this is one I found particularly interesting:
[In] Hamheung-bu (咸興府), there is () Gugak (九閣), the place where the Highest Emperor Taejo shot arrows while riding a horse (太祖高皇帝騎射之地也). At the relay station () a Japanese () said () up above the castle (閣上) there is () a precious () gas (). [If you] dig () into the ground () twenty or so feet (數丈), there is () a boulder (磐石). [When] the rock () was broken (), a giant () snake () flew out (飛出). [It] was forty to fifty feet long (長四五丈) [with a girth] four or five times bigger than that of a house’s crossbeam (大如屋梁四五倍). One Japanese (一倭) shot () [at] it (), [but] missed (不中). Six Japanese (六倭), simultaneiously () shot () and killed () it (). 

[When] it was burned (
) outside the east gate (于東門外), the stench () was so () terrible () a green () gas () covered () the whole () fortress (). [During] the night () seven () Japanese () vomited () blood () and died (). The next day (明日) another (又一) snake () came out through the crack in the rock (從石隙中出). [It] was as big as (大如) [the one] from the day before (). [They] shot () at it (), [but] missed (不中). It flew around the fortress (繞城而飛) sadly () crying () throughout the night (達夜).

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