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Nikitina M.I. The sijo genre in Korean poetry from the 16th to the 19th century [Корейская поэзия XVI-XIX вв. в жанре сиджо]. St Petersburg, Peterburgskoe Vostokovedenie Publishers, 1994. 308 pp.


The sijo as the most popular traditional genre in Korean poetry was born, in its classical form (p’yon-sijo), at the turn of the 14th and 15th century, to survive for over five centuries. Modern poets also try their hand in this genre. However, a good sijo is generally known as extremely difficult to compose, despite the apparently simple formal requirements, because “its meaning must be deep”. It is also known that “many a sijo singer, even those of the old days, did not understand the meaning of his songs”. The genre stability, the strangeness of sijo meaning for the majority of professional singers among the lower strata of Korean society in the past, the challenges for modern authors trying to compose a sijo – all these suggest the sijo containing certain pictures of the world which, while being natural for the past Korean elite, almost defies reproduction today.

This work intends to discover, or rather, to gain an insight in, the way that world was depicted in the sijo picture. And in terms of the world existing in space and time, this study focuses on the spatial and temporal characteristics of the sijo world picture.

Following recommendations of mathematical statistics, we based on the 750 original sijo (p’yon-sijo) works from the second half of the 16th to the 19th century, included in the first part of the Collection of the sijo (complete) [ Sijo chip (chon)] compiled by Sin Myonggyun and Yi Pyonggi. For convenience, no. 201 of the collection was taken as a starting point, and poems deviating from the p’yon-sijo norms were excluded in the process of selection. The texts of the poems were assigned, and a vocabulary was made up to be subsequently transformed as a dictionary of parts of speech. This dictionary was used as the lexical basis.

Starting from the dictionary, the essential elements were established (the moon, the sun, the sky, the mountain, water, etc.). Each of the elements is analyzed in a separate chapter. As a rule, every element is treated “stepwise”. First, general description is provided, without detailing specific lexical expression (a “subject-level” description).

Stage two involves special analysis of the poetic images of Korean and Chinese origin representing a given element of the sijo world. Then the findings are compared.

Analysis of the very first element (the moon) revealed that, with certain fundamental features in common, Korean and Chinese images have different characteristics (referring to movement, color, etc.) Even with apparently absolute loan words, characteristics of Korean and Chinese images are different. They are not interchangeable, which means that they are not synonyms.

Having identified and described the basic elements of the sijo world, we grouped them in the sections of Heavenly bodies, Elements and relief, Birds, and Flowers. Comparative analyses of the world elements in the two former sections suggested the principal sijo space type and its time relationships (vertical orientation, inherent temporal characteristics in all space elements, a manifest vertical / eternity relation, etc.).

Special discussion of space problems in a separate section (“Space”) made it possible to refine and extend these observations (to identify additional space versions, less significant for a sijo than the basic one; to establish the special hierarchy of elements; lacking hierarchy of values, and so on).

Analysis of the world elements in the “Birds” and “Flowers” sections permitted preliminary conclusions about the occurrence of two sijo time types.

The conclusions were subsequently confirmed when analyzing the vocabulary directly relating to time - seasons, day and night, etc. (the “Time” section).

In conclusion we draw attention to the fact that the regular occurrence of sijo world elements, and the character of sijo time- and space, were both governed by cultural memory. In its fundamental features, the sijo picture of the world goes back to the ancient Korean poetic tradition of the Silla times, closely associated with ritual. We suggest that the features of the sijo world picture largely agree with those of the general traditional Korean picture of the world. Noteworthy also is the potential similarity with the world picture drawn by ancient and medieval authors in other countries of the Far East (South East Asia).


Аннотация, Предисловие


Korean poetry

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