On the Road: Hearing the Sounds of Paduk Stones in a Pavilion (hanshi)
-Yi Kyubo (1168-1241)
Behind the bamboo curtain shadows are indistinct;
paduk stones rattle across the board like hail after rain has cleared.
Skill, great or little, is irrelevant here;
the pleasure is in the clinking of the stones.
Yi Kyubo is the Korean poet of transcendence. His distinction lies not in any claims to personal transcendence, which would be an arrogance, but in his ability to perceive transcendence in others and to bemoan his own lack of it. A kinder generation would call it humility. The poet-bureaucrat is on business in the country, feeling a bit left out, a bit homesick. He is on the outside looking in at the paduk players in the pavilion, wishing wistfully that he was a at home sharing a similar camaraderie with his friends. The idea that winning or losing does not matter should be taken with a grain of salt. Yi Kyubo knows better. No one likes to lose. But what is integral in the poem is the rattle of the hailstones on the board—which we all hear—and the creation through this image of a transcendent space which we all share within the limits of our sensibility. The clinking of paduk stones is a sound steeped in centuries of Korean lore.
발 넘어 사람 그림자 은은히 비치는데
갠날 우박이 바둑판 윙에 흩어진다
바둑 수야 높든 말든 알 바 아니지만
떨어지는 바둑 알 소리가 그럴 듯하네