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A Deciphering of Two Silla Poetry Fragments Inscribed on Wooden Tablets


Identification and decipherment of the writings on Gyeongju Anapji Pond Wooden Tablet no. 20 and Gyeongju National Museum Wooden Tablet no. 1 reveal that these tablets contain fragments of Silla poetry. Thus, there is a need to designate tablets containing poetry as a distinct category of poetry mokgan 木簡 (wooden tablet).

Gyeongju Anapji Pond Wooden Tablet no. 20 contains a poem expressing the emotional agony of a general who successfully suppressed a revolt. This poetry fragment is typified by its rhythm (syllable count) consisting of the transposition of six-character lines and five-character lines, along with mixed Chinese and Korean word order, and can thus be categorized as an irregular form of hansi (classical Chinese poetry). Therefore, there is a need to designate a phase of irregular verse as a distinct stage in the developmental process of hansi in Korea that occurred prior to the advent of regular form hansi.

The identification of the writings on Gyeongju National Museum Wooden Tablet no. 1 reveals the prevalence of many graphs often used in Sino-graphic orthography including hyangchal, idu, and gugyeol. Since most of the graphs on this tablet are also used in hyangchal, it is hypothesized that the text on this wooden tablet is written in hyangchal. Based on this hypothesis, line segmentation of the text on this tablet is compared to that of hyangga. Results show that both the structure and content of the poem resemble Silla hyangga. Thus, it is concluded that this tablet contains lines 8-9-10 of a ten-line Silla hyangga. In the poem, the speaker is applauding the king who is gathering and distributing wealth under a standardized system.

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