What I’ve discovered
Chong-Mong Chu (1337-1392) was a poet, physicist, University Instructor and a Civil Servant.
He took three different Civil Service exams and scored the highest marks possible on all three.
At University he taught Neo-Confucianism.
He was a diplomat travelling to both Japan and China, on behalf of King U, forming agreements
concerning the problems of the Japanese pirates (and the release of their captives) and peace
agreements with the Ming Chinese.
The King’s commander in chief General Choi Yong volunteered to attack the Ming head on to make them
leave Koryo land and the King agreed with this plan, but a subordinate commander, Yi Song-Gye did not
think it wise to make an enemy of the powerful Ming Empire.
Yi Song-Gye betrayed King U. He set out to attack Ming as he had been ordered, but instead returned
to the capital with his troops.
Yi Song-Gye knew his popularity would mean he would find support in Kaesong and he had the King
exiled (and later killed) in order to become the first King of the Chosun period, King Taejo.
Chong-Mong Chu admired Yi Song-Gye, but remained loyal to the King.
Yi Song-Gye had his son hold a party for Chong-Mong Chu who then had him assassinated by five men
sent to intercept him afterwards on Songjuk-Kyo (Good Morning Bridge) in Kaesong.
This bridge, now a national monument is said to have a stone stained brown, which to this day turns red
with the blood of Chong-Mong Chu when it rains.
Chong-Mong Chu life ended in 1392 along with the Koryo dynasty.
One translation of Chong-Mong Chu’s famous poem reads thus:
Even if I may die, die a hundred times
Even if my skeleton may become dust and dirt,
And whether my spirit may be there or not,
My single-hearted loyalty to the lord will not change.
His pen-name means ‘Recluse of the vegetable plot.’
Koryo was the ruling dynasty at the time of Marco Polo’s encounters with the Chinese and this then is
where the Western forms of the name Korea originate.
King Taejo renamed the kingdom ‘Chosun’ or The Land of the Morning Calm.
The Yi Dynasty ruled from 1392-1910.
(See also Choi-Yong)
In his encyclopaedia General Choi told us:
Po-Eun is the pseudonym of the loyal subject Chong-Mong Chu (14th Century AD)
who was a famous poet and whose poem ‘I would not serve a second master though
I might be crucified a hundred times’ is known to every Korean.
He was also a pioneer in the field of Physics. The diagram of this pattern represents his
unerring loyalty to king and country at the end of the Koryo dynasty.