The hundred patches scholar

                Fifteen hundred years ago, during the reign of the Silla King Chabi, there lived a virtuous scholar near the Namsan Mountain in the city of Kyongju.

                Because he was humble in his wants and always thrifty, he wore clothes that were patched with hemp cloth in many places. There were times when his clothes were patched with over a hundred pieces of hemp cloth. Because of this, people called him the Paekgyol Sonsaeng, or ‘Hundred Patches Scholar’.

                 He was not the least ashamed of his poverty, nor did he complain about it. He possessed a komungo/ geomungo, or six-stringed musical instrument, which he always carried with him wherever he went so that he could play music for people. As he played, he would put them at ease and help them to forget their sadness and hardships. 

Un geomungo 거문거

                     Once, on the final day of the year, the whole town was bustling with the sound of people preparing steamed rice and rice cakes. The scholar’s wife, quietly listening to them, said with a sigh, “Our neighbors are all busily milling rice to prepare for the New Year's celebrations, but we do not have a single grain. How are we to celebrate the New Year?”

                Hearing his wife’s complaint, Paekgyol began to laugh.

                “My dear,” he said, “Life and death depend on fate, and poverty and wealth on the Heavens. Therefore, whether wealth or poverty comes to us, we cannot prevent it. And if they leave us, we cannot chase after them. So, what is there to be sad about? Come, I will cheer you up with music.”

                He then started to play the komungo. The music he played had never been heard before. It was like the sound of milling after a good season’s harvest. After listening to the joyful tune of komungo, his wife felt all her worries melting away.

                The cheerful Korean folk tune, “Pang-ah Taryong (Song of Milling)”, has been passed down to this day.

Source:  the book Tales of filial devotion, loyalty, respect and benevolence from the history and folklore of Korea by Chung Hyo Ye, chapter 4 – Ye: A Virtuous Way of Life, p. 82




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