Le Bois Sec Refleuri
Guide pour rendre propice l'étoile qui garde chaque homme
Traduits par Hong-Tjyong-Ou etc.
In 1892, a French translation of the Tale of Chun-Hyang was published as Printemps Parfumé under the name of J.-H. Rosny (link to complete French text)
The complete French text of Le Bois Sec Refleuri, published in 1895 with Hong-Tjyong-ou as sole author / translator, is linked to below, divided into its chapters.
Le Bois Sec Refleuri was translated into English by Charles M. Taylor, and published in 1919 with the title Winning Buddha's Smile (link to complete English text).
The translation of Guide pour rendre propice l'étoile qui garde chaque homme et pour connaitre les destinées de l'année was begun by Hong then completed by Henri Chevalier after his departure. (1) link to PDF file (2) link to the online text in the Internet Archive reader
Introduction by Brother Anthony
In addition to a link to biographical information about Hong Jong-u, this page offers links to the three French publications of classical Korean works which he helped translate.
The first of the three, Printemps Parfumé, a version of the Tale of Chunhyang, issued in 1892, was published under the name of J.-H. Rosny. J.-H. Rosny was the pseudonym of the brothers Joseph Henri Honoré Boex (1856–1940) and Séraphin Justin François Boex (1859–1948), both born in Brussels. They were active in France, founding members of the Académie Goncourt in 1903 and its presidents late in their lives It seems that Printemps Parfumé was in fact the work of Séraphin since La Convention littéraire de 1935 designed to distinguish between their works attributes it to "J.-H. Rosny jeune." An article on Hong-Tjyong-Ou, signed J.-H. Rosny, in Le Carillon du boulevard Brune n°11 (1894) refers to "Hong-Tjyong-Ou, le traducteur – en collaboration avec nous – de Printemps parfumé." In 1911, J.-H. Rosny jeune published a tale titled "Une Légende Coréenne" in a volume of short tales, in which he seems to evoke memories of evenings spent with Hong Jong-u. The legend is inspired by that of the Emile Bell in Gyeongju.
Hong had already left France before the Musée Guimet published Le bois sec refleuri under his name in 1895. Le Bois Sec Refleuri, the second Korean tale 'translated' into French with the help of or by Hong Jong-U, is essentially the tale usually known as Shim Cheong but it is very unlike the version known in Korea today, in the Pansori or the older novel.
In 1897, the museum also published in its Annales, Guide pour rendre propice l'étoile qui garde chaque homme et pour connaitre les destinées de l'année (Jikseong haengnyeong pyeonram 직성행녕편람) with Hong's name and that of Henri Chevalier as joint authors. In the Introduction, Chevalier indicates that the original book was one of those brought back by Charles Varat, that Emile Guimet had selected it for translation, that Hong left to return home not long after the work began, and that he had been helped in completing the translation by W. G. Aston, the former British Consul-General in Seoul.
The Life of Hong Jong-u (on a separate page)
French texts about or inspired by Hong:
An informative article about Hong, written by the French artist Félix Régamey (1844 – 1907), was published in Volume 5 of the review T'oung Pao in 1894, soon after the arrival in France of news of the killing by him of the Korean reformer Kim Ok-gyun. Other articles followed. The short article signed J.-H. Rosny from Le Carillon du Boulevard Brune, 1st year, number 11, May 1894 indicates how perturbed Hong's French friends were on hearing what he had done. Some time later, in another essay, Rosny offered a more nuanced and more detailed portrait of Hong and his inner world.
An article in Le Figaro of March 6, 1891 announcing Hong's arrival in Paris and inviting people to help him (also in English) in a rather mocking tone
An article in Le Figaro of May 19, 1894 announcing the killing of Kim Ok-Gyun by Hong Jong-U and recalling his time in Paris in a hostile tone (also in English)
An article about Hong's time in France, written by the artist Félix Régamey (1844 – 1907), in Volume 5 of the review T'oung Pao in 1894
An article signed J.-H. Rosny about Korean customs, based on conversations with Hong Jong-u from La Revue Bleue Tome LII No. 2 le 8 juillet 1893 pages 47 - 52
An article on Hong-Jong-u signed J.-H. Rosny, in Le Carillon du boulevard Brune n°11 (1894)
An essay about Hong by George Clemenceau. (Clemenceau was close to the Rosny brothers)
An article about Hong by Ernest Tissot (based on Rosny's articles)
An article about Korea mentioning Hong signed Alexandra Myrial (Alexandra David-Néel)
An essay by J.-H. Rosny jeune, relating a Korean legend (Emile Bell) with a description of Hong.
An extended article (translated into English) about the origins of the Sino-Japanese War by Édouard Chavannes from: La Revue de Paris, (15 August, 1894, pages 753-768) "La guerre de Corée"
Annales du Musée Guimet
Bibliothèque de vulgarisation
Le Bois sec refleuri
Traduit par Hong-Tjyong-Ou
E. Leroux (Paris) 1895
Text of the copy in the BNF received via their Gallica service
En raison de l'intérêt qu'il présente comme spécimen de la littérature, encore si peu connue de la Corée, l'Administration du Musée Guimet a pensé pouvoir exceptionnellement publier dans sa Bibliothèque de Vulgarisation le roman intitulé « Le Bois sec refleuri », qui passe pour l'une des compositions littéraires les plus anciennes et les plus estimées de ce pays. L'auteur de cette traduction, M. Hong-Tjyong-Ou, qui fut attaché pendant deux ans au Musée Guimet, s'est appliqué à en rendre scrupuleusement, presque mot à mot, le style et la naïveté, et les éditeurs n'ont eu garde de corriger son oeuvre afin de lui laisser toute sa saveur exotique et primitive.
MON CHER AMI HYACINTE LOYSON,
Bien des fois dans la maison que votre amitié sait rendre si hospitalière, nous avons discuté tous les deux les insondables problèmes de nos origines et de nos destinées. Les milieux si différents dans lesquels nous sommes nés et avons vécu ont modelé nos esprits et leur ont imprimé un cachet bien différent aussi. Peut-être, si l'on pouvait juger les choses de plus haut que la terre, seriez-vous trouvé trop Catholique et moi trop Païen. Vous, ne voyant rien de plus élevé, ni même d'égal au Christianisme; moi ne comprenant rien à vos dogmes étranges, tandis que je trouve en Confucius plus de sagesse qu'en toutes vos lois et que Lao-Tseu planant dans une sagesse presque surhumaine fait monter ma pensée plus haut que les choses entrevues et les choses rêvées, pour la plonger dans l'Infini.
Mais qu'importe ! Je crois qu'un seul Dieu nous a donné la vie. Ce n'est pas un être étrange habitant loin, bien loin dans la profondeur des espaces éthérés un palais fantastique bâti par-delà les étoiles. C'est l'Ame de nos âmes, la Vie de nos vies, notre vrai Père, Celui en qui et par qui nous sommes tous. Tous nous sommes frères, car tous nous sommes issus de Lui ; mais combien nous nous sentons plus unis et plus frères, nous qui croyons tous deux en lui, bien que notre foi s'exprime de façons différentes.
J'ai fait un long voyage, passant comme en un rêve au milieu de toutes choses. Depuis que j'ai quitté ma patrie, j'ai marché à travers la brume grise toujours cherchant ce que mon esprit pressentait, sans le trouver jamais ; quand soudain, comme l'éclair brillant qui déchire les sombres nuées d'orage, la lecture de votre testament m'éveilla; car votre pensée me montra comme en un miroir ma propre idée poursuivie depuis si longtemps. Puissiez-vous transmettre à votre fils l'enthousiasme qui vous anime ! Qu'il s'inspire de votre pensée et poursuive l'oeuvre que vous avez si vaillamment entreprise !
Hélas ! encore quelques jours et nous serons séparés car je m'en vais loin, bien loin par-delà les mers ; mais de retour dans mon pays je garderai toujours fidèlement le souvenir de votre amitié.
Quand vous verrez dans le ciel passer de blancs nuages venant d'Orient, songez à l'ami fidèle qui songe à vous, là-bas sur la rive lointaine et qui parle de vous à tous les nuages et à tous les oiseaux allant vers l'Occident afin que quelques-uns d'entre eux, dociles à sa voix, viennent raviver en votre coeur le souvenir de son amitié.
Neuilly près Paris, le 15 juillet 1893.
CHER ET RESPECTABLE LETTRÉ.
J'accepte avec reconnaissance la dédicace que vous voulez bien me faire de votre prochain ouvrage. Je n'en connais encore que le titre, mais il est bien choisi. En Occident comme en Orient, l'humanité est ce « Bois sec qui refleurira ! »
Je suis Chrétien et veux demeurer tel. Je crois que la Parole et la Raison suprême, Tao, comme l'appelle votre philosophe Lao-Tseu. s'est manifestée sur cette terre en Jésus-Christ ; mais je crois aussi que les Chrétiens ont été le plus souvent bien indignes de leur Maître.
J'ajoute que dans le triste état où ils ont réduit la religion chrétienne les chrétiens sont capables de faire autant de mal que de bien, sinon plus encore, à ceux qu'ils appellent les païens et dont ils ne se doutent pas qu'ils auraient eux-mêmes beaucoup à apprendre.
Venez vous asseoir encore une fois à noire table de famille, mon cher ami païen, après quoi nous vous laisserons retourner dans votre chère Corée, en priant Dieu de vous conserver longtemps votre vieux père, votre femme et vos enfants, et en vous disant : Au revoir ici-bas ou ailleurs !
After these Dedications, the book begins with a Preface by the Author / Translator, dated January 15, 1893, offering a brief survey of the history of Korea. This indication of the notions of Korean history held by an ordinary, somewhat educated Korean at the end of the Joseon era would be of particular interest, if indeed it was written by Hong. Aston's review (see below) leads one to suspect that it was not (or else that he was really extremely ignorant and careless). The mention of Japanese spellings is especially significant.
This is followed by the novel itself, divided into 10 chapters.
The wise and honest minister Sùn-Hyen, shocked on seeing people lying in the street dead of hunger, scolds the king for spending too much on feasts and pleasure. The wicked, ambitious prime minister Ja-Jyo-Mi forges a letter addressed to San-Houni, Sùn-Hyen’s closest friend, apparently written by Sùn-Hyen, criticizing the king harshly, and arranges for it to be found in the street by the police. As a result, Sùn-Hyen and his wife are sent into exile on the island Kang-Syn, San-Houni and his wife are exiled to the island of Ko-Koum-To.
Sùn-Hyen and his wife arrive on the island Kang-Tjyen. Until now childless, here the wife gives birth to a daughter, named Tcheng-Y, and dies 3 days later. Heartbroken, Sùn-Hyen sheds so many tears that he goes blind. Nothing is said of the following years until Tcheng-Y is 13 and begging food from neighbors. Sùn-Hyen tells her what happened. She goes begging as usual, is late coming home. Her father, anxious, goes out looking for her and falls into a lake. He is rescued by the pupil of a local hermit who tells him that his sight and fortunes will be restored in 3 years (and will become prime minister) if he prays to Tchen-Houang (Heavenly Emperor). If he gives him 300 sacks of rice he will pray in his place. He tells Tcheng-Y about this, and she soon after agrees to sell herself to merchants going across the sea to China who need a young girl to sacrifice to obtain a safe journey. They provide the rice at once. Three months later, they come to fetch her and she has to tell her father. The merchants are so touched by their grief that they give another 100 sacks. After arranging for her father to be cared for, she sets out with the merchants.
The scene shifts to San-Houni. Obliged to hire transport to the island, he choose the 2 boatmen brothers Sù-Roung and Sù-Yeng. Sù-Yeng is good and Sù-Roung is wicked. Sù-Roung wants San-Houni’s wife Tjeng-Si, so he has San-Houni murdered before her eyes and entrusts Tjeng-Si to an old woman living nearby. She too has seen her husband killed by Sù-Roung. Sù-Yeng urges them to escape now, while his brother (whom he hates) is drunk. They set off, then the old woman takes Tjeng-Si’s shoes and sends her on ahead. She places the shoes on the shore of a lake then drowns herself. Tjeng-Si continues walking until she suddenly gives birth to a boy. A nun finds her, agrees to welcome her in the temple but not the baby, who must be abandoned. Tjeng-Si tatooes the name San-Syeng on the boy’s arm, hides a ring in his clothing, then they leave the baby in the street of a nearby town.
Sù-Roung wakes up, finds the women have left. Following them, he finds the shoes and deduces that Tjeng-Si has drowned herself. Then they head for the nearby town and find the abandoned baby. Sù-Roung adopts it and brings it up well. At school, other pupils tell him that he is a foundling found by Sù-Roung, who is not his father. San-Syeng finds his name written on his arm and begins to wonder. He sets out on a journey to complete his education and reaches the town of Tjen-Jou. There he sees a beautiful girl, whose father has died and who lives with her mother, and they begin an extended romantic courtship which leads to their secret physical union. Finally the mother hears something and orders a servant to kill whoever comes out of her daughter’s room. The girls sees her father in a dream who warns her, she tricks the servant and San-Syeng escapes on her father’s horse with her father’s sword. He gives her the ring.
Wicked prime-minister Ja-Jyo-Mi wishes to be king. When the king dies his son is still only a child. After overcoming the enmity of the governors by fear, Ja-Jyo-Mi sends the child-king into exile on the island of Tchyo-To. San-Syeng hears of his misfortune, wants to help. He dreams of a man who says he is from his family, is called San-Houni, and was killed by Sù-Roung. He encourages him to help the child-king but refuses to tell him about his family. He sets out but finds it impossible to land on Tchyo-To because of the guards.
Tcheng-Y jumps into the sea and finds herself on the back of a giant turtle. They reach an island where it deposits her in a dark tunnel. There she finds a letter and 2 bottles of tonic, for her body and mind, to give her strength to climb out through the roof, where she finds herself inside a hollow tree in a beautiful garden. It is the place of exile of the boy-king. In despair, he is on his way to hang himself when he sees a beautiful girl in the garden. He decides to wait, they meet, he invites her to his house, where he lives in isolation. They soon celebrate a wedding ceremony and are united. Fearing that he will soon be killed, they set fire to the house and follow the tunnel back to the sea, where Ki-si the young king is again in despair, there being no boat in sight.
San-Houni again appears to San-Syeng in a dream and tells him to take a boat to the island quickly. There he finds Ki-si and his wife. He decides to wait to confirm who they really are. Meanwhile the general in charge of the prisoner on the island tells Ja-Jo-Mi that he has died in the fire. He and his companions are happy, the population at large is very angry with them. San-Syeng takes the lead in preparing direct opposition and finally is told by Tcheng-Y that Ki-si is the young king, who is needed to justify the revolt. The king is now treated with all the respect due to his rank, the local authorities recognize him and he starts to exercise authority, appointing San-Syeng general. As they reach the capital there is a general uprising, Ja-Jo-Mi is arrested. The king is installed. He reduces the taxes and sends San-Syeng as a secret inspector to check the quality of the local governors.
The girl with whom San-Syeng had fallen in love, now named as Tjyang-So-Tyjei, after the death of her mother, loses everything in a popular uprising, escapes and dresses as a man for safety. Lost and exhausted, she falls asleep by the bamboo forest where San-Syeng had been born years before. There she is discovered by Tjyeng-Si, San-Syeng’s mother, who is still living in the temple, and goes to the temple with her. Tjyeng-Si recognizes the ring San-Syeng had given to Tjyang-So-Tyjei and asks how she got it. The identities are revealed. The two women set off, reach the town of Saug-Tjyou, where the son of the innkeeper falls for Tjyang-So-Tyjei. Rejected, he takes revenge by having his own jewels hidden in their room then claiming they had stolen them. Arrested, they are taken before the magistrate who falls for Tjyang-So-Tyjei and gives her the choice, marriage or death. They are put in prison.
San-Syeng finds the house of Tjyang-So-Tyjei empty and burned down. San-Houni appears in a dream, reveals his identity as San-Syeng’s father and tells him what is happening to Tjyang-So-Tyjei, Reaching the town, San-Syeng has himself arrested and put in the prison which is so dark they cannot see each other, though the women wonder on hearing his name. The next morning Tjyang-So-Tyjei sees the horse of her father outside the window, exclamations lead to recognition. The official identity of San-Syeng is proclaimed, the magistrate is arrested, the women released from prison. Mother and son, wife and husband are reunited. He orders a monument for the woman who drowned herself in the lake ; they visit the nun in the temple. Sù-Roung is arrested and San-Syeng identifies himself, and his mother who wants instant revenge for the murder of her husband. Sù-Young, the good brother, says that he will die if his brother dies. When they tell the king and queen what has happened, the queen Tcheng-Y is sad because she has not seen her father for 3 years. The idea comes of a banquet for all the blind men of the kingdom.
Blind Sùn-Hyen is told he has to go to the capital for the banquet. When he arrives, the palace woman in charge shows disgust at his dirtiness. He makes a very eloquent, wise and poetic reply which is reported to the queen. Then she has all the blind pass before her, Sùn-Hyen is last, she recognizes him, asks if he knows Tcheng-Y, and his eyes open. After hearing her tale, he meets San-Syeng and learns that he is the son of his old friend San-Houni. Sùn-Hyen is made prime-minister. Finally, the king wishes to wage war on the Tjin-Han who defeated his father once, and there is still the question of the punishment for Ja-Jo-Mi and Sù-Roung. Sùn-Hyen asks the king to hold a great banquet for the whole population, saying that they should support whatever is decided, war or peace, punishment or forgiveness. He makes a speech in favor of peace and reconciliation, all agree. Finally he vanishes, perhaps taken up to heaven on a cloud.
This text of Le Bois sec refleuri derives from an OCR text file received from the National Library of France corrected by me (Brother Anthony). They ask that the source be indicated
The online text can be read here.
A perceptive review of Le Bois sec Refleuri by the first British Consul-General in Seoul, the scholarly W. G. Aston, reproduced below, raises some important questions. The first question anyone must have on reading it is the nature of its source. Is this a direct adaptation / translation from a Korean original? Is there really an unknown Korean text in which the tale of Sim Cheong is radically changed and intermingled with a parallel tale? The second question regards the attribution of the text to Hong-Tjyong-Ou alone. Jo Jae-gon seems to suggest that Hong simply invented the tale as a sequel to Printemps Parfumé and raises no questions. I think most Koreans might not have good enough French to realize what a wonderful story Le Bois Sec is and how well written, not only as French but as narrative structure. It is a very professional production. It is to me unthinkable that Hong Jong-u simply produced it from nowhere. He could never have done it. Printemps Parfumé was written by "Rosny" not by Hong, for sure. Hong simply told the Boex brother the general outlines and had a Korean text from the Varat collection if he needed to refresh his memory. Perhaps, then, Le Bois Sec too was composed by one of the Boex brothers, but then after the murder he/they did not want the name "Rosny" associated with that of a dangerous criminal? Because the big question is whose work it really is, whether or not it is in some sense a translation. Not by Hong, certainly, judging from the really poor French he used in writing to Regamey only a few months after returning to Japan. It is also true that the end of the story reuses the Chunhyang tale (bad magistrate, woman in prison, love me or die, secret inspector, all ends well) so that might well point toward the "Rosny" brothers, who were expert writers of popular fiction and knew the Chunhyang tale. Hong might simply have summarized briefly the outline of the Sim Cheong story and they did the rest? The French title seems to be a translation of the Chinese-character phrase 枯木生花 (Korean: Go-mok-saeng-hwa) referring to something that is almost impossible to hope for, a dead tree blossoming. It is not clear if there was an old Korean novel with that title, though.
There is also, as Aston points out, a problem with the History of Korea printed with the story. Is it in fact Hong's work at all? The Japanese spellings and the inaccuracies might be signs that someone wrote it using a Japanese source . . . we will probably never know more.
T'oung Pao 1895 Vol 6 p 526 - 7
Le Bois sec Refleuri. Roman Coréen, traduit sur le texte original par Hong Tjong-ou (See T'oung-pao, Vol. V, p. 260)
The Musée Guimet, whose services in the cause of Eastern learning are well known, has recently published a translation into French of a Corean story under the above title, executed by a Corean who spent some time in Paris. This 'cher et respectable lettré', to whom a letter addressed by M. Hyacinthe Loyson, accepting the dedication of this work, is printed with the preface, has since achieved an unenviable notoriety by the murder of his compatriot Kim Ok-kiun at Shanghai. There were no doubt attenuating circumstances. The deed was done from political, not personal, motives and his victim was an unscrupulous conspirator on whose head was the blood of many men. But it was a treacherous assassination nevertheless.
The sketch of Corean History which is prefixed to this romance is open to more serious criticism. It is a very poor performance. M. Hong really presumes too much on the ignorance of his readers when he says that Corean History is 'totalement inconnue à l'étranger'. This only shows his own ignorance of the works of Ross and Griffis, not to speak of other sources of information. Even the few pages devoted to the subject in the 'Histoire de l'Église de Corée' are better than M. Hong's Essay. Judging from the spelling and other indications, it would appear to hâve been compiled, in part at least, from Japanese sources, and is in several particulars grossly inaccurate. It is not true that Genghis-Khan did not molest Corea, and it is, to say the least, misleading to assert that China acknowledged the independence of Corea. The Treaty with the United States was signed in 1882, and not in 1886. Germany, France, England and Russia have not sent Ministers Plenipotentiary or Chargés d'affaires to Seoul, but only Consuls-General. M. Hong might have verified these points with very little trouble and his carelessness in such matters inclines us to suspect equal inaccuracy in places where we have no means of testing his statements. W. G. Aston.