Tuesday, November 26, 2013

My Sorrow Knows No Limit

In 2000 a unique archaeological find in Andong City Korean captured the imagination of the Korean people.  The archaeological site was a tomb with a remarkably preserved mummy.  At 5 foot 9 inches he was tall for his people, especially in his day.  His dark hair and dark mustache were still intact.  Eung-Tae died in 1586, four hundred and twenty seven years ago.

Archaeologists in Andong City, South Korea, unwrap cloth covering the
16th-century mummy of Eung-tae, a member of Korea's ancient Goseong Yi clan.
A well preserved mummy is a rare find in Korea, but what was found with him is what has captivated the imagination of the Korean people.  Thirteen letters and notes addressed to Eung-Tae were found with him in his tomb, all written by his pregnant wife whose identity had been lost.

These poignant notes remind us that the human heart is timeless.  It knows no cultural, geographical or generational bounds.  The emotions that this young wife pours from her heart into her eulogies remind us that our ancestors and the people who lived in the past did so with real heart and real emotion.  They were not simply characters in a history book.  
One note was found on a paper bundle containing a pair of sandals woven from the grieving  widow's hair.  She wrote: “with my hair I weave this” and “before you were even able to wear it.”

The sandals woven from Eung-Tae's bride from her own hair

Of all the notes left to Eung-Tae, the one lovingly laid upon his chest is the one most remembered.   The translation to English from archaic Korean has diminished the poetry that was once in the lines, but the love and loss is still very clear.

To Won's Father

June 1, 1586

You always said, "Dear, let's live together until our hair turns gray and die on the same day." How could you pass away without me? Who should I and our little boy listen to and how should we live? How could you go ahead of me?

How did you bring your heart to me and how did I bring my heart to you? Whenever we lay down together you always told me, "Dear, do other people cherish and love each other like we do? Are they really like us?" How could you leave all that behind and go ahead of me?

I just cannot live without you. I just want to go to you. Please take me to where you are. My feelings toward you I cannot forget in this world and my sorrow knows no limit. Where would I put my heart in now and how can I live with the child missing you?

Please look at this letter and tell me in detail in my dreams. Because I want to listen to your saying in detail in my dreams I write this letter and put it in. Look closely and talk to me.

When I give birth to the child in me, who should it call father? Can anyone fathom how I feel? There is no tragedy like this under the sky.

You are just in another place, and not in such a deep grief as I am. There is no limit and end to my sorrows that I write roughly. Please look closely at this letter and come to me in my dreams and show yourself in detail and tell me. I believe I can see you in my dreams. Come to me secretly and show yourself. There is no limit to what I want to say and I stop here.

A photo of the love letter to Eung-Tae.  From: http://archive.archaeology.org/1003/abstracts/korea.html


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