This is where you can read the manhwa. https://www.lezhinus.com/en/comic/painter But be aware that this manhwa is a mature Yaoi, which means, it is about homosexuality with explicit scenes. If you want to read more essays, here is the link to the table of contents: https://bebebisous33analyses.wordpress.com/2020/07/04/table-of-contents-painter-of-the-night/
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Thanks to my follower @Unfairy_Tales and to the blogger @theprocrastinatingredkitty, ://theprocrastinatingredkitty.tumblr.com/post/621365296050110464/with-regards-to-that-longass-post-wang-bang-yeon (Since the whole post would show up, if I quoted the link, I add to remove the https), I was finally able to get the original poem written by Wang Bang-Yeon. The author from that blog explained a lot about the historical period which was quite insightful, that’s why I will summarize this briefly.
Year of birth and death unknown, the poet and official Wang Bang-Yeon is said to have lived in the time of Joseon’s sixth king Danjong (1441-1457) and his successor king Sejo (1417-1468). As the official of the state tribunal, he followed the young king Danjong into his exile and gave him poison to drink by royal command. He left a poem revealing his yearning for the king. And this is exactly the poem the author Byeonduck used for her manhwa.
However, my essay will be different from @theprocrastinatingredkitty’s, because my purpose is to compare the original poem with the one composed by Jung In-Hun. By comparing them, I believe that the manhwalovers can perceive the scholar’s personality much better.
First, we need to examine the circumstances how Jung In-Hun came to “compose” this poem. The teacher must have given Baek Na-Kyum the verses as a farewell gift, when he sent him away after making sure that the artist would never paint any erotic picture. This would explain why the low-born treasured this poem so much as he thought, this would illustrate the scholar’s feelings for him. He had the impression that this sonnet would express the scholar’s yearning due to the metaphors used in the poem. What he didn’t know was that the scholar had just copied it from the original. In other words, the yearning that transpires in the scholar’s poetry is actually the longing of the original author, Wang Bang-Yeon, and not the aristocrat’s fascination. Since the commoner had no contact to poetry, he couldn’t know that this was just a plagiarism.
Now, it is time to take a closer to the poems. This is the original:
“Parting from my sweet lover at ten million ri long distance,
Having no place to put my mind at, I am seated by the stream.
That water is going on its way at night, crying in my mind.”
And here is the plagiarized poem composed by the infamous Jung In-Hun:
“Having bid farewell to your beauty, 90,000 ri away,
My mind is not at peace, so I pace by the well.
The well is like my mind… I, too, will weep.”
If you pay attention to the poems, you’ll notice that the scholar kept the same structure and ideas from the original. The common denominators are the farewell, the huge distance, the restless mind, the water, the darkness and the crying. Striking is that the scholar only changed the words, like for example “sweet lover” turned into a “beauty”. However, the choice of the new wording is quite telling about the former teacher.
“Having bid farewell to your beauty”
First, he selected “beauty” indicating his vanity. He has no feelings for the painter Baek Na-Kyum, hence he can’t call him “sweet lover”. Secondly, if he had kept this word, this would have contradicted his doctrine: Sodomy is something dirty and vulgar. Therefore he had to pick a different idiom. “Beauty” is associated to appearances and we know for sure that the scholar values image and impression a lot. That’s why he often smiles, although his smiles are fake. Finally, I judge beauty as something ephemeral underlining that his relationship with the low-born is temporal and even superficial. The “beauty” will wither, as time passes on hence the attention towards the low-born is short-lived . As the manhwaphiles can observe, the selection “beauty” outlines the scholar’s true thoughts: his superficiality, his vanity and his moral standards. He can’t have any deep feelings for the commoner. I would even say that he is incapable to love anyone else except himself.
90,000 ri away,
The distance of the separation has been diminished. From 10 million ri, it became 90.000 ri. This is quite interesting because of the number 9. I mean, the scholar could have changed the 10 million into 100.000 ri, yet the one metamorphosed into a 9 and this is no coincidence in my opinion. The number 9 contains a lot of symbolism as it is often in the bible. 9 is considered as a sacred number related to magic and completion. It is viewed as a symbol of wisdom, good leadership and heaven. I discovered that the ninth day of the Chinese New Year is the birthday of the Jade Emperor who is the supreme god worshiped by the Taoists. Even in Chinese, when the number nine is pronounced, it sounds like the word for “longevity, eternality”, hence it is perceived as an auspicious number. That’s why I come to the belief that Jung In-Hun considers the number nine as a representation of himself. He somehow associates himself to the Jade Emperor. As you can observe, 9 is full of positive associations, nonetheless the scholar didn’t write just 9, but 90.000 which is totally different in reality. While the scholar compares himself as the Jade Emperor, the zero should be judged as a representation of low-borns. This outlines his difference to other humans. The high number of zeros not only mirrors his distance to the painter but serves to outline Jung In-Hun’s special status and extraordinary personality. It was as if he was saying that he is unique. Now you understand my interpretation that the zero symbolizes the artist, he is nothing in the god’s eyes therefore the scholar chose such a number. As a conclusion, the 90.000 ri suggest that the scholar and the painter are far apart from each other in their status and personality. He is just a low-born hence they can’t be together. It reflects how he perceives himself and the artist. Nonetheless in my perspective, 90.000 destroys the holiness contained in the nine, it was as if the zeros would nullify the sanctity in the 9.
Furthermore, since the distance has been reduced, then this signifies that the supposed “longing” has diminished too. In fact, both persons were not far away from each other, the painter could have visited the teacher. My interpretation is that by giving such a poem, Jung In-Hun wasn’t biding farewell to Baek Na-Kyum, the scholar was asking the painter to keep his distance from him. There was nothing stopping the teacher from meeting the low-born, he hadn’t received any royal order, like in Wang Bang-Yeon’s case. Yet, he acted as if he had to separate himself from the painter. Consequently, I come to the conclusion the 90.000 ri unveil the scholar’s hypocrisy as well.
My mind is not at peace,
Then in Jung In-Hun’s verse, the “peace” replaces the place. His mind is not at peace, while in the original, Wang Bang-Yeon was indirectly referring to the king’s exile, he was worried due to the location. The child king Danjong had no real home now. The teacher couldn’t use the word “place” as at least he has his shabby dwelling. Striking is that this verse reveals the noble’s duplicity too. The painter never questioned why the teacher would feel restless, as he was the one sending him away. He never received any royal command, unlike the official and famous poet Wang Bang-Yeon.
so I pace by the well.
In the same verse, the scholar wrote that he was walking (pace), while the original author was seating. Two different moves and yet very telling again. The fact that the scholar is pacing indicates that he is moving on, unlike Wang Bang-Yeon who had some difficulties to move because of the separation and the future death. His position insinuates pain, he is somehow paralyzed due to his heartache contrasting so much to the low noble’s behavior. The teacher might say that his mind is not at peace, but in reality he is just describing himself strolling. He is not feeling any pain therefore he can move freely. He can still live well, while the other poet can’t move on in his life, he was so in pain that he was forced to seat (“I was seated”). What also caught my attention in this sonnet is the repetition of the personal pronoun “I”, while in the original we only have one in the second verse (“I was seated by the stream”. Furthermore, note that in the original poetry the “I” is really passive (“I was seated”), while Jung In-Hun is portrayed as a very active person (“I pace”, later “I too … will weep”) underlining his freedom. He can do whatever he wants, whereas Wang Bang-Yeon was forced to follow the banished king and even to offer the poison. He suffered to be put in such a dilemma which the poetry truly reflects. The famous author seems to be caught in a terrible situation and has no way out. He observes the stream, he can’t control it (“the water is going on its way”), which is the opposite with the scholar.
The well is like my mind…
The “stream” and “water” have been transformed into a well. While the former idioms are linked to nature, the well is a sign for civilization and artificiality as the man has intervened. Through this metaphor, I perceive an evidence of the coercive persuasion. Jung In-Hun transformed the painter into a well: “The well is … like my mind”. While the original poet was underlining his powerlessness, he couldn’t control the events, as a small person can’t control nature, Jung In-Hun is expressing the opposite. He is rejoicing that he has been able to change a human being. He is glorifying his action, however there is still some water symbolizing the painter’s unconscious. But the low-born is only a shadow of himself.
The form of the well also reflects the teacher’s narrow-mindedness, his worldview is so small so that he turned the painter into a small image of himself: narrow-minded and superficial too. That’s why we see Baek Na-Kyum calling Yoon Seungho as “a man consumed by lust”, he judges the man based on the rumors and his first impressions. As a conclusion, the teacher knew what he did to the artist, the latter became a second image of his teacher. This outlines the teacher’s arrogance and vanity, he liked himself so much that he felt the need to change Baek Na-Kyum into a different man. Imagine the scholar’s satisfaction, there is a second “Jung In-Hun” living somewhere. This illustrates his megalomania and egocentrism due to the repetition of the “I”. He is a creator, he achieved greatness by turning a talented painter into a shadow of himself, by transforming him into a nicer version of the scholar. Remember what I once wrote in one of my other analyses: Baek Na-Kyum’s lies were linked to Jung In-Hun, the latter had stained on the artist so that his purity had been soiled. I see a confirmation of my interpretation with this poem.
The reason why the teacher selected the well is quite simple, he wanted to have the darkness in his verse as in the original, the author mentioned the night. Wang Bang-Yeon couldn’t reveal his sadness to others, he had been trusted with a mission hence he had to follow the orders, although he liked the young king. A well is deep and dark. Even the form between the well (round) resembles to the moon. On the other hand, the scholar never thought that his choice would mirror his own mind. His darkness is not visible to the commoner’s eyes as it is deeply hidden behind his fake smiles. Let’s not forget that the teacher never showed his true gaze to the painter until the chapter 40. Besides, we should remember that I already associated Jung In-Hun to the day and the sun (a fake one), therefore he couldn’t choose the moon as a metaphor for himself. Usually, kings are associated to the sun (see Louis XIV, the sun king or the pharaon in Egypt) and not the moon.
I, too, will weep.
If you compare it to the original, you’ll detect two changes: the time and the way they cry. First, Wang Bang-Yeon is just weeping in his mind as he can’t let his emotions betray him. He’s an official and he has an order to follow, if he disobeyed, his family could suffer. Jung In-Hun erased the expression “in my mind” but replaced it with the future. I couldn’t restrain myself from laughing sarcastically because with this sentence, the scholar is actually showing that he is in fact not crying. He implies to the painter that his lack of tears is just momentary, he will cry later, while he knows that Baek Na-Kyum’s eyes will be full of tears, while departing from him. The “too” is referring to the painter. He knows what the departure means for the painter but he doesn’t care, the poem even fakes the scholar’s tears. He will weep, while in reality this will never happen, since for him Baek Na-Kyum is just a nobody, a low-born, he can’t be associated with him, a noble.
This doesn’t surprise us why Yoon Seungho couldn’t help laughing at this terrible plagiarism. The new version revealed a lot about the author: a man full of himself, egocentric, vain but also very delusional (suffering from megalomania). He glorifies his actions against the painter, he considers himself like a god. All the expressed emotions are fake (the weeping, the restless mind). No wonder, when the powerful noble visited him, he knew how to stroke the man’s ego, while making fun of him. Yet I have the impression that the main character didn’t perceive the whole dimension of the scholar’s perversity. From my perspective, the noble didn’t understand really what “the well is like my mind” signifies. When I read it for the first time without knowing the original, I felt that the well was just a representation of the scholar (“narrow-minded”), however after reading the original, I came to a different interpretation. I doubt that the aristocrat truly perceived the real message behind this verse, he just thought that the teacher was just rejoicing about his huge influence on the painter. He is still unaware of the brainwashing, the physical, mental and emotional abuse which Baek Na-Kyum was exposed to.
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