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Korean spelling
Korean alphabet : 시조
Hanja : 時 調
Revised Romanization : Sijo
McCune-Reischauer : Sijo

Sijo ( IPA : [ɕiʥo] ) is the best known form of Korean poetry.

Sijo is a poem based on syllables or syllable numbers. There are some hypotheses as to when this poem was written. When Hanmun was the only written language in Korea, poems were written in the Chinese style. It is believed that Hyangga (originated in the Silla Dynasty ) is the forerunner of Sijo. But no conclusive evidence of this has yet been presented. It is usually assumed that Sijo originated in the 16th century, around 100 years after the invention of the Korean script Hangeul . This designation is documented in a volume of poetry by Sin Gwang-su (1712–1775), where it says, "the usual Sijo is arranged according to length and brevity" ( Kor. 一般 時 調 排 長短 ). "Length and brevity" here does not mean that of a vowel, but of the number of syllables.

Most of the time, a Sijo consists of three lines of 14 to 16 syllables, making a total of 44 to 46 syllables. The first line indicates the subject (3, 4, 4, 4). Then comes the extension (3, 4, 4, 4). At the end there is the counter-topic (3, 4) and the conclusion (4, 3). A Sijo usually has no title. The 'Sijo Group' is an exception (see below). The way a Sijos is cited is therefore after the first line. Popular stylistic devices are word games, metaphors and symbolism.

The oldest Sijos are more than 700 years old. Important poets of this form are primarily Yun Seon-do (1587–1671), but also Hwang Jin-i (1522–1565) and U Tak (1262–1342).

Types of Sijo


1st word 2nd word 3rd word 4th word
1st line 3 syllables 4 syllables 3/4 syllables 4 syllables
2nd line 3 syllables 4 syllables 3/4 syllables 4 syllables
3rd line 3 syllables 5 syllables 4 syllables 3 syllables


If the first and second lines contain more syllables or words than those of the standard, this modified form is called Eotsijo ( 엇시조 ) or Saseolsijo ( 사설 시조 ). This type of Sijo is relatively rare.

Sijo group

If several Sijos are united under one theme, the group is called Yeonsijo ( 연시조 ). Sijo Group is mostly written by great poets to elaborate on the issue at hand. The number of Sijo Group is quite small.


Cheonganri Byeokgyesuya ...

청산리 벽계수 야 수이 감을 자랑 마라
cheong san ri byeok gye su ya su i gam eul yes rang ma ra
of the blue mountain blue valley river, you to run fast don't be proud
일도 창 해 하면 다 시 오기 어려 오니
il do chang hae ha myeon there si o gi eo ryeo o ni
once got into the sea back again hard you can
명월 이 만공산 하니 쉬어 간들 어떠리
myeong wol i man gong san ha ni swi eo gan deul eo ddeo ri
the moon is shining bright everywhere over mountains recover once how about
  • Author: Hwang Jin-i ( 황진이 ; [hwaŋʝinɲi] ; in the first half of the 16th century)
  • Thought: Hwang Jin-i was the most celebrated and most beautiful Gisaeng in her time, and many famous men sought her favor. It is also known that she herself sometimes tried to conquer those men who were considered particularly decent. Whether true or fictional, it is said to have tempted even a highly respected Buddhist monk (there is a recent tale of this curious story). The poem is also about the attempt to lead a man of solid character from the right path. The same man is metaphorically addressed as the blue mountain's valley river, which always hurries to run. Since he pays no attention to her, the most beautiful woman, she obviously feels offended. So she tries to persuade him how it would be for him to visit her occasionally, for there is no turning back after life is over, as river water has once flowed away.

Moetbeodeul Galhae geot geo ...

묏 버들 갈해 것거 보내 노라 님 의 손대
moet beo deul gal hae geot geo bo nae no ra nim ui son dae
a willow branch plucked out I give in your hand
자시 난 창 밧긔 심 거두고 보쇼 서
yes it's nine chang asked gui sim geu du go bo syo seo
in your bedroom next door outside plant it mine thought
밤비 예 새닙 곳 나거든 날 인가 도 녀 기쇼 셔
bam bi ye sae nip got na geo deun nal in ga do nyeo gi syo syeo
after nightly rain fresh bud sprouts to me remember
  • Author: Hongrang ( 홍랑 ; [hoŋnaŋ] ; in the second half of the 16th century)
  • Thought: Hongrang was a Gisaeng. It is the only poem that has survived under her name. It has a love story behind it. As a provincial gisaeng, Hongrang loved an official from Seoul. When he was ordered back to the capital after his term of office in the province, she could not and was not allowed to follow him. So she wrote her impossible love in the three lines and gave it to him. It is a rare piece in which an abandoned woman does not show herself maudlin, but sings “ forget-me-nots ” in line with fate .


The Sijo is still written in Korea. Nowadays, Sijos are also occasionally written in English.


  1. Some words are adapted to today's standard Korean language and hanjas are omitted.
  2. Because of the number of syllables, hyphenation is carried out violently, correct would be: 일도 창해 하면 | 다시 | 오기
  3. According to today's orthography one would write:
    묏 버들 갈해 꺽어 보내 노라 님 의 손 에
    자시는 창 밖에 심어 두고 보 소서
    밤비 에 새 잎 곧 나거든 날 인가 도 여기 소서


  • Richard Rutt (Ed.): The Bamboo Grove: An Introduction to Sijo . University of Michigan Press, 1998, ISBN 978-0-472-08558-3 . (First edition 1971).
  • James Hoyt: Soaring Phoenixes and Prancing Dragons. A Historical Survey of Korean Classical Literature. Jimoondang International, Seoul et al. 2000, ISBN 0-9705481-2-5 . ( Korean Studies Series. 20).
  • Jaihun Joyce Kim (Ed.): Master Sijo Poems from Korea: Classical and Modern. Si-sa-yong-o-sa Publishers, Inc., 1982.
  • Kichung Kim: An Introduction to Classical Korean Literature. From Hyangga to P'ansori. ME Sharpe, Armonk, NY 1996.
  • David R. McCann (Ed.): Early Korean Literature. Columbia University Press, 2000.
  • Peter H. Lee (Ed.): The Columbia Anthology of Traditional Korean Poetry. Columbia University Press, 2002.
  • Kevin O'Rourke The Book of Korean Shijo. Harvard University Asia Center, 2002. ( Harvard East Asian Monographs. 215).