Pak Yon and His Teacher


Pak Yon (1378-1458) was a music theoretician, composer and instrumentalist in the 15th century. And he was one of the three great musicians of old Korea.

At his proposal the feudal government established a musical instrument agency to make different kinds of instruments. A large orchestra was also formed.

His works have been handed down recorded in the music book attached to Sejong Sillok (Chronicles of King Sejong).

The following is an episode about the musician.

While learning at a local Confucian school, Pak, in his spare time, learned to play the flute from a man of a neighbouing village who was good at playing it.

One day, several months later, the man told Pak not to come to him any longer. Pak was disappointed by the man's words.

"Did I do anything wrong with you?" asked Pak.

“Oh, no, no," the man explained. "But I have nothing more to teach you. In a month you've learned all that I have. Now I know you can play the flute better than I. What else can I teach you?"

Pak could hardly entreat any more. Thus he achieved fame as the best flute player in the locality. Even the royal palace came to know this and sent for him. Then it had a musician of the central music academy test him.

After hearing Pak play the flute, the musician shook his head, saying, 'This man's tunes are common, and the rhythm is not right. And he is bound to the old practices. So he is hopeless," the musician concluded.

Pak was heartbroken to know that he was not well-informed about music yet. He then visited and entreated the musician to teach him even for a few days, saying he was reluctant to return without learning anything.

Thus the musician began to teach him right tunes and rhythms, and Pak worked deep into the night day by day, assimilating what was taught.

When the teaching period came to a close, the musician said, "I'm pleased to teach you. I'll readily help you if you want to learn more.”

Thus Pak kept learning from the musician for another several days. The musician taught him without attending to anything else.

Pak's musical ability improved day after day. One day, after hearing him play the flute, the musician slapped his knee with great joy, exclaiming, "You're really a master of music." And he went on to say, "Now I have no more to teach you. My talent is no match for yours. What a quick music learner you are!"

Pak said with a smile, "How can I be called a master? And how could I have learned music without a teacher who sincerely taught me without complaining about my poor ability?"

Finally, Pak came to outdo his teacher, and worked as musician in the royal palace all his life.

Pak Yon

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