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Where the Temple of Light Rises Like Fire

  • December 21, 2016
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Poet CHUNG Hee Seong (class of 1968, Korean Literature) was a graduate student aged 26 when he was asked by SNU administration to write a poem about SNU to celebrate the relocation of its campus.

Chung wrote the famous poem Where the temple of light rises like fire whose last line has been quoted countless times.

To those who ask where the path to our nation lies,
Tell them to look to Mount Gwanak

The poem was read at the groundbreaking ceremony of new campus on April 2, 1971.
The ceremony was attended by the Korean President and the government ministers.

SUNG Nak-su, an undergraduate student in Korean Literature, is reading the poem at the ceremony. (April 2, 1971)
SUNG Nak-su, an undergraduate student in Korean Literature, is reading the poem at the ceremony.
(April 2, 1971)

The poem is posted on the student cafeteria wall (left) and the library wall (right)
The poem is posted on the student cafeteria wall (left) and the library wall (right).

Read the full poem here.

Where the Temple of Light Rises Like Fire

To those who ask for the way -
I tell them, lift your eyes to Mount Gwanak,
to the cool forehead of its peaks.
The aura of wisdom wraps the feet
of its slopes and washes the old strata
of prehistoric granite.
Let the dew of Hermon fall upon Zion -
O the blessed drops upon the head!
O the origin of eternal life!

On this day we promised with aspirations -
Minds that had long been apart coming together.
Here we made new land
and lit wisdom in the soul:
Veritas Lux Mea.
O look at what the light reveals -
A most resolute path of a generation.
Despite injustices and wickedness
and the black hand of darkness covering eyes -
O the radiant wisdom that split
the crown of darkness!
Ah Seoul National,
You were wise at every dark turn.

Look at this path, paved by the spine -
A vision as hard and strong as bone.
This vision, ruminated deep within the heart,
now dwells in the marrow of the living
and opens this path from within.
O look at this solid path, paved by a determined generation -
A seat of everlasting prowess.

That auspicious spirit, from the holy peak
to the feet of the mountain.
A university of the people,
Its heart teeming with mountain frost.
A university of the world that rises like fire.
Look at the abundant pillars of light
that cut through all darkness -
So that light follows light
Bone follows bone
and mountains call mountains to rise
and look at this path ablaze -
the eternal path of the eternal people.

This day was promised by the heart of the people.
So to those who ask where the path to our nation lies,
Tell them to look to Mount Gwanak,
The great heritor of the people.
Ah Seoul National, your path will shine!
To whoever asks -
Tell them to lift their eyes
to Mount Gwanak.

Written by Ho Jung Annie Hwang, SNU English Editor, annieohan@snu.ac.kr
Reviewed by Professor Travis Smith, Department of Asian Languages and Civilizations, tlsmith@snu.ac.kr

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