How could you go ahead of me?
In 1998, shortly after excavating an ancient tomb in Andong City, South Korea, archaeologists were stunned to find the coffin of Eung-Tae Lee—a sixteenth-century male, now mummified, who had been a member of the country’s ancient Goseong Yi clan. Resting on his chest was the above letter, written by his pregnant widow and addressed to him as the father of their unborn child. Also found in the tomb, placed beside his head, were some sandals—pictured below—woven from hemp bark and his distraught wife’s own hair. The letter and tomb’s discovery generated enormous interest in Korea, and the story has since been retold in novels, films and even operas. A statue of Eung-Tae Lee’s pregnant wife now stands near his grave.
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.