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Corea or Cho-sen by A (Arnold) Henry Savage-Landor

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With Numerous Text and Full-Page Illustrations
from Drawings made by the Author

[Illustration: A. HENRY SAVAGE-LANDOR.]





[_All rights reserved_]


I Humbly Dedicate





In this book I have sought to present the reader with some dry facts
about Corea and the Coreans. I have attempted to describe the manners and
customs of the people as accurately as possible from the impressions
which my visit to their country left upon me, but of course I do not
claim that these personal opinions expressed are absolutely infallible.
My sojourn extended over several months, and I never during all that time
neglected any opportunity of studying the natives, giving my observations
as they were made a permanent form by the aid both of pen and of brush. I
was afforded specially favourable chances for this kind of work through
the kind hospitality shown me by the Vice-Minister of Home Affairs and
Adviser to the King, Mr. C.R. Greathouse, to whom I feel greatly indebted
for my prolonged and delightful stay in the country, as well as for the
amiable and valuable assistance which he and General Le Gendre, Foreign
Adviser to His Corean Majesty, gave me in my observations and studies
among the upper classes of Corea. I am also under great obligations to
Mr. Seradin Sabatin, Architect to His Majesty the King, and to Mr. Krien,
German Consul at Seoul, for the kindness and hospitality with which they
treated me on my first arrival at their city.

The illustrations in this book are reproductions of sketches taken by me
while in the country, and though, perhaps, they want much in artistic
merit, I venture to hope that they will be found characteristic.

For literary style I hope my readers will not look. I am not a literary
man, nor do I desire to profess myself such. I trust, however, that I
have succeeded in telling my story in a simple and straightforward
manner, for this especially was the object with which I started at the




Christmas on board--Fusan--A body-snatcher--The Kiung-sang Province--The
cotton production--Body-snatching extraordinary--Imperatrice


Chemulpo--So-called European hotels--Comforts--Japanese concession--The
_Guechas_--New Year's festivities--The Chinese settlement--European
residents--The word "Corea"--A glance at Corean history--Cho-sen.


The road to Seoul--The _Mapu_--Ponies--Oxen--Coolies--Currency--Mode of
carrying weights--The Han River--Nearly locked out.


The Coreans--Their faces and heads--Bachelors--Married


The Woman of Cho-sen--Her clothes--Her ways--Her looks--Her
privileges--Her duties--Her temper--Difference of classes--Feminine


Corean children--The family--Clans--Spongers--Hospitality--Spinning-tops
--Toys--Kite-flying--Games--How babies are sent to sleep.


Corean inns--Seoul--A tour of observation--Beggars--Lepers--Philosophy--An
old palace--A leopard hunt--Weather prophets--The main street--Sedan
chairs--The big bell--Crossing of the bridges--Monuments--Animal
worship--The Gate of the Dead--A funeral--The Queen-dowager's telephone.


Seoul--The City Wall--A large image--Mount Nanzam--The fire-signals--The
women's joss-house--Foreign buildings--Japanese settlement--An
anecdote--Clean or not clean?--The Pekin Pass--The water-carrier--The man
of the Gates.


The Corean house--Doors and windows--Blinds--Rooms--The
"Kan"--Roasting alive--Furniture--Treasures--The
kitchen--Dinner-set--Food--Intoxicants--Gluttony--Capacity for
food--Sleep--Modes of illumination--Autographs--Streets--Drainage--Smell.


A Corean marriage--How marriages are arranged--The wedding ceremony--The
document--In the nuptial chamber--Wife's conduct--Concubines--Widows
--Seduction--Adultery--Purchasing a husband--Love--Intrigue--Official
"squeezing"--The cause.


Painting in Seoul--Messages from the King--Royal princes sitting for
their portraits--Breaking the mourning law--Quaint notions--Delight and
despair--Calling in of State ceremony--Corean soldiers--How they mount
guard--Drill--Honours--A much-admired shoe--A gift.


The royal palace--A royal message--Mounting guard--The bell--The royal
precinct--The Russian villa--An unfinished structure--The Summer
Palace--The King's house--Houses of dignitaries--The ground and summer
pavilion--Colds--The funeral of a Japanese Minister--Houses of royal
relations--The queen--The oldest man and woman--The King and his
throne--Politics and royalty--Messengers and spies--Kim-Ka-Chim--Falcons
and archery--Nearly a St. Sebastian--The queen's curiosity--A royal
banquet--The consequences.


Students--Culture--Examination ground--The three degrees--The
alphabet--Chinese characters--Schools--Astronomers--Diplomas--Students
abroad--Adoption of Western ways--Quick perception--The letter "f"--A
comical mistake--Magistrates and education Rooted superstition--Another
haunted palace--Tigers--A convenient custom.


Religion--Buddhism--Bonzes--Their power--Shamanism--Spirits--Spirits of
the mountain--Stone heaps--Sacred trees--Seized by the spirits--Safe-guard
against them--The wind--Sorcerers and sorceresses--Exorcisms--Monasteries
--Temples--Buddha--Monks--Their customs and clothing--Nuns--Their
garments--Religious ceremonies--The tooth-stone.


Police--Detectives--The plank-walk--The square board--The wooden blocks
for hands and feet--Floggings--The bamboo rod--The stick--The flexible
board--A flogging in Seoul--One hundred strokes for three-halfpence
--Wounds produced--Tender-hearted soldiers--Imprisonment--Exile--Status
of women, children, and bachelors--Guilds and the law--Nobles and the
law--Serfdom--mild form of slavery.


Executions--Crucified and carried through the streets--The execution
ground--Barbarous mode of beheading--Noble criminals--Paternal love--Shut
out--Scaling the wall--A catastrophe--A nightmare.


The "King's procession"--Removing houses--Foolhardy people--Beaten to
death--Cavalry soldiers--Infantry--Retainers--Banners--Luxurious
saddles--The King and his double--Royal palanquins--The return at night.


Fights--Prize fights--Fist fights--Special moon for fighting--Summary
justice--The use of the top-knot--Cruelty--A butcher combatant Stone
fights--Belligerent children--Battle between two guilds--Wounded and
killed--The end of the battle postponed--Soldiers' fights.


Fires--The greatest peril--A curious way of saving one's house--The
anchor of safety--How it worked--Making an opposition wind--Saved by
chance--A good trait in the native character--Useful friends.


A trip to Poo-kan--A curious monastery.


Corean physiognomy--Expressions of pleasure--Displeasure--Contempt
--Intelligence--Affection--Imagination--Dreams--Insanity--Its principal
causes--Leprosy--The family--Men and women--Fecundity--Natural and
artificial deformities--Abnormalities--Movements and attitudes--The Corean




Christmas on board--Fusan--A body-snatcher--The Kiung-sang Province--The
cotton production--Body-snatching extraordinary--Imperatrice

[Illustration: CHEMULPO]

It was on a Christmas Day that I set out for Corea. The year was 1890. I
had been several days at Nagasaki, waiting for the little steamer,
_Higo-Maru_, of the Nippon Yusen Kaisha (Japan Steamship Company), which
was to arrive, I think, from Vladivostock, when a message was brought to
me saying that she was now in port, and would sail that afternoon for
Tsushima, Goto, and the Corean ports.

I went on board, and, our vessel's anchor being raised at four o'clock,
we soon steamed past Battenberg Island and got away from the picturesque
Bay of Nagasaki. This was the last I saw of Japan.

The little _Higo_ was not a bad seaboat, for, following good advice, her
owners had provided her with rolling beams; but, mind you, she had by no
means the steadiness of a rock, nor did she pretend to cut the water at
the rate of twenty knots an hour. Still, taken all in all, she was a
pretty good goer. Her captain was a Norwegian, and a jolly fellow; while
the crew she carried was entirely Japanese, with the exception of the
stewards in the saloon, who were two pig-tailed subjects of the Celestial

"Numbel one Clistmas dinnel has got to-night, Mastel," expostulated John
Chinaman to me in his pidgen English, as I was busy making my cabin
comfortable. "Soup has got, fish has got, loast tulkey has got,
plan-puddy all bulning has got. All same English countly. Dlink,
to-night, plenty can have, and no has to pay. Shelly can have, Boldeau
can have, polt, bea, champagne, blandy, all can have, all flee!"

I must say that when I heard of the elaborate dinner to which we were to
be treated by the captain, I began to feel rather glad that I had started
on my journey on a Christmas Day.

There were a few Japanese passengers on board, but only one European, or
rather American, besides myself, and a most pleasant companion he turned
out to be. He was Mr. Clarence R. Greathouse, formerly Consul-General for
the United States at Yokohama--at which place I first had the pleasure of
meeting him--who was now on his way to Corea, where he had been requested
by the Corean Government to accept the high and responsible position of
Vice-Minister of Home Affairs, as well as of legal adviser to the King in
international affairs.

Curiously enough, he had not been aware that I was to travel on the same
ship, and I also never dreamt that I would have had the good fortune of
being in such good and agreeable company during a voyage which otherwise
would have been extremely dull. Accordingly, when we met again thus
accidentally on the deck of the _Higo_, the event was as much to our
mutual satisfaction as it was unexpected.

The sea was somewhat choppy, but notwithstanding this, when the steward
appeared on the companion-way, beaming all over, in his best silk gown
and jacket, and rang the dinner-bell with all his might, we gaily
responded to his call and proceeded below.

Heavens! it was a Christmas dinner and no mistake! The tables and walls
had been decorated with little paper flags and flowers made of the
brightest colours that human fancy could devise, and dishes of almonds
and raisins filled the centre of the table. There were little flags stuck
in those dishes, and, indeed, everywhere. A big cake in the middle had
prudently been tied to the table with a string, as the rolling motion of
the ship was rather against its chances of keeping steady in the place
that had been assigned to it, and the other usual precautions had been
taken to keep the plates and glasses in their proper positions.

Our dinner-party consisted of about eight. At one moment we would be up,
with our feet on a level with our opposite companion's head; the next we
would be down, with the soles of their boots higher than our skulls.

It is always a pretty sight to see a table decorated, but when it is not
only decorated but animated as well, it is evidently prettier still. When
you see all the plates and salt-cellars moving slowly away from you, and
as slowly returning to you; when you have to chase your fork and your
knife before you can use them, the amusement is infinitely greater.

"_O gomen kudasai_"--"I beg your pardon"--said a Japanese gentleman in
rather a hurried manner, and more hurriedly still made his exit into his
cabin. Two or three others of his countrymen followed suit during the
progress of the dinner, and as number after number of the _menu_ was gone
through, so that we who remained had a capital time. Not many minutes
also elapsed without our having a regular fusillade of bottles of
champagne of some unknown brand, and "healths" were drunk of distant
friends and relatives.

Mr. Greathouse, who, like many of his countrymen, has a wonderful gift
for telling humorous stories, of which he had an unlimited supply, kept
us in fits all evening, and in fact the greater part of the night, so
that when we passed the islands of Goto and Tsushima we were still awake
and in course of being entertained by his Yankee yarns.

The next day we reached the Corean port of Fusan. I well remember how
much I was struck when we entered the pretty harbour and approached the
spot where we cast anchor, by the sight of hundreds of white spots moving
slowly along the coast and on a road winding up a hill. As we drew
nearer, the white spots became larger and assumed more and more the form
of human beings. There was something so ghostly about that scene that it
is still vividly impressed upon my mind.

There is at Fusan not only a Japanese settlement, but also a Chinese one.
About two and a half miles distant round the bay, the native walled town
and fort can be plainly seen, while in the distance one may distinguish
the city and castle of Tong-nai, in which the Governor resides. If I
remember correctly, the number of Europeans at this port is only three or
four, these being mainly in the employ of the Chinese Customs service.

We had hardly come to a standstill when a curious-looking being, who had
come to meet the steamer in a boat, climbed up the rope-ladder which had
been let down on the starboard side and came on board. He was a European.

"Do you see that man?" a voice whispered in my ear. "He is a

"Nonsense," I said; "are you joking, or what?"

"No, I am not; and, if you like, I will tell you his story at luncheon."
And surely what better time could be chosen for a "body-snatching" story
than "luncheon." Meanwhile, however, I lost not my chance, and while
conversing with somebody else, the snatcher found himself "snatched" in
my sketch-book. It is not every day that one comes across such
individuals! I went to speak to him, and I must confess that whether he
had as a fact troubled the dead or not, he was none the less most
courteous and polite with the living. He had, it is true, at times
somewhat of a sinister look in his face; but for his unsteady eyes, you
might almost have put him down as a missionary. He informed me that
codfish was to be had in great abundance at Fusan, and that the grain
export was almost entirely done by the Japanese, while the importation of
miscellaneous articles was entirely in the hands of the Chinese.

Fusan is situated at the most south-westerly extremity of the province of
Kiung-sang, which words, translated into English mean, "polite
compliment." The kingdom of Corea, we may here mention, is divided into
eight provinces, which rejoice in the following names: Kiung-sang-do,[1]
Chulla-do, Chung-chon-do, Kiung-kei-do, Kang-wen-do, Wang-hai-do,
Ping-yan-do, Ham-kiung-do. The province in which Fusan is situated is,
without exception, the richest in Corea after that of Chulla, for it has
a mild climate and a very fertile soil. This being the case, it is not
astonishing to find that the population is more numerous than in most
other districts further north, and also, that being so near the Japanese
coast, a certain amount of trading, mostly done by junks, is continually
being transacted with the Mikado's subjects on the opposite shores. Fusan
has been nominally in the hands of the Japanese from very ancient times,
although it was only in 1876 that a treaty was concluded by which it was
opened to Japanese trade. The spot on which the settlements lie is
pretty, with its picturesque background of high mountains and the large
number of little islands rising like green patches here and there in the
bay. Maki, the largest island, directly opposite the settlement, is now
used as a station for breeding horses of very small size, and it
possesses good pastures on its high hills. In the history of the
relations between Corea and Japan this province plays indeed a very
important part, for being nearer than any other portion of the kingdom to
the Japanese shores--the distance being, I believe, some 130 miles
between the nearest points of the two countries--invasions have been of
frequent occurrence, especially during the period that Kai-seng, then
called Sunto, was the capital. This city, like the present capital,
Seoul, was a fortified and walled town of the first rank and the chief
military centre of the country, besides being a seat of learning and
making some pretence of commercial enterprise. It lay about twenty-five
miles N.E. of Seoul, and at about an equal number of miles from the
actual sea. For several hundreds of years, Sunto had been one of the
principal cities of Corea, when Wang, a warrior of the Fuyu race and an
ardent Buddhist, who had already conquered the southern portion of the
Corean peninsula, made it the capital, which it remained until the year
1392 A.D., when the seat of the Government was removed to Seoul.

To return to Fusan and the Kyung-sang province. It is as well to mention
that the chief product cultivated is cotton. This is, of course, the
principal industry all over Corea, and the area under cultivation is
roughly computed at between eight and nine hundred thousand acres, the
unclean cotton produced per annum being calculated at about 1,200,000,000
lbs. In a recent report, the Commissioner of Customs at Fusan sets down
the yearly consumption of cleaned cotton at about 300,000,000 lbs. The
greater part of the cotton is made up into piece-goods for making
garments and padding the native winter clothes. In the Kiung-sang
province the pieces of cloth manufactured measure sixty feet, while the
width is only fourteen inches, and the weight between three and four
pounds. The fibre of the cotton stuff produced, especially in the
Kiung-sang and Chulla provinces, is highly esteemed by the Coreans, and
they say that it is much more durable and warmth-giving than that
produced either in Japan or China.

Of course the production of cotton could be greatly increased if more
practical systems were used in its cultivation, and if the magistrates
were not so much given to "squeezing" the people. To make money and to
have it extorted the moment you have made it, is not encouraging to the
poor Corean who has worked for it; therefore little exertion is displayed
beyond what is necessary to earn, not the "daily bread," for that they do
not eat, but the daily bowl of rice. There is much fertile land, which at
present is not used at all, and hardly any attention, and much less
skill, is manifested when once the seed is in the ground.

The Neapolitan _lazzaroni_, of world-wide reputation for extreme
laziness, have indeed worthy rivals in the Corean peasantry. The women
are made to do all the work, for by them the crops are gathered, and by
them the seeds are separated with the old-fashioned roller-gin. To borrow
statistics from the Commissioners' Report, a native woman can, with a
roller-gin, turn out, say, nearly 3 lbs. of clean cotton from 12 lbs. of
seed-cotton; while the industrious Japanese, who have brought over modern
machines of the saw-gin type, can obtain 35 lbs. of clean cotton from
140 lbs. of seed-cotton in the same space of time. Previous to being
spun, the cotton is prepared pretty much in the same way as in Japan or
China, the cotton being tossed into the air with a view to separating the
staple; but the spinning-wheel commonly used in Corea only makes one
thread at a time.

The crops are generally gathered in August, and the dead stalk is used
for fuel, while the ashes make fairly good manure. The quantity of clean
cotton is about 85 lbs. per acre, and of seed-cotton 345 lbs. per acre.

But to return to my narrative, luncheon-time came in due course, and as I
was spreading out my napkin on my knees, I reminded the person who had
whispered those mysterious words in my ear, of the promise he had made.

"Yes," said he, as he cautiously looked round, "I will tell you his
story. Mind you," he added, "this man to whom you spoke a while ago was
only one of several, and he was not the principal actor in that
outrageous business, still he himself is said to have taken a
considerable part in the criminal dealings. Remember that the account I
am going to give you of the affair is only drawn in bold lines, for the
details of the expedition have never been fully known to any one. For all
I know, this man may even be perfectly innocent of all that is alleged
against him."

"Go on; do not make any more apologies, and begin your story," I
remarked, as my curiosity was considerably roused.

"Very good. It was on April 30th, 1867, that an expedition left Shanghai
bound for Corea. The aims of that expedition seemed rather obscure to
many of the foreign residents at the port of departure, as little faith
was reposed in the commander. Still, it must be said for its members that
until they departed they played their _role_ well. Corea was then
practically a closed country; wherefore a certain amount of curiosity was
displayed at Shanghai when three or four Coreans, dressed up in their
quaint costumes and transparent horse-hair hats, were seen walking about,
and being introduced here and there by a French bishop called Ridel. A
few days later the curiosity of the foreign residents grew in intensity
when the news spread that an American subject, a certain Jenkins,
formerly interpreter at the U.S. Consulate, had, at his own expense,
chartered a ship and hurriedly fitted out an expedition, taking under his
command eight other Europeans, all of a more or less dubious character,
and a suite of about 150 Chinamen and Manillamen, the riff-raff of the
Treaty Port, who were to be the crew and military escort of the
expedition. A man called Oppert, a North German Jew, and believed by
everybody to be an adventurer under the guise of a trader, was in command
of the 'fleet'--which was composed of a steamer, if I remember right, of
about 700 tons, called the _China_, and a smaller tender of little over
50 tons, called the _Greta_. Oppert flew the flag of his own country, and
in due course gave the order to start."

"Well, so far so good," I interrupted; "but you have not told me what
connection there was between Bishop Ridel's four Coreans and your
body-snatching friends?"

"Well, you see, the American and Oppert took advantage of their
appearance in Shanghai to let people believe that they were high
officials sent over by the king, who was anxious to send an embassy to
the different courts of Europe to explain the slaughter of foreigners
which had taken place in his country, and also with the object of
entering, if possible, into treaties with the different European
monarchs--in fact to open his country to foreign trade and commerce. It
seemed somewhat a large order to any one who knew of the retiring nature
of the king, but everything was done so quickly that the expedition was
gone before people had time to inquire into its real object.

"The fleet, as I have remarked, in due time started, and after calling on
its way at Nagasaki, where rifles and other firearms and ammunition were
purchased with which to arm the military escort, steered a course to the
mouth of the Han river. Among the eight Europeans of dubious character on
board was a Frenchman, a Jesuit priest, who called himself Farout, but
whose real name was Feron, and who played an important part in the
piratical scheme, for, having lived some time previously in Corea, he had
mastered the language. Besides, he had travelled a good deal along the
river Han, so that he was entrusted with the responsible position of
guide and interpreter to the body-snatchers!"

"Curious position for a missionary to occupy," I could not help

"Yes. They reached Prince Jerome's Gulf on the 8th of May, and the next
day, sounding continually, slowly steamed up the river Han to a point
where it was deemed advisable to man the tender and smaller rowing-boats
with a view to completing the expedition in these.

"This plan was successfully carried out, and during the night, under the
command of Oppert, and escorted by the marauders, who were armed to the
teeth, they proceeded to the point where l'Abbe Feron advised a landing.
Here, making no secret of their designs, they ill-treated the natives,
and pillaged their poor huts, after which they made their way to the
tomb, where the relics lay of some royal personage supposed to have been
buried there with mountains of gold and precious jewels, which relics
were held in much veneration by the great Regent, the Tai-wen-kun. The
impudent scheme, in a few words, was this: to take the natives by
surprise, dig the body quickly out of its underground place of what
should have been eternal rest, and take possession of anything valuable
that might be found in the grave. The disturbed bones of the unfortunate
prince were to be carried on board, and a high ransom was to be extorted
from the great Regent, who they thought would offer any sum to get back
the cherished bones of his ancestor.

"The march from the landing-place to the tomb occupied longer than had
been anticipated, and crowds of astonished and angry natives followed the
procession of armed men. The latter finally reached the desired spot, a
funny little semi-spherical mound of earth, with a few stone figures of
men and ponies roughly carved on either side, and guarded by two stone

"The 'abbe,' who, among other things, was said to have been the promoter
of the scheme, pointed out the mound, and, rejoicing with Oppert and
Jenkins at having been so far successful, gave orders to the coolies to
proceed at once to dig. Spades and shovels had been brought for the
purpose, and the little mound was rapidly being levelled, while the
turbulent crowd of infuriated Coreans which had collected was getting
more and more menacing. These seemed to spring out by hundreds from every
side as by magic, and the body-snatchers were soon more than ten times
outnumbered. No greater insult or infamous act could there be to a Corean
mind than the violation of a grave. As spadeful after spadeful of earth
was removed by the shaking hands of the frightened coolies, shouts,
hisses, and oaths went up from the maddened crowd, but Oppert and the
French abbe, half scared as they were, still pined for the hidden
treasure, and encouraged the grave-diggers with promises of rewards as
well as with the invigorating butt-ends of their rifles. At last, after
digging a big hole in the earth, their spades came upon a huge slab of
stone, which seemed to be the top of the sarcophagus."

"I suppose that no oath was bad enough for the three leaders, then?" said

"No; they were mad with fury, and more so when all the strength of their
men combined was not sufficient to stir the stone an inch."

"The crowd which till then had been merely turbulent, now became so
exasperated at the cheek of the 'foreign white devils' that it could no
more keep within bounds, and a wild attack was made on the pirates.
Showers of stones were thrown, and the infuriated natives made a rush
upon them; but, _helas!_ their attack was met by a volley of rifle-shots.
Frightened out of their lives by the murderous effects of these strange
weapons, they fell back for a time, only to return by-and-by with fresh
ardour to the attack. The body-snatchers, having little confidence in the
courage and fidelity of the ruffian lot that composed their military
escort, and, moreover, seeing that all efforts were useless to remove the
'blessed' stone, deemed it more than advisable to retreat to the
tender--a retreat which, one may add, was effected somewhat hurriedly.
This being done, they steamed full speed down the river, and once on
board the _China_, began to feel more like themselves again.

"They anchored opposite Kang-wha Island, and remained there for three
days. Then as they were holding a parley on land near Tricauld Island,
they were attacked again by the angry mob, the news of their outrageous
deed having spread even hitherwards, and two or three of their men were
killed. Realising, therefore, that it was impossible to carry out their
plan, the body-snatchers returned to Shanghai, but here a surprise
awaited them.

"They were all arrested and underwent a trial. So little evidence,
however, was brought against them, and that little was of such a
conflicting character, that they were all acquitted. Oppert,
nevertheless, was imprisoned in his own country, and even brought out a
book in which he described his piratical expedition."

"Yes," I remarked, "your story is a very good one; but what part did
this particular man, now at Fusan, take in the marauding scheme?"

"Oh, that I do not exactly know--in fact, no one knows more than this,
that he was one of the eight Europeans who accompanied Oppert. Here at
Fusan all the foreign residents look down on him, and his only pleasure
is to come on board when a ship happens to call, that he may exchange a
few words in a European tongue, for no one belonging to this locality
will speak to him."

I went on deck to look for the pirate, hoping to get, if possible, a few
interesting and accurate details of the adventurous journey of the
_China_, but he had already gone, and we were just on the point of
raising our anchor, bound for Chemulpo.

On December 27th we steamed past Port Hamilton, formerly occupied by the
British, where fortifications and a jetty had been constructed and
afterwards abandoned, a treaty having been signed by Great Britain and
China, to the effect that no foreign Power was to be allowed to occupy
either Port Hamilton or any other port in the kingdom of Corea at any
future time.

During that day we travelled mostly along the inner course, among
hundreds of picturesque little islands of the Corean Archipelago, and in
the afternoon of the 28th we entered the Imperatrice Gulf. On account of
the low tide we had to keep out at sea till very late, and it was only
towards sunset that we were able to enter the inner harbour where
Chemulpo lies, protected by a pretty island on its western side. I bade
good-bye to the jolly captain and mate, and getting my traps together,
landed for the second time on Corean soil.


[1] _Do_ means province.


Chemulpo--So-called European hotels--Comforts--Japanese concession--The
_Guechas_--New-Year's festivities--The Chinese settlement--European
residents--The word "Corea"--A glance at Corean history--Cho-sen.


When I land in a new country a strange sense of the unknown somehow takes
possession of me. Perhaps in this, however, I am not alone. The feeling
is in part, I think, due to one's new surroundings, though chiefly to the
facial expressions of the people, with which one is not familiar and
probably does not quite understand. One may be a student of human
character in only a very amateurish way, and yet without much difficulty
guess by the twinkle in the eye, or the quivering of the underlip,
whether a person is pleased or annoyed, but when a strange land is
visited one is apt to be at first often deceived by appearances; and if,
as has happened in my case, the traveller has suffered in consequence of
being thus deceived, he is rather apt to look upon all that he sees with
a considerable amount of caution and even suspicion.

It was then with some such feelings as these that I landed at Chemulpo.
Hundreds of coolies running along the shore, with loads of grain on their
backs, to be shipped by the _Higo-Maru_, had no compunction in knocking
you down if you were in their way, and a crowd of curious native loafers,
always ready to be entertained by any new arrival, followed you _en
masse_ wherever you went.

When I visited Chemulpo there were actually three European hotels there.
These were European more in name than in fact, but there they were, and
as the night was fast approaching, I had to make my choice, for I wanted
a lodging badly.

One of these hotels was kept by a Chinaman, and was called Steward's
Hotel, for the simple reason that its owner had been a steward on board
an American ship, and had since appropriated the word as a family name;
the second, which rejoiced in the grand name of "Hotel de Coree," was of
Hungarian proprietorship, and a favourite resort for sailors of
men-of-war when they called at that port, partly because a drinking
saloon, well provided with intoxicants of all descriptions, was the chief
feature of the establishment, and partly because glasses were handed over
the counter by a very fascinating young lady, daughter of the proprietor,
a most accomplished damsel, who could speak fluently every language under
the sun--from Turkish and Arabic to Corean and Japanese. The third
hotel--a noble mansion, to use modern phraseology--was quite a new
structure, and was owned by a Japanese. The name which had been given by
him to his house of rest was "The Dai butzu," or, in English parlance,
The Great God. Attracted by the holiness of the name, and perhaps even
more by the clean look, outside only, of the place, I, as luck would have
it, made the Dai butzu my headquarters. I know little about things
celestial, but certainly can imagine nothing less celestial on the face
of the earth than this house of the Great God at Chemulpo. The house had
apparently been newly built, for the rooms were damp and icy cold, and
when I proceeded to inspect the bed and remarked on the somewhat doubtful
cleanliness of the sheets, "They are quite clean," said the landlord;
"only two gentlemen have slept in them before." However, as we were so
near the New Year, he condescended to change them to please me, and I
accepted his offer most gracefully as a New-Year's gift.

"O Lord," said I with a deep sigh when the news arrived that no meat
could be got that evening, and the only provisions in store were "one
solitary tin, small size, of compressed milk."

"Mionichi nandemo arimas, Konban domo dannasan, nandemo arimasen":
"To-morrow you can have anything, but to-night, please, sir, we have
nothing." As I am generally a philosopher on such occasions, I satisfied
my present cravings with that tin of milk, which, needless to say, I
emptied, putting off my dinner till the following night.

Corea, as everybody knows, is an extremely cold country, the thermometer
reaching as low sometimes as seventy or even eighty degrees of frost; my
readers will imagine therefore how delightfully warm I was in my bed with
only one sheet over me and a sort of cotton bed-cover, both sheet and
bed-cover, I may add, being somewhat too short to cover my feet and my
neck at the same time, my lower extremities in consequence playing a
curious game of hide-and-seek with the support of my head. I had ordered
a cold bath, and water and tray had been brought into my room before I
had gone to bed, but to my horror, when I got up, ready to plunge in and
sponge myself to my heart's content, I found nothing but a huge block of
solid ice, into which the water had thought proper to metamorphose
itself. Bells there were none in the house, so recourse had to be made to
the national Japanese custom of clapping one's hands in order to summon
up the servants.

"He," answered the slanting-eyed maid from down below, as she trotted up
the steps. Good sharp girl that she was, however, she quickly mastered
the situation, and hurried down to fetch fresh supplies of unfrozen
liquid from the well; although hardly had she left the room the second
time before a thick layer of ice again formed on the surface of the
bucketful which she had brought. It was bathing under difficulties, I can
tell you; but though I do not much mind missing my dinner, I can on no
account bring myself to deprivation of my cold bath in the morning. It is
to this habit that I attribute my freedom from contagious diseases in all
countries and climates; to it I owe, in fact, my life, and I have no
doubt to it, some day, I shall also owe my death.

The evil of cold was, however, nothing as compared with the quality and
variety of the food. For the best part of the week, during which I stayed
at the Dai butzu, I only had an occasional glance at a slice of
nondescript meat, served one day as "rosbif," and the next day as "mutin
shops," but unfortunately so leathery that no Sheffield blade could
possibly divide it, and no human tooth nor jaw, however powerful, could
masticate it.

As luck would have it, I was asked out to dinner once or twice by an
American gentleman--a merchant resident at Chemulpo--and so made up for
what would have otherwise been the lost art of eating.

Chemulpo is a port with a future. The Japanese prefer to call it Jinsen;
the Chinese, In-chiang. It possesses a pretty harbour, though rather too
shallow for large ships. The tide also, a very troublesome customer in
that part of the world, falls as much as twenty-eight or twenty-nine
feet; wherefore it is that at times one can walk over to the island in
front of the settlement almost without wetting one's feet.

Chemulpo's origin is said to be as follows: The Japanese government,
represented at Seoul by a very able and shrewd man called Hanabusa, had
repeatedly urged the Corean king to open to Japanese trade a port
somewhat nearer to the capital. Though the king was personally inclined
to enter into friendly negotiations, there were many of the anti-foreign
party who would not hear of the project; but such was the pressure
brought to bear by the skilful Japanese, and so persuasive were the
king's arguments, that, after much pour-parleying, the latter finally
gave way. Towards the end of 1880, the Mikado's envoy, accompanied by a
number of other officials, proceeded from the capital to the Imperatrice
Gulf and selected an appropriate spot, on which to raise the now
prosperous little concession, fixing that some distance from the native
city. In course of years it grew bigger, and when I was at Chemulpo there
was actually a Japanese village there, with its own Jap policemen, its
tea-houses, two banks, the "Mitsui-bashi" and "The First National Bank of
Japan," and last but not least, a number of _guechas_, the graceful
singers and posturing dancers of Nippon, without whom life is not worth
living for the Nipponese.

Like the Australians generally, who begin building a town by marking out
a fine race-course, so the light-hearted sons of the Mikado's empire,
when out colonising, begin as a first and necessary luxury of life by
importing a few _guechas_ who, with their quaint songs, enliven them in
moments of despair, and send them into ecstasies at banquets and
dinner-parties with their curious fan-dances, &c, just as our British
music-hall frequenting youth raves over the last song and skirt-dance of
the moment.

The _guechas_, mind you, are not bad girls. There is nothing wrong about
them except that they are not always "quite right," for they are well
educated, and possess good manners. They are generally paid by the hour
for the display of their talent, and the prices they command vary from
the low sum of twenty sens (sixpence) to as much as two or three yen
(dollars), for each sixty minutes, in proportion, of course, to their
capacity and beauty.

As the New Year was fast approaching, and that is a great festivity among
the Japanese, the _guechas_ at Chemulpo were hard at work, and from
morning till night and _vice versa_ they were summoned from one house to
the other to entertain with their--to European, ears excruciating--music
on the Shamesens and Gokkins, while _sake_ and foreign liquors were
plentifully indulged in.

I walked up the main street. Great Scott! what a din! It was enough to
drive anybody crazy. Each house, with its paper walls, hardly suitable
for the climate, seemed to contain a regular pandemonium. Men and women
were to be seen squatting on the ground round a huge brass _hibachi_,
where a charcoal fire was blazing, singing and yelling and playing and
clapping their hands to their hearts' content. They had lost somehow or
other that look of gracefulness which is so characteristic of them in
their own country, and on a closer examination I found the cause to be
their being clad in at least a dozen _kimonos_,[2] put on one over the
other to keep the cold out. Just picture to yourself any one wearing even
half that number of coats, and you will doubtless agree with me that
one's form would not be much improved thereby in appearance. The noise
increased until New-Year's Eve, and when at last the New Year broke in
upon them, it was something appalling. The air was full of false notes,
vocal and otherwise, and I need scarcely say that at the "Dai butzu" also
grand festivities went on for the greater part of the night.

I was lying flat in bed on New-Year's Day, thinking of the foolishness
of humanity, when I heard a tap at the door. I looked at the watch; it
was 7.20 A.M.

"Come in," said I, thinking that the thoughtful maid was carrying my
sponge-bath, but no. In came a procession of Japs, ludicrously attired in
foreign clothes with antediluvian frock-coats and pre-historic European
hats, bowing and sipping their breath in sign of great respect. At their
head was the fat proprietor of the hotel, and each of them carried with
him in his hand a packet of visiting cards, which they severally
deposited on my bed, as I, more than ten times astounded, stood resting
on my elbows gazing at them.

"So-and-so, brick-layer and roof-maker. So-and-so, hotel proprietor and
shipping agent; so-and-so, Japanese carpenter; so-and-so, mat-maker; X,
merchant; Z, boatman," &c. &c, were how the cards read as I inspected
them one by one. I need hardly say, therefore, that the year 1891 was
begun with an extra big D, which came straight from my heart, as I
uncoiled myself out of my bed at that early hour of the morning to
entertain these professional gentlemen to drinks and cigarettes. And yet
that was nothing as compared with what came after. They had scarcely
gone, and I was just breaking the ice in order to get my cold bath, when
another lot, a hundredfold more noisy than the first, entered my room
unannounced and depositing another lot of "pasteboards," as Yankees term
them, in my frozen hands, went on wishing me all sorts of happiness for
the New Year, though I for my part wished them all to a place that was
certainly not heaven. In despair I dressed myself, and going out
aimlessly, strolled in any direction in order to keep out of reach of
the New-Year's callers. But the hours were long, and about eleven I went
to pay a visit to Mr. T., the American merchant who had kindly asked me
once or twice to dinner. If I considered myself entitled to complain of
the calling nuisance, he must have had good reason to swear at it. Being
the richest man in the place as well as the principal merchant, his place
was simply besieged by visitors. Many were so drunk that they actually
had to be carried in by coolies--a curious mode of going to call--while
others had even to be provided with a bed on the premises until the
effects of their libations had passed off. A well-known young Japanese
merchant, I remember, nearly fractured his skull against a table, through
losing his equilibrium as he was offering a grand bow to Mr. T.

Wherever one went in the Japanese quarter there was nothing but drink,
and the main street was full of unsteady walkers.

Curiously enough, on proceeding a few yards further on towards the
British Consulate, one came to the Chinese settlement, which was
perfectly quiet, and showed its inhabitants not only as stern and
well-behaved as on other occasions, but even, to all appearance, quite
unconcerned at the frolic and fun of their merry neighbours. Here
business was being transacted as usual, those engaged therein retaining
their well-known expressionless and dignified mien, and apparently
looking down disgusted upon the drunken lot, although prepared themselves
to descend from their high pedestal when their own New-Year's Day or
other festival occasions should arrive.

I was much amused at a remark that a Chinaman made to me that day.

I asked him how he liked the Japanese.

"Pff!" he began, looking at me from under his huge round spectacles, as
if he thought the subject too insignificant to waste his time upon.

"The Japanese," he exploded, with an air of contempt, "no belong men. You
see Japanese man dlunk, ol no dlunk, all same to me. He no can speak
tluth, he no can be honest man. He buy something, nevel pay. Japanese
belong bad, bad, bad man. He always speak lie, lie, lie, lie," and he
emphasised his words with a crescendo as he curled up what he possessed
in the shape of a nose--for it was so flat that it hardly deserved the
name; indeed, to give strength to his speech, he spat with violence on
the ground, as if to clear his mouth, as it were, of the unclean sound of
the word "Japanese."

Not even in those days could the Chinese and Japanese be accused of
loving one another.

The Chinese settlement is not quite so clean in appearance as the
Japanese one, but if business is transacted on a smaller scale, it is, at
all events, conducted on a firm and honest basis. Chemulpo has but few
natural aptitudes beyond its being situated at the mouth of the river
Han, which, winding like a snake, passes close to Seoul, the capital of
the kingdom; and yet, partly because of its proximity to the capital, the
distance by road being twenty-five miles, and partly owing to the fact
that it is never ice-bound in winter, the town has made wonderful
strides. As late as 1883 there were only one or two fishermen's huts
along the bay, but in 1892 the settlement contained a score of Europeans,
over 2800 Japanese souls, and 1000 Chinese, besides quite a
respectable-sized native conglomeration of houses and huts.

When I visited the port, land fetched large sums of money in the central
part of the settlement. The post-office was in the hands of the Japanese,
who carried on its business in a very amateurish and imperfect manner,
but the telegraphs were worked by the Chinese. The commercial competition
between the two Eastern nations now at war has of late years been very
great in Corea. It is interesting to notice how the slow Chinaman has
followed the footsteps of young Japan at nearly all the ports, especially
at Gensan and Fusan, and gradually monopolised a good deal of the trade,
through his honest dealings and steadiness. And yet the Chinese must have
been, of course, greatly handicapped by the start of many years which the
dashing Japanese had over them, as well as by the much larger number of
their rivals. A very remarkable fact, however, is that several Japanese
firms had employed Chinese as their _compradores_, a position entirely of
trust, these being the officials whose duty it is to go round to collect
money and cheques, and who are therefore often entrusted with very large
sums of money.

But now let us come to the foreigners stranded in the Corean kingdom. If
you take them separately, they are rather nice people, though, of course,
at least a dozen years behind time as compared with the rest of the
world; taken as a community, however, they are enough to drive you crazy.
I do not think that it was ever my good fortune to hear a resident speak
well of another resident, this being owing, I dare say, to their seeing
too much of one another. If by chance you come across a man occupying
only a second-rate official position, you may depend upon it you will see
airs! One hardly ventures to address any such personage, for so grand is
he that, he will hardly condescend to say "How do you do?" to you, for
fear of lowering himself. There are only about four cats in the place,
and their sole subject of conversation is precedence and breaches of
etiquette, when you would imagine that in such a distant land, and away,
so to speak, from the outer world, they would all be like brothers.

You must now consider yourselves as fairly landed in Corea, and having
tried to describe to you what things and people that are not Corean are
like in Corea, I must provide you--again of course only
figuratively--with a tiny little pony, the smallest probably you have
ever seen, that you may follow me to the capital of the kingdom, which I
am sure will be interesting to you as being thoroughly characteristic of
the country. First of all, however, we had better make sure of one point.

The name Corea, or _K_orea, you may as well forget or discard as useless,
for to the Corean mind the word would not convey any definite idea. Not
even would he look upon it as the name of his country. The real native
name now used is Cho-sen, though occasionally in the vernacular the
kingdom goes by the name of Gori, or the antiquated Korai. There is no
doubt that the origin of the word Corea is Korai, which is an
abbreviation of Ko-Korai, a small kingdom in the mountainous region of
the Ever White Mountains, and bordering upon the kingdom of Fuyu, a
little further north, whence the brave and warlike people probably
descended, who conquered old Cho-sen. The authorities on Corean history,
basing their arguments on Chinese writings, claim that the present people
of Cho-sen are the true descendants of the Fuyu race, and that the
kingdom of Ko-Korai lay between Fuyu on the northern side and Cho-sen on
the southern, from the former of which a few families migrated towards
the south, and founded a small kingdom west of the river Yalu, electing
as their king a man called Ko-Korai, after whom, in all probability, the
new nation took its name. Then as their numbers increased, and their
adventurous spirit grew, they began to extend their territory, north,
south, and west, and in this latter direction easily succeeded in
conquering the small kingdom of Wuju and extending their frontier as far
south as the river Tatung, which lies approximately on parallel 38 deg. 30".

During the time of the "Three Realms" in China, between the years 220 and
277 A.D., the Ko-Korai people, profiting by the weakness of their
neighbours, and therefore not much troubled with guerrillas on the
northern frontier, continued to migrate south, conquering new ground, and
so being enabled finally to establish their capital at Ping-yan on the
Tatong River. After a comparatively peaceful time with their northern
neighbours for over 300 years, however, towards the end of the sixth
century, China began a most micidial war against the king of Ko-Korai, or
Korai, as it was then called, the "Ko" having been dropped. It seems
that even in those remote days the Chinese had no luck in the land of
Cho-sen, and though army after army, and hundreds of thousands of men
were sent against them, the brave Korai people held their own, and far
from being defeated and conquered, actually drove the enemy out of the
country, killing thousands mercilessly in their retreat, and becoming
masters of the Corean Peninsula as far south as the River Han.

To the south of Korai were the states of Shinra and Hiaksai, and between
these and Korai, there was for a couple of centuries almost perpetual
war, the only intervals being when the latter kingdom was suffering at
the hands of the formidable Chinese invaders. But as I merely give this
rough and very imperfect sketch of Corean history, to explain how the
word Korai originated and was then applied to the whole of the peninsula,
I must now proceed to explain in bold touches how the other states became
united to Korai.

After its annexation to China, the Korai state remained crippled by the
terrible blow it had received, for the Ko-Korai line of kings had been
utterly expelled after having reigned for over seven centuries, but at
last it picked up a little strength again through fresh migrations from
the north-west, and in the second decade of the tenth century a Buddhist
monk called Kung-wo raised a rebellion and proclaimed himself king,
establishing his court at Kaichow.

One of Kung-wo's officers, however, Wang by name, who was believed to be
a descendant of the Korai family, did away with the royal monk and sat
himself on the throne, which he claimed as that of his ancestors. Coming
of a vigorous stock, and taking advantage of the fact that China was weak
with internal wars, Wang succeeded in uniting Shinra to the old Korai,
thus converting the whole peninsula into a single and united realm, of
which, as we have already seen in the first chapter, he made the walled
city of Sunto the capital. Wang died 945 A.D., and was succeeded by his
son Wu, who wisely entered into friendly relations with China, and paid
his tribute to the Emperor of Heaven as if he ruled a tributary state. In
consequence of this policy it was that Corea enjoyed peace with her
terrible Celestial rival for the best part of two centuries.

Cho-sen, then, is now the only name by which the country is called by the
natives themselves, for the name of Korai has been entirely abandoned by
the modern Coreans. The meaning of the word is very poetic, viz., "The
Land of the Morning Calm," and is one well adapted to the present
Coreans, since, indeed, they seem to have entirely lost the vigour and
strength of their predecessors, the Koraians. I believe Marco Polo was
the first to mention a country which he called Coria; after whom came the
Franciscan missionaries. Little, however, was known of the country until
the Portuguese brought back to Europe strange accounts of this curious
kingdom and its quaint and warlike people. According to the story, it was
a certain Chinese wise man who, when in a poetic mood, baptized Corea
with the name of Cho-sen. But the student of Corean history knows that
the name had already been bestowed on the northern part of the peninsula
and on a certain portion of Manchuria, and that it was in the year 1392,
when Korai was united to Shinra and the State of Hiaksai became merged in
it, that Cho-sen became the official designation of united Corea. The
word "Corea" evidently is nothing but a corruption of the dead and buried
word "Korai."


[2] Long gown, the national dress of Japan.


The road to Seoul--The _Mapu_--Ponies--Oxen--Coolies--Currency--Mode of
carrying weights--The Han River--Nearly locked out.

[Illustration: THE WEST GATE, SEOUL]

I left Chemulpo on January 2nd, but instead of making use of the
minuscule ponies, I went on foot, sending my baggage on in advance on a
pack-saddle on one of them. I was still suffering considerably from an
accident I had sustained to my foot among the hairy folk of the Hokkaido,
and I thought that the long walk would probably be beneficial to me, and
would take away some of the stiffness which still remained in my ankle.
At a short distance from the port I came to a steep incline of a few
hundred yards, and crossing the hill-range which formed the background to
Chemulpo as one looks at it from the sea, I soon descended on the other
side, from which point the road was nearly level all the way to the
capital. The road is not a bad one for Corea, but is, of course, only fit
for riding upon; and would be found almost of impossible access to
vehicles of any size. The Japanese had begun running _jinrickshas_,
little carriages drawn by a man, between the capital and the settlements;
but two, and even three men were necessary to convey carriage and
passenger to his destination, and the amount of bumping and shaking on
the uneven road was quite appalling.

These little carriages, as every one knows, generally convey only a
single person, and are drawn by two men, who run in a tandem, while the
third pushes the _ricksha_ from the back, and is always ready at any
emergency to prevent the vehicle from turning turtle. This mode of
locomotion, however, was not likely to become popular among the Coreans,
who, if carried at all, prefer to be carried either in a sedan-chair, an
easy and comfortable way of going about, or else, should they be in a
hurry and not wish to travel in grand style, on pony or donkey's back.
Europeans, as a rule, like the latter mode of travelling best, as the
Corean sedan-chairs are somewhat too short for the long-legged foreigner,
and a journey of six or seven hours in a huddled-up position is
occasionally apt to give one the cramp, especially as Western bones and
limbs do not in general possess the pliability which characterises those
composing the skeleton of our Eastern brothers.

The scenery along the road cannot be called beautiful, the country one
goes through being barren and desolate, with the exception of a certain
plantation of mulberry trees, a wretched speculation into which the
infantile government of Cho-sen was driven by some foreigners, the object
of which was to enrich Corea by the products of silk-worms, but which, of
course, turned out a complete failure, and cost the Government much money
and no end of worry instead. Here and there a small patch might be seen
cultivated as kitchen garden near a hut, but with that exception the
ground was hardly cultivated at all; this monotony of landscape, however,
was somewhat relieved by the distant hills covered with maples, chestnuts
and firs, now unfortunately for the most part deprived of their leaves
and covered with snow, it being the coldest time of the year in Corea.

The mile-posts on the high roads of Cho-sen are rather quaint, and should
you happen to see one for the first time at night the inevitable result
must be nightmare the moment you fall asleep. They consist of a wooden
post about eight feet in length, on the upper end of which a long ghastly
face is rudely carved out of the wood and painted white and red; the eyes
are black and staring, and the mouth, the chief feature of the mask, is
of enormous size, opened, showing two fine rows of pointed teeth, which
might hold their own with those of the sharks of the Torres Strait, of
world-wide reputation. A triangular wedge of wood on each side of the
head represents the ears. The directions, number of miles, &c, are
written directly under the head, and the writing being in Chinese
characters, runs from up to down and from right to left.

It was pretty along the road to see the numerous little ponies,
infinitely smaller than any Shetlands, carrying big fellows, towering
with their padded clothes above enormous saddles, and supported on either
side by a servant, while another man, the _Mapu_, led the steed by hand.
The ponies are so very small that even the Coreans, who are by no means
tall people, their average height being about 5 ft. 4 in., cannot ride
them unless a high saddle is provided, for without these the rather
troublesome process of dragging one's feet on the ground would have to be

This high saddle, which elevates you some twenty inches above the pony's
back, naturally involves a certain amount of instability to the person
who is mounted, the balancing abilities one has to bring out on such
occasions being of no ordinary degree. The Corean gentleman, who is
dignified to an extreme degree, and would not for the world run the risk
of being seen rolling in the mud or struggling between the pony's little
legs, wisely provides for the emergency by ordering two of his servants
to walk by his side and hold him by the arms and the waist, as long as
the journey lasts, while the _Mapu_, one of the stock features of Corean
everyday life, looks well after the pony and leads him by the head as one
might a big Newfoundland dog. The _Mapu_ in Corea occupies about the same
position as Figaro in the "Barber of Seville." While leading your pony he
takes the keenest interest in your affairs, and thinks it his business to
talk to you on every possible subject that his brain chooses to suggest,
abusing all and everybody that he thinks you dislike and praising up what
he fancies you cherish, that he may perhaps have a few extra _cash_ at
the end of the journey, which he will immediately go and lose in
gambling. He speaks of politics as if he were the axis of the political
world, and will criticise the magistracy, the noble, and the king if he
is under the impression that you are only a merchant, while evil words
enough would be at his command to represent the meanness and bad manners
of the commercial classes, if his pony is honoured by being sat upon by a
nobleman! Such is the world even in Cho-sen. The _Mapu_ will sing to you,
and crack jokes, and again will swear at you and your servants, and at
nearly every _Mapu_ that goes by. The greater the gentleman his beast is
carrying, the more quarrelsome is he with everybody. The road, wide
though it be, seems to belong solely to him. He is in constant trouble
with citizens and the police, and it is generally on account of his
insignificance, poverty, and ignorance that so many of his evil doings
and wrongs are forgiven. None the less it must be said for them that they
take fairly good care of their minuscule quadrupeds. They feed them,
usually three times a day, with boiled chopped straw and beans, and grass
in summer-time, and with this diet you see the little brutes, which are
only about 10 hands high, and even less sometimes, go twenty-five or
thirty miles a day quite easily, with a weight of a couple of hundred
pounds on their backs, quickly toddling along without stopping, unless it
be to administer a sound kick to some bystander or to bite the legs of
the rider. These ponies have a funny little way of getting from under
you, if you ride them with an English saddle. They bend their legs till
they see you firmly planted on the ground, and then quickly withdraw
backwards leaving you, with your legs wide apart and standing like a
fool, to meditate on equine wickedness in the Realm of the Morning Calm.
They are indeed the trickiest little devils for their size I have ever
seen; and for viciousness and love of fighting, I can recommend you to no
steed more capable of showing these qualities. The average price of an
animal as above described varies from the large sum of five shillings to
as much as thirty shillings (at the rate of two shillings per Mexican
dollar), the price of course varying, as with us, according to the breed,
age, training, condition, &c., of the animal.

These ponies are much used all over the kingdom, for good roads for wheel
traffic hardly exist in the country, and wide horse-tracks form
practically the whole means of communication between the capital and the
most important ports and cities in the different provinces of Corea. They
are used both for riding purposes and as pack-ponies, "for light articles
only," like the racks in our railway carriages, but when heavy loads are
to be conveyed from one place to another, especially over long distances,
the frail pony is discarded and replaced by the sturdy ox. These horned
carriers are pretty much of a size, and fashioned, so far as I could see,
after the style of our oxen, except that they are apparently leaner by
nature, and almost always black or very dark grey in colour; their horns,
however, are rather short. They carry huge weights on a wooden angular
saddle which is planted on their backs, and a _Mapu_ invariably
accompanies each animal when loaded; indeed, in the case of the ponies
the man even carries on his own back the food both for himself and for
his beast, the latter generally having the precedence in eating his
share. The sleeping accommodation also is, as a rule, amicably divided
between quadruped and biped, and, taken all round, it cannot be said that
either is any the worse for their brotherly relations. I firmly believe
that the _Mapus_ are infinitely better-natured towards their animals than
towards their wives or their children, who, as you will find by-and-by,
are often cruelly ill-treated.

But let us now continue our journey towards Seoul. Here several coolies
are to be seen approaching us, carrying heavy loads on their backs. A man
of a higher position follows them. And, strange circumstance! they are
carrying money. Yes; one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight--yes,
actually eight men, bent under heavy loads of coins. Your first idea, I
suppose, will be that these men are carrying a whole fortune--but, oh
dear! no. You must know that the currency in Corea is entirely brass, and
these brass coins, which go by the name of _cash_ are round coins about
the size of a halfpenny, with a square hole in the centre, by which they
are strung together, generally a hundred at a time. There are usually as
many as two thousand to two thousand eight hundred _cash_ to a Mexican
dollar, the equivalent of which is at present about two shillings; you
can, therefore, easily imagine what the weight of one's purse is if it
contains even so small a sum as a pennyworth in Corean currency. Should
you, however, be under an obligation to pay a sum of, say, L10 or L20,
the hire of two oxen or six or eight coolies becomes an absolute
necessity, for a sum which takes no room in one's letter-case if in Bank
of England notes, occupies a roomful of hard and heavy metal in the
country of the Morning Calm. Great trouble has been and is continually
experienced in the kingdom owing to the lack of gold and silver coins;
but to the Corean mind to make coins out of gold and to let them go out
of the country amounts to the same thing as willingly trying to
impoverish the fatherland of the treasures it possesses; wherefore,
although rich gold-mines are to be found in Cho-sen, coins of the
precious metal are not struck for the above-mentioned reason.


So much for Corean political economy. The coins used are of different
sizes and value. They range, if I remember right, from two _cash_ to
five, and an examination of a handful of them will reveal the fact that
they have been struck off at different epochs. There is the so-called
current treasure coin of Cho-sen, one of the more modern kinds, as well
as the older coin of Korai, the Ko-ka; while another coin, which seems to
have been struck off in the Eastern provinces, is probably as old as any
of these, and is still occasionally found in use. The coins, as I have
said, are strung together by the hundred on a straw rope; a knot is tied
when this number is reached, when another hundred is passed through, and
so on, until several thousands are sometimes strung to one string. As
curious as this precious load itself was the way in which it was carried.
It is, in fact, the national way which all Corean coolies have adopted
for conveying heavy weights, and it seems to answer well, for I have
often seen men of no very abnormal physique carry a burden that would
make nine out of ten ordinary men collapse under its heavy mass. The
principle is much the same as that used by the porters in Switzerland,
and also in some parts of Holland, if I am not mistaken. A triangular
wooden frame rests on the man's back by means of two straps or ropes
passed over the shoulders and round the arms. From this frame project two
sticks, about 35 inches in length, on which the weight rests, and by
bending the body at a lower or higher angle, according to the height or
pressure of the load, a perfect balance is obtained, and the effort of
the carrier considerably diminished. For heavy loads like wood, for
instance, the process of loading is curious. The frame is set upon the
ground, and made to remain in position by being inclined at an angle of
about 45 deg. against a stick forked at the upper end, with which every
coolie is provided. When in this position, the cargo is put on and tied
with a rope if necessary; then, the stick being carefully removed,
squatting down gently so as not to disturb the position of the load, the
coolie quickly passes his arms through the straps and thus slings the
thing on to the back, the stick being now used as a help to the man to
rise by instalments from his difficult position without collapsing or
coming to grief. Once standing, he is all right, and it is wonderful what
an amount of endurance and muscular strength the beggars have, for they
will carry these enormous loads for miles and miles without showing the
slightest sign of fatigue. They toddle along quickly, taking remarkably
short steps, and resting every now and then on their forked stick, upon
the upper end of which they lay their hands, forcing it against the chest
and the ground, and so making it a sort of _point d'appui._

Just a word as to the coolie's moral qualities. He much resembles in this
the Neapolitan _lazzarone_--in fact, I do not know of any other
individual in Eastern Asia that is such a worthy rival of the Italian
macaroni-eater. The coolie will work hard when hungry, and he will do his
work well, but the moment he is paid off the chances are that, like his
_confrere_ on the Gulf of Naples, he will at once go and drink a good
part of what he has received; then, in a state of intoxication, he will
gamble the next half; and after that he will go to sleep for twenty-four
hours on a stretch, and remain the next twelve squatting on the ground,
basking in the sun by the side of his carrying-machine, pondering, still
half asleep, on his foolishness, and seeking for fresh orders from
passers-by who may require the services of a human beast of burden. Then
you may see them in a row near the road-side drinking huts, either
smoking their pipes, which are nearly three feet in length, or if not in
the act of smoking, with the pipe stuck down their neck into the coat and
down into the trousers, in immediate contact with the skin.

Going along at a good pace I reached the half-way house, a
characteristically Corean building, formerly used as an inn, and now
being rented by a Japanese. Having entertained myself to tea and a few
items of solid food, I proceeded on my pedestrian journey towards the
capital. And now, as I gradually approached the river Han, more attention
seemed to be given to the cultivation of the country. The staple product
of cereals here is mainly buckwheat, beans and millet, a few rice-fields
also being found nearer the water-side. Finally, having arrived at the
river-side, after shouting for half an hour to the ferry boatman to come
and pick me up, I in due course landed on the other side. The river Han
makes a most wonderful detour between its estuary and this point. As the
river was left behind, more habitations in the shape of miserable and
filthy mud-huts, with thatched roofs, became visible; shops of eatables
and native low drinking places following one another in continuation; and
crowds of ponies, people, and oxen showed that the capital was now being
fast neared; and sure enough, after winding along the dirty, narrow road,
lined by the still dirtier mud huts for nearly the whole of the distance
between Mafu, the place where the Han river was ferried, and here, a
distance of about three miles, I found myself at last in front of the
West Gate of the walled city of Seoul.

I could hear quite plainly in the distance, from the centre of the town,
the slow sound of a bell; and men, women and children, on foot or riding,
were scrambling through the gate in both directions. As I stopped for a
moment to gaze upon the excited crowd, it suddenly flashed across my mind
that I had been told at Chemulpo, that to the mournful sound of what is
called the "Big bell" the heavy wooden gates lined with iron bars were
closed, and that no one was thereafter allowed to enter or go out of the
town. The sun was just casting his last glorious rays on the horizon, and
the excitement grew greater as the strokes of the bell became fainter
and fainter, and with the mad crowd of men and beasts mixed together upon
it, the road might be compared with the tide entering the mouth of a
running river. I threw myself into the thick of the in-going flow, and
with my feet trampled upon by passing ponies; now knocking against a
human being, now face to face with a bull, I finally managed to get
inside. Well do I remember the hoarse voices of the gate-keepers, as they
shouted out that time was up, and hurried the weary travellers within the
precincts of the royal city; well also do I recollect, as I stood
watching their doings from the inside, how they pushed back and
ill-treated, with words and kicks, the last people who passed through,
and then, out of patience, revolved the heavy gates on their huge and
rusty hinges, finally closing the city until sunrise next day. Shouts of
people, just too late, on the other side, begging to be let in, remained
unacknowledged, and the enormous padlocks and bolts having been
thoroughly fastened, Seoul was severed from the outer world till the
following morning. Adjoining the gate stood the gatekeeper's house, and
in front of the door of this, a rack with a few rusty and obsolete spears
standing in a row, was left to take care of the town and its inhabitants,
while the guardians, having finished the work of the day, retreated to
the warm room inside to resume the game or gambling which the setting sun
had interrupted, and which had occupied their day. With the setting of
the sun every noise ceased. Every good citizen retired to his home, and
I, too, therefore, deemed it advisable to follow suit.

There are no hotels in Seoul, with the exception of the very dirty
Corean inns; but I was fortunate enough to meet at Chemulpo a Russian
gentleman who, with his family, lived in Seoul, where he was employed as
architect to His Majesty the King of Corea, and he most politely invited
me to stay at his house for a few days; and it is to his kind
hospitality, therefore, that I owe the fact that my first few nights at
Seoul were spent comfortably and my days were well employed, my
peregrinations round the town being also conducted under his guidance.


The Coreans--Their faces and heads--Bachelors--Married

Being now settled for the time being in Seoul, I must introduce you to
the Corean, not as a nation, you must understand, but as an individual.
It is a prevalent idea that the Coreans are Chinese, and therefore
exactly like them in physique and appearance, and, if not like the
Chinese, that they must be like their neighbours on the other side--the
Japanese. As a matter of fact, they are like neither. Naturally the
continuous incursions of both Chinese and Japanese into this country have
left distinct traces of their passage on the general appearance of the
people; and, of course, the distinction which I shall endeavour to make
is not so marked as that between whites and blacks, for the Coreans,
speaking generally, do bear a certain resemblance to the other peoples of
Mongolian origin. Though belonging to this family, however, they form a
perfectly distinct branch of it. Not only that, but when you notice a
crowd of Coreans you will be amazed to see among them people almost as
white and with features closely approaching the Aryan, these being the
higher classes in the kingdom. The more common type is the yellow-skinned
face, with slanting eyes, high cheek-bones, and thick, hanging lips.
But, again, you will observe faces much resembling the Thibetans and
Hindoos, and if you carry your observations still further you will find
all over the kingdom, mostly among the coolie classes, men as black as
Africans, or like the people of Asia Minor.

For any one interested in types and crosses, I really do not know of a
country more interesting than Cho-sen. It seems as if specimens of almost
every race populating Asia had reached and remained in the small
peninsula, which fact would to some degree disprove the theory that all
migrations have moved from the east towards the west and from north to
south, and never _vice versa_.

If you take the royal family of Corea, for instance, you will find that
the king and queen, and all the royal princes, especially on the queen's
side (the Min family), are as white as any Caucasian, and that their eyes
are hardly slanting at all, and in some cases are quite as straight as
ours. Members of some of the nobler families also might be taken for
Europeans. Of course the middle classes are of the Mongolian type, though
somewhat more refined and stronger built than the usual specimens of
either Chinese or Japanese; they are, however, not quite so wiry and tall
as their northern neighbours the Manchus, with whom, nevertheless, they
have many points in common. The large invasions, as we have seen, of the
Ko-korais and Fuyus may account for this.

[Illustration: A BACHELOR]

Taken altogether, the Corean is a fine-looking fellow; his face is
oval-shaped, and generally long when seen full face, but it is slightly
concave in profile, the nose being somewhat flat at the bridge between
the eyes, and possessing wide nostrils. The chin is generally small,
narrow and receding, while the lips, usually the weaker part in the
Corean face, are as a rule heavy, the upper lip turned up and showing the
teeth, while the lower one hangs pitifully downwards, denoting,
therefore, little or no strength of character. They possess good teeth
and these are beautifully white, which is a blessing for people like them
who continually show them. The almond-shaped, jet-black eyes, veiled by
that curious weird look peculiar to Eastern eyes, is probably the
redeeming part of their face, and in them is depicted good-nature, pride
and softness of heart. In many cases one sees a shrewd, quick eye, but it
is generally an exception among this type, while among the lower
classes, the black ones, it is almost a chief characteristic. The
cheek-bones are prominent. The hair is scanty on the cheeks, chin, and
over and under the lips, but quite luxuriant on the head. There is a very
curious custom in Corea as to how you should wear your hair, and a great
deal of importance is attached to the custom. If by chance you are a
bachelor--and if you are, you must put up with being looked down upon by
everybody in Corea--you have to let your hair grow long, part it
carefully in the middle of your skull, and have it made up into a thick
tress at the back of your head, which arrangement marks you out as a
single man and an object of sport, for in the Land of the Morning Calm it
seems that you can only be a bachelor under the two very circumstances
under which we, in our land of all-day restlessness, generally marry,
viz., if you are a fool and if you have not a penny to live upon! When
thus unhappily placed you rank, according to Corean ideas, as a child, no
matter what your age is, and you dress as a child, being even allowed to
wear coloured coats when the country is in mourning, as it was, when I
visited it, for the death of the dowager-Queen Regent, and everybody is
compelled to wear white, an order that if not quickly obeyed by a married
man means probably to him the loss of his head. Thus, though looked down
upon as outcasts and wretches, bachelors none the less do enjoy some
privileges out there. Here is yet another one. They never wear a hat;
another exemption to be taken into consideration when you will see, a
little further on, what a Corean hat is like.


Married men, on the other hand--and ninety-nine per hundred are married
in Cho-sen--wear their hair done up in a most wonderful fashion. It is
not as long as that of bachelors, for it is cut. It is combed, with the
head down, in the orthodox fashion, as women do, I suppose, when they
comb it by themselves, and then passing the left hand under it, along the
forehead, it is caught close to the head just about the middle of the
skull. This being satisfactorily done, what remains of the hair above the
hand is twisted round into the shape and size of a sausage, which then
remains sticking up perpendicularly on the top of the head, and which, in
the natural order of things, goes by the sensible name of top-knot.
Occasionally a little silver or metal bead is attached to the top of the
knot, and a small tortoiseshell ornament fastened to the hair just over
the forehead. This completes the married man's hair-dressing, with which
he is always most careful, and I must say that the black straight hair
thus arranged does set off the head very well. The illustration shows the
profile of a married man of the coolie class, who, of course, wears the
hair dressed just like the others, it being a national custom; only the
richer and smarter people, of course, wear it more tidily, and, probably,
not quite so artistically. Besides, the better class of people are not
content with the process of beautifying themselves which I have just
described, but surround the forehead, temples and back of the head with a
head-band, a curious arrangement made of woven black horse-hair, which
keeps the real hair tight under it, and not only prevents it from being
blown about, but forms a more solid basis for the wonderful hats they
wear. The nobler classes, upon whom the king has bestowed decorations in
the shape of jade, gold or silver buttons, according to the amount of
honour he has meant to accord them, wear these decorations, of all
places, behind the ears, and fastened tight to the head-band.

Thus much on the subject of the Corean's head. I shall spare you, my dear
readers, the description of his body, for it is just like any other body,
more or less well made, with the exception that it is invariably
unwashed. Instead, I shall proceed to inspect with you his wardrobe and
his clothing, which may be to you, I hope, much more interesting. To do
this, let us walk along the main street of the town, where the traffic is
generally great, and examine the people who go by. Here is a well-to-do
man, probably a merchant. Two features at once strike you: his hat, the
_kat-si_, and his shoes; and then, his funny white padded clothes. But
let us examine him carefully in detail. It is a little difficult to
decide at which end one should begin to describe him, but I imagine that
it is the customary thing to begin with the head, and so, coming close to
him, let us note how curiously his hat is made. It is just like a
Welshwoman's hat in shape, or, in other words, like a flowerpot placed on
a flat dish, as seen in the illustration; but the extraordinary thing
about the Corean hat is that it is quite transparent, and has none of the
virtues that, according to our ideas, a hat ought to possess. It is a
wonderful work of art, for it is made of horse-hair, or, more commonly,
of split bamboo so finely cut in threads as to resemble white horse-hair,
and then woven into a fine net in the shape described. A thin bamboo
frame keeps it well together, and gives to it a certain solidity, but
though varnished over, it protects one's head from neither sun, wind, nor
rain. It is considered a rude thing in Corea to take one's hat off, even
in the house, and therefore the _kat-si_, not requiring instant removal
or putting on, is provided with two hooks at the sides of the central
cone, to each of which a white ribbon is attached, to be tied under the
chin when the hat is worn, the latter resting, not on the hair itself,
but on the head-band. This shape of hat is never worn without the

The hat just described is that most commonly worn in the Land of the
Morning Calm, and that which one sees on the generality of people. But
there! look at that man passing along leading a bull--he has a hat large
enough to protect a whole family. It is like a huge pyramid made of
basket-work of split bamboo or plaited reeds or rushes, and it covers him
almost half way down to his waist. Well, that poor man is in private
mourning for the death of a relation, and he covers his face thus to show
his grief.


Here, again, comes another individual with a transparent hat like the
first, only worn over a big hood open at the top over the head and
falling rounded over the shoulders, thus protecting the ears from the
severe cold. This is lined with fur, with which it is also trimmed, and
looks quite furry and warm, if not exactly becoming. Ah! but here is
something even more curious in the shape of head-gear. It is just
beginning to snow, and, one after the other, our transparent _kat-sis_
are undergoing a transformation. I daresay, as we stand watching the
people go by, it will be noticed that nearly each one who has a
transparent hat, also wears in his girdle round his waist a triangular
object made of yellow oil-paper which resembles a fan. Well, now, you
will see what it is. An oldish man turns up his nose to scrutinise the
intentions of the weather-clerk, and, apparently little satisfied at the
aspect of the threatening clouds, stops, and unsheathing his fan-like
object from his belt, opens it, when it is seen to become like a small
umbrella without the stick and handle, about two and a half feet only in
diameter, which, by means of a string, he fastens over his brand new hat.
When thus used, it takes the shape of a cone, except, of course, that
there will be a multitude of folds in it. It is called _kat-no_. The idea
is not at all bad, is it? for here you have an umbrella without the
trouble of tiring your arms in carrying it.

One cannot help being considerably puzzled by the differences in the
various classes and conditions of the men. To all appearance, the
generality of men seem here dressed alike, with this difference, that
some are dirtier than others; occasionally one has an extra garment, but
that is all. Yes, there is, indeed, difficulty at first in knowing who
and what any one is, but with a little trouble and practice the
difficulty is soon overcome. In the main the clothes worn by the men are
the same, only a great difference is to be found in the way these
garments are cut and sewn, just as we can distinguish in a moment the cut
of a Bond Street tailor from that of a suburban one. In Corea, the
tailor, as a rule, is one's wife, for she is the person entrusted with
the cares of cutting, sewing, and padding up her better-half's attire. No
wonder, then, that nine-tenths of the top-knotted consorts look regular
bags as they walk about. The national costume itself, it must be
confessed, does rather tend to deform the appearance of the human body,
which it is supposed to adorn. First, there is a huge pair of cotton
trousers, through each leg of which one can pass the whole of one's body
easily, and these trousers are padded all over with cotton wool, no
underclothing being worn. When these are put on, they reach from the chin
to the feet, on to which they fall in ample and graceful folds, and you
don them by holding them up with your teeth, and fastening them anywhere
near and round your waist with a pretty, long silk ribbon with tassels,
which is generally let hang down artistically over the right side. When
this has been successfully accomplished, the extra length of trousers is
rolled up so as to prevent the "unmentionables" from being left behind as
you walk away, and a short coat, tight at the shoulders and in the shape
of a bell, with short but wide sleeves, is put on to cover the upper part
of the body. This coat also, like the trousers, is padded, and reaches
almost to the haunches. It overlaps on the right hand side, two long
ribbons being tied there into a pretty single-winged knot and the two
ends left hanging. In winter time, the forearm, which in summer remains
bare, is protected by a separate short muff, or sleeve, through which the
hand is passed, and which reaches just over the elbow.

Then come the padded socks, in which the huge trousers are tucked, and
which are fastened round the ankle with a ribbon. And, lastly, now we
come to the shoes. Those used by the better classes are made of hide, and
have either leather soles with nails underneath, or else wooden soles
like the Chinese ones with the turned-up toes. The real Corean shoe,
however, as used every day for walking and not for show, is truly a
peculiar one. The principal peculiarity about it is that it is made of
paper; which sounds like a lie, though indeed it is not. Another
extraordinary thing is that you can really walk in them. If you do not
believe it, all you have to do is to take the first steamer to Corea and
you can easily convince yourself of the fact. The greater part of the
population wears them, and the _Mapus_ especially walk enormous distances
in them. They are scarcely real shoes, however, and one should, perhaps,
classify them rather as a cross between a shoe and a sandal, for that is
just what they are. The toes are protected by numberless little strings
of curled untearable paper, which, when webbed, make the sole, heel, and
back of the sandal, and this is joined to the point of the shoe by a
stouter cord going right round, which is also made of the same kind of
twisted paper. This cord can be fastened tighter or looser to suit the
convenience of the wearer of the sandal-shoe.

The Corean is an unfortunate being. He has no pockets. If his hands are
cold he must warm them by sticking them down his belt into his trousers,
and if he be in company with people, he can generate a certain amount of
heat by putting each into the other arm's sleeve. As for the money,
tobacco, &c, that he wants to carry, he is compelled to provide himself
with little silk bags, which he attaches to his waist-band or to the
ribbon of his coat. These bags are generally of orange colour or blue,
and they relieve a little the monotony of the everlasting white dresses.

The clothing, so far as I have described it, is, with the exception of
the shoes, that which is worn habitually in the house by the better
classes of the people; the officials, however, wear a horse-hair high cap
resembling a papal tiara on the head, instead of the other form of hat.
Indoors, the shoes are not worn, the custom of Japan being prevalent,
namely, to leave them at the door as one mounts the first step into the
room. The middle lower classes and peasantry are seldom found parading
the streets with anything besides what I have described, with the
exception of the long pipe which they, like the _Mapu_ or the coolies,
keep down the back of the neck when not using it. Merchants, policemen,
and private gentlemen are arrayed, in winter especially, in a long cotton
or silk gown similarly padded, an overall which reaches below the knees,
and some, especially those in the Government employ, or in some official
position, wear either without this or over this an additional sleeveless
garment made of four long strips of cotton or silk, two in front and two
at the back, according to the grade, almost touching the feet and divided
both in front and at the back as far up as the waist, round which a
ribbon is tied. This, then, is the everyday wardrobe of a Corean of any
class. You may add, if you please, a few miscellaneous articles such as
gaiters and extra bags, but never have I seen any man of Cho-sen walk
about with more habiliments than these, although I have many times seen
people who had a great deal less. The clothes are of cotton or silk
according to the grade and riches of the wearer. Buttons are a useless
luxury in Cho-sen, for neither men nor women recognise their utility; on
the contrary, the natives display much amusement and chaff at the stupid
foreign barbarian who goes and cuts any number of buttonholes in the
finest clothing, which, in their idea, is an incomprehensible mistake and
shows want of appreciation.

Their method of managing things by means of loops and ribbons, has an
effect which is not without its picturesqueness, perhaps more so than is
our system of "keeping things together" in clothing matters. After all it
is only a matter of opinion. The inhabitants of the land of Cho-sen, from
my experience, are not much given to washing and still less to bathing. I
have seen them wash their hands fairly often, and the face occasionally;
only the very select people of Corea wash it daily. One would think that,
with such a very scanty and irregular use of water for the purpose of
cleanliness, they should look extremely dirty; but not a bit. It was
always to me irritating to the last degree to see how clean those dirty
people looked!

But let us notice one or two more of the people that are passing by. It
is now snowing hard, and every one carries his own umbrella on his head.
Boys do not wear hats, and are provided with a large umbrella with a
bamboo-frame that fits the head, as also are the bachelors. Here comes
one of the latter class. His face is a finely cut one, and with his hair
parted in the middle, and the big tress hanging down his back, he has
indeed more the appearance of a woman than that of a man; hence the
mistake often made by hasty travellers in putting down these bachelors as
women, is easy to understand. When one is seen for the first time, it is
really difficult to say to which sex he belongs, so effeminate does he

It is part of the ambition of the male Corean to look wise, no matter
whether he is or not as a matter of fact. And to assume the coveted air
of wisdom what more is necessary than to put on a huge pair of round
spectacles of Chinese origin with smoked glasses enclosed in a frame of
gold or tortoiseshell, and with clasps over the ears? Oh how wise he
looks! He does indeed! And you should see his pomposity as he rides his
humble donkey through the streets of Seoul. There he sits like a statue,
supported by his servants, looking neither to one side nor to the other,
lest he should lose his dignity.

"Era, Era, Era!" ("Make way, Make way!") cry out the servants as he
passes among the crowd, which is invariably respectful and ready to obey
this hero who looks down upon them. The lesser the official, of course
the greater the air, and you should see how the people who stand in the
way are knocked to one side by his servants, should they not be quick
enough to make room for the dignitary and his donkey. His long gown is
carefully arranged on the sides and behind, covering the saddle and
donkey's back in large folds; for most things in Corea, as in other parts
of the world, are done for the sake of appearance. What a dreadful thing
it would be, were he to ride about with his gown crumpled up under his
seat! It would be the cause of lifelong unhappiness, remorse and shame,
and no doubt cost his servants a sound flogging for their unpardonable


The Woman of Cho-sen--Her clothes--Her ways--Her looks--Her
privileges--Her duties--Her temper--Difference of classes--Feminine

It will now be proper, I think, since I have given you a rough sketch of
the man of Cho-sen and his clothes, to describe in a general way to you
the weaker sex--not an easy task--and what they wear--a much more
difficult task still,--for I have not the good fortune to be conversant
with the intricacies of feminine habiliments, and therefore hope to be
excused if, in dealing with this part of my subject, I do not always use
the proper terms applicable to the different parts that compose it.
Relying, then, upon my readers' indulgence in this respect, I shall
attempt to give an idea of what a Corean female is like. It has always
been a feature in my sceptical nature to think that the more one sees of
women the less one knows them; according to which principle, I should
know Corean women very well, for one sees but little of them. Be that as
it may, however, I shall proceed to give my impressions of them.

As is pretty generally known, the women of Cho-sen, with the exception of
the lower classes, are kept in seclusion. They are seldom allowed to go
out, and when they do they cover their faces with white or green hoods,
very similar in shape to those worn by the women at Malta. They appear,
or pretend to be, shy of men, and foreigners in particular, and generally
hide when one is approaching, especially if in a solitary street. I
remember how astonished I was the first few days I was in Seoul, at the
fact that every woman I came across in the streets was just on the point
of opening a door and entering a house. It seemed so strange to me that
damsel after damsel whom I met should just be reaching home as I was
passing, that I began to think that I was either dreaming, or that every
house belonged to every woman in the town. The idea suddenly dawned upon
me that it was only a trick on their part to evade being seen, and on
further inquiry into the matter from a Corean friend, I discovered that a
woman has a right to open and enter any door of a Corean house when she
sees a foreign man appearing on the horizon, as the reputation of the
masculine "foreign devil" is still far from having reached a high
standard of morality in the minds of the gentler sex of Cho-sen. In the
main street and big thoroughfares, where at all times there are crowds of
people, there is more chance of approaching them without this running
away, for in Corea, as elsewhere, great reliance is placed on the saying
that there is safety in numbers. So it was mainly here that I made my
first studies of the retiring ways and quaint costumes of the Corean

[Illustration: A COREAN BEAUTY]

Yes, the costume really is quaint, and well it deserves to be described.
They wear huge padded trousers, similar to those of the men, their socks
also being padded with cotton wool. The latter are fastened tightly
round the ankles to the trousers by means of a ribbon. You must not
think, however, that the dame of Cho-sen walks about the streets attired
in this manly garment, for over these trousers she wears a shortish skirt
tied very high over the waist. Both trousers and skirt are generally
white, and of silk or cotton according to the grade, position in life,
and extravagance of those who wear them. A tiny jacket, usually white,
red, or green, completes the wardrobe of most Corean women; one
peculiarity of which is that it is so short that both breasts are left
uncovered, which is a curious and most unpractical fashion, the climate
of Corea, as we have already seen, being exceedingly cold--much colder
than Russia or even Canada. The hair, of which the women have no very
great abundance, is very simply made up, plastered down flat with some
sort of stenching oil, parted in the middle, and tied into a knot at the
back of the head, pretty much in the same way as clergymen's wives
ordinarily wear it. A heavy-looking silver or metal pin, or sometimes
two, may also be found inserted in this knot as an ornament. I have often
seen young girls and old women wear a curious fur cap, especially in
winter, but this cannot be said to be in general use. It is in the shape
of the section of a cone, the upper part of which is covered with silk,
while the lower half is ornamented with fur and two long silk ribbons
which hang at the back and nearly reach the ground when the cap is worn.
The upper part of this cap, curiously enough, is open, and on either side
of the hole thus formed there are two silk tassels, generally red or
black in colour. When smartly worn, this cap is quite becoming, but
unfortunately, whether this be worn or not, the modest maiden of Cho-sen
covers her head and face with a long green sort of an overall coat which
she uses as a _mantilla_ or hood, throwing it over the head and keeping
it closed over the face with the left hand.

It must not on this account be imagined that there are not in Cho-sen
women as coquettish as anywhere else, for, indeed, the prettier ones,
either pretending that the wind blows back the hood, or that the hand
that holds it over the face has slipped, or using some other excuse of
the kind with which a woman is always so well provided, take every
opportunity of showing you how pretty they are and of admiring them,
particularly when they get to know who you are, where you hail from, and
who your Corean friends are. The ugly ones, of course, are always those
who make the most fuss, and should you see a woman in the street hide
her face so that you cannot see it at all, you may be very sure that her
countenance is not worth looking at, and that she herself is perfectly
conscious of Nature's unkindness to her.

As for several months I was seen day after day sketching in the streets,
the people got to know me well, and since the Coreans themselves are very
fond of art, although they are not very artistic themselves, I made
numerous friends among them, and even, I might say, became popular.

Vanity is a ruling characteristic of all people, and acting on this
little weakness I was able to see more of the Corean damsel than most
casual travellers.

[Illustration: A LADY AT HOME]

We find, it is true, _pros_ and _cons_ when we come to analyse her
charms, but taking the average maid, she cannot be said to be worse in
Corea than she is in other countries. She can be pretty and she can be
ugly. When she is pretty, she is as pretty as they make them, and when
she is the other way she is as ugly as sin, if not even worse. But let us
take a good-looking one. Look at her sad little oval face, with arched
eyebrows and with jet black, almond-shaped eyes, softened by the long
eyelashes. Her nose is straight, though it might to advantage be a little
less flat, and she possesses a sweet little mouth, just showing two
pretty teeth as white as snow. There seems to be so much dignity and
repose about her movements when you first see her, that you almost take
her for a small statue. Hardly will she condescend to turn her face round
or raise it up to look at you and even less inclined does she seem to
smile, such is her modesty; once her shyness has worn off, however, she
improves wonderfully. Her face brightens, and the soft, affectionate,
distant look in her eyes is enough to mash into pulp the strongest of
mankind. She is simple and natural, and in this chiefly lies her charm.
She would not compare in beauty with a European woman, for she is neither
so tall nor so well developed, but among women of far-Eastern nationality
she, to my mind, takes the cake for actual beauty and refinement. The
Japanese women of whom one hears so much, though more artistically clad,
are not a patch on the Venuses of Cho-sen, and both in respect of
lightness of complexion and the other above-named qualities they seemed
to me to approach nearest to the standard of European feminine beauty.
Their dress, as you may have judged by my rough description, is more
quaint than graceful, and cannot be said to be at all becoming;
nevertheless, when one's eyes have got accustomed to it, I have seen
girls look quite pretty in it. I remember one in particular, a concubine
of one of the king's ministers, whom I was fortunate enough to get to sit
for me. She did not look at all bad in her long blue veil gown, much
longer than the white one usually worn, which it covered, the white silk
trousers just showing over the ankles, and a pretty pair of blue and
white shoes fitting her tiny feet. She wore a little red jacket, of which
she seemed very proud, and she smoked cigarettes and a pipe, though her
age, I believe, was only seventeen.

Women of the commoner classes can always be detected, not only by the
coarser clothes they wear, but also by the way their hair is made up. Two
long tresses are rolled up on the back of the head into a sort of turban,
and though to my eye, innocent of the feminine tricks of hair-dressing,
it looked all real and genuine, and a curious contrast to the infinitely
less luxuriant growth of the better classes of women, I was told that a
good deal of braids and "stuffing" was employed to swell their coiffures
into the much-coveted fashionable size.

One very strange custom in Corea is the privilege accorded to women to
walk about the streets of the town at night after dark, while the men are
confined to the house from about an hour after sunset and, until lately,
were severely punished both with imprisonment and flogging, if found
walking about the streets during "women's hours." The gentler sex was and
is therefore allowed to parade the streets, and go and pay calls on their
parents and lady friends, until a very late hour of the night, without
fear of being disturbed by the male portion of the community. Few,
however, avail themselves of the privilege, for unfortunately in Corea
there are many tigers and leopards, which, disregarding the early closing
of the city gates, climb with great ease over the high wall and take
nightly peregrinations over the town, eating up all the dogs which they
find on their way and occasionally even human beings. Tigers have
actually been known to rudely run their paws through the invulnerable
paper windows of a mud house, drag out a struggling body roughly awoke
from slumber, and devour the same peacefully in the middle of the street.

Since then a _rencontre_ with a hungry individual of this nature during a
moonlight walk is sure to be somewhat unpleasant, it is not astonishing
that it is but very, very rarely that at any hour of the night the
Cho-sen damsel avails herself of the privilege accorded her. The woman,
as I have already mentioned, is considered nothing in Corea. The only
privilege she has, as we have just seen, is the chance of being torn to
pieces and eaten up by a wild beast when she is out for a constitutional,
and that we may safely say is not a privilege to be envied. The poor
thing has no name, and when she is born she goes by the vague
denomination of "So-and-so's" daughter. When there are several girls in
the family, to avoid confusion, surnames are found convenient enough, but
they are again lost the moment she marries, which, as we shall see in
another chapter, often happens at a very early age. She then becomes
"So-and-so's" wife. The woman in Corea has somewhat of a sad and dull
life, for from the age of four or five she is separated even from her
brothers and brought up in a separate portion of the house, and from that
time ideas are pounded into her poor little head as to the disgrace of
talking, or even being looked at by humans of a different gender. The
higher classes, of course, suffer most from the enforcement of this
strict etiquette, for in the very lowest grades of society the woman
enjoys comparative freedom. She can talk to men as much as she pleases,
and even goes out unveiled, being much too low a being to be taken any
notice of; the upper classes, however, are very punctilious as to the
observance of their severe rules. The Corean woman is a slave. She is
used for pleasure and work. She can neither speak nor make any
observations, and never is she allowed to see any man other than her
husband. She has the right of the road in the streets, and the men are
courteous to her. Not only do the men make room for her to pass, but even
turn their faces aside so as not to gaze at her. There are numberless
stories of a tragic character in Corean literature, of lovely maidens
that have committed suicide, or have been murdered by their husbands,
brothers, or fathers, only for having been seen by men, and even to the
present day a husband would be considered quite justified in the eye of
the law if he were to kill his wife for the great sin of having spoken to
another man but himself! A widow of the upper class is not allowed to
re-marry, and if she claims any pretence of having loved her late
husband, she ought to try to follow him to the other world at the
earliest convenience by committing the _jamun_, a simple performance by
which the devoted wife is only expected to cut her throat or rip her
body open with a sharp sword. They say that it is a mere nothing, when
you know how to do it, but it always struck me, that practising a little
game of that sort would not be an easy matter. For the sake of truth, I
must confess that it was a husband who depreciated the worthy act. The
lower people are infinitely more sensible. Though a woman of this class
were to lose twenty husbands, she would never for a moment think of doing
away with herself, but would soon enter into her twenty-first matrimonial

Women, somehow or other, are scarce in Corea, and always in great demand.
The coolies, and people of a similar or lower standing, cannot do without
a female companion, for it is she who prepares the food, washes the
clothes, and sews them up. She is beaten constantly, and very often she
beats the man, for the Corean woman can have a temper at times. Jealousy
_en plus_ is one of her chief virtues. I have seen women in Seoul nearly
tearing one another to pieces, and, O Lord! how masterly they are in the
art of scratching. The men on such occasions stand round them,
encouraging them to fight, the husbands enjoying the fun more than the
other less interested spectators. The women of the lower classes seem to
be in a constant state of excitement and anger. They are always insulting
one another, calling each other names, or scolding and even ill-treating
their own children. What is more extraordinary still to European ears, is
that I once actually saw a wife stand up for her husband, and she did it
in a way that I am not likely soon to forget.

A soldier was peacefully walking along a narrow street, half of which
was a sort of drain canal, the water of which was frozen over, when a man
came out of a house and stopped him. The conversation became hot at once,
and with my usual curiosity, the only virtue I have ever possessed, I
stopped to see the result.

"You must pay me back the money I lent you," said the civilian in a very
angry tone of voice.

"I have not got it," answered the military man, trying to get away.

"Ah! you have not got it?" screamed a third personage, a woman emerging
from the doorway, and without further notice hit the soldier on the head
with the heavy wooden mallet commonly used for beating clothes.

The husband, encouraged by this unexpected reinforcement, boldly attacked
the soldier, and, whilst they were occupied in wrestling and trying to
knock each other down, the infuriated woman kept up a constant
administration of blows, half at least of which, in her aimless hurry,
were received by the companion of her life for whom she was fighting.
Once she hit the poor man so hard--by mistake--that he fell down in a
dead faint, upon which the soldier ran for his life, while she, jumping
like a tiger at him, caught him by the throat, spinned him round like a
top, and floored him, knocking him down on the ice. Then she pounced on
him, with her eyes out of her head with anger, and giving way to her
towering passion, pounded him on the head with her heels while she was
hitting him on the back with her mallet.

"You have killed my husband, too, you scoundrel!" she cried, while the
defeated warrior was struggling hard, though in vain, to escape.

As she was about to administer him a blow on the head that would have
been enough to kill a bull, she fortunately slipped on the ice and went
sprawling over her victim. The soldier, more dead than alive, had raised
himself on his knees, when that demon in female attire rose again and
embracing him most tenderly, bit his cheek so hard as to draw a regular
stream of blood. I could stand it no longer, and proceeded on to the
slippery ice to try to separate them, but hardly was I within reach than
I was presented with a sound blow on my left knee from the mallet which
she was still manipulating with alarming dexterity, by which I was at
once placed _hors de combat_ before I had time even to offer my services
as a peace-maker. Not only that, but besides the numberless "stars" which
she made me see, the pain which she caused me was so intense that,
hopping along as best I could on to the street again, I deemed it prudent
to let them fight out their own quarrel and go about my own business.

"Never again as long as I live," I swore, when I was well out of sight,
as I rubbed my poor knee, swollen up to the size of an egg, "never shall
I interfere in other people's quarrels. Who would have foreseen this? and
from a woman, too!"

It is, indeed, easy to be a philosopher after the event, but it is
strange how very often one gets into fearful rows and trouble without
having had the slightest intention either to offend or to annoy the
natives. Here is another little anecdote which I narrated some months ago
in the _Fortnightly Review_, and which is a further proof of the violent
temper of the women-folk, of the lower classes in Cho-sen. The Coreans in
general, and the women in particular, are at times extremely
superstitious, which partly accounts for the violent scene in question,

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