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

Part 4 out of 4

question, I went one afternoon to witness the pilgrimage that takes place
every day to this miraculous spot. A little altar stands at the foot of
the huge tooth, and numberless tablets, certifying to cures, erected by
thankful noble visitors and others, are fixed against the rock, with the
name, date and year when the cures were effected.

As I stood there, I could not help laughing at the sight of the crowds of
men and women with swollen cheeks, bandaged up in cotton wool and
kerchiefs, apparently undergoing excruciating agonies through coming out
on so cold a day. One after the other they came up, first paying their
chin-chins in front of the altar, and then depositing on it what _cash_
they could afford; after which they proceeded to rub one cheek after the
other on the Tooth-stone, just as "puss" rubs herself against your legs
when you stroke her head. The bandages had, of course, to be removed
before the balloon-like cheek could be rubbed on the frozen stone, and to
watch the different expressions of relief or increased pain upon their
ill-balanced, inflamed faces, gave me as much amusement as any show that
I have ever witnessed. Should the pain have temporarily disappeared, the
man in charge of the _miracle_ would make it his duty to try and extract
more money from the person cured; if, instead of that, the pain had
increased, which was generally the case, then, again, he would impress on
the agonised sufferer that had he paid a larger sum in the beginning the
gods would not have been vexed at his meanness and the pain would have
disappeared. Let him, therefore, now pay more _cash_ by way of making up
for it, and try again! It is wonderful, too, how shallow people are when
they have a pain anywhere!


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--A mild form of slavery.

Should you happen to be one of the tender-hearted sort, please pass this
chapter and the next over, and I shall not bear you any malice. My
present object is to describe some of the punishments inflicted on
criminals, and, though they are, as a whole, quaint and original, I
cannot say that they are pleasing, either to see or to read about.

First of all, you may not be aware that there is in Seoul a sharp and
well-regulated body of police, always ready to pounce on outlaws of any
kind; and that there is hardly a crime committed, the delinquent in which
fails to be immediately collared. These guardians of the peace do not
wear any particular uniform, but are dressed just like the merchant
classes; and thus it is that, unknown, they can mix with people of all
sorts, and frequently discover crimes of which they would otherwise
probably never hear. Instead of being mere policemen, they rather do the
work of detectives and policemen combined; for, by ably disguising
themselves, they try to get on familiar terms with people about whom they
are suspicious; and in many a case, after having become a bosom-friend of
one of these officials and acknowledged and confessed his evil deeds to
him, the culprit finds himself arrested and very likely beheaded.

In speaking of their mode of arrest, I purposely used the word
"collared"; for no better term can express the action of the Corean
policeman. The man is taken before the magistrate soon after his arrest,
and should he offer resistance he is dragged before him by his top-knot
or his pig-tail, according respectively as he is a married man or a
bachelor. If he is strong and restive, a rope with a sliding knot is
passed round his neck, after his hands have been firmly tied behind his
back. After his interview with the magistrate at the _yamen_, if he be
found guilty, he is generally treated with very great severity.

If the crime has been only of the minor degree the culprit undergoes the
plank-walk, a punishment tiresome enough, but not too harsh for Coreans.
The following is a rough description of it. A heavy wooden plank, about
twelve feet long and two feet wide, with an aperture in the centre, is
used, the man's head being passed through the aperture and then secured
in it in such a way that he cannot remove it. Thus arrayed he is made to
walk through the streets of the town, his head distorted by the weight he
has to carry, and his body restrained by the dragging of the plank either
in front of him or at his back. The passers-by point at him the finger of
scorn, as, in his helpless state, he is made to swing from one side of
the road to the other with the slightest push, or else is pulled along
mercilessly by people who seize the plank and begin to run. He is poked
in the ribs with sticks, and gets his head smacked and smeared with dirt;
yet has to bear it all patiently, until, twirled round, knocked about,
and with his neck skinned by the friction of the heavy plank, he
sometimes falls down in a dead faint.

[Illustration: THE PLANK-WALK]

Little or no compassion is shown to criminals by the Coreans. Rather than
otherwise, they are cruel to them; and children, besides being cautioned
not to follow their bad example, are encouraged to annoy and torture the
poor wretches.

A more severe punishment still is the square board, a piece of wood too
heavy to allow of the man standing for any length of time, too wide to
allow of his arms reaching his face, too big to allow of him resting his
head on the ground and going to sleep, and too thick to allow of his
smashing it and getting rid of it. Instances are on record of people thus
punished having become lunatics after the fourth or fifth day. During the
fly season I should think such an occurrence cannot be uncommon. Imagine
half a dozen flies disporting themselves in a tickling walk on a man's
nose, eyelids and forehead, without his being able to reach them, owing
to this huge square wooden collar! It must be dreadful! Merely the
thought of it is enough to give one the shivers.

This last mode of punishment has, I think, been imported from China, for
I have also seen it frequently in the Empire of Heaven. The other, which
I first described, may also be a modification of this one, but I do not
remember having seen it, as I have described it, anywhere except in
Corea, at Seoul. There is also in Corea another machine of torture, in
which the head and feet are tied between heavy blocks of wood.

The principal, and most important, of all the lesser punishments,
however, is flogging. It is that which has most effect on the people, and
it is certainly by far the most painful. It is carried out in many ways,
according to the gravity of the crime committed. The simpler and milder
form is with a small bamboo rod, the strokes being administered on the
hands, on the bare back or on the thighs, a punishment mostly for young
people. Next in severity, is that with the round stick--a heavy
implement--by which it was always a marvel to me, that all the bones of
the body were not smashed, judging from the fearful blows which the
powerful flogger bestowed on the poor wretches who lay stretched out
flat, and face downward, on a sort of bench, to which they were
fastened, and on which they generally fainted from pain after the first
few strokes had been given. This is considered a low and degrading way of
being flogged, and is chiefly limited to people of the lowest standing in
society. The implement most generally in use in this line of sport is the
paddle or flat board, a beating with which, when once received, is likely
to be remembered for ever. I shall try to describe the way in which I saw
it done one day in Seoul.

I was walking along the main street when I saw a _kisso_ (soldier), with
his hands tied behind his back, being led with a rope and followed by
about a score of cavalry soldiers in their picturesque hats and red
tassels. A magistrate, in his long white gown and with a huge pair of
circular spectacles on his nose, headed the procession. I asked a
passer-by what they were going to do, and was soon informed, both by
action and by word of mouth, that the man was going to be flogged,
whereupon I at once slackened my pace, and joined the procession, that I
might, if possible, see how they did this sort of thing in military
circles. I had already seen ordinary floggings with the bamboo and the
stick, but what attracted me more especially on this occasion, was a long
wooden board which a soldier was carrying, and with which, the man who
was walking by my side said, they were going to beat him. It was a plank
about ten feet long, one foot wide and half an inch thick, probably less,
and therefore very flexible. After walking for a short distance, the
procession at last made a halt. The man to be performed upon, looked
almost unconcerned; and, save that he was somewhat pensive, showed no
signs of fear. His hands having been untied, he at once took off his
hat--for in the land of Cho-sen a man does not mind losing his life as
long as his hat is not spoilt! His padded trousers were pulled down so as
to leave his legs bare, and he was then made to lie flat on the pebbly
ground, using his folded arms as a sort of rest for his head. The
magistrate, with his pompous strides, having found a suitable spot,
squatted down on his heels, a servant immediately handing to him his
long-caned pipe. The soldiers, silent and grave, then formed a circle,
and the flogger; with his board all ready in his hand, took up a position
on the left-hand side of his victim. The magistrate, between one puff and
another of smoke, gave a long harangue on the evils of borrowing money
and not returning it, however small the sum might be. The disgrace, he
argued, would be great in anybody's case, but for a soldier of the King,
not only to commit the great offence of borrowing money from a person of
lower grade than himself--"a butcher," but then also to add to his shame
by not returning it--this was something that went beyond the limits of

"How much was it you borrowed?" he inquired in a roaring kind of voice.

"A hundred _cash_," answered the thread of a voice from the head on the
ground buried in the coat-sleeves.

"Well, then, give him a hundred strokes, to teach him to do better next

As a hundred _cash_ is equivalent to one penny-halfpenny, to my mind, the
verdict was a little severe, but, as there is no knowing what is good
for other people, I remained a silent spectator.

The flogger then, grabbing at one end of the board with his strong hands,
swung it two or three times over his head, and gave a tremendous whack on
the man's thighs, causing them to bleed. Then immediately another and
another followed, each being duly reckoned, the poor fellow all the while
moaning pitifully, and following from the corners of his frightened eyes
the quick movements of the quivering plank. Soon his skin became livid
and inflamed, and, after a few more blows had been given, large patches
of skin remained attached to the board. The pain must have been intense.
The wretch bit his sleeves, and moaned and groaned, until, finally, he
became faint. Meanwhile, I had produced my sketch-book, and had already
with my pencil jotted down magistrate, flogger, flogged and soldiers,
when the ill-natured official took offence at what I was doing and
ordered the flogging to be at once stopped. Had I only known, I would
have begun my sketch before. As it was--and the culprit had only received
less than one-fifth of the number of blows to which he had been
sentenced--the performance was bad enough. There was only one redeeming
feature about it, and I must say no one was more astonished at it than
myself. Nearly all the soldiers, friends of the offender, blubbered like
children while his punishment lasted. This circumstance seemed to prove
to me that the Easterns, though apparently cruel, are, after all, not
quite so hard-hearted as one might be inclined to imagine. And, mind you,
the soldier-classes in Cho-sen are probably the most cruel of all; that
touch of sentiment on their part, therefore, impressed me much, and upset
entirely those first ideas I had formed about their lack of sensitiveness
and sympathy for others.

The order to that effect being then given, two soldiers proceeded to help
the man to rise. Calling to him was, however, of no avail. They had,
therefore, to lift him up bodily, but when they tried to dress him they
found his swollen bleeding legs to be as stiff as if they had been made
of iron; wherefore, as they failed to bend them, two other men had to
come to their assistance and carry him away. It not unfrequently happens
in the case of this cruel method of flogging that a man's thighs are
broken and himself ruined for life, and many have been known to have even
died under the severity of the punishment.

Imprisonment is not a favourite punishment with the Corean magistrates,
for the infliction of such a penalty means considerable expense to the
country, and would be but little punishment to the natives, who, by such
confinement, would suffer little or nothing physically, and certainly not
at all morally. Some, however, especially of the nobler classes, are kept
confined, even for years, in expectation, for instance, of a sentence of
capital punishment being carried out, or else in the hope that through
influential friends they may obtain the royal pardon. As a rule,
particularly with the better classes, exile is deemed a more impressive
punishment than imprisonment, and when confiscation of land and property
goes with this, the punishment is, of course, all the more severe.

Of banishment there are several different kinds. Thus, there is not only
banishment from the city to a distant province, but also that out of the
kingdom altogether. Some banishments are for short periods, others for
longer periods, others for life. Banishment from the country is generally
for life and accompanied by confiscation.

A curious custom prevails at Court, according to which, when a Minister,
prince or magistrate incurs the royal displeasure, he is confined for two
or three days to his own house, without being allowed to go out. Were the
rule broken it would lead to serious trouble, for spies are generally
sent to see that the rule is not transgressed. Such a punishment, mild as
it is, is much felt by the nobles, and they take, therefore, a good deal
of trouble to comply with the Court etiquette in all its minutest

Corean law is very lenient to women and children, or unmarried men, which
latter class, as we have seen, are classified in the same category as the
former. The head of the family is supposed to punish smaller offences as
he thinks fit, either by rod or fist, the law only providing the severer
forms of punishment for the bigger crimes.

The administration of the law in general is very strange. Some people are
responsible, others are not. Certain tradesmen, like butchers,
plasterers, innkeepers, carpenters, hatters, etc., have formed themselves
into guilds, and in the case of offences committed by a member of one of
these guilds he is held responsible to the head of the guild and not to
the magistrates of the country. The same holds good in the case of the
_mapus_ (horsemen) and the coolie-carriers who constitute, probably, the
best-formed and best-governed guild in the country. It has thousands of
members all over the kingdom, and not only is the postal system carried
on by them, but also the entire trade, so to speak, between the different
provinces and towns of the realm. The chief of this guild, until late
years, had actually the power of inflicting capital punishment on the
members; now, however, the highest penalty he can inflict is a sentence
of flogging. Thus it is, that a good deal of the justice of the country
is administered by the people themselves, without the intervention of the
legal authorities, in which respect they show themselves very sensible.
The nobles, too, have the power of flogging their servants or followers,
and this is usually done in their own _compounds_. Very often on passing
a house the strokes of the paddle may be heard, the howls and screams of
the victim testifying to the nature of what is going on. In other cases
flogging is generally done in public, for then it is supposed to have
more effect. If done in a private enclosure, then all the servants,
soldiers and followers are summoned to witness it.

This patient submission to these personal punishments is no doubt one of
the last remains of feudalism. In not very remote times, serfdom which
bordered on slavery was still in existence in Cho-sen. Men and women
became private property either by the acquiring of the land on which they
lived, or, by purchase, or by way of execution for non-payment of debts,
for under this convenient law creditors could be paid with a man's
relations instead of with ready money.

Slavery in Corea, even when it existed, was, however, always of a very
mild form. The women were mostly employed as servants about the house,
while the man tilled the ground, but in neither case was rough dealing
the rule, and, far less, ill-treatment. They were, too, well fed and
clothed; so much so, that many people used to sell themselves in order to
acquire a comfortable living. In time of famine this must have very often
occurred, and many families whose ancestors under such circumstances
stood by the nobles and rich people are even to the present moment
supported by them, though no longer as slaves, but rather as retainers
and servants. They are perfectly happy with their lot and make no
agitation for liberty; in fact, like the bird that has been born and bred
in a cage, if left to themselves, they would probably soon come to a bad


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.

In Cho-sen, as in other countries, we find not only pleasanter sights,
but also those that are disagreeable or even revolting. That which I am
about to describe is one which, I have little doubt, will make your blood
curdle, but which is none the less as interesting as some of the others I
have feebly attempted in this work to describe; I mean an execution as
carried out in the Land of the Morning Calm. The penal form of death
adopted is beheading, which is not, I believe, so pleasant a sensation
as, for instance, that of being hanged--that is, when other persons are
the sufferers. Of late years, executions have not been by any means an
everyday occurrence in Corea, but here, as in other countries, there is
always to be found a good share of people who are anxious to be "off"
their heads. There is no reason why people should commit crimes, yet they
do commit them and get punished in consequence. They are punished in this
world for having broken the limits of society's laws, and yet again, if
what one hears is correct, they are punished wherever they happen to go
after their final departure from our very earthly regions. In Corea, as
is the case all over the far East, the natives are not much concerned
about this future existence and attach little importance to death and
physical pain. I have no doubt, in fact I am positive, that the Eastern
people feel pain much less than we do, partly because they are accustomed
from childhood to be insensitive to bodily agony, but chiefly because
they are differently constituted to us. In our case, the brain, by means
of which it is that we judge of the amount of pain inflicted on us, has
been trained to receive impressions so quickly, transmitted as they are
in an instant from any part of the body to the centre of our system,
that, indeed, many times we actually feel the pain before it has been
physically communicated to us at all. With the Corean, as with the Manchu
or the Chinese, a reverse action takes place. With them, the brain works
so very slowly that, supposing a bad ache is taking place in any part of
the body, whence is being conveyed to the drowsy brain the unpleasant
news of the agony that that part is undergoing; well, what in that case
happens in the Corean skull? By the time the brain has grasped the idea
that the aforesaid part of the body is really in a state of suffering,
the pain is almost gone. This, roughly stated, is I believe, a truthful
explanation of their going to death with so much bravery.

It is a common occurrence in China for criminals, kneeling in a row to be
executed, to crack jokes among themselves, and even at the executioner's
expense. In Corea, they cannot go quite so far as that, for things are
done somewhat differently. In the latter country, the prisoners are
detained in the gaols sometimes for months and even years, undergoing
judgments and sentences, floggings and milder tortures innumerable, so
that it is almost with a feeling of relief and gladness that, finally,
being proved guilty, they receive the news of their fast approaching end.
When their time is come, they are removed from prison, and dragged out
into a courtyard, within which, with the first rays of light, have been
brought some little carts with heavy and roughly-made wooden wheels, each
drawn by a sturdy bull. On the ground some wooden crosses have been set
up, and to each of these a criminal is tied with ropes, his chest and
arms being bare, and cut into by the tightened cords, and only his padded
trousers being left. Each cross with its human freight is then planted
and made firm on a bull cart; and then, when all is ready, the ghastly
procession, headed by the executioner, a few _kissos_ (soldiers), armed
with old fashioned flint locks or with spears, makes its way slowly
through the streets of the town, one of the followers proclaiming aloud
the crimes committed and the sentences passed on the crucified. Sleepy
women and children, with uncombed hair, peep out of the paper windows,
while the men hurry down to the street and join the procession in large
numbers, making fun at the expense of the poor wretches, and even
insulting them; while the latter, hang helpless and defenceless from
their crosses, their bodies livid with cold, pain and starvation.
Occasions such as these, are regular orgies for the soldiers, and those
who follow the mournful _cortege_. Not a wine-shop on the road-side is
left unvisited, and continual halts are made that wine may be freely
drunk, and food swallowed, as only Corean soldiers know how to do it.
Occasionally, a pious passer-by, moved to compassion, may, amid the howls
of the crowd, raise his wine-cup to the lips of one of the sentenced, and
help him thus to make death more merry. Once this sort of thing is
started, the example is usually at once emulated by others, and, as the
hours go by, a considerable amount of intoxicating stuff is consumed, not
only by the executioner, soldiers and followers, but also by those to be
executed. Before very long, however, the bodies of the victims thus
carried become senseless and nearly frozen to death. Their heads then
hang down pitifully, all blue and congested, and quivering with the
jerking of the cart.

"Era! Era! Picassa!" ("Get out! get away!") the drunken soldiers call out
at intervals, as they swallow their last mouthful of rice, and order the
_mapus_ to move on to the next eating-place. Crowds of men and children
collect round the miserable show and prudent fathers, pointing at the
victims, show their heirs what will be the fate of those who do what is
wrong. During the whole day are the poor wretches thus carted to and fro,
in the streets of the town, stoppages being made at all the public
eating-places, where feasting invariably takes place, though it is also
almost as invariably left unpaid for.

Only when sunset has come is it that the procession, having made its way
towards one of the city gates, finally leaves the town and winds its way
through the open country to a suitable spot for the chopping-off process.
Executions are not held at any particular spot; and in former days, even
a few years ago, it was not an uncommon occurrence to see the dead
bodies of beheaded people lying about in the streets of Seoul. Now,
however, they generally take the offenders outside the Wall, and inflict
the capital punishment miles away from the town.

The execution represented in the illustration, took place on the sixth of
February, 1891, and is a reproduction of a picture which I have done from
sketches taken on the spot. The men executed on this occasion numbered
seven, and the crime committed, was "high treason." They had conspired to
upset the reigning dynasty of Cho-sen, and had devised the death of His
Majesty the King. Unfortunately for them, the plot was discovered before
its aims could be carried out, and the ringleaders arrested and
imprisoned. For over a year they had remained in gaol, undergoing severe
trials, and being constantly tortured and flogged to make them confess
their crime, and betray the friends who were implicated with them. That,
however, being of no avail, the seven men were at last all sentenced to
death. Three of them were noblemen, and one a priest; while the others
were commoner people, though well-to-do. Here are their names;
Yi-Keun-eung, Youn-Tai-son, Im-Ha-sok, Kako (priest), Yi-sang-hik,
Chyong-Hiong-sok, Pang-Pyong-Ku.


Having undergone the final drive through the town, by the sound of the
big bell at sunset the _cortege_ passed through the "Gate of the Dead;"
then, leaving the crowded streets of the capital, it made its way towards
the spot where the execution was to take place. The place selected was on
a naturally raised ground, nearly 20 lis (61/2 miles) from Seoul, a
lonely spot, overlooking a deserted plain. The high road was only a few
hundred yards distant, and could be plainly seen as a white interminable
line, like a white tape, at the foot of the distant hills.

The bull carts were stopped some little way below this spot on the flat
ground, and then, one by one, the wretched creatures were taken down and
removed from their crosses in a brutal manner, and handed over to the
executioner. Senseless, they lay on the ground, with their arms tied
behind their backs, and a long rope fastened to their top-knots in the
hair; until they were carried one after another, and laid flat on their
faces, with their chests on the little stools seen in the picture. When
they had all been thus stationed, the executioner proceeded to administer
blows with his blunt sword until the heads were severed from the bodies.
On the occasion in question, several of the bodies were hacked about most
mercilessly through the inexperience or drunkenness of this brute. The
third man in the illustration, for example, had a good part of his left
shoulder cut off as clean as a whistle, although the blow had been meant
to strike the neck; but let this suffice for these horrible details. I
have mentioned them, partly, that they may be compared with the dexterous
doings of the neighbouring Chinese, whose skill in the chopping-off line
is beyond description.

The Chinese possess very long, sharp, well-balanced swords, a single blow
of one of which will sever the head from the body. Besides, they
administer their blows as neatly as the most fastidious of customers
might desire, and the victim does not really undergo much pain. The
executioners, too, are picked out from among the strongest men, and are
so well trained that they never miss a blow. The whole affair,
consequently, is over in less than no time; a few seconds being quite
sufficient to do away with one comfortably. Truly enough, were it to be
one's lot to be executed, I would desire nothing more delightful than to
have one's head "done" by a Celestial executioner. The Coreans, on the
contrary, have not developed the same skill in these difficult matters;
and, what with their blunt and short swords, what with their misjudgment
of distances, they bungle matters most cruelly. Of course, they are,
nevertheless, supposed to kill their victims with single blows, instead
of raining them down by the dozen, hacking the unfortunate creatures in a
most fearful manner, and lopping off their arms or gashing their bodies
before the heads are finally cut off.

The little blocks, upon which the men were laid down, were so arranged
that their chests rested on the upper portions, the head in consequence
being raised several inches from the ground. The idea in this was to make
things easier for the executioner; the same reason also explaining why
the straw rope was tied to each man's top-knot; for in this way another
man could hold him fast to the stool when the decapitation was to take
place. A somewhat closer examination of the first body in the
illustration will at once show how distorted it is. This is what must
have happened: in the final struggle with death the owner had attempted
to resist his fate, when several soldiers had immediately pounced upon
him, with the inevitable result that, in his desperate struggling, the
spine had been broken; a strange, yet very natural accident, under the
circumstances. The arms being tied together at the elbows behind, the
spine had been at great tension, like a set bow, so that a violent
assault could not but result in its being fractured, especially
considering the weak and frozen condition in which the derelict before us
was. That I am probably correct in this explanation seems to be further
proved by the fact that his head, when severed, had been taken up and
swung to a distance by the angry executioner.

Now, though this way of doing away with criminals may appear a very cruel
one to European minds, it is, nevertheless, a decided improvement on the
older method of executing prevalent in Corea, as practised for example,
many years ago, on some French missionaries and their followers.

The execution of these martyrs was preceded by terrible floggings and
tortures, and when they were led to the execution-ground they had two
arrows thrust into their flesh, like modern St. Sebastians.

The executioner and soldiers, after having accomplished their bloody
work, and converted the execution-ground for the time being into a
shambles, retraced their steps to the nearest wine-shop, where the rest
of the night was spent in drinking and gorging. The bodies were left as a
repast for dogs and leopards; for no Corean with a sound mind could be
induced to go near the spot where they lay, lest the spirits of their
departed souls should play some evil trick upon them. So much, in fact,
were they scared at the idea of passing at all near to the dead bodies
that, though the execution took place a few hundred yards away from the
high road, the superstitious Coreans preferred going miles out of their
way on the other side of the hill range to being seen near (they called
it "near") a spot where so many people had perished.

The morning following this execution I took many sketches of the ghastly
scene and the mutilated bodies. I did not leave until darkness began to
set in, when, as I was busy packing up my traps to return to Seoul, I was
rather startled by the sudden appearance near me of an old man, sad,
pale, and worn-out with anxiety. As he crept up to my side, in a most
suspicious manner, he looked round, and then, with a violent effort,
directed his gaze to the bodies lying a little way off. He was shivering
like a leaf, his eyes were staring and his fingers outstretched, yet he
could not remove his glance from the dreadful sight. As he was in this
tragic position, two coolies, carrying a coffin, appeared cautiously on
the scene; but, when still a long way from the bodies, they refused
positively to approach any nearer, and all the expostulation of the old
man who went down to meet them, all the extra strings of _cash_, the last
ones he possessed, were not sufficient to induce them to stir another
inch. This fright which had taken possession of them was thus great,
partly because of the natural superstitions which all Coreans entertain
regarding the souls of dead persons, and also because the fact of being
seen or found near these political criminals might in all probability
lead to the loss of their heads as well. At last, however, when their
terror was somewhat overcome, they promised to go near the bodies if
large sums should be paid them; whereupon the old man who had not another
_cash_ in the world, seemed to act as if he were in a state of thorough
despair. I watched his face and thought that he was actually going to
collapse. Not a word of complaint, however, did he utter to me. Intense
grief was depicted on his face, and I had pity on him. He was old, too,
and his features were refined. He opened his heart to me.

"That," lying dead there, with his head Heaven only knew where, was his
son! He had been a nobleman; that one could see at a glance, but was poor
now, "cashless," having spent his fortune in his efforts to bribe the
officials to let his son be released. His money had come to an end, and
there his son lay dead. The risk he was running, he well knew, was very
great, in thus coming to remove the body of the one he loved. Were the
officials only to know that he had visited the spot, he would straightway
be imprisoned, accused of complicity, tortured, and then put to death;
notwithstanding this, however, he felt sure that darkness would protect
him, and so in his anxiety he had come to remove his son's body, that he
might during the night bury it on one of the distant hills. He had given
the coolies the little money he had to help him in his enterprise, and
now that he was only a few yards from his beloved he could not get them
to proceed. He was himself too weak to move the body.

I took him by the arm, and we approached the bodies. The near view of
them made him shudder and turn pale, and as he rested on my arm he was
shivering all over. Not a word did he utter, not a lamentation did he
make, not a tear did he shed; for, to show one's feelings is considered
bad form in the land of Cho-sen. I could well see, however, that his
heart was aching. He bent over the bodies, one after the other; then,
after a lengthy examination, he pointed to one, and murmured:

"This is my son, this is my son! I know him by his hands. See how they
are swollen, and nearly cut by the rope?"

Next, after a good deal of uncertainty, for the face was smeared and
streaked with blood, we found the head pertaining to the body. The old
man, with paternal love, then proceeded, if he could, to stick the head
on the body again, but--this was impossible.

"Please, sir," he begged of me, in a tone of lamentation, "help me to
take my son as far as the coffin."

I consented, and, with the utmost trouble, we carried the body down the
hill, afterwards coming back for the head. In two mats, which had been
carried inside the hearse, we wrapped the corpse up as well as we could,
and then bundled him into the coffin. All this time a careful look-out
was maintained, to see that no one else was about to spy over the deed,
but once the corpse was in its coffin, the coolies quickly took the
hearse on their shoulders, and all sped away, not without repeated
"kamapsos" (thanks) being given me by the old man.

That was the only body which was removed, all the others being left to
rot or to be eaten up by wild animals.

When I examined the expressions on the faces of the beheaded wretches, it
did not seem as if any of them had at all enjoyed what had taken place;
on the contrary, rather than otherwise, there was plainly depicted on
their now immovable features an expression of most decided
dissatisfaction. Without doubt, they had undergone a terrible agony. In
some cases the eyes were closed, in others they were wide open, staring
straight in front. The pupils had become extremely small. The lips of all
were contracted, and the teeth showed between, tightly closed. Streaks of
blood covered the faces, and it was very apparent that the noses, ears,
and sometimes the outside corners of the eyes, had been bleeding, this
being probably due to the violent blows received from the sword. In a
word, the expression which had become stereotyped upon their faces was
that of great pain and fright, although none of them, with the exception
of the one who had resisted at the last moment, showed it in any other
way. The muscles of the arms also were much contracted, and the swollen
fingers were of a bluish colour with congested blood, and half-closed and
stiff--as if made of wood.

By the time that the old man, his coolies and their sad burden had got
well out of sight, on their way up one of the distant hills, I had
finished packing up my sketches and painting materials. Then, as I
retraced my steps towards Seoul it became quite dark. On the way,
however, I purchased, for the large sum of three _cash_ (the tenth part
of a penny), a small paper lantern, with a little candle inside--the
latter leading me to the extravagance of an extra _cash_; and, armed
with this lighting apparatus, all complete, I proceeded towards the East

This little lantern, which was exactly similar to those used by the
natives, came in very handy on this occasion. These lanterns are the most
ingenious things that can be imagined for the money. Each has a wooden
bottom, and a bent cane acts as a handle. A nail is provided in the
centre of the wooden bottom, wherein to stick the candle, and the flame
is protected by white tissue paper pasted all round the lantern.

[Illustration: A NATIVE LANTERN]

In due course I reached the East Gate, but only to find it closed, for it
was now long after sunset. I then tried the "Gate of the Dead," having no
objection to enter the town for once as a "deceased"; but, although the
"departed" have the privilege of leaving the town after dark, they are
not allowed to come in again; for which reason it really seemed as if I
had before me the fine prospect of having to put up at one of the dirty
native inns just outside the Gate until it should please Phoebus to show
his welcome fire-face again above the mountain line.

I had learned that there was, at no great distance away, a spot where, at
the risk only of breaking one's neck, it was possible to scale the city
wall; wherefore, having consulted a child as to the exact locality,
besides tempting him with a string of _cash_, I proceeded to find it, and
soon, under his guidance, reached it. The wall at this spot was, I may
mention, about twenty feet high. Having, then, fastened my paint-box and
sketches to my back by means of a strap, and slinging the paper lantern
to my arm, I proceeded, hampered though I was, to make trial of my
cat-like qualities in the matter of wall climbing. Placing the tips of my
fingers and toes in the crevices between the stones and in other gaps in
the wall, I managed with some little difficulty, to crawl up a certain
height. The wall was nearly perpendicular, mind you, and, owing to the
cold frozen nature of the stones, my fingers got so stiff that I had
hardly any power left in them. Then, too, the weight of the heavy
paint-box on my shoulders was more conducive to bringing me down again
than to helping me up. In my mind's eye, accordingly, I saw myself at
every moment coming down with a bang from my high position to the frozen
ground below, and began to think that I should be fortunate if I
succeeded in coming out of my wall-climbing experience with only half the
ribs in my body reduced to atoms, and one or two broken limbs in
addition. Making a special effort, however, I got a few feet higher, when
I heard a mysterious voice below murmur: "You have nearly reached the
top." I received the news with such delight that, in consequence of the
fresh vigour which it imparted to me and which made me try to hurry up,
one of my feet slipped, and I found myself clinging to a stone, with the
very ends of my fingers. Oh what a sensation! and what moments of
anxiety, until, quickly searching with my toes, I got a footing again.

That slip was fatal, for, owing to the jerk it gave me, the unsteady
candle inside the paper lantern fell out of its perpendicular position
and produced a conflagration. Then, indeed, was I placed in the most
perplexing position, for, here was I, holding on to the wall, I do not
know how, with the lantern and my sleeve on fire and my arm getting
unpleasantly warm, and yet utterly unable to do anything to lessen the
catastrophe. Only one thing could be done; and I can assure you, the few
remaining feet which had to be climbed were got over with almost the
agility of a monkey. Thus, at last, I was on the top.

This adventure made a very good finish for what had been a most exciting
day; and, now that the faithless lantern was burning itself out, and
dwindling away down below, and that the fire in my sleeve was put out, I
had to remain in darkness. I stumbled along the rampart of the wall until
I could get down into one of the streets, where, having roused the
people, I was able to purchase another light, and reach home again in
safety. After the hearty meal which I then partook of, I need scarcely
add that a greater part of the night was spent in dreaming of numberless
bodyless heads rolling about around me, and of people being burned alive,
until I finally woke up next morning with a fearful shock, and the
thought that I was being precipitated from the top of the Tower of Babel.


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.


The official life of the King of Corea is secluded. He rarely goes out of
the royal palace, although rumours occasionally fly about that His
Majesty has visited such and such a place in disguise. When he does go
out officially, the whole town of Seoul gets into a state of the greatest
agitation and excitement. Not more than once or twice a year does such a
thing happen; and when it does, the thatched shanties erected on the wide
royal street are pulled down, causing a good deal of trouble and expense
to the small merchants, etc. People fully understand, however, that the
construction of these shanties is only allowed on condition that they
shall be pulled down and removed whenever necessity should arise; an
event which may often occur, at only a few hours' notice. The penalty for
non-compliance is beheading.

The moment they receive the order to do so, the inhabitants hurriedly
remove all their household goods; the entire families, and those friends
who have been called in to help, carrying away brass bowls, clothes and
cooking implements, amid a disorder indescribable. Everybody talks,
screams and calls out at the same time; everybody tries to push away
everybody else in his attempts to carry away his armful of goods in
safety; and, what with the dust produced by the tearing the thatch off
the roofs, what with the hammering down of the wooden supports, and the
bustle of the crowd, the scene is pandemonium.

I well remember how astonished I was when, passing in the neighbourhood
of the royal palace, early one morning, I saw the three narrow, parallel
streets which lead to the principal gateway being converted into one
enormously wide street. The two middle rows of houses were thus
completely removed, and the ground was made beautifully level and smooth.
Crowds of natives had assembled all along the royal street, as well as up
the main thoroughfare, leading from the West to the East gate; and the
greatest excitement prevailed amongst the populace. The men were dressed
in newly-washed clothes, and the women and children were arrayed in their
smartest garments. Infantry soldiers, with muskets, varying from
flint-locks to repeating-rifles, were drawn up in a line on each side to
keep the road clear. There were others walking along with long, flat
paddles, and some with round heavy sticks, on the look-out for those who
dared to attempt to cross the road. As generally happens on such
occasions, there were some foolish people who did not know the law, and
others who challenged one another to do what was forbidden, well knowing
that, if caught, severe blows of the paddle would be their portion. Every
now and then, howls and shouts would call the attention of the crowd to
some nonsensical being running full speed down the middle of the road, or
across it, pursued by the angry soldiers, who, when they captured him,
began by knocking him down, and continued by beating him with their heavy
sticks and paddles, until he became senseless, if not killed. When either
of the last-mentioned accidents happened, as occasionally was the result,
the body would be thrown into one of the side drain-canals along the road
and left there, no one taking the slightest notice of it.


Cavalry soldiers were to be seen in their picturesque blue and brown
costumes, and cuirasses, and wide-awake black hats adorned with long red
tassels hanging down to the shoulders, or, as an alternative, equipped
with iron helmets and armed with flint-locks and spears. In their belts,
on one side, they carried swords, and on the other, oil-paper
umbrella-shaped covers. When folded, one of these hat-covers resembles a
fan; and when spread out for use, it is fastened over the hat by means of
a string. Those warriors who wore helmets carried the round felt hats as
well, fastened to the butts of their saddles.

This cavalry equipment was in great contrast, from a picturesque point of
view, with the comical imitations of the European mode of equipment
exhibited by the infantry soldiers. One peculiarity of these cavalrymen
was their instability in the saddle. Each cavalier had a _mapu_ to guide
the horse, and another man by his side to see that he did not fall off,
each having thus two men to look after him. A charge of such cavalry on
the battle-field must, indeed, be a curious sight.

In the olden time it was forbidden for any one to look down on the king
from any window higher than the palanquins, but now the rule is not so
strictly observed, although, even at the time when I witnessed these
processions, nearly all the higher windows were kept closed and sealed by
the more loyal people. The majority, therefore, witnessed the scene from
the streets.

The procession was headed by several hundred infantry soldiers, marching
without the least semblance of order, and followed by cuirassed
cavalrymen mounted on microscopic ponies in the manner above described.
Then followed two rows of men in white, wearing square gauze white caps,
similar to those which form the distinctive badge of the students when
they go to their examinations; between which two rows of retainers, lower
court officials, and _yamens_, perched on high white saddles, rode the
generals and high Ministers of state, supported by their innumerable
servants. Narrow long white banners were carried by these attendants, and
a dragon-flag of large dimensions towered above them. Amid an almost
sepulchral silence, the procession moved past, and after it came a huge
white palanquin, propped on two long heavy beams, and carried on the
shoulders of hundreds of men.

When the court and country are not in mourning, the horses of the
generals, high officials and eunuchs bear magnificent saddles,
embroidered in red, green and blue; the ponies led by hand immediately in
front of the King's palanquin being also similarly decked out.

Curiously enough, when the first royal palanquin had gone past the
procession repeated itself, almost in its minutest details, and another
palanquin of the exact shape of the first, and also supported by hundreds
of attendants, advanced before us. Puzzled at this strange occurrence, I
inquired of a neighbour:

"In which palanquin is the King?"

"No one knows, except his most intimate friends at Court," was the
answer. "In case of an attempt upon his life, he may thus be fortunate
enough to escape."

If such an attempt were made success would not in any case be an easy
matter, except with a gun or a bomb; for the King's sedan is raised so
high above the ground that it would be impossible for any one to reach it
with his hands. Besides, it is surrounded by a numerous escort.

The sedans were constructed after the model of a large square
garden-tent with a pavilion roof, the front side being open. The
King--somebody closely resembling him is selected for his double--sits on
a sort of throne erected inside.

On another occasion, when I saw a similar procession accompanying the
King to the tomb of the queen-dowager, the two palanquins used were much
smaller, and were fast closed, although there were windows with thick
split bamboo blinds on both sides of each palanquin. The palanquins were
covered with lovely white leopard skins outside, and were rich in
appearance, without lacking in taste.

When the King's procession returned to the palace after dark, the beauty
and weirdness of the sight were increased tenfold. Huge reed-torches,
previously planted in the ground at intervals along the line of route,
were kindled as the procession advanced, and each soldier carried a long
tri-coloured gauze lantern fastened to a stick, while the palanquins were
surrounded with a galaxy of white lights attached to high poles. A
continuous hollow moaning, to indicate that the King was a very great
personage, and that many hundreds of men had undergone great fatigue in
carrying him, was heard as the palace gate was approached, and a deep
sigh of relief arose from thousands of lungs when he was finally
deposited at his door. Propped up by his highest Ministers of state, who
held him under the arms, he entered his apartments; after which the
lights were quickly put out, and most of the crowd retired to their

On such occasions as these, however, the men are allowed out at night as
well as the women.


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.

One of the characteristic sights in Cho-sen is a private fight. The
natives, as a rule, are quiet and gentle, but when their temper is roused
they seem never to have enough of fighting. They often-times disport
themselves in witnessing prize-fights among the champions of different
towns, or of different wards in the same town, and on these occasions
large crowds assemble to view the performance. The combatants generally
fight with their fists, but, like the French, are much given to use their
knees and feet as well in the contest. Much betting, also, goes on
amongst the excited spectators, and it is not seldom that a private
contest of this kind degenerates into a free fight.

The lower classes in the towns thoroughly enjoy this kind of sport, and
the slightest provocation is sufficient to make them come to blows. The
curious point about their fighting is that during the first moon of the
new year all rows can be settled in this rough and ready manner, without
committing any breach of the law. Hence it is that during that moon, one
sees hardly anything but people quarrelling and fighting. All the anger
of the past year is preserved until the New Year festivities are over,
but then free play is straightway given to the bottled-up passions. Were
a man even to kill his antagonist during a fight at this legalised
season, I doubt whether he would be imprisoned or punished; very likely

For about fifteen days, in truth, things are simply dreadful in the
streets. Go in one direction, and you see people quarrelling; go in
another, and you see them fighting. The original _causa movens_ of all
this is generally _cash!_

When a deadly fight takes place in the streets, you may at once set it
down as having arisen over, say, a farthing! Debts ought always to be
paid before the old year is over; and, occasionally, grace is allowed for
the first fifteen days in the first moon; after that, the defaulting
debtors get summary justice administered to them. Creditors go about the
town in search of their debtors, and should they come face to face,
generally a few unparliamentary remarks are passed, followed by a
challenge. Hats are immediately removed, and given for safe keeping to
some one or other of the spectators, a crowd of whom has, of course, at
once assembled; and then the creditor, as is customary under such
circumstances in all countries, makes a dash for his debtor. The main
feature about these fights, so far as I could judge, was the attempt of
each antagonist to seize hold of the other by his top-knot. Should this
feat be successfully accomplished, a violent process of head-shaking
would ensue, followed by a shower of blows and scratches from the free
hand, the lower extremities meanwhile being kept busy distributing kicks,
really meant for the antagonist, but, occasionally, in fact often,
delivered to some innocent passer-by, owing to the streets of Cho-senese
towns not being as a rule over-wide.

When in a passion, the Coreans can be very cruel. No devices are spared
which can inflict injury on the adversary, and scratching and biting
during these fights are common concomitants. One afternoon, as I was
returning from a call at the Japanese Legation, and was proceeding down a
slight incline, riding Mr. Greathouse's horse, I witnessed a dreadful
scene. A butcher and another tradesman were settling questions in their
own delightful way, and were knocking each other about. At last, the
butcher felled the other man with a blow of a short club--like a
policeman's club--which is often made use of in these fights. As the man
lay motionless on the ground, the other, far from being content with what
he had done, seized a huge block of wood, one of those upon which they
chop up the meat, and, lifting it up with a great effort, dropped it on
his antagonist's head, with a dreadful sounding crack, which smashed his
skull, as one would a nut. Then, sitting triumphantly on the wooden
block, he solicited the compliments of the spectators.

Special interest is taken when the women fight, that is, among the very
lowest classes, and frequently the strings of _cash_ earned during the
day are lost or doubled on the odds of the favourite.

The better classes, it must be said to their credit, never indulge in
fist-fighting in public, though occasionally they have competitions in
their own compounds, champions being brought there at great expense and
made to fight in their presence. I believe they consider it to be
degrading, either first, to lose one's temper, or secondly, to administer
justice in such a fashion.

The most important contests of all are the stone and club-fights, which
are a national institution, approved by the Government and patronised by
everybody. They sometimes attain such large proportions as to be regular
battles. Supposing that one town or village has, from motives of jealousy
or other causes, reason to complain of a neighbouring city or borough, a
stone-fight during the first moon is invariably selected as the proper
method of settling the difference. Private families, with their friends,
fight in this way against other private families and their allies; and
entire guilds of tradesmen sometimes fight other guilds, several hundreds
of men being brought into the field on either side.

Children are much encouraged in this sport, it being supposed that they
are thus made strong, brave and fearless; and I have actually seen
mothers bring children of only eight or nine years old up to the scratch,
against an equal number of lads urged on by their mothers on the other
side. One boy on each side, generally the pluckiest of the lot, is the
leader, and he is provided with a small club, besides wearing on his head
a large felt hat with a sort of wreath round the crown, probably as a
protection against the blows that might reach his head. After him come
ten, twenty, or more other children in their little red jackets, some
armed with a club like their leader, the others with armfuls of stones. A
good mound of this ammunition is also, as a rule, collected in the rear,
to provide for the wants of the battle. The two leaders then advance and
formally challenge each other, the main body of their forces following in
a triangle; and when, after a certain amount of hesitation, the two have
exchanged a few sonorous blows with their clubs on each other's skulls,
the battle begins in earnest, volleys of stones are fired and blows
freely distributed until the forces of one leader succeed in pushing back
and disbanding the others.

A fight of this kind, even among children, lasts for several hours, and,
as can well be imagined, at the end of it there are a great many bleeding
noses and broken teeth, besides bruises in profusion. The victor in these
fights is made much of and receives presents from his parents and the
friends of the family. The principal streets and open spaces in Seoul,
during the fighting period, are alive with these youthful combatants, and
large crowds assemble to witness their battles, taking as much interest
in them as do the Spaniards in their bull-fights, and certainly causing
as much excitement.

More serious than these, however, are the hostilities which occasionally
take place between two guilds. When I was in Seoul, there was a great
feud between the butchers and those practising the noble art of
plastering the houses with mud. Both trades are considered by the Coreans
to belong to the lowest grade of society; and, this being so, the contest
would naturally prove of an envenomed and brutal character. A day was
fixed, upon which a battle should take place, to decide whose claims were
to prevail, and a battle-field was selected on a plain just outside the
South Gate of the city. The battle-field was intersected by the same
small frozen rivulet which also crosses Seoul; and it was on the western
side, near the city wall, where stood a low hill, that on the day
appointed I took up my position to view the fight, sketch and note-book
in hand.

The two armies duly arrived, and placed themselves in position, the
butchers on one side of the stream, the plasterers on the other. There
were altogether about eighteen hundred men in the field, that is to say,
about nine hundred on each side. As I could not get a very good view from
my high point of vantage, I foolishly descended to the valley to inspect
the fighting trim of the combatants, with the result that when the signal
for the battle to begin was given I found myself under a shower of
missiles of all weights and sizes, which poured down upon me with
incredible rapidity and solidity. Piles of stones had been previously
massed together by the belligerent parties, and fresh supplies came
pelting down incessantly. I must acknowledge I did not enjoy my position
at all, for the stones went whistling past, above my head, fired as they
were with tremendous force by means of slings.

The confusion was great. Some men were busy collecting the stones into
heaps again, while others were running to and fro--going to fetch, or
carrying, fresh ammunition to the front; and all the time the two armies
were gradually approaching one another until at last they came together
on the banks of the narrow stream. Here, considering the well-directed
pelting of stones, it was difficult to say which army would succeed in
dislodging the other. Those on the opposite side to where I was made a
rush upon us, but were fired upon with such increased vigour that they
were repulsed; then, however, concentrating their forces on one point,
they made a fresh attack and broke right into our ranks, fighting _corps
a corps_, and pushing back the men on my side, until the whole of their
contingent was brought over to our side of the stream. I was not, of
course, taking any active part in the fighting, but, seeing the bad turn
the struggle was assuming, I made up my mind that I was destined to have
my own skull broken before the fray was over. Though the duelling was
fierce, however, each man being pitted against his opponent with clubs
and drawn knives, and hammering or stabbing at him to his heart's
content, I, somehow, was in no way molested, except of course, that I was
naturally much knocked about and bruised, and several times actually came
in contact, and face to face, with the irate enemy.

If you can imagine eighteen hundred people fighting by twos in a
comparatively limited space and all crowded together; if you can form an
idea of the screaming, howling, and yelling in their excitement; and if
you can depict the whole scene with its envelopment of dust, then you
will have a fair notion of what that stone-fight was like. The fighting
continued briskly for over three hours, and many a skull was smashed.
Some fell and were trampled to death; others had very severe knife
wounds; a few were killed right out. When the battle was over, few were
found to have escaped without a bruise or a wound, and yet, after all,
very few were actually killed, considering how viciously they fought.
Indeed, there were in all only about half a dozen dead bodies left on the
battle-field when the combatants departed to the sound of the "big bell"
which announced the closing of the city gates.

After a long discussion on the part of the leaders, it was announced that
the battle was to be considered a draw, and that it would, therefore,
have to be renewed on the next afternoon. The argument, I was told, was
that, though the other side had managed to penetrate the camp on my side,
yet they had not been able to completely rout us, we having made a firm
stand against them. For the following two or three days, however, it
snowed heavily, and the fighting had to be postponed; and on the day it
actually did take place, to my great sorrow, I was unable to attend,
owing to a command to go to the palace. To my satisfaction I was
subsequently informed that the plasterers, that is to say, my side, had
ultimately come off victorious.

The police generally attend these battles, but only to protect the
spectators, and not to interfere in any way with the belligerents.
Soldiers are prohibited from taking any active part in fights which have
no concern for them; but they may fight as much as ever they please among
themselves during the free period allowed by the law. The fights of the
latter class are usually very fierce, and are invariably carried out with
bare chest and arms, that their uniforms may not be spoiled.

When that dreadful fortnight of fighting is over, the country again
assumes its wonted quiet; new debts are contracted, fresh hatreds and
jealousies are fomented, and fresh causes are procured for further
stone-battles during the first moon of the next year.

Such is life in Cho-sen, where, with the exception of those fifteen days,
there is calm, too much of it, not only in the morning, in accordance
with the national designation, but all through both day and night; where,
month after month, people vegetate, instead of live, leading the most
monotonous of all monotonous lives. It is not surprising, then, that once
a year, as a kind of redeeming point, they feel the want of a vigorous
re-action; and, I am sure, for such a purpose as this, they could not
have devised anything wilder or more exciting than a stone-battle.

The King himself follows with the utmost interest the results of the
important battles fought out between the different guilds, and reports of
the victories obtained are always conveyed to him at once, either by the
leaders of the conquering parties, or through some high official at


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.

I was one evening at a dinner-party, at one of the Consulates, when, in
the course of the frugal repast, one of the servants came in with the
news that a large conflagration had broken out in the road of the
Big-bell, and that many houses had already been burnt down. The
"big-bell" itself was said to be in great danger of being destroyed.

Giving way to my usual curiosity, and thinking that it would be
interesting to see how houses burn in Cho-sen, I begged of my host to
excuse me, left all the good things on the table, and ran off to the
scene of the fire.

As the servant had announced, the fire was, indeed, in close proximity to
the "big-bell." Two or three large houses belonging to big merchants were
blazing fast, the neighbouring dwellings being in great danger of
following suit. There is in a Corean house but little that can burn,
except the sliding doors and windows, and the few articles of furniture
and clothing; so that, as a general rule, after the first big flare-up,
the fire goes out of its own accord, unless, as was the case in the
present instance, the roofs are supported by old rafters, which also
catch fire. What the Coreans consider the greatest of dangers in such
contingencies happens when the heavy beam which forms the chief support
for the whole weight of the roof in the centre catches fire. Then, if any
wind happens to be blowing, sparks fly on all the neighbouring thatched
roofs, and there is no possibility of stopping a disaster. Such things as
fire-engines or pumps are quite unknown in the country, and, even if
there were any, they would be useless in winter time, owing to the severe
cold which freezes all the water.

On the night in question, that was practically what happened. Two houses
adjoining one another were burnt out, and, the roofs having crumbled
away, the long thick beams alone were left in position, supported at
either end by the stone walls of the houses, and still blazing away, and
placing the neighbouring houses that had thatched roofs in considerable

I was much amused at a Corean, the owner of one of these latter, who, to
save his thatched shanty from the flames, pulled it down. His efforts in
this direction were, however, of no avail in the end; for the inflammable
materials, having been left in the roadway in the immediate neighbourhood
of the conflagration, caught fire and were consumed.

The King had been informed of the occurrence, a very rare one in Seoul,
and had immediately dispatched a hundred soldiers to--look on, and to
help, if necessary. Some individuals, too, more enterprising than the
rest, exerted themselves to draw water from the neighbouring wells; but,
by the time they had returned to the spot where it was required, it was
converted into one big lump of ice. Finally, recourse was had to the old
Corean method of putting out the fire, namely, by breaking the beam, not
an easy job by any means, and then, when it had fallen, covering it with

The soldiers had brought with them--conceive what? A ship's anchor! To
this anchor was tied a long thick rope. Their object was, of course, to
fix the anchor to the burning beam, which being done, fifty, sixty or
more strong men could pull the rope, and so break the beam in two and
cause it to fall. Well and good; but where was the warrior to be found
who would volunteer to go up on the summit of the frail mud-and-stone
wall and hook the anchor in the right place The affair now wore a
different aspect altogether, no one being willing to go; whereupon the
officer in command reprimanded his troops for their lack of pluck.

Among the soldiers, however, there was one man, stout and good-natured
looking; and he, being taken aback apparently by the officer's remarks,
at once asserted that he, at all events, was not lacking in courage, and
would go. For him, accordingly, a ladder was provided, and up he went,
carrying the anchor on his back. When he reached the last step, he
stopped and, turning to harangue the people, told them that the beam was
a solid one, and that a very hard pull would be required; after which,
amid the applause and cheering of the spectators, he balanced himself on
the wall and threw the anchor across the beam. A body of men, about a
hundred strong, then seized the rope and kept it in tension. Next, in a
commanding tone of voice, our brave hero on the wall gave the signal to
start, when, all of a sudden, and much sooner than he had expected, with
the vigorous pull the anchor dug a groove in the carbonised wood, and,
slipping away, caught him in its barbs across his chest, and dragged him
with a fearful bump on to the road, with a great quantity of burning
straw and wood, amidst which he was dragged for nearly twenty yards
before they were able to stop.

After this compulsory and unexpected jump, it was a miracle that he was
not killed; for the height was over fourteen feet, and the course
traversed through the air over twenty. Notwithstanding this, however,
when he was at length rescued from the grasp which the anchor kept on him
with its benevolent arms, though considerably shaken, he did not seem
much the worse. Still, being asked to go again and hook the ungrateful
grapnel a second time to the still burning beam, he declined with thanks
and a comical gesture which sent everybody into screams of laughter.

After this another man volunteered, and he, being more cautious in his
method of procedure, was successful in his efforts. So much time,
however, had been wasted over these proceedings, that now another house
was burning fast, and by-and-by others also got attacked.

As ill-luck would have it, the wind rose, to the great horror of the
inhabitants whose houses were to windward. Many of their abodes had
thatched roofs, and these seemed certain to go. The sparks flew in
abundance across the road, and nothing, except a change of the wind,
could now save those houses. The simple-minded Coreans, however,
attempted a curious dodge, which I heard afterwards is in general use
under such circumstances. Numerous ladders having been procured, men and
women climbed on to the roofs which were in peril. What do you suppose
they intended to do? I am sure you will never guess. They went up for no
less a purpose than to manufacture another wind by way of opposition to
the strong breeze that was blowing towards them. Here is how they did it:
they all stood in a row at intervals on the upper edges of the roofs,
and, having previously removed, the men their coats and the women their
cloaks, they waved these rapidly and violently together, in the full
assurance that they were getting the upper hand in the contest against
the unkind spirits who superintended gales and breezes. All this went on
in the most ludicrous manner; and, as soon as one person was exhausted,
he was immediately replaced by another, prayers at the same time being
offered up to the spirits as well of the fires as of the wind. The
loudness of these prayers, I may add, grew and decreased in intensity,
according to the aspect which the fire took from moment to moment; if a
flame rose up higher than usual, louder prayers were hurriedly offered,
and if the fire at times almost went out, then the spirits were for the
time being left alone.

The conflagration went on for a considerable number of hours and
destroyed several houses. No one sustained any serious injury, though
one old man, who was paralytic and deaf, had a very narrow escape. He had
got left, either purposely or by mistake, in one of the houses. Two out
of three of the rooms had already burnt out, and he was in the third. And
yet, when they had pulled down the outside wall and brought him safely
out, he expressed himself as astonished at being so treated, having
neither heard that any fire was in progress, nor being aware that
two-thirds of his own house had already been destroyed!

Here again, let me note a good trait in the Corean character. Whenever,
through any unexpected occurrence, a man loses his house and furniture,
and so gets reduced from comparative wealth, say, for seldom does a
Corean possess more, to misery and want; in such circumstances his
friends do not run away from him, as usually is the case in more
civilised countries; no, instead of this, they come forward and help him
to re-build his house, lend him clothes and the more necessary utensils
of domestic use, and, generally speaking, make themselves agreeable and
useful all round, until he can spread out his wings once again, and fly
by himself. Thus it is, that when a man's house has been burnt out it is
no uncommon occurrence for friends or even strangers to put him up and
feed him in their own homes until he has re-constructed his nest.
Looking, therefore, at both sides of the medal, the man of Cho-sen may
have a great many bad qualities from our point of view, yet he also
undoubtedly possesses some virtues on which we who are supposed to be
more civilised and more charitable, cannot pride ourselves. Believe me,
when things are taken all round, there is after all but little difference
between the Heathen and the Christian; nay, the solid charity and
generosity of the first is often superior to the advertised philanthropy
of the other.


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

One of the most interesting excursions in the neighbourhood of Seoul, is
that to the Poo-kan fortress. The pleasantest way of making it is to
start from the West Gate of Seoul and proceed thence either on horseback
or on foot, along the Pekin Pass road, past the artificial cut in the
rocks, until a smaller road, a mere path, is reached, which branches off
the main road and leads directly to the West Gate of the Poo-kan
fortress. This path goes over hilly ground, and the approaches to the
West Gate of the fortress are exceedingly picturesque.

The gate itself much resembles any of those of Seoul, only being of
smaller proportions. It is, however, situated in a most lovely spot. As
soon as we have entered, a pretty valley lies disclosed to our eyes, with
rocky mountains surrounding it, the highest peak of which towers up
towards the East. The formation of these hills is most peculiar and even
fantastic. One of them, the most remarkable of all, is in the shape of a
round dome, and consists of a gigantic semi-spherical rock.

Following the path, then, which leads from the West to the South Gate,
and which winds its way up steep hills, one comes at last to the temples.
These are probably, the best-preserved and most interesting in the
neighbourhood of the Corean capital. When I visited them, the monks were
extremely polite and showed me everything that was of any note. The
temples were in a much better state of preservation than is usual in the
land of Cho-sen, and the ornaments, and paintings on the wooden part
under the roof were in bright colours, as if they had been only recently
restored. There are, near these temples, by the way, tablets put up in
memory of different personages. In other respects, they were exactly
similar to those I have already described in a previous chapter.

At last, on the left hand side, I came upon the old palace. As with all
the other palaces, so in this case there are many low buildings for the
inferior officials besides a larger one in the centre, to which the King
can retreat in time of war when the capital is in danger. The ravages of
time, however, have been hard at work, and this place of safety for the
crowned heads of Corea is now nothing but a mass of ruins. The roofs of
the smaller houses have in most cases fallen through, owing to the
decayed condition of the wooden rafters, and the main building itself is
in a dreadful state of dilapidation. The _ensemble_, nevertheless, as one
stands a little way off and looks at the conglomeration of dwellings, is
very picturesque; this effect being chiefly due, I have little doubt, to
the tumble-down and dirty aspect of the place. As the houses are built on
hilly ground, roof after roof can be seen with the palace standing above
them all in the distance, while the battlements of the ancient wall form
a nice background to the picture.

[Illustration: A MONK]

The most picturesque spot of all, however, is somewhat farther on, where
the rivulet, coming out of the fortress wall, forms a pretty waterfall.
After climbing a very steep hill, the South Gate is reached--the distance
between it and the West Gate being about five miles--and near it is
another smaller gate, which differs in shape from all the other gates in
Corea, for the simple reason that it is not roofed over. Just outside the
small South Gate, on the edge of a precipice, are constructed against the
rocks a pretty little monastery and a temple. The access to these is by a
narrow path, hardly wide enough for one person to walk on without danger
of finding himself rolling down the slope of the rock at the slightest
slip of the foot. The Buddhist priest must undoubtedly be of a cautious
as well as romantic nature, for otherwise it would be difficult to
explain the fact that he always builds his monasteries in picturesque and
impregnable spots, which ensure him delightful scenery and pure fresh
air in time of peace, combined with utter safety in time of war. In many
ways, the monastery in question reminded me of the Rock-dwellers. Both
temple and monastery were stuck, as it were, in the rocks, and supported
by a platform and solid wall of masonry built on the steep incline--a
work which must have cost much patience and time.

The temple is crowded inside with rows of small images of all
descriptions, some dressed in the long robes and winged hats of the
officials, with dignified and placid expressions on their features;
others, like fighting warriors, with fierce eyes and a ferocious look
about them; but all covered with a good coating of dust and dirt, and all
lending themselves as a sporting-ground to the industrious spider. The
latter, disrespecting the high standing of these imperturbable deities,
had stretched its webs across from nose to nose, and produced the
appearance of a regular field of sporting operations, bestrewn with the
spoils of its victims, which were lying dead and half eaten in the webs
and on the floor.

The place goes by the name of the "Temple of the Five Hundred Images;"
but I think that this number has been greatly exaggerated, though there
certainly may be as many as two or three hundred.

The most interesting feature about this monastery is that at the back of
the small building where the priests live is a long, narrow cavern in the
rocks, with the ceiling blackened by smoke. This cavern is about a
hundred feet in length, and at its further end is a pretty spring of
delicious water. A little shrine, in the shape of an altar, with burning
joss-sticks and a few lighted grease candles, stood near the spring, and
there a priest was offering up prayers, beating a small gong the while he
addressed the deities.

The descent from the temple was very steep and rough, over a path winding
among huge boulders and rocks for nearly three miles. Then, reaching the
plain, I accomplished the remainder of the distance to Seoul, over a
fairly good road, and on almost level ground, all the way to the North
Gate, by which I again entered the capital.


Corean physiognomy--Expressions of pleasure--Displeasure--Contempt--Fear
principal causes--Leprosy--The family--Men and women--Fecundity--Natural
and artificial deformities--Abnormalities--Movements and attitudes--The
Corean hand--Conservatism.

The physiognomy of the Coreans is an interesting study, for, with the
exception of the Chinese, I know of few nations who can control the
movements of their features so well as do the Coreans. They are trained
from their infancy to show neither pain, nor pleasure, grief nor
excitement; so that a wonderful placidity is always depicted on their
faces. None the less, however, though slightly, different expressions can
be remarked. For instance, an attitude peculiar to them is to be noticed
when they happen to ponder deeply on any subject; they then slightly
frown, and with a sudden movement incline the head to the left, after
previously drawing the head backwards. If in good humour or very pleased,
again, though the expression is still grave and sedate, there is always a
vivid sparkle to be detected in the generally sleepy eyes; and, curiously
enough, while in our case the corners of the mouths generally curl up
under such circumstances, theirs, on the contrary, are drawn downwards.

Where the Coreans--and I might have said all Asiatics--excel, is in their
capacity to show contempt. They do this in the most gentleman-like manner
one can imagine. They raise the head slowly, looking at the person they
despise with a half-bored, half "I do not care a bit" look; then,
leisurely closing the eyes and opening them again, they turn the head
away with a very slight expiration from the nose.

Fear--for those, at least, who cannot control it--is to all appearance a
somewhat stronger emotion. The eyes are wide open and become staring, the
nostrils are spread wide, and the under lip hangs quivering, while the
neck and body contract, and the hands, with fingers stiffly bent, are
brought up nearly as high as the head. The yellowish skin on such
occasions generally assumes a cadaverous whitish green colour which is
pitiful to behold.

On the other hand, when pluck is shown, instead of fear, a man will draw
himself up, with his arms down and hands tightly closed, and his mouth
will assume a placid yet firm expression, the lips being firmly shut (a
thing very unusual with Coreans), and the corners tending downwards,
while a frown becomes clearly defined upon his brow.

Laughter is seldom indulged in to any very great extent among the upper
classes, who think it undignified to show in a noisy manner the pleasure
which they derive from whatever it may be. Among the lower specimens of
Corean humanity, however, sudden explosions of merriment are often
noticeable. The Corean enjoys sarcasm, probably more than anything else
in the world; and caricature delights him. I remember once drawing a
caricature of an official and showing it to a friend of his, who, in
consequence, so lost the much-coveted air of dignity, and went into such
fits, that his servants had to come to his rescue and undo his
waist-girdle. This, having occurred after a hearty meal, led to his being
seized by a violent cough, and becoming subsequently sick. Were I quite
sure of not being murdered by my readers, I would like to call it
_see_-sickness, for it was caused by--seeing a joke!

Astonishment is always expressed by a comical countenance. Let me give
you an illustration. When we anchored at Fusan in the _Higo-Maru_, many
Coreans came on board to inspect the ship; and, as I looked towards the
shore with the captain's powerful long-sight glasses, several natives
collected round me to see what I was doing. I asked one of them to look
through, and never did I see a man more amazed, than he did, when he saw
some one on the shore, with whom he was acquainted, brought so close to
him by the glasses as to make him inclined to enter into a very excited
conversation with him. His astonishment was even greater when, removing
his eyes from the lens, he saw everything resume its natural position.
When he had repeated this experiment several times, he put the glasses
down, looked at them curiously with his eyebrows raised, his mouth
pinched, and his hands spread apart at about the height of his waist, and
then looked at me. Again did he glance at the optical instrument, with
his mouth wide open; then, making a comical movement of distrust, he
quickly departed whence he had come. When he had got fairly into his
row-boat, he entered into a most animated conversation with his fellows,
and, judging by his motions as he put his hands up to his eyes, I could
see that the whole subject was his experience of what he had seen through
the "foreign devil's" pair of glasses.

Admiration is to a great extent, a modification of astonishment, and is
by the Coreans expressed more by utterance than by any very marked
expression of the face. Still, the eyes are opened more than usual, and
the eyebrows are raised, and the lips slightly parted, sifting the
breath, though not quite so loudly as in Japan.

Another curious Corean expression is to be seen when the children are
sulky. Our little ones generally protrude their lips in a tubular form,
and bend the head forward, but the Cho-senese child does exactly the
reverse. He generally throws his head back and hangs his lips, keeping
the mouth open, and making his frown with the upper part of his face.
Jealousy in the case of the women finds expression in a look somewhat
similar to the above, with an additional vicious sparkle in the eyes.

Notwithstanding the fact that it is not uncommon to hear Coreans being
classified among barbarians, I must confess that, taking a liberal view
of their constitution, they always struck me as being extremely
intelligent and quick at acquiring knowledge. To learn a foreign language
seems to them quite an easy task, and whenever they take an interest in
the subject of their studies they show a great deal of perseverance and
good-will. They possess a wonderfully sensible reasoning faculty,
coupled with an amazing quickness of perception; a fact which one hardly
expects, judging by their looks; for, at first sight, they rather impress
one as being sleepy, and dull of comprehension. The Corean is also gifted
with a very good memory, and with a certain amount of artistic power.
Generally speaking, he is of an affectionate frame of mind, though he
considers it bad form to show by outward sign any such thing as
affection. He almost tends to effeminacy in his thoughtful attentions to
those he likes; and he generally feels much hurt, though silently, if his
attentions are not appreciated or returned. For instance, when you meet a
Corean with whom you are acquainted, he invariably asks after the health
of yourself, and all your relations and friends. Should you not yourself
be as keen in inquiring after his family and acquaintances, he would
probably be mortally offended.

One of the drawbacks of the Corean mind is that it is often carried away
by an over-vivid imagination. In this, they reminded me much of the
Spaniards and the Italians. Their perception seems to be so keen that
frequently they see more than really is visible. They are much given to
exaggeration, not only in what they say, but also in their
representations in painting and sculpture. In the matters both of
conversation and of drawing, the same ideas will be found in Cho-sen to
repeat themselves constantly, more or less cleverly expressed, according
to the differently gifted individuality of the artist. The average Corean
seems to learn things quickly, but of what they learn, some things remain
rooted in their brains, while others appear to escape from it the moment
they have been grasped. There is a good deal of volubility about their
utterances, and, though visibly they do not seem very subject to strong
emotions, judging from their conversation, one would feel inclined to say
that they were. Another thing that led me to this suspicion was the
observation that the average Corean is much given to dreaming, in the
course of which he howls, shouts, talks and shakes himself to his heart's
content. This habit of dreaming is to a large extent due, I imagine, to
their mode of sleeping flat on their backs on the heated floors, which
warm their spines, and act on their brains; though it may also, in
addition to that be accounted for by the intensity of the daily emotions
re-acting by night on over-excited nervous systems. I have often observed
Coreans sleep, and they always impressed me as being extremely restless
in their slumbers. As for snoring, too, the Coreans are entitled to the
Championship of the world.

The Coreans are much affected mentally by dreams, and being, as we have
already seen, an extremely superstitious race, they attach great
importance to their nocturnal visions. A good deal of hard _cash_ is
spent in getting the advice of astrologers, who pretend to understand and
explain the occult art, and pleasure or consternation is thus usually the
result of what might have been explained naturally either by one of the
above-named causes, or by the victim having feasted the previous evening
on something indigestible. Nevertheless, it must be acknowledged that the
Corean mind is seldom thrown off its balance altogether. Idiocy is not
frequent, and lunacy is uncommon.

Insanity, when it does exist, generally exhibits itself under the form of
melancholia and dementia, and is more frequently found among the upper
than among the lower classes. With the men it is generally due to
intemperance and excesses, and is occasionally accompanied by paralysis.
Among the women, the only cases which came under my notice were of wives
whose husbands had many concubines, and of young widows. Suicide is not
unfrequently practised among the latter; partly in consequence of the
strict Corean etiquette, but often also caused by insanity when it does
not follow immediately upon the husband's death. Another cause of
melancholia--chiefly, however, among the lower classes--is a dreadful
complaint, which has found its way among the natives in its most
repulsive form. Many are affected by it, and no cure for it seems to have
been devised by the indigenous doctors. The accounts one hears in the
country of its ravages are too revolting to be repeated in these pages,
and I shall limit myself to this. Certain forms of insanity are
undoubtedly a common sequence to it.

Leprosy also prevails in Cho-sen, and in the more serious cases seems to
affect the brain, producing idiocy. This disease is caused by poverty of
blood, and is, of course, hereditary. I have seen two forms of it in
Cho-sen; in the one case, the skin turns perfectly white, almost shining
like satin, while in the other--a worse kind, I believe--the skin is a
mass of brown sores, and the flesh is almost entirely rotted away from
the bones. The Coreans have no hospitals or asylums in which evils like
these can be properly tended. Those affected with insanity are generally
looked after by their own families, and, if considered dangerous, are
usually chained up in rooms, either by a riveted iron bracelet, fastened
to a short heavy chain, or, more frequently, by an anklet over the right

Families in Corea are generally small in number. I have no exact
statistics at hand, for none were obtainable; but, so far as I could
judge from observation, the males and females in the population are about
equal in number. If anything, the women slightly preponderate. The
average family seldom includes more than two children. The death-rate of
Cho-sen infants is great, and many reasons can account for the fact. In
the first place, all children in Corea, even the stronger ones who
survive, are extremely delicate until a certain age is attained, when
they seem to pick up and become stronger. This weakness is hereditary,
especially among the upper classes, of whom very few powerful men are to
be found, owing to their dissolute and effeminate life.

Absolute sterility in women is not an uncommon phenomenon, and want of
virile power in the male part of the community is also often the subject
of complaint; many quaint drugs and methods being adopted to make up for
the want of it, and to stimulate the sexual desire. A good many of the
remedies resorted to by the Corean noblemen under such circumstances are
of Chinese manufacture and importation. Certain parts of the tiger, dried
and reduced to powder, are credited with the possession of wonderful
strengthening qualities, and fetch large sums. Some parts of the donkey,
also, when the animal is killed during the spring and under special
circumstances, are equally appreciated. The lower classes of Cho-sen--as
is the case in most countries--are more prolific than the upper ones. The
parents are both healthier and more robust, and the children in
consequence are stronger and more numerous, but even among these classes
large families are seldom or never found. Taken as a whole, the
population of Corea is, I believe, a slowly decreasing quantity.

The Corean is in some respects very sensible, if compared with his
neighbours. Deformities, artificially produced, are never found in Corea.
In civilised Japan, on the other hand, as we all know, the women blacken
their teeth and shave their eyebrows, while there are numberless people
in the lower classes who are tattooed from head to foot with designs of
all kinds. In China, too, people are occasionally deformed for the sake
of lucre, as, for instance, to be exhibited at village shows, and the
Chinese damsel would not consider herself fascinating enough if her feet
were not distorted to such an extent as to be shapeless, and almost
useless. The head-bands worn by the men in Corea are probably the only
causes which tend to modify the shape of their heads, and that only to a
very small degree. These head-bands are worn so very tightly from their
earliest youth, that I have often noticed men--when the head-band was
removed--show a certain flattening of the upper part of the forehead, due
undoubtedly to the continuous pressure of this head-gear. In such cases,
however, the cranial deformation--though always noticeable--is but
slight, and, of course, unintentionally caused. The skull, as a whole,
in the case of those who have worn the head-band is a little more
elongated than it is in the case of those few who have not; the
elongation being upwards and slightly backwards.

Natural abnormalities are more frequent. I have seen numerous cases of
goitre, and very often the so-called hare-lip. Webbed fingers also are
frequently noticed; while inguinal hernia, both as a congenital and as an
acquired affection, is unfortunately all too common. The natives do not
undergo any special treatment until the complaint assumes alarming
proportions, when a kind of belt is worn, or bandages of home manufacture
are used. These are the more common abnormalities. To them, however,
might also be added manifestations of albinism--though I have never seen
an absolute albino in Corea--such as, large patches of white hair among
the black. Red hair is rarely seen.

The Corean, apart, that is, from these occasional defects, is well
proportioned, and of good carriage. When he stands erect his body is
well-balanced; and when he walks, though somewhat hampered by his padded
clothes, his step is rational. He sensibly walks with his toes turned
slightly in, and he takes firm and long strides. The gait is not
energetic, but, nevertheless, the Coreans are excellent pedestrians, and
cover long distances daily, if only they are allowed plenty to eat and
permission to smoke their long pipes from time to time. Their bodies seem
very supple, and like those of nearly all Asiatics, their attitudes are
invariably graceful. In walking, they slightly swing their arms and bend
their bodies forward, except, I should say, the high officials, whose
steps are exaggeratedly marked, and whose bodies are kept upright and
purposely stiff.

One of the things which will not fail to impress a careful observer is
the beauty of the Corean hand. The generality of Europeans possess bad
hands, from an artistic point of view, but the average Corean, even among
the lower classes, has them exceedingly well-shaped, with long supple
fingers, somewhat pointed at the end; and nails well formed and prettily
shaped, though to British ideas, grown far too long. It is not a powerful
hand, mind you, but it is certainly most artistic; and, further, it is
attached to a small wrist in the most graceful way, never looking stumpy,
as so often is the case with many of us. The Coreans attach much
importance to their hands; much more, indeed, than they do to their
faces; and special attention is paid to the growth of the nails. In
summer time these are kept very clean; but in winter, the water being
very cold, the cleanliness of their limbs, "_laisse un peu a desirer_." I
have frequently seen a beautifully-shaped hand utterly spoilt by the
nails being lined with black, and the knuckles being as filthy as if they
had never been dipped in water. But these are only lesser native
failings; and have we not all our faults?

The two qualities I most admired in the Corean were his scepticism and
his conservatism. He seemed to take life as it came, and never worried
much about it. He had, too, practically no religion and no morals. He
cared about little, had an instinctive attachment for ancestral habits,
and showed a thorough dislike to change and reform. And this was not so
much as regards matters of State and religion, for little or nothing does
the Corean care about either of these, as in respect of the daily
proceedings of life. To the foreign observer, many of his ways and
customs are at first sight incomprehensible, and even reprehensible; yet,
when by chance his mode of arguing out matters for himself is clearly
understood, we will almost invariably find that he is correct. After all,
every one, whether barbarian or otherwise, knows best himself how to
please himself. The poor harmless Corean, however, is not allowed that
privilege. He, as if by sarcasm, calls his country by the retiring name
of the "Hermit Realm" and the more poetic one of the "Land of the Morning
Calm"; "a coveted calm" indeed, which has been a dream to the country,
but never a reality, while, as for its hermit life, it has been only too
often troubled by objectionable visitors whom he detests, yet whom,
nevertheless, he is bound to receive with open arms, helpless as he is to
resist them.

Poor Corea! Bad as its Government was and is, it is heart-rending to any
one who knows the country, and its peaceful, good-natured people, to see
it overrun and impoverished by foreign marauders. Until the other day,
she was at rest, heard of by few, and practically forgotten by everybody,
to all intents an independent kingdom, since China had not for many years
exercised her rights of suzerainty,[4] when, to satisfy the ambition of
a childish nation, she suddenly finds herself at the mercy of everybody,
and with a dark and most disastrous future before her!

Poor Corea! A sad day has come for you! You, who were so attractive,
because so quaint and so retiring, will nevermore see that calm which has
ever been the yearning of your patriot sons! Many evils are now before
you, but, of all the great calamities that might befall you, I can
conceive of none greater than an attempt to convert you into a civilised


[4] After a cessation of many years a tribute was again exacted
from Corea in 1890, in consequence of overtures being made to
Corea by Japan, which displeased China.


Adoption of Children
Army instructors

Big Bell
" (crossing the)
Burial ground

Chinese Customs Service
Chinese invasions
Chinese settlement
City wall
Classes and castes
Consulate (British)
" (German)
Corea (the word)
Cotton production


Evil spirits
Expression after Death

Feron (l'Abbe)
" (Stone-)
Filial love
Free nights for men
Fuyn race

Gates (City)
Gate of the Dead
Gods (minor)
Greathouse (Clarence R.)
Guechas or Geishas

Han River
Haunted palaces

Illumination (Modes of)

" settlements


Legations (American, Chinese, Japanese, Russian)
Le Gendre (General)

Man of the Gates, The
Married Men
Mile posts
Mongolian type
Mono-wheeled chair
Mulberry plantation

" (women's)
Nanzam (Mount)
New Year's festivities


Palace (Royal)
" (Summer)
Paternal love
Pekin Pass
Plank-walk (The)
Port Hamilton
Procession (King's)

Queen (The)

Respect for the Old
Royal Family
Russian villa

Sacred Trees
Satsuma ware
Sea-lions or tigers
Seradin Sabatin (Mr.)
Smoke signals
Spirits of the mountains
Square-board (The)


Umbrella hat

Washing clothes
Wedding ceremony
Women's looks
Women's rights
Wuju kingdom


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