Notes on the Capital of Korea
By H. A. C. [Henry Alfred Constant] Bonar
Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan Volume 11 No. 2, 1882-3, pages 248 – 259.
[Read June 1, 1883.]
On the 7th March Her Majesty’s Ship Moorhen left Nagasaki, and at noon on the 22nd anchored off Roze Island or Wolmi, about one and a half miles from Chemulpho, a small village in the district of Inchhön or Jinsen, twenty-five miles from Söul, The water being extremely shallow and the rise and fall of the tide being very great, as much as thirty-four feet at spring tides, none but the smallest vessels can anchor near the shore. With the exception of a few fishing boats and a Japanese corvette, the Hiyei Kan, no junks or vessels were to be observed. The weather was bright and cold, and plenty of waterfowl were to be seen. Chemulpho is a very small village consisting of wretchedly built huts, one of which was a branch office of the Fu of Inchhön. There were in this place no traces of trade or of industry, and the surrounding country yields barely sufficient rice for the consumption of its small population. This may be said of the whole metropolitan province.
Besides the Korean village, there were to be seen at Chemulpho the temporary Japanese consulate and a few sheds, under some of which were stored building materials for the new Japanese consulate, the foundations of which had been already dug out.
Japanese soldiers, occupying a long wooden building in front of the Consulate, and sailors from the Hiyei Kan gave a little life to an otherwise miserable spot, to which the low mud flats left uncovered at low tide impart an additional dreary aspect. The bracing climate and shooting are the only advantages of Chemulpho.
We left Chemulpho at eight o’clock on the 28th for Söul. All the preparations for the joumey were under the superintendence of the local postmaster, a polite official in a handsome costume which contrasted strangely with the mud hut which was his office. The baggage was slung on bullocks, and two palanquins, a chair, two Japanese and several Korean ponies were provided for us. The latter are strong little animals, and although they travel but at a slow pace, are able to carry very heavy weights for long distances. The two palanquins were of different kinds; one large, made of wood, ornamental, waterproof and fitted with sliding windows, was carried by six men, two more walking at the side to relieve the bearers from time to time, which they did by passing under the palanquin a pole and raising it, leaving the other men free for a minute or so, but never taking their places. The other palanquin was smaller, plainer, covered in with blue cloth and was carried by only two men. It was occupied by one of the officials, as was also the chair of hard wood on long poles, and which seems to be in Söul the conveyance of the officials of middle rank, whereas of the two palanquins, the larger seems to be used only by very high officials, and the smaller by lower class officials. The number of bearers also varies according to the rank of the official occupying the palanquin.
Leaving to our right the graves of the Japanese killed during the disturbance of the 23rd July of last year, the path, recently widened into a road, strikes inland over undulating ground of reddish clay. An attempt to improve the road had been made, but the ignorance of the Koreans in making roads and the insufficiency of implements led but to poor results. The stones seemed to have been carefully picked out, the turf had in places been cut away to give width to the road, and drains had been dug at the side. The road was thus passable in dry weather, but after heavy rains one would sink deep into the mud. The bridges over the small water courses were also of the most primitive kind, sometimes being only straw bags filled with sand and placed like stepping stones, or of mud filling a frame work of branches and sticks. Of implements of agriculture we only saw two, a primitive plough drawn by one ox and a spade or hoe worked by three or five men, the latter being used for levelling the road and cutting away turf. While one man holds the handle, the others draw the spade· along by ropes of stout creepers fastened to each side of the blade of the hoe. No carts are used on this road; indeed they are very scarce even in the capital, where we only saw two. A few pedestrians, an occasional palanquin, pack-horses and oxen constitute the present traffic of this road to the capital. Villages, for the greater part consisting of a dozen houses or less, among which very few tiled roofs are to be seen, are few and far between. They are all occupied by the scanty agricultural population. The villagers are sufficiently but dirtily clad. They seem to exert themselves only to obtain the necessaries of life; any signs of wealth would probably only be to the advantage of the officials. Verses of poetry in Chinese characters, invoking blessings and prosperity upon the house, are frequently seen on the doors. Women were at work in the fields and did not much mind our approach, although in the country around Chemulpho, where the sight of a foreigner must be pretty common, they would run a very long way when surprised in the fields and hide in the houses when foreigners passed through the villages. Seven and a half miles from Chemulpho is the Piri Kokae, a pass about three hundred feet high, from which one descends into a large plain bordered on the north and south by mountains, which all the time of our visit were still covered with snow. At the foot of the northern group lies the capital, the river running between it and the southern range. This plain appears fertile, but thousands of acres are left uncultivated.
At intervals along the road are seen mile posts indicating in Korean ri the distance from the capital. Ten Korean ri are equivalent to one Japanese ri or to two and a half English miles. From Chemulpho to Söul the distance is 90 Korean ri or twenty-two and a half English miles. Five miles from the Piri Kokae is the village of Oricol, which is made the half-way halting place, although nearer Söul than Chemulpho. Here we stopped for our midday meal while the horses were being fed. A Korean luncheon had been prepared for us. It consisted of vermicelli soup, hard-boiled eggs cut up in small pieces, dried persimmons, raw chestnuts, pears and Korean brandy, also some kind of sweetmeat; all dishes served up together on a small four-legged table, fifteen inches high. Chopsticks are in general use as well as flat metal spoons. After an hour’s halt at Oricol we started again at one o’clock, and this part of the journey, like the first, presented nothing of special interest. Shrines or temples, so constantly met with by the road-side in Japan, do not exist; the mile-posts mentioned before, the top parts of which are rudely carved into hideous human features, serve also as idols, and devotions are also paid by hanging bits of paper, cloth or rope on a particular tree, or by throwing a stone under it; and heaps thus formed are occasionally passed on the road. Magpies in great numbers, paddy birds and a few storks, enliven a little the monotony of this rond. Between Oricol and the bed of the Söul river we crossed a stone bridge over a small stream. It is substantially built but not kept in repair. Some five miles from Oricol we came to an arm of the river, which can easily be forded by horses, forming with the main bed a long island on which are only a few huts. Crossing then a plain of sand, a mile in width, the stream, here about two hundred yards wide, is reached. On the opposite bank is Sangai, the commercial suburb of’ Soul, although three miles distant from it. It occupies the southern slope of a cliff abruptly descending into the river, and above which the stream is too shallow for purposes of navigation. The number of junks, of a capacity from sixty to one hundred tons and more, gives the swiftly flowing stream a busy appearance, but one cannot see what particular trade they are engaged in. They are constructedof large beams joined together by wooden pegs; the broad rounded sterns and bows are of the same width with the rest of the junk. They are two-masted, and carry in the bows a large windlass like an exaggerated spinning-wheel, with which they haul up the anchor. About two and a half miles below Sangai, on the same bank of the river, we caught a glimpse of Yangwha or Yö kwa chin, distant from the capital four miles by road. It is easily known by the flat summit of a hill which runs steeply down into the stream and on the top of which is a small building. This village, which we had the opportunity of visiting while in Söul, is charmingly situated. The King has here a summer residence, in the neighbourhood of which are large ice store-houses for his use.
The river bank between Yangwha and Sangai is lined with houses, and a ferry at each place crosses the river. At the latter spot, owing to the vicinity of the capital, the boats are continually plying to and fro with horses, chairs and passengers. Although the current is very strong and only one boatman sculls the clumsy shallow boat, the ferrying can be done moderately easily by the help of an eddy. The river is frozen for three months of the year, and the ice breaks up in the first half of February. When full, this part of the river would present a very large expanse of water. Having crossed to Sangai, our way lay through the principal street, like most of the streets of the capital, in a very filthy condition. A great number of shops where chilis, seaweed, a common kind of pottery, shoes and wooden clogs, iron work of a rude manufacture were exposed for sale, were on either side of the street. On leaving this, the road is for a distance in excellent condition and skirts the slopes of Nam San or ‘south-mountain,’ which are covered with grave-mounds thickly clustered and having no stones or monuments to distinguish one from the other. Occasionally may be seen gravestones, but considering the enormous number of graves they are very rare. All the hills to the south of the city between the Sangai and Yangwha roads are literally covered by these circular mounds, about three feet high, and the roadside is lined with them. Söul is situated on elevated ground, and is reached from the south by a road in its present state utterly impracticnble for carts from the point where it.begins to ascend. The rocky hillside has been left in its natural condition, and homes and foot passengers find their way to the higher level by rough winding paths leading through a narrow dirty street to the large south gate. The road from Yangwha joins the Sangai road about a quarter of a mile from this gate. A crowd was gathering as we passed along, but beyond betraying a little curiosity and bestowing special attention on the large palanquin, they were very quiet, and at five o’clock we entered the city. To the capital from Chemulpho is thus an easy day’s journey, and with a good horse could easily be accomplished in four hours. We were at once taken to the house which had been specially prepared for our use, and which was far superior to what one had been led to expect from the miserable hovels hitherto seen. It had been newly papered and matted, and was tolerably comfortable, more especially in comparison with the other houses in the city, most of which seemed in a very dilapidated state. It was a nobleman’s residence and had a guard-house beside the lower principal gate. The soldiers occupying it watched the place at night, and when we went out two of them always accompanied us. They were good-natured fellows, anxious to please but somewhat rude. Some were fine strapping fellows, not less than six feet high, and it wanted but a decent uniform to make of them fine-looking soldiers. They were quite unarmed.
Our stay in Söul extended from the 28th March to the 12th April, during which time the weather was all that could be desired, though cold in the first few days, when there was half an inch of ice in the water tubs in the morning. We were able to visit the greater part of the city, the north and south mountains, and we saw the city gates, the palace enclosure, and four miles or so of the road leading to China. We saw Söul under very favourable circumstances.
The city is situated in a hollow formed by mountains on the north and south, sloping gradually towards the east, more abruptly to the west. It lies considerably higher than the level of the river. In the northern range two peaks, Puk-san (North mountain) and Sam Kak san (Three-peaked mountain), are the most conspicuous. The former is about thirteen hundred feet, the latter at last two thousand feet in height. Namsan or south mountain is hardly one thousand feet high. A stone wall eight miles in length surrounds the city, which is about three miles long and two miles wide. This wall runs in an unbroken line over the north and south hills, and is of an average height of twenty feet on the outside. It is pierced by a multitude of loop-holes for musketry, bows and arrows, but none for cannon, and is at present of little value as a defence. Within the wall, on the slopes and summits of the hills were sheds in a dilapidated condition, at intervals of one hundred yards. These formerly served as guard-houses, but now only those within the city gates are occupied by soldiers. On the summit of Nan-san were to be seen the remains of the beacons where the old watch-fires used to be lighted. From here as from Puk-san splendid views of the city and environs are to be had, and the Japanese frequently resort hither for recreation: the scenery forms the one redeeming feature of Söul, which in itself offers but. little attraction to the visitor. Here and there in sheltered nooks we still saw some snow and ice. The summer heat is said not to be excessive nor to last long; the winter on the other hand is very severe. Besides a few inhabited huts there is also on Nan-san a shrine, where offerings of food to four pictures of divinities in gaudy colours were being made by young girls. The view from Puk san extends over the city and more especially over the palace enclosure, immediately behind which the hill rises in steep cliffs, and over bare sandy hills to the north and east and to the sea in the west.
The city can be entered by four gates, the large South and East gates, a West and a Northwest gate called Chha Moun. The first two are of similar construction and very imposing appearance. The solid stone work of large granite blocks smoothly finished off and about twenty-five feet high is surmounted by a heavy two-storied wooden structure, painted red and green and rising another thirty feet above the masonry. The slightly curved roof is tiled and ornamented with small stone figures, giving the whole gate a very finished appearance. A gallery runs round each story in the style of pagodas. The arched gateway, twelve feet high and thirty feet long, is barred at night by heavy wooden gates with outside facings of iron, which are secured by a heavy wooden beam, likewise iron bound. The floor of the archway is of large flat stones. Chinese notifications are posted on the walls. The guard-house within these gates is occupied by a mixed guard of Korean and Chinese soldiers, whose sole armament seems to consist in six rusty lances, with red painted handles, standing in a row in front of the guard-house, The west and northwest gates are only one-storied. The former is the entrance to the city from the China road, the latter opens on a deep valley through the sandy ridges of the northern range. The city gates are shut every evening, at eight o’clock in the winter and nine o’clock in the summer, and reopened at one o’clock in the morning, at the sound of the city bell, and during that time none but officials are allowed to pass them. On the gates are different inscriptions in Chinese characters; the east gate is called “gate of Benevolence,” the south, gate of “Courtesy” and the west, gate of “Justice.” On the eastern slope of Pak-san there is another stone gateway corresponding in position to the northwest gate, but not used as a thoroughfare: the gate is secured by an iron lock nearly three feet long. It was here that we saw the only traces of Buddhism, a few curious stone idols representing Amida, some of very diminutive proportions, to which our guards paid short devotions as we halted there. In the streets we occasionally saw small wooden idols in shops, apparently for sale. There are three principle streets, one running from the east gate to the west one, cutting the same at right angles from the great south gate; a very wide street leading up to the palace, and a street running parallel to the first from the east gate. The other streets of the capital are moderately broad, but are remarkable only for the filth accumulated in them. The streets leading up to the east and south gates are from eighty to a hundred feet wide; at their point of junction stands the Chong Kak or Bell Tower, the busiest part of the city. This tower is a square wooden structure painted green and red, with a tiled roof. The structure is about thirty feet high and in it hangs a large bell about ten feet high, which is struck by a heavy wooden hammer, at nine p.m. and one a.m.; it appears to be the only bell in the city. At the comer of the Chong Kak may still be seen the socket in which stood the stone bearing the inscription denouncing as traitors to their country those Koreans who were friendly to foreign intercourse.
The main streets are in their present condition quite passable for carts and other wheeled vehicles, but we saw only two or three of the former. As for the side streets, they are in a condition of filth and neglect difficult to imagine. Along the middle of the street there often runs a small stream of thick black mud, and on each side are continuous pools, into which the latrines of the house open; dung-heaps in many instances occupy more than half of the road; other gutters run across the road and are perhaps covered over with rotten boards or large uneven stones, or not at all. The sight of many of these streets is most disgusting; not the slightest attempt at drainage or sewerage is made and the air is poisonous with the offensive smells. Add to this a long row of blackened wretchedly built houses, a number of dogs, horses and bullock’s skulls lying about, and one may have an idea of some of the streets of the capital of Korea. We were told that for a month or more the streets had been cleaned somewhat; it is difficult to conceive what existed before this attempt was made. A small stream runs through the city from west to east, but the little water in it is stagnant and is hardly to be seen among the heaps of rubbish thrown into it. It is crossed at several points by solid stone bridges which are said to date, like the city wall, from the foundation of the city, nearly 500 years ago.
With the exception of a few two-storied houses in the vicinity of the bell tower, the streets are lined on both sides by long rows of one-storied buildings, not more than eight or nine feet high; many of these are in the last stage of decay. The chimneys open into the streets three feet from the ground, and when the fires are lighted towards evening, clouds of smoke hang over the streets. Shops are open towards the streets, but private houses have only small paper windows opening on them and there is not the slightest sign of comfort about them; air and light do not seem to be a necessity with the Koreans. We had no opportunity of examining any of the ordinary houses, but with the exception of being tiled, they do not appear to be different from the village houses. The whole family lives huddled together, in an atmosphere of smoke and foul air. The walls of these wretched habitations are of mud, in most cases faced with small blocks of granite, tied together by straw rope, the chinks being filled with plaster.
The houses of noblemen and officials are detached and stand in large enclosures with high walls, generally entered by large wooden gates. Their houses are likewise in a bad state of repair and the gardens bare of trees and flowers. These residences all resemble· each other in appearance and interior arrangement. The foundation, two or three feet high, is of stone (granite) and brick; a verandah runs round the house, on which open the apartments, consisting of a reception room, sometimes fifteen feet square or more, communicating with small rooms mostly of one size, viz., eight feet by twelve feet, with a ceiling seven feet high. The floor of the reception room is usually of wood and is not warmed from below; the other rooms have mud floors covered with thick oiled paper, which makes a good substitute for carpet, and are warmed by the “kang.”
They communicate with each other by sliding and folding doors, and there is hardly a partition in the whole house. The folding doors are triced up in summer on hooks suspended from the ceiling, and the whole house is thus thrown open, the outer doors and windows being likewise sliding and folding. As in Japan, they are covered with paper and oiled paper. Mats of very fine make, with designs, are also in use for the floors; paper screens, eight-leaved, of little pretension to art, are sometimes placed against the doors. Tables and chairs of Chinese fashion are sometimes used; the former with marble tops and plain. Some of the chairs had cane seats and were covered with leopard skins.
We could not tell what articles of furniture were in use in the inner apartments, but beyond those above mentioned and brass candlesticks and spittoons we saw nothing. To the large houses is always attached a san chöng (山亭), or summer honse, generally occupying the highest point of the enclosure; but of gardening we saw no specimen.
There are but few wells in the city and the water is not good.
It is carried away from the wells in the streets in earthenware vessels and pails, and stored in the houses for use. To get at water on any slightly elevated ground, a depth of about eighty feet would be necessary for a well. Fires, we were told, seldom occur in the capital; from the scarcity of water and absence of means to extinguish them, they must be disastrous.
The eastern part of the city is but thinly populated; there is much waste ground. The population of Söul is estimated to range between one hundred and twenty thousand and two hundred thousand.
The streets are not lighted at night, but seem safe to walk through.
A police force of seventy-two men patrols the city at night, but notwithstanding, robberies are said to be frequent. While the gates are shut, women are at liberty to walk about the streets, whereas men (except officials) may not do so; but this custom does not seem to be strictly observed. The lanterns used by the Koreans are clumsy compared with the Japanese; those used by the soldiers are square and roughly made, but at the houses of high officials, lanterns of an elaborate kind are seen; a long bag of blue and red gauze is hung over a metal framework, about two feet long, in which is supported the candle. These are suspended from a pole with a hook at the end of it.
By day the streets of Soul present a lively appearance; the bulk of inhabitants out of doors, however, are mere idlers, strolling gently through the streets, smoking their long pipes, mostly respectably and even very well clad. Around the Chong Kak and in the broad streets there were numbers of these idlers, absolutely doing nothing but passing the time, talking and smoking. Few signs of trade were to be observed.
The merchants in the two-storied houses opposite the Chong Kak were busy with cotton and silk goods, but at the smaller shops and booths there were few buyers. Some of these booths are temporary straw sheds; others, mere stands on which the wares are exposed for sale, the owner sitting lazily behind, protected from the sun by a piece of coarse matting stretched on three posts. Boys were walking about carrying sweetmeats for sale in trays suspended from the shoulders. One of the stone bridges before mentioned was crowded with baskets containing live fowls; on the pillars hung dead crows and pigeons.
The shops in the streets leading to the south and east gates contain a variety of articles, such as books, fans, foot-rules, oiled paper hatcovers, men’s and women’s caps, bamboo screens of delicate workmanship, leopard skins, pipes, tobacco, mouth-pieces, saddles, cabinets, paper screens, and women’s hairpins. Among these are a very few articles of European manufacture, such as matches of English and Austrian make. In most of the shops, also English needles and cotton were for sale. Of Chinese articles there was a variety. In other streets we saw pottery, shoes, finely made horse-hair cuffs and skull caps, hats, iron pots and pans of rude finish, nails for shoes, locks, knives, a variety of other iron ware, old coins, yellow and green marble boxes, sulphur, tobacco boxes of iron inlaid with silver, etc. There were also chilis in large quantities and cinli flour cereals of six or seven different kinds, viz., peas, beans, millet, rice, etc., exposed in baskets in the street; every few yards, roasted and raw chestnuts, walnuts, dried persimmons and plums arranged in small heaps.
Butcher’s shops and cook shops abound; also dried fish, seaweed and timber merchants. Symbolical signboards are not in common use. The characters 銀房 Un pang indicate the silversmiths; and the spectacle-makers have outside their shops, boards with these characters 眼鏡眠(easy mirror, i.e., spectacle room); hats are advertised thus 笠 房 (kat-pang); druggists’ shops have on the walls large inscriptions in characters proclaiming “the art left behind by Shin-nung.” There are no barber’s shops nor public bath-houses; no theatres or places of entertainment, no temples and no gardens; the Korean enjoys his pipe and smokes it continuously. One street deserves special mention for the number of cabinet makers living in it, and here are to be seen a variety of cabinets and boxes of good workmanship, brass bound, inlaid with mother-of-pearl, of hard and various kinds of woods.
In the vicinity of the Foreign Office are a number of shops where a variety of curiosities, mostly Chinese and Japanese, were for sale. Another feature of the streets, in the afternoon especially, is the quantity of firewood brought into the city every day on oxen and horses, and which is disposed of while still on the animals’ backs. In Korea the forest laws do not seem to be very stringently enforced, but we saw foresters in the wooded parts within and without the walls of Soul warning people from cutting wood by uttering a loud peculiar shout easily recognized.
Unlike the Japanese, the ‘Koreans carry heavy loads on a wooden frame on their backs and not from poles over the shoulders; firewood and earthen vessels are in this way piled up five or six feet over their heads. The streets are very quiet, although now and then one comes upon men or women quarrelling. There are no conveyances of any sort for hire. Officials of high rank use palanquins and are generally escorted by a number of soldiers to clear the way. Others ride on ponies or donkeys, the latter animal being much preferred for that purpose and a great number of them are seen. They use very clumsy saddles, which raise the rider about a foot above the animal’s back; but as they never ride fast, the saddle is more used as a chair on which they sit with folded arms, the animal being always led by the groom. As before observed, we saw only two or three bullock carts of primitive construction in the streets.
The palace enclosure, oblong in shape, covers about half a square mile of the northern portion of the city. Having had no opportunity of visiting the interior, we had to be satisfied with a bird’s-eye view from Puk-san, of which the cliffs form the northern boundary of the enclosure. This sufficed to give one a good idea of the appearance and disposition of the buildings within. The exterior wall is of solid construction, and seems of recent make. It is about thirty feet high, tiled and faced with blocks of granite nine inches square. A large gate, similar in construction to the east and south. gates, forms the main entrance to the palace; through it run three arched gateways. On the east and west side are two gates not in use, and opposite to the main gate in the north wall is another one-storied gate, opening on a large space now used as a parade ground, and in which stands a pavilion belonging to the palace. In a line with the principal gates could be distinguished two high-roofed houses with red pillars. One stood in the centre of the enclosure, the other between it and the large gate. It is probable that the former is the actual palace; on its left is a large pond. Most of the space to the right was occupied by rows of low houses, probably for the women and officials ; there were houses on the left, and the rear appeared to be a garden.
The interior of this pavilion, which we had an opportunity of seeing, was plain; the lofty ceiling was painted in gaudy style and it had large folding doors that could be triced up. The space in front of it is used as a drill ground, and a review was held here of three hundred men of the King’s body-guard. Their uniform is semi-Chinese, consisting of a blue cotton jacket with bright red facings, a sort of apron in two parts coming down to the knees, of black velvet designs on a bright red cloth, and covering the ordinary Korean wide trousers. They wore small black felt hats with red ribbons. The men looked very well, and for the three months’ training they had received from the Chinese they performed their drill satisfactorily, going through a number of evolutions, which included a great deal of blank firing. They were armed with Lefaucheux muzzle-loading rifles, from the Chinese arsenal at Nankin. The platforms leading to the pavilion were lined on both sides by standard bearers and men armed with broad lances. The flags were large and of triangular shape, with stripes of pink, white and black, edged with green: there were twenty-two of them. Long brass trumpets were blown from time to time. The words of command in English were uttered by two Korean officers in the old military dress of long robes with red sleeves, while a Chinese officer superintended the whole. There were also on the parade ground five brass field-pieces, about nine-pounders, which were being fired by Koreans under the direction of a Chinese, at a target on the cliffs of Puksan, and to judge from the reports daily heard, they must have a great deal of target practice.
The men wear on the front and back of their jackets in a circle the characters 左 親守 or “Left body-guard.” They have their headquarters outside the main gate of the palace on the left side of the street, on either side of which are the government offices. To judge from their deserted appearance and the grass covering the courtyards, but little business is done, and the rows of low houses overlooking the street are alone inhabited. In front of the large palace gates are two lions on pedestals, of a type familiar in Japan, carved in granite. ‘l’he width of the road to the palace is perhaps one hundred and twenty feet.
We made one morning a little excursion extending four miles along the road to China. Leaving the city by the west gate and passing through a suburb stretching to about three-quarters of a mile from the gate, we found ourselves on a good broad road leading in a northwesterly direction. Half a mile or so after leaving the houses, we came to a handsome monumental arch, a wooden structure supported on two columns of granite. It was very ornamental and painted red and green, and had on it these characters 迎恩門 (gate of gratitude). It serves no purpose, standing on one side of the road. We saw about thiss par! stone foundations where formerly large houses must have stood. Proceeding, we came to the Muk-chae pass, where the road crosses a sanely ridge; a cutting had been made through the rock, but the road had been so much neglected that it was not used except by foot passengers. There seemed to be a good deal of traffic along this road; numbers of oxen and pack-horses were carrying loads of firewood to the city, and pedestrians were going to and coming from the city. From the pass the road descends into a pretty valley; on the right side the granite cliffs of “Sam Kak san” rise in fantastic shapes, on the left sandy hills covered at the base with firs, the only tree growing in the sandy soil of these regions. We passed a well preserved enclosure, which we were told served as a halting place to the Chinese envoys when on a visit to the capital. Crossing the almost dry bed of a river, we entered a remarkably clean village, where we saw more of the mile posts which also serve as idols. From the village the road rises again to a ridge of sandy hills, and from here nothing but the bare sandy and granite hills are seen. Close to this, there is in the rock a natural cave, where people afflicted with sore feet come and pay their devotions, and to be healed they drink of the water accumulating in the cave and eat small particles found embedded in the rock in great quantity. This substance is yellowish and of crystalline form, and is denoted by the Koreans by the characters 自然銅 (natural copper). A man seated outside the cave was selling chips of the rock containing this medicine. On our way back, three-quarters of a mile from the west gate, we turned aside to the right and visited the site of the Japanese Legation burnt down by the rebels on the 23rd July of last year. The walls of the enclosure and the gate alone were left standing; the remainder was a heap of broken tiles, among which we saw fragments of the Japanese archives. The site is at the base of hills, from which the mob threw stones into the Legation, thick as hail, while the buildings were being fired. The present Japanese Legation is situated at the foot of the “south mountain” on rising ground. There is at present a guard of two hundred Japanese soldiers for the protection of the Legation.
The Koreans are physically a fine race, but rather weak and effeminate; they are naturally intelligent, but very ignorant, and there are among them very few scholars. Some of the high officials speak Chinese. They are polite and friendly, but though we met with no rudeness or incivility on the part of the inhabitants, their behaviour seemed to betoken suspicion. The women are regarded as servants and to them is left all the work. Among the nobility, marriages take place at an early age. Widows are not allowed to many again.
The people are divided into three classes, the nobles, the officials and common people. On the latter are imposed all kinds of burdens by the officials, and everything points to a wretched government. The horses and chairs provided for us, the oxen which carried our luggage were all obtained on a system of forced labour. As a natural result the horses are of the worst kind and everything is done in an unwilling manner; and when they have the opportunity the chair-bearers run away. Any signs of wealth entail squeezing by the officials, and the people consequently spend all they earn on themselves in the way of clothing and food.
Most of the city people are extremely well dressed, and their general clean appearance contrasts strangely with the miserable appearance of their houses. They wear a variety of bright colours, principally green and blue. White clothes, however, are the most common; children wear pink and violet, women light blue, more than other colours. The men’s costume is mostly a long robe with broad sleeves, tied on the right side by ribbons. Under this they wear two or more robes or jackets which only reach down to the waist; the latter are more used by the coolies. The white trowsers are worn very wide and tied a little above the ankle, where the thickly wadded stockings begin; the shoes are very like the Chinese. Their clothes are always of a single colour; no patterns are seen. The lower palace officials wear scarlet dresses and bamboo hats; soldiers wear over the ordinary dress, a blue cotton garment hanging in strips from the shoulders, and from their large, black, low-crowned hats hangs a red tassel; they are mostly shabby looking, but their pay is only about eight cents per day.
The head-dress of Koreans consists of a horse-hair band, worn lightly round the forehead; on this a skull-cap of the same material, and over the cap a black hat of horse-hair’ spread on a circular framework, about sixteen inches in diameter, and a conical crown four and a half inches high; the hat rests on the head and is secured by ribbons tied under the chin. Hats of good quality cost as much as eighty nyang, or about sixteen dollars, and much money is sometimes spent on the head-dress alone. Married men wear their long hair gathered up in a top-knot; boys wear it plaited in a long queue, which gives them a very womanish appearance. It was said that two and three hundred yen were often invested in head-gear. Women wear a dress remarkably similar to that worn in Europe, short jackets with tight sleeves and a long petticoat; the hair is worn parted in front and gathered in a knot on the back of the head, or in thick plaits projecting over the forehead.
The mourning garments are entirely of grey unbleached hemp; mourners, besides the white hat, carry in their hands a kind of fan of the same material as the clothes, and which they hold in front of the face. Large coarse hats are also worn, reaching down to about the shoulders. No umbrellas of any kind are seen. In features the Koreans are different from both Chinese and Japanese; the face is long and oval; they do not shave off their beards and moustaches, but they are usually of very scanty growth; men with reddish beards and children with light brown hair are not at all uncommon. We saw few young women in the streets; and the older women often ran into the nearest house or turned into another street when they saw us coming. When out of doors they wear over their heads green mantillas, covering the face and leaving only the eyes to be seen. In the way of ornaments, silver rings were worn on the fingers, and hairpins; other jewellery, such as coral and amber silver-mounted, we saw only for sale.