By Joseph Walton, M.P.
London : Sampson Low. Marston & Company (Internet Archive)
Sir Joseph Walton, 1st Baronet DL, JP (19 March 1849 – 8 February 1923) was an English coalowner and Liberal Party politician. Walton was born at Bollihope, County Durham, the second son of John Walton from Frosterley, a colliery owner. He did not attend school and received his education privately. In 1880 he married Faith Gill, the daughter of a Middlesbrough solicitor. Their home was at Saltburn-by-the-Sea in Cleveland. In religion Walton was an active Wesleyan Methodist all his life.
Walton began his commercial career in Middlesbrough in 1870 in the coal industry and allied trades. He recognised the great expansion in the coal industry which was continuing to take place at that time and the key place of Middlesbrough in its development. He eventually built up a large business of coal and coke related merchants and colliery ownership.
Walton’s success in business enabled him to devote his time to political activity. Walton got an opportunity to enter the House of Commons when a vacancy occurred at Barnsley in 1897. Walton was adopted as the Liberal candidate for the resulting by-election and was elected. Walton held his seat at the 1900 general election in a straight fight against the Unionists by a majority of 3,193. In 1906 he was returned unopposed. He held again in January 1910 by a majority of 7,372 over the Unionists and was again unopposed at the December 1910 general election. It was clear that by this time Walton had the respect of the working-class community and in 1914 even the Barnsley Trades Council was able to announce that Walton was ‘not a bad representative’. At the 1918 general election, Walton stood again, this time as a Coalition Liberal and was again without opposition.
Walton was created a baronet, of Rushpool, in the County of York, in 1910. He was a Justice of the Peace for Middlesbrough and the North Riding of Yorkshire and a Deputy Lieutenant of the North Riding.
He took a deep interest in foreign affairs and in the development of the British Empire. He travelled extensively in India, Burma, Africa, America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, various British Protectorates, as well as visiting China, Japan, Persia, Mesopotamia, Russia and the Balkans. As a result of his interest in the Far East, Walton gained the soubriquet “The Member for China” in Parliament. He often spoke on Chinese matters, especially after his 1899 visit. See here for a link to complete texts of his speeches in Parliament. His book includes the full text of his lengthy statement on China made to the House of Commons on March 30, 1900, after his return. He is very critical of official policy.
He was also a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and a founder member of the Royal Central Asian Society. The book “China and the Present Crisis” (1900) was his only publication. Walton died at Bournemouth on 8 February 1923 aged 73 years.
[Walton arrived at Yokohama from England, stayed in Japan for about 10 days, took the s.s. 'Higo-Maru,' reached Fusan on August 15, 1899, took the boat on to Chemulpo where it stopped for 24 hours, allowing him just enough time to visit Seoul and meet Mr. Jordan, the British representative, for a few hours, before being carried back to Chemulpo overnight and arriving in Chefoo the following day. He then travelled westward back to Europe, visiting the countries listed in the book.]
During my short stay in Japan I was very fortunate in meeting politicians and commercial men able to give me reliable and valuable information with regard to political and commercial matters not only in Japan, but also in Korea and China. I have obtained much new light on the political events which preceded the Chino-Japanese war, and on what happened during the progress of that war and subsequently.
Through the kindness of the British Minister, Sir Ernest Satow, and other friends, I had interviews with the Marquis Ito, Count Okuma, and Viscount Aoki, who have played a most important part in the recent political history of Japan.
To Marquis Ito is mainly due the credit of the written constitution which Japan has recently adopted, after commissions had been sent out to make close inquiry in regard to the constitutions under which European nations are governed. Thirty years ago Japan was in a state of feudalism under nobles, known as 'Daimios.' A revolution took place; the 'Daimios ' were made to surrender their feudal rights, and the whole population now owns allegiance to the Emperor alone.
About ten years ago a very important development took place when, under a somewhat restricted franchise, representative government was initiated by the election of a House of Commons. There is also a House of Peers, composed of hereditary peers, life peers, and selected peers.
From both Houses all direct representatives of religion are expressly excluded, and there is, therefore no question of the removal of bishops and archbishops from the House of Lords confronting Japan. There is no party government as in England, and no Conservative party as we understand it. Some call themselves 'Liberals,' others 'Progressionists,' but there are few vital differences in the matter of political principles separating them. Party government will, no doubt, gradually arise; but meantime the electors vote for the men who command their confidence, and not merely in a party sense. This, after all, is the natural result of their feudal system, when loyalty to the chief of their clan was the influence which dominated them.
Marquis Ito had a most difficult task imposed upon him — to conclude the treaty of peace at the close of the Chino-Japanese war. Under strong pressure on the part of Russia, France, and Germany, Japan was largely deprived of the fruits of victory. The surrender of the Liao-tung Peninsula was so bitterly resented in Japan that Marquis Ito was driven from power; but the course he pursued was the only one open to him. At the present time he is by far the most powerful politician in Japan, and various political parties are striving to induce him to become their leader.
Marquis Ito possesses ability, shrewdness, and force of character, which make him unquestionably the most powerful statesman in Japan to-day. He is short in stature even for a Japanese.
In our interview he spoke of his fall from political power as the result of his surrender of the Liao-tung Peninsula under the Treaty of Shimono- seki; this, of course, was due to the joint intervention of Russia, France, and Germany, and no fault of his. Marquis Ito said the Chinese indemnity was first fixed at 200,000,000 taels, or 32,000,000 L., and then he got 30,000,000 taels more in consideration of giving up the Liao-tung Peninsula.
Had England only supported Japan, and insisted, as she was asked to do, that as a condition of Japan's evacuation an agreement should be concluded under which all the Powers would bind themselves not to occupy the Liao-tung Peninsula or Port Arthur, the subsequent course of events in the Far East might have been very different indeed.
Marquis Ito assured me that Japan would welcome the co-operation of England and America for the upholding of their mutual interests in China, but that a pious expression of good will was of no use; there must be a definite understanding. He remarked that, in addition to having the strongest fleet in the Far East, Japan could put from 200,000 to 300,000 men in the field, and must therefore be a valuable ally.
With regard to currency, Marquis Ito stated that he was at one time rather inclined to bi-metallism, but that, after spending six months in the study of currency at the Treasury at Washington, he now supports a gold standard.
The Marquis is the most trusted adviser of the Emperor of Japan. He informed me that the Emperor is forty-seven years old, and takes great interest in the affairs of the State.
The present Emperor has renounced Buddhism and is now Shinto. Marquis Ito prefers Protestantism to Roman Catholicism, but he does not mix religion and politics. He said that the constitution he framed gives complete religious liberty, and that his faith is a matter for the individual.
He referred to his visit of four months in 1898 to China. He reached Peking at the time of the. fall of the Reform party. He went up the Yang- tsze, but was recalled from Hankow by the Japanese Emperor to form a Cabinet, and so was unable to arrive at such an understanding with China as might have powerfully influenced the course of events in that empire.
Count Okuma is the leader of the Progressionist party, and a man of strong convictions, who enjoys the confidence of a very large section of his country- men. He is a fascinating man, with brilliant conversational powers, and from the keen interest he takes in a great variety of subjects reminded me of our Grand Old Man. He might be fairly described as the Gladstone of Japan. He had his leg shattered by a bomb in 1889.
Our interview took place at his house, a short distance out of Tokyo, where he has a lovely Japanese garden. Captain Brinkley accompanied me, and very kindly acted as interpreter. Count Okuma cannot speak a word of English, and, though so well informed in regard to the political affairs of all nations, has never been out of Japan. He referred in the most friendly terms to England, and would be quite willing also to act in concert with the United States of America. In his opinion, the interests of England, America, and Japan are identical in the Far East, and to co-operate actively must be mutually beneficial. He thought a great opportunity was lost when England and Japan neglected to unite in regard to Port Arthur, and that the present situation is largely the result of that blunder. Count Okuma expressed the opinion that the advance southwards of Russia in China can only be checked by the reorganisation of the Chinese army under British and Japanese officers. He said about sixty Chinese were then studying military science in Japan. He considered the financial position of Japan good. Thirty years ago the Government started with hardly any revenue. They had compensated nobles for destruction of feudal rights, and undertaken great public works, such as railways, posts, telegraphs, schools, public offices, and gaols, and yet, though the yen was worth only 2s. now as compared with 4s. then, the gold debt was no larger than twenty years ago.
He thought England should have begun the construction of a railway from British Burmah to the Upper Yangtsze years ago, and that it should be extended to Shanghai. He believed that the Japanese would resist to a man the taking of Korea by Russia, as the nation had been associated with Korea for centuries, and it was imperative that it should be preserved as an outlet for the surplus population of Japan.
With Viscount Aoki, who is at present the Minister of Foreign Affairs, I had two interviews of a most interesting and instructive character.
He married a German lady, and is strongly pro- German. He would like to see the Protestant religion of Germany and England spread in Japan, but hopes that neither the Roman Catholic nor the Greek Church will take root there.
Viscount Aoki said that Japan, with a population increasing at the rate of nearly half a million a year, and possessing only a very limited area of cultivable land, must have a suitable colony which should be exclusively Japanese, as they do not intermix readily with other races.
Formosa, which was ceded to Japan at the close of the Chino-Japanese war, had entailed a heavy financial loss on Japan hitherto, but is expected to leave a surplus next year. It is, however, unsuitable in point of climate for Japanese settlers, and the same applies to the Chinese province of Fukien, opposite Formosa, over which the Japanese have asserted priority of right.
Korea, by its proximity to Japan, its suitability in point of climate, fertility of soil, fisheries, and mineral resources, is just what they need for expansion, and on no account can the Japanese allow Russia to dominate or acquire Korea. On strategical grounds Japan must resist any occupation of Korea by Russia; there is also the sentimental interest of the Japanese in Korea, arising out of the history of their repeated fighting there for centuries past. They conquered Korea three hundred years ago, and afterwards withdrew when they ought to have kept it.
Viscount Aoki expressed the same views as Marquis Ito and Count Okuma as to the importance of concerted action on the part of England, America, and Japan in support of their mutual interests in China.
He was good enough to give me letters of introduction to the Japanese representative in Korea, and also to their ambassador in Peking.
I met other Japanese politicians, including the Director of the Financial Department, who gave me the fullest information as to the financial position of Japan.
With regard to European diplomatists in Japan, I had conversations with Sir Ernest Satow and Count von Lyden, the German Ambassador, also with Colonel Buck, the representative of the United States of America, and several men holding high positions in China, who are at present invalided to Japan.
From the information received from these and also from the Japanese I have come to the conclusion that it will be mainly the fault of England if there is not in the future greater co-operation between England, Japan, and the United States of America in respect to their mutual interests in the Far East.
I left for Korea by the s.s. 'Higo-Maru,' which called at Shimonoseki and Nagasaki, in Japan.
I left Tsushima after a stay of only a few hours, and so ended my all too short visit to Japan.
We sighted the coast of Korea early on Tuesday morning, August 15, and soon anchored in the lovely bay of Fusan, which is encircled by high bare green rock-strewn hills, which were capped with mist and reminded me of many hills both in England and Scotland. The town of Fusan is divided into two quarters, Japanese and Korean. Behind the Japanese quarter rises a large wood of pine trees, which adds greatly to the picturesqueness of the bay. On landing I found the Customs in charge of a Frenchman and a German harbour- master. An Italian official at the Customs, with the most friendly feelings towards everything English, became my guide, and assisted me in despatching telegrams, w^hich is not an altogether easy process at a Korean telegraph office.
FIRST VISIT TO A MISSIONARY STATION IN THE FAR EAST
I went with a lady missionary to visit the missionary station at Fusan. We had half an hour's walk to reach it, uphill, in a warm atmosphere. We found the missionary nursing a baby, his wife being ill. He was much exercised in his mind about his domestic affairs, having been robbed of money on two preceding days by his Korean servants.
We saw two other lady missionaries there. When I suggested that as our time was limited, and as I was very anxious to get reliable information from those who view matters from different stand- points, the missionary might perhaps stroll back with us to the landing-place and give me further information, he said he was sorry, but the situation of his domestic affairs prevented. For the life of me I could not understand why one of the two lady missionaries should not have taken the baby, and the other been placed for half an hour on watch and guard against robbers.
Our steamer route, especially between Fusan and Mokpo, was a very dangerous one. There were scores of islands, and many sharp jagged rocks studded the surface of the sea, with possibly many more similar rocks jutting up nearly to the surface of the water, but still unseen. Fortunately, the weather was extremely fine and there was no fog, otherwise I should not have felt particularly safe. I certainly should not care to voyage along the coast of Korea in the winter time. This is where H.M. cruiser ‘Bonaventure' recently struck on a rock. However, 'all's well that ends well,' and nothing in the shape of an accident befell us.
THE KOREAN PENINSULA
The Korean Peninsula stands in the unfortunate geographical position of being midway between China and Japan, and has been, like Tssachar, the strong ass crouching between two burdens. Both countries have for generations sought to claim the allegiance of Korea. They have both many times invaded it, and from time to time the influence of first one and then the other has been predominant. The King of Korea adopted the title of 'Emperor ' after the close of the Chino-Japanese war, which nominally secured its independence. It covers an area estimated at from 85,000 to 100,000 square miles. As in the case of Manchuria, we are told again and again that Korea is a barren and worthless country, but from the most reliable authorities I am in a position to state that the climate is good and the soil fertile, capable of growing the finest timber and every fruit grown in England, with the addition of many of a tropical character.
It is estimated that not more than one-half of the cultivable land is being farmed.
The fisheries of Korea are most valuable; unfortunately the natives do not reap for themselves the whole advantage of these, as they have foolishly allowed the Japanese fishing rights within the three miles limit. With regard also to whaling, Russia has succeeded in obtaining a concession of land at three Korean ports for the purpose of salting the whales; the greater number of these are not oil- producing, but after being salted are taken to Japan and sold for food there.
A whale of average size is stated to be worth about 2,000 dollars. The importance of this concession to Russia will be seen when I state that one whaling-ship caught fifteen whales in fourteen days last season. Russia ostensibly holds these pieces of land on a twelve years' lease, and it is stipulated that they are still to remain under Korean jurisdiction. Only time will disclose whether this move on her part does not mean that she will gradually take possession of the three ports and use them as bases for extending her influence in Korea.
KORE AN GOLD-FIELDS
I met on board the steamer a Mr. Hunt, an American, who has got a concession from the Emperor of Korea for the working of gold over an area of 1,000 square miles. He has already more than 1,300 men at work, and is quite confident of the success of his undertaking.
The Germans have also secured a concession of 270 square miles, which they are prospecting. England appears likely to be almost left out in the cold, as the only concession obtained by the British is that secured by Mr. Pritchard Morgan. In addition to gold, experts say that coal, iron, lead, and silver may be found in Korea.
The Koreans realise the importance of having the country opened up by railways, but they have no money with which to construct them. They have been induced to give the Japanese the right to build a railway from Chemulpo to Seoul, which is now under construction; also from Seoul to Fusan — 350 miles — but, owing to the present financial condition of Japan, the necessary capital is not forthcoming to enable the latter to be proceeded with. The Germans are trying to get a concession for a railway from Seoul to Gensan, which the Japanese are opposing. France also had a concession from Seoul to Wigu, which has lapsed owing to their not having begun the construction of the line within the specified time. France has, however, in connection with the cancelled contract, obtained a written assurance from the Korean Government that whenever the railway is built French engineers will be employed, and that the whole of the railway material and rolling stock shall be manufactured in France, no matter what may be the nationality of the country constructing the railway.
Similar stipulations are inserted in the railway concessions obtained in China by Russia, France, and Germany. If this sort of thing is to go on unchecked, I wish to know where, in the future, the markets for the products of British labour will be found. Seeing that England depends largely on her exports for prosperity, I ask w^hether, owing to the supineness of British capitalists or of the British Government, British producers are to have no share in supplying Korea with a system of railways necessary to open up and develop the country. There is no completed railway whatever in existence. I inspected the one which is in course of construction from Chemulpo to Seoul; this will be, when opened, the first railway that Korea has ever had.
THE EMPEROR AND THE GOVERNMENT
Mr. Jordan spoke of the Emperor as taking a keen personal interest in everything that affects Korea. He is an amiable man, possessed of some ability, but his hands are greatly weakened in dealing with Korean affairs by the rascality and rapacity of the nobles and the official classes.
He is said to be a spendthrift, and though taking one-tenth of the national revenue — viz. 600,000 dollars — for his own personal use, he is in a very impecunious condition. It is believed that those around him fleece him right and left.
The population of this by no means insignificant empire numbers only from eight to ten millions.
Korea has an historical antiquity contemporaneous with that of Thebes and Babylon, but possesses no ruins; and though boasting a separate, if not an independent, existence for centuries, is devoid of all external signs of strength. Foreigners have been excluded until recently, though there is little or no anti-foreign feeling. They have no representative government whatever, no House of Lords or House of Commons. There are eight Ministers of State — viz. the Prime Minister, the Ministers of Finance, Foreign Affairs, War, Education and Law, Imperial Household, Agriculture and Commerce, and Public Works. These are appointed by the Emperor and continue in office at his pleasure. There is also a Council of State of about fifteen members, to whom matters of legislation are supposed to be submitted for debate, but practically this is, at the present time, more ‘honoured in the breach than in the observance.'
I had the opportunity of meeting the men most likely to understand the Korean political situation, and they hold the opinion that there is little chance of its regeneration except by the intervention of some foreign Power. At the present moment the Reactionaries are in power, and the Progressive leaders are in exile.
ATTITUDE OF RUSSIA AND JAPAN
There is little doubt that the eyes of Russia, as well as those of Japan, are turned towards Korea, the former being desirous of rounding off her territory north of the Gulf of Pechili by its absorption; while, on the other hand, Japan, with a population increasing at the rate of nearly half a million a year, would find Korea, enjoying as it does a very similar climate to its own, the most suitable opening for expansion, which must come in some direction or other. It is true that Russia last year withdrew, by arrangement with Japan, the financial adviser and the military instructors she had at the Korean Court, and the Russo-Chinese Bank was closed; but I am inclined to think this rather a pause on the part of Russia than an actual relinquishment of her intention ultimately to absorb Korea.
Port Hamilton, which is on a group of islands on the southern coast of Korea, was occupied by the British fleet in 1885, and England only withdrew on Russia undertaking that she would not occupy Korean territory under any circumstances whatsoever. Knowing as we do the facility with which Russia ignores assurances of this nature, I do not attach much importance to this so-called guarantee on her part.
The countries which do the largest trade with Korea are Japan and England. There are only one or two English commercial firms established in the country, and these mainly represent steamship lines. Curiously, the English trade with Korea has been almost exclusively carried on up to the present time by Chinese. There are 6,000 in the country who are under the protection of the British Government. It is anticipated that the treaty between China and Korea, placing the Chinese under the jurisdiction of their own Government, the same as Europeans, will be speedily signed. The exports of England to Korea are mainly Manchester cotton goods, and we are holding our own well in the competition for orders with the Japanese, notwithstanding the supposed advantage that they have from cheap labour.
The Koreans, like the Japanese, are commercially unreliable and are naturally lazy. Probably to a certain extent this is the result of the conditions under which they live, for I am told that the provincial officials, known as 'Yangbans,' extort taxes at their own sweet will and pleasure, and in the majority of cases for their own personal enrichment.
The total revenue of the Korean Government is about six million yen, and it is estimated that at least three times the amount that is paid into the Exchequer is extorted from the people by the local officials. This condition of affairs deprives the people of any incentive to industry, for if they work hard and save a little money, in many cases it only means that they have been accumulating it for the benefit of the local official.
The currency of Korea is in a very debased condition. The Government have issued, wholesale, nickel pieces at five sens each, which have cost less than one sen, and at the present time 131 nickel sens are only equivalent to one Japanese yen. To a certain extent, however, Japanese paper and silver are used.
The money-lending arrangements also greatly hinder the prosperity of the Korean people. The lowest rate of interest paid for borrowed money is 12 per cent, per annum, whilst 60 per cent, is a usual rate, and 120 per cent, frequent. The law does not allow any claim beyond double the loan, therefore the lender at the end of ten months threatens to enforce payment, and any failure to pay means floggings, stocks, and imprisonment. The borrower, as a rule, agrees that the interest and principal shall be added together and constituted a fresh loan, and if he goes on for twenty months the amount owing by the luckless debtor is four times the amount which he originally borrowed. The local magistrates who administer the law have full power, and so the money-lender needs to secure their favour by a substantial gift, while the debtor probably counterworks on the same lines. I do not forget that we have in England a class of money-lenders almost as rapacious as those of Korea, but stringent legislation is proposed to deal with the evil. Of course at home it prevails only to a small extent, while in Korea it is universal.
The Rev. F. Jones, of Chemulpo, gave me the following statement as to the religion of the Koreans :
'Confucianism is the State religion of Korea. It has neither priesthood nor supernaturalism, but a good moral code with cult of worship. They rely entirely on self-effort, and do not look for divine assistance.
‘They have no temples in the ordinary sense, but Tablet Houses, or Shrines, or Halls of Learning. The literati offer sacrifice twice a year to Confucius, the saints of Confucianism, and local celebrities. The offerings consist of green fruit and liquor, which are afterwards enjoyed by the celebrants.
‘Buddhism also exists in a state of decay and is not widespread. Fetishism is universal. Local spirits which frequent the earth, air, and water (corresponding somewhat to the Fengshui of China), are propitiated by offerings of green fruit, dogs, pigs, and liquors, which are always consumed by the worshippers. These celebrations take place in cases where sickness or misfortune falls upon a household, and often at the end of a harvest.' Possibly they are based to some extent upon the same idea as our harvest homes.
The Koreans are a very badly educated people. They have no State schools, and a decision on the part of the Government to build 330 Government schools scattered over the country has not been carried out to any extent. So far as there is any education, it is at present being given privately. Four good schools have been established by the Korean Government, in which the teaching of English, French, German, and Russian is the special feature.
The tiger is the king of animals in Korea, while bears, leopards, wild boars, sables, ermine, otter, hares, and foxes, also several kinds of deer, are found in various parts of the country. Pheasants, every variety of wildfowl, including geese, swans, ducks, teal, water-hen, plover, and snipe, also bustards, cranes, and herons, pink and white ibis, and eagles, are plentiful. Korea is therefore a promising recreation-ground for the sportsman.
The Koreans belong unmistakably to the Mongolian stock, being a sort of intermediate type between the Mongolian Tartar and the Japanese. Nearly the whole of the Koreans have jet-black hair and dark eyes. As individuals, they possess many attractive characteristics. The upper classes are polite and friendly to foreigners, priding themselves on their correct deportment, while the working people are generally good-tempered, cheerful, and talkative, though very excitable.
KOREAN HABITS AND DRESS
The chief vice of the Koreans is over-indulgence in drink. They manufacture fermented liquor from rice and barley; there is little opium-smoking.
The favourite method of disposing of criminals sentenced to death is to behead them, and in order to impress the populace both the head and the body lie exposed for three days. In consideration, however, of the objections raised by foreign residents, the authorities have removed the place of execution some distance outside the city walls.
The graveyards of the Koreans are different from any others I have ever seen; they are here, there, and everywhere. Some rich men have one all to themselves. Usually they are on the hillsides, which are terraced, and the graves are marked by mounds, resembling in the distance hay pikes of freshly cut grass.
Unmarried women wear their hair parted in the middle, and in a long plait down their backs. The men have their hair drawn up in a top-knot.
Officials wear on their heads, first, a band composed of a mixture of human and horse hair; secondly, an official cap, made of horse-tail hair, forming what looks like a sort of thin gauze; thirdly comes the regular black dress hat, which is exactly like the national hat worn by Welsh women. They have besides triangular-shaped glazed paper hats to put over their other hats when it rains.
They wear baggy white trousers, tied in at the knees and ankles, with leggings, heavily padded socks, and white leather shoes, also a white flowing robe like the kimono of Japan, except that it has sleeves and is tied under the right arm instead of by a sash. They often wear a second outer robe of white, with the addition of a blue silk girdle.
The Emperor's robes are of scarlet — the royal colour. Some officials also wear robes of this colour, and others blue or yellow; but the Ministers and chief notables are usually dressed in blue or purple. Most of the garments are of silk. Young men of high rank often wear most charming robes of pink or light blue.
The women of Korea are the drudges, while the men are the lords of creation; in many cases the women work hard and the men do nothing. If one of these hard-working women were asked what her husband was doing, the expression she would use is that 'he is sitting upon his heels.' The women of the upper classes are rarely seen; they generally dress in white and have a peculiar arrangement by which the short bodice covers the shoulders, but leaves the breasts entirely exposed, while voluminous petticoats, very full at the hips, all but conceal the coarse white or brown trousers below. They wear the same kind of boots as the men, but their stockings are not padded. The women of a certain rank wear a sort of mantle with sleeves which are not used. This is suspended from a hood which covers the head, and they close up the front with their hand to shield themselves from the gaze of passers-by. The favourite colour is green, and these women form quite a picturesque addition to a street crowd as tbey glide about amongst the men, who, except officials, are clad entirely in white. Their hair is black, and is wound in a big coil round the temples, and ornamented with large silver coins.
With regard to arausements, kite-flying and kite-fighting are most in favour. The fighting consists in trying to draw one kite across another when they are high in the air, and thus to sever the string of the rival. The Koreans are also the most accomplished stone-throwers in the world; the contests are conducted with such savagery that loss of life frequently results.
EXPEDITION TO THE KOREAN CAPITAL
On arriving at Chemulpo I found that unless I proceeded to Chefoo by the steamer in which I arrived, I should not be able to get another boat for a fortnight. As I was determined, if possible, to visit Seoul, and could not afford to be delayed so long, I decided to make the expedition up to that city in the twenty-four hours at my disposal. I had telegraphed to the Consul-General, Mr. Jordan, and he very kindly had a chair and bearers waiting ready for me on landing. The chair is fixed at the centre of two long poles and is carried by four men at once — I had eight men, so that they might take turn and turn about. I might have gone up the river by boat, but the boat had left an hour before my arrival, and the railway in course of construction was not yet available. I preferred, however, to be taken in the old-fashioned manner. Unfortunately there had been heavy rains, and as there are no macadamised roads, but only tracks across the country, the bearers were often ankle-deep in mud. The plains which we had to cross, on which rice is grown, were also inundated, and I was often carried for a hundred yards together, with the water up to the men's waists. This they enjoyed thoroughly — laughing and joking all the time. We had also to be ferried across three rivers in the course of the twenty-six miles traversed. The weather was perfect, and after the heavy rain the strong perfume of flowering shrubs was exquisite; the birds were singing gaily. Crowds of men, women, and children were squatting about in every village through which we passed, many of them smoking long pipes, and numerous groups were playing games, this too at an hour of the day when one would naturally expect them to be at work.
The land in the valleys has a rich alluvial soil and is very fertile, but the bare hills with reddish-coloured earth exposed here and there on their slopes appeared useless from an agricultural standpoint. The Koreans have been prodigal in denuding the country of timber, but pine-trees which have re-sown themselves are springing up everywhere. The roadway through the villages was decidedly deeper in mud than in the open country — no effort being made to clear it away. Korean houses are thatched with straw, and have walls composed largely of mud. They look picturesque in the distance, especially when nestling amid a cluster of big trees.
They have no mills in Korea for grinding their grain, but they place it in large stone or wooden basins and work over a lever a long piece of wood with an arm attached. With this they crush the grain by pounding it. We met a good many pack-bulls on the way, and occasionally a small Korean pony. Rice and Indian corn are the crops mainly grown between Chemulpo and Seoul.
Some of my bearers had the most ragged white garments that I ever saw. They really prefer to wear as little clothing as possible. On their feet they wore sandals woven of straw, replacing them frequently with new ones, which they could pur- chase at every hamlet we passed. Instead of stockings they bound long pieces of linen round their feet.
They are evidently not very fond of applying soap and water to their children, as the condition of the multitude of naked little children whom I saw showed.
When my bearers carried me through the water they took off their scanty garments and tied them round their necks, and then raised my chair shoulder high. One man, holding his clothes above his head, walked in advance, in order to discover, if possible, whether there were any big holes in front of us.
We approached Seoul in brilliant sunshine, and I was able to get a very fair idea of the city and the surrounding country. The mountains on two sides are precipitous and rocky, with splendidly broken outlines. The valley in which Seoul is situated is well timbered, which adds much to the beauty of its appearance.
As we passed through the portion of the city outside the walls, the most prominent object was a curious gateway, which, together with the ancient loopholed walls to the right and left of it, looked extremely picturesque.
I arrived at a quarter to six, the journey having occupied eight and a quarter hours. Within five minutes I began half an hour's interview with Dr. Morrison, the Times correspondent at Pekin. Mr. Jordan and I then strolled through the main streets of Seoul, which were thronged with possibly the most picturesque and gaily dressed people in the world, except the Burmese. The Koreans display more taste in their attire than the Burmese, and though the colours of their garments are not so brilliant, the general effect of the white robes of the men and the green mantles of the women is very pleasing. We went to two or three points from which, in the bright evening sunlight, we had perfect views over the city and surrounding country.
We discussed, as we walked along, various matters on which I desired to have information. I left for Chemulpo at a quarter to ten, having thus remained only four hours in the most interesting city of Seoul, but having none the less, thanks to Mr. Jordan, seen the main sights.
I was much surprised to find an electric tramway at work in Seoul; it had been opened only a few weeks. One day a child was killed, whereupon a crowd of Koreans stormed the electric cars, drove off the conductor and attendants, overturned the cars, and burnt them on the spot. It was only after the feeling thus aroused had died down that the Company ventured to start running the cars again.
To show how good the climate is, I may say that Mr. Jordan told me he grew strawberries, cherries, pears, plums, and other English fruit and vegetables at Seoul just as well as at home.
It is a significant fact that whilst the Russians and the French have no trade interests whatever in Korea, yet the former have a most palatial Legation, and also an emissary living in great style, with Cossacks in connection with his household. He is not known to have any definite position, but occupies himself in fomenting difticulties.
The French have just completed the erection of a splendid Legation at a cost of 8,000 L., though they have no interest in the country except their Roman Catholic Missions. They have a French cathedral in Seoul, and a bishop, and thirty priests working throughout the country with 30,000 converts.
Japan has also an excellent Legation in Seoul, but this is not surprising when we have regard to the fact that 15,000 of its people are settled in that country, and that the association of Japan with Korea has existed through many centuries.
The Japanese have a system of telegraph lines established in Korea, and 800 troops divided among the various places where any considerable number of their people are settled. It is only natural that Japan should have the necessary force on the spot to safeguard her interests.
The staple products of Korea are rice and beans, and enormous quantities of these are sent to Japan — indeed, she takes 90 per cent, of the exports of Korea.
England has a comfortable but, comparatively speaking, modest Legation. In Mr. Jordan we have a man of marked ability, who looks vigilantly and carefully after our interests, though he receives only half the salary that is paid by other Governments to their representatives.
THE RETURN JOURNEY
the return journey I engaged twelve bearers. Japanese
lanterns were carried
before and behind, and with the light given by the moon
we were able to get
along very well so far as the first part of the journey
was concerned. Just
after starting we arrived at the city gates, which were
already closed. The
gate-keepers refused to open them without a written
order. Mr. Jordan, who had
accompanied me thus far, succeeded in overcoming the
difficulty. We then
proceeded rapidly along a fairly well made road to the
river three miles away,
which we crossed by a ferry-boat. After traversing a
long stretch of sand, we
reached a second river, which had also to be passed in a
ferry. Then the road
became a broken track, the moon disappeared, and we were
left to be guided only
by Japanese lanterns, which a shower of rain or a little
wind would have
extinguished, leaving us hopelessly stranded.
Fortunately, the night was still
and fine, and we reached the flooded rice-fields without
much delay. Then our
difficulties began. Two of the men with the Japanese
lanterns waded in the
water in advance of the bearers to try and prevent our
falling into deep holes.
Amidst a roar of laughter one of them disappeared from
view, extinguishing his
lantern, but he came to the top all right and swam into
shallower water. It was
a case of slow and sure, and the few hundred yards that
we thus traversed
occupied considerable time. We came to the third river
only to find that there
was no ferry-boat (known there as a 'sampan ') on our
side. We all called out
together at the top of our voices to try to attract the
attention of some one
on the other shore, but without success. Further
progress would have been
impossible had it not been that one of our bearers was
an expert swimmer. He
dived into the stream without hesitation, and swam
across at a most astonishing
pace, roused the sleepers in the sampan, and very soon
it was brought across
and relieved us from our difficulties. When we reached
the halfway house the
men all wanted ‘chow ' (food). This chow had to be
prepared m their own
particular way, and it was only after more than an
hour's delay and by dint of
the strongest possible pressure that I induced them to
move on again. This was
urgently necessary, as my steamer was timed to leave at
nine o'clock that
morning. We arrived without further incident at Chemulpo
at a quarter to eight,
and a comfortable English breakfast at the Vice-Consul's
was most welcome after
the long night's journey. After breakfast I went on
board, and was soon on my
way to Chefoo, the first port of call in China. I
arrived there as described on