Nieuhof's description of Korea in English

From the volume by
Johannes Nieuhof, 1618-1672 : An embassy from the East-India Company of the United Provinces, to the Grand Tartar Cham, emperor of China: delivered by their excellencies Peter de Goyer and Jacob de Keyzer, at his imperial city of Peking wherein the cities, towns, villages, ports, rivers, &c. in their passages from Canton to Peking are ingeniously described by John Nieuhoff; also an epistle of Father John Adams, their antagonist, concerning the whole negotiation; with an appendix of several remarks taken out of Father Athanasius Kircher; Englished and set forth with their several sculptures by John Ogilby Esq; His Majety’s Cosmographer, Geographick Printer, and Master of the Revels in the Kingdom of Ireland, The second edition, London, printed by the Author in his house in White-Friers, M.DC. LXXIII.  (1673)  (first ed. London : Printed by J. Macock for the author, 1669)
(There are a number of passing references to "Corea" in this volume)

From Chap. XVIII. Of the Chinese kings and emperors, which have govern'd in China before and since Christ's birth.,   pp. 241-263

Page 261
During these Troubles the Emperor Vanlieus died in the Year 620. After whose Death his Son Taichangus, a valiant and prudent Prince, succeeded; who by the Conduct of his Affairs, in a short time gave sufficiently to understand what good Services his Country was to expect from him, had he not been unfortunately cut off by an untimely Death in the fourth Month of his Reign: To whom was Successor his Son Thienkius, a gallant Person, and no ways inferior to his Father for Vertue and Courage.
                This Monarch finding the unsetledness and danger of his Affairs, made it his chiefest Concern to contract Friendship, and support his Government with the Favor and Affection of his Neighbors: for he had taken notice by experience, how much the Empire of China had suffer'd by living always at great variance with the Tartar Kings of Ninche, which border'd upon him : In the first place therefore he endeavor'd to win the Favor of the King of Corea, who had formerly sent to his Grandfather a Supply of twelve thousand Men to aid and assist him in this War; but they being most of them kill'd and wounded, he doubted lest this might make him take part against him, and joyn with the Tartar ; for prevention whereof, and to satisfie the King in every scruple, he immediately sent an Ambassador to him, to return him thanks for those great Succors he had sent, and withal signifying his extraordinary Grief and Sorrow for the great loss which had fall'n upon the afore-mention'd Aids in that War; but that he hoped in a short time to retaliate upon the Enemy the Wrongs they had done to him and his Kingdom. And that his Embassy might be the more grateful, he likewise sent sveral rich Presents, and promis'd him his Assistance, where and whensoever he should have occasion to make use of it. But this friendly Message look'd not only for verbal Returns; for it was design'd as a Motive to procure more Succors from him : which without doubt he had reason to endeavor, in regard the People of this Island of Corea, which lies very near to Japan, have out of the Neighborhood far greater Strength than the Chineses.
                And now craving leave for a little digression, which may not be impertinent, in regard there has been often mention made of this Island of Corea and the Inhabitants thereof, I shall describe the same in short, and all that is worth observation in the same.

                [page 262] It is unto this day doubted by those of Europe, whether Corea be an Island or firm Land; but according to the opinion of the best Writers, it is a hanging Island, surrounded with Water on all parts, except the uttermost part, which is joy’d to the firm Land; for though Trials have been made to Sail round about, yet it could never be done, as some People seem to affirm to us from their own experience, though some there are that affirm the contrary. But this Error proceeds from a mistake of a certain great Island call'd Fungina, situate to the Southward of it, to be Corea. However it be, this truth is most certain, that all the Chinese Writers affirm Corea to be firm Land, and joyning to the Kingdom of Ninche in Tartary. Another mistake may arise from the variety of of the Name given to it; for the Chinese call it, Chaosien, therein following the Japanners, though by us of Europe it is call'd Corea.
Toward the North it borders upon the Kingdom of Ninche, on the North-West it has for Confine, the River Yalo; the rest is surrounded and wash'd with the Sea.
The whole Island is divided into eight Provinces or Counties : The middlemost, and accounted the first, bears the Name of Kinki, wherein is situate the Chief City of Pingiang, the Court of the Kings. The second, toward the East, is called Kiangyven, but heretofore Gueipe. The third, situate toward the West, is now known by the name of Hoangchui, but was formerly call'd Chao-sien, the name at this day proper to the whole Island. The fourth, situate toward the South, now call’d Civenlo, was formerly nam'd Pienhari. The fifth, also Southerly, but inclining to the East, is call'd Kingxan. The sixth, toward the South-West, is Changing. The seventh, toward the North-East, has the Name of Pingan.
                   In these Counties are several populous and rich Cities, which for fashion and strength differ very little from those in China, and built for the moft part four-square.
The Country is very well Peopled, throughout the whole having but one form of Government; not at all differing in Habit, and using one and the same Form both of speech and writing. Their Religion is the same with those of China, holding the transmigration of the Soul out of one Body into another. They all adore one Idol call'd Fe, whereof I have already made mention.
                The Bodies of their dead Friends they bury not till three years be fully elapsed, and then they put them into very fine Coffins, after the manner of the Chineses, glu'd up so very close that no scent can strike through.
                They give a greater liberty to their Women than the Chineses; for they admit of them into any Company, whereas the other will hardly suffer them to stir abroad. Here also the Son or Daughter may Marry whom they think fit, without asking the consent of Father or Mother : which is quite contrary to the use of the Chineses, and indeed all other civiliz'd People.
                This island is very fruitful in the product of all manner of Fruits necessary for the sustenance of Life, especially of Wheat and Rice, whereof there are twice a year plentiful Harvests. Here alo are made several sorts of Paper, and curious Pencils of Wolves Hair, which the Chineses and other neighboring People as well as themselves use in Writing. Here grows likewise the Root Guiseng, and (as is reported) are several Gold-Mines. But notwithstanding all these Advantages of natural Commodities wherewith this Place abounds, yet the Inhabitants thereof drive no Trade with any other forein People, but only those of China and Japan.