Voyage en Corée 3. (Voyage in Corea Section 3)

by

Charles Varat

 

Explorer charged with an ethnographic mission by the minister of Public Instruction

1888-1889 — previously unpublished text and pictures

 

Le Tour du Monde, LXIII, 1892 Premier Semestre. Paris : Librairie Hachette et Cie.

Pages 289-368


 


Section Three:  [Click here for the other sections in English: Section One; Section Two; Section Four, Section V.]


 Onwards! - A local Mandarin. - Lunch. - A fight. – Walking by night. – Musical experiences. - Mountains, rice-fields. – Various customs, tigers, almost blown up. - Plains and agricultural work. - Trees and caves, fetishes, etc.. - King-ki to. - In the saddle. - Lakes, gardens and salons of Korea. - A battle. - Status of Women. - Climbing by night. - Precipices and torrents. - Tombs, sorcery and sorcerers. - Tchyoung-tchyeng-to.

Daybreak, wake, wash up, tea and off we go! I leave the inn without regret, it being similar to all those that I will find, more or less dirty, along my route, and we head for Ko-kai. During an expedition nothing is nicer than starting at daybreak, the charming smile of nature when a fine day is starting. The caravan, still half asleep, slowly wakes and each one breathes more deeply as he inhales the exquisite scents emerging from all the flowers in the gay radiance of their colors, heightened by a heavy dew. The cool morning air gently invades you, you feel rejuvenated and become stronger as the sun rises above the horizon. Our horses, comforted by a breakfast identical to their last night's dinner, walk briskly, even the poor half-blind pony has become more lively. Horses here trot rarely and never gallop, being always accompanied by men on foot. Our caravan is very picturesque with its horsemen in the costumes of Korean scholars and soldiers, as well as Chinese and French dress, the grooms dressed in white and the horses carrying odd loads in a strange meander through the empty fields, stripped of their rich harvest.
        To avoid official visits, we follow the middle of a wide valley, and leave far away to right and left a series of villages at the foot of the hills which graciously limit our horizon with their multiple peaks. Then as we are approaching Poang-toko-mori, we meet the district chief and his numerous retinue as they are making an administrative tour. Our two groups meet, stop, I descend from my horse, and the local Mandarin emerges from his closed palanquin. He is a majestic old man, whose grave appearance is singularly softened by the whiteness of his beard, that falls in a point onto his chest. After the usual greetings, we enter unceremoniously into a nearby house. In the best room, the servants of the governor spread magnificent mats on which we sit in the fashion of the country, and are served tea, cakes and long pipes which we enjoy to the full. Through my interpreter, I overwhelm the Mandarin with politeness, telling him how much I admire the brilliant results obtained by his paternal administration. He in turn expresses his deep regret that I do not want to stay long in his district, etc. The collation over, we rise, I ceremoniously accompany the venerable old man to his palanquin, he wishes me a safe journey and our involuntary hosts thank us for the honor that we have done them. Here hospitality is the first duty and it is always open and even generous, despite a number of lazy people who sometimes abuse it to live at the expense of others. In addition, when it is needed Koreans give each other the most complete relief; they help each other by lending their arms and their tools in times of agricultural need, make donations to the victims of fire or flood, and finally make contributions of all kinds to families celebrating weddings, parties, funerals, etc.. It follows from all this that there is a great sense of solidarity among all Koreans, who seem to form a single family.
        The day is truly beautiful, the white clouds scattered across the sky in the morning have disappeared, and, thanks to the pleasant coolness of the temperature, it is almost without fatigue that we happily cross valleys and hillsides full of crops bathed in a delightful white light. We pass Sa-kou-yang and under the willows at Sa-tan-ko-tang we have lunch; it is just the right time, because hot soup is served to our horses as well as to the bulls and cows of the inn, which are fed in the same way. My inspection over, I decide to take my lunch, given the weather, on the veranda in front of my room. All the children and most of the village men invade the yard to be present at my meal; as for the women, they peep at me curiously through the cracks or over the walls. I am given some boiled eggs, and since I have no egg-cup, a slight tap keeps one standing on the table. General amazement, that increases when, after removing the upper part of the shell, I dip in fingers of bread. This exercise is amazing for Koreans, who eat rice with everything. My fork does not surprise them any less: they find it infinitely superior both in convenience and cleanliness, to the chopsticks they use in Chinese and Japanese fashion. Moreover, my bottles, my plates, my corkscrew, etc., all are for them a matter of curiosity.
        The way I open my cans of food surprises them too, but nothing beats their dismay when they hear and see the removal of the cork of the bottle of beer which accompanies my meal. All in all more respectful than mocking, they keep their distance, and so every day I lunch in the company of a small crowd, all very pleasant. When I distribute some fruit or scraps of my meals to the children, you should see their joy, that of their parents, and the smiles that women direct at me as they cross the courtyard in the course of their duties. When I want to make people really happy, I seize one of the little children, put him astride my knee and give him a fantastic gallop, which begins with screams but ends with loud bursts of laughter. Lunch finished, I profit from the rest the horses need to retire into my room and make some notes. Today I realize what a valuable resource my canned foods are when I cannot find any meat or fruit to buy. In that case I open one of my tins of corned beef or pâté de foie gras, which travel well; these latter are reserved for days of fatigue, sometimes I even add a bottle of champagne. Then I feel very comforted by the sweet smell of truffles and fine wine, that remind me of my far-away country; unfortunately I have to finish the whole can on the same day, meaning that the same dish reappears at every meal.
        As I am writing these lines, I see one of the grooms come in, his clothes in disarray, headband torn, hair disheveled, complaining of being hit by one of his comrades. I am indignant at such treatment, when his opponent appears, in a hundred times more lamentable a state. We cannot see his eyes, his eyelids are so swollen, his nose too is swollen, his mouth bleeding. The two men accuse each other; I lecture both. "Whatever the cause of the fight, I told them through my interpreter, you broke your agreement. You promised me that you would live as brothers and not as brutes. I ought to dismiss you, but since this is the first time such a thing has happened, I am willing to forgive you if you make up immediately before everyone." They hesitate, but seeing that I am definitely angry, they end up by embracing one another vaguely. Two hours later they are laughing together on the road and in such an affectionate way that I send them each a cigar to comfort them for their bruises. I found there, as in many other circumstances, evidence of the violence but also the mobility of the Korean character.
        All this took a long time, but very fortunately for us there is a sort of road in the plain which we are crossing, and the fine weather will allow us to walk by night, because the day is well advanced. Already the sun is beginning to set, gilding the wide valley with its light that shimmers in the distance on a large sheet of water formed by a bend in the river. In the evening silence, deafening screams ring out and a flock of black magpies, their stomachs and wing-tips a dazzling white, rise to my right, while further away on my left a huge kite hovers in the azure sky, seeking its prey. Meanwhile, night falls, moonless but strewn with millions of stars; the black of the fields surrounds us, and the road, dazzling white, stands out like a silver furrow. My horse's feet sink gently into sand as soft as cotton wool, so that we seem to be walking on clouds. A voice rises and sings a plaintive, gentle chorus that the men of my escort repeat in chorus. This song fits so well with everything around us that I think I am having a delightful dream that I do not want to see the end of. Infinitely superior to anything I have heard in China or Japan, the music made by my people has a rhythm which penetrates me and fills me like the songs of our old rustic France. Delighted with this night-time journey and the excellent nocturnal concert by my men, I give them all cigars on arriving at the inn. They might after all have stopped at the last inn on the grounds that, this road being exceptionally well maintained, we could not commandeer the torches without which a Korean never travels at night.
        We leave Chou-yan-chang the next morning; an hour after our departure, I want to know in my turn the impression that our music produces on my companions. I therefore start to sing some tunes from the comic opera: they seem charmed, then come our great operas, which achieve the same success I finally sing the Marseillaise, and enjoy the most unexpected spectacle. My men, as if galvanized, without understanding a word of what I am singing, straighten up suddenly, throw their heads back and begin to march in military style. Better yet, our horses, following their example, adopt a kind of martial bearing. This is absolutely true, and what I obtained so easily from Koreans, I tried twenty times without any success on Japanese or Chinese peasants. I will have to study from an ethnic point of view this observation and many others that I can only briefly mention here, in the course of this rapid journey. We now leave the plain to enter the mountains, the valleys grow narrower at the same time as the hills increase and rise higher. Soon we start climbing a difficult hill, Sam-Sam (Mountain of Three Peaks). The path we are following is so narrow that the slightest missed step would hurl man and horse into the abyss. Finally, after an hour of painful climbing, we start to descend, dominating the horizon. A vast belt of bare peaks surrounds us; a long serrated ridge forms diametrically a wall of somber greenery amidst the cultivated fields. My Chinese cook, who is admiring this splendid landscape, strangely lit by the sun mingled with the shadows cast by several clouds, falls asleep on his horse as if hypnotized. Twice he nearly falls to the ground, much to the delight of the whole caravan, that laughs loudly at his dismay when the third time he wakes up lying on the road.
        We cross a succession of hills and narrow valleys full of crops, where we enjoy the decorative effect of the Koreans’ white clothing, glittering as bright spots in the landscape. It reminds me, in another tone, of the famous red scarf in the paintings of Corot. Here all the peasants wrap their heads in white kerchiefs that serve only this purpose, since they wipe the nose with the fingers. For another little necessity, the men raise to the required height the bottom of their wide trousers, which are without the usual opening, since buttons are unknown in Korea. A strange custom is the way they built in Korea. First the four beams which are to form the corners of the house are set up; then the roof is taken care of immediately after, followed by the vaults for heating and the floors, and finally, completely opposite to what is done in our regions, they end with the walls. We should note another peculiar custom of the country, by which people remove their clothes, go into conical huts covered with straw, and so thrash their grain sheltered from dust, sun and rain.
        In the rugged valley, we are constantly surrounded by a circle of hills, from which it seems we will never emerge as a result of their constant renewal in the most diverse aspects. All this is exquisitely picturesque and rivals the most beautiful sites in Switzerland.
        The gorges grow ever narrower, and now only the slopes of the hills are cultivated. Above and below us extend many rice fields; they cut the mountain horizontally, each follows another, they are like the steps of a giants’ staircase where the steps are replaced by immense expanses of dark green water. The water flows from one to the other by small channels, admirably designed, for nowhere in the world is the irrigation of paddy fields better understood than in Korea. This amazing human labor leaves nothing to be desired here, not a scrap of land is wasted. I think this kind of agriculture applied to some of the unproductive hills of France, especially in the Auvergne, would certainly increase the natural wealth of our country.
        Bulges in the ground, indicating underground water channels, cut across the half-formed road, where our horses climb up and down, repeatedly frightened by the sudden rising of hydraulic mechanisms made of wood used, when needed, to retain or to drain away the water. The sneaky little pony I mentioned before occasionally takes advantage of the opportunity to unseat the Korean soldier who is riding it and who persists, despite my advice, in trying to train it.
        We continue our upward route, crossing the Mo-ko-kay; soon the cultivated fields cease and masses of rock rise around us. A wild torrent flows among huge rocks that have been detached from the mountainside. It is covered at its base by an inextricable tangle of shrubs, the dark den of wild beasts. I note even on the damp earth some still fresh tracks of a huge tiger. The caravan moves faster, arrives at Pi-ho-ri, from there passes over the Kop-tol-koikai, mountain ranges where there are mines of marble, and reaches Kop-tong-ko-kol-mak before nightfall.
        As we are quite high in the mountains, and the cold making itself felt, we light the fire in the underground conduit under my room. I return after installing my men and my horses, and feel a deep sense of warmth through my thick shoes; immediately I check to make sure the floor has not caught fire. I notice that while they were packing all my luggage into the room, as well as the cash and their weapons, my soldiers had left on the floor their packets of cartridges. So that if I had not taken the necessary precautions, thanks to the overheated floor, my Korean journey would probably have ended that night in a terrible explosion.
        The next morning, I try to see how far the military simplicity of the two brave warriors charged with guarding me goes. Having their guns in my room, I examine them. They are snuffbox-style, of European make, and fairly well maintained, except for the minor detail that the gun barrels are blocked. I point this out to my two soldiers, they start to laugh, and simulating loading and firing their weapon, they complete their pantomime with a bang! with a significant gesture to tell me that the explosion will naturally unblock them. I begin in turn the same exercise and end with a bang! no less expressive than their own, indicating how likely it is that the discharge will greatly injure them. I do not need to repeat the demonstration; the guns are restored to a fit condition, and I get on my horse singing loudly the song ‘Valiant warriors!’
        Leaving behind the gorges that we traveled through the day before, we follow the broad valley of Bi-ji-ma-thon.
        In the plain, surrounded by hills, which we cross, a large number of farmers are engaged in farming, following the customs of the country. Thus two Koreans, one on each side of the small creek that we are following, use a simple device to bring water to a higher level. It consists of a sort of wooden bowl held between two ropes which are used to raise it in the air filled with water, which is then poured into a channel built above the riverbed. There, a wooden scoop, suspended by means of a rope attached to a tripod consisting of three rough poles joined at their upper ends, serves the same purpose. All this hydraulic system continues to repeat itself, until finally it brings water to the required height. Further on, an odd group of three men attracts my eyes, and nothing can equal my astonishment at seeing the strange way in which they are plowing. One of them is armed with a wooden shovel, into the end of which an iron plate is inserted. Our man digs this instrument into the soil with all his might; barely has he done so than his two companions pull on two ropes fixed to the bottom of the spade so that it dragged out the earth again, together with the earth with which it is loaded. This process is only used by small farmers: those who are rich use plows and bulls. We then move on to a boy of twelve years who is sowing while his father follows behind him, covering the seeds with a kind of wooden rake without teeth. Finally here is a group of Koreans taking their meal sitting in the field. They eat with wooden spoons or metal chopsticks similar to those of the Chinese and Japanese. Their menu is very frugal, but sometimes they complete it with an instrumental concert so deafening that, having once heard it, I shall never forget it, although that does not prevent me preferring a hundred times the pastoral symphony of Haydn to any of this musica rusticana.
        Now we leave behind on our right a small village of thatched huts. In the center stands a noble house. Its elegant roof, slightly curved and adorned with artistic tiles, dominates the village and makes a strange contrast with the misery that surrounds it. A hundred yards away, we find a tree on whose branches are hung many strips of colored cloth and paper with and without writing; a few steps away, under a shelter of branches about 2 meters wide and 1 high, is a crude idol. It is most often half buried in the offerings, mainly stones, deposited by passers-by. Such are the spirit trees and caves of Korea. Beside the busiest there is usually a shelter for travelers; their offerings consist sometimes, in addition to the stones, paper, or rags I have already mentioned, of small horses of badly cast iron, sure omens of a happy journey. I found in many places in the valleys and almost always at the exit of villages, remains of this same fetish worship, a survival of the earliest religious manifestations of primitive peoples. After crossing the Mori-san, the passes become increasingly narrow as the hills rise almost perpendicularly and no longer allow any agriculture. Numerous torrents meet at our feet, at the foot of a frightful precipice, and the path we are on is so narrow that, for fear of accidents, we give our horses over to their natural instinct. At the approach to the most dangerous places there are small rustic chapels, thatched and open on three sides. The fourth is a wall on which are fixed coarse paper images representing a huge tiger, fabulous deities or the spirits of the mountain. A container filled with ashes is placed on the altar. There the terrified travelers burn incense to propitiate the rustic gods of these terrible places. We note that the fetish worship we observed in the valleys is replaced here by the beginnings of a superior cult addressed to the spirits that govern nature.
From the crest of the Tol-mok-ton, we enjoy a wonderful view of the two magnificent valleys that lie below. After crossing the Cha-mian-tsan, we finally arrive at the inn in Kourn-mak, located on the border of the province of Kyeng-keu-to, that we are leaving. We should explain here that this province occupies central west-north Korea, and is bounded on the north by Hoang-hai-to, on the east by Kang-Ouen-to, on the west by the Yellow Sea and on the south by Tchyoung-tchyeng-to. The country is very mountainous, particularly in the north, where rises Poultok-san; it is watered from south to north-west by the Han-kang, which has many tributaries and sub-tributaries. There are, as all over Korea, a great variety of mines, but they have long since been abandoned as a result of the old laws which we have mentioned. The vegetation is the same as in the center of Europe, plus some products from China and Japan. The main crop is soy beans, which are exported abroad for over 2 million francs per annum, half of the total exports. The potato, introduced by the Fathers, is hardly cultivated. As for the domestic fauna, it is identical to ours, except for sheep and goats, which are very few in number, they being reserved only for the King’s sacrifices to Heaven, Confucius and his ancestors; hunting supplies all the products we find in France, it is the same for the fisherman. Unfortunately the country is infested with tigers, leopards, panthers, etc.. Finally, everywhere can be found the remains of ancient monuments attesting the political importance that this region has always had.
        The Kyeng-keui-to (or province of the Court) and that of Kiang-youen form the ancient homeland of WeiMê and contains the capital of the kingdom, which is the residence of Tchio-sian. It is located in the middle of the other seven provinces, which is why it is called "defended on four sides." It was divided into twenty-eight jurisdictions:

Four pok (mou) or large prefectures;

Nine fou or prefectorial cities;

Eight principalities, kon (kiun);

Five jurisdictions named rei (lung);

Twelve keu (kian) or inspectorates of mines and salt;

Six tek (y) or main post offices;

Two vice-admiralties;

An admiralty;

A general police commissioner;

Two man-ko (hou van) or leaders of 10,000 men.

According to figures recently released by the Japanese, the total population of the province is estimated at 980,000 people, but I think it is almost double. The inhabitants of the country, having the highest interest in not figuring in the lists, often buy the silence of the censors to avoid taxes and the military service that is compulsory for all in wartime.
We have arrived at a tributary of the Han-kang, the Than-hol, that we cross by boat, safely this time, thanks to the precautions that are taken.

As the weather is wonderful and it is very hot, I resolve to change the way my horse is saddled since a false saddle, very thick, made of straw covered with cloth, placed below my English saddle, has made it virtually impossible for me to control my horse with my legs. So I get off the horse and order the groom to remove the Korean saddle. This produces much complaining on his part. I call my interpreter for some explanation: all that is replied is absolutely pathetic and I therefore demand that my orders be executed. As soon as I am back on my pony, I remark to my men that its gait is lighter and he seems very happy with the change; all nod and tell me that this is a very bad system. "Give me a good reason," I repeat, and they finally tell me that because of the cool nights, my horse will catch a cold, without the warm, wide saddle that usually protects it in the evening. "This time, I say we can all be right; when it is nice and warm we will use only the English saddle, and when cold weather comes we will add the other one since blankets, like woolen clothes, are unknown in Korea." Everyone agrees and this is done for the rest of the journey.
        The landscape is more and more romantic. We see far away, in a charming site full of greenery and freshness, a beautiful pond sparkling gaily in the golden rays of the sun. Here and there, as in Switzerland, are many lakes. The Korean loves them so that not only will he often travel far to seek their calm and coolness, but he will also reproduce them in drawings and paintings; better still, he creates artificial ones to decorate his gardens, because, for him, water is to the landscape what the eye is to the face.
        For the Japanese, the art of gardens lies in a grotesque reduction of rural beauty; he makes every effort to ensure that a tree a hundred years old does not exceed one meter in height, places near it a basin to represent a lake and surrounds it all with some weirdly shaped stones. The whole forms a kind of Lilliputian park, which produces in the European a real sense of sadness when he thinks of so much labor, skill and years wasted to atrophy nature. The Korean, on the contrary, fond of landscapes, always chooses admirably well the location his garden is to occupy. In the center, a pond surrounded in the distance by gently rolling hills, whose lush vegetation is gently reflected in the water, which always plays the leading role here; it is sometimes covered with lotuses, whose wonderful foliage and dazzling flowers are a feast for the eyes. Although in general the shape and size of the lake are made to harmonize with the landscape that surrounds it; it is usually circular and its waters fade away into a fine edging of sand, although sometimes it is surrounded by granite parapets. In both cases there is a round island in the center covered with grass where a solitary tree, an evergreen, spreads its branches and produces by its very isolation a charming effect. It is sometimes centuries old, and symbolizes old age, that the Koreans love and respect above all things. The pond is always populated with fish, mostly carp, which the owner reserves the exclusive right to fish. It is a pleasure for him that is full of dignity; so he often comes to sit on the grass in the shade of chestnut trees or Korean pines, that are very decorative, reminiscent of those of California.
        There, well sheltered, he likes to read his favorite authors, that he leaves from time to time to enjoy the delicious landscape surrounding him, or to follow with his eyes, between aquatic plants that the wind gently rocks, a big fish rising into the sunlight to catch some winged insect; then his fisherman’s desires awake, he casts his fishing line and, separated from the world by his passion, be his pond large or small, be it day or night, he forgets everything.
        Another feature of the gardens are artificial rocks, 3 to 5 feet high, planted here and there on the ground or resting on flat slabs of polished stones. Others are beside the lake, and by the skilled work of human hands seem to have been curiously carved by the rise and fall of the surrounding water.
In the countryside that surrounds us at this time, we find, although with more majesty, all the charm that characterizes Korean gardens.
Here we are at Ouen-tong. In the house in front of the inn, the doors of the outer reception room overlooking the street are wide open; below the doorway a large number of shoes are lying with the toes toward the wall, and we see some Koreans sitting inside on mats, eating, smoking and chatting animatedly. This is how public meetings are held in summer in Korea. Women are absolutely excluded, even in winter, when all the doors are closed. In that season, when the cold is excessive, four braziers are lit in the corners of the room.
In Korea, the women, moreover, enjoy the same distractions as in other countries. They visit one another in their private apartments. As for men, they also love to gather in each other’s rooms. Apart from politics, a dangerous subject that is best avoided, the greatest freedom reigns in the conversation. Sometimes literature is discussed, poetic composition, but most often they merely peddle the gossip of the day or good new anecdotes, the Korean being very fond of wit, and his curiosity is never more than incompletely satisfied.
After lunch, we are about to set off, and as I inspect my caravan, I note with satisfaction that the poor blind horse, which I have worried about since the departure of the caravan, has become most cheerful of all its companions, with the good food it receives each day. I therefore overload the fellow, to the general relief of the weaker ponies, and to the greater satisfaction of my Koreans, who had seen in my first act an excess of sensitivity. Very rigid for the first few days, I now have no comments to make, and my escort consider me the best of masters, as I am soon given proof.
        However, at Sai-soul-mak during the siesta, I hear terrible screams. I rush out of my room and I see my men fighting with the villagers. One of them has even been felled by one of the grooms; given the seriousness of the incident, without hesitation, I grab my servant by the wrist, twist him around me and abruptly let go; the momentum causes him to fall pitifully on a stack of rice straw. Without paying any more attention to him, I reach out my hand to his opponent and help him up. The general combat ends immediately. I whistle to bring them together, my interpreter runs up, and all my escort surrounds me, surrounded by the threatening villagers. I ask who struck the first blow. The landlady steps forward and, something I have never seen either in China or Japan, this woman, with all the authority of one of our rural women, accuses the groom I had grabbed of being the cause of all the disorder. I turn to him and see in his eyes that he is guilty. So I order him to take his horse and leave immediately. He says he has two. Who cares? We will overload the others and I will walk. He has seen me a hundred times in the steepest climbs get off my pony to avoid tiring it excessively. So, being sure of my resolution and fearing to return alone, he asks forgiveness, assures me that it is not his fault, that he was insulted, etc.. I reply that there is no excuse for his conduct, he should have immediately applied to me for justice, and not have used violence on the inhabitants of a village where we have found hospitality.
        These few words once translated immediately soothe the hostility of the local folk. They say I am a just man, and give up the improvised weapons they were threatening us with. The groom recognizes his failings, swears it will not happen again, and I forgive him. Everything is finished, I immediately order the departure, at which the whole village is present, and the brave hostess thanks me for having restored order. En route, I ask my interpreter how it is that a Korean woman, when women all generally disappear when we arrive, was able to give such proof of her authority in such grave circumstances. He replies that since it happened in the absence of her husband and on their property, it was not only her right but her duty to do so. Indeed, even in the higher classes, the woman here has unalienable prerogatives. Witness the following story, which our missionary Fathers have fortunately translated from a Korean book of practical morality for young people of both sexes:

"Towards the end of the last century, a noble from the capital, quite senior in rank, lost his wife, with whom he had several children. His advanced age made a second marriage quite difficult; however, after extensive searches, the intermediaries used in such cases arranged his union with the daughter of a poor nobleman of Kieng-sang province. On the appointed day, he went to the house of his future father-in-law, and the couple were brought onto the stage to make the usual greetings. Our dignitary, on seeing his new wife, was taken aback. She was very small, ugly, hunchbacked, and also seemed as lacking in gifts of the mind as in those of the body. But there was no backing out so he made up his mind not to bring her into his house and to have nothing to do with her. The two or three days that he spent in the house of the father having passed, he returned to the capital and gave no further news.
    "The abandoned wife, who was a person of great intelligence, resigned herself to her isolation and continued to live in her father's house, inquiring from time to time about what was happening to her husband. She learned after two or three years that he had become minister of the second order, that he had married his two sons honorably, and then, a few years later, that he was preparing to celebrate with the usual pomp his sixtieth birthday. Then, without hesitation, despite the opposition and protests of her parents, she sets out for the capital, has herself brought to the minister's house and announced as his wife. She descends from her palanquin in the vestibule, presents herself with an assured air, quietly looks around at the women of the family gathered for the feast, sits down in the place of honor, calls for a light, and with the greatest calm lights her pipe before the amazed assembly.
    "The news is immediately brought to the men's apartment, but propriety demands that nobody should seem to be excited. Soon the lady summons the slaves on duty and sternly asks: "What kind of house is this? she remarks. I am your mistress, and no one has come to welcome me. Where were you raised? I should punish you severely, but I will spare you this time. Where is the mistress’s apartment? "
    "She is hurriedly escorted thither, and there, amidst all the ladies, she asks:
    "Where are my stepdaughters? How is it that they do not come to greet me? They have probably forgotten that through my marriage I have become the mother of their husbands and that I am entitled to receive from them all the respects due to their own mother. "
    "At once the two daughters appear, looking ashamed, and apologize as best they can for the disorder into which a visit so unexpected has thrown them. She gently rebukes them, exhorts them to be more assiduous in the performance of their duties, and gives various orders as mistress of the house. A few hours later, seeing that none of the masters has appeared, she calls a slave and says:
    "My two sons are certainly not out on a day like this; see if they are in the men's quarters and bid them come."
    "They arrive, very embarrassed, and stammer some excuses.
    "Why, she told them, you learned of my arrival several hours ago and you have not yet come to greet me! With such a poor education, such ignorance of the principles, what will you do in the world? I have forgiven the slaves and my daughters-in-law their lack of politeness, but when it comes to you men I cannot leave your fault unpunished. "
    "At the same time she calls a slave and orders them to be given a few strokes of the lash on the legs. Then she adds:
    "As for your father, the minister, I am his servant, and I have no orders to give him, but you now, make sure you never forget the proprieties."
    "Finally, the Minister himself, amazed at what is happening, felt obliged to come to greet his wife. Three days later, the celebrations having ended, he returned to the palace. The king asked him familiarly if everything had gone as happily as possible, and the Minister told in detail the story of his marriage, the unexpected arrival of his wife and how she had behaved. The king, who was a sensible man, replied:
    "You have acted badly towards your wife. She seems to be a woman of great intelligence and extraordinary tact, her conduct is admirable, and I cannot praise her enough, I hope you will repair the harm that you did her. "
    "The minister promised and a few days later, the prince solemnly conferred on the lady one of the highest honors of the court."

This anecdote, combined with the real authority shown by our hostess, shows that in many nations women would envy the social position enjoyed by Korea's womenfolk. Without going into the many features that characterize this social state here, that we will develop in our volume, talking about the life, manners and customs of the Korean people, we should add, however, that if polygamy exists in Korea, second marriages are very rare and almost always occur in the hope of receiving from Heaven the son necessary to carry out the funeral rites. The first wife then becomes the legal mother of the child of the second. Often she wishes that as much as her husband, not only for love of him, but also to ensure the perpetuity of the family and rest for both of them in the other world.
        After passing the Pal-tchil-yang, at the foot of the first hills of the central mountain range, we arrive in the dark at a hamlet. Here, given the lack of shelter for the horses, that are very sensitive to cold during the night, we commandeer torches as we often do in such circumstances. But this time nobody responds to our repeated calls, which is contrary to the uses of the country, because the provision of lights is mandatory in difficult passages.
        My men, soon tired of waiting in the dark, break down doors, drag people from their sleep, whether true or feigned, and force them to go and find the trunks of young pine trees about two meters long prepared for night-time journeys. The tree-torches are finally lit, they shine on us with an eerie glow and a thousand red sparks roll across the thatched roofs that the heavy night dew saves from catching fire. Half suffocated by the bitter smell of smoke, I express my surprise at all these unusual delays, and I am told that the gorges we are about to enter are extremely dangerous to cross at so late an hour. I therefore immediately take the head of the caravan, preceded by the man who should show me the way. He advances, rapidly turning with his wrist a young tree trunk, one end of which has been crushed to increase the flame. And neither the hiss that the torch makes as it whirls, nor the sparks that pass abruptly before the eyes of my horse, nor the fiery fragments that sometimes land crackling on it, cause the animal any emotion. It peacefully follows our guide. Soon, seeming to hang on the side of the mountain, from a few hundred meters up we overlook a stream whose foam in the abyss seems like a silver-hued lava glowing red with a thousand drifting sparks, and the roar of the gulf mingles with the cries of the grooms and the noise of the horses hitting with their iron shoes the rocky ground on which they slide, neighing. A strange scene, illuminated by the weird gleam of the red flames of the torches, bobbing as they turn in huge blazing, crackling circles. As we move slowly through the rocks of this shapeless black hell, above us, between the dark ridges that surround us, extends a band of sky dotted with stars. This is certainly one of the most moving spectacles I have ever seen in my life, one that is renewed almost every night during the journey. Suddenly loud cries from my people ring out; thus the next village is warned in advance that it has to prepare torches. We arrive: silence, except for the dogs that howl desperately. We stop, and without this time having to take care of anything, our living torches in turn knock on doors, force their way in, and entering the houses torches in hand they wake up and drag out their fellow-citizens, to whom they give their torches with the charge to lead us in turn.
        One night, before finding shelter for our horses, we disturb in this way four villages, that provide in succession up to a hundred torch-bearers. The men soon agree, but the women, who are abruptly left alone, seem desperate at our passage. Indeed, in some places their husbands run real dangers, passing by night along precipices and between rocks with the strangest forms, where you risk a hundred times breaking bones. Then, after long hours of walking like this, it being absolutely impossible to stay on horseback, we are happy, arriving at our lodgings, to stretch out weakly on the floor, the head resting on the small block of wood used as a pillow.
        The next day the climbing begins again, for if we descend into ever narrower valleys, we then have to climb much further up. The gay shimmering of a heavy dew in the morning gives the alpine greenery around us a kind of spring freshness, despite, here and there, a few leaves yellowed by the first frosts. The sky itself, as we advance toward the southeast, changes in appearance. It grows bluer every day and no longer has that white gleam that reminded me in Seoul of the ultra-transparent atmosphere in the polar regions, where one feels as if one is living in light itself. Here we fly along as if in the open sky, dominating a thousand rolling ridges covered with dark green vegetation, which forms a kind of wild sea, formidable by the height of its huge waves, admirable in its superb billowing, filled with contrasting shadows and light.
        I am absorbed by the poetry of the alpine landscape, when near a small chapel filled with offerings, the caravan stops abruptly as the path passes an outcrop. Impossible for our first rider to pass along the narrow path that is offered to him without being hurled with his pony into the abyss that we dominate from a dizzying height. I therefore order everyone to dismount in order to lead our horses back with less danger. But the moment the leading horse is free it rushes forward and boldly crosses this terrible passage, to everyone's amazement. There is no more hesitation; I immediately unsaddle our pack horses, because their packs, rubbing against the overhanging rocks would have hurled them into the abyss. The moment it is unloaded, without hesitation, each pony imitates the first, and once the narrow path is crossed, start to run about happily and graze among the rocks. Our men, carrying the baggage two by two, pass in turn to my great anxiety, because for them the slightest misstep is death. As I myself pass above the roaring abyss, I clearly understand the many offerings we noticed in the small chapel dedicated to the genie of the mountain. Soon we reorganize the caravan and resume our journey. The trail has now became possible again, we can quietly look into the abyss without fear of vertigo, and calmly watch the great river swirling at our feet, carrying along whole trees in its terrifying course, that crumble and soon disappear among rocks covered with foam. We walk more quickly, given the steep slopes, and soon perceive through the trees a large village with houses spaced at different heights this time, and half hidden in the greenery. The people have settled there to use the end of the falls for all kinds of industrial uses.
        The descent once completed, reluctantly leaving this village, one of the most picturesque I have seen in Korea, we follow a charming little valley with a very pretty stand of chestnut trees, well spaced out. The shadow of the mountain casts a dim light full of strange poetry, accompanied by the penetrating perfume of a vigorous vegetation and the cries of birds playing in the foliage. Soon the trees disappear and we enter a small valley where, as every day, we see at some distance from the road, on the hillsides, ancient tombs that have almost completely disappeared, only topped by a Buddha in stone half buried, giving the sinister impression of a petrified corpse pushing its shrunken head out of the ground. If the rest of the shrine no longer exists, time is the sole cause, for in Korea as in China, the tomb remains forever respected. The sky is questioned in order to fix its location, every year relatives will celebrate funeral rites at the specified times and finally, even after centuries, the farmer must turn aside his plow. Anyone who dared to rashly lay hands on it would be sentenced to death, the grave being in the Korean idea of the family the essential link between past and present, as the child is the bond that connects the present to the future. We give reproductions of some of these mortuary Buddhas that we piously brought back with us.
        Further on, the appearance of the tombs changes, because here as in Europe the cemetery has its modes; thus we sometimes encounter on our way a beautiful monolithic stele, 3 feet high by 1 wide, frequently made of marble with the base and crown sometimes curiously carved in the Chinese taste, and the epitaph of the dead person is engraved in letters of that language. The funeral monuments of great personalities are generally small reproductions of the magnificent tombs of the Mings of which I admired the beautiful layout around Beijing and Nanjing; only, instead of being spread over several hundred meters with, along the way, huge stone monoliths approximately 6 feet tall, depicting human figures or gigantic animals, here they are reduced in the same proportion to the huge difference between a simple Korean mandarin and the illustrious founder of the Ming Dynasty. Here is the general layout: a hemispherical mound of earth covered with grass houses the body of the dead; in front a large stone table serves to display the offerings; on both sides stand in two lines a series of stone figures representing two warriors, two lions or dogs of Korea and two columns on which the spirit of the dead can rest like a bird, and finally, just to the right of the stone table, but at some distance from it, stands a stele on which the epitaph is engraved; some graves are complemented by the addition of two statues of scholars and even two stone horses in case the soul of the deceased wants to make a few trips. These are the main observations I made on the funerary architecture in Korea. As for the uses and ceremonies relating to the erection of monuments, funeral offerings and sacrifices, bereavement, etc.., we will talk of them when we deal with the cult of the dead.
        The night is quite well advanced by the time we reach the inn where we are to lodge. Since no one answers our calls, in order not to remain homeless, we must, alas! force our way in. The central fire flames up immediately and in its light I see some half dressed women fleeing from the rooms of travelers, where they are forbidden to linger. Once my people are all installed, I have just started dinner when a horrible racket starts up. Certainly, Koreans are very loud; they love to talk loudly, laughing, singing, shouting, making music, often in the middle of the fields, where we heard the most outlandish concert of voices and instruments that can be imagined.
        Well, add to all these the appalling roars made by the porters of passing mandarins here, and you will have a faint idea of the terrible cacophony that kept us awake all night. And here is the reason: a house a few hundred meters from the inn is apparently haunted by an evil spirit who, having escaped from the tomb, is attracting an uninterrupted series of misfortunes on the family of which he has become the dangerous guest.
        So to remedy this, a number of sorcerers have been summoned, who are now operating. Here's how they work: first they erect inside the house a funeral altar covered with the most exquisite food, then they pray the spirit to kindly accept it, imploring him to cease tormenting people who are willing to do anything for him. If he hesitates, they seek to persuade him by spending the whole night singing, dancing and making an infernal racket with instruments of all kinds, uttering cries that can be heard more than one kilometer away. This ceremony often lasts several nights because our sorcerers, admirably looked after and fed during this time, usually do not put an end to their conjurations until they have exhausted the resources of the house, unless they are invited elsewhere on better conditions. Then they say they will use force against the irascible spirit, and the night before their departure they redouble the uproar, if this is possible. Witches and wizards, armed with a sword and a fork mounted on wood painted red and adorned with a tassel of the same color, with great uproar chase the evil spirit around the room where he has been forced to take refuge. They force him into a corner of the room, and, towards morning, oblige him to enter a bottle they have prepared, which is immediately sealed with great care then buried forever. The ceremony is definitively over. All that remains is to pay generously the noisy sorcerers and dismiss them until new troubles force people to use their help again. Apart from the ethnic interest, I conclude from all this that Lesage’s “The Lame Devil,” translated into Korean, would enjoy a great success. Ceremonies almost identical to those I have just described take place in many other cases, in particular to avert the spirit of smallpox. This disease, despite a nasal vaccine discovered by the Koreans, causes the most appalling devastation. Almost everyone carries the scars and thousands of people die each year. Also, when it occurs, to disarm it everyone hangs on the walls of his house curious paintings depicting the terrible spirit in the shape of a person on foot or on horseback, but always dressed, be it man or woman, in the robes of the highest dignitaries of the kingdom, hoping, by honoring him, to divert his anger.
        But these non-medical means are not always successful. Then wizards and witches are brought back, who start their happy life of fine dining, music and frenzied dancing, with amazing leaps and bounds. These so-called invocations last until finally death or much more rarely a cure put an end to this appalling sabbath.
        The following days we pass successively through Namtchang, Na-oul, Em-kol, safely cross the Mo-do-ri river and finally arrive at the foot of the last summit of the Song- na-san, which separates Kyeng-Syang-to from the province that we are leaving. All that remains are a few more words about this latter.
        Tchyoung-tchyeng-to is bounded on the north by Kyeng-keui-to and Kang-ouén-to, to the east by Kyeng-syan-to, to the west by the Yellow Sea and finally to the south by Tjyen-la-to. Among the many mountains that cover it, we should note the Paik-oun-san to the north, while Song-na-san marks with its peaks the eastern border. It is watered by the North Han-kang, on the south by the Keum-kang and its many tributaries.
        The natural products of this province are the same as those of Kyeng-keui-to, that we have already mentioned; people boast especially of its chestnuts, the size of a small pear, and its cocks with their fine plumage, the tail often being five feet long. Finally, as in Kyeng-keui-to, there are many ancient remains.
        Tchyoung-tchyeng-to and Kang-ouén-to once formed the land of Ma-han. The capital is called Kong-tyou; it is located south of the royal city, the province is divided into fifty-four jurisdictions, including:

Four fok (mou) or large prefectures;

One fou or county town;

Eleven koun (kun) or principalities;

One rei (ling) or special court;

Thirty-seven ken (kian) or inspections of mines and salt;

Six yek (y) or main post offices;

Six fo (phou) or strongholds;

Twenty large warships;

Twenty warships of medium size;

One commander in chief of the army;

Two kou-ke (yu-heou) or dukes.

     Such is a brief summary of the geographical, productive and administrative features of Tchoung-tchyeng province, whose population, according to Japanese records, is 460,000 inhabitants, a figure which, for reasons mentioned earlier, may be almost the double.