24 APRIL 1886, Page 19


Tax author of this interesting volume is an American citizen, who, having been attached as Foreign Secretary and Counsellor to a Special Mission from Korea to the United States, accom- panied the Mission on its return to Korea. In December, 1883, they arrived at Chemnlpo, on the Yellow Sea, the seaport of Soul, the Korean capital. Here Mr. Lowell was received as tho guest of the King by a Korean Colonel and other officials, with whose assistance he performed the journey of twenty-seven miles across a dreary country to Saul, a city with an estimated population of a quarter of a million. At Saul he remained for the winter. In the spring he returned to Chemulpo, and thence by steamer, calling at Enna', on the Eastern Coast of Korea, to Japan. He therefore saw little of the country except the capital, and his book is the natural outcome of his opportunities. Of each know- ledge of the country and people as could best be obtained in the capital, he gives his readers much ; while of rural Korea, and of the physical geography, geology, flora, and fauna of the country, he says little that is new.

The Koreans and Japanese of the present day appear to have a common origin, and to be in the main descended from Turanian or Mongol tribes, who, in very early times, poured into both countries from the regions of Central Asia, dis- possessing, and probably to some extent extirpating, the still more ancient races they found there. Mr. Lowell says of the Koreans and Japanese

So far as is yet known, neither of these peoples has the slightest affinity with the Chinese by blood. In the first place, as to language, Chinese in its fundamental conceptions is as far removed from Japanese or Korean as these are from English ; that ia, there is as yet no apparent connection whatever between the two. Not only are there no root-forms in common between Chinese and Japanese or Korean, but the structure, the position of words, is radically different in the two tongues. The same is true of aboriginal manners and customs so far as we can observe them. Such observation is not so easy as it might be, for a reason which brings us to the second factor in the shaping of Korean character,—the education of the race China was the schoolmaster at whose feet Korea the pupil sat."

Mr. Lowell remarks that the peculiar conservatism of Orientals is much stronger in the Chinese than in the Tartar races. Yet under Chinese tutelage, Korea appears to have gone even beyond China herself in the proscription of new ideas, of improvements in industrial processes, and especially of intercourse with foreigners. Intercourse even with the Chinese themselves, though Korea was tributary to China, and has had to call in Chinese armies to protect her against invaders, was rigidly guarded against. And this ancient traditional policy of isola- tion has only quite lately been relaxed. Certainly it was in full vigour during the earlier years of the present century. In 1816, the English frigate Alceste,' after taking out Lord Amherst as Ambassador to China, visited the coast of Korea. The ship anchored in Basil's Bay, in the Yellow Sea, and some of the officers went ashore. The chief official of the place, an old man of dignified appearance, saw them land in mournful silence, and then burst into a fit of tears and sobbing. On their endeavour- ing to ascertain the cause of his distress, he made them under- stand that, in consequence of their landing, he should be beheaded in four days ; that being the time requisite for the news of the larding of foreigners in his district to reach the capital, and for the order for his execution to come back.

So while the Japanese, a nation of the same race and starting from the same beginnings, but less heavily fettered (though far from being altogether unfettered) by Oriental conservatism, made substantial progress in civilisation and intelligence, and in some manufacturing processes came to surpass all other nations, the Koreans, comparatively speaking. stood still. Yet there is much to show that, under happier circumstances, they might even have rivalled the Japanese. As may be seen from several of the excellent photographic illustrations of Mr. Lowelrs book, Soul possesses

buildings of considerable architectural pretensions. With the possible exception, however, of the Palace of Summer, shown in the illustration facing page 270, they appear to be little more than reproductions from the Chinese. The Koreans of the present day are skilful in house decoration and as potters, and Korean paper, Mr. Lowell tells us, is famous in the Far East. Upon Korean hats he has a chapter of sixteen pages. The rank and station of Koreans is indicated by their hats, which are of immense diameter, and grotesque and varied shapes. The skill and delicacy with which split bamboo and silk or horsehair are fashioned and interwoven into these hats make them wonderful

• Chosan, the Land of the Morning Col n: a Sketch of Korea. By l'ecciral Lowell. London : TrUbner and Co.

examples of misapplied ingenuity. These, however, are mere exceptional manifestations of a skill and industry which has never been allowed liberty to develop itself fully.

We owe it to an accident that, notwithstanding the rigid isolation of Korea, there exist some trustworthy materials for comparing the Korea of to-day with the Korea of two centuries ago. In the year 1653, a Dutch ship bound for Nagasaki, in Japan, was wrecked on the Korean island of Quelpaert. Thirty- six of the crew, amongst whom was Hendrick Hamel, the super- cargo, were saved from the wreck, and were sent to Soul. They were detained in various parts of Korea for fourteen years. Though they were not wholly deprived of liberty, it was often impressed upon them that a foreigner once entering Korea could never hope to quit it. In 1667, however, Hamel and some other of the survivors succeeded in escaping in a boat to the Goto Islands, belonging to Japan, and from thence to the Dutch factory at Nagasaki. After returning.to Holland, Hamel wrote an account of his travels, of which an English version is to be

found in Pinkerton's Voyages and Travels. He writes in a way that calls to mind Defoe, and a very great deal of what he says of the Korea of his time has been found to be true of the Korea of to-day.

Mr. Lowell gives many details of every-day life in Korea, only a few of which we have space to glance at. Referring to Korean costume, he says :—

" The balk of the people dress, as I have said, in white, just per- ceptibly tinged with blue. It is, perhaps, unfortunate to have fixed upon so delicate a hue, as it would require more than humanity to preserve it. The faint blue of the Land of the Morning Calm soon fades, by oontact with the dirt of the world, into the gray of common day. The upper classes—that is, the officials—wear every other colour under the heavens except this. Reds, greens, blues, and com- binations of them, in the most daring and effective manner, adorn their persons. A brilliant scarlet will overlie an under-tunic of as brilliant a blue, and harmonised in places into a fine purple. Often the sleeves and the body of the dress are in the most vivid contrast. The only rule seems to be that anything may go with anything else. The Koreans are particularly a people who are fond of colour."

Of Korean hats we have already spoken. A Korean um- brella, which is made of oiled paper, has no handle, but is tied on with strings, fastening under the chin, and when not in use folds into very small compass, and is carried in the owner's sleeve. A prevalent eccentricity, especially amongst the official class, is the wearing, as a matter of dignity, of huge, round- eyed spectacles, set with ordinary glass instead of lenses, and consequently impeding vision, instead of aiding it. We were a little surprised to learn from Mr. Lowell that a passionate love of natural scenery is a marked feature in the Korean character. People will travel long distances to see a grove of trees, a moun- tain precipice, the moonlight falling on a pool of water. On the other hand, the condition of women in Korea is deplorable. Women of the upper classes especially are kept in a seclusion to the full ae rigorous as in any Mahommedan country. Much respect for individual liberty, indeed, whether of men or women, is scarcely to be expected under the rule of a despotic King and a corrupt bureaucracy. There are many tyrannical sumptuary laws affecting all classes. In a country where the working of coal-mines is even to this day prohibited, there is, of course, no gas. Mr. Lowell thus describes the regulations which enable the authorities of Soul to maintain order during the night- watches in their unlit city "At nightfall the massive wooden doors of the city gates, clad in their iron armour, are swung to ; and from that time till dawn no one—man, woman, or child —is allowed to pass the limit of his own threshold. The whole little world is forced to remain, each family separately, at home. The streets are deserted ; any one found upon them is at once taken to the police station and flogged. From the restrictions of this law but two classes are exempted,—blind men and officials ; and the latter made the law."

But in Korea, as elsewhere, the old order of things is beginning to pass away. By various treaties with Japan, the United States, England, France, and Germany, the three ports of Chemulpo, Fusan, and Gensan, in Broughton Bay, have within the last few years been thrown open to foreign trade. Ideas will be imported as well as merchandise, and, it may be hoped, will soon begin to bear fruits in moral and material progress.

Korea—or, as the Koreans themselves call it, Choson or Cho-sen—is somewhat larger than Great Britain, and has an estimated population of about twelve millions. It is a country of lofty mountain-ranges, enclosing broad and fertile valleys, abundantly watered by streams and rivers. The Koreans are industrious, if not skilful husbandmen, and raise large quantities of rice and other grain. They have also great herds of cattle and horses, but no sheep. Along the mountain-sides extend

vast forests, which harbour formidable beasts of prey. Tigers are numerous :-

" It is certainly surprising," Mr. Lowell says, " that the Bengal tiger, so called,—a beast that we habitually associate with the damp, hot jungle,—should be found in the dry and cold climate of Korea and Manchuria. Yet there he is ; and his appearance is just what it is in the jungle of India, only that he is a trifle smaller. And yet he frequents, from preference, not the warmer valleys, but the forests on the sides of the mountains. To suit his condition, his hair has lengthened and his fur is all the handsomer."

Leopards are so plentiful, that their skins form the ordinary insignia of official rank. Deer of various kinds, as well as wild bogs, abound. Alligators infest the larger rivers, and in the Southern provinces troops of monkeys often damage the husband- men's crops. Eagles and falcons hover in great numbers over Korea and the Korean Archipelago. Many of them have been shot during the past winter at the new naval station of Port Hamilton, which is some thirty miles away from the mainland. Korean roads are few and bad. As Mr. Lowell expresses it,

there is not a single wheel in Korea." All land transport is effected by means of pack-animals. The climate is of the class long ago designated by Buffon "excessive climates." The cold of winter is very severe. Though Soul lies further south than any part of Italy, yet the river on which it stands is solidly frozen over for two months in winter, and this although the action of the tides renders its waters decidedly brackish. Of the summer temperature after the middle of July, Mr. Lowell says :—" Then follow two months when it is hot—as hot as it is anywhere at any time, except, indeed, in peculiarly favoured localities like the Red Sea ; much hotter, for instance, than it is at the Equator." And he goes on to explain that the places which are hottest in the middle of summer are not those which lie on the Equator, instancing Hong Kong as having a higher temperature at that season than Singapore.

To Mr. Lowell, and his countryman, Mr. Griffis, the world is indebted for material additions to what had been previously known of Korea. As a piece of literary workmanship, we think Mr. Lowell's book would have been better if it had been some- what less diffuse, and in some instances less digressive. We have already spoken of the merit of the photographic illustra- tions. In point of type, paper, and making-up, it is seldom that so faultless a book is met with.