Arnold Henry Savage-Landor

In Cho-sen, as in other countries, we find not only pleasanter sights, but also those that are disagreeable or even revolting. That which I am about to describe is one which, I have little doubt, will make your blood curdle, but which is none the less as interesting as some of the others I have feebly attempted in this work to describe; I mean an execution as carried out in the Land of the Morning Calm. The penal form of death adopted is beheading, which is not, I believe, so pleasant a sensation as, for instance, that of being hanged - that is, when other persons are the sufferers.

The official life of the King of Corea is secluded. He rarely goes out of the royal palace, although rumours occasionally fly about that His Majesty has visited such and such a place in disguise. When he does go out officially, the whole town of Seoul gets into a state of the greatest agitation and excitement. Not more than once or twice a year does such a thing happen; and when it does, the thatched shanties erected on the wide royal street are pulled down, causing a good deal of trouble and expense to the small merchants, etc.

I was one evening at a dinner-party, at one of the Consulates, when, in the course of the frugal repast, one of the servants came in with the news that a large conflagration had broken out in the road of the Big-bell, and that many houses had already been burnt down. The "big-bell" itself was said to be in great danger of being destroyed.

Giving way to my usual curiosity, and thinking that it would be interesting to see how houses burn in Cho-sen, I begged of my host to excuse me, left all the good things on the table, and ran off to the scene of the fire.

One of the most interesting excursions in the neighbourhood of Seoul, is that to the Poo-kan fortress. The pleasantest way of making it is to start from the West Gate of Seoul and proceed thence either on horseback or on foot, along the Pekin Pass road, past the artificial cut in the rocks, until a smaller road, a mere path, is reached, which branches off the main road and leads directly to the West Gate of the Poo-kan fortress. This path goes over hilly ground, and the approaches to the West Gate of the fortress are exceedingly picturesque.

During the time that I was in Seoul - and I was there several months - most of my time was spent out of doors, for I mixed as much as possible with the natives, that I might see and study their manners and customs. I was very fortunate in my quarters: for I first stayed at the house of a Russian gentleman, and after that in that of the German Consul, and to these kind friends I felt, and shall always feel, greatly indebted for the hospitality they showed me during the first few weeks that I was in the capital; but, above all, do I owe it to the Vice-Minister of Home Affairs in Corea, Mr.

Let us now see what a Corean household is like. But, first, as to the matter of house architecture. Here there is little difference to be observed between the house of the noble and that of the peasant, except that the former is generally cleaner-looking. The houses in Corea may be divided into two classes - those with thatched roofs of barley-straw, and those with roofs of tiles, stone and plaster. The latter are the best, and are inhabited by the well-to-do classes.

Among the several misfortunes, or fortunes, if you prefer the word, with which a Corean man has to put up is an early marriage. He is hardly born, when his father begins to look out for a wife for him, and scarcely has he time to know that he is living in the world at all than he finds himself wedded.... The Coreans marry very young. I have seen boys of ten or twelve years of age who had already discarded the bachelor's long tress hanging down the back, and were wearing the top-knot of the married man.

I had made so many sketches in Seoul, that at last a rumour reached the Court of the rapidity with which I portrayed streets and people. The consequence was that both king and princes were very anxious to see what "European painting" was like, as they had never yet seen a picture painted by a European; so one fine day, to my great astonishment, through the kindness of Mr. Greathouse and General Le Gendre, I was able to induce one of the Queen's nephews, young Min-san-ho, to sit for his likeness in his Court dress.

In this book I have sought to present the reader with some dry facts about Corea and the Coreans. I have attempted to describe the manners and customs of the people as accurately as possible from the impressions which my visit to their country left upon me, but of course I do not claim that these personal opinions expressed are absolutely infallible. My sojourn extended over several months, and I never during all that time neglected any opportunity of studying the natives, giving my observations as they were made a permanent form by the aid both of pen and of brush.

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