CHAPTER IV. The Coreans - Their faces and heads - Bachelors - Married men - Head-band - Hats - Hat-umbrellas - Clothes - Spectacles.
Being now settled for the time being in Seoul, I must introduce you to the Corean, not as a nation, you must understand, but as an individual. It is a prevalent idea that the Coreans are Chinese, and therefore exactly like them in physique and appearance, and, if not like the Chinese, that they must be like their neighbours on the other side - the Japanese. As a matter of fact, they are like neither. Naturally the continuous incursions of both Chinese and Japanese into this country have left distinct traces of their passage on the general appearance of the people; and, of course, the distinction which I shall endeavour to make is not so marked as that between whites and blacks, for the Coreans, speaking generally, do bear a certain resemblance to the other peoples of Mongolian origin. Though belonging to this family, however, they form a perfectly distinct branch of it. Not only that, but when you notice a crowd of Coreans you will be amazed to see among them people almost as white and with features closely approaching the Aryan, these being the higher classes in the kingdom. The more common type is the yellow-skinned face, with slanting eyes, high cheek-bones, and thick, hanging lips. But, again, you will observe faces much resembling the Thibetans and Hindoos, and if you carry your observations still further you will find all over the kingdom, mostly among the coolie classes, men as black as Africans, or like the people of Asia Minor.
For any one interested in types and crosses, I really do not know of a country more interesting than Cho-sen. It seems as if specimens of almost every race populating Asia had reached and remained in the small peninsula, which fact would to some degree disprove the theory that all migrations have moved from the east towards the west and from north to south, and never vice versa.
If you take the royal family of Corea, for instance, you will find that the king and queen, and all the royal princes, especially on the queen's side (the Min family), are as white as any Caucasian, and that their eyes are hardly slanting at all, and in some cases are quite as straight as ours. Members of some of the nobler families also might be taken for Europeans. Of course the middle classes are of the Mongolian type, though somewhat more refined and stronger built than the usual specimens of either Chinese or Japanese; they are, however, not quite so wiry and tall as their northern neighbours the Manchus, with whom, nevertheless, they have many points in common. The large invasions, as we have seen, of the Ko-korais and Fuyus may account for this.
Taken altogether, the Corean is a fine-looking fellow; his face is oval-shaped, and generally long when seen full face, but it is slightly concave in profile, the nose being somewhat flat at the bridge between the eyes, and possessing wide nostrils. The chin is generally small, narrow and receding, while the lips, usually the weaker part in the Corean face, are as a rule heavy, the upper lip turned up and showing the teeth, while the lower one hangs pitifully downwards, denoting, therefore, little or no strength of character. They possess good teeth and these are beautifully white, which is a blessing for people like them who continually show them. The almond-shaped, jet-black eyes, veiled by that curious weird look peculiar to Eastern eyes, is probably the redeeming part of their face, and in them is depicted good-nature, pride and softness of heart. In many cases one sees a shrewd, quick eye, but it is generally an exception among this type, while among the lower classes, the black ones, it is almost a chief characteristic. The cheek-bones are prominent. The hair is scanty on the cheeks, chin, and over and under the lips, but quite luxuriant on the head. There is a very curious custom in Corea as to how you should wear your hair, and a great deal of importance is attached to the custom. If by chance you are a bachelor - and if you are, you must put up with being looked down upon by everybody in Corea - you have to let your hair grow long, part it carefully in the middle of your skull, and have it made up into a thick tress at the back of your head, which arrangement marks you out as a single man and an object of sport, for in the Land of the Morning Calm it seems that you can only be a bachelor under the two very circumstances under which we, in our land of all-day restlessness, generally marry, viz., if you are a fool and if you have not a penny to live upon! When thus unhappily placed you rank, according to Corean ideas, as a child, no matter what your age is, and you dress as a child, being even allowed to wear coloured coats when the country is in mourning, as it was, when I visited it, for the death of the dowager-Queen Regent, and everybody is compelled to wear white, an order that if not quickly obeyed by a married man means probably to him the loss of his head. Thus, though looked down upon as outcasts and wretches, bachelors none the less do enjoy some privileges out there. Here is yet another one. They never wear a hat; another exemption to be taken into consideration when you will see, a little further on, what a Corean hat is like.