CHAPTER VII. Corean inns - Seoul - A tour of observation - Beggars - Lepers - Philosophy - An old palace - A leopard hunt - Weather prophets - The main street - Sedan chairs - -The big bell - Crossing of the bridges - Monuments - Animal worship.

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. C.R. Greathouse, in whose house I stayed most of the time, that I saw Corea as I did see it, for he went to much trouble to make me comfortable, and did his best to enable me to see every phase of Corean life. For this, I need not say, I cannot be too grateful.

The great difficulty travellers visiting the capital of Corea experience - I am speaking of four years ago - is to find a place to put up at, unless he has invitations to go and stay with friends. There are no hotels, and even no inns of any sort, with the exception of the very lowest gargottes for soldiers and coolies, the haunts of gamblers and robbers. If then you are without shelter for the night, you must simply knock at the door of the first respectable house you see, and on demand you will heartily be provided with a night's domicile and plentiful rice. This being so, there is little inducement to go to some filthy inn entirely lacking in comforts, and, above all, in personal safety.

The Corean inns - and there are but few even of those - are patronised only by the scum of the worst people of the lowest class, and whenever there is a robbery, a fight, or a murder, you can be certain that it has taken place in one of those dens of vice. I have often spent hours in them myself to study the different types, mostly criminal, of which there are many specimens in these abodes. There it is that plots are made up to assassinate; it is within those walls that sinners of all sorts find refuge, and can keep well out of sight of the searching police.

The attractions of Seoul, as a city, are few. Beyond the poverty of the buildings and the filth of the streets, I do not know of much else of any great interest to the casual globe-trotter, who, it must be said, very seldom thinks it advisable to venture as far as that. No, there is nothing beautiful to be seen in Seoul. If, however, you are on the look-out for quaintness and originality, no town will interest you more. Let us go for a walk round the town, and if your nose happens to be of a sensitive nature, do not forget to take a bottle of the strongest salts with you. We might start on our peregrinations from the West Gate, as we are already familiar with this point. We are on the principal thoroughfare of Seoul, which we can easily perceive by the amount of traffic on it as compared with the other narrower and deserted streets. The mud-houses on each side, as we descend towards the old royal palace, are miserable and dirty, the front rooms being used as shops, where eatables, such as rice, dried fruit, &c, are sold. A small projecting thatched roof has been put up, sustained by posts, at nearly each of these, to protect its goods from sun and snow. Before going two hundred yards we come to a little stone bridge, about five feet wide, and with no parapet, over a sewer, in front of which is an open space like a small square. But look! Do you see that man squatting down there on a mat? Is he not picturesque with his long white flowing robe, his large pointed straw hat and his black face? As he lies there with outstretched hands, dried by the sun and snow, calling out for the mercy of the passers-by, he might almost be mistaken for an Arab. His face is as black as it could be, and he is blind. He is one of the personalities of Seoul, and rain or shine you always see him squatting on his little mat at the same spot in the same attitude.

It is only seldom that beggars are to be seen in Cho-sen, for they are not allowed to prowl about except on certain special occasions, and festivities, when the streets are simply crammed with them. It is then that the most ghastly diseases, misfortunes, accidents, and deformities are made use of and displayed before you to extract from your pockets the modest sum of a cash. I cannot say that I am easily impressed by such sights, and far less horrified, for in my lifetime it has been my luck to see so many that I have got accustomed to them; but I must confess to being on one occasion really terrified at the sight of a Corean beggar. I was sketching not very far from this stone miniature bridge on which we are supposed to be still standing, when I perceived the most ghastly object coming towards me. It looked like a human being, and it did not; but it was. As he drew nearer, I could not help shivering. He was a walking skeleton, minus toes and fingers. He was almost naked, except that he had a few rags round his loins; and the skin that hardly covered his bones was a mass of sores. His head was so deformed and his eyes so sunken that a Peruvian mummy would have been an Adonis if compared with him. Nose he had none - et ca passe - for in Seoul it is a blessing not to have one; and where his mouth should have been there was a huge gap, his lower jaw being altogether missing. A few locks of long hair in patches on his skull, blown by the wind, completed a worthy frame for this most unprepossessing head.

Oh, what a hideous sight! He hopped along a step or two at a time on his bony legs and toeless feet, keeping his balance with a long crutch, which he held under his arm, and he had a sort of wooden cup attached by a string to his neck, into which people might throw their charities. "He is a leper," a Corean, who stood by my side and had noticed the ever-increasing expression of horror on my face, informed me.

The man, or rather the scarecrow, for he hardly had any more the resemblance to a human being, hearing the noise of the crowd that was round me, moved in my direction. He staggered and dragged himself till he got quite close, then bending his trembling head forward, made the utmost efforts to see, just as a bat does when taken out into the daylight. Poor fellow! he was also very nearly blind. His efforts to speak were painful beyond measure. A hoarse sound like the neighing of a pony was all that came out of his throat, and each time he did this, shrieks of laughter rose from the crowd, while comical jokes and sarcastic remarks were freely passed at the thinness of his legs, the condition of his skin, and the loss of the lower half of his face. Oh! it was shocking and revolting, though it must be said for them that the same people who chaffed him were also the first ones to fill his little pot with cash.

Now, you must not think that I have told you this story to make your hair stand on end, for that is not my intention at all; but simply to prove to you the anomaly that a Corean is not really cruel when he is cruel, or rather when he appears to us to be cruel. This sounds, I believe, rather extraordinary to people who cannot be many-sided when analysing a question, but what I mean is this: It must not be forgotten that different people have different customs and different ways of thinking; therefore, what we put down as dreadful is often thought a great deal of in the Land of the Morning Calm.

"Why not laugh at illnesses, death, and deformity?" I once heard a Corean argue.

"It does not make people any better if you sympathise with them; on the contrary, by so doing you simply add pain to their pain, and make them feel worse than they really are. Besides, illnesses help to make up our life, and it is our duty to go through them as merrily as through those other things which you call pleasures. We people of Cho-sen do not look upon illnesses, accidents, or death as misfortunes, but as natural things that cannot be helped and must be bravely endured; what better, then, can we do than laugh at them?"

"So your argument is," I dared put in, "that if one may laugh at one's own misfortunes, there is all the more title to laugh at those of other people?"

"That is so," retorted the man of Cho-sen, with an air of self-conviction.

I at once agreed with him that I did not find much real harm in laughing at other people's misfortunes, except that if it did not do anybody any harm, it neither did them any good; but I acknowledge that it took me some minutes before I could make up my mind as to one's own misfortunes. In the end, however, I had to agree with him even about this point. He proved to me that Coreans are at bottom very good-hearted and unselfish, and always ready to help relations and neighbours, always ready to be kind even at their own discomfort. This good-nature, however, lacks in form from our point of view, though the substance is always the same, and probably more so than with us. They are a much simpler people, and hypocrisy among them has not yet reached our civilised stage. In the case of our poor leper friend, we have seen that the people who laughed at him were the first to help him; whereas, I have no doubt that among us who are good Christians, and nothing else but charitable, the majority would not have laughed; indeed, I am not quite sure but that, on the contrary, many would have run to the nearest church to pray for the man, meantime leaving him "cashless," if not to die of starvation.

Now let us continue our walk and leave the blind man and leper behind. On our left-hand side there is a huge gateway with a red wooden door - in rather a dilapidated condition - though apparently leading to something very grand. Since we are here we may as well go in. Good gracious! it is a tumble-down place. In olden days it used to be the king's palace, and if you follow me you can see how big the grounds are. For some reason or other this place, with all its accessories, buildings, &c., has been abandoned by the Court simply because of rumours getting abroad that ghosts haunted it. Evil spirits were reported to have been seen prowling about the grounds, and in the royal apartments, and it would never have done for a king to have been near such company; so the Court went to great expense to build a fresh abode for the royal personage, and the old palace was abandoned and left to decay. The grounds that were laid out as pretty gardens were, many years later, used for a plantation of mulberries, a foreign speculation which was to enrich the King and the country, but which turned out instead a huge fiasco. The mulberry trees are still there, as you may see. Let us, however, proceed a little way up this hill and go and pay a visit to the two eunuchs who are the sole inhabitants of this huge place, and who will take us round it. These eunuchs occupy a little room about ten feet square and of the same height in the inner enclosure. They are very polite, and joining their hands by way of salute to you, invite you to go in - to drink tea and smoke a pipe. Poor wretches! One of them, a fat fellow of an unwholesome kind, as if he were made of putty, having learnt the European way of greeting people, insisted on shaking hands with me, but, oh, how repulsive it was! His cold, squashy sort of boneless hand, gave you the impression that you had grasped a toad in your hand. And his face! Did you ever see a weaker, more depraved and inhuman head than that which was screwed on his shoulders? His cadaverous complexion was marked with the results of small-pox, which were certainly no improvement to his looks; his eyes had been set in his head anyhow, and each seemed to move of its own accord; his mouth seemed simply to hang like a rag, showing his teeth and his tongue.

His fellow was somewhat better, for he was of the thin kind of that type, and though possessing the effeminate, weak characteristics of his friend, one could at least see that he was built on a skeleton, like the generality of people! But the features of these eunuchs were as nothing to their voices. The latter were squeaky like those of girls of five; and more especially when the fat man spoke, it almost seemed as if the thread of a voice came from underground, so imperceptible was the sound that he could produce after he had spoken a few minutes. Having profited by the notions of my Corean philosopher of a little while ago, I simply went into screams of merriment at the misfortune of these poor devils, but really it was difficult to help it.

Preceded by these eunuchs, let us now go over the tumble-down ruins of the palace. On the top of the small hill stands the main building of red painted wood and turned up roof a la Chinoise, and inside this, in the audience hall, can yet be seen the remains of the wooden throne raised up in the centre, with screens on the sides. There is nothing artistic about it, no richness, and nothing beautiful, and with the exception of the ceiling, that must have been pretty at one time with native patterns and yellow, red and green ornaments, there is absolutely nothing else worth noticing. Outside, the three parallel flights of steps leading up to the audience hall have a curious feature. It is forbidden to any one but the King to go up on the middle steps, and he of course is invariably carried; for which reason, in the middle part of the centre staircase a carved stone table is laid over the steps in such a way that no one can tread on them except quite at the sides where the men who carry the King have to walk.

The houses where the King and royal family used to live with their household have now been nearly all destroyed by the weather and damp, and many of the roofs have fallen in. They were very simple, only one story high, and little better than the habitations of the better classes of people in Cho-sen. Coming out again of the inner enclosure, one finds stables and other houses scattered here and there in thecompound,[3] and lower down we come to a big drain of masonry. But let me tell you a funny story.

As you know, the Land of the Morning Calm is often troubled at night by prowling leopards and huge tigers which make their peregrinations through the town in search of food. A big leopard was thus seen by the natives one fine day taking a constitutional in the grounds of this haunted palace. Perplexed and even terrified, the unarmed natives ran for their lives, except one who, from a distant point of vantage, watched the animal and saw him enter the drain just mentioned. There happened to be staying in Seoul an Englishman, a Mr. S., who possessed a rifle and who had often astonished the natives by his skill in never missing the bull's eye; so to him they all went in a deputation, begging him to do away with the four-legged, unwelcome visitor. Mr. S., who wished for nothing better, promised that he would go that same night, and, accompanied by his faithful native servant, went and hid himself in proximity to the hole whence the leopard was likely to spring. It was a lovely moonlight night, and several hours had been passed in perfect silence and vain waiting for the chance of a shot, when a bright idea struck the native servant. Certain that the leopard was no longer there, and wishing to retire to his warm room, he addressed his master in poetic terms somewhat as follows: -

"Sir, I am a brave man, and fear neither man nor beast. I am your servant, and for you am ready to give my life. I have brought with me two long bamboos, and with them I shall go and poke in the drain, rouse the ferocious beast, and as he jumps out you will kill him. If I shall lose my life, which I am ready to do for you, please think of my wife and child."

"Very good," said the Englishman, who was getting rather tired of the discomfort and cold, and who, though he did not say so, also shared the opinion that the brute had gone.

Thus encouraged, the servant at once proceeded to tie the two bamboos together, and again reminding his master of the brave act he was going to accomplish, proceeded with firm step to the drain, about thirty yards off. When he reached the opening he seemed to hesitate. He stood and listened. He carefully peeped in and listened again. He heard nothing. Then, bringing all his courage to bear, he lifted his bamboo and began poking in the drain. Two or three times, as he thought, he had touched something soft with the end. He dropped his bamboo as if it had been a hot iron, and ran full-speed back to his master, imploring his protection.

"Has got - has got - kill - master - kill - kill!" and he lay by his side, shivering with fright.

"You are frightened, you coward; there is nothing. Go again."

After a few minutes the faithful valet, who had then made quite sure that there was no leopard in the drain and that he had shown himself a coward, unwillingly and slowly returned to the charge and picked up his bamboo.

"I am trembling with cold, not with fear," he had said as he was getting up again. "I shall enter the drain this time and rouse the animal myself!"

So he really did. He went in, holding the bamboo in front of him, and pausing at each step. The farther in he went, the more his self-confidence failed him. The drain was high enough to allow of his standing in it with his back and head bent down; wherefore, if an encounter with the spotted fiend were to take place, the retreat of the man would not be an easy matter.

"Master must think me very brave," he was soliloquising on his subterranean march, when he received a sudden shock that nearly stopped his heart and froze the blood in his veins. He had actually touched something soft with the end of his bamboo, and not only that, but he fancied he heard a growl.

He quickly turned round to escape, when a violent push knocked him down, and he fell almost senseless and bleeding all over.

"Bang!" went the rifle outside just as the screams of: "Master, aahi, aahi, kill, kill, kill," were echoing in the drain; and the leopard with a broken hind leg rolled over on the ground groaning fiercely, by-and-by trying to retrace its steps to its domicile. The poor Corean lay perplexed, looking at the scene, all lighted up by the beautiful moonlight; and his heart bounded with joy, when, after the second or third report of the gun, he saw shot dead the animal that had already reached the opening of the drain.

As his master appeared, rifle in hand, and touched the dead beast, his valiant qualities returned to him in full, and he got out of the drain. He was badly scratched all over, I dare say, by the paws of the beast, for it had sprung violently out the moment the bamboo tickled it, though otherwise he was not much the worse for his narrow escape.

Such is the last story connected with that drain. The grounds, as you see, extend towards the west as far as the city wall. As we go out of the gate which we entered, you can see a sort of a portico on the left-hand side as you approach it. Well, under that, as the spring is approaching, there are often to be heard the most diabolical noises for several days in succession. If the season has been a very dry one, you will see several men and numberless children beating on three or four huge drums and calling out at the top of their voices for rain. From sunrise until sunset this goes on, unless some stranded cloud happens to appear on the horizon, when the credit of such a phenomenon is awarded to their diabolical howls, and cash subtracted from landed proprietors as a reward for their having called the attention of the weather-clerk. A spectacled wise-man, a kind of astrologer, on a donkey and followed and preceded by believers in his extraordinary powers of converting fine weather into wet, and vice versa, rides through the main streets of the capital, with lanterns and festoons, on the same principle as does our Salvation Army, namely, to collect a crowd to the spot where his mysterious rites are to be performed. Here, supported by his servants, he dismounts from his high saddle, and, still supported under his arms - the idea being that so great a personage cannot walk by himself - he at last reaches the spot, apparently with great fatigue. "To carry all his knowledge," argue the admiring natives, "must indeed entail great fatigue."

When rain is to be summoned, our astrologer addresses his first reproaches to the sun, stretching out his hands and using the strongest of invectives, after which, when he has worked himself into a towering rage against the orb of day, an execrable beating on the drums begins, accompanied by the howling of all the people present. The god of rain gets his share of insults, and is severely reprimanded for the casual way in which he carries on his business, and so, partly with good, partly with bad manners, this satanic performance goes on day after day, until, eventually, it does begin to rain.

The portico in this old haunted palace was a favourite spot for these rites, and as the house of the Vice-Minister of Home Affairs, where I stayed as a guest, was close by, I suffered a good deal at the hands of these fanatics, for the noise they made was of so wild a nature as to drive one crazy - if not, also, quite sufficient to bring the whole world down.

We may now continue our peregrination along the main street. There along the wall squat dozens of coolies, with their carrying arrangement, sitting on their heels, and basking in the sun. Further on, one of them is just loading a huge earthenware vase full of the native beverage. The weight must be something enormous. Yet see how quickly and cleverly he manages to get up with it, and walk away from his kneeling position by first raising one leg, then the other, and after that a push up and it is done.

Here, again, coming along, is another curiosity. It is a blue palanquin, carried on the back of two men. They walk along quickly, with bare feet, and trousers turned up over the knees. Instead of wearing a transparent head-gear, like the rest of the people, these chair-bearers have round felt hats. In front walks a Maggiordomo, and following the palanquin are a few retainers. Heading the procession are two men, who, with rude manners, push away the people, and shout out at the top of their voices:

"Era, Era, Era; Picassa, Picassa!" ("Out of the way; get out, get away!") were the polite words with which these roughs elbowed their way among the crowd, and flung people on one side or the other, in order to clear the road for their lord and master. From the hubbub they made, one might have imagined that it was the King himself coming, instead of a mere magistrate.

A few hundred yards further on, one finds on one's left a magnificent street departing at right angles to the main thoroughfare. It is certainly the widest street in the Corean capital. So wide is it, in fact, that two rows of thatched houses are built in the middle of the road itself, so to speak, forming out of one street three parallel streets. These houses are, however, pulled down and removed altogether once or twice a year, when His Majesty the King takes it into his head to come out of his palace and go in his state chair, preceded by a grand procession, to visit the tombs of his ancestors, some miles out of the town, or to meet the envoys of the Chinese Emperor, a short way out of the west gate of the capital, at a place where a peculiar triumphal arch, half built of masonry and half of lacquered wood, has been erected, close to an artificial cut in the rocky hill, named the "Pekin Pass" in honour of the said Chinese messengers.

I witnessed two or three of these king's processions, and I shall describe them to you presently. In the meantime, however, let us walk up the royal street.

The two rows of shanties having been pulled down, its tremendous width is very conspicuous, being apparently about ten times that of our Piccadilly. The houses on both sides are the mansions in which the nobles, princes, and generals live, and are built of solid masonry. They are each one story high, with curled-up roofs, and here and there the military ensign may be seen flying. Facing us at the end, a pagoda-like structure, with two roofs, and one half of masonry, the upper part of lacquered wood, is the main entrance to the royal palace. Two sea-lions, roughly carved out of stone, stand on pedestals a short distance in front of the huge closed gate, and there, squatting down, gambling or asleep, are hundreds of chair-carriers and soldiers, while by the road-side are palanquins of all colours, and open chairs, with tiger and leopard skins thrown over them, waiting outside the royal precincts, since they are not allowed inside, for their masters, who spend hours and days in expectation of being invited to an audience by, or a confabulation with, His Majesty. People of different ranks have differently coloured chairs - the highest of the palanquin form being that covered with green cloth and carried by four men. Foreign consuls and legal advisers of the King are allowed the honour of riding in one of these. The privilege of being carried by four men instead of by two is only accorded to officials of high rank. The covered palanquins are so made that the people squat in them cross-legged. A brass receptacle, used for different purposes, is inside, in one corner of the conveyance. Some of them are a little more ornamented than others, and lined with silk or precious skins, but generally they are not so luxurious as the ones in common use in China.

But if you want to see a really strange sight, here at last you have it. It is a high official going to Court in his state mono-wheeled chair. You can see that he is a "somebody" by the curious skull-cap he is wearing, curled up over the top of his head and with wings on each side starting from the back of his head-gear. His flowing silk gown and the curious rectangular jewelled stiff belt, projecting far beyond his body, denote that he is holding a high position at the Corean Court. A coolie marches in front of him, carrying on his back a box containing the court clothes which he will have to don when the royal palace is reached, all carefully packed in the case, covered with white parchment. Numerous young followers also walk behind his unsteady vehicle. There you see him perched up in a kind of arm-chair at a height of about five feet - sitting more or less gracefully on a lovely tiger skin, that has been artistically thrown upon it, leaving the head hanging down at the back. Under the legless chair, as it were, there are two supports, at the lower end of which and between these supports revolves a heavy, nearly round wheel, with four spokes. Occasionally the wheel is made of one block of wood only, and is ornamented at the sides with numerous round-headed iron nails. There may be also two side long poles to rest on the shoulders of the two carriers - one in front and one at the back - a few extra strengtheners on each side, and then you have the complete "attelage." So you see, it may be a great honour to be carried about in a similar chair, though to the eyes of barbarians like ourselves it looks neither comfortable nor safe. India-rubber tyres and, still less, pneumatic ones, have not yet been adopted by the Corean chair-maker, and it appeared to me that a good deal of "holding on" was required, especially when travelling over stony and rough ground, to avoid being thrown right out of one's high position. The grandees whom I saw carried in them seemed to me, judging by the expression on their faces, to be ever looking forward patiently and hopefully to the time for getting out of these perilous conveyances. Certainly when going round corners or on uneven ground I often saw them at an angle that would make the hair of anybody but a grave and sedate Corean official stand on end. The palace gate reached, he is let down gently, the front part of the chair being gradually lowered, and, with a sigh of relief, steps out of it. Immediately he is supported on each side by his followers, and thus the palace is entered, the mono-wheeled chair being left outside standing against the wall, and the tired carriers squatting down to a quiet gamble with the chair-bearers of other noblemen.

Here let us leave him for the present, since the huge gates are closed again upon our very noses.

The royal palace is enclosed by a high wall, at the corners of which there are turrets with sentries and soldiers. In each of the sections of the wall also there is a gate, the principal one of course being that which we have already described.

We shall now retrace our steps down the royal avenue, but before leaving it we must once again look back upon the royal enclosure. It is not a very grand sight, but it is pretty to see a high hill towering at the back of the royal palace. Undoubtedly the position where the palace is now situated is the best in Seoul, both through being in the very centre of the town and through the prettiness of its situation. The inside of the royal enclosure we shall presently describe.

Continuing our way, then, towards the east gate, we soon come to another big thoroughfare on our right-hand side, at one corner of which is a picturesque ancient pavilion, with a railing round it. This is one of the sights of Seoul, "the big bell."

It is a huge bronze bell raised from the ground only about a foot. It possesses a fine rich tone when it is hammered upon by the bell-ringer, but a good deal of the sonorousness is lost and the sound made dreary and monotonous by its being so low down. The man rings it by striking heavy blows at it with a big wooden mallet, and its first note in the early morning makes the drowsy gate-keepers of the town begin to make preparations for establishing communication once more between the capital and the outer world; while at sunset, as its last melancholy notes are blown away in dying waves by the wind, the heavy gates are closed, and every man - though not every woman, as we shall see - has to retire to his home until dawn the next morning, if he wishes to escape a severe flogging, or even the risk of losing his head. The laws and rules in this respect have not been very severely enforced of late years; yet one never sees even now a Corean male walking about the streets after dark. Though capital punishment might not be inflicted on the offender, a very sound spanking would very probably be the result of a native being caught flagrante delicto during a nocturnal peregrination. Wherefore, the Corean male is, a raison, very careful not to be seen out after dark. On one or two occasions, nevertheless, the male community is allowed a prowl by night, and seem to enjoy it to their heart's content. The principal of these great events is the night for "crossing the bridges," a festivity in which men and children are allowed to take part, and in the course of which they spend the whole night in prowling about the streets, and crossing over the bridges and back again. At such a time the streets are alive with story-tellers, magicians and comedians, who delight the nocturnal sight-seers with wonderful fairy-tales, jokes and fantastic plays.

A moonlight night is always chosen for the "crossing of the bridges" outing, a rather sensible precaution when one sees what the bridges are like. There are the stone supports of course, and over these huge flat broad stones on which one treads. The width of the bridges is generally about six feet, but no parapet or railing of any kind is provided for the safety of the wayfarer. Through age and weather, these stones have been considerably worn out, and are here and there disconnected, besides being slippery to an extreme degree; so that even in broad daylight, one has to keep all his wits about him, in this sort of tight-rope performance, not to find himself landed in the river down below, in which, however, there is no water running. Altogether, the days in which the men of Cho-sen enjoy liberty at night are five.

The last day of the year is probably the one when the larger crowds can be seen hurrying along through the streets, for a custom prevails among the Coreans to visit during that night and the following one, all one's relations and best friends, congratulations and good wishes being freely exchanged and presents of sweets brought and gracefully received. New Year's night is also a night of independence, but the greater number of the male community are so "well on" with wine-drinking and excitement, that staying at home is generally deemed advisable.

There are two free nights, besides, on the fourteenth and fifteenth days of the first moon, and on one of the days at "half-year" in the sixth moon. That is all.

At no great distance from the "big bell," down a tortuous little lane, we come to what is undoubtedly a very ancient work of art. This is a pagoda, made of solid marble, and adorned with beautiful carvings all the way up to the top. To me this pagoda seemed to be of Chinese origin, but, though much speculation has been exercised in Seoul as to how so strange a monument came to be placed in the Corean capital, no reliable data, or facts that might be considered of historical value, have as yet been forthcoming to explain satisfactorily its presence there. Beyond wondering at its antiquity, therefore, and admiring the skilful bas-relief upon it, there is little more for us to do; so, moving out of the courtyard in which this pagoda is situated, we proceed to inspect another monument, equally curious from an archaeological point of view.

It cannot but seem strange that the Coreans should be ignorant regarding the little pagoda above mentioned. I call it "little," for I do not think it stands more than fifteen or twenty feet from the base to the top. Probably in Seoul itself there is not more than one man out of fifty who knows of its existence, and those who are acquainted with it, beyond telling you emphatically that it is not a Corean work, can give you no information about it. It is not improbable that, in the course of some friendly or unfriendly intercourse between the Chinese and the Coreans, this pagoda was brought or sent over from China.

The other curiosity is a huge stone tortoise carrying a tablet on its back.

As I have already mentioned, the Coreans in many ways resemble, and have appropriated or carried with them to their place of settlement some ideas which are common to the Manchus, the Mongols, and the Northern and Southern Chinese. Among these may be instanced the great respect for, if not worship of, fetishes and rudely made images of animals, both imaginary and real, which are supposed to be embodied there with all their good and evil qualities. The Coreans have an especial veneration for the tiger, the emblem of supernatural strength, courage and dignity. Now when veneration comes into play, the extraordinary, as a rule, soon takes the place of the ordinary, especially in the Eastern mind, which is rather addicted to letting itself be run away with by its imagination. So the tiger, as though it were not sufficiently gifted already with evil qualities of a more mundane order, is often depicted by native geniuses, as having also the power of flying, producing lightning, and spitting fire; and not only that, but as able to walk on flames without feeling the slightest inconvenience, and manipulate blazing fire as one would a fan in everyday use. On flags, pictures, and embroideries the tiger is often represented by native artists.

Next to the tiger, the animal most cherished by the Coreans is the tortoise. To it are applied all the good qualities that the tiger wants; for example, thoughtfulness, a retiring nature, humility, gentleness, steadiness, and patience; these being all symbolised by this shelled amphibious animal, which, in the minds of many Eastern Asiatics, was the basis upon which, in later times, were built the rudiments of mathematics and wisdom. In Corea, the principal quality attributed to the tortoise is long life; wherefore, it has been handed down from early times to the present day as the emblem of longevity.

This, then, explains the signification of the tortoise in front of which we are now standing. Those tortoises that are made to carry tablets on their backs are, as a general rule, erected in honour and remembrance of some benevolent prince or magnanimous magistrate - the tablets being placed over these favourite creatures to signify that it was by relying upon all the good qualities attributed to the tortoise that the person whose praises are celebrated on them, attained to the virtues which are deemed so worthy an example to the world.

There are many species of semi-sacred tortoises in Corea, to all appearance the product of imaginary intermarriages between the slow amphibious animal in question and the fire-spitting dragon, silver-tailed phoenix, and other animals; and these mixed breeds of idols, so to speak, are occasionally to be seen in the houses of rich people and princes near the entrance gate. In the Royal Palace, too, some may be seen, among the more important being the old Seal of State, which consists of a tortoise cleverly carved out of marble with the impression of the Royal Seal engraved on the under side.

A curious thing which strikes visitors to Corea who notice it is that, although the tortoise runs a close race with the tiger in the respect of the natives, nevertheless, the larger and fiercer animal is much more frequently represented than its smaller and gentler competitor. For instance, one invariably sees on the roofs of the city gates, fixed on the corners, five small representations of the tiger, all reclining in a row one after the other. On many of the larger buildings also the same thing can be observed; while, on the other hand, it is only rarely that the tortoise is seen in such a situation. When representations of the latter are thus attached, they are generally placed at the four lower corners of the buildings, as if by way of support.

It is curious, again, to note - and, indeed, it almost seems as if the Cho-sen people are in all their ideas opposed to us - that in Corea the snake is greatly revered; and, should it enter a household, it receives a hearty welcome, for this reptile is supposed to bring with it everlasting happiness and peace, a very different conception to that which we generally form of it, for, if I mistake not, in our minds it is generally associated with sneakishness, treachery and perfidy.

With regard to the snake, it is noteworthy that the Coreans have allowed their fancies to run riot in pretty much the same direction as imaginative people in our own country have done, and have not only added wings to their serpents to send them air-faring, but have also invented a near relation to these in the shape of a travelling sea-serpent, which is not, however, of such large dimensions as those with which we are familiar. From this it is only a short step to the well-known half-human, half-fish being and the sea-lion or tiger; stone representations of which are to be seen at the entrance of the Royal Palace. The principal peculiarity of the sea-tiger is its ugliness. It is represented as having a huge mouth, wide open, showing two rows of pointed teeth, and a mane and tail curled up into hundreds of conventional little curlets. If the statues of these sea-tigers are divided in three sections perpendicular to the base, the head will occupy the whole of one of these sections, which, in other words, means that the body is made only twice the size of the head.

The lin is also frequently found figuring in Corean mythology, but this fanciful creature is undoubtedly an importation from the well-known ki-lin of China, being half ox, half deer, and having but a single horn in the centre of the head. It is the symbol of good nature and well-being Another borrowed individual of this class is the dragon, a monster which is a great favourite and much cherished all over the East, though principally by the Emperor of Heaven and his subjects. This popularity of the dragon in the kingdom of the Morning Calm is due, I suppose, in a large measure to the frequent Chinese invasions and constant intercourse of the Chinese with Corea. And yet, upon a less appropriate country, to my belief, he could hardly have been stranded, for, although he possesses all the good virtues of the other mythical creatures of which I have made mention taken together, he certainly is never presented as gifted with that delightful faculty which goes by the name of tranquillity. Restless in the extreme, this genius of the East is said to penetrate through mountains into the ground, skip on the clouds, produce thunder and lightning, and go through fire and water. It can, moreover, make itself visible or invisible at pleasure, and, in fact, can to all intents and purposes do what it pleases, except - remain quiet.

Of dragons there are many kinds, but the most respectable of them all is, as in China, the yellow one, which is as represented on the Chinese flags. Next to the yellow one in popularity comes the green one. In shape, as the natives picture it, the dragon is not unlike a huge lizard, with long-nailed claws, and a flat long head like the elongated head of a neighing horse, possessed, however, of horns, and a long mane of fire, or lightning. The tail is like that of a serpent, with five additional pointed ends. It is, too, rather interesting to note that the king, princes, and highest magistrates, when the country is not in mourning, wear upon their breasts pieces of square embroidery ornamented in the centre with representations of the dragon, having the jewel on its head which is supposed to be a certain cure for all evils. The officials of lesser degree wear, instead of this emblem, the effigy of a flying phoenix, the symbol of pride, friendship, and kind ruling power.

The phoenix is also occasionally to be seen standing on a tortoise's back, the combination being emblematic of the combined virtues of these two mythical creatures.

Returning to the main street, we can walk a long way without finding anything interesting in the way of architecture, or of a monumental character until we reach the East Gate, which is probably the largest gate of all. One of the peculiarities of this gate is that on the outside it has a semi-circular wall protection, and in this wall a second gate which renders it, therefore, doubly strong in time of war. The outer wall is very thick, and a wide space is provided which can be manned with soldiers, when the town happens to be besieged. If my memory serves me rightly, yet another gate in Seoul is provided with a similar contraffort, but of this I am not quite certain, for the part of my diary in which the wall of Seoul is described has been, I regret to say, unfortunately mislaid. Near the gate above mentioned, is a large open space, on the centre of which stands a somewhat dilapidated pavilion pour facon de parler, and, on inquiry, I was told that this place was the drilling-ground of the king's troops, the pavilion being for the use of the king and high officials, when on very grand occasions they went to review the soldiery. Of late years, I believe, a new drilling-ground has been selected by the foreign military instructors, which explains why the pavilion has been allowed to rot and tumble down. (See Illustration p. 90.)

As already remarked, all the gates of Seoul, as well as those of every other city in Corea, are closed at sunset; but, like all rules, this one, too, has its exception. Thus, there is a small gate, called the "Gate of the Dead," which is opened till a late hour at night. Its name explains its object fairly well, but for the benefit of those who are unaccustomed to Corean customs I may as well put the matter a little clearer. Funerals, in Corea, nearly always take place at night, and the bodies are invariably carried out of the town to be buried. In lifetime it is permitted to enter or leave the town through any gate you please, but this freedom of choice is not accorded to the dead, when their final exit is to be made, for this is only by way of the smaller gate just mentioned.

A funeral is in all countries, to me, a curious sight, but in Seoul, a performance of this description is probably more curious than elsewhere, and that, because, to a European eye, it appears to be anything but a funeral. The procession is headed by two individuals, each of whom carries an enormous yellow umbrella, on the stick of which, about half way up, there is a very large tri-coloured ball. After these, under a sort of baldachin held up by four long poles, is the coffin, carried by two, four, or more men, according to the social position of the deceased; and by the side of this and following close after it are numberless people each carrying a paper lantern stuck on a pole, who scuttle along, singing, after a fashion, and muttering prayers and praises on behalf of their deceased countryman. Frequently, if the latter is supposed to have been possessed by evil spirits, and to have been carried off by them, a man is hired, if no relation is willing to do it, to ring a hand-bell for several consecutive days, near the house which the late unfortunate had occupied, the shrill sound being supposed to have the power of showing the unwelcome guests, that their presence has been noticed, and that they had better retire and leave the house to its rightful owners. I need hardly remark that a few hours of this noise is quite enough to turn the best of good spirits into an evil one.

But to return to our funeral procession; this, when the "Gate of the Dead" is reached, becomes broken up; the friends who were following the hearse putting out their lights and ceasing from their singing and praying. Only two or three of the nearest relations continue to follow the coffin, still carried by the paid bearers, and when a suitable spot is reached these proceed to bury the remains. A hilly ground is usually preferred by the Coreans for the last resting place of the bones of their dear ones. The coffin having been buried, a small mound of earth is heaped up over it.

The spot for inhumation is generally chosen on the advice of magicians who are supposed to know the sites which are likely to be most favourable to the deceased. Sometimes the body is exhumed at great expense, still on the advice of the same magicians, who, being in direct communication with both earthly and unearthly spirits, get to know that the spot which had been originally selected was not a favourable one. Under such circumstances, a speedy removal is necessary, which, of course entails both worry and money-spending and special fees for the reporting of the ill-faring of the buried.

The relations and friends of a deceased person constantly visit the tomb, and many a good son has been known to spend months watching his father's grave, lest his services might be required by the parent underground.

The hills round the towns are simply covered with these little mounds of earth, and the greatest respect is shown by the natives for all places of sepulture. In course of time, many disappear by being washed away by the rain, but never by any chance are they interfered with by the people. The Coreans are extremely superstitious, and they are much afraid of the dead. Metempsychosis is not an uncommon trait of their minds, especially among the better classes; thus, for instance, the soul of the dead man is sometimes supposed to enter the body of a bird, in which case the relatives carefully build a semi-circular stone railing round the mound, so that the winged successor of the deceased may have whereon to perch.

The grave of one of the richer people is especially noteworthy. First, there is the mound in the centre as usual, but nearly twice the size of that which covers a poorer person. Then there is a stone railing a little way off; and between that and the mound stand in double rows, at the sides, rough images of human beings and horses carved in stone. The general rule is, in the case of a rich man, to have two men and two ponies on either side and a small column at the end; while in the case of a man not so much distinguished only a single horse and man respectively are placed on either side. The short column with a slab at the top is nearly always a feature. The stone images so placed are, as a rule, so badly carved that, unless one is told what they are meant to represent, it is really difficult to decide the point. The horses, especially, might easily be mistaken for sheep, dogs, or any other animal, the small stature of the native ponies being imitated in these images, to an exaggerated degree. As for the stone human-shaped images, these are usually made dressed in a long sort of gown and with the arms folded in front and the head covered by a curled up skull-cap, of the kind worn by Corean officials even at the present day, and formerly worn by all the high officials in China, whence probably the fashion has been imported.

A curious feature which I often noticed about the graves of people who had not been over well-off, and whose friends could not afford a large number of statues or figures of men and animals, was this: - If only one or two monuments were put up by the side of the mound, these invariably consisted of representations either of two horses or else of a horse and a ram, that is, if I am right in fixing the latter's identity by the curled horns on the side of its head. If, on the other hand, the monuments were more than two in number, the others were, just as invariably, representations of human figures, the number of these being the same as that of beasts in the other case.

A ceremony is to be found in the Land of the Morning Calm which corresponds pretty closely to "Tutti i morti" of Italy; I mean, the merry picnicking of distressed parents and relatives when they go and pray on the tombs of their dead. In Corea the occasion is usually celebrated on the first day of the first moon, or, in other words, on New Year's Day. The family goes soon after sunrise, en masse, to the burial-place, where prayers are offered, and long sticks of incense burnt filling the air with the perfume so familiar to all who know the East. Food and drink are also generally brought and consumed by the mourners on such expeditions, with the result that the day which begins with praying generally ends with playing. Similar rejoicings are again indulged in during the third moon, when the tombs are usually cleaned and repaired, and the stone figures and horses washed and scrubbed, amidst the hilarious screams of the children and the less active picnickers.

The tombs of the kings do not differ very much from those of the richest noblemen, except that they have a kind of temple near them. At one time it was believed that the coffins in which the royal bodies were buried, consisted of solid gold. People who are well informed, however, maintain that there is no foundation for this statement about the royal graves, and that, on the contrary, they are almost as simple as those of the richer noblemen.

A strange tale was told me, which I shall repeat, as I know it to be true. It is to this effect: A few months previous to my visit to Seoul, a foreigner had visited the king soliciting orders for installations of telephones. The king, being much astounded, and pleased at the wonderful invention, immediately, at great expense, set about connecting by telephone the tomb of the queen dowager with the royal palace - a distance of several miles! Needless to say, though many hours a day were spent by His Majesty and his suite in listening at their end of the telephone, and a watchman kept all night in case the queen dowager should wake up from her eternal sleep, not a message, or a sound, or murmur even, was heard, which result caused the telephone to be condemned as a fraud by His Majesty the King of Cho-sen.

I should mention that a very good specimen of a Corean tomb is to be seen a few lis outside the East Gate, on the hillside, and that another, somewhat smaller, exists a short distance beyond the Pekin Pass outside the West Gate. It may also be noted that trees are frequently planted, and tablets erected, in proximity to Corean graves.


    [3] Word used in the East for a conglomeration of houses 
        enclosed by a wall.