Korea & Her Neighbours/Chapter XII
ON leaving Chang-an Sa for Won-san we retraced our route as far as Kal-ron-gi, and afterwards crossed the Mak-pai Pass, from which there is a grand view of the Keum-Kang San. Much of a somewhat tedious day was spent in crossing a roll- ing elevated plateau bordered by high denuded hills, on which the potatoe flourishes at a height of 2,500 feet. The soil is very fertile, but not being suited to rice, is very little occupied. Crossing the Sai-kal-chai, 2,200 feet in altitude, the infamous road descends on a beautiful alluvial valley, a rich farming country, sprinkled with hamlets and surrounded by pretty hills wooded with scrub oak, which in the spring is very largely used for fertilizing rice fields. The branches are laid on the inundated surface till the leaves rot off, and they are then re- moved for fuel. In this innocent-looking valley the tiger scare was in full force. A tiger, the people said, had carried off a woman the previous week, and a dog and pig the pre- vious night. It seemed incredible, yet there was a consensus of evidence. Tigers are occasionally trapped in that region by baiting a pit with a dog or pig, and the ensnared animal is destroyed by poison or hunger to avoid injury to the skin, which, if it is that of a fine animal, is very valuable.
A man is not the least ashamed of saying that he has not nerve or pluck for tiger-hunting, which in Korea is a danger- ous game, for the hunters are stationed at the head of a gorge, usually behind brushwood, and sometimes behind rocks, the big game, tigers and leopards, being driven up towards them by large bodies of men. When one realizes that the arms used are matchlocks lighted by slow matches from cords wound round the arm, and that the charge consists of three imper- fectly rounded balls the size of a pea, and that, owing to the thickness of the screen behind which the hunters are posted, the game is only sighted when quite close upon them, one ceases to wonder at the reluctance of the village peasants to turn out in pursuit of a man-eater, even though the bones bring a very high price as Chinese medicine.
We put up at the only inn in the region. It had no “clean room,” but the landlord's wife gave up hers to me on con- dition that I would not keep the door open for fear of a tiger. The temperature was 93°, and to secure a little ventilation and yet keep my promise, I tore the paper off the lattice-work of the door. Mr. Miller described his circumstances thus. “I wanted to sleep in the yard, but the host would not let me for fear of tigers, so I had to sleep in a room 8 feet by 10” (with a hot floor), “with seven other men, a cat, and a bird. By tearing the paper off a window near my head I saved myself from death by suffocation, and could have had a good night's rest had not the four horses been crowded into two stalls in the kitchen. They found their quarters so close that they squealed, kicked, bit, and fought all night, and their drivers helped them to make night hideous by their yelling.” Nobody slept, and I had my full share of the unrest and disturbance, a bad preparation for an eleven hours' ride on the next day, which was fiercely hot, as were the remaining six days of the journey.
The road from this lofty tiger-haunted valley to the sea level at Chyung-Tai is for the most part through valleys very sparsely peopled. Much forest land, however, was being cleared for the planting of cotton, and the peasant farmers are energetic enough to carry their cultivation to a height of 2,000 feet. [On nearly the whole of this journey I estimated that the land is capable of supporting double its present population.] At Hoa-chung, a prettily situated market-place, a student who had successfully passed the literary examination at the Kwagga in Seoul, surrounded by a crowd in bright colored festive clothing, was celebrating his return by sacrificing at his father's grave. On the various roads there were many proces- sions escorting village students home from the great competi- tion in the Royal presence at the capital, the student in colored clothes, on a gaily-caparisoned horse or ass, with music and flags in front of him, and friends, gaily dressed, walking beside him. On approaching his village he was met with flags and music, the headman and villagers, even the women in gay apparel, going out to welcome him. After this success he was entitled to erect a tall pole, with a painted dragon upon it, in front of his house. Success was, how- ever, very costly, and often hung the millstone of debt round a man's neck for the remainder of his life. After “passing” the student became eligible for official position, the sole object of ambition to an “educated” Korean.
At Hoa-chung we turned eastwards, and took the main road to the coast, attaining an altitude (uncorrected) of 3,117 feet by continued ascents over rounded hills, which, when not ab- solutely bare except for coarse, unlovely grasses, only produced stunted hazel bush. After this an easy ascent among abso- lutely denuded hills leads up to a spirit shrine of more than usual importance, crowded with the customary worthless ex votos, rags and old straw shoes. At that point the road makes an altogether unexpected and surprising plunge over the bare shoulders of a bare hill into Paradise !
This pass of the “Ninety-nine Turns,” Tchyu-Chi-chang, deserves its name, the number of sharp zigzags not being ex- aggerated, as in the case of the “Twelve Thousand Peaks.” It is so absolutely rocky, and so difficult in consequence, that it is more passable in snow than in summer. Its abrupt turns lead down a forest-clothed mountain ridge into a magnificent gorge, densely wooded with oak, Spanish chestnut, weeping lime, Abies excelsa, and magnolia, looped together with the white mille-fleur rose. On the northern side rises Hoang- chyong San, a noble mountain and conspicuous landmark, much broken up into needles and precipices, and clothed nearly to its summit with forests, of which the Pinus sylvestris is the monarch. The descent of the pass takes one hour and a half, the road coming down upon a torrent 50 feet wide, only visible in glints of foam here and there, amid its smothering overgrowth of blossoming magnolia, syringa, and roses.
The filthy, miserable hamlet of Chyung-Tai, composed of five hovels, all inns, was rather a comfortless close to a fatigu- ing day. These houses are roofed, as in some other villages, with thick slabs of wood heaped on each other, kept on, so far as they are kept on, by big stones. The forest above on the mountains is a Royal reservation, made so by the first king of this dynasty, who built stone walls round the larger trees.
I had occasion to notice at Chyung-Tai, and in many other places, the extreme voracity of the Koreans. They eat not to satisfy hunger, but to enjoy the sensation of repletion. The training for this enjoyment begins at a very early age, as I had several opportunities of observing. A mother feeds her young child with rice, and when it can eat no more in an upright position, lays it on its back on her lap and feeds it again, tap- ping its stomach from time to time with a flat spoon to ascer- tain if further cramming is possible. “The child is father to the man,” and the adult Korean shows that he has reached the desirable stage of repletion by eructations, splutterings, slap- ping his stomach, and groans of satisfaction, looking round with a satisfied air. A quart of rice, which when cooked is of great bulk, is a laborer's meal, but besides there are other dishes, which render its insipidity palatable. Among them are pounded capscicum, soy, various native sauces of abomi- nable odors, kimshi, a species of sour kraut, seaweed, salt fish, and salted seaweed fried in batter. The very poor only take two meals a day, but those who can afford it take three and four.
In this respect of voracity all classes are alike. The great merit of a meal is not so much quality as quantity, and from infancy onwards one object in life is to give the stomach as much capacity and elasticity as is possible, so that four pounds of rice daily may not incommode it. People in easy circum- stances drink wine and eat great quantities of fruit, nuts, and confectionery in the intervals between meals, yet are as ready to tackle the next food as though they had been starving for a week. In well-to-do houses beef and dog are served on large trenchers, and as each guest has his separate table, a host can show generosity to this or that special friend without helping others to more than is necessary. I have seen Koreans eat more than three pounds of solid meat at one meal. Large as a “portion” is, it is not unusual to see a Korean eat three and even four, and where people abstain from these excesses it may generally be assumed that they are too poor to indulge in them. It is quite common to see from twenty to twenty-five peaches or small melons disappear at a single sitting, and with- out being peeled. There can be no doubt that the enormous consumption of red pepper, which is supplied even to infants, helps this gluttonous style of eating. It is not surprising that dyspepsia and kindred evils are very common among Koreans.
The Korean is omnivorous. Dog meat is in great request at certain seasons, and dogs are extensively bred for the table. Pork, beef, fish, raw, dried, and salted, the intestines of animals, all birds and game, no part being rejected, are eaten — a baked fowl, with its head, claws, and interior intact, being the equivalent of “the fatted calf.” Cooking is not always essential. On the Han I saw men taking fish off the hook, and after plunging them into a pot of red pepper sauce, eating them at once with their bones. Wheat, barley, maize, millet, the Irish and sweet potato, oats, peas, beans, rice, radishes, turnips, herbs, and wild leaves and roots innumerable, sea- weed, shrimps, pastry made of flour, sugar, and oil, kimshi, on the making of which the whole female population of the middle and lower classes is engaged in November, a home- made vermicelli of buckwheat flour and white of egg, largely made up into a broth, soups, dried persimmons, sponge-cakes, cakes of the edible pine nut and honey, of flour, sugar, and sesamum seeds, onions, garlic, lily bulbs, chestnuts, and very much else are eaten. Oil of sesamum is largely used in cook- ing, as well as vinegar, soy, and other sauces of pungent and objectionable odors, the basis of most of them being capsicums and fermented rotten beans !
The magistracy of Thong-chhon, where we halted the next day at noon, and where the curiosity of the people was abso- lutely suffocating, is a town sheltered from the sea, which is within 2 miles, by a high ridge, and is situated prettily in a double fold of hills remarkable for the artistic natural group- ing of very grand pines.
At this point a spell of the most severe heat of the year set in, and the remainder of the journey was accomplished in a temperature ranging from 89° to 100° in the shade, and sel- dom falling below 80° at night, phenomenal heat for the first days of June. Taking advantage of it, the whole male popu- lation was in the fields rice planting. Rice valleys, reaching the unusual magnitude for Korea of from 3 to 7 miles in breadth, and from 6 to 14 miles in length, sloping gently to the sea, with innumerable villages on the slopes of the hills which surround them, were numerous. Among them I saw, for the only time, reservoirs for the storage of water for irriga- tion. The pink ibis and the spotted green frog were abundant everywhere. The country there has a look of passable pros- perity, but the people are kept at a low level by official exac- tions.
On this coast of Kong-won -Do are the P'al-kyong or “Eight Views,” which are of much repute in Korea. We passed two of them. Su-chung Dai (The Place Between the Waters) is a narrow strip of elevated white sand with the long roll of the
Pacific on the east, and the gentle plash of a lovely fresh-water lake on the west. This lake of Ma-cha Tong, the only body of fresh water which I saw in Korea, about 6 miles in length by 2 in breadth, has mountainous shores much broken by bays and inlets, at the head of each of which is a village half hid- den among trees in the folds of the hills, while wooded conical islets break the mirror of the surface. On the white barrier of sand there are some fine specimens of the red-stemmed Pinus sylvestris, with a carpet of dwarf crimson roses and pink lilies. Among the mountain forests are leopards, tigers, and deer, and the call of the pheasant and the cooing of the wild dove floated sweetly from the lake shore. It was an idyll of peace and beauty. The other of the “Eight Views” is rather a curiosity than a beauty, miles of cream-colored sand blown up in wavy billows as high as the plumy tops of thou- sands of fir trees which are helplessly embedded in it.
During the long hot ride of eleven hours, visions of the evening halt at a peaceful village on the seashore filled my mind, and hope made the toilsome climb over several promon- tories of black basalt tolerable, even though the descents were so steep that the mapu held the ponies up by their tails ! In the early twilight, when the fierce sun blaze was over, in the smoky redness of a heated evening atmosphere, when every rock was giving forth the heat it had absorbed in the day, across the stream which is at once the outlet of the lake and the boundary between the provinces of Kang-won and Ham- gyong, appeared a large, straggling, gray-roofed village, above high-water mark, on a beach of white sand. Several fishing junks were lying in shelter at the mouth of the stream. Women were beating clothes and drawing water, and children and dogs were rolling over each other on the sand, all more or less idealized by being silhouetted in purple against the hot, lurid sky.
As the enchantment of distance faded and Ma-cha Tong revealed itself in plain prose, fading from purple into sober gray, the ideal of a romantic halt by the pure sea vanished. A long, crooked, tumble-down narrow street, with narrower off-shoots, heaps of fish offal and rubbish, in which swine, mangy, blear-eyed dogs, and children, much afflicted with skin disease, were indiscriminately routing and rolling, pools covered with a thick brown scum, a stream which had degen- erated into an open sewer, down which thick green slime flowed tardily, a beach of white sand, the upper part of which was blackened with fish laid out to dry, frames for drying fish everywhere, men, women, children, all as dirty in person and clothing as it was possible to be, thronging the roadway as we approached, air laden with insupportable odors, and the vilest accommodation I ever had in Korea, have fixed this night in my memory.
The inn, if inn it was, gave me a room 8 feet by 6, and 5 feet 2 inches high. Ang-paks, for it was the family granary, iron shoes of ploughs and spades, bundles of foul rags, sea- weed, ears of millet hanging in bunches from the roof, pack saddles, and worse than all else, rotten beans fermenting for soy, and malodorous half-salted fish, just left room for my camp-bed. This den opened on a vile yard, partly dunghill and partly pigpen, in which is the well from which the women of the house, with sublime sang-froid, draw the drinking water ! Outside is a swamp, which throughout the night gave off sickening odors. Every few minutes something was wanted from my room, and as there was not room for two, I had every time to go out into the yard. Wong's good-night was, “I hope you won't die.” When I entered, the mercury was 87°. After that, cooking for man and beast and the kang floor raised it to 107°, at which point it stood till morning, vivify- ing into revoltingly active life myriads of cockroaches and vermin which revel in heat, not to speak of rats, which ran over my bed, ate my candle, gnawed my straps, and would have left me without boots, had I not long before learned to hang them from the tripod of my camera. From nine years of travelling, some of it very severe and comfortless, that night stands out as hideously memorable.
The raison d'être of Ma-cha Tong, and the numerous coast villages which exist wherever a convenient shore and a protec- tion for boats occur together, is the coast fishing. The fact that a floating population of over 8,000 Japanese fishermen make a living by fishing on the coast near Fusan shows that there is a redundant harvest to be reaped. The Korean fish- erman is credited with utter want of enterprise, and Mr. Oiesen, in the Customs' report for Won-san for 1891, accuses him of “remaining content with such fish as will run into crudely and easily constructed traps, set out along the shore, which only require attention for an hour or so each day.” I must, however, say that each village that I passed possessed from seven to twelve fishing junks, which were kept at sea. They are unseaworthy boats, and it is not surprising that they hug the shore. I believe that the fishing industry, with every other, is paralyzed by the complete insecurity of the earnings of labor and by the exactions of officials, and that the Korean fisherman does not care to earn money of which he will surely be deprived on any or no pretence, and that, along with the members of the industrial classes generally, he seeks the pro- tection of poverty.
The fish taken on this coast, when salted and dried, find their way by boat to Won-san, and from thence over central Korea, but in winter pedlars carry them directly inland from the fishing villages. Salterns on the plan of those often seen in China occur frequently near the villages. The operation of making salt from sea water is absolutely primitive, and so rough and dirty that the whiteness of the coarse product which re- sults is an astonishment. In spite of heavy losses and heavier “squeezings,” this industry, which is carried on from May to October, is a profitable one.
The road beyond that noisome halting-place traverses pic- turesque country for many miles, being cut out of the sides of noble cliffs, or crosses basaltic spurs by arrangements resem- bling rock ladders, keeping perforce always close to the sea, now on dizzy precipices, then descending to firm hard stretches of golden sand, or winding just above high-water mark among colossal boulders which are completely covered with the Am- pelopsis Veitchiafia, the creeper par excellence of Korea. The sea was green and violet near the shore and a vivid blue in the distance, and on its rippleless surface fishing boats with gray hulls and brown sails lay motionless, for the rush and swirl of tides, rising and falling as they do on the west coast from 25 to 38 feet, are unknown on the east coast, the variation between high and low water being within 18 inches.
It was the hottest day of the year, and it was fortunate that the prettily situated market-place of Syo-im had a new and clean inn, in which it was possible to prolong the noonday halt, and to get a good dinner of fresh and salt fish, vegetables, herbs, sauces, and rice, for the sum of two cents gold. There also, being the market-day, Mr. Miller succeeded in obtaining cash for four silver yen from the pedlars.
After passing over a tedious sandy plain with a reserve of fine firs, under which the countless dead of ages lie under great sand mounds held together by nets or branches of trees, we reached at sunset my ideal, a clean, exquisitely situated vil- lage of nine houses, of which one was an inn where, contrary to the general rule, we were made cordially welcome. The nine families at Chin-pul possessed seven good-sized fishing boats.
That inn is of unusual construction. There is a broad mud platform of which fireplaces and utensils for cooking for man and beast occupy one half, and the other is matted for sleeping and eating. My room, which had no window, but was clean and plastered, opened on this, and as the mercury was at 111° until 3 A. M. owing to the heated floor, I sat at the door nearly all night, so the dawn and an early start, and the coolness of the green and violet shades of the almost rippleless ocean, which laved its varied shore of bays, promontories, and lofty cliffs, were very welcome.
A valley opening on the sea which it took five hours to skirt and cross, covered with grain and newly planted rice, is liter- ally fringed with villages, which look comfortably prosperous in spite of exactions. A smaller valley contains about 3,000 acres of rice land only, and on the slopes surrounding all these are rich lands, bearing heavy crops of wheat, millet, barley, cotton, tobacco, castor oil, sesamum, oats, turnips, peas, beans, and potatoes. The ponies are larger and better kept in that region, and the red bulls are of immense size. The black pig, however, is as small and mean as ever. The crops were clean, and the rice dykes and irrigation channels well kept. Good and honest government would create as happy and prosperous a people as the traveller finds in Japan, the soil being very similar, while Korea has a far better climate.
During the land journey from Chang-an Sa to Won-san I had better opportunities of seeing the agricultural methods of the Koreans than in the valleys of the Han. As compared with the exquisite neatness of the Japanese and the diligent thriftiness of the Chinese, Korean agriculture is to some extent wasteful and untidy. Weeds are not kept down in the summer as they ought to be, stones are often left on the ground, and there is a raggedness about the margins of fields and dykes and a dilapidation about stone walls which is unpleasing to the eye. The paths through the fields are apt to be much worn and fringed with weeds, and the furrows are not so straight as they might be. Yet on the whole the cultivation is much better and the majority of the crops far cleaner than I had been led to expect. Domestic animals are very few, and very little fertilizing material is applied to the ground except in the neigh- borhood of Seoul and other cities, a fact which makes its ex- ceeding fertility very noteworthy.
The rainfall is abundant but not excessive, and the desolat- ing floods which afflict Korea's opposite neighbor, Japan, are as unknown as earthquakes. Irrigation is only necessary for rice, which is the staple of Korea. Except on certain rice lands, two crops a year are raised throughout central and south- ern Korea, the rice being planted in June, or rather trans- planted from the nurseries in which it is sown in May, and is harvested early in October, when the ground is ploughed and barley or rye is sown, which ripens in May or early June of the next year, after which water is let in, the field is again ploughed while flooded, and the rice plants are set out in rows of “clumps,” two or four or even six plants in a “clump.” Where only one crop is raised, the rice field lies fallow from the end of October till the following May. In wheat, barley, or rye fields the sowing is in October, and the harvest in May or June, after which beans, peas, and other vegetables are sown. Along the “great roads,” as the crops approach ripeness, ele- vated watch-sheds are erected in the fields as safeguards against depredations. The crops, on the whole, are very fine, and would be immense were it not for the paucity of fertilizing material.
Agricultural implements are rude and few. A wooden ploughshare with a removable iron shoe is used which turns the furrows the reverse way to ours. A wooden spade, also shod with iron, is largely used for heavy work. This, which excites the ridicule of foreigners as a gratuitous waste of man power, is furnished with several ropes attached to the blade, each of which is jerked by a man while another man guides the blade into the ground by its long handle. The other im- plements are the same sort of sharp-pointed sharp hoe which is in use in China, and which in the hands of the eastern peasant fills the place of shovel, hoe, and spade, a reaping hook, a short knife, a barrow, and a bamboo rake which is largely used in the denudation of the hills.
Grain, peas, and beans are threshed out with flails as often as not in the roadway of a village, while the grinding of flour and the hulling of rice are accomplished by the stone quern, and the stone or wooden mortar, with an iron pestle worked by hand or foot, the “pang-a,” or, as has been previously described, by a “mul,” or water “pang-a.” Rice is threshed by beating the ears over a board, and all grain is winnowed by being thrown up in the wind.
The pony is not used in agriculture. Ploughing is done by the powerful, noble, tractable, Korean bull, a cane ring placed in his nostrils when young rendering him manageable even by a young child. He is four years in attaining maturity, and is now worth from £3 to £4, his value having been enhanced by the late war and the prevalence of rinderpest in recent years. Milk is not an article of diet. In some districts ox- sleds of very simple construction are used for bringing down fuel from the hills and produce from the fields, and at Seoul and a few other cities rude carts are to be seen ; but ponies, men, and bulls are the means of transport for produce and goods, the loads being adjusted evenly on wooden pack saddles, or in the case of small articles in panniers of plaited straw or netted rope. In the latter, ingeniously made to open at the bottom and discharge their contents, manure is carried to the fields. Both bulls and ponies are shod with iron. The pony carries from 160 to 200 lbs. Sore backs are lamentably common.
The breed of pigs is very small. Pigs are always black and loathsome. Their bristles stand up along their backs, and they are lean, active, and of specially revolting habits. The clogs are big, usually buff, long-haired, and cowardly, and cari- cature the Scotch collie in their aspect. The fowls are plebeian, and for wildness, activity, and powers of flight are unequalled in my experience. Ducks are not very common, and geese are kept chiefly as guards, and for presentation at weddings as emblems of fidelity. The few sheep bred in Korea are reserved for Royal sacrifices. I have occasionally seen mutton on tables in Seoul, but it has been imported from Chefoo. The villages which make their living altogether by agriculture are usually off the high roads, those which the hasty traveller passes through depending as much on the enter- taining of wayfarers as on the cultivation of the land. In these, nearly every house has a covered shelf in front at which food can be obtained, but lodging is not provided, and the villages which can feed and lodge beasts as well as men are few. The fact that the large farming villages are off the road gives an incorrect notion of the population of Korea.
On the slope of a hillside above a pleasant valley lies the town of An-byong, once, judging from the extent of its decay- ing walls and fortifications, and the height of its canopied but ruinous gate-towers, a large city. The yamen and other Gov- ernment buildings are well kept, and being in good repair, are in striking contrast to those previously seen on the route. The “main street” is, however, nothing but a dirty alley. The town has a diminishing population, and though it makes some paper from the Brousonettia Papyrifera, and has several schools, and exchanges rice and beans for foreign cottons at Won-san, it has a singularly decaying look, and is altogether unworthy of its position as being one of the chief places in the province of Ham-gyong. Outside of it the road crosses a remarkably broad river bed by a bridge 720 feet long, so dilapidated that the ponies put their feet through its rotten sods several times.
From An-byong to Ta-ri-mak, a short distance from Nam- San on the main road from Seoul to Won-san, is a long and tedious ride through thinly peopled country and pine woods full of graves. We spent two nights there at a very noisy and disagreeable inn, in which privacy was unattainable and the vermin were appalling. There the host was specially unwill- ing to take in foreigners, on the ground that we should not pay, a suspicion which irritated our friendly mapu, who vociferated at the top of their voices that we paid “even for the smallest things we got.” The swinging season was at hand, each amusement having its definite date for beginning and ending, and in every village swings were being erected on tall straight poles. Wong could never resist the temptation of taking a swing, which always amused the people.
At this inn there were some musical performers who made both night and day wearisome to me, but gave great pleasure to others. I have not previously mentioned my sufferings on the Han from the sounds produced by itinerant musicians, and by the mutang or sorceress and her coadjutors ; but, as has been forcibly brought out in a paper on Korean music by Mr. Hulbert in the Korean Repository, 1 the sounds are peculiar and unpleasing, because we neither know nor feel what they are intended to express, and we bring to Korean music not the Korean temperament and training but the Western, which de- mands “time” as an essential. It maybe added that the Koreans, like their neighbors the Japanese, love our music as little as we love theirs, and for the same reason, that the ideas we express by it are unfamiliar to them.
One reason of the afflictive and discordant sounds is that the gamut of Korea differs from the musical scale of European countries, with the result that whenever music seems to be trembling on the verge of a harmony, a discord assails the ear. The musical instruments are many, but they are not carefully finished. Among instruments of percussion are drums, cym- bals, gongs, and a species of castanet. For wind instruments there are unkeyed bugles, flutes, and long and short trumpets; and the stringed instruments are a large guitar, a twenty-five stringed guitar, a mandolin, and a five-stringed violin. The discord produced by a concert of several of these instruments is heard in perfection at the opening and closing of the gates of cities.
There are three classes of Korean vocal music, the first being the Si-Jo or “classical” style, andante tremuloso, and “punc- tuated with drums,” the drum accompaniment consisting mainly of a drum beat from time to time as an indication to the vo- calist that she has quavered long enough upon one note. The Si'jo is a slow process, and is said by the Koreans to require such long and patient practise that only the dancing girls can excel in it, as they alone have leisure to cultivate it. One branch of it deals with convivial songs, of one of which I give a translation from the gifted pen of the Rev. H. B. Hulbert of Seoul. 1.
The Korean, prisoned during the winter in his small, dark, dirty, and malodorous rooms, with neither a glowing fireside nor brilliant lamp to mitigate the gloom, welcomes spring with lively excitement, and demands music and song as its natural ac- companiment — song that shall express the emancipation, breath- ing space, and unalloyed physical pleasure which have no coun- terpart in our English feelings. Thus a classical song runs : —
The willow catkin bears the vernal blush of summer's dawn When winter's night is done ; The oriole, who preens herself aloft on swaying bough, Is summer's harbinger ; The butterfly, with noiseless ful-ful of her pulsing wing, Marks off the summer hour. Quick, boy, thy zither ! Do its strings accord ? 'Tis well. Strike up ! I must have song.
The second style of Korean vocal music is the Ha Ch’i or popular. The most conspicuous song in this class is the A-ra- rung, of 782 verses. It is said that the A-ra-rung holds to the Korean in music the same place that rice does in his food — all else being a mere appendage. The tune, but with the trills and quavers, of which there are one or two to each note, left out, is given here, though Mr. Hulbert, to whom I am greatly indebted, calls it “a very weak attempt to score it.”
The chorus of A-ra-rung is invariable, but the verses which are sung in connection with it take a wide range through the fields of lyrics, epics, and didactics.
There is a third style, which is between the classical and the popular, but which hardly deserves mention.
To my thinking, the melancholy which seems the motif of most Oriental music becomes an extreme plaintiveness in that of Korea, partly due probably to the unlimited quavering on one note. While what may be called concerted music is torture to a Western ear, solos on the flute ofttimes combine a singular sweetness with their mournfulness and suggest “Far- off Melodies.” Love songs are popular, and there is a tender grace about some of them, as well as an occasional glint of humor, as indicated by the last line of the third stanza of one translated by Mr. Gale. 1
The allusions to Nature generally show a quick and sympathetic insight into her beauties, and occa- sional stanzas, of which the one cited is among several translated by Mr. Hulbert, have a delicacy of touch not unworthy of an Elizabethan poet. 1 The Korean Repository is doing a good work in making Korean poetry accessible to English readers.
There was not, however, any flute music at Ta-ri-mak. There were classical songs, with a direful drum accompani- ment, and a wearisome repetition of the A-ra-rung, continuing all day and late into the hot night.
A few pedlars passed by, selling tobacco, necessaries, and children's toys, the latter rudely made, and only attractive in a country in which artistic feeling appears dead. There are shops in Seoul, Phyong-yang, and other cities devoted to the sale of such toys, painted in staring colors, and illustrative chiefly of adult life. There are also monkeys, puppies, and tigers on wheels, all for boys, and soldiers in European uni- forms have appeared during the recent military craze, and boys are very early taught to look forward to official life by representations of mandarins' chairs, red-tasselled umbrellas, and fringed hats. Girls being of comparatively small account, toys specially suited to them are not many.
Japanese lucifer matches, which, when of the cheap sort, seem only slightly inflammable, as I have several times used a whole box without igniting one, were in the stock of the ped- lars, and are making rapid headway in the towns, but even so near Won-san as Ta-ri-mak is, the people were still using flint and steel to light chips of wood dipped in sulphur, though the cheap and smoky kerosene lamp has displaced the tall, upright candlestick and the old-fashioned dish lamps there and in very many other country places.
From the high road from Seoul to Won-san we diverged at Nam-San to visit the large monastery of Sok-wang Sa, famous as being the place where, in the palmy days of Korean Buddhism, Atai-jo, the first king of the present dynasty, was educated and lived. The monastery itself, with its temples, was erected by this king to mark the spot where, 504 years ago, he received that supernatural message to rule in virtue of which his descendant occupies the Korean throne to-day. In this singularly beautiful spot Atai-jo's early years were spent in religious exercises, study, and preparation, and many of the superb trees which adorn the grand mountain clefts in which Sok-wang Sa is situated are said to have been planted by his hands. His regalia and robes of state are preserved in a building by themselves, which no one is allowed to enter except the duly appointed attendant. A bridle track along- side of a clear mountain stream leads through very pretty and prosperous-looking country, and over wooded foothills for some miles to the base of a fine mountain range. We passed for a length of time through rich and heavily-timbered monas- tic property, then the beautiful valley narrowed, and by a “Red Arrow Gate “ we entered on a smooth broad road, on which the sun glinted here and there through the heavy foliage of an avenue of noble pines, a gap now and then giving en- trancing glimpses of the deep delicious blue of the summer sky, of a grand gorge dark with pines, firs, and the exotic Cleyera Japonica and zelkawa, brightened by the tender green of maples and other deciduous trees, and by flashes of foam from a torrent booming among great moss-covered boulders.
Then came bridges with decorative roofs, abbots' tomb- stones under carved and painted canopies, inscribed stone tablets, glorious views of a peaked, forest-clothed mountain barring the gorge, and as the pines of the avenue fell into groups at its close, and magnificent zelkawas, from whose spreading branches white roses hung in graceful festoons, overarched the road, a long irregular line of temples and monastic buildings appeared, clinging in singular picturesqueness to the sides of the ravine, which there ascends somewhat rapidly towards the mountain, which closes it.
An abbot, framed in the doorway of a quaint building, and looking like a picture of a portly, jolly, mediaeval friar, wel- comed us, and he and his monks regaled us with honey water in the large guest- hall, but simultaneously produced a visitors' book and asked us how much we were going to pay, the sum being duly recorded. The grasping ways of these monks, who fleeced the mapu so badly as to make them say they “had fallen among thieves,” contrast with the friendly hospitality of their brethren of the Diamond Mountain, and can only be accounted for by the contaminating influences of a treaty port, from which they are distant only a long day's journey !
“See the sights first and then pay,” they said, the glorious views and the quaint picturesqueness of the monastic buildings clustering on the crags above the cataracts being the sight par excellence. It was refreshing to turn from the contemplation of the sensual, acquisitive, greedy faces of most of the monks to Nature at her freshest and fairest, on one of the loveliest days of early June.
The interiors of the temples are shabby and dirty, the paint is scaling off the roofs, and the floors and even the altars were hidden under layers of herbs drying for kitchen use. Besides the tablet to the first king of the present dynasty in a hand- some tablet-house, the noteworthy “sight” to be seen is a small temple dedicated to the “Five Hundred Disciples.” Sok-wang Sa is not a holy place, and the artist who carica- tured the devout and ascetic followers of the ascetic Sakymuni has bequeathed a legacy of unhallowed suggestion to its in- mates !
The “Five Hundred “ are stone images not a foot in height, arranged round the dusty temple in several tiers, each one with a silk cap on, worn with more or less of a jaunty air on one side of the head or falling over the brow. The variety of features and expression is wonderful ; all Eastern nationalities are represented, and there are not two faces or attitudes alike. The whole display shows genius, though not of a high order.
Among the infinite variety, one figure has deeply set eyes, an aquiline nose, and thin lips; another a pug nose, squinting eyes, and abroad grinning mouth; one is Mongolian, another Caucasian, and another approximates to the Negro type. Here is a stout, jolly fellow, with a leer and a broad grin suggestive of casks of porter and the archaic London drayman ; there is an idiot with drooping head, receding brow and chin, and a vacant stare ; here again is a dark stage villain, with red cheeks and a cap drawn low over his forehead ; then Mr. Pecksniff confronts one with an air of sanctimoniousness obvi- ously difficult to retain ; Falstaff outdoes his legendary jollity ; and priests and monks of all nations leer at the beholders from under their jaunty caps. It is an exhibition of unsancti- fied genius. Nearly all the figures look worse for drink, and fatuous smiles, drunken leers, and farcical grins are the rule, the effect of all being aggravated by the varied and absurd arrangements of the caps. The grotesqueness is indescribable, and altogether “unedifying.”
It was a great change to get on the broad main road to Won-san, and to see telegraph poles once more. There was plenty of goods and passenger traffic across the fine plain covered with rice and grain, margined by bluffs, and dotted with what have obviously once been islands, near which Won- san is situated.
Where the road is broad, a high heap of hardened mud runs along the centre, with hardened mud corrugations on either side ; where narrow, it is merely the top of a rice dyke. The bridges are specially infamous ; in fact, they were so rot- ten that the mapu would not trust their ponies upon them, and we forded all the streams. Yet this road, which I found equally bad at the three points at which I touched it, is one of the leading thoroughfares by which goods pass from the east to the west coast and vice versa, — tobacco, copper, salt fish, sea- weed, galena, and hides from the east, and foreign shirtings, watches, and miscellaneous native and foreign articles from the west.
The heat of the sun was but poorly indicated by a shade temperature of 84°, and it was in his full noontide fierceness that we reached the huddle of foul and narrow alleys and ir- regular rows of thatched shops along the high road which make up the busy and growing Korean town of Won-san, which, with an estimated population of 15,000 people, lies along a strip of beach below a pine-clothed bluff and ranges of mountains, then green to their summits, but which I saw in December of the same year in the majesty of the snow which covers them from November to May. The smells were fearful, the dirt abominable, and the quantity of wretched dogs and of pieces of bleeding meat blackening in the sun perfectly sicken- ing. This aspect of meat, produced by the mode of killing it, has made foreigners entirely dependent on the Japanese butchers in Seoul and elsewhere. The Koreans cut the throat of the animal and insert a peg in the opening. Then the butcher takes a hatchet and beats the animal on the rump until it dies. The process takes about an hour, and the beast suffers agonies of terror and pain before it loses consciousness. Very little blood is lost during the operation ; the beef is full of it, and its heavier weight in consequence is to the advantage of the vendor.
Then came a level stretch of about a mile, much planted with potatoes, glimpses of American Protestant mission-houses in conspicuous and eligible positions (eligible, that is, for everything but mission work), and the uneven Korean road glided imperceptibly into a broad gravel road, fringed on both sides with neat wooden houses standing in gardens, which gradually thickened into the neatest, trimmest, and most attractive town in all Korea, the Japanese settlement of the treaty port of Won-san, opened to Japanese trade in 1880 and to foreign trade generally in 1883.
Broad and well-kept streets, neat wharves, trim and fairly substantial houses, showing the interior dollishness and dainti- ness characteristic of Japan, a large and very prominent Japanese Consulate in Anglo-Japanese style, the offices of the “N.Y.K.,” the Japan Mail Steamship Company (an abbrevia- tion as familiar to residents in the Far East as “P. & O.”), a Japanese Bank of solid reputation, Customs' buildings, of which a neat reading-room forms a part, neat Japanese shops where European articles can be bought at moderate prices, a large schoolhouse, with a teacher in European dress, and active manikins and hobbling but graceful women, neither veiled nor muffled up, are the features of this pleasant Jap- anese colony, which is so fortunate as to have no history, its progress, though not rapid, having been placid and peaceful, not marred by friction either with Koreans or foreigners of other nationalities ; and even the recent war, though it led to the removal of the Chinese consul and his countrymen, an in- significant fraction of the population, had left no special traces, except that the enormous wages paid to transport coolies by the Japanese had enabled them to gamble with yen instead of cash !
I was most hospitably received by Mr. and Mrs. Gale of the American Presbyterian Mission. Mr. Gale's work was the im- portant one of the preparation of a dictionary of the Korean language in Korean, Chinese, and English, which was pub- lished in 1897.
During the twelve days which I spent at Won-san I made a junk excursion in Yung-hing or Broughton Bay, in the south- west corner of which the port is situated. It is a superb bay, with an area of fully 40 square miles, a depth of from 6 to 12 fathoms, with good holding ground, never freezes in winter, is sheltered by promontories and mountains from the winds of every quarter, and its entrance is protected by islands. To English readers it is probable that the sole interest of this fine bay lies in the fact that its northern arm, Port Lazareff, which was the object of my cruise, is the harbor which Russia is credited with desiring to gain possession of for the terminus of her Trans-Siberian Railway. Whether this be so or no, or whether Port Shestakoff, on the same coast, but 60 miles farther north, is more defensible and better adapted for a naval as well as a terminal port, the time has gone by for grudging to Russia an outlet on the Pacific, and I for one should prefer it on the coast of eastern Korea than on the northern shore of the Yellow Sea.
The head of Port Lazareff is about 16 miles from Won-san, and is formed by the swampy outlets of the river Dun-gan, among the many branches of which lie inhabited, low-lying islands. There are rude but extensive salt works at the shal- lows in which this noble inlet terminates, after receiving several streams besides the Dun-gan. Port Lazareff has, in addition, abundant supplies of water from natural springs. The high hills which surround the bay are grassy to their sum- mits, but there is very little wood, and the villages are small and far between. Game is singularly abundant. Pheasants are nearly as plentiful as sparrows are with us, the wary turkey bustard abounds, there are snipe in the late summer, and pigeons, plover, and water-hen are common. In spring and autumn wild fowl innumerable crowd the waters of every stream and inlet, swans, teal, geese, and ducks darkening the air, which they rend with their clamor as the sportsman in- vades their haunts.
A Korean junk does not impress one by its seaworthiness, and it is not surprising that the junkmen hug the shore and seek shelter whenever a good sailing breeze comes on. She is built without nails, iron, or preservative paint, and looks rather like a temporary and fortuitous aggregation of beams and planks than a deliberate construction. Two tall, heavy
masts fixed by wedges among the timbers at the bottom of the boat require frequent attention, as they are always swaying and threatening to come down. The sails are of matting, with a number of bamboos running transversely, with a cord attached to each, united into one sheet, by means of which tacking is effected, or rather might be. Practically, navigation consists in running before a light breeze, and dropping the mass of mats and bamboos on the confusion below whenever it freshens, varying the process by an easy pull at the sweeps, one at the stern and two working on pins in transverse beams amidships, which project 3 feet on each side. The junk is fitted with a rudder of enormous size, which from its position acts as a keel board. The price is from 60 to 80 dollars. This singular craft sails well before the wind, but under other circumstances is apt to become unmanageable.
Won-san has telegraphic communication with Seoul, and chiefly through the enterprise of the N.Y.K., it is connected by most comfortable steamers with Korean ports and with Wladivostok, Kobe, and Nagasaki, Hong-Kong, Shanghai, Chefoo, Newchwang, and Tientsin. Steamers of a Russian line call there at intervals during the summer season. There are no Western merchants or Western residents except the mis- sionaries and the Customs staff, and foreign trade is chiefly in the hands of the Japanese.
About 60 li from Won-san are some large grass-covered mounds, of which the Koreans do not care to speak, as they regard them as associated with an ancient Korean custom, now looked upon as barbarous. During the last dynasty, and more than five centuries ago, it was customary, when people from age and infirmity became burdensome to their relations, to in- carcerate them in the stone cells which these mounds contain, with a little food and water, and leave them there to die. In similar mounds, elsewhere in Korea, bowls and jars of coarse pottery have been found, as well as a few specimens of gray.
There is nothing sensational about Won-san. 1 It has no “booms” in trade or land, but “keeps the even tenor of its way.” It is to me far the most attractive of the treaty ports. Its trim Japanese settlement, from which green hills rise abruptly, backed by fine mountain forms, dignified by snow for seven months of the year, and above all, the exquisite caves to the northwest, where the sea murmurs in cool grottos, and beats the pure white sand into ripples at the feet of cliffs hidden by flowers, ferns, and grass, and its air of dreamy re- pose — “a land where it is always afternoon” — point to its future as that of a salubrious and popular sanitarium.
1. In January of 1897, the population of Won-san was as follows:-
Japanese . . . 1,299 Chinese . . . 39 American . . . 8 German . . . 3 British . . . 2 French . . . 2 Russian . . . 2 Danish . . . 1 Norwegian . . . 1
Estimated Korean population, 15,000.
1 A kwan-ja, being an official passport, lays a traveller open to the sus- picion that, like officials, he will take the best of everything he can get without paying for it, and this dread, added to a natural distrust of for- eigners, led to more or less unwillingness to receive us in many places, the mapu having to console the people by asseverating that I paid the full price for all I got, and that even when I tore a sheet of paper from the window I paid for it !
1. February, 1896.
'Twas years ago that Kim and I Struck hands and swore, however dry The lip might be or sad the heart, The merry wine should have no part In mitigating sorrow's blow Or quenching thirst. 'Twas long ago.
And now I've reached the flood-tide mark Of life ; the ebb begins, and dark The future lowers. The tide of wine Will never ebb. 'Twill aye be mine To mourn the desecrated fane Where that lost pledge of youth lies slain.
Nay, nay, begone ! The jocund bowl Again shall bolster up my soul Against itself. What, good-man, hold! Canst tell me where red wine is sold ? Nay, just beyond that peach tree there ? Good luck be thine, I'll thither fare.
1 LOVE SONG
Farewell's a fire that burns one's heart, And tears are rains that quench in part, But then the winds blow in one's sighs, And cause the flames again to rise.
My soul I've mixed up with the wine. And now my love is drinking, Into his orifices nine Deep down its spirit's sinking. To keep him true to me and mine, A potent mixture is the wine.
Silvery moon and frosty air. Eve and dawn are meeting; Widowed wild goose flying there, Hear my words of greeting! On your journey should you see Him I love so broken-hearted. Kindly say this word for me, That it's death when we are parted. Flapping off the wild goose clambers, Says she will if she remembers.
Fill the ink-stone, bring the water. To my love I'll write a letter; Ink and paper soon will see The one that's all the world to me, While the pen and I together, Left behind, condole each other.
1. I asked the spotted butterfly To take me on his wing and fly To yonder mountain's breezy side. The trixy tiger moth I'll ride As home I come.