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Corea, the Hermit Nation

William Elliot Griffis



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The Hermit Nation^









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<^j»u I university!


JUN 27 I960

CopTUOHT, 183S-188B« bt



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The publishers have informed the author of their intention to
issue an edition of the present work in a cheaper form. Bj their
courtesy, he would improve the opportunity to add a few words of
comment upon our present knowledge of Coreo, and upon affidrs
in Cho-sen since the treaty was made with the United State&

Concerning the first matter there is little to be said. A con-
siderable number of naval, diplomatic, missionary, and commercial
visitors from America and Europe have visited the Corean capital
and parts adjacent Few of them have gone beyond beaten
tracks ; and, owing to recent political disordersTthorough research
has as yet hardly begun. We look, however, for results of value
from the presence of the American missionaries and the scientific
commission now in the country. We have not, therefore, made
any addition to our text

The reception of this work, both in this country and Europe,
has been most kindly. Since its issue, in October, 1882, several
events of interest have occurred, of which we here take note.

The treaty negotiated by Comrfiodore Shufeldt was duly ratified
by the United States Senate, and on February 26, 1883, Presi-
dent Arthur sent in the name of Lucius H. Foote as minister
plenipotentiary to Corea. The appointment was confirmed on
the following day. General Foote reached -Chi-mul-po, in the
U. S. Steamship Monocacy, May 13th, and the formal ratifications
of the treaty were exchanged in the capital six days later.
The guns of the Monocacy — the same which shelled the Han forts
in 187)9-— fired the first salute ever given to the Corean flag.

The king responded by sending to the United States an em-
bassy of eleven persons, led by Min Yong Ik and Hong Yong Sik,
members respectively of the Conservative and Liberal parties.
Their interview with President Arthur was in the pai'lors of the

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Fifth Avenue Hotel, New York, on September 17th. All the
Coreans were dressed in their national costume, which they wore
habitually while in America. After spending some weeks in the
study of American institutions in several cities, part of the embassy
returned home by way of San Francisco, leaving one of their num-
ber at Salem, Mass., to remain as a student ; while Min Yong Ik
and two secretaries embarked on the U. S. Steamship-Trenton, and,
after visiting Europe, reached S^oul in June, 1884 The author
spent a most profitable and pleasant evening, November 27th, with
the three Coreans before they left New York. Many questions con-
cerning their country were discussed. Mr. Everett Eraser, No. 123
Front Street, New York City, now acts as his Corean majesty's
consul-general in the United States.

On that same evening, November 27, 1883, there was a banquet
in the Corean capital to celebrate the signing of the treaties made
the day before with Great Britain and Germany. Sir Harry Parkes
and Herr Zappe had succeeded in negotiating conventions which
are even more liberal in their provisions than that made with the
United States. The principal foreign adviser of the Corean gov-
ernment since 1882 has been Herr Paul von Mollenforf, whom the
Coreans employed at the suggestion of Li Hung Chang. Italy and
Russia have also entered into diplomatic relations with Corea.
Other evidences of the influence of the West upon Corea were the
opening of a telegraph-office at Fusan, February 28, 1884, on the
completion of the submarine electric cable from Nagasaki, the emis-
sion of native silver coins, and the inauguration of light-house and
postal systems.

While everything seemed to promise well for the nascent civili-
zation imported from Chiistendom, the political situation was one
fraught with danger. The military camps of two rival, almost hoe-
tile, nations were upon the soiL A Corean Liberal declares that
the sending of Chinese troops to Corea in 1882 was the work of
two or three Chinese leaders, under the pretext of protecting China
from Russian invasion. Their real, but secret, purpose was, he de-
clares, to prevent the Coreans from adopting western civilization.
"The seed of the riot [of December 4-6, 1884] was sown by Chi-
nese barbarism, and ripened by Chinese cruelty."

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The afiOur was in its origin a popular demonstration, instigated
by Badical Progressives against Chinese influence as exhibited by
a rapacious and undisciplined soldiery. It took the form of a mur-
derous attack upon the conservative or pro-Chinese ministers of the
court, five or six of whom were slain. During the excitement an
angry mob surrounded the palace, and the king sent for the pro-
tection of the Japanese legation-guards. The Chinese military re-
sented this, moved on the royal residence, and a collision was pre-
cipitated, in which several tens of men were killed. A bloody battle
ensued, and the Japanese, greatly outnumbered, retreated in good
order to their legation. This building was besieged by the mob,
and finally deserted by the Japanese, who, with all their country-
men, left the city for Chi-mul-po. The legation, which had cost
$80,000, and the army stores were, with much other property in
the city, fired by the rioters. The foreigners in S^oul took refuge
in General Foote's house, and soon afterward left for Chi-mul-po.
Dr. H. N. Allen, the American surgeon, was kept busy for weeks
in attendance upon the victims wounded in the rioting, num-
bering about one hundred. The house of Hong Yong Sik, who
had been beheaded by the Chinese, was by government order
turned into a hospital, or " House of Civilized Virtue," and put in
charge of Dr. Allen. Ensign George W. Foulk and Lieutenant J.
^ / R Bemado^, of the U. S. Navy, remained in the legation during
/ the exodus of foreigners from S^oul, our flag not being lowered at
any time. Mr. Foulk writes under date of June, 1885 : " In
Corea, I used it [''Cores, the Hermit Nation,"] as a field book ;
but in the disturbances of December last, my house was looted by
the mob, and all my effects carried off The library of the palace
was lost at the same time ; so that I must infer the bookjou cient
to His Majesty was also lost"

The Corean Government has recently made claim upon that of
Japan for the extradition of the Liberals who had fled to the lat-
ter country — a demand very properly refused. Three of these
refugees arrived in San Francisco, June 11, 1886. Their names are
Pak Yong Ho, a nobleman, and envoy to Japan in 1881 ; So Ewang
Pom, secretary to the embassy to the United States in 1883 ; and
Sai Jai Pil, a graduate of the Tokio Military Academy. All were

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members of the Liberal ministry overthrown, in December last^
during the tumuli

Negotiations between China and Japan relative to the affiiir of
December, 1884, were carried on between the Mikado's Ambassador
Ito and Li Hung Chang, at Tientsin. They resulted in a treaty,
which was formally ratified May 7, 1885. Both powers agreed to
withdraw their troops within four months, and to invite the King
of Corea to have a sufficient military force drilled for the public
security by officers selected from a third power (probably the
United States). The text of the treaty was published May 27th.

The attention of Christian people is now being concentrated
upon Corea as a missionary field. With commendable promptness
no less than ten American missionaries are, at this vmting, either
already in their field, or on the route thither. A number of native
refugees in Japan are under Christian influences, and are earnest
inquirer& Some are pronounced believers, and one !^iutei is trans- i 'H >
lating the Bible into his native language. Three representative men
are now among us, in our own land, studying our country and the
faith of her people. The Corean character seems to be a happy
medium between the stolid Chinaman and the changeable Japanese.
With the memory of recent martyrdoms, Corea may become Chris-
tian sooner and more thoroughly than Japan, and aid in the mighty
work of evangelizing China. This is the faith held by some who
have studied the three people&

The feeling of the progressive men of Corea concerning them-
selves and ourselves finds expression in a recent letter from one of
their number. These sentiments may fitly conclude our introduc-
tory words to an edition of a book designed to make our new
treaty-neighbor better known :

''We are the weakest nation in the orient, on account of our
having been for thousands of years in a hermit condition."

''We are a new-bom nation, and but three years of age."

" If we should reckon our national age, in regard to our political
relations to other nations in the world, it would begin from the
treaty that wo made with the United States."

BCHBHBCTADT, N. Y., July 6, 1885.

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In the year 1871, while living at Fukui, in the province of
Echizen, Japan, I spent a few days at Tsuruga and Mikuni, by the
sea which separates Japan and Corea. like '* the Saxon shore" of
early Britain, the coast of Echizen had been in primeval times
the landing-place of rovers, immigrants, and adventurers from the
continental shore opposite. Here, at Tsuruga, Corean envoys had
landed on their way to the mikado's court In the temple near by
were shrines dedicated to the Corean Prince of Mimana, and to
Jingu Kogo, Ojin, and Takenouchi, whose names in Japanese tra-
ditions are associated with ''The Treasure-land of the West"
Across the bay hung a sweet-toned bell, said to have been cast in
Ck>rea in ajo. 647 ; in which tradition — untested by chemistry —
declared there was much gold. Among the hills not far away,
nestled the little village of Awotabi (Green Nook), settled centuries
ago by paper-makers, and visited a millenium ago by tribute-
bearers, from the neighboring peninsula ; and famous for produ-
cing the crinkled paper on which the diplomatic correspondence
between the two nations was written. Some of the first families in
Echizen were proud of their descent from Ch6-sen,;'while in the
villages, where dwelt the Eta, or social outcasts, I beheld the de-
scendants of Corean prisoners of war. Everywhere the finger of
tradition pointed westward across the waters to the Asian main-
land, and the whole region was eloquent of "kin beyond sea."
Birds and animals, fruits and falcons, vegetables and trees, farmers'
implements and the potter's wheel, names in geography and things

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in the arts, and doctrines and systems in religion were in some way
connected with Corea.

The thought often came to me as I walked within the moss-
grown feudal castle walls — old in story, but then newly given up
to schools of Western science and languages— why should Ck)rea be
sealed and mysterious, when Japan, once a hermit, had opened her
doors and come out into the world's market-place ? ' When would
Corea's awakening come? As one diamond cuts another, why
should not Ch6-ka (Japan) open Cho-sen (Ck)rea) ?

Turning with delight and fascination to the study of Japanese
history and antiquities, I found much that reflected light upon the
neighbor country. On my return home, I continued to search for
materials for the story of the last of the hermit nations. No mas-
ter of research in China or Japan having attempted the task, from
what Locke calls " the roundabout view," I have essayed it, with
no claim to originality or profound research, for the benefit of the
general reader, to whom Corea " suggests," as an American lady
said, " no more than a sea-shelL" Many ask " What's in Corea ? "
and "Is Corea of any importance in the history of the world ? "

My purpose in this work is to give an outline of the history of
the Land of Morning Calm — as the natives call their country — from
before the Christian era to the present year. As " an honest tale
speeds best, being plainly told," I have made no attempt to em-
bellish the narrative, thoiigh I have sought information from
sources from within and without Corea, in maps and charts, coins
and pottery, the language and art, notes and narratives of eye-wit-
nesses, pencil-sketches, paintings and photographs, the standard
histories of Japan and China, the testimony of sailor and diploma-
tist, missionary and castaway, and the digested knowledge of critical
scholars. I have attempted nothing more than a historical outline
of the nation and a glimpse at the political and social life of the
people. For lack of space, the original manuscript of " Becent and
Modem History," part HI, has been greatly abridged, and many
topics of interest have been left untouched.

The bulk of the text was written between the years 1877 and

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1880 ; sinoe ^bich time the literature of the subject has been en-
riched by Ross's " Corea" and " Corean Primer," besides the Gram-
mar and Dictionary of the Corean language made by the French
missionaries. With these linguistic helps I have been able to get
access to the language, and thus dear up doubtful points and ob-
tain much needed data. I have borrowed largely from Dallet's
*' Histoire d'Eglise de Cor6e/' especially in the chapters devoted to
Folk-lore, Social life, and Christianity. In the Bibliography fol-
lowing the Preibice is a list of works to which I have been more
or less indebted.

Many friends have assisted me with correspondence, advice, or
help in translation, among whom I must first thank my former stu-
dents, Has^gawa, Hiraii, Haraguchi, Matsui, and Imadatt^ and my
newer Japanese friends, Ohgimi and Kimura, while others, alas !
will never in this world see my record of acknowledgment — K.
Yaye' and Egi Takato — whose interest was manifested not only in
discussion of mooted points, but by search among the book-shops
in Kioto and TokiO, which put much valuable standard matter in my
hands. lalso thank Mr. Charles Tinman, Secretary of theLegation
of Ji^>an in Washington, for four ferrotypes taken in Seoul in 1878
by members of the Japanese embassy ; Mr. D. R Clark, of the
United States Transit of Yenus Survey, for four photographs of
the Corean villages in Russian Manchuria ; Mr. R Id^ura, of T<)kid,
for a set of photographs of Eang-wa and vicinity, taken in 1876,
and Mr. Ozawa Nankoku, for sketches of Corean articles in Japanese
museums. To lieutenant Wadhams, of the United States Navy,
for the use of charts and maps made by himself while in Corea in
1871, and for photographs of flags and other trophies, now at
Annapolis, captured in the Han forts ; to Fleet-Surgeon H. O. Mayo,
and other officers of the United States Navy, for valuable informa-
tion, I hereby express my grateful appreciation of kindness shown.
I would that Admiral John Bodgers, Commodore H. C. Blake, and
Minister F. F. Low were living to receive my thanks for their
courtesies personally shown me, even though, in attempting to
write history, I have made criticisms also. To Lieutenant N. Y.
Yanagi, of the Hyrographio Bureau, of the Japanese Navy, for a

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set of charts of the coast of Corea ; to Mr. Metcalfe, of Milwaukee,
for photographs of Coreans ; to Miss Marshall, of New York, for
making colored copies of the battle-flags captured by our naval
battalion in 1871, and for the many fetvors of correspondents — in St
Petersburg, Mr. Hof&nan Atkinson; in Peking, Jugoi Arinori
Mori ; in Toki6, Dr. D. B. McCartee, Hon. David Murray, Rev.
J. L. Amerman, and others whose names I need not mention. To
Qen. George W. McCullum, Vice-President, and to Mr. Leopold Lin-
dau, librarian, of the American G^graphical Society, I return my
warmest thanks ; as well as to my dear wife and helpmeet^ for her
aid in copying, proof-reading, suggestions^ and criticism during the
progress of the work.

In one respect^ the presentation of such a subject by a compiler,
while shorn of the fascinating element of personal experience, has an
advantage even over the narrator who describes a coimtry through
which he has travelled. With the various reports of many wit-
nesses, in many times and places, before him, he views the whole
subject and reduces the many impressions of detail to unity, cor-
recting one by the other. Travellers usually see but a portion of
the country at one time. The compiler, if able even in part to con-
trol his authorities, and if anything more than a tyro in the art
of literary appraisement, may be able to furnish a hand-book of in-
formation more valuable to the general reader.

In the use of my authorities I have given heed to Bacon's ad-
vice — tasting some, chewing others, and swallowing few. In ancient
history, original authorities have been sought, and for the story of
modem life, only the reports of careful eye-witnesses have been set
down as facts ; while opinions and judgments of alien occidentals
concerning Corean social life are rarely borrowed without due
flavoring of critical salt.

Corean and Japanese life, customs, beliefe, and history are often
reflections one of the other. Much of what is reported from Corea,
which the eye-witnesses themselves do not appear to understand,
is perfectly clear to one familiar with Japanese life and history.
China, Corea> and Japan are as links in the same chain of civil-
ization. Corea, like Cyprus between Egypt and Greece, will yet

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supply many missiDg details to the comparative student of language,
art, science, the deyelopment of civilization, and the distribution of
life on the globe.

Some future wiiter, with more ability and space at command
than the undersigned, may discuss the question as to how far the
opening of (Dorea to the commerce of the world has been the result
of internal forces ; the scholar, by his original research, may prepare
the materials for a worthy history of Corea during the two or three
thousand years of her history ; the geologist or miner may deter-
mine the question as to how far the metallic wealth of Corea will
affect the monetary equilibrium of the world. The missionary has
yet to prove the full power of Christianity upon the people— and
before Corean paganism, any form of the religion of Jesus, Boman,
Greek or Reformed, should be welcomed ; while to the linguist, the
man of science, and the political economist, the new ootmtry
opened by American diplomacy presents problems of profound in-

W. R a

8CHBHBCT1DT, N. T., Ootober 2, 1882.

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Thb following is a list of books and papers containing information about
Corea. Those of primary yalue to which the compiler of this work is specially
indebted are marked with an asterisk {*) ; those to which slight obligation, if
anj, is acknowledged with a doable asterisk ; and those which he has not
consulted, with a dagger (f ). See also under The Cobban Lanouaob and
Oartoorapht, in the Appendix.

* History of the Eastern Barbarians. ** Book czy. contains a sketch of the

tribes and nations occupying the northeastern seaboard of China, with the
territory now known as Manchuria and Corea." This extract from a
History of the Later Han Dynasty (25-220 a.d.), by a Chinese scholar of
the fifth century, has been translated into English by Mr. Alexander
Wylie, and printed in the Bevue de VExtrdme Orient, No. 1, l^Z. Du
Halde and De Mailla, in French, and Boss, in English, hav^e also giyen
the substance of the Chinese writer's work, which also furnishes the basis
of Japanese accounts of Corean history previous to the fourth century.
f The Subjugation of Chaou-seen, by A. Wylie. (Atti del IV. Cong. int. degli
Orient, ii., pp. 309-315, 1881.) This fragment is a translation of the 95th
book of the History of the Former Han Dynasty of China.

* Empire de la Chine et la Tartaric Chinoise, par P. du Halde.

* The Kojiki and Nihongi, written in Japan during the eighth century,

throws much light on the early history of Corea.

* Wakan-San-sai Dzuy6. Article on Cho-sen in this great Japanese Encyclo-


f Tong-Kuk Tong-Kan (General View of the Eastern Kingdom), a native Co-
rean history written in Chinese.

♦Zemin Koku Hoki (Precious Jewels from a Neighboring Country), by

Online LibraryWilliam Elliot GriffisCorea, the hermit nation → online text (page 1 of 46)