William Elliot Griffis.

Corea, the hermit nation online

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268 CORBA.

gammon; sang-pi-yen, dominoes; siu-tu-chen^ game of eighty
cards ; and chang^uij or che8& All these pastimes are quitd
different from ours of the same name, jet enough like them to be
recognized as belonging to the species named The festivals
most intensely enjoyed by the children are those of '"Treading the
Bridges," "The Meeting of the Star Lovers," and the "Mouse Fire."
There is one evening in the year in which men an4 children, ai
well as women, are allowed to be out in the. streets of the capit^J.
The people spend the greater part of the night in passing and re-
passmg upon the little bridges of stone. It is a general "night out"
for all the people. Comedians, singers, harleqiiins, and 'merry-
majcers of all kinds are abroad, and it being moonlight, all have a
good time in " treading the bridges." On the seventh day of the
seventh month, the festival honored in China, Corea^ and Japan
takes place, for which children wait, in expectation, many days in
advance. Sweetmeats are prepared, and bamboos strung witii strips
of colored paper are the symbols of rejoicing. On this night the
two .stars Capricomus and Alpha Lyra (or the Herd-boy and Spin-
niiig Maiden) are in conjunction in the milky way ' (or the Hiver of
Heaven), and wishes made at this time are supposed to come true.

Ohvrpul, or the Mouse Fire, occurs in the twelfth month, on the
day of the Mouse (or rat). Children light brands or torches of dry
reeds or straw, and set fire to the dry herbage, stubble, and shrub-
bery on the borders of the roads, in order to singe the hair of tho
various field or ground-burrowing animals, or bum them out, eo
as to obtain a plentiful crop of cotton.

At school, the pupils study according to the method all over
Asia, that is, out loud, and noisily. This kang^siong, or deafening
buzz, is supposed to be necessary to sound knowledge. Besides
learning the Chinese characters and the vernacular alphabet, with
tongue, ear, eye, and pen, the children master the kurku (" nine
times nine "), or the multiplication table, and learn to work the
four simple rules of arithmetic, and eyen fractions, involution, and
evolution on the cs^ion^n, or sliding numeral frame. A "red
mark " is a vermilion token of a good lesson, made by the exam-
iner ; and for a good examination passed rewards are given in the
form of a first-rate dinner, or one or all of " the four friends of
the . study table " — ^pens, ink, paper, and inkstand, or brushes,
sticks of "India" ink, rolls of uncozed paper, and an inkstone

1 See " The Meeting of the Star Lovers," in Japanese Fairy World.

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or wftier-dropper. Writing a good autograph signature — "one's
own pen ** — is highly commended. Sometimes money is given for
encouragement) which the promising lad saves up in an earthen
savings-bank. Not a few of the youth of the humbler classes,
who work in the fields by day and study the characters by night,
rise to be able officers who fill high stations.

The French missionaries assure us that the normal Corean is
fond of children, especially of sons, who in his eyes are worth ten
times as much as daughters. Such a thing as exposure of children
is almost imknown. Li times of severe famine this may happen
after &ilure to give away or sell for a season, that they may be
bought back. Parents rarely find their family too numerous.

The first thing inculcated in a child's mind is respect for his
father. All insubordination is immediately and sternly repressed*
Far difiEe^ent is it with the mother. She yields to her boy's
caprices and laughs at his faults and vices without rebuke. The
child soon learns that a mother's authority is next to nothing. In
speaking of his father a lad often adds the words "severe,"
"terrible," implying the awe and profound respect in which he
holds his father. (Something of the same feeling prevails as in
Japan, where the four dreadful things which a lad most fears, and
which are expressed in a rhyming proverb, are: "Earthquake,
wind, fire, and father," or "daddy.") On the contrary, in speak-
ing of his mother, he adds the words "good," "indulgent," ''I'm
not afraid of her," etc. A son must not play nor smoke in his
father^s presence, nor assume free or easy posture before him. For
lounging, there is a special room, like a nursery. The son waits
on his father at meals and gets his bed ready. If he is old or sick-
ly, the son sleeps near him and does not quit his side night or day.
It he is in prison the son takes up his abode in the vicinity, to
communicate with his parent and furnish him with luxuries. In
case of imprisonment for treason, the son at the portal, on bended
knees day and night, awaits the sentence that will reduce himself
to slavery. If the accused is condemned to exile, the son must
at least accompany his father to the end of the journey, and, in
some cases, sluure banidmient with him. Meeting his father in
the street^ the son must make profound salute on his knees, in
the dust, or in the ditch. In writing to him, he must make free
use of tibe most exaggerated honorifics which the Corean know&

The practice of adoption is common, as it is abnormally so
in all countries where ancestral worship is prevalent and underlies

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260 CORKA.

idl religions. The preservation of tha family line is the supreme
end and aim of life. In effect all those persons are descendants
of particular ancestors who will keep up the ancestral sacrifices,
guard the tablets and observe the numerous funeral and mourning
ceremonies which make life such a burden in Eastern Asia. Daugh-
ters are not adopted, because they cannot accomplish the pre-
scribed rite& When parents have only a daughter, they marry
her to an adopted son, who becomes head of the family so adopted
into. Even the consent of the adopted, or of his parents, is not
always requisite, for as it is a social, as well as a religious neces-
siiy, the government may be appealed to, and, in ease of need,
forces acceptance of the duty. Li this manner, as in the patri-
archal age of biblical history, a man may be coerced into '' rais-
ing up seed " to defunct ancestors.

Properly, an adoption, to be legal, ought to be registered at
the office of the Board of Bites, but this practice has fallen into
disuse, and it is sufficient to give public notice of the fact among
the two families concerned. An adoption once made cannot be
void except by a decree from the Tribunal of Bites, which is diffi-
cult to obtain. In practice, the system of adoption results in
many scandals, quarrels, jealousies, and all the train of evils which
one familiar with men and women, as they are, might argue a
pnon without the facts at hand. The iron fetters of Asiatic in-
stitutions cannot suppress hiunan nature.

Primogeniture is the rigid rule. Younger sons^ at the time of
th^ marriage, or at other important periods of life, receive pater-
nal gifts, now more, now less, according to usage, rank, the family
fortune, etc, but the bulk of the property belongs to the oldest
son, on whom the younger sons look as their &ther. He is the
head of the &mily, and regards his father's children as his own. In
all Eastern Asia the bonds of family are much closer than among
Caucasian people of the present tima All the kindred, even to
the fifteenth or twentieth degree, whatever their sodid position,
rich or poor, educated or illiterate, officials or beggars — form a
clan, a tribe, or more ezactiy one single family, all of whose mem-
bers have mutual interests to sustain. The house of one is the
house of the other, and each will assist to his utmost another of
the clan to get money, office, or advantage. The law recognizes
this system by levying on the clan the imposts and debts which
individuals of it cannot pay, holding the sodality responsible for
the indivduaL To this they submit without compliant or protest!

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Ingtead of the family being a unit, as in the west, it is only
the fragment of a clan, a segment in the great circle of kindred.
The number of terms expressing relationship is vastly greater and
much more complex than in English. One is amazed at the ex-
uberance of the national vocabulary in this respect The Coreans
are fully as dannidi as the Chinese, and much more so than the
Iricdi ; and in this, as in the ' Middle Kingdom, lies one great
obstacle to Christianity or to any kind of individual reform. Mar-
riage cannot take place between two persons having the same
fomily cognomen. < There are in the kingdom only one hundred
and forty or fifty family, or rather clan names. Yet many of these
names are widespread through the realm. AU are formed of a
dngle Chinese letter, except six or seven, which are composed of
two character& To distinguish the different families who bear the
same patronymic, they add the name which they call the pu, or
Gentile name, to indicate the place whence the family originally
came. In the case of two persons wishing to marry, if this pu is-
the same, they are in the eyes of the law relatives, and marriags
is forbidden. If the pu of each is different^ they may wed. The
most common names, such as Kim and Ni — answering to our Smith
and Jones — ^have more than a score of pu, which arise from mora
than twenty families, the place of whose origin is in each case
different The family name is never used alone. It is always fol-
lowed by a surname ; or only the word so-pang, jxmior, sang-ioeii,
senior, lord, sir, etc.

' Male adults usually have three personal names, that given in
childhood, the common proper name, and the common legal name,
while to this last is often added the title. Besides these, various
aliases, nicknames, fanciful and punning appellatives, play then*
part^ to the pleasure or vexation of their object This custom is
the source of endless confusion in doctunents and common life.
It was formerly in vogue in Japan, but was abolished by the mi-
kado's government in 1872, and now spares as much trouble to
tongue, tpyes, and pens, as a reform in our alph&bet and spelling
would save the English-speaking world. As in Nippon, a Corean
female has but one name from the cradle to the grave. The titles
*^ Madame," or ''Madame widow," are added in mature life. As
in 0I4 Japan, the common people do not, as a rule, have distin-
guishing individual names, and among them nicknames are very
common. Corean etiquette forbids that the name of father, mother,
or uncle be used in conversation, or even pronounced aloud.

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CoBEAH architecture is in a very primitive condition. The cas-
tles, fortifications, temples, monasteries and public buildings can-
not approach in magnificence those of Japan or China. The
country, though boasting hoary antiquity, has few ruins in stone.
The dwellings are tiled or thatched houses, almost invaiiably one
story high. In the smaller towns these are not arranged in regu-
lar streets, but scattered here and there. , Even in the cities and
capital the streets are narrow and tortuous.

In the rural parts, the houses of tiie wealthy are embosomed in
beautiful groves, with gardens surrounded by charming hedges or
fences of rushes or split-bamboo. The cities show a greater diE^day
of red-tiled roofe, as only the officials and nobles are allowed this
sumptuary honor. Shingles are not much used. The thatching
is of rice or barley straw, cut dose, with ample eaves, and often
finished with great neatnesss.

A low wall of uncemented stone, five or six feet high, sur-
rounds the dwelling, and when kept in repair gives an air of neat-
ness and imposing solidity, to the estate. Often a pretty rampart
of flat bamboo or rushes, plaited in the herring-bone pattern, sur-
mounts the wall, which may be of pebbles or stratified rock and
mortared. Sometimes the rampart is of wattle, covered with
smooth white plaster, which, with the gateway, is also surmounted
by an arched roofing of tiles. Instead of regular slanting lines of
gables, one meets witib the curved and pagoda-like roofs seen in
China, with a heavy central ridge and projecting ornaments of
fire-hardened clay, like the " stirrup " or " devil " tiles of Japan.
These curves greatly add to the beauty of a Corean house, because
they break the monotony of the lines of Corean architecture.^

Doors, windows, and lintels are usually rectangular, and are
set in regularly, instead of being made odd to relieve the eye, as
in Japan. Bamboo is a common material for window-frames.

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The fonndatioiis are laid on stone set in the earth, and the
floor <^ the homble is part of the naked planet People one
grade above the poorest cover the hard ground with sheets of
oiled paper, which serve as rugs or a carpet For the better class
a floor of wood is raised a foot or so above the earth, but in the
sleeping- and sitting-room of the average familj, the <'kang"
forms a vaulted floor, bed, and stove.

The kang is characteristic of the human dwelling in north-
eastern Asia. It is « kind of tubular oven, in which human
beings^ instead of potatoes, are baked. It is as though we should
make a bedstead of bricks, and put foot-stoves under it The floor
is bricked over, or built of stone over flues, which run from the
fireplace, at one end of the house, to the chimney at the other.
The fire which boils tiie pot or roasts the meat is ikua utilized to
wan^ those sitting or slei^pijog.in the room beyond. The difficulty
is to keep up a regular heat without being idtemstely chilled or
pothered. /With wood fuel this is almost impossible^ but by
dint of tact and regulated draught may be accomplished. As in
the Swedish porcelain stove, a pail of live coals keeps up a good
warmth all night The kangs survive in, the kotatstjt of Japan.

The "fire" in sentiment and fact is the centre of the Corean
home, and the native phrase, ''he has put out his fire," is the dire
synonym denoting that a nuui is not^ only cold i^id fasting, but in
want of the necessities of life.

Bed-dothes are of silk, wadded cotton, thick paper, and tiger,
wolf, or dog skins, the latter often sewn in large sheets like a car-
pet Comfort^ cleanliness, and luxury make the bed of the noble
on the warm brick in winter, or cool matting in summer; but
with the poor, the cold of winter, and insects of summer, with the
dirt, and rags, make sleeping in a Corean hut a hardship. Cush-
ions or bags of rice-chaff form the piUows of the rich. The x)oor
man uses a smooth log of wood or slightly raised portion of the
fldor to rest his head upon. " Weariness can snore upon the flint
when resty sloth finds the down pillow hard."

Three rooms are the rule in an average house. These are for
<xx>king, eating, and sleeping. In the kitchen the most noticeable
articles are the ang-pak, or large earthen jars, for holding rice,
barley, or water. Each of them is big enough to hold a man
easily. The second room, containing the kang, is the sleeping
apartment, and the next is the best room or parlor. Little furni-
ture is the rule. Coreans, like the Japanese, mi, not cross-legged,

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264 CORBA.

but on their heels. Among the well-to-do, dog-ddns, or kat4eU
cover the floor for a carpet, or splendid tiger-skins serve as rugs.
Matting is common, the best being in tiie south.

As in Japan, the meals are served on the floor on low 9ang^ or
little tables^ one for each guest, sometimes one for a couple. The
best table service is of porcelain, and the ordinary sort of. earthen-
ware with white metal or copper utensila The table-doths are of
fine glazed paper and resemble oiled silk. No knives or forks are
used ; instead, chopsticks, laid in paper caaes» and, ^hat is more
common than in China or Japan, spoons are used at every meaL

TabU Spread for FmUI Occmioim.

The climax of sBsthetic taste occurs when a set of historic porce-
lain and faience of old Corean manufacture and decoration, with
the tall and long-spouted teapot, are placed on the i)earl-inlaid
table and filled with native delicacie&

The walls range in quality of decoration from plain mud to col-
ored plaster and paper. The Oorean wall-paper is of all grades^
sometimes as soft as silk, or as thick as canvaa Sa^peik is a favor-
ite reddish earth or mortar which serves to rough-cast in rich
color tones the walls of a room.

Pictures are not common ; the artistic sense being satisfied

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with sorollB of bandsoine Chinese characters containing moral
and literary gems from the classics, or the caligraphic triumph of
some king, dignitary, or literary friend. To possess a sign-manual
or autograph scrap of Yung,. Hong, or O, the three most renowned
men of Chd-sen, is reckoned more than a golden manuscript on
azure paper.

The windows are square and latticed without or within, and
covered with tough paper, either oiled or imsized, and moving in
grooves — the originals of the Japanese sliding-doors and win-
dows In every part of a Corean house, paper plays an important
and useful part.

. Very fine Venetian blinds are made of threads split from the
ever-useful bamboo, which secures considerable variety in window
decoration. The doors are of wood, paper, or plaited bamboa
Glass was, tUl recently, a nearly unknown luxury in Corea among
the common people. Even with the nobles, it is rather a curiosity.
The windows being made of oiled or thin paper, glass is not a ne-
cessity. This fact will explain the eagerness of the people to pos-
sess specimens of this transparent noveliy. Even old porter and
ale bottles, which sailors have thrown away, are eagerly picked up,
begged, bought^ or stolen. An old medicine-vial, among the Go-
reans, used to fetch the price of a crystal goblet among us. The
possessor of such a prize as a Bass' ale bottle will exhibit it to his
neighbor as a rare curio from the Western barbarians, just as an
American virtuoso shows ofif his last new Satsuma vase or box of
Soochow lacquer. When English ship captains, visiting the coasts
gave the Coreans a botUe of wine, the bottle, after being emptied,
was always carefully returned with extreme politeness as an artdde
of great value. The first Corean visitor to the American expedi-
tion of 1871, went into ecstacies» and his face budded into smiles
hitherto thought impossible to the grim Corean visage, because
the cook gave him an arm-load of empty, ale-bottles. The height
of domestic felicity is reached when a Corean householder can
get a morsel of glass to fasten into his window or sliding-door,
and thus gaze on the outer world through this " loophole of re-
treat" This not only saves him from tiie disagreeable necessity
of punching a fijiger-hole through the paper to satisfy his curi-
osity, but gives him the advantage of not being seen, and of keep-
ing out the draft When a whole pane has been secured, it is
hi^ to state whether happiness or pride reigns uppermost in the
owner's bosom.

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266 CORBA.

Candlesticks are either tall and upright^ resting on the floor
in the Japanese style, or dish-lamps of common oil are used.

Flint and steel are used to ignite matches made of chips of
wood dipped in sulphur, by which a ** fire-flower " is made to
blossom, or in more prosaic English, a flame is kindled Phos-
phorus matches, imported from Japan, are called by a word signi-
fying "fire-sprite," ** will-of-the-wisp," or tgnis-fatuus.

Usually in a gentlemen's house there is an ante-room or vesti-
bule, in which neighbors and visitors sit and talk, smoke or drink.
In this place much freedom is allowed and formalities are laid
aside. Here are the facilities and the atmosphere which in West-
em lands are found in dubs, coffee- and ale-houses, or obtained
from newspapera. One such, of which the picture is before us,
has in it seats, and looks out on a garden or courtyard. On a
ledge or window-seat are vases of blossoms and cut flowers; a
smaller vase holds fans, and another is presumably full of to-
bacco or some other luxury. Short eave-curtains and longer dra-
pery- at the side, give an air of inviting comfort to* these free
and easy quarters, wbere news and gossip are exchanged. These
oi-Hang, or outer apartments, are for strangers and men only,
and women are never expected or allowed to be present

The Ching-ja is a small house or room on the bank of a river,
or overlooking some bit of natural scenery, to which picnlo par-
ties resort, the Ooreans most heartily enjoying out-door festivity,
in places which sky, water, and foliage make beautiful to tne eye.

There are often inscribed on the portals, in large Chinese
characters, moral mottoes or poetical sentiments, such as "Enter
happiness, like breezes bring the spring, and depart evil spirit as
snow melts in water." Before a new house is finished, a sheet of
pure white paper, in which are enclosed some ni^, or " cash," with
grains of rice which have been steeped in wine, is nailed or
fastened on the wall, over the door, and becomes the good spirit
or genius of the house, sacrifices being duly offered to it In
more senses than one, the spirit that presides over too many Co-
rean households is the alcohol spirit

The Corean liquor, by preference, is brewed or distilled from
rice, millet, or barley. These alcoholic drinks are of various
strength, color, and smell, ranging from beer to brandy. In gen-
eral their beverages are sufficiently smoky, oily, and alcoholic to
Western tastes, as the fusel-oil usually remains even in the best
products of their stills. No trait of the Coreans has more im«

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pressed their numerous visitors, from Hamel to the Americans,
than their love of all kinds of strong drink, from ale to whiskey.
The common verdict is, '' They are greatly addicted to the wor-
diip of Bacchu&" The Gorean vocabulary bears ample witness to
the thorough acquaintance of the people with the liquor made
from grain by their rude prooessea The inhabitants of the
peninsula were hard drinkers even in the days of Fuyu and Eoko-
raL No sooner were the ports of modem Gho-sen open to com-
merce than the Chinese established liquor-stores, while European
wines, brandies, whiskeys, and gins have entered to vary the Co-
rean's liquid diet and increase ike national drunkenness.

Strange as it may seem, the peasant, though living between the
two great tea-producing countries of the world — Japan and China —
and in the latitude of tea-plantations, scarcely knows the taste of
iea^ and the fragrant herb is as litUe used as is coffee in Japan.
The most common drink, after what the clouds directly furnish, is
the water m which rice has been boiled. Infusions of dried gin-
seng, orange-ped, or ginger serve for festal purposes, and honey
when these fail ; but tiie word *' tea," or cha, serves the Corean, as
it does the iypical Irishman, for a variety of infusions and decoc-
tions. Witii elastic charity the word covers a multitude of sins,
chiefly of omission ; all that custom or euphony requires is to
prefix the name of the substance used to " cha *' and the drink is
tea— of some kind.

The staple diet has in it much more of meat and fat than that
of the Japanese. The latter acknowledge that the average Corean
can eat twice as much as himself. Beef, pork, fowls, venison, fish,
and game are consumed witiiout much waste in rejected material
Nearly everything edible about an animal is a tidbit, and a curi-
ous piece of cookery, symbolical of a generous feast, is often found
at the board of a liberal host This iang-talk (which often be-
comes the " town-talk ") is a chicken baked and served with its
feathers, head, daws, and inwards intact '' To treat to an entire
fowl " is said <^ a Uberal host, and is equivalent to <* killing the
fatted call"

I^sh are often eaten raw from tail to head, especially if small,
with only a littie seasoning, ffo-hoi, or fish-bone salad, is a deli-
cacy. IX>g-flesh is on sale among the common butchers' meats,
and the Coreans enjoy it as our Indians do. In the first montii of
the year, however, owing to religious scruples, no dog-meat is
eaten, or dishes of canine origin permitted.

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268 OOREA.

The state dinner, giTen to the Japanese after the treaty, con-
sisted of this bill of fare : two-inch squares of pastry, made of
flour, sugar, and oil ; heaps of boiled eggs ; pudding made of

Online LibraryWilliam Elliot GriffisCorea, the hermit nation → online text (page 26 of 46)