Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, Transmitted to Congress, With the Annual Message of the President, December 8, 1885
Mr. Foulk to Mr. Frelinghuysen .
Seoul, Corea , October 10, 1884. (Received December 27.)
Sir: I have the honor to forward herewith a report of observations made during a journey into the interior of Corea, made by me between September 22 ultimo and the 8th instant. The report is transmitted in three packets, and addressed to the Department of State, in accordance with its letter of appointment to me, dated November 12, 1883. The report is of the nature required of me by my letter of instruction from the honorable Secretary of the Navy, to whom I inclose herewith a communication relating to it.
I am. &c.,
Ensign, United States Navy, Naval Attaché.
report of observations made during a journey in the capital district of korea.
On September 22, I left the capital to visit the cities of Songto, Kangwha, Suwon, and Kwangju, thus to make a circuit of the capital district, the largest in population in the country and most important as regards trade and consumption of products. The cities are the most noted of Corea and are generally regarded as embraced in the plan of the capital. Their governments are wholly independent of those of the eight great provinces of Corea, being presided over by Yusu, or governors, of equal rank with those of the provinces. I visited the cities in the order named above, traveling for the most part in small, flat-bottomed chairs carried by four coolies, two at a time, that being, on account of the hilly nature of the country and condition of the roads the most rapid and comfortable means of conveyance to be had.
The road from Seoul to Songto runs in a direction a little west of north, and is a part of the highway to the northwestern provincial capitals and to China. It leaves the west great gate of the city, and crosses three counties before reaching Songto, passing from one valley into another over low cuts in the hill crests.
I did not, however, leave the capital by the usual route, in order to visit an attachment of the capital of which I had not before heard called the Pukhan, in the company [Page 316] of a military officer. Leaving the capital by the northeast gate we skirted its wall until a point due north of the palace was reached, at which is the gate in the wall used only by the King in his escape from the city in time of danger. This communicates with the palace, and is customarily kept closed. From it a narrow footpath leads northward, on the top of a steep bank of coarse granite sand, to a rocky ridge some 200 feet above the city level. The sand forming this bank is heaped up to preserve the path yearly at considerable cost. The King having passed over the path in fleeing from the city, the removal of but a small quantity of sand from the bank below would destroy it altogether, leaving the bank a hard, steep slope, extending sharply from the base of the wall downwards a distance of a hundred feet. The pursuers could then only descend the bank with difficulty in a direction at right angles to that taken by the King.
Our route from this gate was that the King would take in fleeing from the city. It lay across a great basin walled across its western side and bounded in all other directions by sharp, rock-crested hills to a spur range of mountains averaging 2,000 feet in height. Intentionally there is no road across this basin, and we only crossed it with the greatest difficulty. Nearing its north boundary, the lofty rocky crest before us was seen to be strongly walled, though its precipitous rocky sides naturally formed an impassable barrier to any enemy. Ascending to the top of the crest, we came to a massive granite arch, closed with iron-bound doors, and guarded by the priests of a small Buddhist temple close by. Passing through this gate, I was amazed at the view before me. This was a great mountain-walled ravine, with almost perpendicular sides, a full thousand feet deep. The whole ravine seemed closely encircled by the mountain ring, 2,000 feet high, on which ran the heavy wall through which I had passed. At points in the lofty wall were massive gates, masked by the wall in front, which would have to be broken through in escaping by them.
Descending 700 feet, we met a small mountain stream, following which by the only path in the mountain-walled inclosure, we passed entirely through it. In the very bottom I observed barracks for troops, filled store-houses for provisions, a small palace, and a number of Buddhist temples, at which the priests were noisy parties of soldiers. East and west of the palace, on peaks about 1,000 feet high, were small signal pavilions, whence the movements of an enemy could be signaled directly to the King.
This remarkable fortress is the Pukhan, the secret hiding place of the King, the existence of which would never be suspected in any but a most critical examination of the Seoul vicinity. It is entirely unknown to foreigners, and ordinarily unvisited by natives, who seem averse to speaking of it. I was the first person not a Corean to whom it was exhibited, and this with a view to obtaining advice as to the erection of modern batteries along its approaches. The Pukhan was founded with the capital more than four hundred years ago, and has been maintained as a refuge for the King ever since. It has, however, never been occupied by him, another fortress, to be described later, having been used in the wars with Japan and China. At the time of its establishment the Buddhist priests of the Seoul vicinity were forced to be its guardians. These live in thirteen temples built in nooks of the ravine. They wear their hair cropped short, but in other respects appear as soldiers. Near the temples are arsenals in which are kept matchlocks and small guns of obsolete patterns.
Our exit from the Pukhan was by its west great gate. Here the stream escapes in a narrow gorge defended by a double line of massive walls. From here crossing a hilly stretch of country we got on the main road to Songto at a point twenty Corean li, or 7 miles, from the capital, and the same distance from the first town on the road worthy of note. This was Koyang, the capital of the county of that name; it consisted of about two hundred low thatched huts of the most wretched description lining the road, with a group of tiled buildings with curved roofs at its east end, in which the head county officer lived. There were a few shops of the most unsightly description at which straw, sandals, candles, tobacco, a few vegetables, and worthless odds and ends were sold, and a number of inns, indicated to be such by disordered heaps of meal-stools, jars, and dirty dishes in tumbled-down, smoky huts, with bare earthen floors, open to view from the street. Koyang is at the head of a valley planted thickly with rice, which opens out into broad rice plains along the right bank of the Seoul River.
Leaving Koyang, we soon entered the second county, Phaju, like that of Koyang, geographically determined by a valley thickly planted in rice, but more winding and of greater aggregate area. From the low pass by which we entered it two striking colossal figures in granite were in sight, projecting from a wooded hill close to the road. An examination proved them to be formed of great bowlders, rudely carved to represent Corean heads piled upon a rounded mass of rock projecting from the hillside. The latter was carved to represent garments over the busts of the two figures, which were capped with enormous stone hats of the Corean style. Upon inquiry, I find the origin of these figures is entirely unknown, though they are supposed to represent gods of the locality, and are made offerings of food and wine. One figure is called a man, the other [Page 317] a woman. Their hat-brims are round and square, respectively, and the hat-tops in four or five sections of a shape like figures in China and Japan representing the five elements. These facts would suggest that the figures represented the male and female elements of the universe. The base of the rock on which they stand is 120 feet above the valley; above this the height of the figures is about 46 feet. They stand stiffly erect, with startled, fierce expressions of face, which makes them very different from stone images commonly seen in China or Japan.
Phaju, county town, is 14 miles from Koyang. It is a first-class county in the province, presided over by an officer called moksa, two grades higher than that of Koyang (Kunsu). The town contains about three hundred houses, of the same wretched description as those of Koyang, with the same proportions of shops, the whole contents of any one of which might be purchased for four or five dollars; at one or two places some Chinese trinkets in colored silks were sold and the smallest amount of cotton piece-goods. Phaju is above the average Corean large town in importance and size; yet there were no evidences of trade or town government, as we understand them, worth noting. It is but the official residence of the officer who collects the revenue of the valley, surrounded by the bulk of the peasants who cultivate it. The Yongmun, or official residence, seems very imposing as compared with the flat, brown, paintless area of huts about it.
A few miles beyond Phaju we came to a clear, deep stream here called Imjin-Kang (Imjin River). This is a stream nearly as large as the Seoul River, which rises in the middle of the peninsula and empties into the Seoul River near Kangwha after flowing a winding but generally southwesterly course. Its mouth is shown on foreign charts of Corea under the name Tchang-tom-Kai, the French rendering of Chang-dan-Kang, which is the name most applicable to the river. It it a singular fact that Coreans have no names applicable to most of their great rivers from the source to the sea, dividing them into sections known by the word “Kang” affixed to towns or counties along them. The south bank of the river where we met it was a line of densely wooded hills, through which the road passes in a low cut filled by a heavy wall and massive granite gateway. Behind the wall is Imjin, whence the river here takes it name, the residence of an officer called Pyel-chang, who performs with others, certain military duties. Further down the river in continuation of the wooded hills is a long line of grassy earthworks erected in the last war with Japan. The river here is a quarter of a mile wide nearly, and varies in depth to its mouth from 6 to 18 feet; there is no tide and but a perceptible current at this point, which confirmed the impression I formed in viewing its mouth in a trip down the Seoul River that the river was obstructed there by barrier shoals. About Imjin and several little towns on the north bank I observed a number of boats of 3 or 4 feet draught; these may go to the towns near Seoul, the trip occupying a day, and to points 30 miles up the river from its mouth. This river is likely to prove navigable and of much importance to the Corean Navigation Company about to be established by Americans. Near the source of the river gold and silver have been reported. The boats plying on it carry wood, grains, salt, and vegetables.
The river forms the boundary between Phaju and Changdan Counties, on which account, in the absence of a distinct name for the general stream, the name, Chang-dan River (or Chang-dan-Kang), seems to me most applicable. Crossing the stream the road continues on northward through a slightly more hilly country, with narrower valleys. While hone of the trees were very large, I noticed many straight pines, some of which, at the village of Oijang-pho, were being worked up into flag-staffs for Chemulpo, and fine oaks which were suitable for building purposes. The great product of the valleys was rice, but there were considerable quantities of beans of several varieties; the oil-bearing plant, sesamun orientalis, of two kinds; millet; broom-corn, raised for the edible seed; small patches of cotton, tobacco, red peppers, and castor-oil plants, all these grown on the higher parts of the valley and along the borders of the rice fields. The style of farming was most primitive and irregular, though that of rice seemed well understood. But little land is wasted, and some gained over the rice paddies of Japan by having fewer roads and paths in them. I should judge the yield of rice in the area covered by my journey to be at least equal to that of the same average area in Japan. The other products were singularly mixed—sometimes three different kinds, but of different sizes, growing indiscriminately otherwise in the same bed. The quantity of red peppers grown is enormous, probably exceeding that of any other country of the world. These cut up in fine pieces figure in nearly every kind of Corean food; they are commonly spread out on the thatched roofs to dry alter harvesting, covering them fiery red. Pumpkins of large size are planted by the houses everywhere, the vines overrunning the roofs, which looked oddly enough supporting the great green vegetables. These remarks apply to the whole of my route, except that close to the Seoul River and south of it the cultivation of rice was greater and that of the other products correspondingly less.[Page 318]
The summary of my observations in regard to food products grown in the district embraced by my route is that the amount produced, consisting almost wholly of the kinds above named, is at least ample for the needs of the people living in it exclusive of the population of Seoul, and that it is distributed at least well enough to feed them all well, with no surplus for the common people.
The next county town, Changdan, 120 li (42 miles) from Seoul, was situated, and in general description, like Phaju, but smaller, containing about one hundred and fifty houses, clustered about an unusually imposing group of official houses. Changdan is of the second rate, the government of a Pusa. The place presented the same homely, peasant village air as Ko-yang and Phaju. Like those places it was situated at the head of a valley system, drained southward into the Seoul River. In a trip down the latter river one is struck with the absence of signs of human life along its banks, particularly the northern one; this is explained by the site of these county towns at the heads of valleys opening out on the river, but owing to their windings arid narrow lengths out of sight from it; in these towns live the people who farm the distant river plains.
During the last stage of the journey to Songto I passed through one of the “changes” or fair places (of which there are many hundreds in Corea), at which the chief trade of the land is carried on. These are readily distinguished, even at a distance, by their sites in the middle of plains or at cross-roads, but always by a stream of water. They consist of a few inns, about which are rows of clumsy sheds, thatched or covered with branches. There are several of these in each county, generally just beyond its borders on the main entrance roads. Here six times in each month a fair day is held; on other days the changs are all but deserted. At fair times, as I observed at a number of changs, a great crowd of Coreans collect, forming a noisy, wrangling pack, buying and selling products of all kinds. Most striking of the sales are those of bullocks, fine, large animals, of which I observed several times as many as 400 grazing about the chang. The articles brought for sale by individuals are small in amount, only what a man or pack animal might carry, but the aggregate amount is considerable. The goods are spread out on thick mats on the ground in the sheds or streets about which the people squat or stand, each with his goods by him, or a heavy string of brass coins on his shoulder. Rice brandy goes around freely, and by nightfall the noise and wrangling and drunkenness are terrific. The goods sold are salt fish of several kinds, sea-weed, farm products of all kinds, oil, paper, rice-cake for making brandy, small quantities of coarse cotton and flax cloth, wooden lantern-frames, basket-ware, rush mats, &c., in addition to horses, cattle, pigs, and occasionally dogs. Pigs seem to be very common; they are small, black, and cleaner than those of China, skinny, and muscular. The changs are undoubtedly the chief means of carrying on internal exchange. Having seen them, it is easy to understand the almost utter absence of trade in the towns and ordinary villages. The system gives rise to a large body of traveling pedlars and porters; for if the goods are not sold at one chang they may be carried on to another, where a fair is being held on the following day. For many years past a regularly organized guild of these pedlars has been in existence.
This became so powerful that it was taken up by the Government a few years ago under the name Pusang, as a kind of military reserve, and placed by sections containing 1,000 members under regular officers of the Government, who in consequence bear additional titles. The whole guild was thus raised in social standing, and is believed to be intensely patriotic. They often prove useful as detectives for the Government; a description of the person wanted having been given the Pusang men, it is conveyed from one to another, commonly written on the inside of a bowl kept covered closely. As they are constantly moving, it generally happens that they find the person wanted. The number of the body is estimated at from 100,000 to 150,000. They are scattered over the whole country. A similar guild of porters and other lower people also exists called Pusang, but regarded as much inferior to the Pusang, in which there are many persons of quality.
When within a few miles of Songto the ginseng farms, for which the locality is noted, began to appear on the hillsides on tracts raised a little above the rice paddies. The approach to the city wall was lined with memorial stones—many in graceful, small, pavilion-like structure, decorated in brilliant red, and with coarse carving. These stones are often raised by the people in memory of officials; some were of excellent marble, and all were admirably dressed and carved.
As I have stated before, the road to Songto from Seoul is a great highway, so regarded because it connects the two largest cities of the country and leads through two large provinces, as well as being the one road to China. Its condition would, however, not indicate it to be such to any foreigner. At times it was wide enough to admit the passage of a narrow vehicle, but, then, again became a deep path in the grass and at all times was uneven and rough. No vehicle could be used over it, and travel over it is by foot, pack animals, or chairs carried by coolies. I saw few or no goods in transportation, [Page 319] and the number of people passing over it were surprisingly few. A great many streams were crossed, most of them forded with difficulty, and at two only were there sound bridges. Practically it was but a mountain path enlarged slightly. The houses are so small and packed so closely together at wide intervals in towns and villages that in the general view of the country we must wonder where are the farmers who cultivate the rice valleys, and experience a feeling of loneliness.
Songto is situated very much like Seoul, at the foot of a chain of rocky mountain peaks, shut in east and west by hills and open only to the south. It is walled strongly and has three great gates, of which, as at Seoul, the south one is the great thoroughfare. The area embraced by the wall is about one and a half miles square; this area was said to have been filled with houses when the city was the capitol four hundred and ninety-four years ago, but at present only the central, southern, and southwestern section are built up. The population within the walls was stated to be 30,000; that outside along the main entrance road to the south gate, 20,000. The city presents along its one street, which leads from the south gate, a very busy air for a Corean town; this street within and without the wall was lined with shops of various kinds. Outside the gate were many venders of coarse flax cloth, shops at which rush-mats and basketware were sold, a few stonecutters and blacksmith shops. Directly inside the gate were many paper stores, others of which a few cotton piece goods, Chinese trinkets, second-hand utensils and clothing, pork and beef in horrible chunks, candles, tobacco, &c., were sold. In the street in front of their houses grain merchants expose rice, millet, beans, raw cotton and oil-seed. The other parts of the city were as quiet as a country village.
The ordinary houses of Songto are better built and larger than those of Seoul, and the streets cleaner and more regular; at one or two places I actually saw attempts at decoration in having a few flowers about the doorways, and sheds covered with fresh green boughs over them. Under the butcher’s stands, too, were heaps of stones in which unsightly matter from them was drained out of sight. Songto is quite noted for the oiled paper prepared there, used in making rain cloths, pouches, and other water-proof articles; the paper itself is brought from the southern provinces, the oil, which is only applied here, from the country in the vicinity and to the northward, where it is most largely produced.
The chief product of Songto, however, is red ginseng, for which it is the first district in Corea. This ginseng is cultivated at many farms within and about the city walls. The root, when taken from the ground, is called white ginseng. During the process of curing it becomes red. The cultivation of the root is peculiar and difficult, six or seven years’ constant care of the plant being required from the time the seed is planted until it is matured. The sale of red ginseng is a monopoly of the Government and has been so for many years; it is on this account a prohibited article in all the treaties of the foreign powers with Corea. A great deal of it is, however, smuggled to China, though there is a death penalty on the practice. The revenue derived from its sale to the Chinese amounts to about $200,000 each year; no estimate of the amount smuggled can be made, but it is considerable. In the company of the magistrate and tax-officer at Songto I made a close inspection of several ginseng farms, and have embodied the information thus obtained in a special report on it to be transmitted herewith.
During my stay at Songto I was the guest of the yusu or governor of the city. His yongmun, or official residence, is in the southwestern part of the city, and is of the type common to such buildings in Corea. The approach is by a wider avenue than common, crossed by a section of red palings, supported high overhead by two great red poles. Beyond this comes a series of high-covered gateways, painted red, with the Government sign, of the shape seen in the center of the Corean flag, painted on them. These gates are in walls separating open courts, from which doors lead off right and left to guest and other buildings. The official house is in the last court, like nearly all Corean houses of pretension, facing the south; it is a strongly-built structure, with heavy curved tile roof on a cut stone foundation. The main front is open, and appears as a covered platform, in the center of which the governor sits, on occasions of great ceremony, facing his braves in the court below. Off this platform are two little rooms, sometimes four on each side; here the governor customarily lives. The floors are of oiled paper, the walls of mud or paper that was once white. A mat or two, a chest, a soft cushion, and a straw bolster on the floor, constitute the chief furniture; these may be supplemented by a brass or wooden pan for ashes in smoking, an ink stone, and a candlestick. Though the gates are painted, little or no paint is on the buildings, and however new they may be, all the officers’ houses I have seen presented a weather-worn, shabby appearance, and dilapidated from the bits of paper torn from the sheets used largely in covering panel and sash frames about them.
About the courts of the yongmun is at all times a great crowd of attendants, police-runners, and soldiers in coarse uniforms of variegated colors indicating their position. These pass the orders of the great man within in long-drawn shrill cries heard long distances [Page 320] away from the yongmun; they come and go carrying and bringing messages. Squatting with heads close to the ground they speak in stage tones to the officer in the high place within from morning to night, at both of which times at the opening and closing of the gates there is a great clatter of drums, shrill fifes, and weird cries; all seems bustle and confusion, believed to be necessary to the dignity of the officers. I was assigned to a kil-chung, or guest-house, off the main court-yard. This, like all official houses I have seen, was in general arrangement like that of the governor. A host of braves were detailed to provide for me. Their attentions were painful in time. If I tried to nap, the word went forth “The great man (tai-in) sleeps; be still,” and in a little time a continuous wrangle and racket began, preventing all sleep, in the efforts of the braves to keep each other quiet, and thrashing vigorously the citizens who came to get a peep at the foreigner. Meals appeared six times the first day, seven the second, and at short intervals during the day an officer appeared to ask if I had eaten well, and if so, to thank me.
On the second day of my visit, the magistrate accompanied me to inspect a mountain retreat, similar to the pukhan in almost every detail, some fourteen miles due north of the city, in the mountains. Our escort, not an unusual one, numbered forty persons, and was preceded by two police-runners who shouted long calls in a high key, thrashed small boys in the way, knocked hats off men, and pushed aside old women. At all times in the city a fleeing crowd was ahead, while about us the street was entirely deserted. Outside of the city an old man was arrested for taking a shy look at the foreigner, and pushed along by the runners to be punished at the first halting place. I succeeded in persuading the magistrate to let him go finally, when the poor old fellow got down almost flat to the ground to thank me. At no other city have I seen such harshness shown towards the people, and it may be accounted for in the lingering distrust of the Government of the loyalty of the Songto people; until recently the latter could not attend the examinations for office, and even yet no high office can be obtained by a citizen of Songto.
The mountain fortress here is a relic of the time when Songto was the capital, nearly 500 years ago; it has received no attention beyond placing a few Buddhist temples in it, the priests to act as guardians and a few peasants to maintain one or two houses for occupation in cases of extreme necessity. The approach to the fortress is even more difficult than that of the pukhan, being, by deep, wild, densely wooded ravines over the most wretched path. I went entirely through it, passing from its south gate to the north one, outside of which is a famous water-fall 100 feet high, of the stream draining the ravine; from here northward the view extended unbrokenly over precipitous frowning mountains, one rising above the other. The rocks of the ravine were carved with many thousands of names in large, beautifully cut Chinese characters; some of these were in almost in accessible places and could only have been executed at much expense. I would fail utterly in describing the wild and striking scenery of the ravine.
It was nightfall when we started to return. The magistrate, who was an officer of the Pusang, the peddler guild of which I spoke before, brought his seal into use and called out thirty of the body to light us down the mountains Where these men came from or how they were called I did not understand, for we were apparently in an uninhabited, wild mountain district. They appeared quickly, great rough mountain men, each wearing a straw hat with a cotton ball in the band, and the characters “Fidelity” and “Loyalty” written on the brim. We descended the worst ravine in a long weird, winding procession, the mountains and our path weirdly illuminated by the pine torches of the Pusang men, who uttered shrill reverberating calls continually to indicate the road or each other’s whereabouts. Suddenly we came upon a little pavilion in the darkest part of the first gorge; here some two hundred more Pusang men were assembled by a wild stream in the light of many bonfires and torches; on the call of the magistrate they had prepared a feast for us here at midnight in the mountains.
Here the magistrate told me he had been asked by the late minister to the United States, Min Yong Ik, to suddenly call on the Pusang men of the Songto district for services, to show me the usefulness and fidelity of the body, and he had selected this place, the middle of the mountains, and time the middle of the night. I need not say that the experience was wonderful and impressive. The manner of the magistrate to the Pusang men was most kind and pleasing, and they likewise exhibited the utmost regard and deference to him. I was assigned the place of honor at the feast, in the middle, before the largest table, which was piled with a great variety of foods. The leading Pusang men, old men, nicely dressed, with kind faces, were presented to me, and exhibited curiously their pleasure in thus talking pleasantly with a foreigner for the first time in their lives. The fact of my traveling in Corea utterly alone (so far as the company of other foreigners was concerned) seemed to please them very much.
In returning to the city, our own escort was sent to the rear at the request of the Pusang men who took charge of us. They carried us across rocky streams, up and down rocky gullies, energetic and cheerful all the while, a distance of 8 miles; thence on into [Page 321] the city over a comparatively level road. Thirty or forty men carried torches which were found lying across the path at regular intervals to light the way. At 3 a.m. we arrived at the yongmun; here the Pusang men were dismissed to return for the most part to their homes in the mountains.
Relics of the time when Songto was the capital are comparatively few and insignificant. All that is left of the palace are a few foundation walls and stone steps about a plateau in the north side of the city. Outside of the walls on the east side of the city is a small stone bridge, now railed in reverently, where a prime minister was assassinated at the beginning of the present dynasty. A mark of suggestive flowing shape on one of the stones is pointed out as traces of his blood. This prime minister was the only officer who would not assent to deposing his King, and on this account was assassinated; though thus having been antagonistic to the object of the founder of the present dynasty, the latter has honored his faithfulness to the King by erecting near the bridge a great memorial tablet of magnificent black marble which was originally overlaid with gold, the traces of which are yet visible. This tablet is capped with a graceful granite head-piece and mounted on the back of a gigantic granite turtle, carved cleverly out of a single block 12 feet long and 4½ feet thick. By the side of this memorial structure is a very similar one erected by the present King about ten years ago. The turtle is a symbol of immortality. A new bridge has been placed by the original one, and a stone tablet close by commands all people, great and small, to “get down” (not ride) in passing. There is also a memorial stone close by in honor of a servant of the prime minister; from this stone water is said to exude regularly. The large memorial stones are in an elaborately decorated house, inclosed by a neat wall. The black marble of the tablets is remarkably fine, and was produced in the Province of Chung-Chong-do.
The general condition of the city and people of Songto seemed to me to be above those of the other cities I have seen in Korea.
The second stage of my journey, from Songto to the Seoul River, en route to Kangwha, was through a country much like that before Songto, but as it approached the river the valleys widened considerably, and the streams draining them were larger. The last ginseng farm I saw was about 4 miles from Songto. Having gone about 11 miles in a generally southwest direction, we came to a more thickly-settled district, in which the villages were larger and more numerous, and then arrived at Pungthak, a county town at which resided a pusa. This was a small place of only fifty houses, but the yongmun was, though small, in much better condition than usual. This town is at the head of a great rice plain, opening out westward, on the edge of which quite a number of villages could be seen. Due south of it 4 miles, on the river, is a small port, Hae-chhang-pho, shut out of sight by a range of hills running east and west along its banks. From Pungthak we crossed the rice plain in a direction a little east of south, and then ascending the river hill range, descended in a due south direction a picturesque, narrow rice valley, at the bottom of which, snugly situated in a bend of the river bank, was Yong-jong-pho. The place consisted of perhaps three hundred houses of the most wretched condition, yet showed unusual signs of active trade; about it were great heaps of large earthenware jars for sale; cattle and horses, grains of all kinds common in Corea, together with Chinese trinkets and coarsely made Corean manufactured goods, as mats, cloth, basket-ware, &c. Before the town, and in a canal-like stream entering it, were twenty or thirty boats of from 8 to 20 tons.
Yong-jong-pho bears northeast of the north forts of Kangwha, and is nearly opposite the branch of the Seoul River, which makes Kangwha an island. It is thus at the union of three water highways; of four, if the Changdan River, a few miles to the eastward, be included. Two of these are from the sea, viz, the two branches of the main river flowing south and west about Kangwha, and the third from Seoul. The charts show a depth, not less than three fathoms in the channel from the west, which is close to the bank in front of the town, while the other water approaches are known to be navigable for light draughts. The bank at the town is hard and comparatively steep. The town lies between two bold high points in a crescent-shaped hollow; to the eastward of it is a small raised plateau sheltered by the hills, which are wooded lightly. A mile east of the town is a very similar town site, slightly higher, in which is a fine grove of small pines. On the north shore of Kangwha, and in plain sight, are seven villages of more than unusual pretensions.
Situated under such circumstances, Yong-jong-pho impressed me highly with its adaptability as a treaty port. Situated on a large lake-like body of navigable water, in the midst of a comparatively large population, with four water approaches, on a direct and short water road to the capital, and already a natural ferry and transit port, it would seem to be in this respect far superior to Chemulpo.*[Page 322]
I crossed the river in a southwest direction under sail in a Corean junk to the eastern most of the Wolkot forts of Kangwha, distant three miles and a half.
On the beach I was received by a magistrate and a large party of under officers, soldiers and police runners forming his suite. Passing through a granite arch in the wall, here near the water, and which connects the line of forts, we entered a small fortress. Here refreshments were served in the pavilion of the commandant. A procession was then formed, headed by a band of native musicians in uniform, and to its slow singular music of a monotonous, reedy character, we slowly approached the city, about two miles and a half distant. We entered the city by its east great gate, just outside of which 500 soldiers of the modern army recently formed in the capital were busily erecting the buildings of a military post.
Kangwha City, like the other cities I have seen in Corea, seemed but a large village of peasant houses in a heavily walled inclosure, its only air of importance being given by a few scattered groups of official buildings of proportions immeasureably out of keeping with the common houses. The governor’s yongmun was on a hillside in the north of the city; near it was a palace for the occupation of the King when he uses the city as a retreat of safety. This establishment differed only from the usual yongmun, already described, by being painted in red, the royal color, found only on palace buildings, on gates of official buildings, and certain memorial shrines. Back of the palace is a field filled with tall, dark jars containing bean sauce for the use of the garrison in time of seige; near the east gate were large barracks for soldiers, and storehouses filled with Government rice. To the west of the palace, in a pretty valley, is the Confucian hall. The general features of the city site are much like those of Songto and Seoul; like them, the city opens to the southward, with hills in other directions over which runs the wall. On a hill in the southwest are some magazines and arsenals. While poor and homely, Kangwha City is, in the general view, peaceful and pretty. The only streets are the roads leading from the south, west, and east gates; on that leading from the south gate were many shops and stands at which small amounts of the usual commodities were sold. Kangwha City contains about 7,500 inhabitants, a little more than one-half the population of the whole island.
The island is hilly, with fertile valleys, in which there is a considerable number of Small villages; the general aspect of the country is greener, more fertile than other parts of the capital district.
The notable products of the island are three, viz, fine tender beef-cattle, an herb medicine called “suk,” and fine mats, with color decorations. The medicine is a small plant about eight inches high, resembling hoarhound, taken up by the roots, dried, and used in making decoctions for drinking or external washes. It grows in other places in Corea, but that of Kangwha only is generally used as a medicine. The quantity of “suk” produced is very large. Upon asking for a specimen stalk I was promptly presented with a thick wreath of it 120 feet long!
The mats, for which the island is famous, are made of a triangular rush. This is cut in June, and at once split up into fine pieces, which are shriveled into round straws by exposure to night dews for a months after which they are stitched together to form mats of several thicknesses. These mats are very handsome, and constitute the most salable article to foreigners, probably, manufactured in Corea. Their attractiveness consists, in addition to neatness of make, in decorative borders, inclosing right lined designs most commonly, in superposing pieces of rush straw, dyed red, blue, green, purple, or yellow; these pieces, often very short and fine, are stitched on so cleverly as to give the matting the appearance of having been painted. The mats are rectangular in shape, of four or five qualities, varying in size from 3 by 6 to 4 by 12 feet. The pieces of matting presented to officers of our Government by the late Corean Embassy to the United States were made at Kangwha; but are not the largest or best kinds. About seventy families only make this matting, which is only produced in Kangwha; all they make is for officials, and there are no places at which it may be purchased. The manufacture of nearly all decorative articles in Corea seems to be limited in the same manner, but there are extremely few of such in the country.
I was rather struck with the fact that instead of oxen only, as in other parts of Corea, cows were used almost exclusively as pack-animals; they were fine-limbed, plump animals, as a rule, with short curled horns, and seemed to be very numerous.
The roads on the island were evenly broad, and ox-carts seemed to be far more commonly used than on the main land.
The entire north and east sides of the island are lined with a wall, and access can only be had through arches at several points; the principal of these on the east side are the one at which I entered at Wolkot, and that due east of the city at Kapkot (or Kapkoshi), by which I left the island. Near the latter place I observed some memorial tablets of fine-veined marble; I have since learned that Kangwha was noted for this and other iine stones.[Page 323]
Crossing the river at Kapkot, I entered the wall of Mun-su-san-sung, a nearly mountain-encircled fortress retreat, like the Pukhan at Seoul and that at Songto. The wall ran entirely over the mountain crest, which formed only three sides of the fortress, the fourth, toward the stream, being closed by the heavy wall only. Within the inclosure is a Buddhist temple, I was told, and several military buildings under the charge of an officer. Here, as at Kangwha City and at the forts of Kangwha island, there were no signs of guns or other weapons. Mun-su-san-sung is the retreat for the King attached to Kangwha City, three miles distant, as well as terminating the highway from Seoul. Its position and that of Kangwha, with those of the mountain fortresses at Songto, Seoul, and Krangju suggests that all these defensive retreats were established rather to a view of service in internal wars and insurrections than as against foreign invaders.
From Kangwha I went to Chemulpo, the chief treaty port. The distance between the two places in a straight line or by water does not exceed sixteen miles on the charts, but owing to deep indentations of the coast between and vast areas of mud flat, the land route is by a road leading east from Kangwha nearly half way to the capital, thence south and southwesterly, the whole distance being about forty-five miles. The road starts from the east gate of Mun-su-san-sung, from which the county town Tongjin is reached after a winding course of three miles and a half. Here a pusa (second rank head county official) resides in a town of about three hundred houses, at which the most striking feature was a circular, well-built stone jail, 75 feet in diameter, besides the imposing yongmun, a Confucian temple, and a large official guest house.
This county, Tongjin, was the finest I traveled through in my whole journey. The yongmun was in fine order, the pusa a dignified manly officer, the roads very good though narrow, and the crops most abundant. The county contains a population of about 10,000, and consists, in the main, of a long valley system, approaching the river obliquely, opening out upon it to the east. The road through it lay directly towards Seoul on the top of a ridge, and, for a distance of half way to the capital nearly, seemed well adapted for a railroad bed.
The river is but about three miles distant at Tongjin, and thereafter is gradually approached by the road; it is, however, shut out of sight during the length of the county by a low range of hills, along the inner base, of which I noticed many thriving farm villages. Viewing the country from the river along here it seems most desolate, and one would never suspect that close at hand along the hills was such a great population or prosperous country. Where the river hill line terminates, about seven miles east of Tongjin, the county ends in a great rice plain, opening out directly on the river; half of this plain lies in the next county, Kimpo, the county town of which, of the same name, is close to the river, but completely out of sight from it behind a wide shoal in it and a wooded bluff. Kimpo is of the same general description as Tongjin, but of slightly lower grade, having a kunsu for its head officer. Close to the town is a hill on which are earthworks and a small arsenal building, with some fire signal towers of the chain of such leading to Seoul from Kangwha. Off the town at a distance were some large junks.
The road to the capital continues on eastward from here, near, but out of sight, as if purposely concealed from the river; I turned southward here, following the edge of the great rice plain which constitutes Pupyon County, the county town of which is at its head ten miles south of Kimpo, under a well-defined hill about 900 feet high, marked on foreign charts as Courcel Peak. Pupyon is a place of considerable importance, presided over by a pusa. Near the town, which contains a small garrison and extensive Government store-houses, is a line of fortifications on a hill.
Going south from Pupyon, across an arm of the rice plain a distance of 4 miles, we entered at right angles the new road leading from Chemulpo to Seoul, where it turns eastward; a mile farther brought us to the old road close to the village Lok-pa-wi-chang, one of the changs or fair places before described. Here on fair days are exchanged country products for cottons, mirrors, kerosene, and small knick-knacks obtained from foreign traders at Chemulpo. From here the road winds northerly into Chemulpo, about 4 miles distant. Chemulpo, though illy spoken of by visitors from the Chinese and Japanese ports, presented to me, after my experiences in the interior, a place of great size and activity. It is growing rapidly, so far as the Corean, Chinese, and Japanese settlements are concerned, but almost at a stand-still with regard to western people. The difficulty with the latter seems to lie in too rigid an attempt to make their concessions at once like that of Kobe, Japan, the model adopted by the controlling parties, who are English.
The prices of the land in lots and the exaction that certain buildings must be built in costly designs of materials, now not readily obtainable in Corea, have driven away would-be pioneers, and restrain the efforts of those who are trying to brave the matter out by remaining. The object in these exactions would seem to lie in an attempt to freeze out other foreigners by the investment of the more abundant English capital in the far east. During the month elapsing between two visits to Chemulpo, I observed a very marked [Page 324] improvement to have taken place in general business activity, in the number, character, quantity and variety, quality of foreign goods in Japanese, Chinese, and Corean stores, and in the settlements of these people; on the other hand, things seemed very perceptibly to have waned for the western merchants in every way. Some of the buildings erected by Coreans at Chemulpo are far superior to any I have seen anywhere else in Corea.
Suwon, the third objective point of my journey, lies nearly due south of the capital, a distance of 70 li (25 miles). I reached it from Chemulpo by journeying eastward over a hilly country much inferior in products and population to that I had heretofore seen, to the road leading from Seoul to Smoon; thence southward direct to the latter city, a total distance of about 38 miles.
The range of hills running eastward from Chemulpo, along which leads the road to Seoul, is the water-shed of the Seoul River; south of it the whole country to Suwon contains no stream of any size and is very irregularly hilly. The few narrow plains and valleys are drained directly into the sea.
Four miles east of Chemulpo I passed Inchun County town, a very small place, but the capital of a Pusa. It was at this place at which the American treaty was signed, there having then been no town where Chemulpo now stands. The population of Inchun County, which has been enlarged by the growth of Chemulpo from the influx of Coreans from various parts of Corea, was estimated at about 11,000. Directly opposite Inchun town is Chang-ja-Kol, a town of about equal size. The adjoining county south of Inchun is Ansan, with a capital of the same name; this place and the county in general is insignificant in size and products.
The towns already named were the only groups of habitations worth mentioning on the whole road to Suwon except perhaps two or three changs or fair places, which at the time of my visit were closed. The last 4 miles of road before Suwon are lined with picturesque old pines and numerous memorial stones. At one place is a resting-place and pleasure resort for the king by a small lotus pond. Near here is a small lake celebrated for a delicious kind of fish called “puoh.”
Suwon possessed less of the military-fortress air than the other cities I had visited. The main part of the town, which seemed but a village of thatched houses, lay in a valley between two lines of pretty, pine-wooded hills. The wall line is nearly square, running over the hill-tops and across the valley north and south of the town; it is pierced for two great gates north and south and other small and masked ones for military purposes. The official buildings are closed against the western hill and comprise a very large yongmun and a small palace; from the former a wide avenue leads eastward, lined with offices, meeting the one real street of the city, which is but the road connecting the north and south gates, a section of the highway leading from Seoul to the southern provinces of the country.
On the top of the hill back of the palace is a very graceful pavilion called the Sojang-de, or stand for the commander-in-chief. From here the view over the country is magnificent, embracing all quarters but the east. By it is a walled court or drill-ground and narrow stone stairways leading to an arch in the base of the wall. The wall is massively built and lined with picturesque bastions of odd shapes. Like that at the other cities, it was whole and kept in good condition, and with the great thickness of earth banked behind it would offer good resistance against even modern artillery.
Along the main street were a few shops, some apparently filled with Chinese goods, but all small and poor. Outside the south gate was a cluster of houses as large as that within the walls. Along here the farmers assembled with grain, fruit, and other products for sale to the citizens. About Suwon coarse flax cloth is made in considerable quantity. This and large bags of persimmons were being carried toward Seoul on many pack-horses and oxen. The number of houses in the city was stated to be about 1,900, with 1,700 under the Government outside, making 3,700 for the district, or a population of about 22,000. Suwon was said to have been formed as a royal city, to be the residence of a king who abdicated in favor of his son. The king came here to live, but died soon after, though the young king was for a long time kept in ignorance of his death.
The governor of the city was eighty-five years old, yet hearty and strong. While he was courteous and kind in his manner to me, he seemed greatly feared by the host of retainers about him. The discipline of the place seemed very rigid and minute, and all day long the air of the yongmun was one of excitement and function, evinced in beating of drums, rushing about in all directions of gaily-uniformed underlings, runners and policemen, and shrill, long-drawn cries of people transmitting orders or announcing the approach of visiting officials. In one of the buildings of the yongmun was residing a Chinese official with a small retinue of servants. The replies of Coreans to my questions in regard to the presence of this officer were evasive, though I learned that in spite of the high rank of the Corean governor, he was bound to call daily upon the Chinese officer; while the strictest orders were given and executed well, too, that the [Page 325] people were not to invade my quarters out of curiosity, some of the Chinese did so insolently, a few soft words being the only remonstrance from the governor’s policemen, to which little or no attention was paid.
This incident only tends to confirm the impression I had formed in Seoul of the cowering disposition of the Corean Government to the attitude of China toward Corea, the only solution of which may be found in a written agreement between the two countries, made two years ago, after the entrance of a Chinese commissioner and three thousand Chinese soldiers. This agreement seems to be wholly unknown to the western powers.
I left Suwon by its northeast gate. After going some 4 miles over a hilly, poor country, we entered a valley running north to the Seoul River. In its upper part the products were broom-corn, beans, oil-plants, millet, tobacco, and rice in small patches, considerable land being left uncultivated. This valley we followed, passing several small changs, until the high walls of Kwangju were close by, to the northeastward the mountains on which the city is situated, forming the east wall of the valley, which from here onto the river was planted in rather poor-looking rice fields. The ascent to the city wall was steep and laborious up a narrow, rocky ravine, at the head of which we came to its south gate. To the south and eastward from the walls the country is wild, very mountainous, and said to be almost uninhabited.
Kwangju is only a great fortress, a hollow walled recess in the top of a bold mountain, 1,200 feet high, containing a palace retreat for the king, barracks, store-houses, and other necessaries for resisting a siege, and maintaining it in such a condition. The wall, inclined at a small angle and built solidly of massive stones, is 40 feet high and shaped like a rough triangle lying on the mountain crest, which is broken at one place to admit a stream in a deep rocky gorge, heavily walled across, at the meeting of its south and east sides. On the west at one place, 150 feet below the wall top, a ridge runs out into the plain by which we had come; on top of this is the one road leading to the city from Seoul, meeting the rocky path by which we had entered at the south gate, which is in reality in the south end of the west wall. Three similar ridges project from the south wall-face at the same distance from the wall-top; on these are built heavy redoubt bastions, entered by massive ports under the main wall. The steep sides of the mountain alone form, with the cup-shaped hollow in its top, a powerful natural fortress, and with its great wall and a handful of defenders in addition to these, Kwangju is impregnable against almost any enemy.
The interior of the wall is a beautiful wooded valley, winding south-eastwards, with rounded slopes densely covered with evergreen, pines, and maple undergrowth, meeting the wall only 5 feet from its top in a broad, grassy path of even width.
At the bottom of the valley, 400 feet below the wall top, is the so-called city, a peaceful, most picturesque hamlet of low thatched huts assembled in front of the palace and yongmun buildings, which are half buried in pine forest under the west wall.
At the time of my visit the governor was absent and a deputy officer called pijang had been sent from Seoul to receive me. This officer, dressed in flowing silk robes of blue, yellow, and crimson, with a retinue of uniformed soldier priests, and a native band of boy musicians formed my escort in my inspection of the fortress. Ascending the hill back of the palace slowly over a narrow path in the pine forest to the weird music of the boy band, we came to a graceful pavilion raised above the wall, the stand of the military commandant. From here a most wonderful panoramic view of the whole river-drained area as far as Kangwha was presented. From this elevation (1,350 feet) the dark outline of the capital seemed to lie directly under Sangak Mountain, and the river but a winding silver thread, on which the distant junks seemed but dots. To the west and south was an endless area of hilly country, in which the valleys appeared as innumerable dark lines. To the eastward and southeastward craggy frowning mountains rose one above the other from close at hand to as far as the eye could reach.
Owing to their compactness, size, and close sites under mountains and hills, habitations were not visible at all, except in the flat plain close below. Here I counted in one small area partly broken by spur hills seventeen villages.
It is not possible to approximate with any degree of accuracy to the population of Korea in any other way than by extra census taking, as only the smallest fraction of the whole number of habitations could be seen in even extensive traveling in direct routes in so excessively mountainous a country. From this stand we continued on, skirting the wall, making a circuit of the fortress. In the middle of the south wall-face we came to a second stand for the commandant, facing the precipitous mountains across the ravine at the foot of the wall.
Thence we descended to the stream exit at the southeast corner of the wall; here the stream passed through a subterranean arch in a wild cataract, close by a massive granite arched gate in the wall. Returning along the stream bed we passed a reservoir for holding water to be used in time of siege, then large storehouses for food, and a field of jars filled with bean sauce for the garrison. Beyond these came the main part of the [Page 326] village, with small fields below it, on which enough can be produced to supply the fortress inmates in case of siege.
The population of Kwangju is not more than 7,000. There are no products worth mentioning, and no evidences of trade, the inhabitants being simple peasants. In the hills are nine Buddhist temples, with arsenals attached. In these live 120 soldier-priests. To the east of the city, on a second mountain crest, is a small walled retreat, guarded likewise by Buddhist priests. The area covered by dwellings in Kwangju does not exceed 50 acres; length of wall, about 3 miles.
The people seemed singularly docile, kind to each other, and markedly less rough in general conduct than in any other cities I have seen. As I was the first Western foreigner to come among them they evinced much curiosity, but also seemed desirous to do all in their power to make my visit pleasant. Upon descending from the hill on one occasion to return to the yongmun, a large party of the common towns-people decorated my chair profusely with brilliant red maple branches, with which the hills were magnificently colored.
Kwangju has been in the past the favorite retreat for the king. His most notable occupancy was during the last Chinese invasion of Corea, when it was vainly besieged by a Chinese army, while defended by its villagers and 120 soldiers. The queen and princes having been captured at Kangwha, and the people at large at the mercy of the Chinese, the king voluntarily left the fortress and sued for peace. The governor of Kwangju and most of his subordinate officers, as at Songto, Kangwha, and Suwon, live customarily in the capital, Seoul, this being a privilege granted to all officers above the fixed grade within the limits of the capital province; but they must be at their posts to transact business periodically.
While at Kwangju I decided to avoid the direct route to Seoul, 11 miles distant, in order to examine the Seoul River from as far east of the city as time admitted by descending to opposite the city (the highest point heretofore visited by any foreigner) in a native boat. Upon communicating this intention to the Pijang (deputy) at Kwangju he took measures to turn the trip into a picnic. We left Kwangju in a gay procession, headed by the native band of chubby boys, through the south gate.
Descending into the valley west of the city, we moved northwards along its east border to Songpha, a village of historic interest on the south bank of the Seoul River, 7 miles from Kwangju and 11 from Seoul. It was just behind this village that the Chinese army which besieged Kwangju had its camp, the remains of which are yet visible in broken down walls and heaps of earth in the fields. On the edge of the village is a tall building of graceful shape and indicated to be official by its decorations in red, containing a great marble tablet fully 12 feet high and a foot thick, mounted upon the back of a gigantic granite turtle. The front of the stone is closely filled entirely with an inscription deeply cut in what I took to be Manchu Tartar script characters; these closely resemble Sanscrit or Pâli characters, but they are written in vertical lines, beginning on the left. Over the body of the inscription is a title line written horizontally from left to right. On the back of the stone is another inscription only partly covering it, in Chinese square characters. Outside of this building, inclosed by a rough railing, is a second great granite turtle, but without a tablet mounted on it. About the place irregularly scattered on the ground, were many dressed stones, and a number of the stone-posts, columns, sheep, and drums seen about Corean graves.
An officer stationed at Songpha, a Pyelchang, accompanied me in my inspection of these relics. He stated that after the Chinese had begun the invasion of Corea, in 1637, two large marble tablets covered with inscriptions were brought to Corea from China by sea; that the erection of these was violently resisted by Coreans, and one was destroyed; the other was brought to Songpha, and there set up as I saw it, and has been since under the protection of the Corean Government. Neither the Pyelchang nor other persons present could (or would) explain the inscriptions, and I was told without special permission from the governor of Kwangju copies of them could not be made. Historically, this monument presents much interest, and a thorough examination may develop information on the status of Corea with regard to China of more directly practical use. This I shall endeavor to make.
By the bank at Songpha I found awaiting me two large flat-boats, on one of which an awning had been erected, the band and refreshments provided. The trip down the river was most enjoyable. We slowly drifted a winding course, generally in mid-stream, but again close to the banks, under green precipitous hills, topped in places by pavilion-like buildings frequented by pleasure parties of officials to enjoy the river scenery, which is softly very attractive. At Songpha the stream is a third of a mile wide, with clean banks and a current of about two knots, and flows southwesterly. A mile below it is broken into two parts, the main stream curving about northwardly in a horseshoe shape around a low island. Where the two parts meet is a steep bluff, from which the course is north a mile, then westerly and southwesterly. Both channels at the break are navigable [Page 327] for light draughts, and in them the current is swift. This point seems to be the highest reached by the tides.
A mile from here a swift stream, called Shim chon River (Shim-chon-Kang), enter the right bank, coming from the northeastward apparently. It was narrow and shallow; but I observed many masted boats of five or six tons on it, some being towed up by men who walked on the banks. Near here, on the right bank, was a large village, Tuk-sum, the great wood mart of the Seoul vicinity. Here I counted more than a hundred boats of various sizes up to about thirty tons; and the bank for nearly a mile was piled up with building timber, split wood and branches for fuel. I saw no timber of large size, however. Just below Tuk-sum a small stream enters that, I presumed, drains the city of Seoul, from which it flows through two arched ways near the east great gate of the city. This is a shallow, rocky creek, filthy with the sewerage of the city. Where it entered the river were several long bars built up by it of city refuse. From here westward extended a continuous line of villages, situated in breaks of the steep, high bank. These in order, descending, were called Tu-Mukal, Tŏng-Mushima, Hăngăng, Pokăngi, and Sobingŏ. Hăngăng was a very large place, probably the largest town on the whole river to its mouth. This place gives the name Hăngăng, or River Han, to the section of the river near Seoul which foreigners have supposed to have applied to the whole river, which has no general name for native use. Sobingŏ was also a large town. At the latter place the river turns abruptly southward to round a great sand bank directly south of Seoul.
At the bottom of this southerly course are several bad bars, the worst obstruction to navigation I have seen in the Seoul River. Near them is a great ferry called Tong-jeki, by which the river is crossed on the direct road south to Suwon and Kwangjŭ. From observations made during this trip, and a special one to the sea from Seoul, I am assured that the Seoul River is navigable to Seoul port towns at low water for draughts of 6 feet, and for a distance of 10 miles above the city for at least 4 feet draughts, the latter determined by the two short obstructions mentioned above, viz., one near Tong-jeki and the other a mile below Songpha. The total number of boats for goods transport plying on the river from Tuk-sum to the sea, a distance of about 45 miles, I estimate by counts at nearly four hundred.
Below Tongjeki a short distance the river begins its northwest course to the sea opposite Notul village; here the river is turned by a wide sandy stretch made an island by a small branch of the river on its south side. This stretch is crossed by one of the commonest roads to Seoul from Chemulpo, that entering Mapo the proposed river port of the capital. The alternate positions of these bars on the two sides of the river give rise to countercurrents of considerable velocity which conveniently admit of swift passage to vessels at both flood and ebb tides in either direction. I append a sketch of the part of the river I inspected above Seoul, which seems a very important part of it and not shown on any maps or charts heretofore published.
At Tongjeki I landed, and, proceeding due north about 3 miles over the shortest, most; direct road from the river to the capital, entered it by its south great gate at 6 p.m. on October 8, having been absent sixteen days.
The total distance covered by my route was about 200 miles. This journey has never before been made by any foreigner, and no inspection of places embraced by it made by such, except Songto and the vicinity of Chemulpo; Songto had been visited by but two other foreigners.
In closing this report I would submit the following summary of my observations during the journey.
The people, as most commonly observed, are of two great classes, the officials and the forming peasantry. Classes of gentry, artisans, and professional men seem almost absent outside of Seoul. The official class, made up of officers and their direct attendants, is very large, its members haughty and powerful in the extreme, and the common people correspondingly humble, ignorant, and slavish.
Manufacturing industry is of the lowest possible order, confined to building and making roughly only the actual necessaries of existence.
The industry of the people is in farming such products only as are produced in greatest abundance with the least, labor. There is no perceptible demand for labor, and the habit of the people is to be far more idle than those of China and Japan. Food stuffs of the kinds labored for are produced abundantly enough to feed the people gluttonously. All classes are wholly dressed though dirty; beggars and ragged people are most rare.
The population is greater than that assigned heretofore by western people, and may prove to be nearly double present published estimates. There are evidences to corroborate the statements of many prominent Coreans that it is increasing comparatively rapidly. The system of trading by fair places or changs; existence of fortified retreats, as the Pukhan described above; primitive means of travel and transportation; character of manufactured articles; absence of all but the coarsest forms of social etiquette; these, and [Page 328] other characteristics of the people and country, together with the very mountainous nature of the Kingdom, are strong evidences that Corea as a nation is but a step removed from being one made up of distinct mountain tribes. This implies a weak central government or divided authority in the general government of the nation. A corroboration of this view of the Government was the insurrection of 1882 in Seoul, and is the difficulty foreigners, and especially merchants, find in discovering where the source of authority is in dealing with the Government at present.
Very respectfully, &c.,
Ensign, U. S. Navy, Naval Attaché.
|Governments||Places||Distances in Corean li||Governments||Places||Distances in Corean li|
|Koyang direct from Seoul||40||Chemulpo||10|
|Miryok-nim (stone images)||5||Kwachon||Painna-chang||10|
|Imjin (Changdan River)||3||Suwon||20|
|Songpha (Seoul River)||20|
|Seoul to Pukhan||35||Kangwha to Tongjeki||20||Kwangju to Songphau||20|
|175||Suwon||75||Total length of route, 565 li,or 198 miles.|
|Songto to Kangwha||65||205|
|Suwon to Kwangjŭ||70|
the ginseng of corea.
The ginseng of Corea is held by the Chinese to be the best in the world. They have used the root for many hundreds of years as a strengthening medicine, place the most extraordinary value upon it, and seek for it in all parts of the world they visit; viewing its efficacy from their standpoint, they may therefore be well able to make this comparative estimation. Ginseng is found in China, but that there produced is considered inferior to the common marketable article in Corea. The sale of it is and has been a monopoly of the Corean Government, but as might be supposed in the case of a medicine so [Page 329] highly necessary as it is to the Chinese, immense amounts of it have been smuggled out of Corea in all kinds of ingenious ways across the northwestern border and by junks from the west coast.
The Corean name for the root is “Sam,” used with the prefixes “In” (man) and “San” (mountain) respectively, to distinguish the variety cultivated by man from that found growing wild in dark mountain recesses. San-sam is extremely rare; many natives have never seen it, and it is said to be worth fully its weight in gold. This kind of ginseng is sold by the single root, the price of which is said to have reached in the past nearly $2,000 for an extraordinarily fine large specimen. The san-sam root is much larger than any cultivated variety, its length ranging from a foot to three and four, with a thickness at the head of from 1½ to 2½ inches. At the top of the root proper and base of the stem of the plant is a corky section of rings, the number of which shows the age of the root. The seed of san-sam, planted in the mountains under circumstances similar to those under which the mother plant grew, will produce a root somewhat like true san-sam, and in this way imitation san-sam is produced; but an effort to sell it as san-sam is regarded as a swindle, and it is said that experts readily perceive that it has been produced by the aid of man. It is believed that the virtues of san-sam do not lie in the material composition of the plant, but are due to a mysterious power attached to it by being produced wholly apart from man’s influence, under the care of a beneficent spirit or god. True san-sam is supposed never even to have been seen by man while it was attaining the state in which it was found. Twenty, thirty, and forty years have been named to me as the ages of certain san-sam plants when found.
The san-sam root is carefully taken from the earth when found, carefully washed and gently scraped, then thoroughly sun-dried. In administering it the whole root is eaten as one dose, it may be in two parts. The person then becomes unconscious (some people here say dies) and remains so three days. After this the whole body is full of ills for about a month, then rejuvenation begins, the skin becomes clear, the body healthy, and the person will henceforward live, free from sickness, suffering from neither heat nor cold until he has attained the age of ninety or an hundred years.
The extreme rarity of san-sam augments the superstitious repute in which it is held; as an intelligent Corean told me, much that is said of it is only words; nevertheless, he maintained that san-sam was a wonderful medicine in its strengthening effects.
Insam, the cultivated ginseng of Corea, is produced in large quantity, and is a common marketable article. While it is most highly appreciated by the Chinese, it is also believed to be the best of medicines by Coreans. It is nearly all produced in two distinct sections of Corea, viz, at Songto (Kai-seng), about 60 miles to the north and westward of the capital, and at Yong-san, in Kyung-sang-do, the south eastern most province of Corea. The qualities produced in these two sections are regarded as differing, and the ginseng is known as Song-sam, or Yong-sam, according as to whether it comes from Songto or Yong-sam, in Kyung-san do, respectively. The former place I visited recently, and in the company of a government official inspected several of the principal farms.
The area of the section at Songto in which ginseng is cultivated is small, not more than 8 miles in diameter, and the great majority of the farms are in plain sight from the city, lying about its walls and in the city itself, upon the sites of houses of the time when Songto was the capital of Corea. They appear from the distance as numbers of singular brown patches lying on the grassy slopes rising from the rice paddies. In general the farms are low, but a few feet above the level of the paddies, but several farms I observed were well up on the hillsides.
Each farm is a rectangular compound, one part containing the buildings inclosed by walls, the rest by hedges. The buildings, though built as usual of mud, stones, earthenware, and untrimmed timbers, and thatched, are strikingly superior to the other houses of the Corean people; they are built in right lines, interiors neatly arranged, and walks and hedges in good order. In each compound are one or more tall little watch towers, in which a regular lookout is held over the farm to prevent raids of thieves, who might make off with paying amounts in handfuls of ginseng.
Nearest the entrance to the compound, which is a gate in the buildings court, are guest rooms, where sales are discussed and inspections of the ginseng produced held by officers, and a dry storeroom. Beyond these are two other buildings, in which the curing of the fresh root is carried on; from here on to the end of the compound are parallel rows of low, dark mat sheds, with roofs sloping downwards towards the south or southwest. These rows are from 75 to 200 feet long and 4 feet apart, and the mat sheds about 4 feet high at their front (north) sides, which are closed by mats which swing from the top, thus giving access to the farmer in his care of the plants. Within the sheds are beds about 8 inches high for the growing ginseng, plants, which are in rows extending across the beds, about 2 feet long.
The row (or shed) nearest the houses is the seed-bed for all the plants grown on the farm. The soil appeared to be of medium strength as indicated by color, was soft and [Page 330] contained fine granite sand in small proportion (dead leaves broken up finely are used as manure.) In the Corean 9th month (September–October) the seeds are stuck quite thickly in the seed-bed to a depth of 3 inches in little watering trenches about 3 inches apart. Once in each three days’ interval during its whole life the plant is watered, and the bed carefully inspected to prevent crowding, decay, and the ravages of worms and insects. The mat-shed is kept closely shut, for ginseng will only grow in the dark or a very weak light.
The mats of the sheds are made of round brown reeds and vines closely stitched together, admitting only the faintest light.
In the second month of the second year after planting (February), the root is regarded as formed and the general shape of the plant above ground attained. The root is then tender and white, tapering off evenly from a diameter of three-sixteenths of an inch at the top to a fine long point in a length of 3½ inches; from it hang a number of fine, hair-like tendrils. From the ground stands a single straight reddish stem about 2 inches, and then spreads out into tiny branches and leaves nearly at right angles to the stem. The shape is nearly that of the matured plant.
In the following February (of the third year), the seed plants are transplanted to the adjoining beds, five or six to each cross row, the watering trenches being here between the plant rows. In this second bed the plants remain one year, and are then transplanted to the third bed and planted still farther apart in their respective rows. A year later they are again transplanted, this time to their final beds where they remain two and a half or three years. Generally speaking, seven years are required from the time of planting until the plant is matured. After its life in the seed-bed, exacting care in keeping out the light is not so necessary, and I noticed the swinging mat was removed entirely from the fronts of sheds of plants in the final beds.
In the autumn of the seventh year the seeds ripen and are gathered; these appear on a short stem standing upward from the main stem in continuation of it, where the branches turn off horizontally. The seed stem is broken off an inch above the branches, the seeds sun-dried a little and stored away. Immediately after this the harvest of the roots begins. The seeds are white, rather fiat, and round, slightly corrugated, having a diameter of about one-sixteenth of an inch, and a thickness of one-eighth to three-sixteenth inches.
The ripe root has a stem about 14 inches long, standing nicely perpendicular to the ground. At this distance spread out at a closely common point the branches, usually five, on which, at a distance of about 4 inches from the main-stem top, is a group of five leaves, three large ones radiating at small angles and two small ones at right angles to the branch at their common base. The larger leaves are oval, edges shallowly but sharply notched; length and breadth, 4 and 2 inches respectively; color, nearly a chestnut green. The stem is stiff and woody, ribbed longitudinally. The root is nearly a foot long, and is made up of four different sections ordinarily; the first or upper one, a small irregular knot, forming a head to the main root below. From it extends down over the main root a number of slender rootlets terminating in stringy points. The second section is the body of the root, which is short, soon separating into a number of bulbous parts, four of which are prominently large. These four parts are commonly called the legs and arms. The bulbous parts round suddenly and then taper off into small slender sections, from which extends a great number of hair-like feeders. The thickness of the main part of the root or body rarely reaches one inch.
Soon after the seeds have been gathered in October the plants and roots intact are carefully taken from the earth. The stems are readily broken off, the roots washed, placed in small baskets with large meshes, and at once taken to the steaming-house. Here are flat, shallow iron boilers over fire-places, over which are earthenware vessels 2 feet in diameter and as many high with close-fitting lids. In the bottoms of the earthenware vessels are five holes 2 inches in diameter. Water is boiled in the iron vessels, the steam rising and filling the upper vessels through these holes.
The small baskets containing the roots having been placed in the earthen vessel and the latter tightly closed, the steaming process goes on for from one and a half to four hours, when the roots are removed and taken to the drying-house. This is a long building containing racks of bamboo poles, on which in rows are placed flat drying-baskets. Under the floor of the house, at intervals of 3 or 4 feet, are fire-places, the smoke from which passes out of small holes in the back of the house under the floor level. In the baskets of the drying-house the roots are spread and the fires kept going constantly for about ten days, when the roots are supposed to be cured. From here they are packed for the market in rectangular willow baskets closely lined with paper to exclude moisture.
During this process the roots become very toughly hard, and their color changes from carroty white to nearly a cherry wood red. They break hard but crisply, exhibiting a shiny, glassy fracture, translucent, dark red. The ginseng resulting from this process is [Page 331] called hong-sam (red ginseng), and is the article prohibited from export from Corea in all the treaties made by Corea with the Western Powers. It is the most common ginseng seen in Corea, and by far the majority of it is produced in the Songto section.
“Pak-sam” is insam simply washed, scraped, and sun-dried after being taken from the earth. This kind is much used domestically, but not having been cured will not bear exportation. It is regarded by many as better medicine than hong-sam, and is occasionally, depending upon form and quality, higher in price consequently.
The ways of using insam are many. Most commonly, cut or broken into small pieces, it is mixed with other medicines to form pills, tablets, decoctions to be drunk, &c. Sometimes the plain root is eaten dry. This is very common.
Old people make a warm decoction by boiling the simple root cut in pieces. It would seem to be regarded as a strengthening medicine for every part of the system. The shape of the root is commonly likened to that of a man, a consequence of its four distinct shape sections. By some people each of these different parts of the man is believed to be adapted to a particular complaint; thus the head to eye affections, the body to general debility, the arms and legs to stomach disorders, colds, and female disorders. This man shape of the root figures largely in the purchase of certain kinds of ginseng, especially with that of sansam.
A rival of Corea in supplying ginseng for the Chinese market is Primorskaya, province of Siberia, in the vicinity of Vladivostok. About here great numbers of Chinese congregate in search of it. Near one place, to the northeastward of Vladivostok, Souchan, and oh the Danbihe River it is cultivated quite largely by them. The various nomadic tribes in Eastern Siberia seek for sansam in the mountains, and in its sale, together with that of sable-skins, find their living.
The method of cultivation given above is that explained to me at one of the ginseng farms at Songto; I have been told, however, that there are other slightly different methods followed in different places and by different farmers. Some roots are fit for market in five and a half or six years after planting, but to produce the best article, seven years’ growth is necessary. The market price of red ginseng (hong-sam) is at present nearly $4 per English pound.
Ensign, United States Navy, Naval Attaché.