Reading “Korea and her neighbors” – 1, SEOUL

CHAPTER IV
SEOUL, THE KOREAN MECCA

To the Korean it(Seoul) is the place in which alone life is worth living.

Yet it has no objects of art, very few antiquities, no public gardens, no displays except the rare one of the Kur-dong, and no theatres. It lacks every charm possessed by other cities. Antique, it has no ruins, no libraries, no literature, and lastly an indifference to religion without a parallel has left it without temples, while certain superstitions which still retain their hold have left it without a tomb ! Leaving out the temple of Confucius and the homage officially rendered to his tablet in Korea as in China, there are no official temples in Seoul, nor might a priest enter its gates under pain of death, consequently the emphasis which noble religious buildings give even to the meanest city in China or Japan is lacking. There is a small temple to the God of War outside the south gate, with some very curious frescoes, but I seldom saw any worshippers there. The absence of temples is a feature of the other Korean cities.

Bird, Isabella L. (Isabella Lucy), 1831-1904. Korea and her neighbors; a narrative of travel, with an account of the recent vicissitudes and present position of the country (Kindle position No.940-948). New York, Chicago [etc.] F.H. Revell Co..

 

I shrink from describing intra-mural Seoul. I thought it the foulest city on earth till I saw Peking, and its smells the most odious, till I encountered those of Shao-shing ! For a great city and a capital its meanness is indescribable. Etiquette forbids the erection of two-storied houses, consequently an estimated quarter of a million people are living on “the ground,” chiefly in labyrinthine alleys, many of them not wide enough for two loaded bulls to pass, indeed barely wide enough for one man to pass a loaded bull, and further narrowed by a series of vile holes or green, slimy ditches, which receive the solid and liquid refuse of the houses, their foul and fetid margins being the favorite resort of half-naked children, begrimed with dirt, and of big, mangy, blear-eyed dogs, which wallow in the slime or blink in the sun. There too the itinerant vendor of “small wares,” and candies dyed flaring colors with aniline dyes, establishes himself, puts a few planks across the ditch, and his goods, worth perhaps a dollar, thereon. But even Seoul has its ” spring cleaning,” and I encountered on the sand plain of the Han, on the ferry, and on the road from Ma-pu to Seoul, innumerable bulls carrying panniers laden with the contents of the city ditches. The houses abutting on these ditches are generally hovels with deep eaves and thatched roofs, presenting nothing to the street but a mud wall, with occasionally a small paper window just under the roof, indicating the men’s quarters, and invariably, at a height varying from 2 to 3 feet above the ditch,

Bird, Isabella L. (Isabella Lucy), 1831-1904. Korea and her neighbors; a narrative of travel, with an account of the recent vicissitudes and present position of the country (Kindle の位置No.631-643). New York, Chicago [etc.] F.H. Revell Co..

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