Pre-modern East Asia Seen by Westerners

 This page assembles Westerners' evaluations on Japan, Korea and China until the the early 20th century. Works are sorted by the author's first visit to each country. This is a consise version of the following Japanese pages.

Pre-modern Japan Seen by Westerners
Pre-modern Korea Seen by Westerners
Pre-modern China Seen by Westerners


Engelbert Kaempfer, The History of Japan
Carl Peter Thunberg, Japan Extolled and Decried
George Macartney, Journal of an Embassy to China
Vasilii M. Golovnin, Japan and the Japanese
Basil Hall, Voyage to Corea
M. C. Perry, Narrative of the Expedition of an American Squadron.
Augustus F. Lindley, Ti-ping Tien-kwoh
Rutherford Alcock, The Capital of the Tycoon
Ernest M. Satow, A Diplomat in Japan
Ernst Oppert, A Forbidden Land: Voyage to the Corea
William E. Griffis, The Mikado's Empire
Isabella L. Bird, Unbeaten Tracks in Japan
William R. Carles, Life in Corea
Horace N. Allen, Things Korean
Homer B. Hulbert, The Passing of Korea
George W. Gilmore, Korea from Its Capital
Lafcadio Hearn, Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan
Isabella L. Bird, Korea and Her Neighbours
Isabella L. Bird, The Yangtze Valley and Beyond
Frederick A. McKenzie, The Tragedy of Korea

Engelbert Kaempfer, The History of Japan

 Engelbert Kaempfer (1651~1716) was a German phisician who stayed at the Dutch embassy in Nagasaki in 1690~1692. He travelled to Edo in 1691 and 1692 to see the Shogun, Tokugawa Tsunayoshi. The followings are from the internet text by Kyushu University.

Engelbert Kaempfer, The History of Japan, London, 1727.
Book V. The Author's two Journies to the Emperor's Court at Jedo
Internet Edition by Wolfgang Michel, Kyushu University, Fukuoka-City, Japan. (C) 2007.

A Japanese on horseback, tuck'd up after this fashion, makes a very odd comical figure at a distance. For besides that they are generally short siz'd and thick, their large hat, wide breeches and cloaks, together with their sitting cross legg'd, make them appear broader than long.

Provisions of this nasty composition are kept in large tubs, or tuns, which are buried even with the ground, in their villages and fields, and being not cover'd, afford full as ungrateful and putrid a smell of radishes (which is the common food of country people) to tender noses, as the neatness and beauty of the road is agreeable to the eyes.

In short, there is not one corner in the whole house, but what looks handsome and pretty, and this the rather, since all their furniture being the produce of the country, may be bought at an easy rate. I must not forget to mention, that it is very healthful to 1ive in these houses, ...

Hence it is, that in this heathen country fewer capital crimes are tried before the courts of justice, and less criminal blood shed by the hands of publick executioners, than perhaps in any part of christianity. So powerfully works the fear of an inevitable shameful death, upon the minds of a nation, otherwise so stubborn as the Japanese, and so regardless of their lives, that nothing else, but such an unbound strictness, would be able to keep them within due bounds of continence and virtue.

'Tis upon the same account, that the Chinese us'd to call Japan the bawdy-house of China, for this unlawful trade being utterly and under severe penalties forbid throughout all the Chinese Emperor's dominions, his subjects frequently resorted to Japan, there to spend their money in company with such wenches.

From this reasonable behaviour of the landlords, on our behalf, the reader may judge of the civility of the whole nation in general, always excepting our own officers and servants, and the companions of our voyage. I must own, that in the visits we made or receiv'd in our journey we found the same to be greater than could be possibly expected from the most civiliz'd nation. The behaviour of the Japanese, from the meanest countryman up to the greatest Prince or Lord, is such that the whole Empire might be call'd a School of Civility and good manners. They have so much sense and innate curiosity, that if they were not absolutely denied a free and open conversation and correspondence with foreigners, they would receive them with the utmost kindness and pleasure.

The inhabitants are very short-siz'd, but well shap'd, particularly the women, who are handsomer and better shap'd, than I think in any other Asiatic Country, but so much painted, that one would be apt to take them for waxfigures, rather than living creatures. Their behaviour is otherwise genteel, and the lively colour of their lips is a proof of their healthy complexion.

We were also very much importun'd by young wenches begging, who are very troublesome upon the roads hereabouts. In the middle of a field we found a Monk dying. The poor man lay on his face, throughly soak'd with water, it having rain'd pretty hard, but gave as yet some signs of life, and doubtless might have been reliev'd. Such a miserable object, one would think, should have mov'd the hardest stones to pity, but it had no manner of effect on the merciless Japanese.


Carl Peter Thunberg, Japan Extolled and Decried

 Carl Peter Thunberg (1743~1828) was a Swedish physician and botanist who stayed at the Dutch embassy in Nagasaki in 1775~1776. He travelled to Edo in the spring of 1776. His work Resa uti Europa, Afrika, Asia, förrättad ären 1770-1779 was published in Sweden between 1788 and 1793.

Timon Screech, Japan Extolled and Decried - Carl Peter Thunberg and the Shogun's Realm, 1775-1796, Routledge, 2005. ISBN 0-7007-1719-6

The Empire of Japan is in many respects a singular country, and with regaqrd to customs and institutions totally different from Europe, or, I had almost said, from any other part of the world. It has therefore been subject of wonder to other nations and has been alternately extolled and decried. Of all the nations that inhabit the there largest parts of the globe, the Japanese deserve to rank the first, and to be compared with the Europeans, and although in many points they must yield the palm to the latter, yet in various other respects they may with great justice be preferred to them. Here, indeed, as well as in other countries, are found both useful and pernicious establishments, both rational and absurd institutions, yet still we must admire the steadiness which constitutes the national character, the immutability which reigns in the administration of their laws and in the exercise of their public functions, the unwearied assiduity of this nation to do and to promote what is useful, and a hundred other things of a similar nature. That so numerous a people as this should love so ardently and so universally (without even a single exception to the contrary) their native country, their government and each other; that the whole country should be, as it were, enclosed so that no native can get out nor foreigner enter in without permission; that their laws should have remained unaltered for several thousand years, and that justice should be administered without partially or respect to persons; that the government can neither become despotic nor evade the laws in order to grant pardons or do other acts of mercy; that the monarch and all his subjects should be clad alike in a particular national dress, that no fashions should be adopted from abroad nor new ones invented at home; that no foreign war should have been waged for centuries past and interior commotions should be for ever prevented; that great variety of interior commotions should be for ever prevented; that a great variety of religious sects should live in peace and harmony together; that hunger and want should be almost unknown, or at least known but seldom, &c. All this must appear as improbable, and to many as impossible, as it is strictly true and deserving of the utmost attention. (p. 75)

The interpreters are extremely fond of European books and procure one or more of them every year from the merchants that arrive in this country. They are not only in possession, but make diligent use of them and retain strongly in their memory what they learn from them. They are besides very careful to learn something from the Europeans and question them without ceasing, and frequently so as to be irksome, upon all subjects, especially relating to physic, natural philosophy and natural history. (p. 91)

The Japanese porcelain is packed up in straw so well and to tight that very seldom any of it is found broken. This porcelain is certainly neither handsome nor neat, but rather on the contrary, clumsy, think and badly painted, and, therefore, in these respects much like the china which is brought from Canton. This has the advantage that it is not easily affected by heat even when set on glowing embers. (p. 99)

The Japanese have the bad custom of very frequently breaking wind upwards, and is by no means thought indecent as in Europe; in other matters they are as nice as other polished nations. (p. 107)

The most curious circumstance in this affair is that when these ladies, after having served a certain term of years in those houses to which hey were sold from their infancy, regain their perfect liberty, they are by no means considered as being dishonoured, and often marry extremely well. (p. 110)

In other respects, modesty is a virtue to which these people are not much attached, and lasciviousness seems universally to prevail. The women seldom took any pains to cover their nudities when bathing in open places (which they sometimes did), not even in such spots where they were exposed to the eyes of the Dutch or where these latter were to pass. (p. 110)

As no Japanese has more than one wife and she is not locked up in the house as in China but is suffered to keep menfs company and walk abroad when she pleases, it was therefore not difficult for me to get a sight of the fair sex of this country in the streets as well as in the houses. (P. 110)

That which chiefly distinguished the married women from the single were their black teeth, which in their opinion were extremely beautiful, but in most other countries would be sufficient to make a man take French leave of his wife. To me, at least, a wide mouth with black shining teeth had an ugly and disagreeable appearance. (p. 110)

Attending to all these circumstances, I saw with astonishment a people which we consider if not in a state of barbarism at least as unpolished, exhibit in every instance vestiges of perfect order and rational circumspect reflection, while we, in our more enlightened quarter of the globe, are everywhere deficient in efficacious, and in some places in almost every regulation tending to the convenience and case of travellers. (p. 122)

Cleanliness is the constant object of these people and not a day passes in which they do not wash themselves, whether they are at home or out upon a journey. In all towns and villages, inns and private houses, therefore, there are baths. (p. 129)

I observed everywhere that the chastisement of children was very moderate. I very seldom heard them rebuked or scolded and hardly ever saw them flogged or beaten, either in private families or on board of the vessels, while in more civilized and enlightened nations these compliments abound. In the schools one might hear the children read all at once, and so loud as almost to deafen one. (p. 129)

Excepting in Holland, I never made so pleasant a journey as this with regard to the beauty and delightful appearance of the country. Its population too, and cultivation, exceed all expression. (p. 134)

I had imagined that during so long a journey in a country to which Europeans have seldom any access, I should have been able to collect a great number of scarce and unknown plants, but I was never in my life so much disappointed. In most of the fields, which were now sowed, I could not discover the least trace of weeds, not even throughout whole provinces. A traveller would be apt to imagine that no weeds grew in Japan but the industrious farmers pull them diligently up, so that the most sharp-sighted botanist can hardly discover any uncommon plant in their well-cultivated fields. (p. 134)

A privy, which is necessary for every house, is always built in the Japanese villages towards the street and at the side of the mansion housel it is open downwards, so that the passengers may discharge their water from the outside into a large jar, which is sunk on the inside into the earth. The stench arising from the urine and the ordure, as also from the offals of the kitchen, all which were very carefully collected together for the lands, was frequently in hot weather so strong and insupportable c (p. 138)

In different parts of the road between Edo and Miyako beggars were seen that were cripples, for the most part in their feet. This appeared to me so much the more strange, as otherwise cripples are seldom to be met with in this country. (p. 169)

The people of this nation are well made, active, free and easy in their motions, with stout limbs, although their strength is not be compared to that of the Northern inhabitants of Europe. The men are of the middling size and in general not very corpulent, yet I have seen some that are of a yellowish colour all over, sometimes bordering on brown and sometimes on white. (p. 178)

The Japanese are in general intelligent and provident, free and unconstrained, obedient and courteous, curious and inquisitive, industrious and ingenious, frugal and sober, cleanly, good-natured and friendly, upright and just, trusty and honest, mistrustful, superstitious, proud and unforgiving, brave and invincible. (p. 179)

Liberty is the soul of the Japanese, not that which degenerates into licentiousness and riotous excess, but a liberty under strict subjection to the laws. It has been supposed, indeed, that the common people of Japan were merely slaves under a despotic government, as the laws are extremely severe. But a servant who hires himself to a master for a year is not therefore a slave, neither is a soldier who has enlisted for a certain number of years and over whom a much stricter hand is kept a slave, although he is obliged implicitly to obey his superiorsf commands. The Japanese hate and detest the inhuman traffic in slaves carried on by the Dutch, and the cruelty with which these poor creatures are treated. (p. 179)

With respect to courtesy and submission to their superiors, few can be compared to the Japanese. Subordination to government and obedience to their parents are inculcated into children in their early infancy, and in every situation of life thy are in this respect instructed by the good example of their elders, which have this effect that the children are seldom reprimanded, scolded or chastised. (p. 180)

This nation, as well as many others, carry their curiosity to a great length. They examine narrowly everything that is carried thither by the Europeans and everything that belongs to them. They are continually asking for information upon every subject, and frequently tire the Dutch out with their questions. (p. 180)

In mechanical ingenuity and invention, this nation keeps chiefly to that which is necessary and useful, but in industry it excels most others. Their works in copper and other metals are fine, and in wood both neat and lasting, but their well-tempered sabers and their beautiful lacquered ware exceed everything of the kind that has hitherto been produced elsewhere. The diligence with which the husbandman cultivates the soil, and the pains they bestow on it, are so great as to seem incredible. (pp. 180-181)

Frugality has its principal seat in Japan. It is a virtue as highly esteemed in the imperial palace as in the poorest cottage. It is in consequence of this that the middling class of people are contented with their little pittance, and that accumulated. Stores of the rich are not dissipated in wantonness and luxury. It is in consequence of this that dearth and famine are strangers to this country, and that in the whole extent of this populous empire scarcely a needy person or beggar is to be found. The people, in general, are neither parsimonious nor avaricious, and have a fixed dislike to gluttony and other useless plant, neither is the grain employed in the distillation of spirits, or other idle, not to say pernicious purposes. (p. 181)

Cleanliness and neatness are attended to as well with regard to their bodies as to their clothing, houses, food, vessels &c, and they use the warm bath daily. (p. 181)

Justice is held sacred all over the country. The monarch never injures any of his neighbours, and no instance is to be found in history, ancient or modern, of his having shown an ambition to extend his territories by conquest. The history of Japan affords numberless instances of the heroism of these people in the defence of their country against foreign invasions or internal insurrections, but not one of their encroachments upon the lands or properties of others. (p. 181)

Honesty prevails throughout the whole country, and perhaps there are few parts of the world where so few thefts are committed as here. Highway robberies are totally unknown. Thefts are seldom heard of, and in their journey to the court the Europeans are so secure that they pay very little attention to their baggage, although in the factory the common people think it not sin to pilfer a few trifles, particularly sugar and tea cups, from the Dutch while these articles are carrying to or from the quay. (pp. 181-182)

Superstition is more common with them, and rises to a higher degree than in any other nation, which is owing to the little knowledge they have of most sciences and the absurd principles inculcated into them by their priests, together with their idolatrous doctrines. This superstitious disposition is displayed at their feasts, their public worship, in the making of solemn promises, in use of particular remedies, the choosing of lucky or unlucky days &c. (p. 182)

Pride is one of the principal defects of this nation. They believe that they are honoured with that sacred origin from gods, from heaven, the sun and moon, which many Asiatic nations as arrogantly and absurdly lay claim to. They consequently think themselves to be somewhat more than other people, and in particular consider the Europeans in a very indifferent light. (p. 182)

Anyone that from what has been said above has formed to himself a notion of the pride, justice and courage of the Japanese, will not be much astonished when he is told that this people, when injured, are quite implacable. As they are haughty and intrepid, so they are resentful and unforgiving; they do not show their hatred, however, with violence or warmth of temper, but frequently conceal it under the mask of an inconceivable sang froid, and wait with patience for the proper time to revenge themselves. Never did I see a people less subject to sudden emotions and affections of the mind. (p. 183)

Fornications is very prevalent in this country, notwithstanding which, chastity is frequently held in such high veneration, both with married and single, that when they have been injured in this point, they sometimes lay violent hands upon themselves. In this country likewise the dishonourable practice of keeping mistresses obtains with some, c (p. 217)

The sciences in general fall infinitely short in Japan of that exalted preeminence to which they have attained in Europe. The history of their own country, may, however, perhaps be deemed more authentic here than that of most other nations, and this together with the science of house-keeping, is studied, without exception, by them all Agriculture, which the Japanese consider as the most necessary and useful science for the prosperity and stability of the empire, is in no place in the world so much esteemed as here; (pp. 217-218)

Arts and manufactures are carried on in every part of the country and some of them are brought to such a degree of perfection as even to surpass those of Europe; whilst some, on the other hand, fall short of European excellence. They work extremely well in iron and copper and their silk and cotton manufactures equal, and sometimes even excel, the productions of other Eastern countries. Their lacquering in wood, especially their ancient workmanship, surpasses every attempt which has been made in this department by other nations. (p. 220)

If the laws in this country are rigid, the police are equally vigilant, and discipline and good order are scrupulously observed. The happy consequence of this are extremely visible and important, for hardly any country exhibits fewer instances of vice. And as no respect whatever is paid to persons, and at the same time the laws preserve their pristine and original purity without any alternations, explanations, and misconstructions, the subjects not only imbibe as they grow up an infallible knowledge of what ought or ought not to be done, but are likewise enlightened by the example and irreproachable conduct of their superiors in age. Most crimes are punished with death, a sentence which is inflicted with less regard to the magnitude of the crime than to the audacity of the attempt to transgress the hallowed laws of the empire and to violate justice, ... (p. 222)

Neither rewards nor encouragements are necessary in a country where the tillers of the ground are considered as the most useful class of citizens and where they do not groan under various oppressions which in other countries have hindered, and even must hinder, the progress of agriculture. The duties paid by the farmer of his corn in kind are indeed very heavy, but in other respects he cultivates his land with greater freedom than the lord of a manor in Sweden. (p. 228)

Commerce is carried on either within the empire itself between its different towns and harbours, or else with foreigners. Their inland trade is in a very flourishing state and in every respect free and uncontrolled, being exempted from imposts and having no want of communication between the various and innumerable places of the empire. The harbours are seen covered with large and small craft, the high roads are crowded with travelers and wares that are transporting from one place to another, and the shops are everywhere filled with goods from every part of the empire, especially in the principal trading towns. In these towns, and particularly in Miyako which is situated in the centre of the empire, are kept likewise several large fairs, to which a vast concourse of people resort from each extremity of the land to buy and sell. (p. 234)


George Macartney, Journal of an Embassy to China

 George Macartney (1737~1806) was a British politician and diplomat who visited China in 1793 to develop the trade. His embassy arrived at China on August 5 and met the Qianlong Emperor on September 14 at Chengde. They travelled from Beijing to Guangdong and left China in January 1794.

Some Account of the Public Life, and a Selection from the Unpublished Writings, of the Earl of Macartney, Vol. II
Journal of an Embassy from the King of Great Britain to the Emperor of China. (Internet Archive)

Among those who crowded the banks, we saw several women, who tripped along with such agility, as induced us to imagine their feet had not been crippled in the usual manner of the Chinese. It is said indeed that this practice, especially among the lower sort, is now less frequent in the northern provinces than in the others. These women are much weather-beaten but not ill featured, and wear their hair (which is universally black and coarse) neatly braided, and fastened on the top of their heads with a bodkin. The children are very numerous and mostly stark naked. The men in general well-looking, well limbed, robust and muscular. (p. 183)

Though the Chinese architecture is totally unlike any other, and most of its combinations and proportions contradictory to ours, yet its general effect is good, and by no means displeasing to the eye. (p. 185)

The next day was chiefly employed in preparing for our departure, and arranging the order of our progress. In this we were assisted by the different Mandarines appointed to attend us, with a regularity, alertness, and dispatch that appeared perfectly wonderful. Indeed the machinery and authority of the Chinese government are so organized, and so powerful, as almost immediately to surmount every difficulty, and to produce every effect that human strength can accomplish. (pp. 188-189)

but are frequently wrecked and lost upon the coasts, from the extraordinary ignorance of the Chinese in the art of navigation; for although above two hundred and fifty years are elapsed since they have been acquainted with Europeans, and though they see and admire our ships, and our seamanship, yet have they never, in the slightest point, imitated our mode of building, or manocuvres, but obstinately and invariably adhere to the ancient customs and clumsy practice of their ignorant ancestors; and this negligence is the more extraordinary, as there is no country where naval skill is more requisite; (p. 195)

Such expedition, strength and activity for the removal of so great a number of packages, many of which were of enormous weight, awkward shape, and cumbersome carriage, in a few hours, cannot, I believe, be paralleled or procured in any other country than China, where every thing is at the instant command of the state, and where the most laborious tasks are undertaken and executed with a readiness and even a chearfulness which one would scarcely expect to meet within so despotic a government. The Chinese seem able to lift and remove almost any weight by multiplying the power; (p. 206)

He confirmed to me what we read of in most of the histories of China, that it is a common practice among the poor to expose their children. The police sends a cart round a city at an early hour every morning, which takes them up and conveys them to a fosse, or cemetery appointed for their burial. The missionaries often attend and preserve a few of these children, which appear to them to be healthy and likely to recover. The rest are thrown indiscriminately dead or alive into the pit. (p. 228)

The Chinese have long since adopted our violin, although it is not yet very common, and have lately learned to note their music on ruled paper, which seems to show that there are some things, at least, which, notwithstanding their vanity and conceit, they are not above being taught. (p. 231)

At the remote period of its building, China must not only have been a very powerful empire, but a very wise and virtuous nation; or at least to have had such foresight, and such regard for posterity, as to establish at once what was then thought a perpetual security for them against future invasion, choosing to load herself with an enormous expence of immediate labor and treasure, rather than to leave succeeding generations to a precarious dependance on contingent resources. (p. 243)

Till the establishment of the present dynasty on the throne, she seems to have entertained no projects of foreign conquests; and it is still a favorite point of her policy to confine her subjects within the limits of the empire. (p. 244)

The commanding feature of the ceremony was that calm dignity, that sober pomp o Asiatic greatness, which European refinements have not yet attained. (p. 261)

None of the streets are paved, so that in wet weather they are covered with mud, and in dry weather the dust is excessively disagreeable, pervading every place and every thing; but what renders it intolerably offensive; is the stench with which it is attended for though proper care is taken to have the streets cleaned very early every morning from the filth and ordures of the preceding night, yet the odor generally continues floating in the air for the greater part of the day. (p. 313)

If the court of Peking is not really sincere, can they possibly expect to feed us long with promises? Can they be ignorant that a couple of English frigates would be an over-match for the whole naval force of their empire; that, in half a summer they could totally destroy all the navigation of their coasts, and reduce the inhabitants of the maritime provinces, who subsist chiefly on fish, to absolute famine? (p. 332)

a fine level country, not naturally very fertile, but wonderfully well cultivated. The Chinese are certainly the best husbandmen in the world. The greatest part of the province of Kiang-si, that 1 have yet seen, has a poor soil. (pp. 359-360)

from which it appeared to us how far the Chinese (although they excel in some branches of mechanics) are yet behind other nations in medical or chirurgical skill and philosophical knowledge. (p. 363)

As the Chinese consider the province of Canton to be the most obnoxious to invasion from the sea, the military posts in it are very numerous. There seemed to lie an affected reiteration of salutes, wherever we appeared, in order, I presume, to impress us with an idea of the vigilance and alertness of the troops, and to show that they were not unprepared against an enemy. Nevertheless, as they are totally ignorant of our discipline, cumbersomely cloathed, armed only with matchlocks, bows, and arrows, and heavy swords, awkward in the management of them, of an unwarlike character and disposition; I imagine they would make but a feeble resistance to a well-conducted attack. (p. 383)

The empire of China is an old crazy first-rate man of war, which a fortunate succession of able and vigilant officers has contrived to keep afloat for these hundred and fifty years past; and to overawe their neighbors, merely by her bulk and appearance; but whenever an insufficient man happens to have the command upon deck, adieu to the discipline and safety of the ship. She may perhaps not sink outright; she may drift some time as a wreck, and will then be dashed in pieces on the shore; but she can never be rebuilt on the old bottom. (p. 398)

Is there any country on the globe that Englishmen visit, where they do not display that pride of themselves, and that contempt of others, which conscious superiority is apt to inspire? Can the Chinese, one of the vainest nations in the world, and not the least acute, have been blind and insensible to this foible of our's? And is it not natural for them to be discomposed and disgusted by it? (p. 402)


Vasilii M. Golovnin, Japan and the Japanese

 Vasilii Mikhailovich Golovnin (1776~1831) was a Russian naval officer who was captivated in Japan in 1811~1813. Japan raised the level of northern frontier patrol after the Russian attack to Sakhalin in 1806. When Russian sloop Diana, under the captaincy of Golovnin, stopped at Kunashiri Island in July 1811, Golovnin was taken prisoner together with six Russian colleagues. After two year negotiation, Golovnin and colleagues were returned to Kamchatka in October 1813. The followings are Golovnin's impression on Japan taken from Vol. II of his book.

Golovnin, Japan and the Japanese, Vol. II, 1852. (Internet Archive)

I asked whether they were perfectly convinced that in a right-angled triangle the square of the hypothenuse is equal to the squares of the other two sides ? He answered in the affirmative. I then asked how they were certain of this fact, and in reply he demonstrated it very clearly. Having drawn a figure with a pair of compasses on paper, he cut out the three squares, folded the squares of the two short sides into a number of triangles, and also cut out these triangles; then laying the several triangles on the surface of the large square, he made them exactly cover and fit it. (p. 12)

And here I must take the liberty of offering a remark on the opinions of those who attribute our liberation, and the ultimate good conduct of the Japanese, to the cowardice of that people, and the dread of the vengeance of Russia. For my own part, I am persuaded that, generally speaking, they acted from feelings of humanity, not merely because I am always inclined to regard good effects as springing from good causes, but because I can support my assertion by proof. Had fear operated on the minds of the Japanese, they would, at an earlier period, have come to a reconciliation with us; but, on the contrary, they had determined to resort to force, and had ordered Captain Rikord to be informed that we were dead at a time when they were using every precaution for the preservation of our health. Fear might, indeed, be supposed to have had some effect upon them, were the eastern provinces of Russia in a state corresponding with those of the west; but the Japanese were well aware of the very important difference between the two divisions of our empire. In my Narrative, however, the motives and the proceedings of both parties are presented to the consideration of the reader, who is thus afforded an opportunity of forming a judgment for himself. (pp. 74-75)

The Japanese are deficient in one virtue highly esteemed among Europeans, namely, courage. But their timidity may, in a great degree, be attributed to the peaceful character of their government, the long repose which the nation has enjoyed, or rather, of their being unaccustomed to shed blood. (pp. 96-97)

Among the vices of the Japanese, the most prevalent appears to be incontinence. Though the law allows a man no more than one wife, yet it grants the right of keeping concubines; and the opulent classes avail them-selves of this right even to excess. (p. 97)

Revenge might be reckoned, in earlier times, among the vices of the Japanese. The duty of revenging an injury formerly descended from grandfather to grandson and even lower, till the descendants of the person injured found an opportunity to take vengeance on the descendants of the oflfender; but in present times, I was assured this propensity no longer prevails to such a degree, and offences are sooner forgotten. (p. 98)

The Japanese may be said to be frugal, without being niggardly. They hold covetousness in great contempt, and have many severe apologues at the expense of misers. (p. 98)

In respect to the degree of knowledge to be found among the people at large, the Japanese, comparing one nation with another, are the most enlightened nation in the world. Nearly every individual is able to read and write, and knows the laws of his country, which are seldom changed, and the most important of which are publicly exhibited on large tables in the towns and villages, in the public squares, and other places. (p. 98)

In agriculture, horticulture, the finery, the chase, the manufacture of silk and woollen stuffs, of porcelain and lackered goods, and in the polishing of metals, they are not inferior to Europeans. They are also well acquainted with mining, and understand how to make several works in metal.* In the arts of cabinet-making and turnery they are perfect masters: they are, besides, admirably skilled in the manufacture of all articles belonging to domestic economy. (pp. 98-99)

In painting, architecture, sculpture, engraving, music, and poetry, they are far inferior to Europeans. In the art of war they are still children, and wholly unacquainted with navigation, except of their own coasts. (p. 101)

In their intercourse with each other, the Japanese of every rank are extremely polite; their mutual courtesy and polished behaviour attest the real civilization of the people. (pp. 101-102)

The number of free-thinking Japanese is however very small, in proportion to the whole nation. The people are, in general, not only extremely bigoted, but very superstitious. They believe in sorcery, and love to converse on miraculous stories.* (p. 110)

The difference of religions and sects in Japan, does not cause the smallest embarrassment either to the government or to private persons. Every citizen has a right to profess what faith he pleases, and to change it as often as he thinks fit. No one cares whether he does so from conviction, or from regard to interest. (p. 113)

The government is well aware of the defects of the laws. One of the most prominent of these defects is the severity of punishments; but it is feared that any attempt to effect sweeping reforms at once, might cause the people to despise the ancient laws, and become accustomed to innovations. (p. 132)

On the whole, the jealousy of the Japanese cannot be compared to that of other Asiatic nations. (p. 136)

They devote much care to the education of their children. They instruct them early in reading, writing, religion, the history of their own country, and geography; and when of a proper age they are taught the art of war. But what is more important, children are taught from their earliest youth, the value of patience, modesty, and politeness: virtues which the Japanese practice in a remarkable degree, and which we often had occasion to admire in them. (p. 136)

To be loud in dispute is considered by them, as rude and vulgar. They express their opinions humbly, and as if seeming to doubt the correctness of their own judgment. They never make direct contradictions, but always with circumlocution, and frequently adducing examples and comparisons, as the following instances will serve to shew. (pp. 136-137)

In building, the Japanese use stone only for foundations, as they fear the violent earthquakes to which their country is liable. The wooden houses are generally only one story high, and are built very slightly, on account of the warm climate. The interior partitions, which divide the rooms, are moveable, so that they may be taken away; thus a whole house may be made into one room. (pp. 139-140)

All rich people have besides large gardens attached to their houses. The Japanese, in general, are great lovers of gardens, and spare no pains in their cultivation. The great beauty of the Japanese houses consists in their extraordinary cleanliness, a point to which all ranks pay especial attention. (p. 140)

The Japanese eat very little in comparison with Europeans. Each one of us when in prison ate as much as two natives, and when we travelled, three Japanese would certainly have been amply provided with what one of our sailors consumed. (p. 147)

The Japanese are always good-humoured and cheerful. I never saw those with whom we were acquainted melancholy. They are fond of lively conversation, and jesting; they always sing when at work, and if the work is of such a kind, that it can be performed to the measure of a tune, such as rowing or carrying burdens, they sing. (p. 149)

The Japanese copper utensils are, however, of very good workmanship; we often wondered at the durability of the tea-kettles which we made use of, for they stood over the fire for months together without being burned into holes. (p. 161)

That the Japanese lackered goods surpass those of other nations, is a fact universally admitted. (175)

With respect to steel manufactures, the Japanese sabres and daggers surpass all others in the world, those of Damascus perhaps excepted. The Japanese are extremely skilful in polishing steel, and all other metals; they make metal mirrors, which are scarcely inferior to looking-glasses. We often saw carpenters' and cabinet- makers' tools, of Japanese manufacture, which might almost be compared with the English. (pp. 174-175)

The Japanese porcelain is far superior to the Chinese; but it is dearer, and manufactured in such small quantities that it is insufficient for the consumption of Japan itself; so that a great deal of porcelain is imported from China. (p. 175)

The cotton manufactories must be extremely numerous, from the universal use of cotton stuffs, but the Japanese want either skill or inclination to manufacture good articles out of cotton: at least we never saw anything remarkable in this kind of manufacture. When they saw our India muslin cravats, they would not believe that they were made of cotton. (p. 175)

In the working of metals the Japanese are extremely skilful, particularly in the manufacture of copper utensils. They understand the art of casting metal statues. They also carve figures in stone and wood ; but, judging from the idols which we saw in the temples at Matsmai, these arts are very imperfect among them. In painting*, engraving, and printing, they are far behind even the nations of Europe among whom these arts are still in their infancy. In carving, they are tolerably skilful; and their gold, silver, and copper coins, are well executed. (pp. 175-176)

The Japanese pursue, with equal diligence, various other employments, that of fishing particular. (p. 176)

The commercial spirit of the Japanese is visible in all their towns and villages. In almost every house there is a shop, stocked with goods more or less valuable; and, as we frequently see in England the magnificent window of a jeweller next door to an oyster shop, so we see here a rich silk merchant and a mender of straw-shoes carrying on their business close to each other. In their regard to order, the Japanese very much resemble the English; they love cleanliness and regularity. All goods have in Japan, as in England, little printed bills, on which are noted the price, the use, and the name of the article, the name of maker, or manufactory, and often a few words of recommendation. (p. 178)

In engineering, the Japanese are as inexperienced, as in other branches of the military art. The fortresses and batteries, which we saw, were constructed in a manner which shows that they understand nothing of the rules of fortification. (pp. 190-191)

We were frequently witnesses of the activity of the Japanese sailors; it is wonderful with what dexterity they manage their great boats in the violent surf, and in the most rapid currents at the mouths of rivers, and where the effects of the ebb and flood are greatest. From such sailors everything may be expected. They are well paid for their dangerous and laborious service. (p. 192)


Basil Hall, Voyage to Corea

 Basil Hall (1788~1844) was a British naval officer who explored Korea and Okinawa in 1816. He published Account of a Voyage of Discovery to the West Coast of Corea, and the Great Loo-Choo Island in 1818, which was the second witness of Korea by a Westerner after Hendrik Hamel who was captivated in the mid 17th century.

Basil Hall, Account of a Voyage of Discovery to the West Coast of Corea, and the Great Loo-Choo Island, 1818. (Internet Archive)

These people have a proud sort of carriage, with an air of composure and indifference about them, and an absence of curiosity which struck us as being very remarkable. Sometimes when we succeeded, by hint of signs and drawings, in expressing the nature of a question, they treated it with derision and insolence. (p. 10)

This gave us an opportunity of observing their remarkable symmetry and firmness of limb; yet, as their long hair was allowed to flow about their neck and shoulders, their appearance was truly savage. (p. 15)

The politeness and ease with which he accommodated himself to the habits of people so different from himself, were truly admirable; and when it is considered, that hitherto in all probability, he was ignorant even of our existence, his propriety of manners should seem to point, not only to high rank in society, but to imply also a degree of civilisation in that society, not confirmed by other circumstances. (p. 35)

The inside was dark and uncomfortable, ground floor was full of hollow places; the walls were black with soot, and every thing looked dirty. (pp. 45-46)

and one man seeing us still advance, took hold of my arm and gave it a sharp pinch. It turned round and exclaimed "Patience, Sir!" he drew back on observing my displeasure, and a moment after called out himself, "Patience, Sir!" The others hearing this caught the words too, and nothing was heard for some time amongst them but " Patience, Sir," pronounced in every instance with perfect propriety. (p. 49)


M. C. Perry, Narrative of the Expedition of an American Squadron.

 Matthew Calbraith Perry (1794~1858) was the Commodore of the U.S. Navy who opened Japan by concluding the Convention of Kanagawa in 1854. The U.S. squadron of four battleships entered Edo bay in July, 1853. Perry landed at Uraga, handed in the letter from the U.S. president Millard Fillmore to the representatives of Japan, and returned to Hong Kong. In February 1854, Perryfs squadron of seven battleships appeared again in Edo bay. On March 31, the Convention of Kanagawa was concluded in Yokohama. Perry returned to Hong Kong after exploring Shimoda and Hakodate. Extractions are based on the site of the University of Hong Kong.

Narrative of the Expedition of an American Squadron to the China Seas and Japan
The University of Hong Kong, E-BOOK@HKU LIBRARY

THE Japanese are an exceedingly industrious and ingenious people, and in certain manufactures are surpassed by no nation. (p. 63)

They are exceedingly quick in observing any improvement brought in among them by foreigners, soon make themselves masters of it, and copy it with great skill and exactness. They are very expert in carving metal, and can cast metal statues. (p. 63)

No people work better than they can in wood and bamboo, and they possess one art in which they excel the world. This is in lacquering wood work. Other nations have attempted for years,- but without success, to equal them in this department. (p. 63)

This they make, and some say in greater perfection than the Chinese can. At any rate, specimens we have seen of Japanese porcelain are very delicate and beautiful; though some writers tell us, that, owing to the exhaustion of the best clay, they cannot now manufacture such as they once could. (p. 64)

They make silk, the best of which is superior to that of China. ... They have but small skill in producing cotton fabrics, though such are made. (p. 65)

Where necessary and practicable on their roads, the Japanese make good bridges, often of stone; but they do not seem to have arrived at the art of tunnel-making. ... They know something of mathematics, mechanics, and trigonometry. Thus, they have constructed very good maps of their country; (p. 68)

The Japanese, like many other people of lively temperaments, have a passion for things that are strange and odd, and rather prefer sometimes to be galled. (p. 69)

But superstition is in the way. To come into contact with death is deemed pollution. Without such examinations, it is obvious that the knowledge of the physician and surgeon must be but imperfect at best. (p. 71)

Their drugs are mostly animal and vegetable; they are too little acquainted with chemistry to venture upon mineral remedies. They study medical botany, however, with great attention, and their remedies are said to be generally efficatious. (p. 71)

There would seem to be something like a common school system, for Meylan states that children of both sexes and of all ranks are invariably sent to rudimentary schools; whether supported by the State or not he does not say. Here the pupils are all taught to read and write, and are initiated into some knowledge of the history of their own country. Thus much the meanest peasant child is expected to learn. (pp. 73-74)

The Japanese music, of which, by the way, the natives are passionately fond, has nothing in it to recommend it to the ears of Europeans or Americans. (p. 74)

Of anatomy, as we have already said, they know nothing, and consequently are no sculptors; neither are they portrait painters. They are ignorant of perspective, and, therefore, cannot paint a landscape; but in the representation of a single object, their accuracy of detail and truthful adherence to nature cannot be surpassed. Their deficiency is in composition. (p. 75)

They cannot be said to understand architecture as an art, though they cut stone and lay it skilfully enough; nor have they any skill in the work of the lapidary. (p. 75)

These Japanese officials, evincing as they always did a certain reserved curiosity, yet showed an intelligent interest in the structure of the steamer and all that pertained to its appointments. While the engines were in motion they minutely inspected every part, but exhibited no fear, nor any of that startled surprise that would be expected of those who were entirely ignorant of their mechanism. (pp. 306-307)

The Japanese always evinced an inordinate curiosity, for the gratification of which the various articles of strange fabric, and the pieces of mechanism, of ingenious and novel invention, brought from the United States, gave them a full opportunity. They were not satisfied with the minutest examination of all things, so surprisingly wonderful as they appeared to them, but followed the officers and men about and seized upon every occasion to examine each part of their dress. (p. 416)

The Japanese are, undoubtedly, like the Chinese, a very imitative, adaptative, and compliant people; and in these characteristics may be discovered a promise of the comparatively easy introduction of foreign customs and habits, if not of the nobler principles and better life of a higher civilization. (p. 417)

To dispose of the subject in one word, the entertainments of the Japanese, generally, while full of hospitality, left but an unfavorable impression of their skill in cookery. The Lew Chewans evidently excelled them in good living. (p. 443)

The two ladies were unceasingly courteous, and kept bowing their heads, like a bobbing toy mandarin. The smiles with which they perseveringly greeted the guests might have been better dispensed with, as every movement of their lips exposed their horrid black teeth and decayed gums. The mayoress was uncommonly polite, and was good natured enough to bring in her baby, which her guests felt bound to make the most of, though its dirty face and general untidy appearance made it quite a painful effort to bestow the necessary caresses. (p. 461)

The inferior people, almost without exception, seemed thriving and contented, and not overworked. There were signs of poverty, but no evidence of public beggary. The women, in common with many in various parts of over-populated Europe, were frequently seen engaged in the field labors, showing the general industry and the necessity of keeping every hand busy in the populous Empire. The lowest classes even were comfortably clad, being dressed in coarse cotton garments, ... (p. 461)

There is one feature in the society of Japan, by which the superiority of the people, to all other oriental nations, is clearly manifest. Woman is recognized as a companion, and not merely treated as a slave. Her position is certainly not as elevated as in those countries under the influence of the Christian dispensation, but the mother, wife, and daughter of Japan, are neither the chattels and household drudges of China, nor the purchased objects of the capricious lust of the harems of Turkey. The fact of the non-existence of polygamy, is a distinctive feature, which pre-eminently characterizes the Japanese, as the most moral and refined of all eastern nations. (p. 462)

The Japanese women, always excepting the disgusting black teeth of those who are married, are not ill-looking. The young girls are well formed and rather pretty, and have much of that vivacity and self-reliance in manners, which come from a consciousness of dignity, derived from the comparatively high regard in which they are held. (p. 462)

Simoda shows an advanced state of civilization, much, beyond our own boasted progress in the attention of its constructors to the cleanliness and healthfulness of the place. There are not only gutters, but sewers, which drain the refuse water and filth directly into the sea or the small stream which divides the town. (p. 467)

The people have all the characteristic courtesy and reserved but pleasing manners of the Japanese. A scene at one of the public baths, where the sexes mingled indiscriminately, unconscious of their nudity, was not calculated to impress the Americans with a very favorable opinion of the morals of the inhabitants. This may not be a universal practice throughout Japan, and indeed is said by the Japanese near us not to be; but the Japanese people of the inferior ranks are undoubtedly, notwithstanding their moral superiority to most oriental nations, a lewd people. Apart from the bathing scenes, there was enough in the popular literature, with its obscene pictorial illustrations, to prove a licentiousness of taste and practice among a certain class of the population, that was not only disgustingly intrusive, but disgracefully indicative of foul corruption. (p. 469)

Hakodadi, like all the Japanese towns, is remarkably clean, the streets being suitably constructed for draining, and kept, by constant sprinkling and sweeping, in a neat and healthful condition. (p. 507)

"We saw nothing remarkable in the manner or workmanship of the Japanese shipbuilder's. It is doubtful whether they have any scientific rules for drafting or modelling, or for ascertaining the displacement of water by their vessels; nor perhaps has it been necessary, as the law confined them all to one model and size." (pp. 521-522)

In the practical and mechanical arts, the Japanese show great dexterity; and when the rudeness of their tools and their imperfect knowledge of machinery are considered, the perfection of their manual skill appears marvellous. Their handicraftsmen are as expert as any in the world, and, with a freer development of the inventive powers of the people, the Japanese would not remain long behind the most successful manufacturing nations. Their curiosity to learn the results of the material progress of other people, and their readiness in adapting them to their own uses; would soon, under a less exclusive policy of government, which isolates them from national communion, raise them to a level with the most favored countries. Once possessed of the acquisitions of the past and present of the civilized world, the Japanese would enter as powerful competitors in the race for mechanical success in the future. (p. 525)

In examining into the character of art exhibited by the Japanese in the illustrated books and pictures brought home by the officers of the expedition, of which several specimens are now before us, the same surprising advancement of this remarkable people, as they have shown in so many other respects, is strikingly observable. (p. 527)

On the first visit of the squadron to Japan, as we have stated, intense interest was excited among the natives by the engines of the steamers. Their curiosity seemed insatiable, and the Japanese artists were constantly employed, -when they had opportunity, in making drawings of parts of the machinery, and seeking to understand its construction and the principles of its action. On the second visit of the squadron, Mr. Jones saw, in the hands of a Japanese, a perfect drawing, in true proportion, of the whole engine, with its several parts in place, which he says was as correct and good as could have been made anywhere. (p. 529)

There is great scope for sculpture in the image-worship of the religion of the Japanese, and, accordingly, statues of stone, metal and wood, abound in the temples, shrines, and by the waysides. The mechanical execution of these generally exhibits much manual skill, but none of them are to be named as works of art. (p. 530)

With the exception of a temple or a gateway here and there, which, in comparison with the surrounding low houses, appeared somewhat imposing, there were no buildings seen which impressed the Americans with a high idea of Japanese architecture. The most creditable specimens of this branch of art are found in some of the stone causeways and bridges which are often built upon single bold Roman arches, and in design and masonry are equal to the most scientific and artistic structures anywhere. (p. 530)

Education is diffused throughout the Empire, and the women of Japan, unlike those of China, share in the intellectual advancement of the men, and are not only skilled in the accomplishments peculiar to their sex, but are frequently well versed in their native literature. (p. 531)

Notwithstanding the calamities caused by the earthquake, there was shown a resiliency, in the Japanese character, which spoke well for their energy. They did not sit down and weep over their misfortunes, but, like men, went to work, seemingly but little dispirited. (p. 589)


Augustus F. Lindley, Ti-ping Tien-kwoh

 Augustus F. Lindley (1840~1873) was a British seaman who supported the Taiping Rebellion in the 1860s. Lindley met Lee Xiucheng, one of Taiping leaders, in 1860 and was offered a position of his adviser. He followed Leefs unit and fought in Suzhou, Nanjing and Wuxi. When the rebel army retreated from Wuxi in 1863, Lindley returned to Britain.

Augustus F. Lindley, Ti-ping Tien-kwoh: The History of the Ti-ping Revolution, 1866. (Google Book)

At first, as foreigners generally are, I was considerably disgusted by the unnatural appearance of the men my lot was cast with, consequent upon the shaved head and monkey appendage. This frightful custom in no slight degree adds to the naturally cruel expression of their oblique eyes and altogether peculiar features; (pp. 8-9)

Now, their manner of doing this I denounce as the most revolting specimen of self-distortion and pedestrianism imaginable. I can think of no juster simile than a frog trying to walk upright with half its hind legs amputated and stilts fastened to the stumps. Why the deformed feet should ever have been termed "small" I am at a loss to imagine, all that I have seen being quite the reverse. The bottom of the foot, it is true, is bandaged, and compressed into a hoof-like smallness, with the toes all forced into the sole, and on this the shoe is fitted; but look at the ankle, instep, and heel, and you will see nothing but an immense shapeless mass, closely resembling the foot of an elephant. (p. 10)

When we came to the narrow part of the river, we were exposed to continual insult and annoyance from the Chinese on the banks, who, not content with assailing us with every opprobrious epithet in their vocabulary - the least being "Yang quitzo " (foreign devils), frequently pelted us with mud and stones. Soldiers, gun-boat braves, and villagers seemed striving to emulate each other in illustrating their hatred of the foreigners ... (p. 60)

I was much struck by the pleasant style in which they communicated with us. In place of making an offensive demonstration of force, and conducting their inquiries with the gross and insulting arrogance of the Imperialists, they simply put off a small boat, from which one officer boarded us, who behaved in a strikingly friendly and courteous manner while pursuing his investigations. When satisfied as to our intentions, he gave us a pass to proceed, and took his departure, leaving me with a very favourable impression of my first interview with a real, live Ti-ping. (p. 61)

All Europe has for many years considered the Chinese the most absurd and unnatural people in the world; their shaven head, tail, oblique eyes, grotesque costume, and the deformed feet of their women, have long furnished subjects for the most ludicrous attempts of caricaturists; while the atmosphere of seclusion, superstition, and arrogance, with which they delight to surround themselves, has always excited the ridicule and contempt of Europeans. Now, among the Ti-pings, these things, with the exception of the physiognomy, have all disappeared, and even their features seem improved - probably through their mental and bodily relief from thraldom. (p. 67)

The state of China previous to the Ti-ping rebellion was deplorable in the extreme: the grinding oppression of nearly two centuries had apparently obliterated all that was good and noble in the land, ... (p. 95)

I explored the country in every direction, within a radius of twenty-five miles around Han-kow, upon shooting excursions, and I invariably found, that wherever the natives were distant from Imperial troops, or officials, they were kind and courteous to Europeans. I entered numerous villages to rest and obtain refreshment, and at many received polite and dignified invitations from some of the people to enter their dwellings. I must say, the Chinese are one of the most polite and well-behaved people I have ever met. Although bursting with curiosity to ascertain my country and business, I never found them guilty of the slightest rudeness, or annoying inquisitiveness; (p. 117)

The southern part of Nankin was thickly inhabited, and seemed altogether of a better and more handsome style than any Chinese city I had previously seen. Many large palaces and official buildings occupied prominent positions ; the streets were very wide and particularly clean, a rare thing in China; and the numerous people had all a free and happy bearing, totally the reverse of the cringing and humbled appearance of the Manchoo-governed Chinese. (p. 236)

At many and widely separated parts of China, I have seen comely young maidens from twelve to twenty years of age, offered for sale by their mothers, or speculators, at prices varying from six to thirty dollars, so that, as I have frequently heard the Chinese say, "You may sometimes buy a handsome girl for so many cash a catty (weight of one pound and a third) less than pork." This is the precise state of things which the Ti-pings would not tolerate amongst themselves, and which they would in time have taught all China to abhor were it not for foreign interference. (p. 304)

The Chinese nature, although apparently so apathetic, is yet capable of the wildest frenzy of passion; in fact, no people have a more paradoxical and anomalous character. It is a well-known fact that Chinese non-combatants will commit wholesale suicide upon the approach of enemies; (p. 671)


Rutherford Alcock, The Capital of the Tycoon

 Rutherford Alcock (1809~1897) was the British diplomat who stayed in Japan as the first British minister in 1859~1862. Alcock excercised several journeys in Japan including Mt. Fuji climbing in September 1860 and Tokaido walking in June 1861. He left Japan temporarily in March 1862 to Britain and published his best known book The Capital of the Tycoon. After his second stay in Japan in 1864~65, he was transfered to Beijing.

Rutherford Alcock, Capital of the Tycoon, 1863. (Google Book)
Vol. I
Vol. II

The general aspect of Nagasaki, in the upper part of the town, was that of a half-deserted city, partly from the width of the streets, and partly by contrast, I suspect, with the swarming populations of Chinese cities. The shops seemed but poorly supplied ; porcelain, and lacquerware, and silk goods there were, - not absolutely to be despised perhaps, if Yeddo had not been in prospect, but presenting no great attractions. (Vol. I, p. 77)

Take them all in all, with their resemblances and differences, you soon come to the conclusion that, judging even from this seaport or Wapping of Japan, - with a Chinese colony located among them for some centuries to teach them their vices, - Dutch and other foreigners in time past and present, to add their quota also, - they are a good-humoured, intelligent, and courteous race; gentle withal, - and speaking one of the softest tongues out of Italy. Their salutations and greetings in the market-place, have a stately and elaborate courtesy in the lowly bend of the body, ... (Vol. I, pp. 81-82)

Groups of half, or wholly naked children, clamouring for buttons, you meet everywhere ; and almost every woman has at least one at the breast, and often another at the back. The race is undoubtedly prolific; - and this, I should say, is a very paradise of babies. (Vol. I, p. 82)

It is therefore with deliberate forethought, and in order that the reader may more fully realise this Oriental phase of feudalism, such as our ancestors knew it in the time of the Plantagenets, that I would pray him to keep the stereoscopic tube to his eye, and shut out all preconceived views, and all surrounding objects, which speak of a later age and a different race. We are going back to the twelfth century in Europe, for there alone shall we find the counterpart, in many essential particulars, of 'Japan as it is.' (Vol. I, p. 109)

No squalid misery or accumulations of filth encumber the well-cared-for streets, if a beggar here and there be excepted - a strange but pleasant contrast with every other Asiatic land I have visited, ... (Vol. I, p. 120)

A good-humoured and contented, as well as a happy race, the Japanese seem, whatever may be their imperfections, - with the one important exception of the military, feudal, and official caste - classes I might say, but they are not easily separable: (Vol. I, p. 124)

Indeed, they seem fond of duplicates in all things. Something of a dual principle we know enters into man's organisation and pervades all nature, but in the Japanese idiosyncrasy this seems to find a more elaborate developement than elsewhere. If it be true, as a learned physician has maintained,* that we all have two perfect brains enclosed in our skulls, as we have two eyes and two ears on the outside ; each capable of performing all the functions of both combined, - and even capable of carrying on independent trains of thought simultaneously; - it would seem the Japanese duality of brains has been productive of all sorts of binary combinations and devices running through and duplicating as it were, all existence, political, social, and intellectual. There is no dealing with a single agent in Japan - from the sovereign to the postman, they all run in couples. (Vol. I, p. 168)

The absence of genders to their nouns; and of personal pronouns, to express any difference between he, she, and it, noticeable in their grammar, seems to be carried into practice oddly enough in their custom of public baths for both sexes , and in their daily life in other ways. Whether so strange a reversal of all our ideas of propriety is attended in Japan with any of the consequences that would unavoidably attach in Europe to such habits, we are not yet, perhaps, sufficiently conversant with the people, or their social life, to say with confidence. What we do know, certainly does not justify our jumping to a condemnatory conclusion. (Vol. I, pp. 168-169)

We see in all this, first, a strange proneness to selfabasement, a certain absence of individualism and selfassertion, which, on the other hand, is very much opposed to some of their national characteristics. A Japanese is proud of his race and nation, stands much on his personal dignity, and is very sensitive to any indignity or affront put upon him by the neglect or refusal to render all that custom and etiquette prescribe. (Vol. I, p. 171)

But longer experience makes me bold, and I have no hesitation in saying that they are, upon the whole, a cleanly people, wash often - sans peur et sans reproche; wear little clothing, live in houses open to the air, and look on wide and well-ventilated streets, where nothing offensive is allowed to rest. In all these things the Japanese have greatly the advantage over other Eastern races, and notably over the Chinese, whose streets are an abomination to any one possessing eyes to see, or a nose to smell with. (Vol. I, p. 189)

but it leads to the inference, not altogether so complimentary, that either the men are more dangerous, - or the women more frail than elsewhere, since such extreme measures have been found necessary to secure the same results. (Vol. I, p. 193)

Their outer life, their laws, customs, and institutions have all something peculiar - a cachet of their own which may always be distinguished. It is neither Chinese nor European, nor can the type be said to be purely Asiatic. The Japanese seem rather to be like the Greeks of the ancient world, forming a link between Europe and Asia; and put forth claims to be ranked inferior to neither race in some of their best qualities; yet very strangely blending many of the worst characteristics of both. (Vol. I, pp. 221-222)

Not only the whole administrative machinery is in duplicate, but the most elaborate system of check and countercheck, on the most approved Machiavellian principle, is here developed with a minuteness and perfection as regards details, difficult at first to realise. (Vol. I, p. 228)

They are, perhaps, the neatest carpenters and cabinet-makers, and the best coopers in the world. Their tubs and baths and baskets are all perfect specimens of workmanship. (Vol. I, p. 257)

What architecture there is, however, has no originality, and is in fact only a slight modification of the Chinese style of building, with wooden frames. Their temples, gateways, and larger houses are eminently Chinese, only in better style, and infinitely better kept. (Vol. I, p. 299)

One would think they must needs be a cleanly people - and that is a great virtue - whatever we may say or think of their free and easy mode of arriving at the result. There is no sign of starvation or penury in the midst of the population - if little room for the indulgence of luxury or the display of wealth. Their habits of life are evidently simple in the highest degree. (Vol. I, p. 301)

There is something to admire in this Spartan simplicity of habits, which seems to extend through all their life, and they pride themselves upon it. (Vol. I, p. 301)

Nowhere in the world, perhaps, can the Japanese farmer be matched for the good order in which he keeps his farm. The fields are not only kept scrupulously free from weeds, but in other respects the order and neatness observable are most pleasing. (Vol. I, p. 319)

Reflections on the government and civilisation of the Japanese, press upon the European every step he takes in this land, so singularly blessed in soil and climate - so happy in the contented character and simple habits of its people - yet so strangely governed by unwritten laws and irresponsible rulers. I say unwritten, for, though the Ministers tell me a written code exists, I have been unable to obtain a copy, and unless they misled me it has never been printed. (Vol. I, p. 410)

As certain physical characters of race are transmissible from generation to generation, and with them certain moral features - so with the Japanese this proclivity to lying, must have completely taken the place of any original constitution. And yet, withal, he has many traces of something higher and better in his nature. (Vol. I, pp. 418-419)

The men especially, all over Japan, seem to be wretched accountants, - far inferior in this to the Chinese, who arc a match for the best European 'experts.' The women, strange to say, are much better than their lords at figures; and when it came to a question of addition or multiplication, - we always had recourse to the more ready wit of the wife. (Vol. I, p. 442)

Beggars there certainly are. and in and about the capital in considerable numbers; but they are very far from being either so numerous, or so frequently to be seen at the point of starvation, as in the neighbouring country of China. (Vol. I, p. 454)

The probability is, as I have heard, that the rates vary in different districts, and according to the productiveness of the soil. They are, as a race, so frugal and penurious, however, that, judging by the general aspect of poverty, nothing but a bare sustenance of rice and vegetables can be left to the cultivators, with just enough over to buy the very homely and scanty vestments they habitually wear, ... (Vol. II, p.89)

And yet some must exist, for a gentle, womanly, and modest expression and bearing generally marks the women, and the well-conditioned among the men have a certain refinement and delicacy in their manners, while there is much habitual courtesy even among the lower classes, with a consideration for the feelings and susceptibilities of others, and an unwillingness to give offense, which can not well be sustained amidst universal grossness, and a coarse, unbridled license. (Vol. II, p. 114)

Thousands of boats, filled with merchandise or passengers, cover the broad surface of the waters, and every bridge was crowded to an alarming extent by the population, eager to see the foreigners. In truth, the Japanese in general seem to take life and its labors very easily, and are never too busy to collect in vast crowds to see any thing novel. (Vol. II, pp. 117-118)
for the Japanese appear to me to be honorably distinguished among nations of a higher civilization, in that they leave their women to the lighter work of the house, and perform themselves the harder out-door labor. (Vol. II, p. 137)
The only thing which marred the Arcadian effect of the whole, strange to say, was the female population; and their faces, despite black teeth and red paint, were by no means the ugliest or most repulsive features about them. Really, considering what absolute and arbitrary power is exercised by Tycoon and Daimios, one is inclined to regret, if not to wonder, that there has never been an edict making it a high crime and misdemeanor for the fairer part of the population to appear without a vest after sixteen years have passed over their heads. (Vol. II, p. 140)

Japan appears to be actually governed, at the present day, by a sort of feudal aristocracy, recalling in some respects that of the Lombard dukes, and France under the Merovingian kings, or the early state of the Germans when their kings were elected out of particular families. A confederation of Princes and territorial Seigneurs possess the land, enjoying apparently very much the same kind of jurisdiction as our own barons in the days of the Saxon rule or the first Plantagenets. (Vol. II, p. 208)

agreeing with the writer, I am led to place at the head of the list of Japanese vices this one of mendacity, bringing as it does inevitably dishonesty of action. The Japanese traders are accordingly what might be expected, and rank among the most dishonest and tricky of Easterns. (Vol. II, p. 213)

In some the second is hard to distinguish, and this is the case in Japan. There is a good deal of lying, gambling, and drinking; a certain amount of stealing and cheating, with a tolerable percentage of cutting and stabbing, but I must declare my opinion "that there is not altogether more of these vices than in many European populations placed under a Christian dispensation, and, one would believe, under more favorable circumstances for the practice of Christian virtues. (Vol. II, p. 217)

But besides the Feudal form of Government, and an administration based on the most elaborate system of espionage ever attempted, which is essentially a discivilizing agent, and acts as an impediment to progress intellectual or moral, ... (Vol. II, p. 218)

I allude to the relation of the sexes, the intercourse sanctioned by law, and the position of women. I believe a great deal of undeserved laudation has been bestowed on the Japanese in this respect. I do not wish to enter here into the question whether they are, as a nation, more or less immoral than others, but in a country where a father may sell or hire out his daughter for a term of prostitution, not only without penal consequences from the law, but with its sanction and intervention, and without the reprobation of his neighbors, ... (Vol. II, p. 218)

and it is difficult to conceive a system more determinedly repressive of all freedom of thought, speech, or action, than that which the Japanese Government has adopted. And I also believe that in so far as it is incompatible with the free development of man's best faculties, tends to repress the natural aspirations of the moral and intellectual nature, and denies the means of cultivation and exercise of all that are normal and ineradicable, ... (Vol. II, p. 220)

As regards material civilization, there can be no doubt they may take rank in the forefront of all Eastern nations; and but for the fact that their mechanical appliances are inferior, as well as their knowledge of the applied sciences connected with mechanical industry and arts, they may rightly claim a place with nations of European race. (Vol. II, p. 225)

Of course they would copy and take hints, for they have little of the stupid conceit of the Chinese, which leads them to ignore or deny the superiority of foreign things. On the contrary, they are both eager and quick to discover in what it lies, and how they may make the excellence their own. (Vol. II, p. 226)

Thus, with some of the best roads in the world, they are three centuries behind the rest of the civilized world in all that concerns speed and means of communication. And even this very primitive post has no reference to the wants of the people, but serves merely to keep up the communication between the Government and its officers. (Vol. II, p. 240)

As to the size and value of private or of public buildings, it would go hard with the Japanese if their civilization, either mental or moral, were to be judged by such a test. ... and nothing, accordingly, can be more mean or miserable-looking than the streets of Yeddo, one of the largest cities in the world. The Daimios' Yaskis are merely a low line of barracks of the same construction, rather higher in the roofs, ... (Vol. II, p. 243)

In all the mechanical arts the Japanese have unquestionably achieved great excellence. In their porcelain, their bronzes, their silk fabrics, their lacker, and their metallurgy generally, including works of exquisite art in design and execution, I have no hesitation in saying they not only rival the best products of Europe, but can produce in each of these departments works we can not imitate, or perhaps equal. (Vol. II, p. 243)

But in figures and animals, I have some studies in Indian ink, so graphic, so free in outline and true to nature, that our best artists might envy the unerring touch and facile pencil so plainly indicated. (Vol. II, pp. 243-244)

I need say nothing of the lacker-ware. The Japanese are, in all probability, the originators of the manufacture, and have never been approached in Asia or in Europe. ... Perhaps in nothing are the Japanese to be more admired than for the wonderful genius they display in arriving at the greatest possible results with the simplest means, and the smallest possible expenditure of time and labor or material. (Vol. II, p. 245)

I should say that theirs was a material civilization of a high order, in which all the industrial arts were brought to as great perfection as could well be attainable without the aid of steam power and machinery, an almost unlimited command of cheap labor and material supplying apparently many counterbalancing advantages. Their intellectual and moral pretensions, on the other hand, compared with what has been achieved in the more civilized nations of the West during the last three centuries, must be placed very low ; while their capacity for a higher and better civilization than they have yet attained should be ranked, I conceive, far before that of any other Eastern nation, not excepting the Chinese. (Vol. II, p. 264)


Ernest M. Satow, A Diplomat in Japan

 Ernest Mason Satow (1843~1929) was a British diplomat and Japanologist who stayed in Japan for twenty-five years in total. His first stay was since September 1862, as an interpreter at the British legation in Yokohama. Satow worked for several ministers including Rutherford Alcock and Harry Parkes, and he interpreted meetings with the Shogun and the Emperor. His most famous book A Diplomat in Japan was prohibited translating into Japanese until the end of the World War II.

Ernest Satow, A Diplomat in Japan, 1921. (Internet Archive)

Now and then a Japanese dealer would get paid out in kind, but the balance of wrong-doing was greatly against the native, and the conviction that Japanese was a synonym for dishonest trader became so firmly seated in the minds of foreigners that it was impossible for any friendly feeling to exist. (pp. 22-23)

The daimio, it cannot be too often repeated, was a nobody; he possessed not even as much power as a constitutional sovereign of the modern type, and his intellect, owing to his education, was nearly always far below par.* This strange political system was enabled to hold together solely by the isolation of the country from the outer world. As soon as the fresh air of European thought impinged upon this framework it crumbled to ashes like an Egyptian mummy brought out of its sarcophagus. (p. 38)

I was beginning to become known among the Japanese as a foreigner who could speak their language correctly, and my circle of acquaintance rapidly extended. Men used to come down from Yedo on purpose to talk to me, moved as much by mere curiosity as by a desire to find out what foreign policy towards their country was likely to be. Owing to my name being a common Japanese surname, it was easily passed on from one to another, and I was talked about by people whom I had never met. (pp. 156-157)

An immense crowd followed us everywhere, examining our clothes and asking all manner of questions, but behaving with the utmost civility. I felt my heart warm more and more to the Japanese. (pp. 175-176)

They also conveyed to me the news of the Mikado's death, which had only just been made public. Rumour attributed his decease to smallpox, but several years afterwards I was assured by a Japanese well acquainted with what went on behind the scenes that he had been poisoned. He was by conviction utterly opposed to any concessions to foreigners, and had therefore been removed out of the way by those who foresaw that the coming downfall of the Baku-fu would force the court into direct relations with Western Powers. (pp. 185-186)

I have always thought Japanese dancing, or rather posturing, extremely uninteresting. It is a sort of interpreting by more or less graceful (or, as one may look at it, affected) movements of body and limbs, of the words of a song chanted to the accompaniment of a kind of three-stringed lute. (p. 193)

Next day we reached Fukui, the capital of the province, a town of about 40,000 inhabitants. Here again the streets had been cleared ; spectators in their best were seated in rows in the shops, and looked just as if they had paid for their places, like the people who go to see the Queen open Parliament. I never saw so many pretty girls together anywhere. (p. 246)

It seemed curious, we thought, that a man of certainly not very high rank should be thought fit for this double post, and that the common people should be ready to obey him, but the Japanese lower classes, as I noted in my diary, had a great appetite for being governed, and were ready to submit to any one who claimed authority over them, especially if there appeared to be a military force in the background. Ito had the great recommendation in his favour that he spoke English, a very uncommon Japanese accomplishment in those days, especially in the case of men concerned in the political movement. It would not be difficult, owing to the submissive habits of the people, for foreigners to govern Japan, if they could get rid of the two-sworded class, ... (pp. 326-327)

As the Mikado stood up, the upper part of his face, inchiding the eyes, became hidden from view, but I saw the whole of it whenever he moved. His complexion was white, perhaps artifically so rendered, his mouth badly formed, what a doctor would call prognathous, but the general contour was good. His eyebrows were shaven off, and painted in an inch higher up. (p. 371)


Ernst Oppert, A Forbidden Land: Voyage to the Corea

 Ernst Oppert (1832~1903) was a German merchant who visited Korea three times between 1866 and 1868. On February and June of 1866, Oppert landed on western coast of Korea and asked for the trade, but rejected. In April 1888, he attempted to steal the bone of the father of the regent, but could not open the grave. On their way back, his party fought a gun fight against Korean soldiers, and fled to China.

Ernst Oppert, A Forbidden Land: Voyage to the Corea, Kessinger, 2009. ISBN 9548234736

that they might have passed for Europeans, had they been dressed after our fashion. This was also most strikingly observant in a great number of children, whose handsome, regular features, rosy skin, blue eyes, and auburn hair really made it so difficult to distinguish them from European children, c (pp. 9-10)

The streets are a good deal wider than those in Chinese cities, but the public buildings, the houses of the higher classes, and even the royal palace, can bear no comparison with the houses of the richer classes in any of the larger towns of China. Large temples or joss-houses, rich in gilt and many-coloured ornamental carvings, such as we find in the latter country, we look for in vain; and the general impression of the town, with its low, one storied, mostly mud-built houses, is but a poor one, and certainly not such as could be expected to be made by the first city and capital of a kingdom like Corea. (pp. 30-31)

With regard to the relative position between this country and China, the view pretty generally held hitherto, of a still existing state of supremacy or suzerainty of the latter over the former, has to be set aside once for all as obsolete and wrong. Centuries ago, indeed, the Chinese emperors have exercised suzerain powers over the Corean kings; but even in those remote times these powers were very limited and confined to certain stipulated rights, and there is no question that this mild form of vassalage has also long since ceased to exist. (pp. 33-34)

They take no interest in the welfare of the people under their charge, and their only object is to repay themselves during the short term of office allowed to them, and as fast as they can, by all sorts of unlawful and extortionate expedients. (p. 39)

AMONG the nations of the universe who claim to have attained a certain degree of culture, and profess to live in a state of civilization, there is none whose literature shows a greater incompleteness and deficiency respecting its own origin and history than that of the Coreans. It appears almost as if not one of all pretended native scholars had been willing or able to write a record of the history of the country, or that the accounts left by Japanese and Chinese historians were considered sufficiently complete to supply the want; (pp. 48-49)

Corea is a perfectly free and independent state, the same as Siam, and whatever covenants or treaties may formerly have been entered into or agreed upon, at present they are only waste paper, and have long since been forgotten; and no one is more aware of this than the Coreans themselves. (p. 82)

I venture to maintain, that none among the races of the Asiatic Continent can more easily be rendered accessible to a true and sincere religious feeling than the Corean, and that the latter, once converted to Christianity, shows a far deeper comprehension, and adheres to its teachings with greater fidelity and firmness, than for instance the Chinese. (pp. 117-118)

Firm, sure, and quick in his walk, the Corean possesses greater ease and a freer motion than the Japanese, to whom, as to the Chinese, they are superior in tallness and bodily strength. Their bearing denotes also greater fortitude and energy, and a more developed warlike spirit. On the other hand it cannot be denied, that with all their bodily and mental advantages, they rank considerably below these in cultivation and good manners, and without savoir-vivre, they are wanting in that little polish which is not even missed amidst the low class population of China and Japan. (p. 130)

To judge from the cut of features of the male population, it may be presumed that the outward appearance of the women in general is prepossessing and the little I have had an opportunity to see of them, confirms this view fully. (p. 115)

The knowledge and treatment of diseases remains still, as many well be presumed, in its infancy in Corea, and is chiefly confined to the use of some known herbs; and whenever these do not take any effect, the disease is generally left to have its own way, perhaps the most reasonable and fortunate course pursued for the patient. The Corean doctors are, if possible, even more ignorant than their colleagues in China, and they do not enjoy much respect and consideration. (p. 135)

On the whole, the Corean dwelling-houses make a very poor impression compared with those of the neighbouring countries, and the Coreans have a great deal to learn before they reach the style of architecture common in China and Japan. (p. 138)

The Coreans, however, decidedly possess a musical ear, and they know how to appreciate, and like to listen to foreign music very much, while the Chinese have not the slightest idea of harmony, and placing our music far below their own, look down upon our art with something like a feeling of pity. (p. 143)

Public entertainments, such as theatrical and other performances, which are so much appreciated in China and Japan, appear to be completely unknown in Corea. This may be partly ascribed to the lack of a literature of their won; partly also to the low grade of culture of the people, which does not feel the want of entertainments of this kind. (pp. 144-145)

The Coreans as a rule, as has been remarked already, are honest and good-natured, and great crimes, murder, theft, etc., are not frequently committed; (p. 145)

The industrial art and workmanship the Coreans rank far below any other Asiatic nation. The reason for this can only be ascribed to the decidedly repressive system of the Government, which for its own political aims and reasons does not only not look with favour upon any industrial progress, but directly suppresses and hinders the same. It stands to reason that such a proceeding could not but impede any improvement in its very bud, nor can any change for the better be looked for until the system dominant at present is done away with. (p. 175)


William E. Griffis, The Mikado's Empire

 William Elliot Griffis (1843~1928) was an American priest, orientalist and writer. Griffis was invited to introduce the Western educational system into Japan and arrived at Yokohama in December 1870. He taught chemistry and physics in Fukui and Tokyo. He returned to the U.S. in 1874 and published The Mikado's Empire in 1876. The book was welcomed as the most popular Japanese history book for more than thirty years.

William Griffis, The Mikado's Empire, 1876. (Internet Archive)

Yet the Japanese have no word for soap, and have never until these late days used it. Nevertheless, they lead all Asiatics in cleanliness of persons and dwellings. (p. 356)

The law of Japan does not recognize them as human: they are beasts. The man who kills them will be neither prosecuted nor punished. There lies one dead in the road. No! Can it be ? Yes, there is a dead beggar, and he will lie unburied, perhaps for days, if the dogs don't save the work from the coroner. (p. 358)

The maid is about seventeen, graceful in figure, and her neat dress is bound round with a wide girdle tied into a huge bow behind. Her neck is powdered. Her laugh displays a row of superb white teeth, and her jet-black hair is rolled in a maidenly style. The fairest sights in Japan are Japan's fair daughters. (p. 359)

Why not paint Japan as a land of peerless natural beauty, of polite people, of good and brave men, of pretty maidens, and gentle women ? Why bring in beggars, bloody heads, loathsome sores, scenes of murder, assassins' bravery, and humanity with all nobility stamped out by centuries of despotism ? Why not ? Simply because homely truth is better than gilded falsehood. Only because it is sin to conceal the truth when my countrymen, generous to believe too well, and led astray by rhetorical deceivers and truth-smotherers, have the falsest ideas of Japan, that only a pen like a probe can set right. No pen sooner than mine shall record reforms when made. I give the true picture of Japan in 1871. (p. 361)

but the samurai are both. They compose the " military-literary" class of Japan. A "scholar and a gentleman" is our pet compliment; but in Japan, to be "a scholar, a soldier, and a gentleman," is the aspiration of every samurai. A wild-looking set they seem, but the heart kindles to think of the young life of this Asiatic empire being fed at the streams of the science and languages of Christian nations. (p. 370)

Extreme kindness to animals is characteristic of the Japanese. It is the result of the gentle doctrines of Buddha. (p. 390)

I began to realize the utter poverty and wretchedness of the people and the country of Japan. It was not an Oriental paradise, such as a reader of some books about it may have supposed. (pp. 416-417)

Familiarity, like a leaven, was breeding contempt, as I began to see what actual Japanese life was. I thanked God I was not of the race and soil. Was it Pharisaical? (p. 422)

Among a nation of players such as the Japanese may be said to have been, it is not always easy to draw the line of demarkation between the diversions of children proper and those of a larger growth. Indeed, it might be said that during the last two centuries and a half, previous to the coming of foreigners, the main business of this nation was play. One of the happiest phrases in Mr. Alcock's book is that "Japan is a paradise of babies;" he might have added, that it was also a very congenial abode for all who love play. The contrast between the Chinese and Japanese character in this respect is radical. It is laid down in one of the very last sentences in the Trimetrical Classic, the primer of every school in the Flowery Land, that play is unprofitable! (p. 452)

The study of the subject leads one to respect more highly, rather than otherwise, the Japanese people for being such affectionate fathers and mothers, and for having such natural and docile children. The character of the children's plays and their encouragement by the parents have, I think, much to do with that frankness, affection, and obedience on the part of the children, and that kindness and sympathy on that of the parents, which are so noticeable in Japan, and which form one of the good points of Japanese life and character. (p. 465)

A Japanese city during hot weather affords excellent opportunities for the study of breathing statuary. The laborers often strip to the loin-cloth, the women to the waist. Even the young girls and maidens just rounding into perfection of form often sit half nude ; thinking it no desecration to expose the body from the waist up. They seem to be utterly unaware of any impropriety. Certainly they are innocent in their own eyes. Is the Japanese virgin "an Eve before the fall?" (p. 529)

Japan's record of progress for 1871 is noble. The mikado's government is no longer an uncertainty. A national army has been formed ; plots and insurrections have been crushed ; the press has become one of the motors of civilization ; already several newspapers are established in the capital. The old local forms of authority are merged into the national, and taxes and government are equalized throughout the country. Feudalism is dead. An embassy has been sent to Europe, not composed of catspaw officials of low rank to represent the " tycoon," but nobles and cabinet ministers of the mikado's empire, to plead for Japan and the true sovereign. The mikado, casting away old traditions, now appears among his people, requiring no humiliating obeisance. Marriage among all classes is now permitted, and caste is to disappear. The eta and hinin are now citizens, protected by law. The swords of the samurai are laid aside. The peace and order throughout the country appear wonderful. Progress is everywhere the watchword. Is not this the finger of God? (p. 540)

The student of Asiatic life, on coming to Japan, however, is cheered and pleased on contrasting the position of women in Japan with that in other countries. He sees them treated with respect and consideration far above that observed in other quarters of the Orient. They are allowed greater freedom, and hence have more dignity and selfconfidence. (p. 551)

I shall not dwell upon the prevalent belief of foreigners that licentiousness is the first and characteristic trait in her character, nor upon the idea that ordinary chastity is next to unknown in Japan, for I do not believe that such is the case. (p. 554)

As compared with her sister in Western lands, and as judged by her own standards, she is fully the peer in that exquisite taste for the beautiful and becoming as displayed in dress and personal adornment; nor is she inferior in the graces of etiquette and female proprieties. No ladies excel the Japanese in that innate love of beauty, order, neatness, household adornment and management, and the amenities of dress and etiquette as prescribed by their own standard. (p. 559)

Fully conscious of my liability to error in all that I have written in this book, I yet utter my conviction that nothing can ever renovate the individual heart, nothing purify society, and give pure blood-growth to the body politic in Japan, but the religion of Jesus Christ. Only the spiritual morality, and, above all, the chastity, taught by Him can ever give the Japanese a home-life equal to ours. With all our faults and sins, and with all the impurities and failures of our society, I believe our family and social life to be immeasurably higher and purer than that of Japan. (p. 561)

In moral character, the average Japanese is frank, honest, faithful, kind, gentle, courteous, confiding, affectionate, filial, loyal. Love of truth for its own sake, chastity, temperance, are not characteristic virtues. A high, almost painful, sense of honor is cultivated by the samurai. In spirit, the average artisan and farmer is a sheep. In intellectual capacity the actual merchant is mean, and in moral character low. He is beneath the Chinaman in this respect. The male Japanese is far less overbearing and more chivalrous to woman than any other Asiatic. In political knowledge or gregarious ability the countryman is a baby, and the city artisan a boy. The peasant is a pronounced pagan, with superstition ingrained and dyed into the very finest fibre of his nature. (pp. 569-570)

With those forces that centre in pure Christianity, and under that Almighty Providence who raises up one nation and casts down another, I cherish the firm hope that Japan will in time take and hold her equal place among the foremost nations of the world, and that, in the onward march of civilization which follows the sun, the Sun-land may lead the nations of Asia that are now appearing in the theatre of universal history. (p. 578)


Isabella L. Bird, Unbeaten Tracks in Japan

 Isabella Lucy Bird (aka Mrs. J. F. Bishop, 1831~1904) was an English writer who wrote many travelling essays including on Japan, Korea and China. Her first visit to Japan was in July 1878. She travelled to Nikko, Niigata, Ymagata, Akita and Hokkaido.

Isabella L. Bird, Unbeaten Tracks in Japan, 1885. (Project Gutenberg)

The first thing that impressed me on landing was that there were no loafers, and that all the small, ugly, kindly-looking, shrivelled, bandy-legged, round-shouldered, concave-chested, poor-looking beings in the streets had some affairs of their own to mind.

The Japanese look most diminutive in European dress. Each garment is a misfit, and exaggerates the miserable physique and the national defects of concave chests and bow legs.

I have since travelled 1200 miles in the interior, and in Yezo, with perfect safety and freedom from alarm, and I believe that there is no country in the world in which a lady can travel with such absolute security from danger and rudeness as in Japan.

I never saw people take so much delight in their offspring, carrying them about, or holding their hands in walking, watching and entering into their games, supplying them constantly with new toys, taking them to picnics and festivals, never being content to be without them, and treating other people's children also with a suitable measure of affection and attention.

For some reasons they prefer boys, but certainly girls are equally petted and loved. The children, though for our ideas too gentle and formal, are very prepossessing in looks and behaviour.

It is painful to see the prevalence of such repulsive maladies as scabies, scald-head, ringworm, sore eyes, and unwholesome-looking eruptions, and fully 30 per cent of the village people are badly seamed with smallpox.

The new horses had a rocking gait like camels, and I was glad to dispense with them at Kisagoi, a small upland hamlet, a very poor place, with poverty-stricken houses, children very dirty and sorely afflicted by skin maladies, and women with complexions and features hardened by severe work and much wood smoke into positive ugliness, and with figures anything but statuesque.

On either side are the dwellings, in front of which are much-decayed manure heaps, and the women were engaged in breaking them up and treading them into a pulp with their bare feet. All wear the vest and trousers at their work, but only the short petticoats in their houses, and I saw several respectable mothers of families cross the road and pay visits in this garment only, without any sense of impropriety. The younger children wear nothing but a string and an amulet. The persons, clothing, and houses are alive with vermin, and if the word squalor can be applied to independent and industrious people, they were squalid.

In many European countries, and certainly in some parts of our own, a solitary lady-traveller in a foreign dress would be exposed to rudeness, insult, and extortion, if not to actual danger; but I have not met with a single instance of incivility or real overcharge, and there is no rudeness even about the crowding.

Only yesterday a strap was missing, and, though it was after dark, the man went back a ri for it, and refused to take some sen which I wished to give him, saying he was responsible for delivering everything right at the journey's end.

They are courteous, kindly, industrious, and free from gross crimes; but, from the conversations that I have had with Japanese, and from much that I see, I judge that their standard of foundational morality is very low, and that life is neither truthful nor pure.

I was much mobbed, and one child formed the solitary exception to the general rule of politeness by calling me a name equivalent to the Chinese Fan Kwai, "foreign;" but he was severely chidden, and a policeman has just called with an apology.

The Japanese have a perfect passion for children, but it is not good for European children to be much with them, as they corrupt their morals, and teach them to tell lies.

They were dirty and pressed very close, and when the women of the house saw that I felt the heat they gracefully produced fans and fanned me for a whole hour. On asking the charge they refused to make any, and would not receive anything. They had not seen a foreigner before, they said, they would despise themselves for taking anything,

Yoshida is rich and prosperous-looking, Numa poor and wretched-looking; but the scanty acres of Numa, rescued from the mountain-sides, are as exquisitely trim and neat, as perfectly cultivated, and yield as abundantly of the crops which suit the climate, as the broad acres of the sunny plain of Yonezawa, and this is the case everywhere. "The field of the sluggard" has no existence in Japan.

It is proper to show appreciation of a repast by noisy gulpings, and much gurgling and drawing in of the breath. Etiquette rigidly prescribes these performances, which are most distressing to a European, and my guest nearly upset my gravity by them.

The police everywhere are very gentle to the people,--a few quiet words or a wave of the hand are sufficient, when they do not resist them.

The police told me that there were 22,000 strangers in Minato, yet for 32,000 holiday-makers a force of twenty-five policemen was sufficient. I did not see one person under the influence of sake up to 3 p.m., when I left, nor a solitary instance of rude or improper behaviour, nor was I in any way rudely crowded upon, for, even where the crowd was densest, the people of their own accord formed a ring and left me breathing space.

By 5 a.m. all Toyoka assembled, and while I took my breakfast I was not only the "cynosure" of the eyes of all the people outside, but of those of about forty more who were standing in the doma, looking up the ladder. When asked to depart by the house-master, they said, "It's neither fair nor neighbourly in you to keep this great sight to yourself, seeing that our lives may pass without again looking on a foreign woman;" so they were allowed to remain!

I like to tell you of kind people everywhere, and the two mago were specially so, for, when they found that I was pushing on to Yezo for fear of being laid up in the interior wilds, they did all they could to help me; lifted me gently from the horse, made steps of their backs for me to mount, and gathered for me handfuls of red berries, which I ate out of politeness, though they tasted of some nauseous drug.

My hotel expenses (including Ito's) are less than 3s. a-day, and in nearly every place there has been a cordial desire that I should be comfortable, and, considering that I have often put up in small, rough hamlets off the great routes even of Japanese travel, the accommodation, minus the fleas and the odours, has been surprisingly excellent, not to be equalled, I should think, in equally remote regions in any country in the world.

Japanese women have their own gatherings, where gossip and chit-chat, marked by a truly Oriental indecorum of speech, are the staple of talk. I think that in many things, specially in some which lie on the surface, the Japanese are greatly our superiors, but that in many others they are immeasurably behind us. In living altogether among this courteous, industrious, and civilised people, one comes to forget that one is doing them a gross injustice in comparing their manners and ways with those of a people moulded by many centuries of Christianity. Would to God that we were so Christianised that the comparison might always be favourable to us, which it is not!

When I had led him for some time two Japanese with a string of pack-horses loaded with deer-hides met me, and not only put the saddle on again, but held the stirrup while I remounted, and bowed politely when I went away. Who could help liking such a courteous and kindly people?

After the yellow skins, the stiff horse hair, the feeble eyelids, the elongated eyes, the sloping eyebrows, the flat noses, the sunken chests, the Mongolian features, the puny physique, the shaky walk of the men, the restricted totter of the women, and the general impression of degeneracy conveyed by the appearance of the Japanese, the Ainos make a very singular impression.

Ito bought a chicken for my supper, but when he was going to kill it an hour later its owner in much grief returned the money, saying she had brought it up and could not bear to see it killed. This is a wild, outlandish place, but an intuition tells me that it is beautiful.


William R. Carles, Life in Corea

 William Richard Carles (1846~1929) was a British diplomat who visited Korea in 1883 and 1884. He was an expert of Chinese language and worked in various cities in China. He was sent to Korea to inspect mines in Kangweon-do in 1883. Next year, he was assigned a position at Chemulpo and travelled to northern part of Korea between September and November.

William Richard Carles, Life in Corea, 1888. (Internet Archive)

We were soon free of the Japanese houses which had been run up alongside of the road by the small traders, who had profited by the opportunities of the early trade with a new country. These houses formed the intermediate stage between the Japanese Consulate and the huts of the Corean squatters, who had come to the place for work. A Japanese house can never fail to be possessed of some attractiveness, but the Corean huts were wretched hovels of mud thatched with straw, almost destitute of ventilation, and arranged in irregular lines on either side of small trenches, which contained some portion of the filth and refuse lying outside the cabins. (pp. 16-17)

Other women of the lowest class were standing at the doors of their houses, suckling their children, or doing some household work. Their faces, which were uncovered, bore the signs of smallpox, hard work, and hard fare. A short bodice worn over the shoulders left the breasts exposed, and the dirt of their clothes, the lack of beauty of any kind, and the squalor in which they lived, gave a most unpleasant impression of Corean women in general. (p. 28)

The next night the chain was fastened up and we slept well, the result being that my only portmanteau was missing in the morning. Search was promptly made for it, and it was discovered in the forward part of the ship with nothing missing but some dollars, which I had hoped to spend on Corean curios. There was little doubt that the money had been stolen by a Corean servant, who was on his way to Fusan, and who had seen the contents of the portmanteau. He was stripped before landing, but none of the spoil was on him, and he made me adieu with smiles which were repeated when next we met. Often as our things had been left in the open air in the country for want of house-room, we had not missed a single thing, so that we could speak highly of the honesty of Coreans where they had not been affected by foreign intercourse, but we had heard much of the change that had followed the introduction of foreign notions as to the proper punishment for theft. (p. 81)

Even the Japanese, economically as they lived, found that trade in Corea was far from being a source of wealth, and many of them failed; while the few Europeans who were established in the place complained of the difficulties in the way of obtaining payment in silver or in kind for the commodities they imported. (p. 101)

the subject was dropped, and gave way to a series of questions regarding Dr. Gottsche, his connection with the Corean Government, and the object of his journey. It was very annoying to find that all inquiries as to the resources of the province, its trade and population, were received in the same spirit. Either from suspicion as to the object of my journey, or from an excess of courteousness, the Governor disparaged everything in his own country. He would not acknowledge the existence of any trade; the river, according to him, was useless for navigation; such mines as exist were valueless; the city itself, whose history extends over nearly 3000 years, contained nothing of interest; and it was impossible to purchase anything, either in porcelain, bronze, or other material which was worth taking away. (p. 160)

The Governor paid me a long visit, and was much interested in such foreign things as I had with me. The excellence of our leather especially surprised him, and he could hardly credit the number of uses to which it was put. He inquired much after prices, and was quite aghast at the cost of such few things as I showed him. At last he gave expression to the feeling which evidently oppressed him: "Corea is a very poor country. There is no money in it, and no produce. We cannot afford to buy foreign things." Of course I impressed upon him the desire that there was to develop the trade of Corea, but he cared little for what I said, and went away somewhat sadly. (p. 169)

Courteous as all Coreans are, his manner was even unusually so. The rooms which he had prepared for me were invitingly clean, and offered a strong inducement to accept his invitation to stay, but there had been too many halts already to allow of another short stage. The magistrate then insisted on his body-servant going with me so long as 1 was within his jurisdiction, and sped me on my journey with many friendly speeches. (p. 190)

One of the tri-monthly markets was held in Wi-ju on the day of our departure, and a considerable number of people had already collected in the town, while others were coming in by the different roads. I could not, however, see anything in the market that was worth carrying away as a momento; and I was greatly disappointed in the cattle, which struck me as inferior, rather than superior, to those near the capital. (p. 208)

A striking novelty at Kang-ge consisted in the presence of women among the magistrates retinue. When I returned his call, I found that he had but comparatively few men in attendance upon him, and none of the boys who generally swarm about a Corean yamen, but half a dozen women with unveiled faces were among his retainers. To my great astonishment he asked my opinion of their beauty, and the girls seemed as anxious for my verdict as the magistrate himself. Fortunately, it was easy to speak favourably of their looks, for they were tall, well-shapen, held themselves well, and had oval faces unpitted by smallpox. Of Corean women they certainly were the best specimens I have seen, ... (pp. 241-242)

Surely if any town has a right to call itself spick and span, that town is Gensan. Japanese houses of a substantial class, wide streets, a stream flowing through the town, the sea in front of it, and a comparison with Corean towns, made the place to me look clean beyond compare. (p. 275)


Horace N. Allen, Things Korean

 Horace Newton Allen (1858~1932) was a U.S. diplomat and medical missionary who contributed to the early relationships between the U.S. and Korea. After a brief activity in China, Allen took a position of physician at the U.S. legation in Seoul in 1884. His medical treatment of Min Young-Ik created a close connection to the Korean palace. He was promoted to a secretary of the U.S. legation in 1890 and the minister in 1897.

Horace Newton Allen, Things Korean, 1908. (Internet Archive)

As seen from the deck of a ship the Korean coast looks bleak, barren, and generally uninviting. This is just as the natives desired it should look, ... (p. 50)

Korea is a small and insignificant land but she represents an ancient civilization which made her the schoolmaster of Japan. It is not surprising that pride of birth and descent should have become one of the marked traits of these simple-minded people, shut up in their hermit land for so many centuries, quite content with what could be produced within their own borders and only asking to be left alone in their seclusion. (pp. 52-53)

Poor Koreans, you have waited too long. Perhaps had your land been tossed and riven by earthquakes and volcanoes you might have been shaken out of your contented sleep, But while you slept and dreamed and cared for naught but to be let alone, your ancient enemy has been busy learning the arts of those strange folk you see even now, wending their way up your ancient path to yon fortress o your ancestral kings. Having learned these arts she has even vanquished one of her teachers, and you, once a teacher but now a decrepit old ex-officio, what can you hope for when your land is wanted by your energetic erstwhile pupil. (p. 59)

However humble the hut of the peasant or coolie it always has its tight little sleeping room, the stone and cement floor of which with its rich brown oil paper covering, is kept nicely warmed by the little fire necessary for cooking the rice twice daily. In this respect these people fare better than do their neighbours, for the Japanese houses are notoriously cold, and a fire pot for warming the fingers is the only native system of heating, while the Chinese never are warm in the raw cold of winter. They have no means of heating their houses other than by a warmed stone bed which is used in the north, but in the raw cold of the central portion the houses are absolutely unheated and the people simply add more clothing in order to warm up. The English traveller, Henry Norman, was strong in his praise of the beautiful country he passed through in making a journey across Korea, while as to the capital, Seoul, after he had visited Peking he wrote that, compared with Peking, Seoul is a paradise. (p. 67)

The natives are well built and strong. Some coolies engaged in carrying goods from the jetty at Chemulpo to the warehouse of an American - a distance of about one mile - bantered one of their number to carry a bale of sheeting of five hundred pounds weight that distance. The others placed the bale on his frame and he actually carried that weight a mile without further assistance. Thereupon the guild of pack coolies set upon him and gave him a severe beating because they claimed he had spoiled the market for their labour, since thereafter every man would be expected to do the same. (p. 96)

The secluded women of China and Korea are certainly long-suffering, but when pressed too far they will turn and the fury into which they then work themselves is something awful to contemplate. The ironing-stick then becomes a reliance not to be despised and one of which the stronger sex may well stand in awe. (p. 98)

Excellent work is done in brass by these people, the pieces being turned on little lathes in the houses, after having been first cast in as near the desired shape as possible. The dinner service of all who can afford it is made of these fine heavy brass articles. Numbers of sets of bowls have been taken from the country for use among foreigners as finger-bowls, for which use they are admirably adapted, being unbreakable and taking on such a lustre as to resemble gold. (pp. 101-102)

Besides inlaying on wood with mother-of-pearl in a neat and most attractive pattern, they do some very nice inlaying of silver on iron, the pattern being first cut out in the iron, after which silver is beaten in, making a very attractive work. They are good carpenters, cabinet-makers and joiners, though not nearly so deft as are the Japanese. Some of their old chests are works of art and are very highly prized by foreigners. Bamboo and woven work, such as transparent window shades, are common, and some very fine matting is produced in lengths suitable for a bed. (p. 102)

An official friend of mine, himself a very successful hand at "squeeze," was in turn haled before the supreme court and squeezed by a higher power. In commenting on this he said to me that it seemed as though the possession of property by a Korean was regarded as a crime. (p. 103)

The natives have become inured to these odours from long experience, but it is really astonishing how they can thrive and still breathe the poisonous air of their little eight feet square sleeping rooms, into which six or eight persons may crowd and sleep on the heated floor. The odour encountered on opening the door to enter one of these rooms is beyond description and would drive a white man out into the worst of weather choking for breath. (p. 109)

The Koreans are a very hospitable people. Formerly there were practically no beggars in the land, ... (p. 115)

This is one of the burdens of the well-to-do in Korea. When prosperity comes to a man, relatives whom he may have never seen, come to live on him and bring their friends. This has its compensations, however, for when a man's house is so sought by numbers it is an indication that he is prosperous or has influence at court. (p. 119)

From the perfumed breaths of the coolies, thereafter, it was evident they appreciated it even if I could not. Later I was induced to taste some of this compound made without garlic and it won me at once, leaving a memory that haunts me pleasantly still. (p. 121)

The environs of Seoul are made surpassingly beautiful, once you leave the dirty roads, by a circle of these quiet secluded burial parks, each with its artistic temple-like building for sacrificial purposes, standing just below the hill on which rests the tomb proper. (p. 153)

I announced one morning that my patient had a unique manner of getting even with his enemies, since he ate them. Being asked for an explanation I said that I had seen the dogs devouring the dead Japanese lying in the streets and as he ate the dogs, he thus fed on his enemies. (p. 198)

for the Koreans are past-masters at intrigue and seem to imbibe it with their mother's milk. As the result of some such intrigue some liberal official would present himself from time to time at the American Legation for refuge. (pp. 225-226)


Homer B. Hulbert, The Passing of Korea

 Homer B. Hulbert (1863~1949) was an American theologian and journalist who helped Korean resistance against Japan. Hulbert first visited Korea in 1886 to teach at Yukweon Kongweon in Seoul. He once returned to the U.S. but visited again in 1893 to be an editor of Korea Review. In 1905, Hulbert tried to disturb the Japan-Korea Protectorate Treaty. In 1907, he tried to help Korean confidential emissaries participating in the Second Hague Conference. Because of this conspiracy, he could not reenter Korea during the Japanese regime.

Homer B. Hulbert, The Passing of Korea, 1906. (Internet Archive)

The position of woman has experienced no change at all commensurate with Japan's material transformation. Religion in the broadest sense is less in evidence than before the change, for, although the intellectual stimulus of the West has freed the upper classes from the inanities of the Buddhistic cult, comparatively few of them have consented to accept the substitute. Christianity has made smaller advances in Japan than in Korea herself, and everything goes to prove that Japan, instead of digging until she struck the spring of Western culture, merely built a cistern in which she stored up some of its more obvious and tangible results. (p. 6)

An important tree, found mostly in the southern provinces, is the paper-mulberry, broussonetai papyrifcra, the inner bark of which is used exclusively in making the tough paper used by Koreans in almost every branch of life. It is celebrated beyond the borders of the peninsula, and for centuries formed an important item in the annual tribute to China and in the official exchange of goods with Japan. (p. 14)

The temperament of the Korean lies midway between the two, even as his country lies between Japan and China. This combination of qualities makes the Korean rationally idealistic. (p. 31)

From that time to this she has been the slave of Chinese thought. She lost all spontaneity and originality. To imitate became her highest ambition, and she lost sight of all beyond this contracted horizon. Intrinsically and potentially the Korean is a man of high intellectual possibilities, but he is, superficially, what he is by virtue of his training and education. Take him out of this environment, and give him a chance to develop independently and naturally, and you would have as good a brain as the Far East has to offer. (p. 33)

I say that they reluctantly snub him, for the Korean is mortally afraid of being called stingy. You may call him a liar or a libertine, and he will laugh it off; but call him mean, and you flick him on the raw. Hospitality toward relatives is specially obligatory, and the abuse of it forms one of the most distressing things about Korea. (p. 38)

Another marked characteristic of the Korean is his pride. There are no people who will make more desperate attempts to keep up appearances. (p. 38)

In the matter of truthfulness the Korean measures well up to the best standards of the Orient, which at best are none too high. (p. 40)

As for morality in its narrower sense, the Koreans allow themselves great latitude. There is no word for home in their language, and much of the meaning which that word connotes is lost to them. (p. 41)

When genuinely angry, the Korean may be said to be insane. He is entirely careless of life, and resembles nothing so much as a fanged beast. A fine froth gathers about his mouth and adds much to the illusion. It is my impression that there is comparatively little quarrelling unless more or less wine has been consumed. In his cups he is more Gaelic than Gallic. Unfortunately this ecstasy of anger does not fall upon the male sex alone, and when it takes possession of a Korean woman she becomes the impersonation of all the Furies rolled into one. She will stand and scream so loud that the sound finally refuses to come from her throat, and she simply retches. Every time I see a woman indulging in this nerve-racking process I marvel that she escapes a stroke of apoplexy. It seems that the Korean, from his very infancy, makes no attempt to control his temper. The children take the habit from their elders, and if things do not go as they wish they fly into a terrible passion, which either gains its end or gradually wears itself out. (p. 43)

There are traits of mind and heart in the Korean which the Far East can ill afford to spare; and if Japan should allow the nation to be overrun by, and crushed beneath, the wheels of a selfish policy, she would be guilty of an international mistake of the first magnitude. (p. 44)

No matter how long one lives in this country, he will never get to understand how a people can possibly drop to such a low estate as to be willing to live without the remotest hope of receiving even-handed justice. Not a week passes but you come in personal contact with cases of injustice and brutality that would mean a riot in any civilised country. You marvel how the people endure it. (p. 58)

The caste feeling was too strong, and the alphabet was relegated to women, as being beneath the dignity of a gentleman. A terrible wrong was done to the people by this act, and the generous motive of the King was frustrated. About the same time the King ordered the casting of metal printing-types. These were the first movable metal printing-types ever made, and anticipated their manufacture in Europe by fifty years. A few samples of the ancient types still survive. (pp. 92-93)

but it was yet to be shown that she had the peculiar kind of ability which could construct an independent power out of such material as she found in Korea. It was at this point that her weakness was revealed. The methods she adopted showed that she had not rightly gauged the situation, and showed her lack of adaptability to the new and strange conditions with which she was called upon to grapple. The brutal murder of the Queen, and the consequent alienation of Korean good-will, the oppressive measures which led the King to throw himself into the hands of Russia, all these things demonstrated the lack of that constructive ability which was necessary to the successful solution of the knotty problem. (pp. 127-128)

Had the Russians driven out the Japanese, the Koreans would have hated them as heartily. Whichever horn of the dilemma Korea became impaled upon, she was sure to think the other would have been less sharp. Few Koreans looked at the matter from any large standpoint or tried to get from the situation anything but personal advantage. (p. 206)

The Japanese look upon the Koreans as lawful game, and the latter, having no proper tribunals where they can obtain redress, do not dare to retaliate. (p. 214)


George W. Gilmore, Korea from Its Capital

 George William Gilmore (1857~?) was an American theologian who stayed in Korea in 1886~1889. He was invited to teach at Yukweon Kongweon in Seoul together with Homer B. Hulbert and Dalzell A. Bunker in July 1886. He was disappointed with idleness of students from yang-ban class and returned to the U.S. in 1889.

George W. Gilmore, Korea from Its Capital: With a Chapter on Missions, 1892. (Internet Archive)

If it became known that a man had laid up an amount of cash, an official would seek a loan. If it were refused, the man would be thrown into prison on some trumped-up charge. The supposed criminal would be whipped every morning until he had met the demands or had by his obstinacy scared the officials into apprehension for their own safety, or until some of his relations had paid the amount demanded, or some compromise had been made. (p. 28)

Along with the spoken or vernacular, we find the Chinese as the medium of correspondence, of official documents, etc; not that the vernacular is not written, but that it is not the vehicle of the best literature of the country. Many books are printed in Korean, but they correspond to our cheap fiction. Almost all works of a philosophical, religious or ethical character are in Chinese. A knowledge of this fact leads us to the correct conclusion that Chinese culture and letters dominate the peninsula. The Confucian and Menclan classics are the sacred books of Korea, as they are of China. Those who make any pretensions to scholarship most read easily and write correctly the Chinese. This is the medium of promotion to official position. It is that without which no one can hold office. Hence it is probable that at least one-third, perhaps one-half, the male population is tolerably well versed in both Korean and Chinese, for nearly all males are eligible to office. (pp. 63-64)

IT is a fact that even those who have visited the peninsula have returned with mistaken impressions concerning the physique of the people. Tourists have talked and newspaper correspondents have written as though Koreans were much above the average of mankind in height. There are two possible explanations of this: those who have either visited or lived in Japan, or even in China, have become accustomed to the diminutive stature of those peoples, and when among the taller people of Cho Son have naturally magnified the stature of the latter; another reason for this mistake is found in the garb of the Koreans. (p. 75)

The Koreans in many points of physique seem, as in their geographical position, midway between the Chinese and Japanese. They are on the average mach taller than the latter, and probably do not reach the average stature of the former. (p. 77)

In passing through Japan one becomes accustomed to a certain sprightliness in the people. There is nearly always present a pleasing vivacity, a merry sparkle, in the eye of a Japanese woman, which calls up the answering smile. Life for them seems a game or a picnic. But from the Korean woman this sprightliness and vivacity and sparkle are absent. Life for them is serious and earnest business. (p. 79)

On the other hand, there is the reflection that the Koreans can scarcely be more fickle than the Japanese, and that even now the latter people are not beyond mobbing an inoffensive foreigner on the very slightest grounds, as was shown in the spring of 1890. Those who have been longest in the country, however, think that there is a closer approximation to the Chinese steadiness than to the Japanese flightiness, and that there is an undercurrent of good sense which will carry the people to a high level of national life. (pp. 85-86)

Another characteristic of Koreans is a love of country. They yield not even to the Swiss in their intense patriotism. (p. 89)

The people have been much maligned in the matter of cleanliness. In the East one learns to beware of aphorisms. Foreigners like to be witty at the expense of natives. So an Englishman was once heard to say that the dirtiest man he ever saw was a clean Korean. The impression the speaker meant to convey was that Koreans are the dirtiest people on earth. (p. 92)

The Koreans are a domestic people, and are generally chaste. Their character in this latter particular is far above that of their neighbors, the Japanese. (p. 106)

But it must not be imagined from what has been said that woman has no influence in Korean life. It is a well-known fact that the queen has very great influence with the king, and that a great deal is done according to her wishes. (p. 106)

One tradition which obtains in Korea undoubtedly obstructs the advance of the country. It is that men of the yang-ban (gentleman or noble) class, even though their means do not furnish them the necessities of life, are not expected to work and produce their own living. A gentleman may starve or beg, but may not work. His relations may support him, or his wife may, in one way or another, supply means, but he must not soil his hands. (p. 111)

ENOUGH has been said in preceding chapters to show that the Koreans, while gravity is a prominent characteristic, are yet by no means loath to have fun. While not as volatile in spirits as the Japanese, they are yet not so stolid as the Chinese. (p 158)

In intellectual ability the Koreans rank well. We found, however, that we had to be on our guard against merely memoriter work. The tendency was to commit sentences and to store them up for possible future use. Not with standing this, we found good logicians, bright mathematicians and, now and then, promising philologists among them. (p. 231)

The cadet corps could not be turned out at reveille. The soldiers had hardly any idea of military discipline. Precision and punctuality were alike lacking. Soldiers served for their rice, and they had no esprit de corps. While the instructors were treated with all courtesy and consideration, effective use of their acquirements was not made because of the sloth, indifference and distrust of the officials. (p. 236)

Is Korea an independent State, or a vassal State subject to China? The decision is not easily readied. (p. 250)

The relations between Japan and the peninsula are, officially, most excellent. There is at times some friction of feeling between the populace and the Japanese merchants, owing to the disposition of the latter to drive hard bargains and claim their pound of flesh, but in general there is nothing but good wishes on the part of the Japanese people, and the most ardent hopes on the part of the Japanese government for the prosperity of Korea. (p. 263)

Korean servants are very willing to learn, yet there are vexations in the way of training them that call for the exercise of much patience. At first the necessity for frequent ablutions does not appear to the natives, and constant watchfulness is necessary to have them retain the cleanliness essential in housekeeping. (p. 273)


Lafcadio Hearn, Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan

 Patrick Lafcadio Hearn (aka Koizumi Yakumo, 1850~1904) was a journalist and writer born in Greece. After being educated in Ireland and worked in the U.S., Hearn came to Japan in 1890. While teaching English at Matsue and Kumamoto, he wrote Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan which was published in 1894. Later he was naturalized to Japan, named himself Koizumi Yakumo, and published many important works on Japan including Kwaidan (1903) and Japan: An Attempt at Interpretation (1904).

Lafcadio Hearn, Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan, 1894. (Project Gutenberg)

It has its foibles, its follies, its vices, its cruelties; yet the more one sees of it, the more one marvels at its extraordinary goodness, its miraculous patience, its never-failing courtesy, its simplicity of heart, its intuitive charity.

My own conviction, and that of many impartial and more experienced observers of Japanese life, is that Japan has nothing whatever to gain by conversion to Christianity, either morally or otherwise, but very much to lose.

Elfish everything seems; for everything as well as everybody is small, and queer, and mysterious:

The traveller who enters suddenly into a period of social change - especially change from a feudal past to a democratic present - is likely to regret the decay of things beautiful and the ugliness of things new. What of both I may yet discover in Japan I know not; but to-day, in these exotic streets, the old and the new mingle so well that one seems to set off the other.

Then I notice how small and shapely the feet of the people are - whether bare brown feet of peasants, or beautiful feet of children wearing tiny, tiny geta, or feet of young girls in snowy tabi. The tabi, the white digitated stocking, gives to a small light foot a mythological aspect - the white cleft grace of the foot of a fauness. Clad or bare, the Japanese foot has the antique symmetry: it has not yet been distorted by the infamous foot - gear which has deformed the feet of Occidentals.

and as we pass through the little villages along the road, I see much healthy cleanly nudity: pretty naked children; brown men and boys with only a soft narrow white cloth about their loins, asleep on the matted floors, all the paper screens of the houses having been removed to admit the breeze. The men seem to be lightly and supply built; but I see no saliency of muscles; the lines of the figure are always smooth.

The country-folk gaze wonderingly at the foreigner. At various places where we halt, old men approach to touch my clothes, apologising with humble bows and winning smiles for their very natural curiosity, and asking my interpreter all sorts of odd questions. Gentler and kindlier faces I never beheld; and they reflect the souls behind them; never yet have I heard a voice raised in anger, nor observed an unkindly act.

Far as this hamlet is from all art-centres, there is no object visible in the house which does not reveal the Japanese sense of beauty in form. The old gold-flowered lacquer-ware, the astonishing box in which sweetmeats (kwashi) are kept, the diaphanous porcelain wine- cups dashed with a single tiny gold figure of a leaping shrimp, the tea- cup holders which are curled lotus-leaves of bronze, even the iron kettle with its figurings of dragons and clouds, and the brazen hibachi whose handles are heads of Buddhist lions, delight the eye and surprise the fancy. Indeed, wherever to-day in Japan one sees something totally uninteresting in porcelain or metal, something commonplace and ugly, one may be almost sure that detestable something has been shaped under foreign influence.

As in all the other little country villages where I have been stopping, I find the people here kind to me with a kindness and a courtesy unimaginable, indescribable, unknown in any other country, and even in Japan itself only in the interior. Their simple politeness is not an art; their goodness is absolutely unconscious goodness; both come straight from the heart.

And this has been one of the chief pleasures of the people in Japan for centuries and centuries, for the nation has passed its generations of lives in making or seeking such things. To divert one's self seems, indeed, the main purpose of Japanese existence, beginning with the opening of the baby's wondering eyes. The faces of the people have an indescribable look of patient expectancy - the air of waiting for something interesting to make its appearance. If it fail to appear, they will travel to find it:

For the Japanese do not brutally chop off flower-heads to work them up into meaningless masses of colour, as we barbarians do: they love nature too well for that;

Shinto extends a welcome to Western science, but remains the irresistible opponent of Western religion; and the foreign zealots who would strive against it are astounded to find the power that foils their uttermost efforts indefinable as magnetism and invulnerable as air.

After having learned - merely by seeing, for the practical knowledge of the art requires years of study and experience, besides a natural, instinctive sense of beauty - something about the Japanese manner of arranging flowers, one can thereafter consider European ideas of floral decoration only as vulgarities.

The average capacity of the Japanese student in drawing is, I think, at least fifty per cent, higher than that of European students. The soul of the race is essentially artistic;

But it should be understood that the poorest and humblest Japanese is rarely submissive under injustice. His apparent docility is due chiefly to his moral sense. The foreigner who strikes a native for sport may have reason to find that he has made a serious mistake. The Japanese are not to be trifled with; and brutal attempts to trifle with them have cost several worthless lives.

Among no other civilised people is the secret of happy living so thoroughly comprehended as among the Japanese; by no other race is the truth so widely understood that our pleasure in life must depend upon the happiness of those about us, and consequently upon the cultivation in ourselves of unselfishness and of patience.


Isabella L. Bird, Korea and Her Neighbours

 Isabella Lucy Bird (aka Mrs. J. F. Bishop, 1831~1904) was an English writer who wrote many travelling essays including on Japan, Korea and China. Bird visited Korea four times between 1894 and 1897. She travelled from Seoul to Gensan in spring of 1894. In November, she visited northern frontier adjacent to Russia. In January 1895, she met King Gojong and Queen Min in Seoul. Her last visit was to Seoul in autumn of 1897.

Isabella L. Bird, Korea and Her Neighbours, 1898. (Internet Archive)

Mentally the Koreans are liberally endowed, specially with that gift known in Scotland as "gleg at the uptak." The foreign teachers bear willing testimony to their mental adroitness and quickness of perception, and their talent for the rapid acquisition of languages, which they speak more fluently and with a far better accent than either the Chinese or Japanese. They have the Oriental vices of suspicion, cunning, and untruthfulness, and trust between man and man is unknown. Women are secluded, and occupy a very inferior position. (pp. 13-14)

Chinese influence in government, law, education, etiquette, social relations, and morals is predominant. In all these respects Korea is but a feeble reflection of her powerful neighbor ; (p. 22)

The Korean makes upon one the impression of novelty, and while resembling neither the Chinese nor the Japanese, he is much better-looking than either, and his physique is far finer than that of the latter. (p. 26)

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, (p. 41)

A foreigner is absolutely safe. During the ofttimes tedious process of hauling up the rapids, when Mr. Miller and the servants were tugging at the ropes, I constantly strolled for two or three hours by myself along the river bank, and whether the path led through solitary places or through villages, I never met with anything more disagreeable than curiosity shown in a very ill-bred fashion, and that was chiefly on the part of women. (p. 80)

At Chong-phyong and elsewhere the common people, in spite of their overpowering curiosity, were not rude, and usually retired to a respectful distance to watch us eat ; but from the class of scholars who hang on round all yametis we met with a good deal of underbred impertinence, some of the men going so far as to raise the curtain of my compartment and introduce their heads and shoulders beneath it, brow-beating the boatmen when they politely asked them to desist. (p. 94)

There is no doubt that the people, i. e. the vast mass of the unprivileged, on whose shoulders rests the burden of taxation, are hard pressed by the yang-bans, who not only use their labor without paying for it, but make merciless exactions under the name of loans. As soon as it is rumored or known that a merchant or peasant has laid up a certain amount of cash, a yang-ban or official seeks a loan. (p. 102)

The women and children sat on my bed in heaps, examined my clothing, took out my hairpins and pulled down my hair, took off my slippers, drew my sleeves up to the elbow and pinched my arms to see if they were of the same flesh and blood as their own ; they investigated my few possessions minutely, trying on my hat and gloves, and after being turned out by Wong three times, returned in fuller force, (p. 127)

During the land journey from Chang-an Sa to Won-san I had better opportunities of seeing the agricultural methods of the Koreans than in the valleys of the Han. As compared with the exquisite neatness of the Japanese and the diligent thriftiness of the Chinese, Korean agriculture is to some extent wasteful and untidy. (p. 160)

In Korea I had learned to think of Koreans as the dregs of a race, and to regard their condition as hopeless, but in Primorsk I saw reason for considerably modifying my opinion. It must be borne in mind that these people, who have raised themselves into a prosperous farming class, and who get an excellent character for industry and good conduct alike from Russian police officials, Russian settlers, and military officers, were not exceptionally industrious and thrifty men. They were mostly starving folk who fled from famine, and their prosperity and general demeanor give me the hope that their countrymen in Korea, if they ever have an honest administration and protection for their earnings, may slowly develop into men. (p. 236)

As I sat amidst the dirt, squalor, rubbish, and odd and endisra of the inn yard before starting, surrounded by an apathetic, dirty, vacant-looking, open-mouthed crowd steeped in poverty, I felt Korea to be hopeless, helpless, pitiable, piteous, a mere shuttlecock of certain great powers, and that there is no hope for her population of twelve or fourteen millions, unless it is taken in hand by Russia, (p. 330)

If a man is reported to have saved a little money, an official asks for the loan of it. If it is granted, the lender frequently never sees principal or interest ; if it is refused, he is arrested, thrown into prison on some charge invented for his destruction, and beaten until either he or his relations for him produce the sum demanded. (p. 337)

There are no native schools for girls, and though women of the upper classes learn to read the native script, the number of Korean women who can read is estimated at two in a thousand. (p. 342)

Narrowness, grooviness, conceit, superciliousness, a false pride which despises manual labor, a selfish individualism, destructive of generous public spirit and social trustfulness, a slavery in act and thought to customs and traditions 2,000 years old, a narrow intellectual view, a shallow moral sense, and an estimate of women essentially degrading, appear to be the products of the Korean educational system. (pp. 387-388)

To sum up, I venture to express the opinion that the circumstances of the large population of Korea are destined to gradual improvement with the aid of either Japan or Russia, (p. 395)

A great and universal curse in Korea is the habit in which thousands of able-bodied men indulge of hanging, or "sorning," on relations or friends who are better off than themselves. There is no shame in the transaction, and there is no public opinion to condemn it. A man who has a certain income, however small, has to support many of his own kindred, his wife's relations, many of his own friends, and the friends of his relatives. This partly explains the rush for Government offices, and their position as marketable commodities. (p. 446)

I am by no means hopeless of their future, in spite of the distinctly retrograde movements of 1897. Two things, however, are essential.
@I. As Korea is incapable of reforming herself from within, that she must be reformed from without.
@II. That the power of the Sovereign must be placed under stringent and permanent constitutional checks. (p. 452)


Isabella L. Bird, The Yangtze Valley and Beyond

 Isabella Lucy Bird (aka Mrs. J. F. Bishop, 1831~1904) was an English writer who wrote many travelling essays including on Japan, Korea and China. Bird visited China in December 1895. She sailed up the Yangze River from Shanghai to Wanxian then went to Chengdu on the land. After observing a Tibetan village, she came back to Shanghai in June 1896.

Isabella L. Bird, The Yangtze Valley and Beyond, 1899. (Internet Archive)

In estimating the position occupied by the inhabitants of the Yangtze Valley, as of the rest of China, it is essential for us to see quite clearly that our Western ideas find themselves confronted, not with barbarism or with debased theories of morals, but with an elaborate and antique civilisation which yet is not decayed, and which, though imperfect, has many claims to our respect and even admiration. (p. 11)

At once conservative and adaptable, the most local of peasants in his attachments, and the most cosmopolitan and successful of emigrants - sober, industrious, thrifty, orderly, peaceable, indifferent to personal comfort, possessing great physical vitality, cheerful, contented, persevering - his filial piety, tenacity, resourcefulness, power of combination, and respect for law and literature, place him in the van of Asiatic nations. (p. 12)

They are keen and alert, but unwilling to strike out new lines, and slow to be influenced in any matters. Their trading instincts are phenomenal. (p. 12)

On the whole, as I hope to show to some extent in the following pages, throughout the Yangtze valley, from the great cities of Hangchow and Hankow to the trading cities of Sze-Chuan, the traveller receives very definite impressions of the completeness of Chinese social and commercial organisation, the skill and carefulness of cultivation, the clever adaptation of means to ends ... (p. 13)

But if the extraordinary energy, adaptability, and industry of the Chinese may be regarded from one point of view as the "Yellow Peril," surely looked at from another they constitute the Yellow Hope, and it may be possible that an empire genuinely Christianised, but not de-nationalised, may yet be the dominant power in Eastern Asia. (p. 13)

The Chinese are ignorant and superstitious beyond belief, but on the whole, with all their faults, I doubt whether any other Oriental race runs so straight. (p. 13)

The ignorance which many men of the literary class show is wonderful, and it comes out freely in conversations in the guest-hall. A very grand military mandarin asserted not only that Lin and the Black Flags had driven the Japanese out of Formosa, but that the Straits of Formosa had yawned wide in answer to vows and prayers addressed to the gods by Lin, and that the navies of Russia, England, France, and Japan had perished in a common destruction in the vortex! (p. 177)

That this is so in China is not the impression which the facts of daily life produce, and the popular view taken of Chinese character in this country is that it is cruel, brutal, heartless, and absolutely selfish and unconcerned about human misery. (p. 194)

The Chinese obviously fail in acts of unselfishness and of personal kindliness and goodwill. Their works of merit are very much on a large scale, for the benefit of human beings in masses, the individual being lost sight of. They involve little personal, wholesome contact between the giver and receiver, ... (p. 192)

The cultivation is surprising, and its carefulness has extirpated most of the indigenous plants. It is carried up on terraces to the foot of the cliffs which support the refuges; it renders prolific strips on ledges only eighteen inches wide. Except on the road itself, there was not a vacant space on that day's journey on which a man could lie down. (p. 201)

Their questions were very trivial, and their curiosity appeared singularly unintelligent, contrasting, in this respect, with that of the Japanese. It showed prodigious apathy for adults to spend hour after hour in focussing a stolid stare upon a person whose occupations offered no novelty or variety, being limited to eating and writing. (p. 210)

The crowd became dense and noisy; there was much hooting and yelling. I recognised many cries of Yang kwei'tze! (foreign devil) and "Child-eater!" swelling into a roar; the narrow street became almost impassable; my chair was struck repeatedly with sticks; mud and unsavoury missiles were thrown with excellent aim; a well-dressed man, bolder or more cowardly than the rest, hit me a smart whack across my chest, which left a weal; others from behind hit me across the shoulders; the howling was infernal; it was an angry Chinese mob. (p. 219)

Incredible filth, indescribable odours, which ought to receive a strong Anglo-Saxon name, grime, forlornness, bustle, business, and discordant noises characterise Chinese cities, and the din of Kiu Hsien was deafening. (p. 244)

The mannerless, brutal, coarse, insolent, conceited, cowardly roughs of the Chinese towns, ignorant beyond all description, live in a state of filth which is indescribable and incredible, in an inconceivable beastliness of dirt, among odours which no existing words can describe, and actually call Japanese "barbarian dwarfs"! (p. 250)

A system in which official salaries are not a "living wage" opens the door to large peculation, but withal China is not a heavily taxed country, and the people are anything but helpless in official hands. In spite of all the monstrous corruption which exists, general security and good order prevail, and China has been increasing in wealth and population for nearly two centuries. (p. 253)

The system is infamous, but a traveller who has spent some years in travelling in Turkey, Persia, Kashmir, and Korea, is astonished to find that the Chinese are very far from being an oppressed people, and that even under this system they enjoy light taxation in spite of squeezes, security for the gains of labour, and a considerable amount of rational liberty. (p. 261)

There was nothing of the lazy loafing of a horde of dirty officials which distinguishes a Korean yamen. I was quite unmolested. (p. 261)

I like the Chinese women better than any Oriental women that I know. They have plenty of good stuff in them, and backbone. When they are Christianised they are thorough Christians. They have much kindness of heart; they are very modest; they are faithful wives, and after their fashion good mothers. (p. 270)

letters and literary degrees, absolutely apart from the accidents of birth or wealth, being the only ladder by which a man, be he the son of prince or peasant, can attain official employment, honours, and emoluments, China being in fact the most truly democratic country in the world. (p. 216)

If I have conveyed what I wish to convey, clearly, it will be evident that Chinese education in the primary schools is limited to the teaching of virtue, duty, and etiquette. There is no provision for developing the intellectual powers, nor has general learning any place. There is a complete want of symmetry in the mental training, but if it fails to form broad and well-balanced minds, it must be admitted that the exaggeration is in the best direction in which distortion could occur. (p. 279)

Then there were stones thrown, ammunition being handy. Some hit the chair and bearers, and one knocked off my hat The yells of "Foreign devil," and "Foreign dog," were tremendous. Volleys of stones hailed on the chair, and a big one hit me a severe blow at the back of my ear, knocking me forwards and stunning me. (pp. 332-333)

The sick coolie was laid under a tree, and I put a wet pocket handkerchief on his burning brow. Then latent Chinese brutality came out, showing that on these men the popular cult of Kwan-yin, who is really a lovable creation, had no influence. There were five baggage coolies carrying nothing, and when I proposed that they should divide one mule's load among them and let him ride, they refused. He had been working, sleeping, and eating with them for twelve days, yet when 1 asked If they were going to leave him there to die. they laughed and said, "Let him die; he's of no use." Though the water he craved for was only a few yards off they did not care to give him any. (pp. 419-420)

The reader who has followed the foregoing chapters with any degree of interest can scarcely think that Sze Chuan, at least, is in decay. Commercial and industrial energy is not decaying, the vast fleets of junks are not rotting in harbours and reaches; industry, thrift, resourcefulness, and the complete organisation both of labour and commerce, meet the traveller at every turn. Mercantile credit stands high, contracts are kept, labour is docile, teachable, and intelligent, its earnings are secure, and, on the whole, law and order prevail. (p. 531)

On the whole, peace, order, and a fair amount of prosperity prevail throughout the empire. The gains of labour are secure, taxation, even with the squeezes attending it, is rarely oppressive in the country, and in the towns is extremely light. The phrase "ground down" does not apply to the Chinese peasant. There is complete religious toleration. Guilds, trades unions, and other combinations carry out their systems unimpeded, and the Chinese genius for association is absolutely unfettered. The Chinese practically in actual life are one of the freest peoples on earth! (p. 534)


Frederick A. McKenzie, The Tragedy of Korea

 Frederick Arther McKenzie (1869~1931) was a Canadian born journalist who sympathized with Korean guerilla fought against Japan's rule. McKenzie went to Korea to report Russo-Japanese war in 1904 for London Daily Mail. He visited Korea again in 1906 to contact Korean guerilla. After returning to London, he published The Unveiled East in 1907 and The Tragedy of Korea in 1908 for anti-Japan campaign.

Frederick A. McKenzie, The Tragedy of Korea, 1908. (Internet Archive)

WHEN I first entered Korea," said one of the earliest foreign residents to me, "it seemed as though I were stepping out of real life into the veritable wonderland of Alice. Everything was so fantastic, so very different from any other part of the world, so absurd, so repulsive, or so bizarre, that I had to ask myself, time after time, whether I was awake or dreaming." (p. 25)

Any man who was sufficiently prosperous became at once the victim of magisterial zeal. The magistrate would come to the farmer who had been cursed with a specially good crop and beg a loan. If the man refused, he would promptly be imprisoned, half starved, and beaten once or twice a day until he consented. (p. 26)

The granting of concessions to nobles was another burden on the people. A noble, a yangban, considered that he had a right to live off the working classes. (p. 27)

The women of the better class lived absolutely secluded lives, and regarded the strictness of their seclusion as proof of the esteem of their husbands. The women of the lower classes worked hard, in many cases supporting their families. They wore an extraordinary dress, by which the breasts are freely exposed, and the chest above the breast carefully covered. Although the women were kept in subservience, the morality of the country was, on the whole, good, and would certainly bear very favourable comparison with that of Japan. (p. 29)

There were few or no beggars in the land. There was no need of an elaborate poor-law system. The countryman owned and worked his land, and was able, save at a time of special distress, to store up sufficient in the autumn to keep him and his for the coming twelve months. (pp. 30-31)

The first few weeks that any foreigner spent in Korea were full of repulsion and horror. But as he came to know the people better he learnt more and more to appreciate their kindheartedness, their lack of guile, their genuine simplicity, their willingness to learn, and their many lovable and likeable qualities. (p. 31)

Under the old methods, Korean money was among the worst in the world. The famous gibe of a British Consul in an official report, that the Korean coins might be divided into good, good counterfeits, bad counterfeits, and counterfeits so bad that they can only be passed off in the dark, was by no means an effort of imagination. (pp. 111-112)

I had heard much of the province of Chung-Chong-Do as the Italy of Korea, but its beauty and prosperity required seeing to be believed. It afforded an amazing contrast to the dirt and apathy of Seoul. Here every one worked. (p. 182)