The people dress in imported cotton sheetings mostly, padding them well with cottonwool for winter use, and using the plain bleached white, or dying the cloth a light shade of blue or green. Rice is the staple article of food in the central and southern provinces; wheat enters more largely into the diet of the northern people. Their cattle are as large and fine as maybe found anywhere; the people eat much beef, and hides are a prominent article of export. Their houses are well built and comfortable; foreigners adapt them to their own use with little trouble. The houses are heated by means of a system of flues underneath the floor, which is made of large flagstone placed over the flues and well cemented ; over all thick, strong, oil paper is placed, making a rich, dark, highly polished door, through which no smoke can come, though it is always agreeably warm. The houses are all one story, built around a court and several sets of buildings, each within a separate wall, usually make up a gentleman's compound The buildings are covered with a thick layer of earth and capped with tile laid on in graceful curves. This roof insures coolness in summer. The rooms are made almost air-tight by the plentiful use of paper on the walls outside and in, as well as for doors and windows.
There are three great classes in Korea: the nobility, the middle class, and the commoners. A commoner, not of the proscribed orders, may rise to nobility by successfully passing the competitive examinations. The officials are appointed from the noble classes.
The language is peculiar to the country, and while written official documents are done in the common character of China and Japan, the spoken language of neither of these people is understood in Korea. The native language of Korea possesses an alphabet and grammar, and is polysyllabic, thus resembling English more than it does Chinese.
In religious matters the Koreans are peculiar in that they may be said to be without a religion, properly speaking. Prior to the advent of the present dynasty, Buddhism reigned, but for 498 years it has been in such disfavor that no priest dare enter a walled city. They still maintain temples in the mountains, but exert but little if any influence. In morals the people are Confucionists, and their reverent devotion to their ancestors may serve in part as a religion. In times of distress they "pray to Heaven," and seem really to be very devoutly inclined,< Christianity came into disfavor through the indiscretion of its early teachers. The distrust is slowly passing away now, and missionaries are openly employed in doing the educational work that must precede any successful attempt to secure the adoption of beliefs so radically different from all existing ideas.
Some of the results of the outside intercourse that has been indulged in for the past eight years may be mentioned. A maritime customs service, under the charge of American and European officers, is in very successful operation. So is a hospital, supported by the government and operated by American physicians, gratuitously furnished by the American Presbyterian Mission. The government supports a school for which American teachers are employed. American military officers have charge of the reorganization of the army and conduct a school for the purpose of instructing the young officers. A mint, machine-shops, powder-mills, silk filatures, an electric light, and a telegraph and cable line are some of the new institutions recently adopted and, as a rule, now in successful operation. Steamships have also been purchased more for the purpose of transporting tribute rice than as a nucleus for a navy. In regard to the relations existing between Korea and China the reader is respectfully referred to a paper delivered before the American Oriental Society by the Chinese scholar, W. W. Rockhill, U. S. Secretary of Legation at Pekin, and contained in Vol. III. of the Society's publications for 1888. In his preface Mr. Rockhill says:
"The nature of Korea's relations with China has for the last thirty years been a puzzle for Western nations. Were they - with the ambiguous utterance of the Chinese Government before them that 'Korea, though a vassal and tributary state of China, was entirely independent so far as her government, religion, and intercourse with foreign States were concerned' - to consider it as an integral part of the Chinese Empire, or should they treat it as a sovereign state, enjoying absolute international rights?
"The problem was practically solved by the conclusion of the treaty between Japan, and later on the United States, and Korea, but this has not materially altered the nature of the relations existing for the last four centuries, at least between China and its so-called vassal. That China has, however, derived profit from the opening of Korea to the commerce of nations, there can be no doubt, for she, too, being at liberty to conclude treaties with Korea and open this new market to her merchants, has done so, like other nations, though she has chosen to call her treaty by the euphonious name of 'commercial and trade regulations for the subjects of China and Korea', and her diplomatic representative in Soul, 'Minister Resident for political and commercial affairs.' What China's relations with Korea were prior to the opening of the latter kingdom by the treaty of 1883, I propose to show in the following pages, taking as my authorities official Chinese publications and writings of men in official position."