Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Corea, a peninsula to the south of China, between the Yellow Sea and the Sea of Japan, in lat. 34° to 42° 25' N, and long.' 124° 35' to 130° 50 'E., containing over 79,000 square miles. On the E. coast, which is comparatively regular, there is a large gulf - Broughton Bay - and there are several other bays and harbours, the chief being Lazaref, Pingei, and Chosan harbour. The W. coast is much indented. The country is very mountainous, and has been likened to the "sea under a gale." A range runs from N. to S., near the coast, and sends out spurs to the W. and S.W., and rises to a height of 8,000 feet. The rivers are numerous, the principal being Ya-lu-Kiang on the E., the Mi-Kiang on the W., the Tai-Tang-Kang, and the Han-Kang, on which is the capital, Seoul. On the S. the Nak-Tong-Kang flows into Chosan harbour. The climate has a great range of temperature, and is humid. The chief vegetable productions are rice, wheat, millet, rye, cotton, hemp, and ginsengs, and the fruits of mid-Europe. Among the animals are tigers, bears, boars, cattle, a small breed of horses, swine, and dogs. Only the king may rear sheep and goats for sacrifice. There are eight provinces, and many towns, the capital Seoul being walled. The king is absolute in his own land. The government is carried on by three ministers, who are aided by six judges, and each province has its governor. The nobles have almost a monopoly of government posts. The language is Turanian, but Chinese is extensively used. There are traces of ancient cults, such as serpent-worship, and the perpetual keeping up of the hearth-fire. As in China, much reverence is paid to ancestors, and family love between father and son is strong. Women occupy an inferior and insignificant position. The pursuits are chiefly agricultural, there being hardly any manufacture, save that of paper. Till lately there was next to no commerce or dealing with foreigners, and hardly any coinage, barter, especially in the N., being resorted to. The Japanese were the first to secure trading-rights in 1876. From 1880-86 the rights were extended to China, the United States, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Russia, and France. In 1895, on the conclusion of the Chinese and Japanese war, the independence of Corea was acknowledged.

The inhabitants of Corea are usually classed with the Mongolic family, but are somewhat taller, fairer, and perhaps more robust than the average Mongol. As amongst the neighbouring Manchus, light eyes (greenish, grey, or even blue) are not uncommon, which seems to point at an early fusion of Caucasic and Mongolic elements in North-east Asia. The national records speak of two primitive races, the Sien-pi and San-San, gradually merged in the present Kao-li or Kao-ri (Corea). Ernst Oppert (Reisen Nach Korea, Leipzig, 1881) everywhere met people, and especially children, with such regular features, florid complexion, light hair, and blue eyes, that they were scarcely to be distinguished from Europeans. Socially there are three distinct classes - the nobles, the common folk, and the slaves, presenting certain analogies to the caste system of India, and distinguished by their dress and speech. The hat with its enormous brim is the most striking part of the national costume, Corean culture is essentially Chinese, and Buddhism, introduced from China in 384 A.D., is at least nominally the religion of the masses. But the religious sentiment is but slightly developed, and the people may often be seen kicking their idols about for amusement or perhaps revenge. There are numerous Roman Catholic communities, French missionaries having long been labouring in this field, and an Anglican bishop has recently been appointed. In some parts the curious custom prevails of burying the dead only in the spring and autumn, those dying in the "off-seasons" being temporarily deposited in a hut raised on piles. Except in the towns, where one-storeyed brick houses with straw thatching may be seen, the Corean habitations are wretched wooden structures with mud floors and oil-paper windows. The language is polysyllabic, of a Mongolo-Tatar type, but otherwise quite distinct and betraying only some slight analogies with Japanese. AV. G. Aston (A Comparative Study of Japanese and Corean, in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1879) thinks it may be as remotely allied to Japanese as English is to Sanscrit. It is written with a peculiar alphabet of uncertain origin. But the Chinese system is also current, and Chinese itself is the language of diplomacy and, to a large extent, of the upper circles.