Hamel was a Protestant Christian.
Probably because of curiosity, he paid great attention
about pagan's religion. He made full description of
Joseon's religious practices. For sure he favors Buddhism
because when staying in Jeolla-do, he and his mates
enjoyed visiting temples and Buddhist monks who eagerly
wanted to hear of their adventures even without sleep.
Hamel and his mates view Confucianism as a kind of idolatry.
¡Ü Although people believe in paganism, worshipping several
idols, probably referring to a superstitious belief
such as Seonghwangdang (the altar for tutelary deity),
they respect the authority more.
¡Ü High officials and Yangban(the nobility) are full of
conceit, ignoring idols completely, that they rather
¡Ü Common people and farmers worship before idols every
national day or memorial service. They burn incense
which is one of the offerings inside the small pot in
front of the idol. They bow once and leave.
¡Ü They believe that while those who are doing good are
blessed in this world, those doing evil are punished.
They do not know preaching or catechism and do not force
others to believe their belief.
¡Ü Since everybody has belief and idolatry is widespread
all over the nation, there is no need to discuss religion.
On the other hand, Hamel made extensive explaining
about Buddhism and the apparent corrupt practices of
those who profess the religion.
¡Ü Buddhist monks offer food to and worship the image
of Buddha twice a day. Many people visit temples every
festival day (the Buddha's Birthday) and Buddhist monks
strike a gong and a drum or play other musical instruments.
¡Ü There are a number of temples in Joseon. Most of them
are situated in beautiful places and controlled by competent
authorities. Some temples have 500~600 Buddhist monks
and others have 3,000~4,000. About 10~30 monks stay
in one quarter.
¡Ü Each quarter is under the command of the oldest/chief
monk. If a Buddhist monk makes a mistake, the chief
monk punishes him by flogging (striking the buttocks
20~30 times). If he commits a severe crime, he is handed
over to the local governor.
¡Ü Anyone can become a Buddhist monk and he can easily
quit if it does not suits him. Thus, Buddhist monks
are so plenty that theydo not enjoy public esteem and
¡Ü Buddhist monks are forbidden to eat living things or
meat products. They shave their head and cannot talk
with women. If one violates the rule, he is given 70~80
lashes to buttocks and gets expelled from the temple.
¡Ü Any Buddhist monk entering a temple shaves their head.
A band is tied on one of his arms that serve as an identification.
Buddhist monks normally make their living by labor,
business, or mendicancy.
¡Ü Buddhist monks are always enthusiastic for teaching
boys reading and writing. If one of them shave his head,
he becomes a boy monk serving his teacher monk.
¡Ü Some Buddhist monks can get married but their way of
worship before the image of Buddha or food rules remains
the same as that of other Buddhist monks.
¡Ü Temples are built by rich high officials or common
¡Ü Yangban(the nobility) often visit temples with Giseang
or family to have fun because temples are situated in
beautiful mountains or forest with fine view. Although
a temple is considered a good architecture, it may fairly
be said that it also serves as a den of prostitutes
or an inn.
¡Ü When staying in Seoul, we saw two temples where Buddhist
nuns resided, one was for noble families and the other
was for common families.