Hamel had a great interest in
the society of Joseon at large. The followings are about
the residential life of Joseon people.
°‹ While the nobility(Yangban) reside in a very elegant
house, common people live in squalid residences. Since
no one is allowed to make a tile roof of their houses
without securing the permission of local governor, most
roofs are covered with the bark of a tree, reeds, or
°‹ Houses are separated from neighbors by common wall
°‹ Wooden columns are the base of houses. The lower part
of the wall is heaped up with stones and the upper part
is finished by plastering the mixture of clay and sand
with small wood crossed on the top. The inside wall
are wallpapered with white.
°‹ Since the floor of a room has a kind of a heater (ondol)
and is heated in its fireplace(agungi) in winter, the
room is very warm throughout the winter. It is a kind
of a heating room rather than a room. The floor of a
room is pasted with oiling paper.
°‹ Most houses are single story. A room has a garret to
keep miscellaneous things.
°‹ The nobility(Yangban) usually receive guests in front
of a main building and reside in an annex. They enjoy
their leisure time or spend daily routine in the annex.
There are big gardens, a pond, and flower beds with
out-of-the-way plants are in front of the annex.
°‹ Since noble women folks are not allowed to be seen,
they usually stay in their house.
Some of Hamel's record exaggerated the truth. For example,
although there were some differences between common
women folks and noble women folks both were active inside
and outside their houses.
Regarding the marriage custom
and man-woman relations of Joseon, Hamel described as
°‹ Cousinship marriage is not allowed. The person concerned
never propose. When the parties in a marriage reaches
8, 10, 12 or over age, their parents or relatives arrange
°‹ In general, unless a woman's parents have no son, women
usually live in the men's house. Women have their married
life lived in their husbands' house until they become
°‹ When a bridegroom goes to bride's house to bring his
bride, he rides a horse with relatives or friends. But
at first, they should go around the village. A bride
also takes along with her relatives to bridegroom's
house. Wedding is held immediately without any other
°‹ A man can marry other women after his first wife has
°‹ But a woman cannot marry other men other than his first
husband, unless the judge permits it.
°‹ If a man has ability to manage his family, he can have
a mistress without any restriction. He can go to Gisaeng's
house everytime he wants because it is not considered
a crime or sin. The nobility (Yangban) or high officers
have two or three mistresses in one house and one of
them commonly takes the responsibility of household
°‹ Their residences are separate and the man goes to any
of the residences whenever he wants.
°‹Joseon men treat their wives as a slave and always
dismiss them with a minor error.
Here we can find some exaggeration. In fact, at that
time, going to Giseang's house even if he is a noble
man is a cause to lost one's honor. Although not all
of Gisaeng were prostitute.
Hamel mentioned about the education,
facilities, and the state examination of Joseon. He
observed the people's high enthusiasm for education.
However, he indicated that high enthusiasm became a
social problem because of the desire to rise in social
°‹ The nobility(Yangban) and the rich provide their children
with quality education. They are mainly learn reading
and writing from a private teacher Hunjang). This country
is greatly concerned about education. At the same time,
cultural studies and etiquette are well accounted for.
°‹ Children are earnest in reading night and day. It is
very wonderful to see children understand and interpret
books they learn.
°‹ Every village has a royal palace to remember and hold
memorial services for men of merit or sages(Hyanggyo).
It is used by the nobility (Yangban) to improve their
learning and the place is maintained by them.
°‹ Two or three towns hold a preliminary state examination(Gwageo)
every year. Examinees take either military or the civil
°‹ The Court holds the final state examination for examinees
selected from all over the country once a year. Examiners
are selected by the king to perform the examination.
Those who pass the examination are awarded a certificate
of success from the king.
°‹ Such a kind of promotion system leads some young noble
men to beggary because they should give gift or banquet
despite their small family property or wealth. Some
parents end their days without attaining their aims
to have their children pass an examination until they
run out of their fortune. To pass an examination is
itself a privilege.
Hamel described funeral practice
°‹ If parents die, government employees should resign
from their office regardless of high or low position.
°‹ Men should not sleep with a woman during the period
of mourning. He wears a traditional long outer coat
made of hemp cloth. He does not wash until the end of
°‹ His waist is rolled with a twisted belt made of hemp
cloth like a rope with the thickness of young man's
forearm. He wears a bamboo hat, grips a thick stick
or a bamboo stick which indicates who dies. The bamboo
stick stands for father and a thick stick, for mother.
°‹ People bury the dead in the place indicated by a fortuneteller
as they carefully listen to his/her advice. A grave
is usually placed on the site that is not leaky or halfway
up the mountain. A double coffin with the thickness
of two thumbs is used.
°‹ A coffin is filled with new clothes and other things
or property of the dead.
°‹ People stay pleasant on the evening before a bier
goes out. Bier bearers sing and dance, but the family
and relatives of the deceased cry and bewail, following
°‹ People hold a memorial service for 3 days after the
funeral and have a happy day.
°‹ A grave is covered up with earth at a height of four
or six footprints and is well-kept wonderfully and perfectly.
Tombstones and stone images stand in front of high officers'
grave. The name of the deceased, family history, or
rank during their lifetime are carved on the tombstone.
°‹ Joseon people add one month every three years, so this
year has 13 months. On the 15th day of August by lunar
calendar(Chuseok), people cut the weeds around a grave
and observe a worship service for family ancestors with
new rice. It is one of the biggest national holiday
with New Year(Seolnal).
°‹ In Joseon there are many fortunetellers or exorcists,
but no one is harmful. They only tell how comfortable
the deceased are, which good place to bury the dead
and give advice to solve some problems sought by people.
°‹ After burying parents in a propitious site for a grave
and finishing a number of funeral-related steps, the
eldest son possesses his parents' house and other attached
things. The remaining brothers divide the land or the
remaining properties among themselves. I have never
heard of a daughter possessing some property left by
her parents. Women have no right to own things other
than garments and things brought when she gets married.
°‹ When parents age 80, they should hand over their property
to their son because the elderly becomes weak in managing
their properties. But they continue to win the respect
and regard of all without change.