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HOME > Hamel Pavilion > Hamel's view of Joseon > Culture of Joseon



Although Hamel established some items to explain in his report, sometimes he mentioned several cultures in several areas.



* Special products and herbal medicine

°‹ This country achieves self-sufficiency of food. It is rich in rice and other grain and cotton and hemp cloth. Although it raises many silkworms, weaving technique to make quality silk is not developed.
°‹ Silver, iron, and lead are produced and other many special products are produced including tiger skin or the root of ginseng.
°‹ Although it is possible to heal disease with native herbs, it is not very available around town. It is because Oriental doctors work for high officers and they cannot care for common people who cannot afford to pay their fees.
°‹ Common people visit the blind or fortunetellers instead of doctors and obey their medical advise or prescriptions.

* Weights and measures

°‹ The size, length, and volume units merchants use in this country are united throughout the country. To cheat weights and measure is an everyday occurrence between common people and bad merchants. Sellers and buyers often have a quarrels. For example, while buyers often claim too light or too small, sellers often claim too heavy or too many.
°‹ Although local governors control such a thing strongly, people use a ruler or a balance at their convenience, so there is no way to root out such acts.
°‹ This country only puts one paper much such as Jeohwa in circulation. Jeohwa is passed current only in the border on China.
°‹ Silver is in circulation by weighting. Like Japan, there are big and small silver bars.


* Animals of Joseon


°‹ Typical animals in Joseon are horses and cattle. Bulls are not castrated and they raised intensively.
°‹ Rural people use cows and bulls to plow dry or rice fields. Travellers or merchants carry their goods using a horse.
°‹ A tiger is very common in Joseon and its skin is exported to China and Japan. There are many animals such as bear, deer, wild boar, pig, dog, fox, and cat. Poisonous animals such as a snake are common. There are many kinds of fowls or birds such as swan, goose, duck, white stork, white heron, crane, eagle, crow, cuckoo, dove, snipe, pheasant, skylark, bullfinch, thrush, lapwing, and buzzard. They are rich in number.


* A letter and printing


°‹ The language of Joseon is very different from any other country.
It is very difficult to learn the language because one thing can be expressed in several or different ways.
°‹ People speak gently and slowly, especially high officers and scholars.
°‹ Joseon had three kinds of letters. The most important letter is used to print books like in China and Japan. Official documents are all printed in this letter.
°‹ The second letter is shaped like the cursive style of my country and usually wrote scribbly and quickly. High officers and local governors often use this letter in the decision or a resolution of petition. It is difficult for common people to read it.
°‹ The third letter is the most inferior letter, often used by children or women and common people. It is very easy to learn and can express everything. Even if you have never heard during your lifetime, you can indicate its sound more accurately than the above-mentioned letters.
°‹ These letters can be copied skillfully by a writing brush. Joseon keepsa number of copied or printed historical literatures. King's brothers or prince should supervise them. Their copies and printing plates are kept in several towns and castles to protect them from getting lost or become missing brought about by fires, accidents or disasters.
°‹ The calendars and similar almanacs are made in China probably Joseon has no knowledge of making them.
°‹ Printed materials are made with the use of wood-blocks. Each piece of paper is printed with a different plate.
°‹ Joseon people take measurements with a long bar similar to our counter.
They do not have a system of record keeping such as commercial bookkeeping. If they buy something, they first mark its balance. In the end, they subtract the total remaining from the purchase price. Then they judge whether they yield a profit or suffer a loss.

According to Hamel, there were three ways to write a letter. The first letter was used for all books and official documents. It refers to Chinese characters. The second letter, which was scribble, refers to a cursive style of writing Chinese characters. A cursive style was frequently used by the nobility (Yangban) or those who know Chinese characters. The third letter refers to Hangul which is now used. Hamel valued highly the effectiveness of Hangul. He may feel that learning Hangul was much easier than learning Chinese characters. In fact, Hangul can express any pronunciation or word. Hangul was a system of writing for common people and it was used habitually. To date, it exists as a immortal letter of Korea.
More interestingly, Hamel knew the existence of°ļJoseon Wangjo Sillok°Ľ. According to him, letters were copied skillfully by a brush and printed historical literature was kept separately to protect them from becoming lost or missing due to accidents or disasters.
Printing matters made a print from a wood-block. Each piece of paper was printed with a different plate.


* A trip of the king


°‹ When the king goes out, all noblemen follow him.
°‹ Cavalry and infantry soldiers are at the head of a procession and all of them wear a full uniform, hoisting the flag, playing music.
°‹ The Royal guards of the king follows them, which consist of high ranking and Seoul-born noblemen.
°‹ Among them, the king rides in a small gold palan-quin. At that moment, people become quiet enough to hear the sound of breathing or hoof-beats.
°‹ A secretary(Seungji) or one subject rides horseback immediately before the king with a locked small box carried. . . . It is an appeal box.
°‹ Both sides of streets where an array of a royal carriage passes over are completely blocked. No one should open the door or the window. Moreover, looking in the wall or over the fence is prohibited.
°‹ When the king passes by government officials or soldiers, they should stand with their backs turned and should not look back or cough. For this reason, soldiers hold a branch between the teeth as a horse takes the bit.


* Visit of an envoy of the Ching China


°‹ When an envoy of the Ching China visits Joseon, the king goes out to meet him with his subjects. After making a bow, he should directly shows him into his quarter.
°‹ Dancers and acrobats perform, walking in front of an envoy. Many native antiques made in this country are exhibited at the head of parade.
°‹ While an envoy stays in Seoul, the street between his quarter and a royal palace is blocked by soldiers.
°‹ Two or three soldiers take charge of relaying letters which are delivered from a quarter of Chinese envoy for the king to understand his situation every moment.
°‹ To be brief, the Joseon government takes all steps to treat him with great respect and give him hearty welcome. It aims at paying its respect to the Chinese Emperor and preventing him from complaining after returning home.







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