CHAPTER FIVE Corea, to the Rebellion of 1882

MORE and more, during the long struggle of words for the war-scoured oases of Turkestan, Corea was in the minds and despatches of the diplomats.1 Russia had designs there which were to develop irregularly until finally scotched by the Battle of Mukden. Instead of returning to tranquillity after the Treaty of Ili, the Far East only found itself confronted by new problems.

The legendary history of the "Land of Morning Calm" began in 2333 B.C., when the son of Heaven's creator came down upon a mountain to rule under the name of Tan Gun for a thousand years. He may have chosen his kingdom from appreciation of the scenery, and his people have appreciated it ever since. Corea is a country of landscape: among its mountains and valleys the Coreans lived from century to century in a seclusion so deep, even beside that of China, as to earn their land the name of the "Hermit Kingdom". It was poor, backward, ill-governed, famine-ridden. Still, though nobles might monopolise high office, in the villages there was a good deal of self-government;2 and the people were rich in leisure if in nothing else; they appeared to travellers from the active West to do nothing except smoke and sleep.3 Resigned to low material standards, the Coreans evolved an outlook that had its compensations in love of nature, of poetry, and of the arts of social intercourse. Scholars of a district would meet and "lament how short life was to play with the muse. The big

____________________
1
And of unofficial observers; see Grundry, China and her Neighbours, 213, and Ross, History of Corea, 307.
2
W R. Carles, Life in Corea, 153, 263.
3
Cavendish, Korea and the Sacred White Mountain, 84; Brigham, A Year in China, 82.

-73-

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