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Corea or Cho-sen eBook

Arnold Henry Savage Landor
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 237 pages of information about Corea or Cho-sen.

[Illustration:  THE HAUNTED ROYAL PALACE]

The buildings comprising this palace are still in a very excellent state of preservation, and, being erected on hilly ground, form a very picturesque ensemble.  The different houses are of red lacquered wood, with verandahs on the upper floors.  The illustration shows a front view of one of the principal buildings, situated on the summit of the hill.  At the foot of this hill, by a winding path and steps, a picturesque little gate and another house is reached.  A little pond with water-plants in it, frozen in the midst of the thick ice, completes this haunted spot.  The largest of all the structures is the audience-hall, richly and grandly decorated inside with wooden carvings, painted red, white, blue and yellow.  The curled-up roofs are surmounted at each corner with curious representations of lucky emblems, among which the tiger has a leading place.

Talking of tigers, I may as well speak of a strange custom prevailing in Corea.  The country, as I have already pointed out, is full of these brutes, which, besides being of enormous size, are said to be very fierce and fond of human flesh.  Even the walls of the town are no protection against them.  Not unfrequently they make a nocturnal excursion through the streets, leaving again early in the morning with a farewell bound from the rampart, but carrying off inside their carcases some unlucky individual in a state of pulp.

The Coreans may, therefore, be forgiven if, besides showing almost religious veneration for their feline friend—­who reciprocates this in his own way—­they have also the utmost terror of him.  Whenever I went for long walks outside the town with Coreans, I noticed that when on the narrow paths I was invariably left to bring up the rear, although I was a quicker walker than they were.  If left behind they would at once run on in front of me again, and never could I get any one to be last man.  This conduct, sufficiently remarkable, has the following explanation.

It is the belief of the natives, that when a tiger is suddenly encountered he always attacks and makes a meal of the last person in the row; for which reason, they always deem it advisable, when they have a foreigner in their company, to let him have that privilege.  I, for my part, of course, did not regard the matter in the same light, and generally took pretty good care to retain a middle position in the procession, when out on a country prowl, greatly to the distress and uneasiness of my white-robed guardian angels.

CHAPTER XIV

Religion—­Buddhism—­Bonzes—­Their power—­Shamanism—­Spirits—­Spirits of the mountain—­Stone heaps—­Sacred trees—­Seized by the spirits—­Safe-guard against them—­The wind—­Sorcerers and sorceresses—­Exorcisms—­Monasteries&
mdash;­Temples—­Buddha—­Monks—­Their customs and clothing—­Nuns—­Their garments—­Religious ceremonies—­The tooth-stone.

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