The conflagration went on for a considerable number of hours and destroyed several houses. No one sustained any serious injury, though one old man, who was paralytic and deaf, had a very narrow escape. He had got left, either purposely or by mistake, in one of the houses. Two out of three of the rooms had already burnt out, and he was in the third. And yet, when they had pulled down the outside wall and brought him safely out, he expressed himself as astonished at being so treated, having neither heard that any fire was in progress, nor being aware that two-thirds of his own house had already been destroyed!
Here again, let me note a good trait in the Corean character. Whenever, through any unexpected occurrence, a man loses his house and furniture, and so gets reduced from comparative wealth, say, for seldom does a Corean possess more, to misery and want; in such circumstances his friends do not run away from him, as usually is the case in more civilised countries; no, instead of this, they come forward and help him to re-build his house, lend him clothes and the more necessary utensils of domestic use, and, generally speaking, make themselves agreeable and useful all round, until he can spread out his wings once again, and fly by himself. Thus it is, that when a man’s house has been burnt out it is no uncommon occurrence for friends or even strangers to put him up and feed him in their own homes until he has re-constructed his nest. Looking, therefore, at both sides of the medal, the man of Cho-sen may have a great many bad qualities from our point of view, yet he also undoubtedly possesses some virtues on which we who are supposed to be more civilised and more charitable, cannot pride ourselves. Believe me, when things are taken all round, there is after all but little difference between the Heathen and the Christian; nay, the solid charity and generosity of the first is often superior to the advertised philanthropy of the other.
A trip to Poo-kan—A curious monastery.
One of the most interesting excursions in the neighbourhood of Seoul, is that to the Poo-kan fortress. The pleasantest way of making it is to start from the West Gate of Seoul and proceed thence either on horseback or on foot, along the Pekin Pass road, past the artificial cut in the rocks, until a smaller road, a mere path, is reached, which branches off the main road and leads directly to the West Gate of the Poo-kan fortress. This path goes over hilly ground, and the approaches to the West Gate of the fortress are exceedingly picturesque.
The gate itself much resembles any of those of Seoul, only being of smaller proportions. It is, however, situated in a most lovely spot. As soon as we have entered, a pretty valley lies disclosed to our eyes, with rocky mountains surrounding it, the highest peak of which towers up towards the East. The formation of these hills is most peculiar and even fantastic. One of them, the most remarkable of all, is in the shape of a round dome, and consists of a gigantic semi-spherical rock.