We have now examined all the various striking features characteristic of the Corean household. Let us, then, now go outside again. The streets of the town could not be more tortuous and irregular. With the exception of the main thoroughfares, most of the streets are hardly wide enough to let four people walk abreast. The drainage is carried away in uncovered channels alongside the house, in the street itself; and, the windows being directly over these drains, the good people of Cho-sen, when inside their homes, cannot breathe without inhaling the fumes exhaled from the fetid matter stagnant underneath. When rain falls, matters get somewhat better; for then the running water cleans these canals to a considerable extent. During the winter months, also, things are passable enough, for then everything is frozen; but, in the beginning of spring, when frozen nature undergoes the process of thawing, then it is that one wishes to be deprived of his nose. At the entrance of each house a stone slab is thrown across to the doorway so as to cover the ditch. Only the foundations of the town houses are made of solid stone, well cemented, but in the case of country dwellings these are extended upwards so as to make up one-half of the whole height, the upper part being of mud, stuck on to a rough matting of bamboos and split canes.
A Corean marriage—How marriages are arranged—The wedding ceremony—The document—In the nuptial-chamber—Wife’s conduct—Concubines—Widows —Seduction—Adultery—Purchasing a husband—Love—Intrigue—Official “squeezing”—The cause.
Among the several misfortunes, or fortunes, if you prefer the word, with which a Corean man has to put up is an early marriage. He is hardly born, when his father begins to look out for a wife for him, and scarcely has he time to know that he is living in the world at all than he finds himself wedded.... The Coreans marry very young. I have seen boys of ten or twelve years of age who had already discarded the bachelor’s long tress hanging down the back, and were wearing the top-knot of the married man. It must not be supposed, however, that these youthful married men are really wedded in the strict sense of the word, for, as a matter of fact, though husband and wife in the eyes of the world, the two do not live together till the age of puberty is reached. In other words, the marriage is for several years only a nominal one, and corresponds rather to our “engagement.” There are duties, none the less, which a married man must perform, no matter how youthful he may be. From the moment he is wedded he must be a man, however childlike in years, and henceforth he can associate only with men. His infantile games, romps with other children who are still bachelors, spinning tops and all other amusements, which he so much enjoyed, are suddenly brought to an end and he is now compelled to be as sedate as an old man.