National Geographic : 1900 Apr
KOREA-THE HERMIT NATION The first object to strike the visitor to the Land of Morning Calm is the clothing of the inhabitants. The universal adoption of white, the singular hats, the foot-gear, all tend to impress upon the stranger the fact that he is in a part of the world which is uncontaminated by the customs of western civilization. The peculiar hats, shown in the illustration, are made of horsehair for the wealthy wearer and of finely split bamboo for his poorer brother; but beneath the hat proper is a sort of cap of the same material and so shaped as to protect the curious little topknot into which the hair is gathered after marriage. The band of this under cap is drawn tightly about the brows, oftentimes inflicting severe headaches upon the wearer. The other type of head covering shown is made of rice straw and is worn by country people and mourners. The material of their white clothing may be either cotton, silk, or the so-called grass-cloth of China. The larger part of the cotton material used in the country is woven in Japan, but the silk and grass-cloth are frequently the product of domestic looms. Many years ago-long before the " western barbarian " reached the shores of Cho-sen-the Koreans were noted among their Chi nese and Japanese neighbors for the skill and taste displayed in tex tile manufactures, and the products of their looms could be found side by side with their pottery in all the markets then open in the East. By the slow but sure degradation of wars, insurrections, and inva sions manufactures and arts in Korea gradually lost their value in both quality and quantity, until today her people, rich and poor alike, are dependent upon China and Japan for a large percentage of their clothing and pottery. There is, however, one branch of manufacture, the working of bronze, in which the Hermit Nation easily leads, the use of this metal for domestic purposes being peculiar to this country. The bronze, which is of good quality, hard, and takes a good polish, is of an alloy of copper and tin, with a small per cent of zinc and a trace of iron. The bronze spoons, with which every family is liberally supplied, are models of grace, as are the hibachis or fire-pots, which are largely ex ported to Japan. These graceful bronze bowls are applied to every domestic use imaginable, in the kitchen for eating purposes and in the sleeping-rooms. The same material is used in the manufacture of the tobacco pipes in universal demand, and much taste is displayed in their ornamentation.