Protected: The Phillipine Historic Collections 1700-1800

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The Philippine Historic Collections 1800-1912



Manila fishermen, early 1800s





The Philippine Historic Collections 1800-1900

 Manila Bay, early 1800s

Bridge of Binondoc in Manila, early 1800s


“Officer and Privates of Infantry-1802-1810


the end of Manila Galleons

Two decades after Cabrillo explored the coast of California, other Spanish ships started appearing off of the California coast. For 250 years, from 1565 until 1815, Spanish galleons laden with the riches of the Orient–silks, porcelain, and spices–sailed annually from Manila in the Philippines bound for Acapulco on the west coast of Mexico.

A map of the Pacific Ocean, circa 1600.  Much of the coastline of the Pacific rim was uncharted.

Following instructions, the sailing masters steered the ships as near to 30 degrees north latitude as possible. They only journeyed further north to find favorable winds. After the long trip across the Pacific, the ships turned south upon seeing the first indications of land. This way, they would avoid the uncharted hazards of the California coast. If all went well, the first land seen by the sailors would be the tip of the Baja peninsula. The ship then sailed on to Acapulco. From this port city, much of the cargo was sent overland across Mexico and loaded at Vera Cruz onto ships bound for Havana, Cuba, where they would join the treasure fleet that sailed every year for Spain.

But, the voyages seldom went well. Galleons often had to sail far above 30 degree latitude to find favorable winds. Very poor conditions plagued the vessels. After the crossing, crews needed to replenish food, water, and other essentials. Many sailors became sick from scurvy and other diseases during the crossing. Leaking and worn out from the long but unfinished voyage, the ships were in danger of sinking. The galleons needed a port of refuge along the California coast where they could restock vital supplies and make repairs after the long trans-Pacific journey.

In 1594, the galleon San Augustin sailed from Manila with treasure. She had a secondary mission to scout good ports of refuge along the California coast. The ship arrived off the California coast near Trinidad Head, just south of the California-Oregon border. The ship continued down the coast to Drakes Bay, just north of San Francisco. While in the bay, the ship wrecked in a storm becoming the first known shipwreck in California. The sailors used one of the galleon’s launches to return to civilization. Today, National Park Service archeologists search for the remains of San Augustin.

Eight years after the loss of San Augustin, Sebastian Vizcaino sailed from Acapulco to explore upper California with three ships: San Diego, Santo Tomas, and Tres Reyes. The three ship flotilla traveled far to the north and one at a time each turned back to Mexico. Santo Tomas was first. After exploring as far north as Monterey, the ship returned with those sailors too sick to continue the journey. San Diego, commanded by Vizcaino reached 43 degrees north latitude before turning back because of sickness among the crew. Tres Reyes returned last. During the voyage up the coast to 43 degrees north latitude, her skipper and pilot died. With her leaders gone, the ship reversed course and headed south for home.

The Vizcaino expedition marked the end of official Spanish explorations of the California coast for almost two centuries. Often talked about expeditions to fortify and settle California did not happen. Yet, vessels continued to visit the coast. Spanish galleons continued to sail down the coast on their annual voyages. Some never made it to the safe harbor at Acapulco. In 1600, the galleon Capitana disappeared without a trace. Nuestro de Senora Aguda reportedly ran aground on a rock west of Catalina in 1641. Another galleon, Francisco Xavier, may have wrecked just south of the Columbia river in Oregon in 1707.

Other dangers lurked for the galleons off the California coast. The riches of the Pacific attracted raiders intent plundering Spanish ships and settlement. The English sea captain, Sir Francis Drake, explored the California coast in 1579 after attacking Spanish settlements in South America. He landed somewhere in California to repair his ship, Golden Hind. The exact location of this landfall is not known. Most historians believe it was near San Francisco. Yet, some believe the ship stopped along the Santa Barbara Channel coast for repairs. Other English sea captains hunted the galleons. Thomas Cavendish looted and burned the Manila galleon Santa Ana off the tip of the Baja peninsula in 1587. George Compton pursued the galleon San Sebastian in 1754. The galleon’s crew purposely ran the ship aground on Catalina Island to escape the raider. Compton captured and killed the surviving crew. Spain finally colonized California because of incidents like this and threats to her claims over the territory. Soldiers established a series of forts or presidios along the coast. With the presidios, came the California missions. Soon, the Spanish required all ships sailing along the California coast, including the Manila galleons, to stop at Monterey. Castle Rock near Point Bennett on San Miguel Island in the Santa Barbara Channel.  Some people believe a Manilia galleon wrecked in this area.

Did any vessels from this era of exploration wreck in the Santa Barbara Channel Islands? Evidence is scare and often unreliable. But, legends of wrecked vessels continue to persist.

Author Charles Hillinger noted that “in the decades following Cabrillo’s discovery, shipwrecks were so frequent off Point Bennett…that it is said if divers were able to search offshore reefs, wrecked vessels from Spanish galleons to early 20th century schooners would be found in the depths of the waiting graveyard. Conflicting currents that continuously pound against the dangerous reefs of the point discourage divers from exploring the area.” Indeed, many ships have come to grief in the waters around Point Bennett.

Rumors of a brass cannon, a ships ballast stone, and a very old anchor off Point Bennett motivated one group to get permission from California to search for a late 16th century galleon in the area. Nothing ever came of the expedition. A newspaper article reported that “investigation indicates that the wreckage is scattered too widely to make exploration and salvage convenient.”

Historian Hubert Bancroft wrote “that an old sailor of Santa Barbara told (me) that in 1872 he opened a grave on Santa Cruz Island, which had a wooden headboard on which could be deciphered the date of about 1660.” Was this the final resting place of an unfortunate who died on a ship while passing the islands or is it the grave of a castaway from a long forgotten shipwreck? We will probably never know.

Perhaps one day you may be the one to solve the Mystery of the Point Bennett Galleon. What do you think would need to be done in order for you to lead the group of explorers who would look for her? Who would you chose to be on the team and what skills would the people in your expedition need? What equipment and supplies would you need in order to lead the search?

Recommended Reading

OCS Study 90-0090. California, Oregon, and Washington Archaeological Study. Volume IV–History. U.S. Department of Interior, Pacific OCS Region. Camarillo, California

Channel Islands National Park and Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary: Submerged Cultural Resources Assessment by Don P. Morris and Jim Lima. Channel Islands National Park and Submerged Cultural Resources Unit, National Park Service. Available from on the world wide web at

The California Islands by Charles Hillinger. 1958. Academy Publishers. Los Angeles, Cal

Fort Santiago Gate, Manila, circa late 1800s




 the Arisan Maru left Manila with about 1800


 An 1828 MANILA counterstamped on 8R Zacatecas (Mexico) 1825 AZ






1830 MANILA Counterstamp

Counterstamp MANILA. on Mexico Resello YII coronadas sobre 8 Reales 1830


 A view in Manila in 1830


Faro Project drawn up for a lighthouse on Corregidor Island. Mariano de Goicoechea. 1830. SHM Corregidor Island occupied a position of importance at the entrance to Manila Bay, and for this reason it was equipped with signalling lights from very early on.


Plano Situation plan of the port and arsenal of Cavite. 1832 MN During the 18th century, the port of Cavite, close to Manila, was preferred as an anchorage for ships reaching the city, since it had a greater depth of water.


admiral Parish drew the picture during visit Manila


Domesticated Natives—Origin—Character

The generally-accepted theory regarding the origin of the composite race which may be termed “domesticated natives,” is, that their ancestors migrated to these Islands from Malesia, or the Malay Peninsula. But so many learned dissertations have emanated from distinguished men, propounding conflicting opinions on the descent of the Malays themselves, that we are still left on the field of conjecture.

There is good reason to surmise that, at some remote period, these Islands and the Islands of Formosa and Borneo were united, and possibly also they conjointly formed a part of the Asiatic mainland. Many of the islets are mere coral reefs, and some of the larger islands are so distinctly of coral formation that, regarded together with the numerous volcanic evidences, one is induced to believe that the Philippine Archipelago is the result of a stupendous upheaval by volcanic action.1 At least it seems apparent that no autochthonous population existed on these lands in their island form. The first settlers were probably the Aetas, called also Negritos and Balugas, who may have drifted northwards from New Guinea and have been carried by the strong currents through the San Bernadino Straits and round Punta Santiago until they reached the still waters in the neighbourhood of Corregidor Island, whilst others were carried westwards to the tranquil Sulu Sea, and travelling thence northwards would have settled on the Island of Negros. It is a fact that for over a century after the Spanish conquest, Negros Island had no other inhabitants but these mountaineers and escaped criminals from other islands.

The sturdy races inhabiting the Central Luzon highlands, decidedly superior in physique and mental capacity to the Aetas, may be of Japanese origin, for shortly after the conquest by Legaspi a Spanish galley cruising off the north coast of Luzon fell in with Japanese, who probably [164]penetrated to the interior of that island up the Rio Grande de Cagayán. Tradition tells us how the Japanese used to sail down the east coast of Luzon as far as the neighbourhood of Lamon Bay, where they landed and, descending the little rivers which flowed into the Lake of Bay, settled in that region which was called by the first Spanish conquerors Pagsanján Province, and which included the Laguna Province of to-day, with a portion of the modern Tayabas Province.

Either the Japanese extended their sphere from the Lake of Bay shore, or, as some assert (probably erroneously), shipwrecked Japanese went up the Pansipít River to the Bómbon Lake: the fact remains that Taal, with the Bómbon Lake shore, was a Japanese settlement, and even up to now the Taaleños have characteristics differing from those of the pure Malay immigrant descendants. The Philippine patriot, Dr. José Rizal, was a good Japanese-Malay type.
The Tagálogs, who occupy a small portion of Luzon Island, chiefly the provinces of Batangas, Laguna, Rizal, and Bulacan, are believed to be the cross-breed descendants of these Japanese immigrants. At the period of the Spanish conquest the Tao ílog, that is to say, “the man who came by the river,” afterwards corrupted into the more euphonious name of Tagálog, occupied only the lands from the south shore of Laguna de Bay southwards. Some traded with the Malay settlers at Maynila (as the city on the Pasig River was then called) and, little by little, radicated themselves in the Manila suburbs of Quiapo, Sampáloc, and Santa Cruz.2

From the West, long before the Spanish conquest, there was a great influx of Malays, who settled on the shores and the lowlands and drove the first settlers (Aetas) to the mountains. Central Luzon and the Lake environs being already occupied, they spread all over the vacant lands and adjacent islands south of Luzon. These expeditions from Malesia were probably accompanied by Mahometan propagandists, who had imparted to the Malays some notions, more or less crude, of their religion and culture, for at the time of Legaspiʼs arrival in Manila we find he had to deal with two chiefs, or petty kings, both assuming the Indian title of Rajah, whilst one of them had the Mahometan Arabic name of Soliman. Hitherto the Tao ílog, or Tagálog, had not descended the Pasig River so far as Manila, and the religious rites of the Tondo-Manila people must have appeared to Legaspi similar to the Mahometan rites, for in several of his despatches to his royal master he speaks of these people as Moros. All the dialects spoken by the Filipinos of Malay and Japanese descent have their root in the pure Malay language. After the expulsion of all the adult male Japanese Lake settlers in the 17th century, it is feasible to suppose that the language of the males who took their place in the Lake district and intermarried there, should prevail over the idiom of the primitive settlers, and possibly this amalgamation of speech accounts for the difference between the Tagálog dialect and others of these islands peopled by Malays.
The Malay immigration must have taken place several generations prior to the coming of the Spaniards, for at that period the lowland occupants were already divided into peoples speaking different dialects and distinguishing themselves by groups whose names seem to be associated with the districts they inhabited, such as Pampanga, Iloco, and Cagayán; these denominations are probably derived from some natural condition, such as Pámpang, meaning a river embankment, Ilog, a river, Cauáyan, a bamboo, etc.

In a separate chapter (x.) the reputed origin of the Mahometans of the southern islands is alluded to. They are also believed to be immigrants from the West, and at the time of the conquest recent traditions which came to the knowledge of the Spaniards, and were recorded by them, prove that commercial relations existed between Borneo and Manila. There is a tradition4 also of an attempted conquest of Luzon by a Borneo chief named Lacasama, about 250 years before the Spanish advent; but apparently the expedition came to grief near Luzon, off an island supposed by some to be Masbate.

The descendants of the Japanese and Malay immigrants were the people whom the Spanish invaders had to subdue to gain a footing. To the present day they, and the correlative Chinese and Spanish half-castes, are the only races, among the several in these Islands, subjected, in fact, to civilized methods. The expression “Filipino” neither denotes any autochthonous race, nor any nationality, but simply one born in those islands named the Philippines: it is, therefore, open to argument whether the child of a Filipino, born in a foreign country, could be correctly called a Filipino.
The christianized Filipinos, enjoying to-day the benefits of European training, are inclined to repudiate, as compatriots, the descendants of the non-christian tribes, although their concurrent existence, since the time of their immigrant forefathers, makes them all equally Filipinos. Hence many of them who were sent to the St. Louis Exhibition in 1904 were indignant because the United States Government had chosen to exhibit some types of uncivilized natives, representing about one-twelfth of the Philippine population. Without [166]these exhibits, and on seeing only the educated Filipinos who formed the Philippine Commission, the American people at home might well have asked—Is not American civilization a superfluity in those islands?
The inhabitants of these Islands were by no means savages, entirely unreclaimed from barbarism before the Spanish advent in the 16th century. They had a culture of their own, towards which the Malay settlers themselves appear to have contributed very little. In the nascent pre-Spanish civilization, Japanese immigrants were almost the only agriculturists, mine-workers, manufacturers, gold-seekers, goldsmiths, and masters of the industrial arts in general. Pagsanján (Laguna) was their great industrial centre. Malolos (Bulacan) was also an important Japanese trading base. Whilst working the mines of Ilocos their exemplary industry must undoubtedly have influenced the character of the Ilocanos. Away down in the Bicol country of Camarines, the Japanese pushed their trade, and from their great settlement in Taal their traffic must have extended over the whole province, first called by the Spaniards Taal y Balayán, but since named Batangas. From the Japanese, the Malays learnt the manufacture of arms, and the Igorrotes the art of metal-working. Along the coasts of the large inhabited islands the Chinese travelled as traders or middlemen, at great personal risk of attack by individual robbers, bartering the goods of manufacturers for native produce, which chiefly consisted of sinamay cloth, shark-fin, balate (trepang), edible birdsʼ-nests, gold in grain, and siguey-shells, for which there was a demand in Siam for use as money. Every north-east monsoon brought down the junks to barter leisurely until the south-west monsoon should waft them back, and neither Chinese nor Japanese made the least attempt, nor apparently had the least desire, to govern the Islands or to overrule the natives. Without coercion, the Malay settlers would appear to have unconsciously submitted to the influence of the superior talent or astuteness of the sedulous races with whom they became merged and whose customs they adopted, proof of which can be traced to the present day.5 Presumably the busy, industrious immigrants had neither time nor inclination for sanguinary conflicts, for those recorded appear to be confined to the raids of the migratory mountaineers and an occasional attack by some ambitious Borneo buccaneer. The reader who would wish to verify these facts is recommended to make a comparative study of native character in Vigan, Malolos, Taal, and Pagsanján.

In treating of the domesticated nativesʼ character, I wish it to be understood that my observations apply solely to the large majority of the six or seven millions of them who inhabit these Islands.

In the capital and the ports open to foreign trade, where cosmopolitan vices and virtues obtain, and in large towns, where there is a constant number of domiciled Europeans and Americans, the native has become a modified being. It is not in such places that a just estimate of character can be arrived at, even during many yearsʼ sojourn. The native must be studied by often-repeated casual residence in localities where his, or her, domestication is only “by law established,” imposing little restraint upon natural inclinations, and where exotic notions have gained no influence.
Several writers have essayed to depict the Philippine native character, but with only partial success. Dealing with such an enigma, the most eminent physiognomists would surely differ in their speculations regarding the Philippine native of the present day. That Catonian figure, with placid countenance and solemn gravity of feature, would readily deceive any one as to the true mental organism within. The late parish priest of Alaminos (Batangas)—a Franciscan friar, who spent half his life in the Colony—left a brief manuscript essay on the native character. I have read it. In his opinion, the native is an incomprehensible phenomenon, the mainspring of whose line of thought and the guiding motive of whose actions have never yet been, and perhaps never will be, discovered.
The reasoning of a native and a European differs so largely that the mental impulse of the two races is ever clashing. Sometimes a native will serve a master satisfactorily for years, and then suddenly abscond, or commit some such hideous crime as conniving with a brigand band to murder the family and pillage the house.

When the hitherto faithful servant is remonstrated with for having committed a crime, he not unfrequently accounts for the fact by saying, “Señor, my head was hot.” When caught in the act on his first start on highway robbery or murder, his invariable excuse is that he is not a scoundrel himself, but that he was “invited” by a relation or compadre to join the company.
He is fond of gambling, profligate, lavish in his promises, but lâche in the extreme as to their fulfilment. He will never come frankly and openly forward to make a clean breast of a fault committed, or even a pardonable accident, but will hide it, until it is found out. In common with many other non-European races, an act of generosity or a voluntary concession of justice is regarded as a sign of weakness. Hence it is that the experienced European is often compelled to be more harsh than his real nature dictates.
If one pays a native 20 cents for a service performed, and that be exactly the customary remuneration, he will say nothing, but if a feeling of compassion impels one to pay 30 cents, the recipient will loudly protest that he ought to be paid more. In Luzon the native is able to say “Thank you” (salámat-pô) in his mother-tongue, but in Panay and Negros there is no way of expressing thanks in native dialect to a donor (the nearest approach to it is Dios macbáyat); and although this may, at first sight, appear to be an insignificant fact, I think, nevertheless, a great deal may be deduced from it, for the deficiency of the word in the Visaya vernacular denotes a deficiency of the idea which that word should express.

If the native be in want of a trivial thing, which by plain asking he could readily obtain, he will come with a long tale, often begin by telling a lie, and whilst he invariably scratches his head, he will beat about the bush until he comes to the point, with a supplicating tone and a saintly countenance hiding a mass of falsity. But if he has nothing to gain for himself, his reticence is astonishingly inconvenient, for he may let oneʼs horse die and tell one afterwards it was for want of rice-paddy, or, just at the very moment one wants to use something, he will tell one “Uala-pô”—there is not any.
I have known natives whose mothers, according to their statement, have died several times, and each time they have tried to beg the loan of the burial expenses. The mother of my first servant died twice, according to his account.
Even the best class of natives do not appreciate, or feel grateful for, or even seem to understand a spontaneous gift. Apparently, they only comprehend the favour when one yields to their asking. The lowest classes never give to each other, unsolicited, a centʼs worth, outside the customary reciprocal feast-offerings. If a European makes voluntary gratuities to the natives, he is considered a fool—they entertain a contempt for him, which develops into intolerable impertinence. If the native comes to borrow, lend him a little less than he asks for, after a verbose preamble; if one at once lent, or gave, the full value requested, he would continue to invent a host of pressing necessities, until oneʼs patience was exhausted. He seldom restores the loan of anything voluntarily. On being remonstrated with for his remissness, after the date of repayment or return of the article has expired, he will coolly reply, “You did not ask me for it.” An amusing case of native reasoning came within my experience just recently. I lent some articles to an educated Filipino, who had frequently been my guest, and, at the end of three months, I requested their return. Instead of thanking me for their use, he wrote a letter expressing his indignation at my reminder, saying that I “ought to know they were in very good hands!” A native considers it no degradation to borrow money: it gives him no recurrent feeling of humiliation or distress of mind. Thus, he will often give a costly feast to impress his neighbours with his wealth and maintain his local prestige, whilst on all sides he has debts innumerable. At most, with his looseness of morality, he regards debt as an inconvenience, not as a calamity.

Before entering another (middle- or lower-class) nativeʼs house, he is very complimentary, and sometimes three minutesʼ polite excusatory dialogue is exchanged between the visitor and the native visited before the former passes the threshold. When the same class of native enters a Europeanʼs house, he generally satisfies his curiosity by looking all around, and often pokes his head into a private room, asking permission to enter afterwards.
The lower-class native never comes at first call; among themselves it is usual to call five or six times, raising the voice each time. If a native is told to tell another to come, he seldom goes to him to deliver the message, but calls him from a distance. When a native steals (and I must say they are fairly honest), he steals only what he wants. One of the rudest acts, according to their social code, is to step over a person asleep on the floor. Sleeping is, with them, a very solemn matter; they are very averse to waking any one, the idea being, that during sleep the soul is absent from the body, and that if slumber be suddenly arrested the soul might not have time to return. When a person, knowing the habits of the native, calls upon him and is told “He is asleep,” he does not inquire further—the rest is understood: that he may have to wait an indefinite time until the sleeper wakes up—so he may as well depart. To urge a servant to rouse one, one has to give him very imperative orders to that effect: then he stands by oneʼs side and calls “Señor, señor!” repeatedly, and each time louder, until one is half awake; then he returns to the low note, and gradually raises his voice again until one is quite conscious.
In Spanish times, wherever I went in the whole Archipelago—near the capital, or 500 miles from it—I found mothers teaching their offspring to regard the European as a demoniacal being, an evil spirit, or, at least, as an enemy to be feared! If a child cried, it was hushed by the exclamation, “Castila!” (European). If a white man approached a poor hut or a fine native residence, the cry of caution, the watchword for defence was always heard—“Castila!”—and the children hastened their retreat from the dreaded object. But this is now a thing of the past since the native crossed swords with the “Castila” (q.v.) and the American on the battle-field, and, rightly or wrongly, thoroughly believes himself to be a match for either in equal numbers.
The Filipino, like most Orientals, is a good imitator, but having no initiative genius, he is not efficient in anything. He will copy a model any number of times, but one cannot get him to make two copies so much alike that the one is undistinguishable from the other. Yet he has no attachment for any occupation in particular. To-day he will be at the plough; to-morrow a coachman, a collector of accounts, a valet, a sailor, and so on; or he will suddenly renounce social trammels in pursuit of lawless vagabondage. I once travelled with a Colonel Marqués, acting-Governor of Cebú, whose valet was an ex-law student. Still, many are willing to learn, and really become very expert artisans, especially machinists.
The native is indolent in the extreme, and never tires of sitting still, gazing at nothing in particular. He will do no regular work without an advance; his word cannot be depended upon; he is fertile in exculpatory devices; he is momentarily obedient, but is averse to subjection. He feigns friendship, but has no loyalty; he is calm and silent, but can keep no secret; he is daring on the spur of the moment, but fails in resolution if he reflects. He is wantonly unfeeling towards animals; cruel to a fallen foe; tyrannical over his own people when in power; rarely tempers his animosities with compassion or pity, but is devotedly fond of his children. He is shifty, erratic, void of chivalrous feeling; and if familiarity be permitted with the common-class native, he is liable to presume upon it. The Tagálog is docile and pliant, but keenly resents an injustice.

Native superstition and facile credulity are easily imposed upon. A report emitted in jest, or in earnest, travels with alarming rapidity, and the consequences have not unfrequently been serious. The native rarely sees a joke, and still more rarely makes one. He never reveals anger, but he will, with the most profound calmness, avenge himself, awaiting patiently the opportunity to use his bowie-knife with effect. Mutilation of a vanquished enemy is common among these Islanders. If a native recognizes a fault by his own conscience, he will receive a flogging without resentment or complaint; if he is not so convinced of the misdeed, he will await his chance to give vent to his rancour.

He has a profound respect only for the elders of his household, and the lash justly administered. He rarely refers to past generations in his lineage, and the lowest class do not know their own ages. The Filipino, of any class, has no memory for dates. In 1904 not one in a hundred remembered the month and year in which General Aguinaldo surrendered. During the Independence war, an esteemed friend of mine, a Philippine priest, died, presumably of old age. I went to his town to inquire all about it from his son, but neither the son nor another near relation could recollect, after two daysʼ reflection, even the year the old man passed away. Another friend of mine had his brains blown out during the Revolution. His brother was anxious to relate the tragedy to me and how he had lost 20,000 pesos in consequence, but he could not tell me in which month it happened. Families are very united, and claims for help and protection are admitted however distant the relationship may be. Sometimes the connection of a “hanger-on” with his hostʼs family will be so remote and doubtful, that he can only be recognized as “un poco pariente nada mas” (a sort of kinsman). But the house is open to all.
The native is a good father and a good husband, unreasonably jealous of his wife, careless of the honour of his daughter, and will take no heed of the indiscretions of his spouse committed before marriage. Cases have been known of natives having fled from their burning huts, taking care to save their fighting-cocks, but leaving their wives and children to look after themselves.
If a question be suddenly put to a native, he apparently loses his presence of mind, and gives the reply most convenient to save himself from trouble, punishment, or reproach. It is a matter of perfect indifference to him whether the reply be true or not. Then, as the investigation proceeds, he will amend one statement after another, until, finally, he has practically admitted his first explanation to be quite false. One who knows the native character, so far as its mysteries are penetrable, would never attempt to get at the truth of a question by a direct inquiry—he would “beat about the bush,” and extract the truth bit by bit. Nor do the natives, rich or poor, of any class in life, and with very few exceptions in the whole population, appear to regard lying as a sin, but rather as a legitimate, though cunning, convenience, which should be resorted to whenever it will serve a purpose. It is my frank opinion that they do not, in their consciences, hold lying to be a fault in any degree. If the liar be discovered and faced, he rarely appears disconcerted—his countenance rather denotes surprise at the discovery, or disappointment at his being foiled in the object for which he lied. As this is one of the most remarkable characteristics of the Filipino of both sexes in all spheres of life, I have repeatedly discussed it with the priests, several of whom have assured me that the habit prevails even in the confessional.7 In the administration of justice this circumstance is inconvenient, because a witness is always procurable for a few pesos. In a law-case, in which one or both parties belong to the lowest class, it is sometimes difficult to say whether the false or the true witnesses are in majority.

Men and women alike find exaggerated enjoyment in litigation, which many keep up for years. Among themselves they are tyrannical. They have no real sentiment, nor do they practise virtue for virtueʼs sake, and, apart from their hospitality, in which they (especially the Tagálogs) far excel the European, all their actions appear to be only guided by fear, or interest, or both.
The domesticated Tagálogs of Luzon have made greater progress in civilization and good manners than the Visayos of Panay and Negros. The Tagálog differs vastly from his southern brother in his true nature, which is more pliant, whilst he is by instinct cheerfully and disinterestedly hospitable. Invariably a European wayfarer in a Tagálog village is invited by one or another of the principal residents to lodge at his house as a free guest, for to offer payment would give offence. A present of some European article might be made, but it is not at all looked for. The Tagálog host lends his guest horses or vehicles to go about the neighbourhood, takes him round to the houses of his friends, accompanies him to any feast which may be celebrated at the time of his visit, and lends him his sporting-gun, if he has one. The whole time he treats him with the deference due to the superiority which he recognizes. He is remarkably inquisitive, and will ask all sorts of questions about oneʼs private affairs, but that is of no consequence—he is not intrusive, and if he be invited to return the visit in the capital, or wherever one may reside, he accepts the invitation reluctantly, but seldom pays the visit. Speaking of the Tagálog as a host, pure and simple, he is generally the most genial man one could hope to meet.

The Negros and Panay Visayoʼs cold hospitality is much tempered with the prospect of personal gain—quite a contrast to the Tagálog. On the first visit he might admit the white traveller into his house out of mere curiosity to know all about him—whence he comes—why he travels—how much he possesses—and where he is going. The basis of his estimation of a visitor is his worldly means; or, if the visitor be engaged in trade, his power to facilitate his hostʼs schemes would bring him a certain measure of civility and complaisance. He is fond of, and seeks the patronage of Europeans of position. In manners, the Negros and Panay Visayo is uncouth and brusque, and more conceited, arrogant, self-reliant, ostentatious, and unpolished than his northern neighbour. If remonstrated with for any fault, he is quite disposed to assume a tone of impertinent retort or sullen defiance. The Cebuáno is more congenial and hospitable.

The women, too, are less affable in Panay and Negros, and evince an almost incredible avarice. They are excessively fond of ornament, and at feasts they appear adorned with an amount of gaudy French jewellery which, compared with their means, cost them a lot of money to purchase from the swarm of Jew pedlars who, before the Revolution of 1896, periodically invaded the villages.

If a European calls on a well-to-do Negros or Panay Visayo, the women of the family saunter off in one direction or another, to hide themselves in other rooms, unless the visitor be well known to the family. If met by chance, perhaps they will return a salutation, perhaps not. They seldom indulge in a smile before a stranger; have no conversation; no tuition beyond music and the lives of the Saints, and altogether impress the traveller with their insipidity of character, which chimes badly with their manifest air of disdain.

The women of Luzon (and in a slightly less degree the Cebuánas) are more frank, better educated, and decidedly more courteous and sociable. Their manners are comparatively lively, void of arrogance, cheerful, and buoyant in tone. However, all over the Islands the women are more parsimonious than the men; but, as a rule, they are more clever and discerning than the other sex, over whom they exercise great influence. Many of them are very dexterous business women and have made the fortunes of their families. A notable example of this was the late Doña Cornelia Laochanco, of Manila, with whom I was personally acquainted, and who, by her own talent in trading transactions, accumulated considerable wealth. Doña Cornelia (who died in 1899) was the foundress of the system of blending sugar to sample for export, known in Manila as the fardería. In her establishment at San Miguel she had a little tower erected, whence a watchman kept his eye on the weather. When threatening clouds appeared a bell was tolled and the mats were instantly picked up and carried off by her Chinese coolie staff, which she managed with great skill, due, perhaps, to the fact that her three husbands were Chinese.

The Philippine woman makes an excellent general servant in native families; in the same capacity, in European service, she is, as a rule, almost useless, but she is a good nursemaid.
The Filipino has many excellent qualities which go far to make amends for his shortcomings. He is patient and forbearing in the extreme, remarkably sober, plodding, anxious only about providing for his immediate wants, and seldom feels “the canker of ambitious thoughts.” In his person and his dwelling he may serve as a pattern of cleanliness to all other races in the tropical East. He has little thought beyond the morrow, and therefore never racks his brains about events of the far future in the political world, the world to come, or any other sphere. He indifferently leaves everything to happen as it may, with surprising resignation. The native, in general, will go without food for many hours at a time without grumbling; and fish, rice, betel-nut, and tobacco are his chief wants. Inebriety is almost unknown, although strong drink (nipa wine) is plentiful.
In common with other races whose lives are almost exclusively passed amid the ever-varying wonders of land and sea, Filipinos rarely express any spontaneous admiration for the beauties of Nature, and seem little sensible to any aspect thereof not directly associated with the human interest of their calling. Few Asiatics, indeed, go into raptures over lovely scenery as Europeans do, nor does “the gorgeous glamour of the Orient” which we speak of so ecstatically strike them as such.

When a European is travelling, he never needs to trouble about where or when his servant gets his food or where he sleeps—he looks after that. When a native travels, he drops in amongst any group of his fellow-countrymen whom he finds having their meal on the roadside, and wherever he happens to be at nightfall, there he lies down to sleep. He is never long in a great dilemma. If his hut is about to fall, he makes it fast with bamboo and rattan-cane. If a vehicle breaks down, a harness snaps, or his canoe leaks or upsets, he always has his remedy at hand. He stoically bears misfortune of all kinds with the greatest indifference, and without the least apparent emotion. Under the eye of his master he is the most tractable of all beings. He never (like the Chinese) insists upon doing things his own way, but tries to do just as he is told, whether it be right or wrong. A native enters oneʼs service as a coachman, but if he be told to paddle a boat, cook a meal, fix a lock, or do any other kind of labour possible to him, he is quite agreeable. He knows the duties of no occupation with efficiency, and he is perfectly willing to be a “jack-of-all-trades.” Another good feature is that he rarely, if ever, repudiates a debt, although he may never pay it. So long as he gets his food and fair treatment, and his stipulated wages in advance, he is content to act as a general-utility man; lodging he will find for himself. If not pressed too hard, he will follow his superior like a faithful dog. If treated with kindness, according to European notions, he is lost. The native never looks ahead; if left to himself, he will do all sorts of imprudent things, from sheer want of reflection on the consequences, when, as he puts it, “his head is hot” from excitement due to any cause.

On March 15, 1886, I was coming round the coast of Zambales in a small steamer, in which I was the only saloon passenger. The captain, whom I had known for years, found that one of the cabin servants had been systematically pilfering for some time past. He ordered the steward to cane him, and then told him to go to the upper deck and remain there. He at once walked up the ladder and threw himself into the sea; but the vessel stopped, a boat was lowered, and he was soon picked up. Had he been allowed to reach the shore, he would have become what is known as a remontado and perhaps eventually a brigand, for such is the beginning of many of them.

The thorough-bred native has no idea of organization on a large scale, hence a successful revolution is not possible if confined to his own class unaided by others, such as Creoles and foreigners. He is brave, and fears no consequences when with or against his equals, or if led by his superiors; but a conviction of superiority—moral or physical—in the adversary depresses him. An excess of audacity calms and overawes him rather than irritates him.
His admiration for bravery and perilous boldness is only equalled by his contempt for cowardice and puerility, and this is really the secret of the nativeʼs disdain for the Chinese race. Under good European officers he makes an excellent soldier, and would follow a brave leader to death; however, if the leader fell, he would at once become demoralized. [175]There is nothing he delights in more than pillage, destruction, and bloodshed, and when once he becomes master of the situation in an affray, there is no limit to his greed and savage cruelty.

Yet, detesting order of any kind, military discipline is repugnant to him, and, as in other countries where conscription is the law, all kinds of tricks are resorted to to avoid it. On looking over the deeds of an estate which I had purchased, I saw that two brothers, each named Catalino Raymundo, were the owners at one time of a portion of the land. I thought there must have been some mistake, but, on close inquiry, I found that they were so named to dodge the Spanish recruiting officers, who would not readily suppose there were two Catalino Raymundos born of the same parents. As one Catalino Raymundo had served in the army and the other was dead, no further secret was made in the matter, and I was assured that this practice was common among the poorest natives.

In November, 1887, a deserter from the new recruits was pursued to Langca, a ward of Meycauáyan, Bulacan Province, where nearly all the inhabitants rose up in his defence, the result being that the Lieutenant of Cuadrilleros was killed and two of his men were wounded. When the Civil Guard appeared on the spot, the whole ward was abandoned.

According to the Spanish army regulations, a soldier cannot be on sentinel duty for more than two hours at a time under any circumstances. Cases have been known of a native sentinel having been left at his post for a little over that regulation time, and to have become phrenetic, under the impression that the two hours had long since expired, and that he had been forgotten. In one case the man had to be disarmed by force, but in another instance the sentinel simply refused to give up his rifle and bayonet, and defied all who approached him. Finally, an officer went with the colours of the regiment in hand to exhort him to surrender his arms, adding that justice would attend his complaint. The sentinel, however, threatened to kill any one who should draw near, and the officer had no other recourse open to him but to order a European soldier to climb up behind the sentry-box and blow out the insubordinate nativeʼs brains.

In the seventies, a contingent of Philippine troops was sent to assist the French in Tonquin, where they rendered very valuable service. Indeed, some officers are of opinion that they did more to quell the Tuh Duc rising than the French troops themselves. When in the fray, they throw off their boots, and, barefooted, they rarely falter. Even over mud and swamp, a native is almost as sure-footed as a goat on the brink of a quarry. I have frequently been carried for miles in a hammock by four natives and relays, through morassy districts too dangerous to travel on horseback. They are great adepts at climbing wherever it is possible for a human being to scale a height; like monkeys, they hold as much with their feet as with their hands; they ride any horse barebacked without fear; they are utterly careless about jumping into the sea among the sharks, which sometimes they will intentionally attack with knives, and I never knew a native who could not swim. There are natives who dare dive for the caiman and rip it up. If they meet with an accident, they bear it with supreme resignation, simply exclaiming “desgracia pá”—it was a misfortune.

I can record with pleasure my happy recollection of many a light-hearted, genial, and patient native who accompanied me on my journeys in these Islands. Comparatively very few thorough-bred natives travel beyond their own islands, although there is a constant flow of half-castes to and from the adjacent colonies, Europe, etc.

The native is very slowly tempted to abandon the habits and traditional customs of his forefathers, and his ambitionless felicity may be envied by any true philosopher.

No one who has lived in the Colony for years could sketch the real moral portrait of such a remarkable combination of virtues and vices. The domesticated nativeʼs character is a succession of surprises. The experience of each year modifies oneʼs conclusions, and the most exact definition of such an inscrutable being is, after all, hypothetical. However, to a certain degree, the characteristic indolence of these Islanders is less dependent on themselves than on natural law, for the physical conditions surrounding them undoubtedly tend to arrest their vigour of motion, energy of life, and intellectual power.

The organic elements of the European differ widely from those of the Philippine native, and each, for his own durability, requires his own special environment. The half-breed partakes of both organisms, but has the natural environment of the one. Sometimes artificial means—the mode of life into which he is forced by his European parent—will counteract in a measure natural law, but, left to himself, the tendency will ever be towards an assimilation to the native. Original national characteristics disappear in an exotic climate, and, in the course of time, conform to the new laws of nature to which they are exposed.

It is an ascertained fact that the increase of energy introduced into the Philippine native by blood mixture from Europe lasts only to the second generation, whilst the effect remains for several generations when there is a similarity of natural surroundings in the two races crossed. Moreover, the peculiar physique of a Chinese or Japanese progenitor is preserved in succeeding generations, long after the Spanish descendant has merged into the conditions of his environment.

The Spanish Government strove in vain against natural law to counteract physical conditions by favouring mixed marriages,8 but Nature overcomes manʼs law, and climatic influence forces its conditions [177]on the half-breed. Indeed, were it not for new supplies of extraneous blood infusion, European characteristics would, in time, become indiscernible among the masses. Even on Europeans themselves, in defiance of their own volition, the new physical conditions and the influence of climate on their mental and physical organisms are perceptible after two or three decades of yearsʼ residence in the mid-tropics.

All the natives of the domesticated type have distinct Malay, or Malay-Japanese, or Mongol features—prominent cheek-bones, large and lively eyes, and flat noses with dilated nostrils. They are, on the average, of rather low stature, very rarely bearded, and of a copper colour more or less dark. Most of the women have no distinct line of hair on the forehead. Some there are with a frontal hairy down extending to within an inch of the eyes, possibly a reversion to a progenitor (the Macacus radiata) in whom the forehead had not become quite naked, leaving the limit between the scalp and the forehead undefined. The hair of both males and females stands out from the skin like bristles, and is very coarse. The coarseness of the femaleʼs hair is, however, more than compensated by its luxuriance; for, provided she be in a normal state of health, up to the prime of life the hair commonly reaches down to the waist, and occasionally to the ankles. The women are naturally proud of this mark of beauty, which they preserved by frequent washings with gogo (q.v.) and the use of cocoanut oil (q.v.). Hare-lip is common. Children, from their birth, have a spot at the base of the vertebrae, thereby supporting the theory of Professor Huxleyʼs Anthropidae sub-order—or man (vide Professor Huxleyʼs “An Introduction to the Classification of Animals,” p. 99. Published 1869).

Marriages between natives are usually arranged by the parents of the respective families. The nubile age of females is from about 11 years. The parents of the young man visit those of the maiden, to approach the subject delicately in an oratorical style of allegory. The response is in like manner shrouded with mystery, and the veil is only thrown off the negotiations when it becomes evident that both parties agree. Among the poorer classes, if the young man has no goods to offer, it is frequently stipulated that he shall serve on probation for an indefinite period in the house of his future bride,—as Jacob served Laban to make Rachel his wife,—and not a few drudge for years with this hope before them.

Sometimes, in order to secure service gratis, the elders of the young woman will suddenly dismiss the young man after a prolonged expectation, and take another Catipad. as he is called, on the same terms. The old colonial legislation—“Leyes de Indias”—in vain prohibited this barbarous ancient custom, and there was a modern Spanish law (of which few availed themselves) which permitted the intended bride to be [178]“deposited” away from parental custody, whilst the parents were called upon to show cause why the union should not take place. However, it often happens that when Cupid has already shot his arrow into the virginal breast, and the betrothed foresee a determined opposition to their mutual hopes, they anticipate the privileges of matrimony, and compel the brideʼs parents to countenance their legitimate aspirations to save the honour of the family. Honi soit qui mal y pense—they simply force the hand of a dictatorial mother-in-law. The women are notably mercenary, and if, on the part of the girl and her people, there be a hitch, it is generally on the question of dollars when both parties are native. Of course, if the suitor be European, no such question is raised—the ambition of the family and the vanity of the girl being both satisfied by the alliance itself.

When the proposed espousals are accepted, the donations propter nuptias are paid by the father of the bridegroom to defray the wedding expenses, and often a dowry settlement, called in Tagálog dialect “bigaycaya” is made in favour of the bride. Very rarely the brideʼs property is settled on the husband. I never heard of such a case. The Spanish laws relating to married personsʼ property were quaint. If the husband were poor and the wife well-off, so they might remain, notwithstanding the marriage. He, as a rule, became a simple administrator of her possessions, and, if honest, often depended on her liberality to supply his own necessities. If he became bankrupt in a business in which he employed also her capital or possessions, she ranked as a creditor of the second class under the “Commercial Code.” If she died, the poor husband, under no circumstances, by legal right (unless under a deed signed before a notary) derived any benefit from the fact of his having espoused a rich wife: her property passed to their legitimate issue, or—in default thereof—to her nearest blood relation. The children might be rich, and, but for their generosity, their father might be destitute, whilst the law compelled him to render a strict account to them of the administration of their property during their minority. This fact has given rise to many lawsuits.

A married woman often signs her maiden name, sometimes adding “de ——” (her husbandʼs surname). If she survives him, she again takes up her nomen ante nuptias amongst her old circle of friends, and only adds “widow of ——” to show who she is to the public (if she be in trade), or to those who have only known her as a married woman. The offspring use both the parental surnames, the motherʼs coming after the fatherʼs; hence it is the more prominent. Frequently, in Spanish documents requiring the mention of a personʼs name in full, the motherʼs maiden surname is revived.
Thus marriage, as I understand the spirit of the Spanish law, seems to be a simple contract to legitimize and license procreation.

Up to the year 1844, only a minority of the christian natives had distinctive family names. They were, before that date, known by certain harsh ejaculations, and classification of families was uncared for among the majority of the population. Therefore, in that year, a list of Spanish surnames was sent to each parish priest, and every native family had to adopt a separate appellation, which has ever since been perpetuated. Hence one meets natives bearing illustrious names such as Juan Salcedo, Juan de Austria, Rianzares, Ramon de Cabrera, Pio Nono Lopez, and a great many Legaspis.
When a wedding among natives was determined upon, the betrothed went to the priest—not necessarily together—kissed his hand, and informed him of their intention. There was a tariff of marriage fees, but the priest usually set this aside, and fixed his charges according to the resources of the parties. This abuse of power could hardly be resisted, as the natives have a radicate aversion to being married elsewhere than in the village of the bride. The priest, too (not the bride), usually had the privilege of “naming the day.” The fees demanded were sometimes enormous, the common result being that many couples merely cohabited under mutual vows because they could not pay the wedding expenses.

The banns were verbally published after the benediction following the conclusion of the Mass. In the evening, prior to the marriage, it was compulsory on the couple to confess and obtain absolution from the priest. The nuptials almost invariably took place after the first Mass, between five and six in the morning, and those couples who were spiritually prepared first presented themselves for Communion. Then an acolyte placed over the shoulders of the bridal pair a thick mantle or pall. The priest recited a short formula of about five minutesʼ duration, put his interrogations, received the muttered responses, and all was over. To the espoused, as they left the church, was tendered a bowl of coin; the bridegroom passed a handful of the contents to the bride, who accepted it and returned it to the bowl. This act was symbolical of his giving to her his worldly goods. Then they left the church with their friends, preserving that solemn, stoical countenance common to all Malay natives. There was no visible sign of emotion as they all walked off, with the most matter-of-fact indifference, to the paternal abode. This was the custom under the Spaniards, and it still largely obtains; the Revolution decreed civil marriage, which the Americans have declared lawful, but not compulsory.

After the marriage ceremony the feast called the Catapúsan begins. To this the vicar and headmen of the villages, the immediate friends and relatives of the allied families, and any Europeans who may [180]happen to be resident or sojourning, are invited. The table is spread, à la Russe, with all the good things procurable served at the same time—sweetmeats predominating. Imported beer, Dutch gin, chocolate, etc., are also in abundance. After the early repast, both men and women are constantly being offered betel-nut to masticate, and cigars or cigarettes, according to choice.

Meanwhile, the company is entertained by native dancers. Two at a time—a young man and woman—stand vis-à-vis and alternately sing a love ditty, the burthen of the theme usually opening by the regret of the young man that his amorous overtures have been disregarded. Explanations follow, in the poetic dialogue, as the parties dance around each other, keeping a slow step to the plaintive strains of music. This is called the Balítao. It is most popular in Visayas.

Another dance is performed by a young woman only. If well executed it is extremely graceful. The girl begins singing a few words in an ordinary tone, when her voice gradually drops to the diminuendo, whilst her slow gesticulations and the declining vigour of the music together express her forlornness. Then a ray of joy seems momentarily to lighten her mental anguish; the spirited crescendo notes gently return; the tone of the melody swells; her measured step and action energetically quicken—until she lapses again into resigned sorrow, and so on alternately. Coy in repulse, and languid in surrender, the danseuse in the end forsakes her sentiment of melancholy for elated passion.

The native dances are numerous. Another of the most typical, is that of a girl writhing and dancing a pas seul with a glass of water on her head. This is known as the Comítan.

When Europeans are present, the bride usually retires into the kitchen or a back room, and only puts in an appearance after repeated requests. The conversation rarely turns upon the event of the meeting; there is not the slightest outward manifestation of affection between the newly-united couple, who, during the feast, are only seen together by mere accident. If there are European guests, the repast is served three times—firstly for the Europeans and headmen, secondly for the males of less social dignity, and lastly for the women. Neither at the table nor in the reception-room do the men and women mingle, except for perhaps the first quarter of an hour after the arrival, or whilst dancing continues.

About an hour after the mid-day meal, those who are not lodging at the house return to their respective residences to sleep the siesta. On an occasion like this—at a Catapúsan given for any reason—native outsiders, from anywhere, always invade the kitchen in a mob, lounge around doorways, fill up corners, and drop in for the feast uninvited, and it is usual to be liberally complaisant to all comers.

As a rule, the married couple live with the parents of one or the other, at least until the family inconveniently increases. In old age, the elder members of the families come under the protection of the younger ones quite as a matter of course. In any case, a newly-married pair seldom reside alone. Relations from all parts flock in. Cousins, uncles and aunts, of more or less distant grade, hang on to the recently-established household, if it be not extremely poor. Even when a European marries a native woman, she is certain to introduce some vagabond relation—a drone to hive with the bees—a condition quite inevitable, unless the husband be a man of specially determined character.

Death at childbirth is very common, and it is said that 25 per cent. of the new-born children die within a month.

Among the lowest classes, whilst a woman is lying-in, the husband closes all the windows to prevent the evil spirit (asuan) entering; sometimes he will wave about a stick or bowie-knife at the door, or on top of the roof, for the same purpose. Even among the most enlightened, at the present day, the custom of shutting the windows is inherited from their superstitious forefathers, probably in ignorance of the origin of this usage.

In Spanish times it was considered rather an honour than otherwise to have children by a priest, and little secret was made of it.

In October, 1888, I was in a village near Manila, at the bedside of a sick friend, when the curate entered. He excused himself for not having called earlier, by explaining that “Turing” had sent him a message informing him that as the vicar (a native) had gone to Manila, he might take charge of the church and parish. “Is ‘Turing’ an assistant curate?” I inquired. My friend and the pastor were so convulsed with laughter at the idea, that it was quite five minutes before they could explain that the intimation respecting the parochial business emanated from the absent vicarʼs bonne amie.

Consanguine marriages are very common, and perhaps this accounts for the low intellect and mental debility perceptible in many families.

Poor parents offer their girls to Europeans for a loan of money, and they are admitted under the pseudonym of sempstress or housekeeper. Natives among themselves do not kiss—they smell each other, or rather, they place the nose and lip on the cheek and draw a long breath.

Marriages between Spaniards and pure native women, although less frequent than formerly, still take place. Since 1899 many Americans, too, have taken pure native wives. It is difficult to apprehend an alliance so incongruous, there being no affinity of ideas, the only condition in common being, that they are both human beings professing Christianity. The husband is either drawn towards the level of the native by this heterogeneous relationship, or, in despair of remedying the error of a passing passion, he practically ignores his wife in his own social connections. Each forms then a distinct circle of friends of his, or her, own selection, whilst the woman is but slightly raised above her own class by the white manʼs influence and contact. There are some exceptions, but I have most frequently observed in the houses of Europeans married to native women in the provinces, that the wives make the kitchen their chief abode, and are only seen by the visitor when some domestic duty requires them to move about the house. Familiarity breeds contempt, and these mésalliances diminish the dignity of the superior race by reducing the birth-origin of both parents to a common level in their children.

The Spanish half-breeds and Creoles constitute a very influential body. A great number of them are established in trade in Manila and the provinces. Due to their European descent, more or less distant, they are of quicker perception, greater tact, and gifted with wider intellectual faculties than the pure Oriental class. Also, the Chinese half-breeds,—a caste of Chinese fathers and Philippine mothers,—who form about one-sixth of the Manila population, are shrewder than the natives of pure extraction, their striking characteristic being distrust and suspicion of anotherʼs intentions. It is a curious fact that the Chinese half-caste speaks with as much contempt of the Chinaman as the thorough-bred Filipino does, and would fain hide his paternal descent. There are numbers of Spanish half-breeds fairly well educated, and just a few of them very talented. Many of them have succeeded in making pretty considerable fortunes in their negotiations, as middlemen, between the provincial natives and the European commercial houses. Their true social position is often an equivocal one, and the complex question has constantly to be confronted whether to regard a Spanish demi-sang from a native or European standpoint. Among themselves they are continually struggling to attain the respect and consideration accorded to the superior class, whilst their connexions and purely native relations link them to the other side. In this perplexing mental condition, we find them on the one hand striving in vain to disown their affinity to the inferior races, and on the other hand, jealous of their true-born European acquaintances. A morosity of disposition is the natural outcome. Their character generally is evasive and vacillating. They are captious, fond of litigation, and constantly seeking subterfuges. They appear always dissatisfied with their lot in life, and inclined to foster grievances against whoever may be in office over them. Pretentious in the extreme, they are fond of pomp and paltry show, and it is difficult to trace any popular movement, for good or for evil, without discovering a half-breed initiator, or leader, of one caste or another. They are locally denominated Mestizos.


A Tagálog Townsman

The Jesuit Father, Pedro Murillo Velarde, at p. 272 of his work on this Colony, expressed his opinion of the political-economical result of mixed marriages to the following effect:—“Now,” he says, “we have a querulous, discontented population of half-castes, who, sooner or later, will bring about a distracted state of society, and occupy the [183]whole force of the Government to stamp out the discord.” How far the prophecy was fulfilled will be seen in another chapter

San Miguel, Manila

The Jesuits probably built the first parochial structures


during their administration of the San Miguel ecclesiastical district in 1603 until 1768. The Franciscans took over the mission in 1777 and in 1835, Fr. Esteban Mena (OFM) was reported to have started building a church. Fr. Francisco Febres (OFM) made repairs and improvements after the 1852 earthquake.


When the sandalwood and fur trades died out in the third decade of the 19th Century, the new economic engine was whale fishing, starting in the mid-1820’s. That industry depended more on the Cape Horn Route and fewer ships traveled from Honolulu to China. Some ships did go that way and letters even in the 1840’s are known going via the Indian Ocean route. Please send me an E-mail ( with details of pre-Postal covers routed to or from Honolulu via the Indian Ocean.

Feb 10 Per Joseph Peabody

The notation “per J. Peabody” reveals this cover as one sent via the Indian Ocean. The content confirms it with this beginning: “Per Jos. Peabody/Manila,” datelined “Honolulu, Oahu, Feby 16, 1840.” The American Brig Joseph Peabody sailed from Honolulu for Manila on February 16, 1840. From Manila, the Peabody sailed north to the Siberian Coast and returned to Honolulu, so this letter was transshipped at Manila to a New York bound ship. Winds, current and distance would have dictated a voyage from Manila via the Indian Ocean and the Cape of Good Hope and then northward in the Atlantic. It was stamped with a New York ship postmark on August 31 and received at Boston on September 2, 1840. At New York, the letter was rated with a manuscript “20½” indicating the 18½¢ fee to carry it beyond 150 miles (but less than 400 miles) under the rates in effect until 1845, plus a 2¢ ship fee. Captain Dominis of the Joseph Peabody became the father-in-law of Queen Liliuokalani


A Scene in Town from The Flebus Album of Views In and Around Manila 1845


A Scene in Town from The Flebus Album of Views In and Around Manila 1845,

a painting by

Jose Honorato Lozano.



The Postal history used cover from Honolulu hawai via manila to Batavia.

the famous “Batavia Cover” shown below.

52 - Mar 11 Batavia cover
52 - Mar 11 Batavia Cover backstamps - OFF

Postmarks front and back of this cover are Honolulu, March 11, 1852, Manila, May 19 and June 17, Hong Kong, June 21, Canton, July 2 along with a Canton PAID mark, and again Hong Kong on July 22. This cover, addressed to Batavia via a forwarder in Canton, was carried to Manila by the Bremen bark Ceres, departing April 3, 1852. The letter next went from Manila to Hong Kong and paid a single letter rate of 4 pence (represented by the black “4” over the Honolulu postmark). At Hong Kong, the letter was sent to the forwarder in Canton at another 4 pence rate (represented by the red “4” in the upper left corner). The forwarder crossed out his name, paid postage to Singapore (1 shilling represented by a red squiggle over the Honolulu postmark) and sent it back down to Hong Kong. From Hong Kong, the letter was carried to Singapore by the P&O steamship Malta (July 23 departure; July 31 arrival) under British mail contract, and then to Batavia by local shipping. The “48” is said to represent a Batavia local rate, typically written with the same type of ink.




 the 1863 earthquake

 Double rated folded cover bearing two 2 Reales stamps from Madrid to Manila

after 1863

After the 1863 earthquake, a new bridge replaced it in 1875. This had eight arches – the two middle ones were built of iron – and was named the “Puente de España”. The second to be built was called the Clavería bridge.

This was a suspension bridge and was a landmark

View of the “Puente de España”, built after the 1863 earthquake. Álbum fotográfico… End of the 19th century. BN The metallic parts of the “Puente de España” – the central arches, the balustrades and the candelabra – were imported from France, this being organized by José Echeverría, the Spanish engineer posted there. Bridge


After the 1863 earthquake, a new bridge replaced it in 1875. This had eight arches – the two middle ones were built of iron – and was named the “Puente de España”. The second to be built was called the Clavería bridge.

This was a suspension bridge and was a landmark on the urban landscape of Manila; it linked Quiapo with the Arroceros district and was opened to the public in 1852. A third construction, the Ayala bridge was built in two separate sections; it crossed the river at Convalecencia island and was opened in 1880.

Marine traffic in the bay increased heavily during the second half of the 19th century. It was at this time that the construction of lighthouses began. Examples of this are the San Nicolás lighthouse and those built on Corregidor Island, all of which were constructed in accordance with the latest advances in European technology.


The “Puente de España” over the Pasig River in Manila. Casto Olano in Colección de planos… 1876. BETSICCP, Madrid After the destruction of the “Puente Grande” , a project was drawn up for an eight-arch combined construction: the two central arches had wider spans, were low, and were built from iron, the remaining six arches being built from quarried stone. Bridge
Bridge The “Concepción” portion of the Convalecencia bridge in Manila. Eduardo López Navarro in Colección de planos correspondientes a varias de las construcciones realizadas o proyectadas por la Inspección General de Obras Públicas de las Islas Filipinas. 1876. BETSICCP, Madrid The Ayala bridge, as it was also known, crossed the river in two independent sections that converged on Convalecencia Island. Each of these sections was formed by three low arches and a lower platform, all of which were timber-built.
Puente View of the suspension bridge in the city of Manila. Álbum fotográfico… Late 19th century. BN The suspension bridge was constructed by private enterprise which operated it on a toll basis. The project was drawn up by the French engineer M. Gabaud.

The Ayala bridge between Convalecencia island and the Concepción district collapsed in this year. La Ilustración Española y Americana, 1890. BNAlthough scarcely ten years had passed since it was opened, by 1889 the Ayala bridge was in a dangerous condition. That year, the section between the island and the San Miguel district collapsed, and only a few months later the Concepción section followed suit.


Project for the port of Manila. José García Morón. Revista de Obras Públicas, 1889-1890 During the 1880’s, a greater number of efforts were made to provide Manila with an exterior port that would match its trading, economic and political importance. Puerto
Puerto New project for an artificial port for the city of Manila. José García Morón. 1890. AHN Generally speaking, the proposal consisted of creating a sheltered area for ships to anchor in. In addition, large areas would be set aside for the construction of sheds and warehouses to store produce and merchandise awaiting shipment to Europe and America.
Project for a battery on the south wall. Mariano de Goicoechea. 1834. SHM Throughout its history, the defence of Manila was a constant cause of concern which gave rise to continual fortifications works on the seaboard front. Muralla
Río Section of the Pasig River close to the Manila city walls. 19th century. SHM During the 19th century, a great deal of effort was devoted to the channelling and straightening of the Pasig river estuary and the defence of its banks.
Channelling dikes to counter the sediments that silted up the Pasig mouth. 1757. SGE During the 18th century, dredging works and campaigns were carried out to clear the accumulation of sand at the river mouth, which was a hindrance to navigation and entry into the river port. Diques
Río View of the Pasig River and the stone-built “Puente Grande”, before the 1863 earthquake. Fernando Brambila. Collection of drawings and engravings made on the Malaspina Expedition. 1789-1794. MN Built in the first half of the 17th century, and until the suspension bridge was opened, the “Puente Grande” was the only bridge crossing the Pasig River. In 1814, the wooden roadway was replaced with masonry arches.


Faro Project for a metallic lighthouse on the sandy promontory of San Nicolás at Manila Bay. José Echeverría in Colección de planos… 1876. BETSICCP, Madrid The majority of the lighthouses built in the Philippines were of traditional construction, although some were also built with a metallic structure in consonance with the latest trends in European engineering.
Watchtower on Corregidor Island at the entrance to Manila Bay. Ildefonso de Aragón. First half of the 19th century. SHM Although the lighthouses constructed in the Philippines were of varied types, they were all provided with living quarters for the tower keepers and deposits for supplies of drinking water, which were essential in isolated places with difficult access. Torre



The San Miguel  church was destroyed during the 1880 earthquake and rebuilt by Fr. Emilio Gago (OFM) in 1886. It was rebuilt IN 1913 through the patronage of the Roxas clan and was sedignated by Msgr. Michael O’Doherty as a Pro-cathedral of the Archdiocese of Manila after it was inaugurated in 1913.


The “Punta Santiago” lighthouse (Batangas) which provided signalling in the strait between Luzon and the island of Mindanao. Magin Pers y Pers and Guillermo Brockmann. La Ilustración Española y Americana. José Fernández. 1891. BN In 1890, the new catadioptric lighthouse was opened to assist navigators by illuminating this unavoidable route leading from the south and the Pacific towards the China Sea. Faro


one of the older homes (late 1800′s)





The history of the Odd Fellows in the Philippines is quite interesting. The fraternity reached the Philippines long ago before the country gained independence and many unfortunate events occurred along the course of time. Many of the records were destroyed and only few remain where we can get accountable information about its first organization in the country.


1872: According to Major O.W. Coursey, author of the History and Geography of the Philippine Islands, the awakening of the Filipinos to a deep sense of injustice being practiced upon them by the Spaniards was the introduction of ‘fraternal’ societies in the Islands, and to the influence of higher education obtained by those of means in the school of Hong Kong and other Old-World cities. He mentioned that the ‘Society of Odd Fellows’ spread to the Islands in 1872 and was largely responsible for the petty insurrection of the following year. This could be because many of the military men who fought the war were members of the society. Membership was mostly limited to military servicemen during that time.


1898: Author Peter Sellars in his book, History of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows in the City of San Francisco, mentioned of military men, whom many are members of the Order, had been given proper send-off by the Odd Fellows of San Francisco on their way to the Philippines. The New York Times also mentioned that during the 74thAnnual Session of the Sovereign Grand Lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows in the United States, a ‘Brother Badley’ who is with the United States Army in the Philippines, asked permission to establish the society in the country. The Grand Sire, international president of the organization, at that time recommended that the action be taken by the Sovereign Grand Lodge at that session. He also recommended that members serving in the Army may be permitted to form military lodges or associations. In Peter Sellars’ book, an ‘Odd Fellows Association of the Philippines ‘ was in existence in the country. Most members, if not all, were military servicemen so presumably, meetings were held inside Naval or military base camps and that membership was exclusive to military servicemen.


1899: An armed military conflict between Filipinos and Americans umably, Lodge meetings of the Odd Fellows were suspended.



1903: When the war ended on July 4, 1902, the.





The history of Odd Fellow  in Phillipne quatete interresting,the fraternity reached phillipine before long ago before the country gained the records of were destroyed and only few remain where we can found accountable informations






According to Major O.W. Coursey, author of the History and Geography of the Philippine Islands, the awakening of the Filipinos to a deep sense of injustice being practiced upon them by the Spaniards was the introduction of ‘fraternal’ societies in the Islands, and to the influence of higher education obtained by those of means in the school of Hong Kong and other Old-World cities. He mentioned that the ‘Society of Odd Fellows’ spread to the Islands in 1872 and was largely responsible for the petty insurrection of the following year. This could be because many of the military men who fought the war were members of the society. Membership was mostly limited to military servicemen during that time.


conflict bertween Filipinod  and US Army,Odd fellow suspended.







Manila is  a bustling, vibrant city and much like the Big Apple, it never sleeps! During the 1800-1900s it was the place to be and had the highest standard of living! Here are some glimpses of vintage Manila!

Binondo used to look this way like a rural community! It is now one of the busiest commercial places in Manila where a lot of stores are and not a square meter of space is vacant
Escolta Street, 1884, had European architecture adapted to the Philippine climate. People dressed up quite elegantly on the streets and I suppose the weather was not as humid otherwise attired with long sleeves and maria claras, fainting would have been rampant.
n the late 1800s, the gate to Intramuros still looks as it does now. We have kept the kalesas going for the tourists only now there is a golf course surrounding the gate
Here is the gate to Fort Santiago. It curiously holds up a Freemason symbol. What is that all about? Incidentally, this is where my hero uncle has been laid to rest. He was beheaded along with others who wrote insurgent material against the Japanese government. You rock Uncle Dever Alejandro!I
 Fort Santiago, Intramuros Manila
 (Dr. Jose Rizal’s detention cell before his execution in the 1890’s)

Rizal (1861-December 30 1896) was the hero of the Philippine rebellion of 1896-8 against Spain.

 Andrés Bonifacio (1863-May 10 1897) was another. Both were executed.


Emilio Aguinaldo, born in 1869, died in 1964 (sic), was a third, and the country’s first president.





 Photo of Intramuros Manila, circa 1800s


Commodore Dewey’s Flagship at the Battle of Manila, USS Olympia


Filipino-American War


1898 Filipino soldiers outside Manila

 The Philippine Army: From “Katipuneros” to “Soldiers”

A chapel where Katipuneros were sworn in. Influenced by the Masonic Order, the Katipunan was established as a secret, fraternal society, complete with Masonic rituals, blood oaths, coded passwords, and an aura of religious mystery. Women were admitted later on although most were exempted from the blood-letting rites.

The Katipunan or KKK was founded by Filipino rebels in Manila on July 7, 1892 (Long name: Kataas-taasang Kagalang-galangang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan or “Supreme and Venerable Society of the Children of the Nation”).

The founders –all freemasons– were: Andres Bonifacio, Ladislao Diwa, Teodoro Plata, Deodato Arellano, Valentin Diaz, Jose Dizon and a few others.

They met secretly at Deodato Arellano’s  house on Azcarraga (now Claro M. Recto Avenue), near Elcano Street, Tondo district. 

Unlike the pacifist and Europe-based Propaganda Movement, whose members were scions of the elite and wealthy, the Katipunan — composed of the common people, with only a sprinkling of the well-to-do middle class — did not dream of mere reforms. It aimed at liberating the country from Spanish tyranny by preparing the people for an armed conflict. Thus the Katipunan was founded on a radical platform, namely, to secure the independence and freedom of the Philippines by force of arms.

The San Francisco Call, Sept. 24, 1899, Page 26

Residence of Deodato Arellano on Azcarraga (now Claro M. Recto Avenue), near Elcano Street, Tondo district, birthplace of the Katipunan.

Spanish police headquarters at Tondo district, Manila, 1897.

A Katipunero’s cedula and a skull used in Katipunan initiation rites

Manila:   The Garrote was a strangulation machine. The two young Filipino muchachos (male domestic helpers) were sentenced to death for killing their abusive Spanish employer. The execution took place in front of the public slaughterhouse. The photographer, American businessman Joseph Earle Stevens, wrote: “The sight of the unfortunate prisoners…was pitiable in the extreme, and their faces bore marks of unforgettable anguish.”

The premature discovery of the plot on Aug. 18, 1896 forced the Katipuneros, as the members called themselves, to open hostilities.

The first major battle of the revolution took place on Aug. 30, 1896 when the Katipuneros attacked but failed to capture the Spanish polverin (powder depot) and deposito (water reservoir) in San Juan del Monte; 153 Katipuneros and 2 Spanish soldiers died.

As the rebellion progressed, a split developed between the Magdiwang faction (identified with Supremo Andres Bonifacio) and the Magdalo faction (loyal to Emilio Aguinaldo), both situated in Cavite Province.

The marker reads: “The Tejeros Convention: A revolutionary assembly was held March 22, 1897 in the building known as the Casa Hacienda of Tejeros that once stood on this site. Presided over by Andres Bonifacio toward the end of the session, the assembly decided to establish a central revolutionary government and elected Emilio Aguinaldo President, Mariano Trias Vice President, Artemio Ricarte Captain General, Emiliano Riego de Dios Director of War and Andres Bonifacio Director of the Interior. Certain events arising in the convention caused Bonifacio to bolt its action (1941)”.

At the Tejeros Convention on March 22, 1897 held in Barrio Tejeros, San Francisco de Malabon (now General Trias), Cavite Province, the delegates voted to do away with the Katipunan.  They argued that the insulated fragmentation that had aided the Katipunan’s  secrecy had outlived its usefulness; in a wide-open national war for independence, unified leadership was required. A well-defined structure was needed to steer a combat force of thousands. From a small circle of conniving men and women, membership had grown to about 15,000 to 45,000 patriots (up to 100,000, according to some estimates; the previous figures, considered as more credible, were supplied by the Ilocano writer and labor leader, Isabelo de los Reyes, who was born in 1864 and died in 1929). 

Bonifacio did not strongly object; the convention went ahead and formed the “Pamahalaang Tagapamatnugot ng Paghihimagsik” or Central Revolutionary Government.

Artemio Ricarte restrains an enraged Andres Bonifacio who tried to shoot Daniel Tirona; the latter had objected to Bonifacio’s election as Director of the Interior of the Revolutionary Government. Tirona had argued that the post should not be occupied by a person without a lawyer’s diploma. Bonifacio, who had to quit schooling at age 14 due to a family exigency, fumed at the thinly-disguised personal insult.

Emilio Aguinaldo was elected President; when his own election as Director of the Interior was questioned for lack of academic credentials by Daniel Tirona, Bonifacio (RIGHT) took it as a personal affront. At age 14, his father and mother had died forcing him to quit his studies and to look after his younger siblings. As a means of support, he made wooden canes and paper fans which he sold in the streets. (Daniel Tirona became one of the founding members of the pro-American Partido Federal when it was organized on Dec. 23, 1900).

Feeling grievously insulted, Bonifacio hotly declared that by virtue of his authority as Katipunan Supremo, he was voiding and nullifying the decisions of the convention. He stormed out of the convention and drafted his own government and army.

Gen. Pantaleon Garcia (ABOVE) was appointed a committee of one by Emilio Aguinaldo to investigate and to report on the case of the Bonifacio brothers. He recommended a court-martial; when the brothers were convicted, Garcia recommended that the death penalty be imposed on them.

Bonifacio and his brother Procopio were arrested, tried and convicted of treason; they were executed on May 10, 1897.

(Andres Bonifacio had 4 years of formal schooling compared to 7 years for Emilio Aguinaldo. However, while Bonifacio wrote and spoke good Spanish, Aguinaldo was barely able to speak it).

The Revolutionary Government unified the ragtag Katipunero rebel forces into a cohesive Philippine Revolutionary Army organized along European  lines. It gave each conventional unit a nomenclature and organization. The army  adopted two official names: in Tagalog,  “Hukbong  Pilipinong Mapanghimagsik” and in Spanish “Ejército Revolucionario Filipino”. 

General Artemio “Vibora” Ricarte was designated as Captain-General (Commanding General). He heldthis post from March 22, 1897 until Jan. 22, 1899 when he was replaced by General Antonio Luna.

When independence was declared onJune 12, 1898, the Philippine Revolutionary Army became the Philippine Republican Army. 

The first Philippine Army used the 1896 edition of the Spanish army’s  Ordenanza del Ejercito to organize its forces and establish its character as a modern army. Rules and procedures were laid down for the reorganization of the Army, adoption of new fighting methods, regulation of ranks, adoption of new rank insignias and a standard uniform called rayadillo.

Orders and circulars were subsequently issued covering such matters as building trenches and fortifications, equipping every male aged 15 to 50 with bows and arrows to partially meet the acute lack of arms, enticing Filipino soldiers in the Spanish Army to defect, collecting empty cartridges for refilling, prohibiting unplanned sorties, inventories of captured arms and ammunition, fund raising, purchase of arms and supplies abroad, unification of military commands, and exhorting the people to give any material aid, especially food, to the soldiers.

Filipino flag secured by Peter MacQueen, correspondent of The National Magazine in the Philippines in 1899.

Pay scale of officers and men of the Philippine Army, per decree of President Aguinaldo issued from Bacoor, Cavite Province on July 30, 1898. He raised money by taxing merchants, businessmen and well-to-do families. Benito Legarda, director of the treasury department, was described by Joseph Stickney, aide to Admiral Dewey, as “a suave diplomat” and “…just the man to convince a reluctant lot of business men that it will be more pleasing to themselves and more satisfactory to the government for them to part with their money than their blood.”

Shoulder bars of Philippine army officers.

The Filipino army’s main weapons were the 1893 Spanish Mauser bolt-action 7 mm rifle (TOP); it was reloaded by pressing 5 cartridges stacked in a thin metal clip down through the open bolt; and the single-shot, breechloading Remington Rolling Block .43 Spanish rifle (BOTTOM).

Bladed weapons carried into battle by the Filipino rank-and-file. Officers wielded European-style swords.

The Filipinos were short of artillery; the few guns they possessed were booties from the Spanish army. They  improvised by making cannon out of water pipe, strengthened with timber. 

A Filipino iron pipe cannon strengthened with bamboo

A cannon made of bamboo by the Filipinos

Igorots in the Philippine Army. Photo was probably taken in  January 1899 at Candon, Ilocos Sur Province. The Igorots — numbering 225 — were hardy mountaineers from the Cordilleras of northern Luzon. They were recruited by Maj. Isabelo Abaya (PHOTO, central figure, with pistol and sword). Abaya was killed in action on May 3, 1900.  

Filipino soldiers in Bacolor, Pampanga, 1898. The American photographer’s caption: “PORTION OF AGUINALDO’S ARMY IN THE SUBURBS OF BACOLAR. These men were well armed and drilled, and if they had been commanded by officers trained in the military service, they would have made excellent soldiers. But they cannot stand before a charge of American volunteers.”

The Filipino soldiers in dark uniforms were former members of the Spanish Army who had defected to the Philippine Republican Army. This photo could have been taken on May 28, 1898, when a native regiment of  the Spanish Army surrendered at San Francisco de Malabon (now General Trias), Cavite Province, and a large number of the men enlisted in the Philippine Army. In his memoirs,  Aguinaldo wrote that about 1,800 crossed over.



 The army was divided into an active and a volunteer force. The Active Army was organized into regiments, companies and batteries. In turn, the companies were divided into soldiers with firearms and those without, the duty of the latter – the proportion of five to each rifleman – being to keep themselves close to the rear of the firing line and secure the guns of men who are disabled. The function of the Volunteer Army was the gathering and storing of food supplies and obtaining iron and copper from every possible source for the fabrication of arms. It was also its duty to search the fields for projectiles which had failed to explode, to carry food to the troops, to strengthen daily the defenses and deploy others to suitable sites.

Academia Militar – First Philippine military school

Filipino army officers (under General Juan Cailles)

On the recommendation of General Antonio Luna, General Emilio Aguinaldo authorized the creation of a military school for officers.

On  Oct. 25, 1898, the Academia Militar was established at  Malolos, Bulacan with Colonel Manuel Bernal Sityar, hijo (meaning junior), as Director. 

Colonel Sityar (RIGHT) was a Spanish mestizo who had served as a lieutenant in the Spanish Civil Guard.  In 1882, he trained at the Academia Infanteria de Filipinas in Manila. He graduated from the Academia Militar de Toledo in Spain in 1895. He was born on Aug. 20, 1863 in Cavite City of an “Indio” mother and a Spanish father who hailed from Cadiz, Spain. His great grandfather was a lawyer to Spanish King Alfonso. His great grandmother was a relative of Queen Isabela. Both his grandfather and father were Spanish Dukes, and his father was in addition a commodore of the Spanish Navy.

Sityar was the first to suspect the existence of a revolutionary movement. On July 5, 1896, he reported to the Civil Governor of Manila that certain individuals, especially in Mandaluyong and San Juan del Monte, were enlisting men for unknown purposes, making them sign in pledge with their own blood. But his report did not alarm the colonial authorities. Fifty-six days later, on Aug. 30, about 800 Katipuneros assaulted the polverin (Spanish powder magazine) at San Juan del Monte, igniting the Philippine Revolution. (153 Katipuneros and 2 Spanish soldiers died in this first major battle of the revolution).

1898: A company of Filipino soldiers originally in the Spanish service

Sityar later defected to Aguinaldo’s army at San Francisco de Malabon (now General Trias), Cavite on May 28, 1898. He declared, ” I have served the country of my father with blood. Now I will serve the country of my mother with blood”. Colonel Sityar served as aide-de-camp and assistant chief of staff to General Emilio Aguinaldo. In the Malolos Congress which opened on Sept. 15, 1898, he represented the province of Laguna. 

Sityar and his wife accompanied the president of theFirstRepublicin his long and arduous trek to northern Luzon, from Nov. 13, 1899 in Bayambang, Pangasinan, until Dec. 25, 1899 in Talubin, Bontoc, Mountain Province; on that Christmas day, Aguinaldo, wishing to spare the 5 women in his entourage from further hardships (Aguinaldo’s wife and sister, Sityar’s wife and Col. Jose Leyba’s 2 sisters) ordered Sityar and a certain Colonel Paez to accompany the women and surrender to the Americans in Talubin. [Colonel Leyba was Aguinaldo’s adjutant and secretary].

Aguinaldo and his party reached Palanan, Isabela on Sept. 6, 1900. Here, Aguinaldo was captured by the Americans on March 23, 1901. 

After the surrender at Talubin, Sityar quit the military life and taught at the Liceo de Manila when it was founded in 1900. Curiously, in the same year, the Queen Regent of Spain made Manuel Sityar Knight of the Military Order of Maria Cristina.

Sityar was one of the founding members of the pro-American Partido Federal when it was organized on Dec. 23, 1900.

He died in 1927.

1898: Staff officers of General Juan Cailles

1899: Filipino army officers

Group showing General Manuel Tinio (seated, center),  General Benito Natividad (seated, 2nd from right), Lt. Col. Jose Alejandrino (seated, 2nd from left) and their aides-de-camp

A page from The Illustrated London News, issue dated March 17, 1899. Clockwise, from top left: Generals Pantaleon Garcia, Gregorio del Pilar, Tomas Mascardo, and Isidoro Torres.

Shoulder bars of Philippine army officers. From: “Buhay na Kasaysayan” by Pedro Javier and Yonito Flores

The Academia Militar‘s  mission was to complete the training of all  officers in the active service. The academy formally opened its classes on Nov. 1, 1898.  The classes were divided into two sections, one for field officers from colonels to majors, and the other from Captains and below. Graduates became regular officers of the army. The course of instruction consisted of current orders and regulations, field and garrison regulations, military justice and penal laws, arithmetic and military accounting, geography and history, field fortifications, and map drawing and reading.

Barasoain Church and Convent. Photo taken on March 31, 1899, shortly after the Americans captured Malolos.

The Academia Militar was housed in the convent of Barasoain together with the Universidad Literia de Pilipinas and Instituto Burgos.

The Academia was deactivated on Jan. 20, 1899 due to highly escalated tensions between the Filipinos and Americans. Fifteen days later, on February 4, war broke out

Battle of Manila Bay

Battle of Manila Bay
Part of the Spanish-American War
USS Olympia with Dewey at Battle of Manila bay DSCN4191 at Vermont State.jpg
Commodore George Dewey aboard the cruiser Olympia.
Date 1 May 1898
Location Near Manila, Philippines
Result Decisive U.S. victory
United States United States Spain Kingdom of Spain
Commanders and leaders
US Naval Jack 45 stars.svg George Dewey Naval Jack of Spain.svg Patricio Montojo y Pasarón
Engaged Forces:[cn 1]
4 protected cruisers
2 gunboats
Unengaged Forces:
1 revenue cutter
2 transports
Engaged Forces:[cn 1]
2 protected cruisers
4 unprotected cruisers
2 gunboats
Unengaged Forces:
1 cruiser
3 gunboats,
1 transport
Shore defenses
6 batteries
3 forts
Casualties and losses
1 dead (due to heatstroke),[5]
9 wounded,
1 protected cruiser damaged
161 dead,
210 wounded,
2 protected cruisers sunk,
5 unprotected cruisers sunk,
1 transport sunk
Pacific Theater: Spanish American War

The Battle of Manila Bay took place on 1 May 1898, during the Spanish-American War. The American Asiatic Squadron under Commodore George Dewey engaged and destroyed the Spanish Pacific Squadron under Admiral Patricio Montojo y Pasarón. The engagement took place in Manila Bay in the Philippines, and was the first major engagement of the Spanish-American War.



Admiral Montojo, who had been dispatched rapidly to the Philippines, was equipped with a variety of obsolete vessels. Efforts to strengthen his position amounted to little. The Spanish bureaucracy knew they could not win a war and saw resistance as little more than a face-saving exercise. Administration actions worked against the effort, sending explosives meant for naval mines to civilian construction companies while the Spanish fleet in Manila was seriously undermanned by inexperienced sailors who had not received any training for over a year.[6] Reinforcements promised from Madrid resulted in only two poorly-armored scout cruisers being sent while at the same time the authorities transferred a squadron from the Manila fleet under Admiral Pascual Cervera to reinforce the Caribbean. Montojo compounded his difficulties by placing his ships outside the range of Spanish coastal artillery (which might have evened the odds) and choosing a relatively shallow anchorage. His intent seems to have been to spare Manila from bombardment and to allow any survivors of his fleet to swim to safety. The harbor was protected by six shore batteries and three forts whose fire during the battle proved to be ineffective. Only Fort San Antonio Abad had guns with enough range to reach the American fleet, but Dewey never came within their range during the battle.[3][6]


USS Olympia entering Manila Bay.

At 7 p.m. on 30 April, Montojo was informed that Dewey’s ships had been seen in Subic Bay that morning. As Manila Bay was considered unnavigable at night by foreigners, Montojo expected an attack the following morning. The American Consul in Manila, however, had provided Dewey with detailed information on the state of the Spanish defenses and the lack of preparedness of the Spanish fleet, prompting him to enter the bay immediately. At midnight Dewey, aboard the protected cruiser USS Olympia, led his squadron into Manila Bay. Passing the entrance, two Spanish mines exploded but were ineffective as they were well below the draft of any of the ships due to the depth of the water. Inside the bay, ships normally used the north channel between Corregidor Island and the northern coast and this was the only channel mined. Dewey instead used the unmined south channel between El Fraile and Caballo Islands. The El Fraile battery fired a few rounds but the range was too great. The McCulloch, Nanshan and Zafiro were now detached from the line and took no further part in the fighting. At 5:15 a.m. on 1 May, the squadron was off Manila and the Cavite battery fired ranging shots. The shore batteries and Spanish fleet then opened fire but all the shells fell short as the fleet was still out of range.[6] At 5:41 with the now famous phrase, “You may fire when ready, Gridley,[1] the Olympia’s captain was instructed to begin the destruction of the Spanish flotilla.[7]

The U.S. squadron swung in front of the Spanish ships and forts in line ahead, firing their port guns. They then turned and passed back, firing their starboard guns. This process was repeated five times, each time closing the range from 5,000 yards to 2,000 yards. The Spanish forces had been alerted, and most were ready for action, but they were heavily outgunned. Eight Spanish ships, the land batteries, and the forts returned fire for two and a half hours although the range was too great for the guns on shore. Five other small Spanish ships were not engaged.

Montojo accepted that his cause was hopeless and ordered his ships to ram the enemy if possible. He then slipped the Cristina’s cables and charged. Much of the American fleet’s fire was then directed at her and she was shot to pieces. Of the crew of 400, more than 200, including Montojo, were casualties and only two men remained who were able to man her guns. The ship managed to return to shore and Montojo ordered it to be scuttled. The Castilla, which only had guns on the port side, had her forward cable shot away causing her to swing about, presenting her weaponless starboard side. The captain then ordered her sunk and abandoned. The Ulloa was hit by a shell at the waterline that killed her captain and disabled half the crew. The Luzon had three guns out of action but was otherwise unharmed. The Duero lost an engine and had only one gun left able to fire.[6]

Contemporary colored print, showing USS Olympia in the left foreground, leading the U.S. Asiatic Squadron in destroying the Spanish fleet off Cavite. A vignette portrait of Rear Admiral George Dewey is featured in the lower left.

At 7:45 a.m., after Captain Gridley messaged Dewey that only 15 rounds of 5″ ammunition remained per gun, he ordered an immediate withdrawal. To preserve morale, he informed the crews that the halt in the battle was to allow the crews to have breakfast.[7] According to an observer on the Olympia, At least three of his (Spanish) ships had broken into flames but so had one of ours. These fires had all been put out without apparent injury to the ships. Generally speaking, nothing of great importance had occurred to show that we had seriously injured any Spanish vessel. Montojo took the opportunity to now move his remaining ships into Bacoor Bay where they were ordered to resist for as long as possible.[6]

A captains’ conference on the Olympia revealed little damage and no men killed. It was discovered that the original ammunition message had been garbled – instead of only 15 rounds of ammunition per gun remaining, the message had meant to say only 15 rounds of ammunition per gun had been expended. During the conference reports arrived that sounds of exploding ammunition had been heard and fires sighted on the Cristina and Castilla. At 10:40 AM action was resumed but the Spanish offered little resistance and Montojo issued orders for the remaining ships to be scuttled and the breechblocks of their guns taken ashore. The Olympia, Baltimore and Boston then fired on the Sangley Point battery putting it out of action and followed up by sinking the Ulloa. The Concord fired on the transport Mindanao, whose crew immediately abandoned ship. The Petrel fired on the government offices next to the arsenal and a white flag was raised over the building after which all firing ceased.[6] The Spanish colors were struck at 12:40 PM.

The results were decisive. Dewey won the battle[7] with seven men very slightly wounded,[8] a total of nine injured, and only a single fatality among his crew: Francis B. Randall, Chief Engineer on the McCulloch, from a heart attack.[9]

Subsequent action

A Spanish attempt to attack Dewey with the naval task force known as Camara’s Flying Relief Column came to naught, and the naval war in the Philippines devolved into a series of torpedo boat hit-and-run attacks for the rest of the campaign. While the Spanish scored several hits there were no American fatalities directly attributable to Spanish gunfire.

On 2 May, Dewey landed a force of Marines at Cavite. They completed the destruction of the Spanish fleet and batteries and established a guard for the protection of the Spanish hospitals. The resistance of the forts was weak. The Olympia turned a few guns on the Cavite arsenal, detonating its magazine, and ending the fire from the Spanish batteries.


In recognition of George Dewey’s leadership during the Battle of Manila Bay a special medal known as the Dewey Medal was presented to the officers and sailors under Admiral Dewey’s command. Dewey was later honored with promotion to the special rank of Admiral of the Navy; a rank that no one has held before or since in the United States Navy. Building on his popularity, Dewey briefly ran for president in 1900, but withdrew and endorsed William McKinley, the incumbent, who won.

Dewey’s flagship, the Olympia, is preserved as a museum ship in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, at the Independence Seaport Museum (formerly the Philadelphia Maritime Museum).

Order of battle

United States

The Battle of Manila Bay, depicted in a lithograph by Butler, Thomas & Company, 1899



  • USS Olympia, flagship, protected cruiser of 5,870 tons. Twin 8-inch guns mounted in turrets fore and aft, ten 5-inch guns and six torpedo tubes. Top speed 20 knots.
  • USS Baltimore, protected cruiser of 4,600 tons. Single 8-inch guns mounted fore and aft, two 8-inch and two 6-inch guns aiming axially and three 6-inch guns aiming on each broadside. Top speed 20 knots.
  • USS Raleigh, protected cruiser of 3,200 tons. One 6-inch and two 5-inch guns aiming forward, four 5-inch guns aiming astern and two 5-inch guns aiming on each broadside. Top speed 19 knots.
  • USS Boston, protected cruiser of 3,200 tons. Single 8-inch guns mounted in barbettes fore and aft with 6-inch axial firing guns mounted beside each. Four additional 6-inch guns. Top speed 13 knots.
  • USS Concord, gunboat of 1,710 tons with six 6-inch guns. Top speed 17 knots.
  • USS Petrel, gunboat of 867 tons with four 6-inch guns. Top speed 12 knots.

Unengaged Vessels:

  • The Revenue Cutter McCulloch, the collier Nanshan and the steamer Zafiro (a supply vessel) were directed to keep out of the main action because of their light armament and lack of armor. The McCulloch’s chief engineer died of a heart attack.[9]


Engaged Vessels:

  • Reina Cristina, flagship, unprotected cruiser of 3,042 tons, with six 6.4-inch guns. The fastest Spanish vessel with a top speed of 16 knots.
  • Castilla, unprotected cruiser of 3,289 tons, with four 5.9-inch and two 4.7-inch guns. The vessel’s 8-inch guns had been removed to equip the shore batteries. The ship was used as a floating battery as the temporary repair of the leaks had immobilized her propeller shaft.
  • Don Antonio de Ulloa, unprotected cruiser of 1,152 tons, with two 4.7-inch guns on the starboard side. Under repair with her engines ashore. Her entire port side armament had been removed to equip the shore batteries.
  • Don Juan de Austria, unprotected cruiser of 1,152 tons, with four 4.7-inch guns. Top speed 13 knots.
  • Isla de Cuba, protected cruiser of 1,030 tons, with six 4.7-inch guns. Top speed 14 knots.
  • Isla de Luzón, protected cruiser of 1,030 tons, with six 4.7-inch guns. Top speed 14 knots.
  • Marques del Duero, gunboat of 492 tons, with one 6.4-inch and two 4.7-inch guns. Top speed 10 knots.

Engaged vessels ranged in size from 5870 tons (Olympia) to 492 tons (Marques del Duero).[2]

Unengaged Vessels:

  • Mindanao, transport ship of 1,900 tons, with 2 secondary rapid fire guns. 77 men.
  • Velasco, unprotected cruiser of 1152 tons. Her boilers were ashore being repaired. All her guns were apparently removed to the Caballo Island Battery. 145 men.
  • El Coreo, gunboat of 560 tons, with three 4.7-inch guns, three secondary rapid fire guns, and 1 torpedo tube. 115 men.
  • General Lezo, gunboat of 520 tons, with two 4.7-inch guns which were apparently removed to El Fraile Island, 2 secondary rapid fire guns, and 1 torpedo tube. 115 men.
  • Argos, gunboat of 508 tons, with one 3.5-inch gun. 87 men.

The Spanish vessels had 19 torpedo tubes between them but no serviceable torpedoes.

Shore Defenses

  • Fort San Antonio Abad: Built 1584. Located in Manila. Various guns with only the 9.4-inch having enough range to reach Dewey’s ships at their closest approach.
  • Fort San Felipe: Built 1609. A small castle built on a sandbar protected by a breakwater and separated from Cavite City by a moat.
  • Cavite Fort: Fortified naval base and shipyard in Cavite City located adjacent to Fort San Felipe.
  • Corregidor battery: Entrance to Manila Bay. Did not fire.
  • Caballo battery: Entrance to Manila Bay. Did not fire.
  • El Fraile battery: Entrance to Manila Bay. Fired three rounds before Raleigh silenced it after hitting the battery with a single shell.
  • Cañacao battery: Located in the town of Cañacao. Armed with a single 4.7-inch gun. Did not fire.
  • Sangley Point battery: Located at the Sangley Point Naval Base. Armed with three 64-lb muzzleloading cannon and two 5.9-inch guns (which were the only ones to fire.)
  • Malate battery: Located in the Manila district of Malate. Did not fire.

The batteries were supplemented with the guns removed from Montojo’s fleet. The Corregidore, Caballo and El Fraile batteries had a combined total of 17 guns.

Dispatches between Dewey and the Secretary of the Navy

Engraving of the Battle of Manila Bay with portraits of the respective commanders, from The history and conquest of the Philippines and our other island possessions; embracing our war with the Filipinos by Alden March, 1899.

Multiple dispatches were exchanged between Dewey and John D. Long, Secretary of the Navy, immediately prior to, and following, the Naval Battle of Manila Bay. One dispatch notified Dewey of his promotion to the acting grade of Rear Admiral:[10]

HONGKONG, May 7, 1898. (Manila, May 1.)
The squadron arrived a Manila at daybreak this morning. Immediately engaged enemy and destroyed the following Spanish vessels: Reina Christina, Castilla, Don Antonio de Biloa, Don Juan de Austria, Isla de Luzon, Isla de Cuba, General Lezo, Marquis del Duaro, El Curreo, Velasco, one transport, Isla de Mandano, water battery at Cavite. I shall destroy Cavite arsenal dispensatory. The squadron is uninjured. Few men were slightly wounded. I request the Department will send immediately from San Francisco fast steamer with ammunition. The only means of telegraphing is to the American consul at Hongkong.

HONGKONG, May 7, 1898. (Cavite, May 4.)
I have taken possession of the naval station at Cavite, Philippine Islands, and destroyed its fortifications. Have destroyed fortifications bay entrance, paroling garrison. Have cut cable to main land. I control bay completely and can take city at any time, but I have not sufficient men to hold. The squadron excellent health and spirits. The Spanish loss not fully known; very heavy; 150 killed, including captain, on Reina Cristina, alone. I am assisting and protecting Spanish sick and wounded, 250 in number, in this hospital, within our lines. Will ammunition be sent? I request answer without delay. I can supply squadron coal and provisions for a long period. Much excitement at Manila. Scarcity of provisions on account of not having economized stores. Will protect foreign residents.

WASHINGTON, May 7, 1898.
DEWEY (care American consul), Hongkong:
The President, in the name of the American people, thanks you and your officers and men for your splendid achievement and overwhelming victory. In recognition he has appointed you acting rear admiral, and will recommend a vote of thanks to you by Congress as a foundation for further promotion. The Charleston will leave at once with what ammunition she can carry. Pacific Mail Steamship Company steamer Pekin will follow with ammunition and supplies. Will take troops unless you telegraph otherwise. How many will you require? LONG.


  • Wreck of the Regina Cristina
  • Wreck of the Castilla
  • Wreck of the Don Antonio de Ulloa
  • Wreck of the Isla de Cuba
  • Wreck of the Isla de Luzon
  • Wreck of the Velasco


In 1898 the US won the Philippines, along with Cuba, Puerto Rico and Guam, in the Spanish-American War. The Philippines resisted America in a further war lasting from 1899 to 1901.

The US granted the Philippines semi-independence in 1935 as the Commonwealth of the Philippines (President Manuel Quezon). The Japanese were in occupation from 1941 to ’44, when General MacArthur landed with the Sixth United States Army. The independent Republic of the Philippines was established in 1946 (President Manuel Roxas).

In 2007 a new translation of Noli me tangere by Harold Augenbraum (480 pages) was released by Penguin Classics. Neither it nor its successor is, strictly speaking, historical. They were set in Rizal’s own time. They angered both the Spaniards and hispanicised Filipinos. They are critical of Spanish friars (Franciscan, Dominican, Augustinian) and of atrocities committed in the name of the Church. Noli me tangere was published in Berlin in 1887, El filibusterismo in Ghent in 1891, with borrowed funds.

The former begins, in the new translation:

“Toward the end of October, Don Santiago de los Santos, who was generally known as Captain Tiago, gave a dinner party that, despite its having been announced only that afternoon, which was not his usual practice, was the topic of every conversation in Binondo and neighboring areas, and even as far as Intramuros [the walled inner city of Manila]. In those days Captain Tiago was considered the most liberal of men, and it was known that the doors of his house, like those of his country, were closed to no one but tradesmen or perhaps a new or daring idea.

“The news surged like a jolt of electricity among the parasites, spongers, and freeloaders that God, in his infinite goodness, has so lovingly multiplied in Manila. Some went looking for bootblack, and others in search of collar-buttons and cravats, but everyone, of course, spent time deciding on the best way to greet the master of the house with just the right amount of familiarity to make him believe in a past friendship, or, if necessary, how exactly to make excuses for not having come by sooner.

“The dinner was to be given on a house in Analoague Street, and since we no longer remember its number, we will describe it in such a way that it can still be recognised, if earthquakes haven’t destroyed it. We don’t believe the owner would have torn it down, because usually this sort of work is reserved for God or nature, which has, it appears, many projects of this type under contract with our government. It is quite a large structure, of a style similar to many others in the country, located near a section that overlooks a branch of the Pasig often called the Binondo Creek, which plays, like many rivers in Manila, the multiple roles of bathhouse, sewer, laundry, fishing hole, thoroughfare, and even drinking water, if that served the interests of the Chinese water-seller. It is important to note that this vital district artery, where traffic is so bustling and bewildering, for a length of over a kilometer, is served by just one wooden bridge, which for half the year is under repair on one end and for the remainder is closed to traffic on the other, so that in the hot months horses take advantage of this permanent status quo to jump from it into the water, to the great surprise of the daydreaming individual as he dozes … or philosophizes on the century’s progress. […]”

The French term filibuster was used in the late eighteenth century to describe pirates who pillaged Spanish colonies in the West Indies. Then, in the middle of the next century, it was used to describe US citizens who fomented insurrections in Latin America. Another, extant, use was in relation to the obstruction of legislation in the US Congress. Did that appear before or after the Latin American use? Presumably Rizal’s filibusterismo refers to the latter use, transposed to the Philippines.

Joaquin (1917-2004) was a Philippine historian and journalist. His novels, with their “baroque Spanish-flavored English [and] his reinventions of English based on Filipinisms” are mainly about Manila. The Woman Who Had Two Navels (1961) is set in the American period, leading up to independence, with part taking place in Hong Kong

The Manila Pictures in 1900-1920 compare with the present day

old pictures around the country mostly with wonderful photographs of Manila then and now. I was amazed by the majestic beauty and simplicity of our country. Looking at the old photos made me realize how resplendent and classic the buildings and architectures were during that time. Too bad that many of those structures were totally or partially damaged mostly during World War II when the Philippines was attacked by the Empire of Japan as part of its ambition to expand its empire in Asia.

Luneta c1890

Fortunately, some structures are still standing today and some places are almost left untouched. So let’s take a journey back in time as we look at the wonderful photographs of Manila then and now.


Calle Misericordia (now Tomas Mapua Street)

Misericordia was taken from the Confraternidad de la Santa Misericordia (Fraternity of Holy Piety) that was founded for charitable purposes in 1594 by Governor Luis Peres Dasmariñas.

Tomas Mapua Street in district of Sta. Cruz is formerly known as Calle Misericordia. Tomas Mapua is the founder and first president of the Mapua Institute of Technology (MIT) and first registered architect in the Philippines after graduating BS Architecture from Cornell University.


Calle Misericordia (now Tomas Mapua Street)

Present Day

Calle Misericordia (now Tomas Mapua Street)

Luneta Hotel

Luneta Hotel is a defunct hotel located in T.M. Kalaw Street and Roxas Boulevard in Manila. The hotel is in the Art deco style of architecture that was very popular during the early American period. The hotel is owned by the Litonjua family, and still stands to this day but has ceased operations as a hotel. It is now converted as a storage building. The old edifice is being considered for demolition.


Luneta Hotel 1900

Present Day

Luneta Hotel 2005

Calle Real del Palacio (now General Luna Street)

General Luna (also known by its old name, Calle Real del Palacio) is the closest thing Intramuros has to a main street and gives visitors easy access to most of the major attractions, including San Agustín Church and Manila Cathedral. Follow this street all the way to its northwestern tip and you’ll find yourself in front of Fort Santiago; go the other way and you’ll eventually end up in Rizal Park, which is just over the border in the nearby Ermita district.


Calle Real del Palacio (now General Luna) c1913

Present Day

Calle Real del Palacio (now General Luna)

Binondo Church (Minor Basilica of St. Lorenzo Ruiz)

Binondo Church, also known as Minor Basilica of St. Lorenzo Ruiz , is located in the District of Binondo, Manila, in the Philippines. This church was founded by Dominican priests in 1596 to serve their Chinese converts to Christianity. The original building was destroyed in 1762 by British bombardment. A new granite church was completed on the same site in 1852 however it was greatly damaged during the Second World War, with only the western facade and the octagonal bell tower surviving.

San Lorenzo Ruiz, who was born of a Chinese father and a Filipino mother, trained in this church and afterwards went as a missionary to Japan and was executed there for refusing to renounce his religion. San Lorenzo Ruiz was to be the Philippines’ first saint and he was canonized in 1989. A large statue of the martyr stands in front of the church.

Masses are held in Filipino, in Chinese dialects (Mandarin, Hokkien), and in English.



Present Day

binondo church

Calle Rosario, Binondo (now Quintin Paredes Street)

Quintin Parades in Binondo is the old Calle Rosario after the district’s patroness the Nuestra Señora del Rosario. The street was renamed after the Filipino statesman and lawyer Quintin Paredes. He represented Abra in Congress and became Speaker of the House.


A typical Manila street scene Calle Rosario, Binondo

Present Day




Present Day

calle-rosario-binondo-before-and-today 1

Sta. Cruz Church

The first Santa Cruz Church was erected in 1608 by the Society of Jesus, better known as Jesuits, as a parish church for the swelling ranks of Chinese immigrants to Manila, many of whom had converted to the Catholic faith. The original structure was twice damaged by earthquakes, and totally destroyed in World War II. The present building, completed in 1957, is essentially Baroque and somewhat reminiscent of the Spanish-built mission churches in southern California. Shortly before the expulsion of the Jesuit in the Philippines, a replica of the venerated image of the Nuestra Señora del Pillar was brought over to Sta. Cruz Church from Zaragoza, Spain. In the middle of the 19th century, the Our Lady of the Pillars was declared patroness of Sta. Cruz district, replacing San Entanislao Kostka. For next centuries up the present, she was the object of veneration among devotees of the Blessed Virgin.


Santa Cruz Church, Manila

Present Day

Santa Cruz Church, Manila

Malacañan Palace

The Malacañan Palace, commonly known simply as Malacañang, is the official residence and principal workplace of the President of the Philippines. Located at 1000 J. P. Laurel Street, San Miguel, Manila, the house was built in 1750 in Spanish Colonial style. It has been the residence of every Philippine head since Rafael de Echague y Berminghan. During the American period, Governors-General Francis Burton Harrison and Dwight F. Davis built an executive building, the Kalayaan Hall, which was later transformed into a museum.

Originally a summer house by Spanish aristocrat Don Luis Rocha, the house was sold to Colonel Jose Miguel Formente, and was later purchased by the state in 1825. Since 1825, Malacañan Palace became the temporary residence of every Governor-General. During the Spanish–American War, Malacañan Palace became the residence of the American Civil Governors, with William Howard Taft being the first American Governor resident. During the American period, many administrative buildings were constructed and Malacañan Palace was refurbished. Emilio Aguinaldo, the first Philippine President, was the only head of the state who did not reside in Malacañan Palace, instead residing in his own home, the Aguinaldo Shrine, located in Kawit, Cavite.


Malacañan Palace

Present Day

Malacañan Palace

Dewey Boulevard (now Roxas Boulevard)

Roxas Boulevard (formerly known as Dewey Boulevard) is a boulevard in Metro Manila, and an eight-lane arterial road that connects the center of Manila with Pasay City, Parañaque City. It is one of the major arteries in the city’s metropolitan network, designated as Radial Road 1. Formerly named in honor of the American Admiral George Dewey who defeated the Spanish navy in the Battle of Manila Bay in 1898, the boulevard was renamed to Roxas Boulevard in the 1960’s to honor President Manuel Roxas, the fifth President of the Republic of Philippines. Roxas Boulevard runs along the shores Manila Bay and is well-known for its sunsets.


Roxas Boulevard


Roxas Boulevard

Quiapo Church (Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene)

Quiapo Church is a Roman Catholic church located in the District of Quiapo, Manila. The church is one of the most popular churches in the country. It is home to the Black Nazarene, a much venerated statue of Jesus Christ which many people believe has miraculous attributes. The church was painted cream after the original Mexican Baroque edifice was burned down in 1928. It is expanded to its current form in 1984 for accommodation of thousands of devotees. Also known as St. John the Baptist Parish, the church at present belongs to the Archdiocese of Manila.


Quiapo Church


Quiapo Church

These are the wonderful photographs of Manila then and now. I will try to come up with another set in the near future.


The Phillipines  tribes

Tobacco Smoking Family – 1911
Kalinga Man – 1911
Kalinga Woman – 1911
Mock Wedding of A Spaniard and a Local (Negritos)
Tattooed Bontoc Warrior
Bagobo Woman (Mindanao Rgeion) – 1914
Tinguian Woman
Tinguian Women
A Benguet Brave
Weaving Cloth Machine In Bontoc Province
Ethnic Bamboo Band
Head Hunters
Ifugao Head Hunter – 1911
Native Ifugao Tribe Dance
Igorot Tribes Men
Igorot Deer and Dog Hunters
Igorot Native Rain Coats
Moro Soldiers 1909
Negrito Cheif with His Family 1909
Tattooed Kalinga Man 1911

the end @ copyright Dr Iwan Suwandy 2011

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Protected: The Korea Historic Collections Part One:Choson Dynasty 1392-1700

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The Korea Historic Collections Part Two:Choson Dynasty 1700-1800

The Choson Historic Coillections 1700-1800

Created By

Dr Iwan Suwandy,MHA

Private Limited Edition In CRD-ROM

Goal of 605 Posts Completed



I’m writing a book. I’ve got the page numbers done. — Steven Wright


Pre Choson Dynasty


Goryeo Dynasty

the nearly 500 year-old Goryeo Dynasty established by Wang Geon in 918


Taejo Choson  Dynasty


The Choson Dynasty(1392-1910) is the nation’s longest-lived. Its founder, Yi Song­gye, took the dynastic name Taejo (“Great Prog­enitor”),

Early Joseon Dynasty


King Taejo‘s portrait

Monarchs of Korea
Joseon (Choson) Dynasty
  1. Taejo 1392–1398
  2. Jeongjong 1398–1400
  3. Taejong 1400–1418
  4. Sejong the Great 1418–1450
  5. Munjong 1450–1452
  6. Danjong 1452–1455
  7. Sejo 1455–1468
  8. Yejong 1468–1469
  9. Seongjong 1469–1494
  10. Yeonsangun 1494–1506
  11. Jungjong 1506–1544
  12. Injong 1544–1545
  13. Myeongjong 1545–1567
  14. Seonjo 1567–1608
  15. Gwanghaegun 1608–1623
  16. Injo 1623–1649
  17. Hyojong 1649–1659
  18. Hyeonjong 1659–1674
  19. Sukjong 1674–1720
  20. Gyeongjong 1720–1724
  21. Yeongjo 1724–1776
  22. Jeongjo 1776–1800
  23. Sunjo 1800–1834
  24. Heonjong 1834–1849
  25. Cheoljong 1849–1863
  26. Gojong 1863–1907
  27. Sunjong 1907–1910


 King Sejong the Great

King Sejong‘s portrait

In August of 1418, following Taejong’s abdication two months earlier, Sejong ascended the throne.


Middle Joseon monarchs: Seongjong to Injo

Portrait of Emperor Gojong, Yi Haeung wearing Tongcheonggwan and Gangsapo. Portrait painted by Yi Hancheol and Yu Sook.

Portrait of Emperor Gojong, Yi Haeung wearing Tongcheonggwan and Gangsapo. Portrait painted by Yi Hancheol and Yu Sook.

Following Seongjong’s reign, the next six Joseon monarchs ruled for a period of 150 years, most of them staying on the throne much longer than the early Joseon monarchs, characterizing the middle years of the dynasty with a sense a security. When King Sejongjong reach the end of his life, he had to choose an heir. Of Seongjong’s many sons, only two were the sons of queens. One of them, Jungjong, was only six years-old when Seongjong died, so the throne went to 18 year-old Prince Yeonsan (Yeonsangun), the son of a concubine who had become queen shortly before the Prince’s birth. Yeonsan proved a violent monarch, seeking vengeance for the death of his mother who had been exiled and poisoned by rival factions at court, and after 12 years he was removed from the throne and replaced by his half-brother Jungjong, whom everyone in the court recognized as the son of a full Queen. Because he was deposed, Yeonsan was stripped of the title King, and given only the rank of prince. At the same time, Yeonsan’s son, Crown Prince Hwang, became ineligible for the throne when his father was deposed, so the line of succession moved to a different branch of the family.

King Jungjong held the throne for a long time, reigning for nearly 40 years. Jungjong was succeeded by his first son King Injong, who reigned only a year and died without an heir, and then his second son, King Myeongjong, who ascended the throne at 12, with his mother Queen Munjeong as regent. Although King Myeongjong held the throne for 22 years, Munjeong did not give up control when her son reached the age of 20, and he was over 30 before he she died in 1565, giving him a chance to rule on his own. He died two years later, and his only son had already died, leaving him without an heir, so he was succeeded by his nephew, Seonjo, the son of his youngest brother, Prince Deokheung.

King Seonjo’s 41 year reign started out well, but as time went by, he became greedy and corrupt. Toward the end of Seonjo’s reign, he entrusted a lot of responsibility to his two eldest sons, Princes Imhae and Gwanghae, sons of one of Seonjo’s concubines. Gwanghae ran the country while Seonjo fled to safety during the seven years of war with Japan under Hideyoshi. Feeling that Prince Gwanghae had more leadership ability than his elder brother Imhae, King Seonjo directed that Gwanghae should succeed him to the throne. This decision was opposed by the Chinese Emperor, who had some control of Korea throughout almost all of the Joseon Dynasty, and felt that the oldest son, Imhae, should succeed Seonjo. There was also opposition to Gwanghae from elements in the court who felt the crown should go to Seonjo’s youngest son, Prince Youngchang, the only Prince whose mother was a Queen. Seonjo’s wishes prevailed, and Prince Gwanghae ascended the throne and ruled for 15 years, and ruled with skill, but the controversy surrounding his succession eventually caused him to be deposed and replaced by his nephew King Injo, the son of Gwanghae’s younger half-brother Wonjong (Prince Jeonwon). Like Prince Yeonsan, Gwanghae was not given the title ‘King’ because he was deposed, and is referred to as ‘Prince’ (Gun), the title of Crown Prince was taken from his son, and the line of succession passed to his brother Wonjong’s line.

King Seongjong
Prince Yeonsan
Crown Prince
          Grand Prince
            Grand Prince
Prince Gwanghae
Crown Prince
            Donsu           Prince
King Injo
King Jungjong
King Injong
          Wonjong     Prince
King Myeongjong
    Crown Prince
Sun Hoi
    Prince Yeongyang           Prince Heungan
King Seonjo


King Injo
    Crown Prince
King Gyeongjong
King Hyojong
King Hyeonjong
King Sukjong
King Yeongjo
                  Crown Prince
    Grand Prince
King Jeongjo
King Sunjo
    King Ikjong
(posthumous title)
King Heonjong
King Cheoljong
      Grand Prince
      Grand Prince
    Yi Jinik
    Yi Jintae    
            4 illegitimate
      Yi Byeongsun           Prince
      Yi Byeongwon     Prince
    Prince Heungwan     Yi Jaemyeon
      Yi Byeongjun           Prince
Emperor Gojong
    Yi Jaeseon

 Classic Choson

Korea, 1600–1700 a.d. 


포항 중성리신라비20090901And while we’re on the subject… Apparently on the same day as they announced the Munmu stele, the Kyongju museum also announced they had discovered the oldest Silla inscription yet in the P’ohang area. No details yet regarding the contents, but it seems fairly legible… (via 조선일보)

포항 중성리 신라비_이성시_20090903

Here Prof Yi Song-si of Waseda is seen inspecting the new find…


Part of King Munmu’s stele


Saw on the KBS evening news yesterday that part of King Munmu’s stele has been rediscovered. It was found in an old hanok in the eastern part of Kyongju. Apparently it had been used in the backyard to make a platform or bassin for the water tap… King Munmu (661-681) is famous as the Silla unifier and also for his ‘underwater tomb’ near Kamp’o on the East Sea coast east of Kyongju. According to the Samguk yusa he was cremated and given a water burial, but at the same time there must also have been a conventional tumulus – a stele such as this one would have been placed near a tumulus. It is also said however that the stele was discovered at Sach’onwang-sa, but it would have been unusual to place a stele of a king in a temple; at least I haven’t seen any other examples of that.

The text is not exactly unknown – the stele had earlier been discovered in 1796, as reported in Hong Yangho (1724-1802)’s Igyejip 耳溪集, and rubbings were sent to China where Liu Xihai (1793-1853) included them in his Haidong jinshi yuan. But the stele itself went missing again; another part was discovered in 1961, and now the top part has been found, though it is not clear how complete the text now is. People at the Kyongju museum seem confident that they can decypher a few more characters – i.e. ones that are not included in the Haidong jinshi yuan edition. 


This is the part from the Kyongju museum. Not very spectacular… from this very useful website, which brings together all the epigraphy from Korea:)

신라문무왕릉비 20090903

This gives a better idea of how it was found, and how the part really fitted in as a nice flat stone to do your washing on! (via 조선일보)


Still exorcizing the past

August 13, 2009It is still a tradition to put to rest some minor remnant of colonial history before the major national holidays in Korea, March 1 and August 15 (Liberation day). Kim Young Sam undoubtedly tops the list of such acts with his demolition of the former government general building, later National Museum, which started on Aug. 15, 1995. However, I was surprised to confirm again the nationalist vigour of the Jogye order. These monks of Beomeosa (i.e. 범어사 – one example of how awful the current romanization system can be) are joyfully tearing down a small ballustrade, apparently in Japanase style, despoiling their pagoda, which is treasure no. 250.  The idea is, as always, to restore it to ‘its original state.’ Not very enlightened behaviour, to say the least:

 범어사)난간 해체20090813MSN

법어사 monks20090813

Another famous example that always shows up is that of the iron rods supposedly driven into the soil to destroy the geomantic power – or prevent the birth of great people, according to an 80-year old villager in Gangcheon, near Yeoju (Gyeonggi-do), where an example was recently recovered:

Iron rod 20090813

According to the report, the rod is about 4-5 cm in diameter and 50 cm out of the earth – it is not known yet how deep it is embedded in the earth. As a perceptive student in one of my classes once pointed out, it resembles a rod used in surveying land or rods used to delineate plots of land… As far as I know, nobody has yet seriously looked at any documentary evidence to back up the popular claims that these were meant to be some kind of voodoo needles to sap the strength out of Korea…


Choson royal tombs

Taereung of Q Munjeong_K Jungjons spouse_KR_090624_p25_royal3

As ‘predicted’ in one of the earliest posts on this blog, the royal tombs of Choson kings, queens, and princes (?) have been registered as UNESCO world heritage. The Korean application was approved at the 33rd session of the World Heritage Committee in Seville on June 26. It is number nine on the list for the ROK, and more seem to be planned – Hahoe is one of them.

joseon tombs_KT_090624_p25_royal9

(photos via the Korea Times)

This whole UNESCO business seems to be getting out of hand, with everyone pushing whatever they have in order not to be left behind. A refreshing satire from the Chinese side – where the same thing is happening – can be found here.


Colonial era heritage still controversial…

There seems to be a growing acceptance in Korea of the value of colonial-era buildings, with many now being registered with the Cultural Heritage Administration. Thus the former Bank of Chosen building in Kunsan – which has a rich colonial heritage – was registered last year as ‘registered cultural property 등록문화재 no 374′. However, there are still throwbacks to past attitudes,  witness this proposal by Chang Sehwang of the DP to make it impossible to make “exploitative facilities from the colonial period” cultural heritage. He does not seem to advocate their demolition, but wants to put them in a different category of “historical materials to be preserved” (역사적보존자료); apart from the problem of how to distinguish exploitative from non-exploitative facilities, if the law passes it would probably become easier to demolish them anyway. Hence the strong opposition to this law from conservation groups such as the 한국군축역사학회 (Korean architectural history society?) and also the city of Kunsan.


Despite its protected status (see the small board in front of the building), the 1923 former bank of Chosen in Kunsan is obviously in need of some repair.


Through Gates of Seoul …

Borrowed this title from an old guide book to Seoul by Edward Adams. It’s exactly a year now since the South gate (Namdaemun/Sungnyemun) burnt down; a tragedy of course for Seoul’s (meagre) heritage, but in a way it seems to tie in well with the city’s plans to restore the city walls. I’ll have to hunt down some evidence for this, but it seems that there are definitely plans to rebuild the walls, and then apply for Unesco heritage status… Even the demolition of the old Tongdaemun stadium seems to be connected to this – underneath it was uncovered some pretty impressive remains, including this water gate:


For a good overview of the excavation activities concerning Seoul’s walls and gates, see this article in the Chosun.


Relic case discovered at Miruksa

20090119_ebafb8eba5b5ec82acec82aceba6aced95a8Today the munhwajae yon’guso unveiled the sarira (relics) case discovered underneath the central pillar shaft (心柱)at Miruk-sa, the famous Paekche stupa near Iksan. Normally such a case is buried underneath the plinth supporting the central wooden pillar of the pagoda – however, as we all know the Miruk-sa stupa (NT 11) is completely made of stone … (Jonathan Best cites a Chinese source which claims that the originally wooden pagoda was destroyed by lightning in 639; so perhaps the box may indeed have originally been placed under a wooden pagoda)


This picture shows the completely dis-assembled pagoda, with the lid just being taken off the sarira case. (from here) It will be interesting to see how this will affect our knowledge of Paekche history. I haven’t seen any transcription yet of the text, but one thing is clear: the Samguk yusa’s romantic story of how the daughter of Silla king Chinp’yong eloped to marry King Mu of Paekche (600-641) will have to be taken with an extra pinch of salt. It is correct though in saying that the temple was founded by King Mu’s queen, but she was a daughter of a Paekche nobleman.


Locks.. but not under lock!


150 locks and other small metal objects from the Lock museum (쇳대박물관) are currently on exhibit in Tokyo… although they are ‘undesignated cultural treasures’ (비지정문화재) they need permission from the Cultural Heritage Admin. to travel abroad… Permission which was not applied for, yet they clearly left the country without problem! Pictured is a lock said to date from the Koryo period (via Donga)


Destruction of Silla fortress

This story just caught my eye on Daum (via Ohmynews) – apparently the city of Mungyong is destroying the ancient fortress of Komo sansong (Sinhyon-ri, Masong-myon, Mungyong), believed to have been built ca. 470. The reason? To make way for a Confucian Culture zone tourist project – whatever that may be. Despite protests by local cultural protection groups, the work is continuing. Apparently permission was granted, and the Cultural Heritage Administration is powerless because the site is not listed… It is really baffling, all the more so since excavations were carried out last year, by the Chungwon munhwajae yon’guso (presumably yonguwon), which revealed a unique subterranean wooden structure, believed to date to the Silla period:

This image via the Dong-a ilbo. Just imagine what the outcry would have been like if China had touched a Koguryo fortress … From this picture it appears that the purpose is simply to remove the old walls and replace it with a flash new structure as can be seen in the foreground:



The Manchu invasions of the Korean peninsula and the subsequent establishment of the Qing dynasty in China during the first half of the seventeenth century shape the Joseon elite’s view of its own culture. Scholars and officials increasingly take an interest in Korea’s history, geography, agriculture, literature, and art. The new strain of research, now commonly termed sirhak, or “practical learning,” is in vogue through much of the two centuries between 1600 and 1800. It is manifested in practical legislation that seeks to control and enhance the government’s bureaucratic workings and the lives of the general population, especially the peasants.

Culturally, a similar strain of interest in things Korean finds expression in works of art that explore native vernacular, geography, and social customs. Fiction written in hangeul (Korean writing) explores nontraditional themes that fall outside of yangban (literati) interests, and are often authored by people of the lower classes. Paintings of the eighteenth century depicting famous sites in Korea and the daily lives of people—known as “true-view” landscape painting and genre painting—evidence the vibrant and “Korean” artistic expressions of this period. Ceramic production, having suffered setbacks following major Japanese and Manchu invasions of the peninsula, reemerges with fresh creativity by the second half of the seventeenth century and through the eighteenth century.

Attention to Korea’s history and culture does not mean indifference to foreign stimuli. On the contrary, there is enduring, if selective, interest in and relations with the world outside, alongside discoveries of native potentials. Diplomatic and cultural exchanges with China and Japan continue, despite ambivalence and mistrust, and contribute significantly to shaping Joseon culture. Sporadic and largely accidental contact with the West sparks the two worlds’ awareness of each other.


Woodblock of the Tripitaka Koreana.
Woodblock of the Tripitaka Koreana. The carving of the woodblocks for the Korean Tripitaka (Buddhist canon) began in the early eleventh century and was completed in 1087. The original woodblocks were destroyed during the thirteenth-century Mongol invasions. The Tripitaka Koreana that remains today is a later edition, begun on Kanghwa Island, where the court had taken refuge from the Mongols. It was completed in 1251. Requiring about 81,200 woodblocks, this edition combines accuracy with beauty. This woodblock was presented to then- Librarian of Congress Daniel J. Boorstin by Dr. Hong Joo Moon, President of the Academy of Korean Studies, in 1986. (Korean Collection, Asian Division)

The Library’s Korean collection has made up for a relatively late start and now stands as the largest The Library’s Korean collection has made up for a relatively late start and now stands as the largest and   most comprehensive outside Korea. Although the collection is largely contemporary (this aspect is discussed later), it does contain a number of valuable pre-nineteenth-century publications in traditional format. Korea, like Japan and Vietnam, absorbed early cultural influences from China, including language, and many of its early classics were written in Chinese. Old Korean books, however, are quite different from their counterparts in China and Japan. They tend to be larger and are often printed on tough, durable paper, which is noted for its beauty and uniform whiteness. Because of the paper’s quality, Korean versions of Chinese classics sometimes survived the original printings in China. For example, the only existing version of an important fourteenth-century Chinese map, Sheng-chiao Kuang-pei t’u (Map of the Vast Reach of China’s Moral Teaching), is a fifteenth-century Korean work containing a copy of the original.

The Library has some 422 titles (2,900 volumes) of rare Korean books, printed on mulberry paper in Chinese characters, many of which were obtained in the 1920s. While the majority of the Korean rare books are in the Asian Division, thirteen titles are in the Law Library. There are also rare Korean maps in the Geography and Map Division, including those provided to the Library by the American geographer Shannon McCune. Unique Korean photographs may be found in the Prints and Photographs Division.

Yi Munsun Chip (1241).
Yi Munsun Chip
(1241). The collected works of Yi Munsun (the literary name of Yi Kyu-bo), the great poet, scholar, and statesman of Korea’s Koryo Dynasty (918-1392), were edited and printed with metal movable type by his son Yi Ham in about 1241. This was some 215 years before Gutenberg used a similar process to print his famous Bibles in Germany. Printed on handmade mulberry paper, the eight-volume work contains Yi Munsun’s essays, poetry, descriptions of early printing, warnings against shamanism, and his autobiography. (Korean Collection, Asian Division)

The most important contributor to the Library’s classical Korean book collection was Dr. James S. Gale, a Canadian missionary who arrived in Korea in 1888 and spent the next forty years there. A prodigious scholar, Gale translated many of Korea’s literary classics into English and wrote numerous books on Korean history, literature, and culture. Gale helped the Library procure a number of Korean classics, including rare books from the estate of the Korean scholar Kim To-hui. In 1927, the Library received the major portion of Gale’s own library, more than doubling its Korean holdings.

Korea made a special contribution to the technology of printing by developing movable cast metal type, beginning in 1241. Although China first used movable type made of clay, it was in Korea that printing with movable metal type reached a high point in the fifteenth century. Korean printing technology spread to China and Japan, but movable type was not a commercial success and by the nineteenth century had been almost completely displaced by the older woodblock printing. This technology in turn soon gave way to European typography. The Asian Division holds some fine examples of Korean printing from metal movable type. These include the collected writings, printed in 1744, of the renowned sixteenth-century Confucian scholar and statesman Yi I and the 1834 reprint of the works of the “father of Korean literature,” Ch’oe Ch’i-won (857-915 A.D.). Examples of rare woodblock-printed books include a history of the Koryo Dynasty (Koryð Sa), printed in 1590, and the law code of the Yi Dynasty (Kyongguk Taijon), printed in 1630.

Map of Korean Peninsula.
Map of Korean Peninsula.
This map of Korea is one of twelve handcolored maps in the manuscript atlas, Tae Choson Chido (Great Korean Map). The atlas, dating to circa 1800, has individual maps of the provinces of Korea and maps of the world, China, and Japan. (Geography and Map Division)
Tonqui Pogam (A Valuable Treatise on Oriental Medicine). Tonqui Pogam (A Valuable Treatise on Oriental Medicine).
The Tonqui Pogam was written by the physician Ho Chun at the order of King Sonjo (1567-1608). Completed in 1611, it combines Chinese and Korean medical writings on disease and treatment, and covers topics such as pediatrics, gynecology, acupuncture, surgery, and general medicine. The most important medical compendium of Korea’s Yi Dynasty, the work was widely read in China and Japan. This 1754 edition, consisting of twenty-two volumes, was printed with wood blocks.

Group of miniature funerary vessels, porcelain, Choson dynasty, 1400-1600

Yun Hyu (尹鑴, 윤휴, 1617-1680) was a Chosun dynasty scholar and government official. His ancestral home is Namweon (南原, 남원); his courtesy name was Heuijung (希仲, 희중), which indicates he was the second born son; and his pen names were Baekho (白湖, 백호, “white lake”) and Haheon (夏軒, 하헌, “summer veranda”).  He was nominated to be a Jipyeong (持平, 지평) as a Yebinshijeong (禮賓寺正, 예빈시정) and had served in various other posts, before he left politics to absorb himself in scholarly pursuits. He was a member of the Southerner faction (南人派, 남인파). With the expulsion of that faction, he was exiled to Gapsan (甲山, 갑산) and sentenced to death by poisoning.

陋巷 누항

The Squalid Alley

明着衣冠士子身 명착의관사자신
簞瓢陋巷不厭貧 단표루항불염빈
雲開萬國同看月 운개만국동간월
花發千家共得春 화발천가공득춘
邵子吟中多氣像 소자음중다기상
淵明醉裏樂天眞 연명취리낙천진
從來大隱皆城市 종래대은개성시
何必投竿寂寞濱 하필투간적막빈

Augustly wearing the clothes and hat, a body of a scholar,
On the squalid alley with its bamboo baskets and gourd dippers, does not get annoyed at the poor.
When the clouds open, ten-thousand [1] countries altogether see the moon.
When a flower blossoms, ten-thousand households [2] together have Spring.
In the poems of Soja [3], much of nature and temper.
In the drunkenness of  Yeonmyong [4], the joy of innocence [5].
From times past, large hermits all lived in towns and markets.
Why is it necessary to throw a fishing line from the tranquil water’s edge?


  1. That is, everyone or many people.
  2. Again to mean “many people.”
  3. Refers to a Song dynasty scholar and poet by the name of Shao Yong (邵雍, 소옹, So’ong, 1011-1077).
  4. Refers to the Eastern Jin dynasty poet Tao Yuanming(陶淵明, 도연명, Do Yeonmyeong, 365-427).
  5. 天眞 (천진, cheonjin) does not mean “heavenly truth” but “innocence” or “naivete.”


  • 陋 (루, ru) – to be squalid (누추하다) or filthy (더럽다).
  • 簞 (단, dan) – bamboo basket (소쿠리) or lunchbox (도시락).
  • 瓢 (표, pyo) – gourd dipper (바가지).
  • 濱 (빈, bin) – water’s edge (물가).

An Jeongbok (安鼎福, 안정복, 1712-1791) was a Chosun dynasty scholar and government official. He was of the Gwangju (廣州 ,광주) An clan. His courtesy name was Baeksun (百順, 백순) and his pen name was Sun’am (順庵, 순암). He belonged to the Southerner’s faction and the Silhak school of thought, and did initially take interest in Catholicism when it was first introduced by Yi Seunghun and other Silhak scholars. However, unlike the others authors covered this week, in the end, An Jeongbok criticized Catholicism and Western thought and warned other scholars who took interest in it in his work, Thoughts on the Study of Heaven (天學考, 천학고, Cheonhakgo).

白雲有起滅 백운유기멸
靑山無改時 청산무개시
變遷非所貴 변천비소귀
特立斯爲奇 특립사위기

white-cloud-to have-to rise-to destroy
blue-mountain-to have not-to change-time
to change-to move-to be not-that/which-value
to be special-to stand-this-to be-commendable

White clouds have risings and vanishings;
Blue mountains do not have changing times.
Transformations and alterations are not something to be valued.
Standing independently — this is [what is] commendable.

     *Han Hyo Joo as DongYi / Choi suk bin
11—49 years old. Born on 1670 (11 th year of King Hyunjong)
Later, Mother of King Youngjo. She was honored as Sukbin which is located third level in Chosun lady’s hierarchy system.
She is very bright, smart and witty. Not only smart but also warm heart, she cannot pass poor person freely. After her father and brother was executed bitterly, she became a orphan. As police officer Mr. Seo Yongki chase her continuously, she hide herself in Jangakwon, which is music academy, with the help of Suli. With her born familiarity and wit, she is chosen as a helper in palace from the slave position. Behind her, there is Cha Chunsoo, who gave her a love in spite of all kind of sacrifice. He is best friend of her brother, Dongju.
Later, surprisingly, she was picked up by Sukjong to sleep with. Then, discord against queen Chang Heebin, then, return of queen Inhyun, giving birth to a prince, Yeonanggun. Love from Sukjong, trouble with queen Inhyun. Education of prince Yeonanggun, whose position was always in danger.
Within the difficulty which concubine would face and her son’s royalty to her, her life faced incredible turning point.
    *Ji Jin Hee as King Sukjong
24-60 years old. The 19th king of Chosun dynasty (1661—1720)
His- childhood- time name was Soon.
He was absolute monarch of Chosun. He recovered the authority of king which had dropped before. Though he became a king when just 14 years old, with the powerful leadership and wide knowledge, he succeeded and ruled experienced old his subjects. To recover royalty of king which had dropped through 2 times war, he eliminated Song Siyul who was the biggest scholar in Chosun.
With the powerful leadership and gut, he controlled his subjects and used the power game among his subjects.
Though he was scareful king to his subjects, he is delicate and smart. That means, he was smart and fantastic king to the numerous concubine. He met Dongyi first time during palace festival, then, he was impressed by her warmth and smartness.    *Bae Soo Bin as Cha Chun Soo
20-55 years old
New leader of Hanyang Gumgae, which is secret swordsman organization.
He worked as corpse inspector during the day and acted as a key member of Gumgae, whose purpose was cleaning the governmental disorder during the night. Though he is in low class person, he has academic ability and can use sword very well.
He is trusted very much by Choi Hyowon, who is father of Dongyi. He was a young staff of Gumgae organization and best friend of Dongju, who is brother of Dongyi. When Mr Choi and Dongju were executed, they ask him to take care of Dongyi. Afterwards, he took care of Dongyi for his whole life. After Choi Hyowon died, he rebuilt Gumgae organization and became a new leader. He never forgets the word of baby Dongyi, which is, “When I grow up, I will marry with Chunsoo”. He loves Dongyi with his whole life.    *Park Ha-sun as Queen In-hyun
(1667 – 1701)
First queen of Sukjong, who was 19th king of Chosun dynasty.
She has warm heart , but she was paid no attention by Sukjong. She was expelled out of palace once, then, she came back as a queen again. But she died early. She trusted Dongyi very much and gave many helps to her.    *Lee So-yeon as Lady Jang
(1659 –1701)
Second queen of Sukjong.
She entered palace with the help of Cho Sasuk. Her first name was Chang Okjung. She received love of Sukjong, but she was expelled by Sukjong’s mother. When her party, Namin, succeeded to get power, she could come back to palace and succeeded to give birth to prince, Kyun. When her son became a successor of king, her position was upgraded to second queen.
When Sukjong’s first queen, Inhyun was expelled, she became first queen. But, afterwards, Sukjong regrets his mistake, he recovered Inhyun’s position, then, made Heebin Chang to second queen again.From the start to the last, she made rivalry with Dongyi. Finally she died by the penalty of death.

    *Jang Jin Young
30 – 60 years old. Police chief.
He has fair and straight personality and careful.
He valued high the ability of Choi Hyowon who was working as a corpse inspector, which is the lowest job. Mr. Seo has treated Mr. Choi as a normal class person in spite of his low society position.But, after his father was killed by Gumgae member, he feel betrayal and swear to clean Gumgae.
When Dongyi became the helper of police, he met her again. At that time, he was high official, then, help her lots of times.

    *Choi Cheol-Ho
    *Jung Yumi

In full disclosure, unlike many Korean-Americans (“1.5 generation” included), the author of this blog is not a Protestant. In fact, he tries to stay away from Protestantism for the same reasons that he stays away from the beer Keystone. He is Catholic, though not too happy about the state of the Church today, as hopefully made clear in the following post.Yi Byeok (李檗,이벽, 1754-1786) was born into the Gyeongju Yi family clan (慶州李氏, 경주이씨). His pen name was Gwang’am (曠菴, 광암, “empty hermitage”). Although well-versed in Confucian classics like many early Korean Catholics and unlike his brothers, he did not take the civil entrance exam and did not pursue government position. He was Korea’s first Catholic catechist. Unlike many lay catechists today, who teach from books that are no more informative than coloring books, Yi Byeok actually taught Catholicism. One of the remarkable things about the Catholic Church in Korea is that it was not founded by missionaries. Rather, it was started by Korean literati who read Catholic books and wished to pursue the religion on their own. Indeed, as there were no Catholic clergy established in Korea until the mid-18th century, Yi Byeok was baptized by fellow Catholic layman Yi Seunghun. The following is an excerpt from his catechism, The Essential Meaning of the Heavenly Religion, or Seonggyoyoji (聖敎要旨, 성교요지). It is modeled on the poems found in the Classic of Poetry, and was meant to be sung. Most of the early Catholic works written by Korean Catholics were done in Classical Chinese, was only translated into Korean later.未生民來 前有上帝 미생민래 전유상제
唯一眞身 無聖能比 유일진신 무성능비
六日力作 先碧天地 육일역작 선벽천지
萬物多焉 旣希差異 만물다언 기희차이
遂辨和土 將位靈矣 수변화토 장위영의
命處賜薹 千百皆與 명처사대 천백개여

There was not yet life and the advent of mankind; [but] before, there existed the Lord Above [1].
There was only one true body: there was no sage that can be equaled [to Him].
In six days, with His strength, He created: first, the blue heavens and earth [2].
All creation is many; from the beginning, [how] rare and [how] distinct.
At last, He decided, collecting earth, in order to place a soul.
Life and place, He bestowed rapeseed [3]. To thousands and hundred, all He gave [to them].


  1.  上帝 (상제, Sangje) – Confucian word for God. Pope Clement XI’s decree Ex Illa Die actually forbid the use of this word among Chinese Catholics in 1705.
  2. Catholic Church does not teach literal six day creationism.
  3. That is, nourishment.
  • 薹 (대, dae) – rapeseed

Late Choson Period

DSC00472.JPG (145346 bytes)

The postwar period of the 17th century in Choson witnessed a great deal of social and economic upheavals.  The rise of wealthy merchants contributed to the decline of the yangban society, while financial difficulty drove the government repeatedly to undertake tax reforms and sales of titles.  Upward social mobility, almost unknown in the prewar period, began to take place.  Rich peasants and merchants acquired yangban status, and nobi bondsmen were able to purchase freedom.

Neo-Confucian orthodoxy was called into questions by a rising critical spirit which engendered distrust of the yangban.  The impact of Western culture, entering through China, gave further impetus for the development of pragmatic studies which called for socioeconomic reforms and readjustments.  Factional strife also intensified.  Attention was drawn to agricultural problems as more yangban – dropouts from the struggle for official power – became involved land cultivation issues.  As a result, agromanagerial techniques and production methods were steadily improved  Privately operated handicraft factories replaced government-operated ones, stimulating the production of goods for sale.

The increase in mercantile activities expedited the rise of commercial farming, which in turn began to transform rural life.  The circulation of coin currency spread, provided a bridge between rural life and city economy.  The rise of popular verse and fiction drew the attention of the people to the government abuses and encouraged their participation in social reforms.




The factional split in 1585 was between a younger and an elder group of scholars, called the Tong-in (Eastern) faction and the Soin (Western) faction, respectively, and this rivalry was intensified under the postwar financial difficulties.  Splits often occurred over issues such as the questions of selection of the crown prince and rituals of royal mourning.


TheTong-in faction divided again into the Namin (Southern) faction and the Pugin (Northern) faction, and the latter gained power during the reign of King Kwanghaegun (r. 1608-1623), who made efforts to restore the Confucian state.  When the Manchus rose up against Ming China, who asked Choson for assistance, King Kwanghaegun, mindful of the assistance rendered by the Chinese in Choson’s struggle against the Japanese, promptly sent an army of 10,000.  However, when it became obvious the Manchus would be victorious, the Chosons quickly surrendered thus avoiding any retaliation.


In the aftermath of this switch, King Kwanghaegun was deposed by the newly ascendant Soin faction which was pro-Ming.  The insurrection which ensued demonstrated the necessity of strengthening the defense of the capital area.  Accordingly, new camps were built around the capital city, and Namhansansong fortress was constructed for its protection.


The Manchus thus felt the need to eliminate any threat from Choson.  The peace treaty concluded after the first Manchu invasion stipulated that Choson would come to the aid of the Manchus, not the Ming.  Upon King Injo’s (r. 1623-1649) refusal to acknowledge a suzerain-vassal relationship in 1636, the Manchu ruler, now enthroned as the Qing Emperor of China, invaded Choson.  King Injo fled to Namhansansong fortress, then capitulated to the invaders on a bank of the Han-gang river.  He agreed to break relations with the defeated Ming and to send princes as hostages.


This personal surrender of King Injo was a double blow to the monarchy and yangban, as the nation had  to acknowledge subservience to the “pagan” tribes of the Manchu.  Distrust of the orthodox Neo-Confucian yangban began to grow in the minds of the people, who had been denied an opportunity to resist the Qing army.


A deep sense of humiliation and disgrace was felt, and sympathy toward Ming was strong.  The peasants and bondsmen openly ridiculed the yangban; offspring of interclass mating, mostly between yangban men and non-yangban women, also posed a serious social problem.  These illegitimate sons of prominent officials were considered outcasts and banned from governmental service.


Resentment of the rigid social stratification as described at the Hong Kil-tong chon spurred the rise of revolutionary ideas.  The basic theme in the novel – that all men were created equal – gave encouragement to the people and further undermined the prestige of the yangban society.


Postwar Readjustment

The urgent tasks of the postwar period included the reorganization of defense forces and the increase of state revenues.  The Border Defense Council (Pibyonsa) was elevated to the status of a de facto decision-making body, consisting of state councilors, ministers of the six boards and military staff generals, which made important decisions ranging from war to the selection of the Crown Prince.

The arts of war which had proved to be effective in defense against Japanese pirates on the south China coast were given first priority in the postwar defense activity.  This system of army training, however, required an additional budget which had to be collected as taxes from the peasants.  Privately owned bondsmen, who had previously been exempted from military service, were recruited for training, and had a new reason to consider themselves equal to commoners.

The reconstruction of palace buildings and the printing of lost books, such as duplicate sets of the Choson Wangjo Shillok (Annals of the Choson Dynasty), land ledgers, and census records, all required extra funds.  Wooden printing type was carved because of the metal shortage brought about by arms production.  Books were sold to pay for expenses, contrary to the prewar practice.  Efforts were made to revive the peasant economy, the main source of revenue.


Medical care for the disease-stricken populace was an urgent need and gave impetus to the compilation of medical treatises such as Tong-ui pogam (Exemplar of Korean Medicine), which was completed in 1610.

The system of recruitment for the bureaucracy by merit had long deteriorated, as both civil and military service examinations virtually became levers in the hands of powerful officials and the faction in power.  The irregular special examination graduates created a pressing demand for land, at the same time the practice of holding unregistered land was draining state revenue.  As some yangban sought control of tax-free school land, the number of private schools quadrupled during the 17thcentury alone, multiplying the school estates which sheltered an increasing number of literati and students.

The royal relatives and officials in power accumulated land deserted in wartime and converted it into tax-exempt holdings.  Competition for government office became intense, since a term in office could easily lead to economic advantage. 


Tax Reforms

During this period, there was a gradual rise of subordinate agents of the tribute-tax collector who collected extraordinary additional amounts.  This practice, started during the prewar period, became so rampant that peasants often turned over their land to powerful yangban, who would then help them to withdraw the land from registration so that the yangban could collect the tax themselves.

Attempts to convert the tribute-tax to an additional tax on land were partly successful.  An additional tax on land, Taedongpop (Uniform Land Tax Law), was vigorously advocated by Kim Yuk, the chief minister of King Hyonjong (r. 1649-1659).  Its implementation proved highly advantageous both to state revenues and to the lot of the peasants.  Such an outcome was especially valuable to King Hyojong, whose aim was to strengthen the army and increase national revenue so as to oppose the Qing.  As a further revenue measure, he decreed a universal tax in exchange for exemption from military service to be paid by all males, even monks.

Hyojong’s anti-Qing ideas came to naught, for in 1654 and 1658, he was forced to send trained military men at the request of Qing China to help them fight in Manchuria against Russian invaders.  His economic policies were more effective and the population more than doubled in the ten years after his death.

The increase in the national population from 2,290,000 in 1657 to 5,018,000 in 1669 was remarkable.  The Hanyang population grew from 80,572 to 194,030 in the same period.  The national increase was largely due to the enforcement of tax reforms and the improvement in agromanagerial and agricultural techniques.  The increase in the Hantang population along can be attributed to the influx of merchants dealing in goods no longer paid to the government as tribute-tax.

After the Taedongpop was implemented in most parts of the country the governmental demand for local products in kind was met by merchants who became purchase agents for that purpose.  Acquiring the privilege of monopoly, they set the pattern for the guilds which spread nationwide.  The decline of government-operated workshops and manufacturer stimulated artisans and technicians to create private workshops and to go into business as dealers in their own products, often forming into guilds.

In the provincial towns, markets were held every five days, serving as channels between producers and Hanyang merchants.  The licensed suppliers of local products in Hanyang gradually accumulated capital with their lucrative and guaranteed transactions.

Thus a new notion of wealth came into being: that of mercantile wealth, consisting no longer of land and bondmen but of commodities for quantitative trade in money.  Commercial capital was given a foundation on which to grow, as trade flourished and currency circulated.  However, these efforts, whose purpose was to preserve the Confucian yangban society, led to the erosion of that same society.

Rise of a Reformist School

With the death of King Hyojong, the yangban no longer paid the universal military service tax, and were once again virtually exempted from military service.  A critical attitude developed among the out-of-power yangban.  Yun Hyu and Pak Se-dang were among the prominent scholars who attacked the idolized system of Chu Hsi.  Conservative yangban branded them as heretics, but the time was ripe for the rise of a new school of thought critical of the traditional order.

To the new generation of scholars, the living  conditions of the people meant more than the problems of legitimacy and ritual so head to the literati of Neo-Confucian bureaucracy.  “No nation can survive without the well-being of the peasant, whereas the people can flourish even without a monarch.” Such was the modern thinking that underlay the reformist schools’ pragmatic studies.

Yu Hyong-won in his Pan-gye surok (Essays on Social Reform) suggested the following measures: the establishment of a land system under which benefits could be shared equitably by all; the institution of the recommendation system which would replace civil service examinations; the establishment of equal opportunities for all men; the reform of government organization; and the adoption of new learning.  His proposals found no official acceptance, but his reformist school of thought became the mainstream of pragmatic studies.  Emphasis was given to agriculture, since the success of the suggested reforms depended upon the solution of agricultural problems.  The need for pragmatic studies was keenly felt by scholars who were removed from the bureaucracy.  The latter, on the other hand were preoccupied with internal power struggles, and factions clashed over differing interpretations of Neo-Confucian rites.\

During the latter half of the 17th century,


 the struggle for power among the factions became fierce and more factions split off, among which the Noron faction, or the elder group, and the Soron, the younger group, were prominent.  Such factional strife had nothing to do with the life of the peasant or national interests.  The majority of the younger group began to show concern over the well-being of the peasants, who condition was closer to their own, since many of the yangban engaged in farming and could not even afford to hold bondsmen.

It was in this process of socioeconomic change that the reformist school went with the demands of society.  Mercantile activities continued to grow with the development of government-licensed supplier guilds on a nationwide scale and their transactions accounted for 60 percent of the total government revenue.  Government revenues were constantly growing during this period, and some wealthy farmers converted their status to that of the yangbanKing Yongjo’s Reforms

Realizing detrimental effects, on state administration, of factional strife during the latter half of the 17th century in Choson Dynasty, King Yongjo (r. 1724-1776) attempted to end factional strife as soon as he ascended the throne.  To reinstate the short-lived universal military service tax, he even came out of the palace gate and solicited the opinions of officials, literati, soldiers and peasants.  He reduced the military service tax by half, and ordered the deficiency supplemented by taxes on fisheries, salt, vessels and an additional land tax.  King Yongjo also regularized the financial system of state revenues and expenses by adopting an accounting system.  His realistic policies allowed the payment of taxes in grain in the remote Kyongsang-do province to nearby ports, and payment in cotton or cash for grain in mountainous areas.  The circulation of currency was encourage by increased coin casting.

His concern for the improvement of peasant life was manifest in his eagerness to education the people by distributing important books in Korean script, including books on agriculture.

The pluviometer was again manufactured in quantity and distributed to local offices, and extensive public works were undertaken.  King Yongjo upgraded the status of the offspring of commoners, opening another possibility for upward social mobility.  His policies were intended to reassert the Confucian monarchy and humanistic rule, but they could not stem the tide of social change.

Mercantile activities increased in volume at a rapid rate in the 18th century.  There was accumulation of capital through monopoly and wholesaling that expanded through guild organization.  Many merchants were concentrated in Hanyang.  The traditional divisions of government-chartered shops, the licensed tribute-goods supplier, and the small shopkeepers in the alleys and streets, were integrated into the fabric of a monopoly and wholesale system.  The temporary shops were originally set up to meet the demands of the people on special occasions, such as civil service examinations, royal processions and other national events, but the continued after the events to supply the general populace with groceries and sundry items.  Operated by poor shopkeepers in temporary huts, they were for the most part dependent on the wholesale merchants.  As a result, the wholesale merchant’s price policies had direct impact on the life of the populace of Hanyang.

The artisans often became self-employed producers.  Some even developed into factory owners and obtained charters of monopoly for the sale of their products.  In some cases, it proved more lucrative simply to be a wholesale dealer in certain commodities than to engage in the production of goods.  It was becoming fashionable among merchants and artisans to obtain charters by creating a new commodity through minor refinement of goods already chartered.  The charter ensured monopoly and the protection of the government.

The so-called estuary merchants monopolized commodities from the provinces of Kyonggi-do and Ch’tungch’dong-do, and other wholesale merchants had nationwide networks for the sale of ginseng.  The merchants of Kaeson or Songdo competed vigorously with their Hanyang counterparts in wholesale activities, conducting tripartite international trade between Japan and China; they traded ginseng and other Korean products for Japanese silver and Chinese books and silk.  They even accompanied the envoy missions to China in their quest for gain.  They went into the business of buying up paper for trade to China from the original producers in Buddhist temples, horse hair for hats from the remote southern Chjudo island and otter fur from hunters on the east coast.

The constant movement of trading ships between and among these remote ports is described in Yi Chung-hwan’s T’aengniji (Ecological Guide to Korea) and depicted in Yi In-mun’s painting, the Inexhaustible Rivers and Mountains.

The monopoly and wholesale activities created a larger demand for silver and copper, which in turn gave impetus to the mining industry.  Under strict control of the government in prewar times, mines were turned over to private operators.  In the 17th century, 68 silver mines were in operation but copper mining was not well developed, as copper was supplied by Japan.  In the 18th century, however, copper mines were also developed when the Japanese stopped exporting copper and Qing demanded great supplies of it.

The constant rise in price of commodities would have threatened the livelihood of the populace of Hanyang had they not been involved one way or another in mercantile activities.  Regardless of status, many yangban and commoners engaged in some kind of merchant activity.

Thus Hanyang made great strides as a commercial and industrial city in the 18th century.  The popular demand for handicraft goods such as knives, horsehair hats, dining tables and brassware was ever increasing.  Restrictions on the wearing of the horsehair hat, originally a symbol of yangban status, virtually disappeared.

The increase in the number of yangban had been the root cause of their impoverishment, as their land-holdings had to be divided equally among the sons at the least, and often among daughters as well, whether married or not.  The yangban of declining fortunes had the choice of either engaging in agriculture as an owner-cultivator, or in lucrative enterprises indirectly.  Money-lending was another field they entered as trade and currency circulation expanded.

The traditional Confucian notion that commerce and industry were marginal occupations, unworthy of pursuit by the yangban, also changed, and the necessity for hands-on learning was encouraged by Qing China.  Pak Chi-won, Pak Che-ga and others who had traveled to Qing with the Choson’s envoy missions witnessed the rapid development of commerce and manufacturing industry there.  Upon returning to Choson, they proposed positive policies for the development of commerce, metallurgy, fishing, stock farming, horticulture and mining.

Even pirating of books became commercialized, as competition developed among well-to-do yangban in the publication of collected literary works of renowned ancestors.  This led to the printing of popular fiction and poetry.  The people especially appreciated satire and social criticism.  The Ch’unhyangjon (Tale of Ch’unhyang), about the fidelity of an entertainer’s (kisaeng) daughter, was widely read as a satire aimed to expose the greed and snobbery of government officials.

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Development of Agriculture

The development of trade and manufacturing stimulated agricultural diversity.  Commercial farming of ginseng, hemp, tobacco and medicinal herbs was practiced in various parts of the country.  Improved agricultural techniques increased yields.  For example, transplantation of rice, which ad been common only in the fields of Cholla-do, Kyongsang-do and Kangwon-do provinces, now spread northward to the provinces of Ch’ungch’long-do, Kyonggi-do and Hwanghae-do.  This technique not only yielded more rice but allowed for the harvesting of two crops a year, barley and rice.

The improved ration between productivity and labor gave peasants the incentive to revolutionize agromanagerial procedures, since it ws possible for them to rise to wealth through managerial expansion.  The wealthy yangban and peasants gradually enlarged their farm lands by renting other land.  This drove the poor peasants elsewhere for employment in cities, mining and manufacturing.  Some became mountain recluses living by slash-and-burn agriculture practices.

The land-tax burden was shifted to the tenant farmers.  As in other decaying medieval societies, this sort of socioeconomic change drove the poor peasant further into poverty.  The well-to-do peasants, on the other hand, were able to purchase yangban titles which increased their prestige and power in the local community.

Rules were set for sale of titles, and there was a gradual rise in such sales as the government was often faced with a shortage of revenue.  Bondsmen were emancipated and often became owners of land and other bondsmen.  The increase of yangban from the 1690s to the 1850s was extraordinary.  In these years, the number in some sectors increased from 9.2 to 70.2 percent of the population, whereas the commoners, mostly peasants, decreased from 53.7 to 28.2 percent, and the bondsmen from 37.1 to 1.5 percent.  This upward mobility was a result of the exploitation of newly created wealth by a chronically deficit-ridden government.   The forging and purchase of genealogies conferring social recognition on members of the non-yangban class was prevalent in the 18th century.

There was, however, another side to the picture.  Some yangban actually descended to the status of commoner, and began to intermarry with peasants and other lower classes.  Government offices, unable to afford the support of bondsmen, gradually freed them in return for tribute or a lump-sum tax payment.  The number of office-owned bondsmen decreased from 190,000 in the 17th century to 27,000 in the mid-18th century.  Bondsmen privately owned by yangban numbered 400,000 in 1623, but decreased sharply in the course of social change, and many of the yangban could not afford to hold even a single bondsman.  Under such conditions some private bondsmen became part-tenant and part-free cultivators.  Finally in 1801, all bondsmen registers of government offices and palaces were destroyed by the government to assure their emancipation.

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Pragmatic Studies

The pragmatists’ urge to learn about Qing China in the late Choson period was propelled by the recognition that Korea’s well-being as a nation was in need of dramatic improvement.  Many scholars thus attempted to seek the solution to social problems by administrative reforms in land distribution and thus attempted to seek the solution to social problems by administrative reforms in land distribution and agricultural improvement, emphasizing limitation of landholding and application of egalitarian principles in land tenure.  Yi Ik proposed the creation of an open society by abolishing class distinctions and emancipating all bondsmen.  Pak Chi-won wrote stories ridiculing the idle, unproductive and pretentious way of life of the yangban.  For the social advancement of Choson, he advocated the improvement of agricultural equipment, irrigation systems and new cultivation techniques.  There were scholars like Pak Che-ga, Yi Tok-mu and Hong Tae-yong who recommended that Choson import Western techniques and participate in international trade along with Qing China.  They were the vanguard of a movement that was destined to destroy the traditional yangban attitude toward technology and commerce.

Even while absorbing Western culture and techniques by way of China, concern for Korea’s identity began to revive as Koreans began to study their own history, geography, language and epigraphy.  Painter departed from traditional China-oriented painting styles and began to paint the scenery and life of Choson.  An Chong-bok asserted an independent Korean line in Korea’s historiography by emphasizing Tan-gun and Kija and the first legitimate rules.  This reinterpretation can be seen as parallel to Chu Hsi’s legitimation by Shu Han of China’s San Guo (Three Kingdoms) period.  An’s contribution to the historiography of Korea was his emphasis on the role of the people who expelled foreign invaders.  He reprimanded the ruling classes for having mainly concerned themselves with how best to exploit the people.

His book Tongsa kangmok (Annotated Account of Korean History) made a lasting impression on such modern historians as Pak Un-shik and Shin Ch’ae-ho.  Han Ch’i-yun paid great attention to the kingdoms of Koguryo and Parhae, viewing the latter as an integral part of Korean history.  In the same vein, Yu Tuk-kong, another historian, wrote a monograph on Parhae (Parhaego).

Historical geography kept pace with other branches of historical study, and wood block cartography developed.  Chong Sang-gi’s ingenious scaling device stimulated Korean cartography.  Kim Chong-ho created a scale map of modern cartographic precision on the basis of his indefatigable travels throughout the peninsula.

Compilation of books increased in the 18th century.  Tongguk munhon-pigo (Reference Compilation of Documents on Korea) was supplemented; Taejon t’ongp’yon (Comprehensive National Code) and the Compendium of Korean Music were compiled, as were diplomatic archives.  King Chongjo (r. 1776-1800), himself a scholar, employed young scholars of mixed origin in his newly established Inner Royal Library for such projects.

For the economic publication of fine editions, moveable metal type was repeatedly cast, and the carving of wooden type continued.  The printing of fiction developed into a business enterprise in the late 18th and 19th centuries.

Korean typographical enterprise gave stimulus to developments in Qing China.  The famous Chinese encyclopedia Kuchin Tushu Chich’eng was printed for the first time with moveable copper type in 1772.  Ssuk’i Ch’uanshu, the great Chinese bibliography, was also printed with wooden type when a Korean Manchu, Chin Chien, suggested this economical method to the Ch’ien-lung Emperor.

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Emergence of Modern Culture

The most significant change in this period was the rise of a critical spirit and a new philosophical thinking, which made deep inroads into the traditional Confucian outlook.  The rise of popular novels and mass participation in cultural activities presaged the decline of traditional society.

In his popular novel, The Hong Kil-tong chon, Ho Jyun (1569-1618) advocated popular revolt against misrule.  His hero, Hong Kil-tong, like the virtuous outlaw Im Kkok-chong, was enraged by governmental corruption and rose up against it.  Ho Kyun realized that, if provoked, the lower classes, together with the peasant class, could become a powerful tool in the struggle for social justice.

Like the Renaissance philosophers, he made a bold departure from traditional norms and values, basing his morality on the true nature of man.  It was Ho Kyun’s conviction, eloquently expressed in his pioneering egalitarian novel, that every man was endowed with particular talents to survive, and ought not to be exploited by others.  He found the class-divided, traditional society abominable.

In the Ch’unhyangjon, an unknown author exposed the corrupt magistracy and the decaying yangban ethos.  Giving a happy ending to an interclass mating, he held out the promise of a brighter society characterized by equality and justice.  This popular novel was also dramatized in quasi-operatic style.

Yi Su-gwang (1563-1628), probably the earliest Korean thinker to have contact with Catholic and European culture, stressed the idea that knowledge is of no value unless itresults in action, just as enforcement is an essential part of the law.  His Chibong yusol (Topical Discourses of Chibong) published in 1614, is an encyclopedic effort similar in inspiration to the work of French encyclopedists.  It greatly expanded the knowledge available to Koreans about Europe and Southeast Asia, and explained the nature of Catholicism for the first time.

Pak Chi-won (1737-1805), a thinker comparable to Ho Kyun, declared that Heaven bestows unique talents on all men.  His  Tale of the Yangban describes a yangban who had done nothing but read while subsisting on government provender.  To reimburse the government, the yangban sold his status to a merchant, but the latter discarded it when he realized that the essence of yangban life was idleness, corruption and hypocrisy.  The discrediting of the traditional yangban values left a void that was keenly felt, and it was in response to this need that pragmatic philosophy developed.

Hong Tae-yong (1731-1783), in his scientific quest, declared that “nothing is substantial without a sincere mind.”  He saw in natural science the essence of all spiritual activities, and refuted the traditional Confucian concept that science and technology were marginal branches of knowledge.   The earth’s rotation, the cause of eclipses and the nature of the rainbow were included among his scientifically valid findings, and his work in mathematics was no less noteworthy.  He rated Western science and technology superior to anything Tang or Song civilization could offer, and advocated the pursuit of such learning for the advancement of society.

Remarkable scientific achievements were also made by Chong Yak-yong (Tasan, 1762-1836), who was also know for his deep concern for the peasants and people.  His construction plan for the Hwasong Fortress as Korea’s emergency capital included the use of his own applications: cranes, windlasses, pulleys and specially design vehicles.  Yi Kyu-gyong, another revolutionary thinker, also compiled works on various branches of natural science.  His collected work on astronomical and meteorological development in Korea was published in 1818.


Welfare Programs

The ideal of a Confucian welfare state during the Choson Dynasty was conceived and implemented by King Sejong in the 15th century, but it was Yi Su-Gwang who elaborated on the philosophy of welfare in the period following the Hideyoshi invasions.  He expounded the idea that the Way of Heaven was to be found among the people, and its noblest realization was to feed and clothe the people properly.

Pak Se-dang said he would go to the country and engage in manual labor, since Confucius endured labors more onerous than farming.  Since such men espoused egalitarian principles, their concerns were more and more centered upon public welfare programs.

Yi Ik stated that learning or knowledge should not be sought unless it as of benefit to the daily life of the people in general.  His sharp analysis of the causes of factionalism stemmed from a deep-seated concern for the welfare of the people.

Kim Yuk, who is known for his implementation of the Taedongpop, recommended the increased use of vehicles.  Hong Tae-yong and Pak Chi-won also saw increased vehicular traffic as promising great advantage for the national economy.  Pak made a far-sighted statement: “The ruler will be blamed by future generations for not having learned from pragmatic studies.”

Chong Yak-yong was outstanding among the scholars who analyzed the evils of society and made positive proposals for reform.  He advocated a system of land distributions based on egalitarian principles, and the placement of people in professions in accordance with their ability.

Exploitation continued, however, and distressed people sought salvation.  Catholicism met the needs of many, since its tenets accorded with the new egalitarian principles in addition to stressing salvation.

Some scholars converted to Catholicism, and others benefited from the scientific learning that accompanied the religion.  The number of Catholics in Korea gradually increased.

Since Catholicism was opposed both to Confucian ancestral rituals and to rigid social stratification, Catholics were termed criminals by the state.  Many of them, including prominent scholars such as Chong Yak-yong and his brothers, were punished or even executed.

Catholicism prospered secretly nonetheless, especially among artisans such as pottery makers. The negation of traditional values in a quest for salvation was an enigma to the Confucian-oriented yangban officials, and they resorted to various means of suppressing the alien faith.  It was evident that the men in power were far behind the people in their social and intellectual consciousness.

For the welfare of the people, medical jurisprudence was emphasized in order to ensure fair practice of medicine.  Other significant studies related to the welfare of the people included work on therapeutic practices based on the physical features of mankind.  Yi Che-ma (1838-1900) classified men into four different physical types and developed different physical types and developed different therapeutic treatments for each.

Equality, human dignity, opportunity, public welfare, and the advancement of the national economy were conspicuous principles in the philosophy that emerged in this period.  This development of the 17th-18th centuries is in some respects reminiscent of the Renaissance period of Western Europe.

In the literary scene, love stories were popular and sold well.  Since books printed from metal type were far too costly for commoners, popular demand was met by the use of the cheaper clay-carved plates, in addition to wood-type printing.  Anthologies of shijo poems by two intermediary class men were noteworthy.  Kim Ch’long-t’aek assembled 580 poems, from the Koryo period on, in his Ch’eonggu yong-on (Enduring Poetry of Korea), and Kim Su-jang (b. 1690) compiled a similar anthology entitled Haedong kayo (Songs of Korea).  Chong Ch’ool (Songgang, 1534-1593) and Yung Son-do (Kosan, 1587-1671) were talented yangban poets whose individual anthologies were also published.

Korea-centered painting also came into vogue.  Chong Son (Kyomjae, 1676-1759), unlike his predecessors, depicted the landscape of Korea, while Kim Hong-do and Shin Yun-bok concentrated on themes of the daily life of the masses.  White porcelain with underglaze blue-line drawings was produced in quantity to meet public demand.  Modern intellectuality dawned in all sector of 18th century Korea.




 Korea, South THE CHOSoN DYNASTY –

Statue of King Sejong (1418-50), Toksu Palace, Seoul
Courtesy Oren Hadar

At 518 years (1392-1910), the Choson Dynasty is the nation’s longest-lived. Its founder, Yi Song­gye, took the dynastic name Taejo (“Great Prog­enitor”), moved the capital to Hanyang (Seoul), and named the dynasty after the ancient Choson Kingdom. This ended the Koryo Dynasty Wang family’s rule and supplanted it with the Chonju branch of the Yi family. Referring to this family name, the Choson Dynasty is often mistakenly called the Yi Dynasty


Middle Joseon Dynasty

1402Kangnido, a Korean-made map of the world was created in 1402 by Kim Sa-hyeong (김사형, 金士衡), Yi Mu (이무, 李茂) and Yi Hoe (이회, 李撓). The map was created in the second year of the reign of Taejong of Joseon. The map was made by combining Chinese, Korean and Japanese maps.


The middle period of Joseon dynasty was marked by a series of intense and bloody power struggles between political factions that weakened the country and large-scale invasions by Japan and Manchu that nearly toppled the dynasty.

Factional struggle

Main article: Sarim

The Sarim faction, which suffered a series of political defeats during the reign of Yeonsangun, Jungjong, and Myeongjong gained control of the government in Seonjo‘s reign, but soon split into Western and Eastern factions, the Eastern faction in turn splitting into Northern and Southern factions. The Western faction also eventually split into Old Learning and New Learning factions. The alternations in power among these factions were often accompanied by charges of treason and bloody purges, initiating a cycle of revenge with each change of regime.


One example is Gichuk Treason Case of 1589 (기축옥사), in which Easterner Jeong Yeo-rip was accused of conspiracy to start rebellion. Jeong Yeo-rip had formed a society with group of supporters that also received military training to fight against the Japansese marauders. There is still a dispute about the nature and purpose of his group, which reflected desire for classless society and spread throughout Honam region. Jeong Cheol, head of the Western faction, was in charge of investigating the case and used this event to effect widespread purge of Easterners who had slightest connection with Jeong Yeo-rip. Eventually 1,000 Easterners were killed or exiled in the aftermath.


Early Japanese invasions

The Turtle ship. While the spikes are known to have been made of iron, the historical existence of the ironclad roof is disputed.[9][10][11]

Throughout Korean history, there were frequent pirates attacks on both the sea and land. The only purpose for the Koreans running a navy was to secure the maritime trade against the Wokou pirates. The Korean navy repelled the pirates by using an advanced form of gunpowder technologies (i.e. cannons, fire arrows in form of Singijeon deployed by Hwacha, etc.).

During the Japanese invasions of Korea (1592–1598), Japanese warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi, plotting the conquest of Ming China with Portuguese guns, invaded Korea with his daimyō and their troops in 1592 and 1597, intending to use Korea as a stepping stone. Factional division in the Joseon court, inability to assess Japanese military capability, and failed attempts at diplomacy led to poor preparation on Joseon’s part. The use of European firearms by the Japanese left most of the southern part of the Korean Peninsula occupied within months, with both Hanseong (present-day Seoul) and Pyongyang captured.

Rear view of the statue of Admiral Yi Sunsin at Busan Tower, in Busan, South Korea.

However the invasion was slowed down due to Admiral Yi Sun-shin destroying the Japanese invasion fleet. The guerrilla resistance that eventually formed also helped. Local resistance slowed down the Japanese advance and decisive naval victories by Admiral Yi Sun-sin left control over sea routes in Korean hands, severely hampering Japanese supply lines. Furthermore, Ming China intervened on the side of the Koreans, sending a large force in 1593 which pushed back the Japanese together with the Koreans.

During the war, Koreans developed powerful firearms and the Turtle ships (right before the war started however). The Joseon and Ming forces defeated the Japanese at a deep price. Following the war, relations between Korea and Japan had been completely suspended until 1609.


Manchu invasions

After the war, Korean peninsula was seriously devastated. Meanwhile Nurhaci (r. 1583–1626), the chieftain of the Jianzhou Jurchens, was unifying the Jurchen tribes of Manchuria into a strong coalition that his son Hung Taiji (r. 1626-–1643) would eventually rename the “Manchus.” After he declared Seven Grievances against the Ming dynasty in 1618, Nurhaci and the Ming engaged in several military conflicts. On such occasions, Nurhaci required help from King Gwanghaegun (r.1608–1623), putting Joseon in a difficult position because the Ming court was also requesting assistance.[12] The Joseon king tried to maintain neutrality, but most of his officials opposed him for not supporting the Ming, which had saved Joseon during Hideyoshi’s invasions.[12]

In 1623 King Gwanghaegun was deposed and replaced by King Injo (r. 1623–1649), who banished Gwanghaejun’s supporters. Reverting his predecessor’s foreign policy, the new king decided to support the Ming openly, but a rebellion led by military commander Yi Gwal erupted in 1624 and wrecked Joseon’s military defenses in the north.[12] Even after the rebellion had been suppressed, King Injo had to devote military forces to ensure the stability of the capital, leaving fewer soldiers to defend the northern borders.[12]

In 1627, a Jurchen army of 30,000 led by Nurhaci’s nephew Amin overran Joseon’s defense.[13] After a quick campaign that was assisted by northern yangban who had supported King Gwanghaegun, the Jurchens imposed a treaty that forced Joseon to accept “brotherly relations” with the Jurchen state.[14] Because King Injo persisted in his anti-Manchu policies, Qing emperor Hong Taiji sent a punitive expedition of 120,000 men to Joseon in 1636.[15] Defeated, King Injo was forced to end his relations with the Ming and recognize the Qing as suzerain instead.[16] Injo’s successor King Hyojong (r. 1649–1659) tried to form an army to chase the enemy away and save China from the Manchus, but could never act on his designs.[17]

Despite becoming a tributary state of the Qing dynasty, Joseon leaders and intellectuals remained resentful for conquest by the Manchus, whom they regarded as barbarians.[14] Long after submitting to the Qing, the Joseon court and many Korean intellectuals kept using Ming reign periods, as when a scholar marked 1861 as “the 234th year of Chongzhen.”[18]

Korea became increasingly isolationist. Its rulers sought to limit contact with foreign countries.

.[citation needed]


Joseon dynasty was a highly centralized monarchy and neo-Confucian bureaucracy as codified by Gyeongguk daejeon, a sort of Joseon constitution.

The king

The throne of the king of Joseon in Gyeongbokgung.

The king had absolute authority, but his actual power varied with political circumstances. He was bound by tradition, precedents set by earlier kings, Gyeongguk daejeon, and Confucian teachings. The king commanded absolute loyalty from his officials and subjects, but the officials were also expected to persuade the king to the right path if the latter was thought to be mistaken. The natural disasters were thought to be due to the king’s failings, and therefore, Joseon kings were very sensitive to their occurrences. When there was severe drought or a series of disasters, the king often formally sought criticism from both the officials and citizenry, and whatever they said or wrote were protected from prosecution in such cases (although there were few exceptions).

The officials

The government officials were ranked in 18 levels, ranging from first senior rank (정1품, 正一品) down to ninth junior rank (종9품, 從九品) based on seniority and promotion, which was achieved through the royal decree based on examination or recommendation. The officials from 1st senior rank to 3rd senior rank wore red robes while those from 3rd junior rank to 6th junior rank wore blue and those below wore green robes.[21]

Here a government official refers to one who occupied a type of office that gave its holder a yangban status – semi-hereditary nobility that was effective for three generations. In order to become such an official, one had to pass a series of gwageo examinations. There were three kinds of gwageo exams – literary, military, and miscellaneous, among which literary route was the most prestigious. (Many of key posts including all Censorate posts were open only to officials who advanced through literary exam.) In case of literary route, there was a series of four tests, all of which one had to pass in order to qualify to become an official. 33 candidates who were chosen in this manner took the final exam before the king for placement. The candidate with the highest score was appointed to a position of 6th junior rank (a jump of six ranks). Two candidates with the next two highest scores were appointed to a position of 7th junior rank. Seven candidates with next highest scores were assigned to 8th junior rank while the remaining 23 candidates were given 9th junior rank, the lowest of 18 ranks.

The officials of 1st senior rank, 1st junior rank, and 2nd senior rank were addressed with honorific “dae-gam” (대감, 大監) while those of 2nd junior rank and 3rd senior rank were addressed with honorific “yeong-gam” (영감, 令監).[22] These red-robed officials, collectively called “dangsanggwan” (당상관, 堂上官), took part in deciding government policies by attending cabinet meetings. The rest of ranked officials were called “danghagwan” (당하관, 堂下官).

Central government

State Council

Portrait of The Chief State Councillor, Chae Jegong (1720~1799).

State Council (Uijeongbu, 의정부, 議政府) was the highest deliberative body, whose power however declined over the course of dynasty. The Chief State Councillor (Yeonguijeong, 영의정, 領議政), Left State Councillor (Jwauijeong, 좌의정, 左議政), and Right State Councillor (Uuijeong, 우의정, 右議政) were the highest ranking officials in the government (All three were of 1st senior rank). They were assisted by Left Minister (Jwachanseong, 좌찬성, 左贊成) and Right Minister (Uichangseong, 우찬성, 右贊成), both of 1st junior rank, and seven lower ranking officials. The power of State Council was inversely proportional to the king’s power. There were periods when it directly controlled Six Ministires, the chief executive body of Joseon government, but it primarily served in advisory role under stronger kings. State councillors served in several other positions concurrently.

Six Ministries

Six Ministries (Yukjo, 육조, 六曹) make up the chief executive body. Each minister (Panseo, 판서, 判書) was of 2nd senior rank and was assisted by deputy minister (Champan, 참판, 參判), who was of 2nd junior rank. Ministry of Personnel was the most senior office of six ministries. As the influence of State Council waned over time, Minister of Personnel was often de facto head of ministers. Six ministries include in the order of seniority:

  • Ministry of Personnel (Ijo, 이조, 吏曹) – was primarily concerned with appointment of officials
  • Ministry of Taxaton (Hojo, 호조, 戶曹) – taxation, finances, census, agriculture, and land policies
  • Ministry of Rites (Yejo, 예조, 禮曺) – rituals, culture, diplomacy, gwageo exam
  • Ministry of Defence (Byeongjo, 병조, 兵曺) – military affairs
  • Ministry of Justice (Hyeongjo, 형조, 刑曺) – administration of law, slavery, punishments
  • Ministry of Works (Gongjo, 공조, 工曹) – industry, public works, manufacturing, mining

Three Offices

Three Offices, or Samsa (삼사), is a collective name for three offices that functioned as major organ of press and provided checks and balance on the king and the officials. While modeled after Chinese system, they played much more prominent roles in Joseon government than their Chinese counterparts. In their role as organ of press, they did not have actual authority to decide or implement policies, but had influential voice in the ensuing debate. The officials who served in these offices tended to be younger and of lower rank compared to other offices but had strong academic reputation and enjoyed special privileges and great prestige (For instance, censors were permitted to drink during working hours because of their function of criticizing the king). To be appointed, they went through more thorough review of character and family background. Three Offices provided the fastest route of promotion to high posts and was almost a requirement to becoming a State Councillor.

  • Office of Inspector General (Saheonbu·사헌부) – It monitored government administration and officials at each level in both central and local governments for corruption, malfeasance, or inefficiency. It was also in charge of advancing public morals and Confucian customs and redressing grievances of the populace. It was headed by Inspector General (Daesaheon·대사헌), a position of 2nd junior rank, who oversaw 30 largely independent officials.
  • Office of Censors (Saganwon·사간원) – Its chief function was to remonstrate with the king if there was wrong or improper action or policy. Important decrees of the king were first reviewed by censors, who could ask to withdraw them if judged improper. It also issued opinions about the general state of affairs. It was composed of five officials, led by Chief Censor (Daesagan·대사간), of 3rd senior rank.

While the primary focus for Office of Inspector General is the government officials and Office of Censors is focused on the king, two offices often performed each other’s functions, and there was much overlap. Together they were called “Yangsa,” (양사) which literally means “Both Offices,” and often worked jointly especially when they sought to reverse the king’s decision.

  • Office of Special Advisors (Hongmungwan·홍문관 弘文館) – It oversaw the royal library and served as research institute to study Confucian philosophy and answer the king’s questions. Its officials took part in the daily lessons called gyeongyeon (경연), in which they discussed history and Confucian philosophy with the king. Since these discussions often led to commentary on current political issues, its officials had significant influence as advisors. It was headed by Chief Scholar (Daejehak·대제학), a part-time post of 2nd senior rank that served concurrently in another high post (such as in State Council), and Deputy Chief Scholar (Bujehak·부제학), a full-time post of 3rd senior rank that actually ran the office. There was great prestige attached to being Chief Scholar in this deeply Confucian society. (The office was established to replace Hall of Worthies (Jiphyeonjeon·집현전) after the latter was abolished by King Sejo in the aftermath of Six martyred ministers.)

[edit] Other Offices

The major offices include the following:

  • Royal Secretariat (Seungjeongwon·승정원) served as a liaison between the king and Six Ministries. There were six royal secretaries (승지), one for each ministry, and all were of 3rd senior rank. Their primary role was to pass down royal decree to the ministries and submit petitions from the officials and the populace to the king, but they also advised the king and served in other key positions close to the king. In particular Chief Royal Secretary (도승지), a liaison to Ministry of Personnel, served the king in the closest proximity of all government official and often enjoyed great power that was derived from the king’s favor. Hong Guk-yeong (during Jeongjo‘s reign) and Han Myeong-hwe (during Sejo) are some examples of chief royal secretaries who were the most powerful official of their time.
  • Capital Bureau (Hanseungbu·한성부) was in charge of running the capital, Hanyang or present-day Seoul. It was led by Paanyoon(판윤), of 2nd senior second rank equivalent to today’s mayor of Seoul.
  • Royal Investigation Bureau (Uigeumbu·의금부) was an investigative and enforcement organ under direct control of the king. It chiefly dealt with treason and other serious cases that concerned the king and royal family and served to arrest, investigate, imprison, and carry out sentences against the suspected offenders, who were often government officials.
  • Office of Records (Chunchugwan·춘추관) – Its officials wrote, compiled, and maintained the government and historical records. It was headed by State Councillors, and many posts were held by officials serving in other offices concurrently. There were eight historiographers whose sole function was to record the meetings for history.
  • Seonggyungwan or Royal Academy (성균관) – Royal university served to prepare the future government officials. Those who passed first two stages of gwageo examinations (literary exam) were admitted to Seonggyungwan. The class size was usually 200 students, who lived in the residential hall and followed strict routine and school rules. (The tuition, room and board were provided by the government.) It also served as the state shrine for Confucian and Korean Confucian sages. The students’ opinions on government policies, especially collective statements and demonstrations, could be influential as they represented fresh and uncorrupted consesus of young scholars. The official in charge was Daesaseong (대사성), of 3rd senior rank, and 36 other officials including those from other offices were involved in running the academy.

 Local government

The officials of high rank were sent from the central government. Sometimes a secret royal inspector (Amhaeng-eosa·암행어사) was appointed by the king to travel incognito and monitor the provincial officials. These undercover inspectors were generally young officials of lower rank but was invested with the royal authority to dismiss corrupt officials.

  • Provinces (Do·도) – There were eight province, each of which was governed by Governor (Gwanchalsa·관찰사), a position of 2nd junior rank.
  • Bu(부) – administrative offices in charge of major cities in provinces. Each bu was led by Buyoon (부윤), which was equivalent to Governor in rank.
  • Mok (목) – There were twenty moks, which governed large counties named ‘ju'(주). They were run by Moksa (목사), of 3rd senior rank.
  • County (Gun·군) – There were eighty counties in Joseon, each governed by Gunsu (군수), a 4th junior rank.
  • Hyeon (현) – Large hyeons were governed by Hyeongryeong (현령) of 5th junior rank while smaller hyeons were governed by Hyeonggam (현감) of 6th junior rank.

Administrative divisions

During most of the Joseon Dynasty, Korea was divided into eight provinces (do; 도; 道). The eight provinces’ boundaries remained unchanged for almost five centuries from 1413 to 1895, and formed a geographic paradigm that is still reflected today in the Korean Peninsula’s administrative divisions, dialects, and regional distinctions. The names of all eight provinces are still preserved today, in one form or another.


Social and population structure

The population of Joseon Korea is controversial. Government records of households are considered unreliable in this period.[23] One recent estimate[by whom?] gives 6 million at the start of the dynasty in 1392, growing irregularly to a peak of as many as 18 million by about 1750. Between 1810 and 1850, the population declined approximately 10% and remained stable.[24] By the early 20th century, at the close of the Joseon Dynasty, the average life expectancy for Korean males was 24 and for females 26 years.[25]

Joseon Korea installed a centralised administrative system[when?] controlled by Confucian scholars who were called Yangban. By the end of the 18th century, the yangban had acquired most of the traits of a hereditary nobility except that the status was based on a unique mixture of family position, gwageo examinations for Confucian learning, and a civil service system. The family of a yangban who did not succeed to become a government official for the third generation lost their yangban status and became commoners. For most part, the only way to become a government official was to pass a series of gwageo exams (One had to pass “lesser gwageo” exam (소과) in both of two stages to qualify for greater gwageo exam, which again one had to pass in both of two stages to become a government official.) The yangban and the king, in an uneasy balance, controlled the central government and military institutions. The proportion of yangban may have reached as high as 30% by 1800, although there was considerable local variation.[26] As the government was small, a great many yangban were local gentry of high social status, but not always of high income.[27]

Another 30-40% of the population were slaves (nobi), “low borns” (cheonmin) or untouchable outcastes (baekjeong). Slavery was hereditary, as well as a form of legal punishment. There was a slave class with both government- and privately owned slaves, and the government occasionally gave slaves to citizens of higher rank. Privately owned slaves could be inherited as personal property. During poor harvests, many sangmin people would voluntarily become slaves in order to survive.[citation needed] During the Joseon Dynasty about 30% to 40% of the Korean population consisted of slaves.[28][29][30] However, Joseon slaves could, and often did, own property.[31] Private slaves could buy their freedom.

A Joseon painting which represents the Chungin (literally “middle people”), equivalent to the petite bourgeoisie.

Many of the remaining 40-50% of the population were surely farmers,[32] but recent work has raised important issues about the size of other groups: merchants and traders, local government or quasi-governmental clerks (Chungin), craftsmen and laborers, textile workers, etc.[33] Given the size of the population, it may be that a typical person had more than one role. Most farming was, at any rate, commercial, not subsistence.[34] In addition to generating additional income, a certain amount of occupational dexterity may have been required to avoid the worst effects of an often heavy and corrupt tax system.[35]

During the Late Joseon, the Confucian ideals of propriety and “filial piety” gradually came to be equated with a strict observance to a complex social hierarchy, with many fine gradations. By the early 18th century the social critic Yi Junghwan (1690–1756) sarcastically complained that “[W]ith so many different ranks and grades separating people from one another, people tend not to have a very large circle of friends.”[36] But, even as Yi wrote, the informal social distinctions of the Early Joseon were being reinforced by legal discrimination, such as Sumptuary law[37] regulating the dress of different social groups, and laws restricting inheritance and property ownership by women.[38]


Yet, these laws may have been announced precisely because social mobility was increasing, particularly during the prosperous century beginning about 1710.[39] The original social hierarchy of the Joseon Dynasty was developed based on the social hierarchy of the Goryeo era. In the 14th–16th centuries, this hierarchy was strict and stable. Since economic opportunities to change status were limited, no law was needed.

In the late 17–19th centuries, however, new commercial groups emerged, and the old class system was extremely weakened. Especially, the population of Daegu region’s Yangban class was expected to reach nearly 70 percent in 1858.[40]


King  Jeong Jo


(info from my  korean friend)

 *Han Hyo Joo as DongYi / Choi suk bin      11—49 years old.

*Han Hyo Joo as DongYi / Choi suk bin

Born on 1670 (11 th year of King Hyunjong) Later, Mother of King Yeongjo.

King  Jeong Jo

She was honored as Sukbin which is located third level in Chosun lady’s hierarchy system. She is very bright, smart and witty. Not only smart but also warm heart, she cannot pass poor person freely. After her father and brother was executed bitterly, she became a orphan. As police officer Mr. Seo Yongki chase her continuously, she hide herself in Jangakwon, which is music academy, with the help of Suli. With her born familiarity and wit, she is chosen as a helper in palace from the slave position. Behind her, there is Cha Chunsoo, who gave her a love in spite of all kind of sacrifice. He is best friend of her brother, Dongju.

Later, surprisingly, she was picked up by Sukjong to sleep with. Then, discord against queen Chang Heebin, then, return of queen Inhyun, giving birth to a prince, Yeonanggun. Love from Sukjong, trouble with queen Inhyun. Education of prince Yeonanggun, whose position was always in danger. Within the difficulty which concubine would face and her son’s royalty to her, her life faced incredible turning point.   

 *Ji Jin Hee as King Sukjong      24-60 years old.

Ji Jinhee as King Sukjong (1661-1720)

The 19th king of Chosun dynasty (1661—1720) His- childhood- time name was Soon. He was absolute monarch of Chosun. He recovered the authority of king which had dropped before. Though he became a king when just 14 years old, with the powerful leadership and wide knowledge, he succeeded and ruled experienced old his subjects. To recover royalty of king which had dropped through 2 times war, he eliminated Song Siyul who was the biggest scholar in Chosun. With the powerful leadership and gut, he controlled his subjects and used the power game among his subjects. Though he was scareful king to his subjects, he is delicate and smart. That means, he was smart and fantastic king to the numerous concubine. He met Dongyi first time during palace festival, then, he was impressed by her warmth and smartness.

In 1801,

 Government-owned slaves were all emancipated, and the institution gradually died out over the next century.[41] The institution was completely abolished as part of a social plan in the Gabo Reform of 1894.



The Joseon Dynasty presided over two periods of great cultural growth, during which Joseon culture created the first Korean tea ceremony, Korean gardens, and extensive historic works. The royal dynasty also built several fortresses, palaces.


Male dress of a Confucian scholar. A portrait painted by Yi Je gwan (1783-1837)

In Joseon Dynasty, jeogori of women’s hanbok became gradually tightened and shortened. In the 16th century, jeogori was baggy and reached below the waist, but by the end of Joseon Dynasty in the 19th century, jeogori was shortened to the point that it did not cover the breasts, so another piece of cloth (heoritti) was used to cover them. At the end of 19th century, Daewon-gun introduced Magoja, a Manchu-style jacket, to Korea, which is often worn with hanbok to this day.

Chima was full-skirted and jeogori was short and tight in the late Joseon period. Fullness in the skirt was emphasized round the hips. Many undergarments were worn underneath chima such as darisokgot, soksokgot, dansokgot, and gojengi to achieve a desired silhouette. Because jeogori was so short it became natural to expose heoritti or heorimari which functioned like a corset. The white linen cloth exposed under jeogori in the picture is heoritti.

The upper classes wore hanbok of closely woven ramie cloth or other high-grade lightweight materials in warm weather and of plain and patterned silks the rest of the year. Commoners were restricted by law as well as resources to cotton at best. The upper classes wore a variety of colors, though bright colors were generally worn by children and girls and subdued colors by middle-aged men and women. Commoners were restricted by law to everyday clothes of white, but for special occasions they wore dull shades of pale pink, light green, gray, and charcoal. Formally, when Korean men went outdoors, they were required to wear overcoats known as durumagi which reach the knees.

[edit] Painting

A late Joseon painting. It shows some influences of the Western painting techniques introduced to Joseon.

The Mid-Joseon dynasty painting styles moved towards increased realism. A national painting style of landscapes called “true view” began – moving from the traditional Chinese style of idealized general landscapes to particular locations exactly rendered. While not photographic, the style was academic enough to become established and supported as a standardized style in Korean painting.

The mid to late Joseon dynasty is considered the golden age of Korean painting. It coincides with the shock of the collapse of Ming dynasty links with the Manchu emperors accession in China, and the forcing of Korean artists to build new artistic models based on an inner search for particular Korean subjects. At this time China ceased to have pre-eminent influence, Korean art took its own course, and became increasingly distinctive to the traditional Chinese painting.

[edit] Architecture

Geunjeongjeon (Throne Hall)

The history of Joseon architecture would be described in three periods of the early, the middle, and the late period, in accordance with the cultural and architectural development. In the early period, the architecture developed as a succession from the cultural inheritance of the previous dynasty with the new political guiding principles of Confucianism that took the place of Buddhism.

Through the influence of Confucianism, a refined aristocratic taste of the previous era was replaced by the characteristics of unsophisticated, simple and humble beauty with the qualities of commonness and steadiness. The intercolumnar bracket set system was used in building the most important edifice on the premises. The columnar bracket set system and the eclectic bracket system, which consists of architectural elements from both columnar and intercolumnar systems, were also used for temples and other important buildings. In the period of the Joseon dynasty, Korean architecture developed further with a unique will to manifest the expression of the ideas and values of the period.

The bracket cluster system, structurally and visually important elements of the buildings, were developed to follow structural function and to express the unique formal beauty of Korean architecture. Architectural ornaments and their symbolic connotation had more variety and richness. Architects of the period intended to express a strong will to form an indigenous style in architecture, and tried to use decorative elements of all kinds. This achieved a kind of symphonic quality with the methods of architectural organization by strong contrast of light and dark, of simplicity and complexity, and then finally reached the definite climax of architectural ingenuity. This tendency of architectural expression of the later period might remind us somewhat similar impressions of the Western Baroque and Rococo style.


The Annals of the Joseon Dynasty (also known as The True Record of the Joseon Dynasty) are the annual records of the Joseon Dynasty, which were kept from 1413 to 1865. The annals, or sillok, comprise 1,893 volumes and are thought to cover the longest continual period of a single dynasty in the world. With the exception of two sillok compiled during the colonial era, the Annals are the 151st national treasure of Korea and listed in UNESCO‘s Memory of the World registry.

Main article: Uigwe

Uigwe is a collection of royal protocols of the Joseon Dynasty, which records and prescribes through text and stylized illustration the important ceremonies and rites of the royal family.


[edit] Science and technology

Korean celestial globe first made by the scientist Jang Yeong-sil during the reign of King Sejong.

The Joseon Dynasty under the reign of Sejong the Great was Korea’s greatest period of scientific advancement. Under Sejong’s new policy Cheonmin (low-status) people such as Jang Yeong-sil were allowed to work for the government. When Jang was very young he built machines to help make work easier, and supervised the building of aqueducts and canals. Jang eventually was allowed to live at the royal palace, where he led a group of scientists to work on advancing Korea’s science.[citation needed]

Some of his inventions were an automated (self-striking) water clock (the Jagyeokru) which worked by activating motions of wooden figures to indicate time visually (invented in 1434 by Jang), a subsequent more complicated water-clock with additional astronomical devices, and an improved model of the previous metal movable printing type created in the Goryeo Dynasty. The new model was of even higher quality and was twice as fast. Other inventions were the sight glass, and the udometer.

Also during the Joseon Dynasty Heo Jun, a court physician, wrote a number of medical texts, his most significant achievement being Dongeui Bogam, which is often noted as the defining text of Traditional Korean medicine. The work spread to China and Japan, where it is still regarded as one of the classics of Oriental medicine today.

The highpoint of Korean astronomy was during the Joseon period, where men such as Jang created devices such as celestial globes which indicated the positions of the sun, moon, and the stars.[42] Later celestial globes (Gyupyo, 규표) were attuned to the seasonal variations.



The apex of astronomical and calendarial advances under King Sejong was the Chiljeongsan, which compiled computations of the courses of the seven heavenly objects (five visible planets, the sun, and moon), developed in 1442. This work made it possible for scientists to calculate and accurately predict all the major heavenly phenomena, such as solar eclipses and other stellar movements.[43] Honcheonsigye is an astronomical clock created by Song I-yeong in 1669. The clock has an armillary sphere with a diameter of 40 cm. The sphere is activated by a working clock mechanism, showing the position of celestial objects at any given time

The first soft ballistic vest, Myunjebaegab, was invented in Joseon Korea in the 1860s shortly after the French campaign against Korea. Heungseon Daewongun ordered development of bullet-proof armor because of increasing threats from Western armies. Kim Gi-du and Gang Yun found that cotton could protect against bullets if thick enough, and devised bullet-proof vests made of 30 layers of cotton. The vests were used in battle during the United States expedition to Korea, when the US Navy attacked Ganghwa Island in 1871. The US Army captured one of the vests and took it to the US, where it was stored at the Smithsonian Museum until 2007. The vest has since been sent back to Korea and is currently on display to the public.



During the Goryeo Dynasty, Korea had a healthy trade relationship with the Arabians, Japanese, Chinese, and Manchurians. An example of prosperous, international trade port is Pyongnam. Koreans offered brocades, jewelries, ginseng, silk, and porcelain, renowned famous worldwide. But, during the Joseon Dynasty, Confucianism was adopted as the national philosophy, and, in process of eliminating certain Buddhist beliefs, Goryeo Cheongja porcelains were replaced by white Baekja, which lost favour of the Chinese and the Arabians. Also, commerce became more restricted during this time in order to promote agriculture. In addition to this, constant Chinese request for tribute pushed the Korean policy of ceasing to produce various luxury item elements (i.e. gold, silver), and importing only the necessary amounts from Japan.[citation needed] Because silver was used as currency in China, it played an important role in Korea-China trade.



 Titles and Styles during Joseon Kingdom

King -1

  • Great Predecessor King (seondaewang, 선대왕, 先大王) or Great King (daewang, 대왕, 大王) used to reference a late monarch.
  • Queen Dowager (daebi, 대비, 大妃), the consort of the deceased King (perhaps the mother of the current king), with the style of Her Royal Highness (mama, 마마, 媽媽). Queens dowager often exercised a great deal of influence on the king’s influence through their regencies, which took place when the king was too young to rule in his own name, or simply through their role as the mother or even a senior female relative of the monarch.
  • Royal Queen Dowager (wangdaebi, 왕대비, 王大妃), a former consort preceding a least senior queen dowager or current king’s aunt or grandmother, with the style of Her Royal Highness (mama, 마마, 媽媽).
  • Grand Royal Queen Dowager (daewangdaebi, 대왕대비, 大王大妃), a former consort senior to two other queen dowagers or the current king’s great-grandmother, with the style of Her Royal Highness (mama, 마마, 媽媽).
  • Grand Internal Prince (daewongun, 대원군, 大院君), the father of a king who was unable to take the throne himself as he was not part of the generation following that of the last incumbent of the throne (kings who are honored at the royal Jongmyo Shrine must be senior generation-wise to the current incumbent of the throne). There have been cases when Grand Internal Prince acted as regent for his son, the last person to do so having been the Regent Heungseon.
  • Grand Internal Princess Consort (budaebuin, 부대부인, 府大夫人), the mother of a king whose father himself never reigned.
  • Internal Prince (buwongun, 부원군, 府院君), the queen consort’s father.
  • Internal Princess Consort (bubuin, 부부인, 府夫人), the queen consort’s mother.

 King -1/2

  • King Former (sangwang, 상왕, 上王), a yet living king who has voluntarily abdicated to the current king. They usually remained influential or even powerful through the remaining years of their lives. The style of His Majesty (jeonha, 전하, 殿下) or, less frequently but yet still quite common, His Royal Highness (mama, 마마, 媽媽) was used.
  • Grand King Former (taesangwang, 태상왕, 太上王), an abdicated king whose relinquishment of power precedes that of another former king. The style of His Majesty (jeonha, 전하, 殿下) or, less frequently but yet still quite common, His Royal Highness (mama, 마마, 媽媽) was used.


  • King (wang, 왕, 王), the king, with the style of His Majesty (jeonha, 전하, 殿下) or, not as correct but yet still quite common, His Royal Highness (mama, 마마, 媽媽). Before the style of “jeonha” were used a variety of titles for the king. Native names such as “naratnim” (나랏님) and “imgeum” (임금) were also used colloquially. For foreign envoys the title used was State King (gugwang, 국왕, 國王); and for those in the court who needed to mention the king outside his presence, and thus more formality was required in addressing the monarch, the title was Current King (geum-sang, 금상, 今上),Sovereign (jusang, 주상 , 主上 or sanggam, 상감 , 上監), or Grand Palace (daejeon, 대전, 大殿). The style remained the same for all titles with the exception of queens dowager and the relatively few kings who abdicated, who simply addressed or mentioned the king without using his style.
  • Queen consort (wangbi, 왕비, 王妃), the queen consort, with the style of Her Royal Highness (mama, 마마, 媽媽). The title used in the court language was Center Palace (junggungjeon, 중궁전, 中宮殿 or jungjeon, 중전 , 中殿). Queens consort that remained married to the king until their death were generally given a title consisting of two Hanja in the front and the customary suffix Queen (wanghu, 왕후, 王后) in the back.

King +1/2

  • Royal Prince Successor Brother (wangseje, 왕세제, 王世弟), the younger brother of the king who has been formally invested as heir apparent when the king has no offspring. King +1
  • Prince Royal (wonja, 원자, 元子), the firstborn son of the king before being formally invested as heir apparent, with the style of His Royal Highness (mama, 마마, 媽媽). Generally, princes royal were the son who was born first between the king and his official wife, but there were exceptions when the title of Prince Royal was given to the firstborn son of the king through a concubine, the most notable case having occurred in the reign of King Sukjong.
  • Grand Prince (daegun, 대군, 大君), a prince born to the official match between the king and queen with the style of His Young Highness (agissi, 아기씨) before marriage and the style His Excellency (daegam, 대감, 大監) afterward. The title of a grand prince is not inherited and his sons are generally referred to as mere princes.
  • Grand Princess Consort (bubuin, 부부인, 府夫人), the consort of a grand prince.
  • Princess (gongju, 공주, 公主), the daughter of the official match between the king and his official wife, with the style of Her Young Highness (agissi, 아기씨) before marriage and Her Excellency (jaga, 자가) afterward.
  • Prince (gun, 군, 君), a son born to the match between the king and a concubine or a descendant of a grand prince. The style used is His Young Highness (agissi, 아기씨) before marriage and the style His Excellency (daegam, 대감, 大監) afterward.
  • Princess Consort (gunbuin, 군부인, 郡夫人), the consort of a prince.
  • Princess (ongju, 옹주, 翁主), the daughter of the king and one of his concubines, with the style of Her Young Highness (agissi, 아기씨) before marriage and Her Excellency (jaga, 자가) afterward.
  • Royal Prince Successor (wangseja, 왕세자, 王世子) the invested heir apparent to the throne, with the simplified title Prince Successor (seja, 세자, 世子) being frequently used instead of the full name with the style of His Royal Highness (jeoha, 저하, 邸下). Most of the time, he was the eldest son of the current king. In less formal but still official court language, the title Eastern Palace (donggung, 동궁, 東宮) or Spring Palace (chungung, 춘궁, 春宮) and the style His Royal Highness (mama, 마마, 媽媽) was used intermittently with “Prince Successor,” although the style was frequently dropped by more senior members of the royal family.
  • Royal Princess Successor Consort (wangsaejabin, 왕세자빈, 王世子嬪), the consort of the heir apparent, or simply Princess Successor Consort (saejabin, 세자빈, 世子嬪), with the style of Her Royal Consort Highness (manora, 마노라 or manura, 마누라).

Later, as the distinction between “Her Royal Highness” and “Her Royal Consort Highness” became unclear due to the influence of the Andong Kim clan, the style Her Royal Highness (mama, 마마, 媽媽) also came to apply to the consort of the heir apparent. The style ~ Royal Highness also came to apply to grand princes, princes, and princess as well for the same reason.

 King +2

  • Royal Prince Successor Descendant (wangseson, 왕세손, 王世孫), the son of the prince successor and the princess successor consort, and the grandson of the king, with the style of His Highness (hap-a, 합하, 閤下).

Titles and Styles during the Korean Empire

  • Hwangje (皇帝 황제), the emperor, with the style of His Imperial Majesty (陛下 폐하 pyeha)
  • Hwanghu (皇后 황후), the empress (consort), with the style of Her Imperial Majesty
  • Hwangtaehu (皇太后 황태후), the empress dowager
  • Taehwangtaehu (太皇太后 태황태후), the empress dowager, current Emperor’s living grandmother
  • Hwangtaeja (皇太子 황태자), the crown prince of the Empire, the eldest son of the emperor, with the style of His Imperial Highness (殿下 전하 jeonha)
  • Hwangtaeja-bi (皇太子妃 황태자비), the crown princess (consort) of Empire, with the style of Her Imperial Highness
  • Chinwang (親王 친왕), the prince (imperial), son of Emperor, with the style of His Imperial Highness
  • Chinwangbi (親王妃 친왕비), the princess (imperial) (consort), with the style of Her Imperial Highness
  • Gongju (公主 공주), the princess of the Empire, the daughter of the emperor and his empress consort, with the style of Her Imperial Highness
  • Ongju (翁主 옹주), the princess of the Empire, the daughter of emperor and one of his concubines, with the style of Her Imperial Highness






 Nu Shi Yun Bing (active 1670-1710)


The population growth kept pace as well, increasing by almost two million in the 48 years from 1669-1717.




Jeong Yakyong (丁若鏞, 정약용, 1762–1836) was a Chosun late era philosopher, and is known perhaps better by one of his many pen names Dasan (茶山, 다산, “tea mountain”) . He is of the Naju Jeong clan. Jeong Yakyong passed the civil service examination in 1783. He was a philosopher in the Neo-Confucian movement of Pragmatic Learning (實學, 실학, Silhak), which wanted to reform Neo-Confucianism and return it to its early Confucian roots. Many in this movement became interested in Catholicism, as they rightly viewed Neo-Confucianism as lacking spiritualism. Along with many members of his family, Jeong Yakyong converted to Catholicism and took on the baptism name “John,” or in Korean Yowang (요왕). However, during the Catholic Persecutions of 1801, in which one his brothers was martyred, he renounced the Holy Faith but was nevertheless banished for having participated. Catholicism nevertheless had an effect on his philosophy. The following poem was probably written during his exile.

구우 久雨

The Long Rain

窮居罕人事 궁거한인사
恒日廢衣冠 항일폐의관
敗屋香娘墜 패옥향낭추
荒畦腐婢殘 황휴부비잔
睡因多病減 수인다병감
愁賴著書寬 수뢰저서관
久雨何須苦 구우하수고
晴時也自歎 청시야자탄

Living in destitute, [only] a few times I greeted others.
Everyday, I wore not my attire and hat.
In the dilapidated house, my fragrant wife has fallen.
In the ruined fields, my rotten maid has died.
Slumber reduces many illnesses.
Writing books makes light anxieties.
Why should the long rain be [this] distressing?
Even [1] when [the sky] clears, I will [still] be lamenting.


  1. 也 (야, ya) here means “also.” This seems to be a modern usage of that character.


  • 罕 (한, han) – to be rare (드물다).
  • 畦 (흉, hyung) – farm field.


the end @ copyright dr iwan suwandy 2011

The Korea Historic Collections Part Three Choson 1800-1900

The Choson Historic Coillections 1800-1900


Created By

Dr Iwan Suwandy,MHA

Private Limited Edition In CRD-ROM


Part One Taejo- Choson 1342-1700

Part two Choson 1700-1800

Part Three 1800-1910



 Korea, South THE CHOSoN DYNASTY –

Statue of King Sejong (1418-50), Toksu Palace, Seoul
Courtesy Oren Hadar

At 518 years (1392-1910), the Choson Dynasty is the nation’s longest-lived. Its founder, Yi Song­gye, took the dynastic name Taejo (“Great Prog­enitor”), moved the capital to Hanyang (Seoul), and named the dynasty after the ancient ChosOn Kingdom. This ended the Koryo Dynasty Wang family’s rule and supplanted it with the Chonju branch of the Yi family. Referring to this family name, the Choson Dynasty is often mistakenly called the Yi Dynasty


The Koryo Dynasty had suffered from a number of internal problems; Yi and his followers implemented drastic reforms to place the new dynasty on firmer ground. One of these problems revolved around the deterioration of land administration, a basic issue in a predominantly agrarian society. Contrary to the law specifying public (governmental) ownership of land, powerful clans and Buddhist temples had acquired a sizable proportion of farmland. By exacting a disproportionate share of crops in the form of rents, the “landlords” were causing economic destitution and social discontent among the peasants. By illicitly removing the farms from tax rolls, these clans and temples reduced the government’s income, thus straining the treasury. Yi had sided with reformists even before he took power, hence it was natural for him to rectify past inequities after ascending to the throne.

The reform of the land system, however, had direct repercussions on the practice of Buddhism, because Buddhist temples and monks had been among those exacerbating the land problem. The economic influence of the temples was eliminated when they lost vast lands. The rectification went beyond economic reform, however, because the dominant forces in the new dynasty were devout Confucianists who regarded Buddhism as a false creed. The fact that Buddhist monks had wielded a strong influence in politics, the economy, and society during the latter part of the Koryo Dynasty–and that many of them had been corrupted by power and money–strengthened the opposition to Buddhism. Accordingly, the new dynasty launched a sweeping attack on Buddhism and its institutions, an attack that had profound and enduring effects on the character of civilization on the peninsula.

north korea 1800

Many of the outstanding temples were permitted to remain intact; indeed, a few Choson monarchs were devout Buddhists. Nevertheless, Buddhism exerted little influence over the religious life of Korea under the Choson Dynasty; nor did any organized religion replace it. Although many people adhered to shamanism, geomancy, fortunetelling, and superstitions, Korea effectively became a secular society.

Jar, porcelain decorated in underglaze copper red, Choson dynasty. 18th century.

The Choson Dynasty had an auspicious beginning. During the reign of the fourth monarch, King Sejong (1418-50), a Buddhist, enormous strides were made in the arts, science, and technology. The Korean script, known as han’gul(see Glossary), which eventually came into common usage in the twentieth century, was developed by scholars at that time.

After Sejong, however, the dynasty fell into the hands of lesser men, and in the late fifteenth century the country began a long decline. Succession to the throne often caused long and bitter struggles, particularly when a ruler did not leave behind an heir who had reached the age of majority. Members of the Confucian-educated, scholar-official elite yangban(see Glossary) class quarreled over minor points of Confucian ritual and etiquette, especially the proper period of mourning upon the death of a royal personage. Factional groups began vying for power, frequently going to the extreme of exterminating the members of defeated factions. The civil service examination became a sham, and corruption ran rampant. Royal relatives and members of powerful factions increased their landholdings, which became exempt from taxes and thereby reduced the dynasty’s sources of revenue. The farmers suffered more and more from tax burdens and other extractions imposed by greedy officials and landlords. In short, the country was not being effectively governed. To make matters worse, Japanese attacks in 1592 and 1597 and Manchu assaults in 1627 and 1636 ravaged the country’s economy and turned much of the farmland to waste for a long period thereafter.

The resulting social and economic depression of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries fostered the rise of a new intellectual movement advocating the practical use of human knowledge. Pioneered by a Confucian scholar named Yi Su-kwang, the new thought–soon to be called Sirhak (practical learning)–was partly inspired by the firsthand knowledge of occidental sciences that Yi Su-kwang had acquired while on official visits to Beijing. As historian Ki-baik Lee has noted, Sirhak thought encompassed a variety of intellectual activities and several diverse viewpoints. These included proposals for refinement of the traditional administrative and land systems, advocacy of commercial and manufacturing activity, and a renewed interest in Korean history and language. Brought to maturity in the late eighteenth century by Chong Yag-yong, the Sirhak Movement was supported by a group of discontented scholars, petty officials, former bureaucrats, and commoners.

The Sirhak Movement found itself in direct confrontation with the dominant trend in neo-Confucian thought, which stressed the metaphysical and abstract teachings of the renowned Chinese philosopher Zhu Xi (see Traditional Social Structure, ch. 2). Neither the efforts of such wise and able kings as Yongjo (1725-75) and Chongjo (1776-1800), nor those of the Sirhak scholars, were able to reverse the trend against empirical studies and good government.

Western ideas, including Christianity, reached Korea through China in the seventeenth century. By 1785, however, the government had become incensed over the rejection of ancestor worship by Roman Catholic missionaries, and it banned all forms of Western learnin


Archive for the ‘Yi Gahwan (李家煥 이가환)’ Category

Yi Gahwan (李家煥, 이가환, 1742-1801) was a scholar and Chosun government official. He is of the Yeoju Yi clan (驪州李氏, 여주이씨); his courtesy name was Jeongjo (廷藻, 정조, “Water chestnut of the court”); and his pen names were Geumdae (錦帶, 금대, “Silk belt”) and Jeongheon (貞軒, 정헌, “loyal veranda”). In 1771, he passed the civil entrance exams and served on various posts. He was of the Southerners’ faction (南人, 남인) and a member of the Neo-Confucian School of Pragmatic Thought, or Silhak (實學, 실학). Yi Gahwan was also skilled in astronomy and mathematics. He was introduced to Catholicism by Yi Byeok, and studied the new thought with Yi Seunghun, Jeong Yakyong, and Gweon Cheolshin. He was involved in secretly inviting Chinese Catholic priest Ju Munmo (周文謨, 주문모). Yi Gahwan died in prison during the Persecutions of 1801 (辛酉迫害, 신유박해, Shin’yu Bakhae). The following poems (two truncated verses)  are about a pavilion (pictured above) on the Daedong River, which flows through Pyongyang.

練光亭次鄭知常韻 연광정차정지상운

The Yeon’gwang Pavilion Borrows the Tones [1] of Jeong Jisang [2]

江樓四月已無花 강루사월이무화
簾幕薰風燕子斜 렴막훈풍연자사
一色碧波連碧草 일색벽파연벽초
不知別恨在誰家 부지별한재수가

By the river and the pavilion, in April, already does not have flowers.
Upon the hanging bamboo curtains, in the warm breeze, the swallows [fly] crooked.
One color, the blueness of the waves connect with the blueness of the grass [3].
I do not know which house has the grief of separation.

仁聖遺祠歲月多 인성유사세월다
朝天舊石是悲歌 조천구석시비가
大同門外長江水 대동문외장강수
不見迴波見逝波 불견회파견서파

At the Shrine of Benevolent Sage [4], the years and months are many.
Upon the Old Rock of the Morning Sky [5] – this sorrowful song.
Outside the Gate of Grand Union [6], distant are the waters of the river.
I do not see the returning waves; [although] I see the departing waves.


  1. 次韻 (차운, Cha’un) – A technique used among Classical Chinese poets in which one poet takes another poet’s poem and changes some or all of the characters with other characters that are homophones or have similar or contrasting meanings.
  2. 鄭知常 (정지상, Jeong Jisang, ?-1135) – A minister and poet during the Goryeo dynasty.
  3. The colors “green” and “blue” are often called “blue” by Koreans.
  4. 仁聖遺祠 (인성유사, Inseong’yusa) – I think this is a name of a shrine. I cannot find any references of it online.
  5. 朝天舊石 (조천구석,  Jocheon’guseok) – Another reference to a geographic location.
  6. 大同門 (대동문, Daedongmun) – A gate in Pyeongyang.
  • 簾 (렴, ryeom) – bamboo curtain.
  • 薰 (훈, hun) – to be fragrant; or gently blow.
  • 燕 (연, yeon) – swallows.


– The first one baptished featured below is by Yi Seunghun (李承薰, 이승훈, 1756




Figure 12 Rank badge, embroidered silk. Choson dynasty;
19th century.



Western ships began to approach Korean shores after 1801, seeking trade and other contacts, but the government rejected all overtures from abroad. When news of the Opium War in China (1839-42) reached Korea, the dynasty had all the more reason to shut the doors tightly against Western “barbarians.” III.1870-1900


In the meantime, the Choson Dynasty suffered from a series of natural calamities including floods, famines, and epidemics, as well as large-scale revolts of the masses in the northwest (1811-12) and southwest (1862 and 1894-95).

The expansion of Western powers in East Asia in the nineteenth century significantly altered the established order, in which Korea had been dominated by China. China under the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) was in decline; its power waned rapidly under the concerted attacks of such Western nations as France, Britain, and Russia.

1800 – 1822 –

Joseon-do – Ulleungdo (朝鮮圖 – 鬱陵島)

The map below is from the atlas “Joseon-do” (朝鮮圖), which is stored in the Osaka Nakanoshima Library (中之島圖書館). It is believed to have been made sometime in the early 1800s.
One of the interesting things about the map is that it shows Ulleungdo (鬱陵島 – 울릉도) with a neighboring island labeled as “Usan” (于山 – 우산). Some Korean historians claim that Usando (于山島 – 우산도) was the old Korean name for “Dokdo” (Liancourt Rocks), but this map and many, many others show that Usando was just a neighboring island of Ulleungdo.
The fact that Usando was drawn just off Ulleungdo’s east shore strongly suggests that it was present-day Jukdo (竹島), which is Ulleungdo’s largest neighboring island and only about two kilometers off Ulleungdo’s east shore.

Notice that the above map of Ulleungdo is very similar to the following map of Ulleungdo in the Dongyeodo (東輿圖) atlas, which is stored in the University of Tsukuba Library (筑波大學附屬圖書館) in Japan. The Dongyeodo is believed to have been made sometime between 1795 and 1800.
Compare the above maps with the following satellite photo of Ulleungdo’s northeast shore. Notice that the location and shape of the small island offshore in the satellite photo is similar to that of the island labeled as “Usan” (于山) on the above maps. The small island offshore in the satellite photo is Ulleungdo’s neighboring island of Jukdo (竹島), which is about two kilometers offshore.




2. New Trends in Cultural Activities


(1) New Directions in Scholarly Activities

During the Choson period, scholarly works were based on the study of Songrihak or Neo-Confucianism. Scholars in metaphysics professed that only metaphysics was correct and dismissed other learnings. They dismissed not only Buddhism, but the philosophy of Wang Yang-ming which was one current in Confucianism, and concentrated on metaphysics alone. As a result, while it is true that metaphysics developed in Choson and obtained deeper roots, it is also true that by placing too much of a bias on the metaphysical theory alone, an atmosphere encouraging the free development of scholarly activities was not present.

In spite of the fact that the country’s social and economic problems were greatly affected by the damage of the two wars of Waeran and Horan and the livelihoods of the people greatly endangered, metaphysics, which concerned itself with philosophical questions, could not provide the answers to these difficult realities.

At this juncture, there arose a new movement in scholarly learning. To rectify the misaligned metaphysical and Yangban-centered reality and to set new directions for the country which would aid the livelihood of the people, new thinking called “Practical Learning” emerged.


(2) The Origin and Development of Practical Learning


The harbingers of Practical Learning were Han Paek-kyom and Yi Su-kwang; however, the actual leaders of Practical Learning who brought its ideas to fruit as a new thought were Yu Hyong-won and Yi Ik. They did not take positions as government officials, but made efforts in rural communities to nurture disciples in order to create opportunities for the development of this movement. Yu Hyong-won wrote the Pan’gye surok and Yi Ik was the author of Songho sasol, which was written in an encyclopedia form.

In the early 17th and 18th centuries, scholars of Practical Learning dealt mainly with the problems in rural areas, and from the latter 18th century to the early 19th century, scholars dealt with researching economic, technological, and social problems. Furthermore, around the 19th century, these scholars led efforts to build the axes of Han’gukhak (Koreanology) with studies in history, geography, languages, and epigraphy. This branch of Practical Learning led the scholarly world at this time.

So Yu-gu discussed problems in agriculture and showed the way to achieving stability in the livelihoods of the people. Hong Tae-yong, Pak Chi-won and Pak Che-ga insisted that agricultural and commercial industries should be regarded as important, and for that purpose Choson must open its posts to China, import technology and simultaneously increase trade activities.

Chong Yag-yong propagated structural reforms and a theory of industrial restoration based on these two positions. His scholarly activities contributed to the understanding of science, medicine, religion and Confucianism. There was not any field which was left untouched by his scholarly work. He wrote 500 volumes of books including the Mogmin simso, Humhum shinso and Kyongse yup’yo and achieved a synthesis of Practical Learning.


(3) Developments in Kukhak (national learning) and the Significance of Practical Learning


Scholars of the school of “on-the-spot survey” which was one of the trends in Practical Learning believed that people must achieve an academic understanding of the realities and culture of their country. They strove to conduct academic research concerning the country.

Yi Chong-hwi, Yu Tuk-kong, Han Ch’i-yun, and An Chong-bok studied history, and Sin Kyong-chun, Yi Chung-hwan, Kim Chong-ho studied geography. Chong Sang-ki and Kim Chong-ho drew maps of Korea, but Kim Chong-ho is particularly well known for the creation of a map known as the “Taedong yojido” which was made through actual field studies and had a variety of practical uses.


Taedong yojido : Dating back to 1861, it is the oldest detailed map of Korea

Many scholars also studied Korea’s language. The works of Sin Kyongchun and Yu Hui are famous. Springing from an interest in history, Kim Chong-hwi concentrated on studying the epigraphs on stone monuments. As the sphere of cultural activities expanded and scholarly interest in each of the fields increased, many encyclopedia-like books appeared.

Yi Ik’s Songho sasol, Yi Tok-mu’s Ch’ongchanggwan chonso, So Yuku’s Imwon kyongje-chi, Yi Kyu-kyong’s Oju yonmun changjon san’go and the palace-authorized Tongguk munhon pigo are representative examples of such works. Ch’oe Han-ki, during the reign of Honjong, was a scholar comparable to Chong Yag-yong who wrote hundreds of books on the subjects of government, geography, science, medicine, and mathematics.

Through the scholarly activities of these scholars throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, many measures concerning government administration and improvements in the welfare of the people were presented. The activities of field studies also greatly contributed to national development. These scholarly activities displayed an awareness of approaching modern times and a national consciousness, but were still not completely rid of the influence of metaphysics. In addition, because scholars were not in positions to influence policy making, their advancements didn’t affect the actual lives of the people.


(4) Developments in Science and Technology


As the sphere of cultural activities expanded, various industrial activities became active and developments in science and technology and medicine occurred. In addition, Western technology and medicine were partially accepted.

Books based on studies of agricultural technologies were reprinted. Among them were: Sin Sok’s Nongga chipsong, a technical guide to paddy farming; Pak Se-dang’s Saekkyong, a guide to fruit farming, tree planting, livestock farming, floriculture, irrigation and weather; and So Yu-ku’s Imwon kyongje-chi, a book dealing with agriculture, forestry, livestock farming, sericulture, food processing, food preservation, clothing, eating, and housing. In addition, Haedong nongso came out as a book which systematized the agricultural sciences of Korea on the basis of such theories of agricultural technologies and management.


A 1801 report stating the completion of Suwon Castle
Crane : created by Chong Yag-yong
(1752-1836), it’s mechanism is based on the theory of the pinwheel.


“Ssirum” or Korean-style wrestling and “Dancing Boy” by Kim Hong-to (1745~after 1814)

Chong Yak-chon, a pragmatist who went to the island of Huksan to study marine products, researched 155 varieties of fish which he collected and catalogued into a book, Chasan obo.

Many new theories also developed in the fields of astronomy and divination, which are closely related to agriculture. Yi Su-kwang introduced new theories based on his observations of solar and lunar eclipses, tides and other natural phenomena. Kim Sok-mun and Hong Tae-yong advocated a theory of heliocentricity and criticized the traditional geocentric world view.

Kim Yuk introduced the Western calendar from China and put it to use. It is a well-known fact that Chong Yag-yong designed a crane based on a book he read which was imported from China. This crane was used in the construction of Suwon Castle.

In traditional Chinese medicine, achievements were also made with regard to its theory and treatment methods. As basic Chinese medical texts, Ho Chun’s Tongui pogam and the Ch’imgu kyonghombang (a book on acupuncture) are famous and influencial even today. Research on the measles were carried out early on and Chong Yag-yong compiled many books on the subject in order to publish the Makwa hoet’ong. He even experimented with vaccinations.


(5) Growth in the Activities of Popular Culture


“inwang chesekdo : Clear Skies over Mount Inwang.”
by Chong Son(1751)

As industrial activities advanced and the welfare of the people improved with changes in the social status system, the population expressed interest in educational and cultural activities. As their knowledge gradually grew, people displayed creative talents in literature and the arts. Although there were some Sodangs (village schools for the learning of Chinese classics) in the early period of Choson, in the latter period, there was hardly a single village which did not have its own Sodang which was run and maintained by the local population. Sodangs were the institutions of primary education which taught Confucianism and history.

P’ansoris and other songs indigenous to Korea appeared. These accurately reflected the cultural tastes of the people and contained lyrics from novels and folktales. In addition, the Ch’ang-guk developed, a type of operatic theater which the general population greatly enjoyed, and the mask theaters which made fun of the Yangbans were very popular since they expressed the sentiments of the people.

Within the women’s society, traditional social activities were frowned upon. So, some ladies, who were learned, composed novels and short poems for songs in Han’gul.


(6) New Movements in Literature


“inwang chesekdo : Clear Skies over Mount Inwang.”
by Chong Son(1751)

Illustrious Yangban officials exerted most of their energy studying Chinese literature. In opposition to the Yangban’s interest in Chinese Literature, the pragmatists believed that the origins of Confucianism must be rediscovered. Thus, a movement to restudy the classics arose. There also appeared a new movement to use colloquial and everyday language and throw away the old conventions. Pak Chi-won’s Yolha Diary is a work which was written in this new style.

In the late 18th century, the middle class and illegitimate sons of Yangbans engaged in literary activities in order to raise their social status. They revealed the historical origins of the middle class, composed biographies of representative personages, and published anthologies of poems and songs. The Kyusa (History of the Sun Flower) and Ihyang Kyonmullok (Experiences in Foreign Countries) are representative of such biographies and the Ch’onggu yong’on, Haedong kayo and Haedong yuchu are anthologies of poems and songs.

The most conspicuous features of literary activities during the latter period of Choson are the appearance of works which display a popular consciousness and have been written to meet popular tastes. Examples are narratives, novels and the pansoris.

Tales such as the Taedong yasung and T’aep’yong kwanggi were composed. Among novels, Pak Chi-won’s Hosaeng-jon and Hojilmun (Tiger’s Reprimand) as well as works by Yangbanjon were written in Chinese characters. But Ho Kyun’s Hong Kil-tong-jon, Kim Man-chung’s Kuunmong (Dream in Nine clouds) and Sassi namjonggi (Southern Expedition), Changhwa hongnyon-jon (Rose and the Red Lotus), K’ongjwi P’atjwi-jon, Sim Ch’ong-jon, Hungbu-jon, Sukhyang-jon and Ch’unhyang-jon were written in Han’gul and read widely by women and common men. Pansoris were especially favored during the latter period of Choson. Ch’unhyang-ga, Chokbyok-ga, Simch’ong-ga, T’okki t’aryong (Song of the Hare) are the most popular pansoris. The man who became famous for the creation and arrangement of many Pansoris is Sin Chae-hyo.


(7) New Trends in Art Activities


In painting, a new trend arose. Korean landscapes in true life form were drawn. This genre of painting of peculiar customs of everyday life was in vogue and tales which were made popular by the common people laid the groundwork for such paintings.

The pioneers of true life landscape paintings were Chong Son and Sim Sa-hong of Hwawon. Kim Hong-to and Sin Yun-bok of Hwawon are also famous as genre painters depicting the lives of the people in the farming villages and cities. Kim Tuk-sin and Kim Sok-sin, two brothers, were also genre painters who possessed similar styles of painting.

Among civilian scholars, there were many who displayed outstanding talents in drawing. Among them, Kang Se-hwang, Sin Wi and Kim Chong-hui were particularly well known. There were also changes in the Yangban culture of calligraphy. Calligraphers of the past were not able to break away from the influence of Chinese calligraphers, but Kim Chong-hui succeeded in developing a peculiar style of calligraphy known as Ch’usa.


“Orchids” by Kim Chong-hui (1786~1857). Hanging scroll, ink or paper.
A 16th century white porcelain vase with a pinetree, deer, crane, and clouds, all symbols of longevity.


In the latter period of Choson, white porcelain was chiefly developed. Originally, white porcelain was forbidden to the common people, but in the latter period of Choson, white porcelain was freely sold, and even the common people were able to buy and utilize it. Among wares made in white porcelain, landscapes, flowers and grass were drawn on Ch’onghwa paekcha. They were used as jars, flower vases and water bottles. Among wooden goods, stationery cases, cabinets, tables, and small dining tables were the chief items used in everyday life.

Among the architectual works of the latter period of Choson, the most representative with its beautiful and solid structure is the castle of Suwon. Others which still remain today are the Maitreya Palace in the Kumsansa Temple, Taeung-jon in the Sogwangsa Temple, Kakhwang-jon of the Hwaomsa Temple and P’alsang-jon in the Popchusa Temple.


The Maitreya Hall at Kumsansa Temple is the only in Korea with a triple stories roof.
P’alsangjon, Popchusa Temple : built during the Shilla Dynasty under King Chinhung,
reconstructed in 1626.
Suwon castle, Suwon city, Kyonggi province. Built from 1794 to 1796, the castle has been designated Historic Site No. 3.


Peasant Wars of 1812 and 1862

During this period, drought and floods alternately struck the country, causing a succession of bad harvests, which in turn generated a grim cycle of famine.  Excessive tax collection and forced labor ensued.  These adverse natural and social conditions ignited a series of agrarian revolts.  In 1812, Hong Kyong-nae rose up in revolt with the peasants at Kasan, in the northern part of Korea, and held power in that district for some months.  Frightened government officials dispatched the army, and only after waging a hard campaign were they able to suppress the revolt.  In the south, all the way to Chejudo island, as well as in the north, peasants persevered in their struggle against oppression at the hands of the government, the local nobility and the wealthy landlords.

Half a century after Hong Kyong-nae’s well-organized fight, the situation had not improved.  A group of farmers in Chinju, Kyongsang-do province, rebelled against their oppressive overlords, the provincial officials and the wealthy landowners.  THis uprising of 1862 is directly attributable to the exploitation of destitute farmers by Paek Nak-shin, a newly appointed military commander who had jurisdiction over the western half of Kyongsang-do province.

Yu Kye-ch’un, an intellectual native to the district who was outraged by Paek Nak-shin’s rapacious conduct, led the farmers to riot, denouncing corrupt minor officials and wealthy landlords.  The rebels killed local government functionaries, set fire to government buildings and wrought considerable destruction.  The startled Hanyang government hurriedly sent an investigator to the scene.  On the basis of its findings of fraudulent practices by the local officials concerned, the government hastily revised the land, military and grain lending systems in an effort to eliminate such abuses.  From the outset, however, it was unrealistic to expect the ruling class in the central government, which was itself deeply involved in such frauds, to make radical changes.  But at least a superficial attempt at reform was made.

The agrarian revolt in Chinju served as a signal for similar uprisings elsewhere.  In Kyongsang-do, Cholla-do and Ch’ungch’nong-do provinces, on faraway Chejudo island and in Hamgyong-do and P’yong-an-do provinces in the north, groups of farmers rose up, attacking offices in principal towns and routing officials.

Under such social conditions, Ch’oe Che-u (1824-1864) formulated the ideology of Tonghak (Eastern Learning) in order to rescue the farmers from prevalent poverty and unrest, and to restore political and social stability.  His ideas rapidly gained acceptance and he set his doctrines to music so that farmers would understand and accept them more readily.  His teachings were systematized and compiled as a message of salvation to farmers in distress.  The songs he sang were a mixture of traditional elements from Confucianism, Buddhism and Son-gyo (teachings of Shilla’s Hwarang), and to these he added modern humanistic ideas.  Exclusionism was another characteristic of his religion, which incorporated an early form of nationalism and rejected alien thought.







 Document chest, wood covered with black lacquer, inlaid with mother-of-pearl; Tobacco box, iron inlaid with silver; Tobacco box, green soapstone. Choson dynasty, 19th century. .

 the Korean object, an iron helmet decorated with silver inlay, FOUND  in 1878, it was originally documented as Japanese. Such mis-attribution was a recurring feature in the early acquisitions history for Korea.

 the increase of Westerners travelling or living in Korea and returning with objects . Thomas Watters (1840-1901), the son of a clergyman from County Down, Ireland, resided in Seoul as Acting Consul General after having held the position of British Consul in China.  a substantial collection of Korean objects as well as Chinese artifacts. These included a black lacquer document chest (mun’gap) which would have graced the male quarters of a Korean house during the late Choson period (1392- 1910) (). The top of the chest is ornately decorated with mother-of-pearl inlay featuring deer, cranes, pine and bamboo motifs symbolizing longevity, while the sliding doors bear a complex geometric pattern. Tobacco boxes made from green soapstone and iron inlaid with silver, popular souvenirs often brought back from Korea by Western travellers during this period, .


Emperor Gojong

Gojong and the Korean Empire


      Wanchinwang     Prince
      Euichinwang     Yi Bang
            Yi Chang
            Yi Ju
            Yi Gon
            Yi Gwang
            Yi Hyun     30th
Yi Won
            Yi Gap     Yi Sangwoo
            Yi Seuk (Hwangson)
            Yi Hwan
            Yi Jung
Eumin taeja
Yi Gu (1931)

War, Chosun was finally free and no longer was a vassal state of China.

the Great Korean Empire (大韓帝國, 대한제국).

For the first time since the Goryeo dynasty’s subjugation to the Mongols, Korea was able to take titles reserved for China and its Emperor. Thus, to usher a new era, King Gojong assumed the title “Emperor” and changed the name of Chosun to the Great Korean Empire (大韓帝國, 대한제국).

 He attempted to put Korea on par with the imperial Western nations and Japan, and introduced reforms by opening port and bringing in both Westerners and the Japanese. Unfortunately, it was too little, too late.

The Japanese, with their aspirations to have a foothold on the Asian mainland, interfered in internal Korean politics and forced Emperor Gojong to abdicted  After the defeat to  the Qing dynasty in the First Sino-Japanese


Emperor Gojong – Enjoying Spring

 a poem by Emperor Gojong (高宗光武帝, 고종광무제, r. 1863-1907, 1852-1919), the second to last monarch of the last dynasty.

賞春 상춘Enjoying Spring

花間看蝶舞 화간간접무
柳上聽鶯聲 유상청앵성
群生皆自樂 군생개자락
最是愛民情 최시애민정

flower-between-to see-butterfly-to dance
group-life-all-by themselves-joy
first-to be-love-people-condition

Between the flowers, I spotted a butterfly dancing.
Above the willows, I hearken the nightingale’s singing.
All sorts of life are all together by themselves enjoyable.
The first of these is to esteem the conditions of [Our country’s] people.


  • 蝶 (접, jeop) – butterfly (나비).
  • 鶯 (앵, aeng) – nightingale (앵무새).


Stimulated by these events, Japan proceeded to modernize after having been forced to open its ports by Commodore Matthew C. Perry of the United States Navy in 1853-54. Korea, however, remained dormant, having closed itself to all outside contacts in the early eighteenth century.



 Late Joseon period

Heungseon Daewongun

After invasions from Manchuria, Joseon experienced a nearly 200-year period of peace. King Yeongjo and King Jeongjo led a renaissance of the Joseon dynasty. King Sukjong and his son King Yeongjo tried to solve the problems caused by faction politics. Tangpyeong’s policy was to effectively freeze the parties’ disputes.

Yeongjo’s grandson, King Jeongjo enacted various reforms throughout his reign, notably establishing Kyujanggak, a royal library in order to improve the cultural and political position of Joseon and to recruit gifted officers to run the nation. King Jeongjo also spearheaded bold social initiatives, opening government positions to those who would previously have been barred because of their social status. King Jeongjo had the support of the many Silhak scholars, who supported his regal power. King Jeongjo’s reign also saw the further growth and development of Joseon’s popular culture.

In 1863

King Gojong took the throne. His father, Regent Heungseon Daewongun, ruled for him until Gojong reached adulthood. During the mid 1860s the Regent was the main proponent of isolationism and the instrument of the persecution of native and foreign Catholics, a policy that led directly to the French Campaign against Korea, 1866. The early years of his rule also witnessed a large effort to restore the largely dilapidated Gyeongbok Palace, the seat of royal authority. During Heungseon Daewongun‘s reign, factional politics and power wielded by the Andong Kim clan completely disappeared.

 In 1871,

 U.S. and Korean forces clashed in a U.S. attempt at “gunboat diplomacy” following on the General Sherman incident of 1866.

In 1873,

 King Gojong announced his assumption of royal rule. With the subsequent retirement of Heungseon Daewongun, the future Queen Min (later called Empress Myeongseong) gained complete control over her court, placing her family in high court positions.



Empress Myeongseong.

Deokhye, Princess of Korea


Princess Deokhye
Spouse Count Sō Takeyuki
Countess Sō Masae
Father Gojong of Korea
Mother Lady Bongnyeong
Born 25 May 1912(1912-05-25)
Changdeok Palace, Seoul
Died 21 April 1989(1989-04-21) (aged 76)
Sugang Hall, Changdeok Palace, Republic of Korea
Burial Hongryureung, Namyangju, Republic of Korea
Deokhye, Princess of Korea
Hangul 덕혜옹주
Hanja 德惠翁主
Revised Romanization Deokhye Ongju
McCune–Reischauer Tŏkhye Ongju

Princess Deokhye of Korea (25 May 1912 – 21 April 1989) was the last Princess of Korea.

She was born on 25 May 1912 at Changdeok Palace in Seoul. She was the youngest daughter of Emperor Gwangmu and his concubine, Lady Bongnyeong. In 1917, her name was formally entered into the Imperial Family’s registry. Her father, Emperor Gwangmu, loved her greatly, and established the Deoksu Palace Kindergarten for her in Jeukjodang, Hamnyeong hall. Girls her age from noble families attended the kindergarten. In 1919, she was secretly engaged to Kim Jang-han, a nephew of Kim Hwangjin (a court chamberlain).

In 1925, she was taken to Japan under the pretense of continuing her studies. Like her brothers, she attended the Gakushuin. She was described as silent and isolative. Upon the news of her mother’s death in 1929, she isolated herself in her rooms and was eventually given permission to visit Korea temporarily to attend her mother’s funeral in 1930. In the Spring of 1930, upon the onset of mental illness (manifested by sleepwalking), she moved to King Lee’s Palace, her brother Crown Prince Eun‘s house in Tokyo. During this period, she often forgot to eat and drink. Her physician diagnosed her illness as precocious dementia, but by the following year, her condition seemed to have improved.

In May 1931, after “matchmaking” by Empress Teimei, the consort of Emperor Taishō of Japan, she married Count Sō Takeyuki (武志), {1923-1985} a Japanese nobleman. The marriage had in fact been decided in 1930; her brother had protested against it, and it had been postphoned because of her condition, but when she recovered, she was immediately given instructions that the marriage was to take place. She gave birth to a daughter, Masae (正惠) on 14 August 1932. In 1933, Deokhye was again afflicted with mental illness, and after this, she spent many years in various mental clinics. She finally divorced her husband in 1953. Suffering an unhappy marriage, her grief was compounded by the loss of her only daughter who committed suicide by drowning in 1955. After this, her condition deteriorated.

She returned to Korea at the invitation of the Korean government on 26 January 1962. She cried while approaching her motherland, and despite her mental state, accurately remembered the court manners. She lived in Nakseon Hall, Changdeok Palace, with Crown Prince and Princess Eun, their son Prince Gu, his wife Julia Mullock, and Mrs Byeon Bokdong, her lady-in-waiting. She died on 21 April 1989 at Sugang Hall, Changdeok Palace, and was buried at Hongryureung in Namyangju, near Seoul.

Japan, after the Meiji Restoration, acquired Western military technology, and forced Joseon to sign the Treaty of Ganghwa in 1876, opening three ports to trade and granting the Japanese extraterritoriality. Port Hamilton was occupied by the British Navy in 1885.

Many Koreans despised Japanese and foreign influences over their land and the corrupt oppressive rule of the Joseon Dynasty. In 1894, the Donghak Peasant Revolution saw farmers rise up in a mass rebellion, with peasant leader Jeon Bong-jun defeating the forces of local ruler Jo Byong-gap at the battle of Go-bu on January 11, 1894; after the battle, Jo’s properties were handed out to the peasants. By May, the peasant army had reached Jeonju, and the Joseon government asked the Qing Dynasty government for assistance in ending the revolt. The Qing sent 3,000 troops and the rebels negotiated a truce, but the Japanese considered the Qing presence a threat and sent in 8,000 troops of their own, seizing the Royal Palace in Seoul and installing a pro-Japanese government on 8 June 1894. This soon escalated into the First Sino-Japanese War (1894–1895) between Japan and Qing China, fought largely in Korea.

Empress Myeongseong[19] had attempted to counter Japanese interference in Korea and was considering turning to Russia or China for support. In 1895, Empress Myeongseong (referred to as “Queen Min”[19]) was assassinated by Japanese agents.[20][20] The Japanese minister to Korea, Miura Goro, orchestrated the plot against her. A group of Japanese agents along with the Hullyeondae Army[20] entered the Royal Palace in Seoul, which was under Japanese control,[20] and Empress Myeongseong was killed and her body desecrated in the North wing of the palace.

The Qing acknowledged defeat in the Treaty of Shimonoseki (17 April 1895), which officially guaranteed Korea’s independence from China. It was a step toward Japan gaining regional hegemony in Korea.


The Joseon court, pressured by encroachment from larger powers, felt the need to reinforce national integrity and declared the Korean Empire in 1897. Emperor Gojong assumed the title of Emperor in order to assert Korea’s independence. In addition, other foreign powers were sought for military technology, especially Russia, to fend off the Japanese.


Wongudan, Seoul


 An altar site in Seoul built in 1897 as a location for the performance of the rite of heaven

reinstated with the founding of the Korean Empire in 1897

Wongudan, Seoul A 1925 photo of Wongudan, an altar site in Seoul built in 1897 as a location for the performance of the rite of heaven. King Seongjong of the Goryeo Dynasty was the first to perform the rite, designed to ensure a bountiful harvest, in the tenth century. The practice was discontinued by later Goryeo kings, revived briefly in the mid fifteenth century by Sejo of the Joseon Dynasty, then reinstated with the founding of the Korean Empire in 1897. Much of the altar complex was destroyed during the Japanese occupation, and the gate and fountain seen here were also subsequently removed, leaving only the three-storey Hwangungu pagoda remaining


 Technically, 1897 marks the end of the Joseon period, as the official name of the empire was changed; however the Joseon Dynasty would still reign, albeit perturbed by Japan and Russia.


In 1863, Prince Yi Ha-ung, better known as the Taewon-gun or Prince Regent, put into effect a series of sweeping reforms encompassing national finance and government administration in order to strengthen the royal authority.  He strongly opposed the increasing infiltration of foreign commercial interests into the country.  In the spring of 1866, the government ordered the rigorous persecution of Catholics.  Aroused by this measure, the French fleet sailed up the Han-gang river and hostilities broke out on Kanghwado island.

Economic and social developments drove the majority of yangban to bankruptcy, while the peasants and merchants were eager to throw off the traditional social constraints.  As these trends developed, the government devised measures to suppress them.  Another impetus to social dynamism was the increase in offspring of the yangban and mothers of lower origin.

Although the emancipation of bondsmen resulted in an increase in the number of taxable people, the exploitation of farmers by the ruling class caused the state’s tax revenues to decline



A Korean street, late 1800’s. A Korean street, late 1800s


The Japanese were the first foreign power in recent history to succeed in penetrating Korea’s isolation. After a warlike Japanese provocation against Korea in 1875 (when China failed to come to Korea’s aid), the Japanese forced an unequal treaty on Korea in February 1876. The treaty gave Japanese nationals extraterritorial rights and opened up three Korean ports to Japanese trade. In retaliation, China sought to counter Japan by extending Korea’s external relations and playing off one Western power against another. Accordingly, Korea signed treaties with the United States, Britain, Italy, Russia, and other countries were signed within the decade after the one with Japan.

Internally, the Korean court split into rival pro-Chinese, pro-Japanese, and pro-Russian factions, the latter two having more reformist and modernizing orientations. In 1895 the Japanese minister to Korea masterminded the assassination of the Korean queen, who with her clan had opposed reform-oriented, Japanese-supported leaders. The Korean king, however, rejected not only Japan but also the various reform measures and turned for support to one of Japan’s adversaries–Russia. The king fled to the Russian legation in Seoul to avoid possible Japanese plots against him and conducted the nation’s business from there. The Japanese blunder had served the Russians well.

In the meantime, under the leadership of So Chae-p’il, who had exiled himself to the United States after participating in an unsuccessful palace coup in 1884, a massive campaign was launched to advocate Korean independence from foreign influence and controls. As well as supporting Korean independence, So also advocated reform in Korea’s politics and customs in line with Western practices. Upon his return to Korea in 1896, So published Tongnip simmun (The Independent), the first newspaper to use the han’gul writing system and the vernacular language, which attracted an ever-growing audience (see The Korean Language, ch. 2). He also organized the Independence Club to introduce Korea’s elite to Western ideas and practices. Under his impetus and the influence of education provided by Protestant mission schools, hundreds of young men held mass meetings on the streets and plazas demanding democratic reforms and an end to Russian and Japanese domination. But the conservative forces proved to be too deeply entrenched for the progressive reformers who trashed the paper’s offices. The reformers, including Syngman Rhee, then a student leader, were jailed. So was compelled to return to the United States in 1898, and under one pretext or another the government suppressed both the reform movement and its newspaper.

The revolt of 1894-95, known as the Tonghak Rebellion, had international repercussions. Like the Taiping rebels in China thirty years earlier, the Tonghak(see Glossary) participants were fired by religious fervor as well as by indignation about the corrupt and oppressive government. The rebellion spread from the southwest to the central region of the peninsula, menacing Seoul. The Korean court apparently felt unable to cope with the rebels and invited China to send troops to quell the rebellion. This move gave Japan a pretext to dispatch troops to Korea. The two countries soon engaged in the First Sino-Japanese War (1894-95), which accelerated the demise of the Qing Dynasty in China.

The victorious Japanese established their hegemony over Korea via the Treaty of Shimonoseki (1895) and dictated to the Korean government a wide-ranging series of measures to prevent further domestic disturbances. In response, the government promulgated various reforms, including the abolition of class distinctions, the liberation of slaves, the abolition of the ritualistic civil service examination system, and the adoption of a new tax system.

Russian influence had been on the rise in East Asia, in direct conflict with the Japanese desire for expansion. In alliance with France and Germany, Russia had just forced Japan to return the Liaodong Peninsula to China (which Japan had seized during the First Sino-Japanese War) and then promptly leased the territory from China. The secret Sino-Russian treaty signed in 1896 also gave the Russians the right to build and operate the Chinese Eastern Railway across northern Manchuria, which served as a link in the Russian Trans-Siberian Railway to Vladivostok. Russia proceeded to acquire numerous concessions over Korea’s forests and mines.

The strategic rivalry between Russia and Japan exploded in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-5, won by Japan. Under the peace treaty signed in September 1905, Russia acknowledged Japan’s “paramount political, military, and economic interest” in Korea. A separate agreement signed in secret between the United States and Japan at this time subsequently aroused anti-American sentiment among Koreans. The Taft-Katsura Agreement was cynical by modern standards, exchanging what amounted to a lack of interest and military capability in Korea on the part of the United States (Japan was given a free hand in Korea) for a lack of interest or capability in the Philippines on the part of Japan (Japanese imperialism was diverted from the Philippines). Given the diplomatic conventions of the times, however, the agreement was a much weaker endorsement of the Japanese presence in Korea than either the Russo-Japanese peace treaty or a separate Anglo- Japanese accord. Two months later, Korea was obliged to become a Japanese protectorate. Thereafter, a large number of Koreans organized themselves in education and reform movements, but by then Japanese dominance in Korea was a reality. Japan annexed Korea as a colony on August 22, 1910

The Last Empress a historical drama about

Queen Min (Empress Myeongseong) , who was assassinated by the Japanese

new information suggest by my friend Yeoung fron turkish site:


Princess Deokhye / 덕혜옹주[Resim: princessdeokhye1.png]

Prenses Deokhye(25 Mayıs 1912 – 21 Nisan 1989) Kore’nin son prensesidir.

25 Mayıs 1912’de Seoul’de Changdeok Sarayı’nda doğdu. Hükümdar Gwangmu ile cariyesi Lady Bongnyeong’un en genç çocuklarıydı. Adı, 1917’de İmparatorluk Ailesi kaydına resmi olarak işlendi. Babası hükümdar Gwangmu onu çokça severdi, onun için Jeukjodang, Hamnyeong Salonu’na Deoksu Saray Anaokulu’nu kurdurttu. Onun yaşındaki asil ailelerin kızları bu anaokuluna gitti.1919’da saray nazırı Kim Hwangjin’in yeğeni Kim Jang-han ile gizlice nişanlandırıldı ve eğitimine devam etmesi bahanesiyle Japonya’ya götürüldü. Erkek kardeşleri gibi Gakushuin’e girdi (Gakushuin, Kraliyet Üniversitesi olarak da bilinen eski bir Japon üniversitesidir). 1930 yılının baharında, ruhsal bir bozukluğun baş göstermesi üzerine (uyurgezerlik olarak ortaya çıktı) Kral Lee’nin sarayından erkek kardeşi Veliaht Eun’ın Tokyo’daki evine taşındı. Doktoru erken bunama teşhisi koydu ama ilerleyen yıllarda durumu düzelmiş olarak göründü.

Mayıs 1931’de İmparatoriçe Teimei’nin çöpçatanlığıyla Japonya İmparatoru Taishō’nın arkadaşı, asilzade bir Japon olan Kont Sō Takeyuki(武志) ile evlendi. 14 Ağustos 1932’de kızı Masae’yi (正惠) doğurdu. Mutsuz bir evliliğe katlanırken, buna intihar eden kızını kaybetmenin acısı da eklendi. Bu olaydan sonra durumu kötüleşti ve 1953’de eşinden boşandı.

Kore hükümetinin davetiyle 26 Ocak 1962’de Kore’ye geri döndü.21 Nisan 1989’da Changdeok Sarayı, Sugang Salonu’nda hayatını kaybetti, Namyangju’daki Hongryureung’a defnedildi.

[Resim: princessdeokhye2.jpg] [Resim: princessdeokhye3.jpg]


Princess Deokhye of Korea (25 May 1912 – 21 April 1989) was the last Princess of Korea.

She was born on 25 May 1912 at Changdeok Palace in Seoul. She was the youngest daughter of Emperor Gwangmu and his concubine, Lady Bongnyeong. In 1917, her name was formally entered into the Imperial Family’s registry. Her father, Emperor Gwangmu, loved her greatly, and established the Deoksu Palace Kindergarten for her in Jeukjodang, Hamnyeong hall. Girls her age from noble families attended the kindergarten. In 1919, she was secretly engaged to Kim Jang-han, a nephew of Kim Hwangjin (a court chamberlain) and was taken to Japan under the pretense of continuing her studies. Like her brothers, she attended the Gakushuin. In the Spring of 1930, upon the onset of mental illness (manifested by sleepwalking), she moved to King Lee’s Palace, her brother Crown Prince Eun’s house in Tokyo. Her physician diagnosed her illness as precocious dementia, but by the following year, her condition seemed to have improved.

In May 1931, after “matchmaking” by Empress Teimei, the consort of Emperor Taishō of Japan, she married Count Sō Takeyuki (武志), a Japanese nobleman. She gave birth to a daughter, Masae (正惠) on 14 August 1932. Suffering an unhappy marriage, her grief was compounded by the loss of her only daughter who committed suicide by drowning. After this, her condition deteriorated, and she finally divorced her husband in 1953.

She returned to Korea at the invitation of the Korean government on 26 January 1962. She cried while approaching her motherland, and despite her mental state, accurately remembered the court manners. She lived in Nakseon Hall, Changdeok Palace, with Crown Prince and Princess Eun, their son Prince Gu, his wife Julia Mullock, and Mrs Byeon Bokdong, her lady-in-waiting. She died on 21 April 1989 at Sugang Hall, Changdeok Palace, and was buried at Hongryureung in Namyangju, near Seoul.

By the 1880s, court power struggles were no longer a domestic issue and took on international aspects .As a newly emergent country, Japan turned its attention towards Korea. It was vital for Japan, in order to protect its own interests and security, to either annex Korea before it fell prey (or was annexed) to another power or to insure its effective independence by opening its resources and reforming its administration. As one Japanese statesman put it, Korea was “an arrow pointed at the heart of Japan”. Japan felt that another power having a military presence on the Korean peninsula would have been detrimental to Japanese national security, and so Japan resolved to end the centuries-old Chinese suzerainty over Korea. Moreover, Japan realized that Korea’s coal and iron ore deposits would benefit Japan’s increasingly-expanding industrial base.

In 1874, King Kojong began his rule and his wife, Queen Min, gained increasing power, which she used to support reform and use Japanese officers to train a new Korean  army .In 8882 a Japanese military instructor arrived to train Korean soldiers in modern methods .The Korean Daewongun (Prince of the Court) Prince Gung, who rejected modernization, used the discontent of the dismissed soldiers and a food shortage to incite them to attack the palace and the Japanese legation in 1882 .Queen Min barely escaped and seven Japanese officers were killed along with 300 pro-reform Koreans .The Chinese sent Admiral Ding Ju-chang twith six gunboats and two transports of troops to investigate the situation who took steps to avoid Japanese punitive action by having the Daewongun arrested and an indemnity of $550,000 to be paid to Japan.Japan was allowed to station troops at its legation .Queen Min returned, who was now strongly opposed to the Japanese .


After the insurrection of 1882, Li Hung-chang took steps to strengthen China’s position in Korea with a commercial treaty, loans and six Chinese battalions to maintain order and check Japanese aggression .Tension mounted between pro-Chinese and pro-Japanese forces. In 1884, China was involved in a war with France and withdrew three battalions. the pro-Japanese faction took this opportunity to launch a coup and captured the king. A pro-Japanese government was sworn in, independence from China was proclaimed and a new Japanese fiance minister was appointed .

The Japanese had been too heavy handed however, and many reformers and pro-Japanese switched to the conservative, pro-Chinese faction .A force of 5,000 Korean and Chinese soldiers under Yuan Shikai fell on the palace The chinese broke through the palace gates, and the Japanese detonated a mine which killed 90 Chinese soldiers .However, there were too many against the Japanese and pro-Japanese forces, and a company of 140 Japanese soldiers and the Japanese minister fought their way to Chemulpo ( Inchon). With the conservatives victorious, the remaing pro-Japanese and progressives were rounded up and executed , along with their families .

An envoy, Ito Hirobumi, was sent to confer with Li Hung-chang, where they reached the Sino-Japanese Tientsin Convention on April 18, 1885. Ito felt that Japan was not yet modernized enough for a war with China .This stipulated that both China and Japan would withdraw their troops from Korea in four months, neither side would train Korean troops and that each would notify the other before dispatching troops to Korea .This in effect made Korea a co-protectorate of China and Japan . Yuan Shi-kai, as chinese pro-consul was very powerful in Korea at this time.and basically ran the Korean government. He dismissed all pro-Japanese advisors, prohibited inland trade with Russia and the sale of rice to Japan, which had in part caused the food shortage before . This greatly angered the Japanese, who granted asylum to progressives who were wanted by the Korean government .There was great anger in the Korean countryside over the abuses of the Yangban ruling class over high taxes, buying land cheap or stealing it, forcing farmers into debt bondage and xenophobia against foreign intrusion in Korea. The Japanese secret society, began to secretly aid a group fighting these injustices, the Tonghaks, hoping Japan could profit from an unstable situation in Korea .

Waning of the Dynasty

uniforms in the late Choson Dynasty

Aside from perceived threats from the West, Korea also faced serious internal problems during the last century of the Choson Dynasty. The 1800s saw increasing corruption and inefficiency in government. The kings were weaklings and policies were made by powerful families or factions of high-ranking individuals at court. Cul­tural and artistic expression flourished, but the country was stunted politically and economically, poorly developed militarily, and naive in in­ternational relations. Voices of dissent were re­pressed and because of yangban oppression of the lower classes, dissatisfaction continued to ferment and sometimes boiled over. An effort, termed the Kabo Revolution, by upper-class pro-Japanese activists in 1884 to bring about drastic changes in government and institute re­forms (similar to those of the Meiji Restoration in Japan a few years earlier) also failed.

In the 1860s, the indigenous religion, Tong­hak(“Eastern learning”), ( more details on the Tonghaks )had been formulated. Combining elements from Buddhism, Confu­cianism, shamanism, and other sources, it es­poused the equality and dignity of all peoples, equal opportunity, national self-sufficiency, and independence from foreign influence. Tonghak followers in 1894 protested against social conditions and the growing dominance of Japanese merchants in the Korean market. They engaged in violent clashes with the Korean army, prompting both China and Japan to send in troops to help suppress the demonstrations. As China and Japan were at this time vying for influence over the Korean Peninsula, the Tong­hak Rebellion brought relations between the two giants to a head and helped spark the Sino­Japanese War (1894-95).


The Korean government banned the movement and had its founder Ch’oe Che-u, executed by decapitation in 1864  and the movement was forced to go underground .The Tonghaks, were aided by the Japanese Genyosha secret society, to organize a mass movement with large protests and stage a rebellion .A Korean army sent to attack the Tonghaks was defeated at Gobu in southwest Korea on January 11, 1894 and the Korean court, fearing a Tonghak invasion of Seoul, asked for Chinese aid.


The initial success of the revolt led a panic court to seek help from  China .In early June a Chinese force of 2,800 was dispatched from Chefoo ( Yingtan) to Asan under general Yuan Shikai, a port outside of Seoul, where they camped.The arrival of the Chinese forces caused the Tonghaks to call off their attack on Seoul after the Korean government arranged a truce . The Tonghak leader, Chon Pong-chun regarded this as an opportunity to archive his objectives without further recourse to warfare. In consequence hostilities came to an end, on condition that an end also be put to government misrule.  .The Japanese considered this action to be a violation of the Convention, and sent their own expeditionary force of 8,000 troops to Korea. to its legation in Seoul ad the surrounding area .

The Daewongun (Taewongun) (1821-1898) was the father of Kojong and was the de facto ruler of Korea as the regent of the young king till his death in 1898. As an old school Confucianist he promoted isolationism and persecution of Korean Catholics, leading to the French attack of Ganghwa Island in 1866 after the execution of a French priest. In 1882 he was abducted by the Qing General in China, Yuan Shihkai and taken to China. He returned 4 years later.

Partially fought on Korean soil, this was the first modern war engaged in by foreign powers on the peninsula. Japan won, dramatically ending Chinese influence there. Japan subsequently demanded that Korea make sweeping changes in its policies to benefit Japanese interests. Because of its loss in the war, China ceded Taiwan and the Liaotung Peninsula to Japan and was forced to recognize Korea as a fully independent nation, ending its centuries-long domination of the peninsula.


Gamgok Parish Church


From Anseong, we (i.e., Andy Jackson and I) got on a bus to Janghowon in nearby Icheon-si. And from Janghowon, we walked across the river to its sister city, Gamgok-myeon, Eumseong-gun in lovely Chungcheongbuk-do.

Gamgok-myeon is home to one of Korea’s oldest—and certainly one of its most beautiful—Catholic churches, Gamgok Parish Church, or more precisely, Gamgok Maegoe Virgin Mary Catholic Cathedral (maegoe is the Sino-Korean word for the Rosary, so I guess the proper way to translate the name of the church—the English name of the official site not withstanding—would be Gamgok Our Lady of the Rosary Church).

Gamgok Parish Church sits atop a hill overlooking the town of Gamgok like a sentinel. The land where the church is now used to be the owned by Min Eung-sik, a second cousin of Empress Myeongseong and a major late Joseon-era conservative. During the Mutiny of 1882, when old-guard military units rebelled against the government’s military modernization plans, Min offered the empress sanctuary at his palatial home. After Empress Myeongseong’s assassination in 1895, Min was arrested and brought to Seoul. His home was occupied by loyalist militias, which made it a target of the Japanese Army, which proceeded to burn it down.

The upside to this was that when French priest Father Camillus Bouillon of the Paris Foreign Missions Society came around looking for a place to build a church, he could buy the land for a song.  Or a Gregorian chant, as the case may be.

It’s said that when Bouillon first saw the massive house (presumably before the Japanese torched it) and the hillside on which it rested, he prayed that if the Virgin Mary were to give him the house and hill, he would become her humble servant, and she would be the patron saint of the church. Well, as it would turn out, the Blessed Virgin Mary held up her end of the bargain (and even got the Imperial Japanese Army to foot the cleanup bill), so Bouillon kept his, establishing a church in May 1896 and dedicating it to the Virgin Mary.

The current Gothic-style church—a miniature version of Myeongdong Cathedral—was built in 1930 (by Chinese laborers), and was designed by French priest Father Pierre Chizallet.

I’ll say this—Bouillon couldn’t have chosen a better spot to put a church. The place gives off a very happy, loving vibe. The church itself is absolutely beautiful—a red-and-black brick Gothic structure of the kind loved by French missionaries in Korea. It’s the surroundings, however, that make it what it is—how it looks out over the surrounding countryside, the beautiful trees that surround it, how you can feel the spring breeze. It’s just a very peaceful place.


Yi Munsun Chip (1241).

missionary who arrived in Korea in 1888 and spent the next forty years there. A prodigious scholar, Gale translated many of Korea’s literary classics into English and wrote numerous books on Korean history, literature, and culture. Gale helped the Library procure a number of Korean classics, including rare books from the estate of the Korean scholar Kim To-hui


Figure 2 Stacking chest, wood covered with red lacquer, inlaid with mother-of- pearl. Choson dynasty, 1890-1910


1894. before the 1894 version of “Choson Seaway (朝鮮水路誌)”

1893 –

 “The Sea Chart of Hokkaido and Northeastern Islands(北洲及北東諸島)” plots Waywoda Rock far outside of Korean territory

Dec. 24th edition of Japan’s San-in Chuo Shimpo(山陰中央新報) (cache)reported that the new evidence which debunks pro-Korean’s distorted claim was found, again.”The Sea Chart of Hokkaido and Northeastern Islands(北洲及北東諸島)” was made by Hydorographic Office of Japan(日本水路部), basing on the British Navy’s seachart, in 1893 originally, just a year before the 1894 version of “Choson Seaway (朝鮮水路誌)” was published. The map plots Waywoda rock near Okushiri island of Japan’s Hokkaido and it also shows the trace Japanese Navy did fathomed to survey around the area, but labelled as “non-existant” just like British “China Sea Directory” reported. The location is exactly the place 1894 “Choson Seaway” reported and it is clearly far outside of Korean territory at a glance.Pro-Korean scholars like Prof. Hori Kazuo(1987) wrongfully claimed as follows and pro-Korean scholars have been blindlessly following his unrealistic claim even up until now.
“However, marine charts usually show geographical features and do not specify sovereign rights to islands in them. As for sovereign rights to islands, therefore, one has to consult a guide to sea routes, an expounder of a chart.(p105)”
“Moreover, the 1894 and 1897 editions of the Chosen suiroshi (Korea’s Sealanes) by the Japanese Navy show Liancourt Rocks/Tokdo,26) along with Ullungdo. There is no doubt the Japanese naval hydrographic anthorities were aware Takeshima/Tokdo belonged to Korea around the end of the 19th century.”

First of all, waterway magazines are just “guide to sea routes” and they don’t represent the “sovereign rights to islands”. They are written for the safety of the voyages as well as seachart. In fact, Liancourt Rocks was listed along with Matsushima(Ulleungdo) and Waywoda rock as “dangerous rocks in the Sea of Japan(左ニ記載スルモノヲ除ク外日本海内絶エテ暗岩危礁ナシ)” for the safe voyages in 1894 “Choson Seaway”. And Waywoda Rock was reported as situated in lat. 42°16′N., long.137°18′E. , way up north from Korean territorial limit in the first place. Pro-Korean always wrongfully refer to this book as one of the evidences Japanese considered Takeshima as Korean territory only because it was listed in the section “East Coast of Choson” of “Choson Seaway.”, ignoring Waywoda rock, which is clearly outside of Korean territory, was also listed in the same section.

Moreover, the preface of this waterway magazine clearly depicts eastern limit of Korean territory is 130º 35′ E.longitude, under the name of the Kimotsuki Kaneyuki (肝付兼行),a director of Hydrography Department. From this fact, we can see that Kimotsuki clearly recognized that Takeshima/Dokdo was outside of Korean territory when Nakai met him in 1904.

Lastly, Eastern Strait(東水道) of Choson Strait, between Tsushima and Iki(壱岐) of Nagasaki, Japan was also listed in the previous chapter(Chapter 3). You cannot claim that the strait between Tsushima and Iki also belong to Korea only because it is listed in the “Choson Seaway”. It also proves that Liancourt Rocks in this waterway magazines were not for territorial issue, but only for the safety of voyages.

It is funny to see that the Prof. Hori’s old unreliable thesis based on out-of-date resources, written more than 20 years ago, is still keep followed by Korean scholars and made them look stupid worldwidely.

1893 北洲及北東諸島_11893 北洲及北東諸島_221893 北洲及北東諸島_41893 北洲及北東諸島_5



The secret Sino-Russian treaty signed in 1896

also gave the Russians the right to build and operate the Chinese Eastern Railway across northern Manchuria, which served as a link in the Russian Trans-Siberian Railway to Vladivostok. Russia proceeded to acquire numerous concessions over Korea’s forests and mines.


Queen Min


Funeral of Queen Min (Empress Myeongseong) in 1895 Seoul. She had been assassinated by Japanese due to her pro-Russian stance.Korea was declared a protectorate in 1905 and annexed in 1910. In 1910 name of the city of Seoul was changed to Keijo (Japanese Korean Hanseong).

 After the Chinese loss to the Japanese in the Sino-Japanese War, the Korean government was forced to declare their independence from the Chinese and no longer being a tributary state King Kojong (Gojong) declared Korea to be the Korean Empire. Many in the Korean court such as Qin Minsought Russian help in thrawrting the growing power of the Japanese. Russia , England and France had recently forced Japan to abandon the Liaodong Peninsula which it had won in the recent war with China.


1953 newsreel on Changgyeonggung


The  Japanese, wishing to end this meddling sent a new ambassador to Korea, Miura Goro with orders to arrange the assassination of Queen Min which was done on Oct 8, 1895 at Gyeongbokgung. This is known as the Eulmi Incident. After the assassination King Kojong and Crown Prince Sunjong fled to the Russian Legation on Feb 11, 1896

After the murder of Queen Min in 1895, King Kojong and his heir fled to the Russ­ian legation. Emerging about one year later, the king proclaimed himself emperor. The country’s name was changed to Taehan Cheguk, or “Great Han Empire,” symbolically equalizing the status of Korea, China, and Japan. It was an empty honor, however, as Kojong was nearly powerless in the face of foreign imposition; Korea found herself the pawn of foreign governments which had little concern for the people of the peninsula.


coins started to be minted from modern presses in 1888, such as this silver 5 Yang (兩liang also known as a tael)

대한제국 (大韓帝國)   Greater Korean Empire   1897-1910


The earliest known footage of Korea from 1901.




In a complicated series of maneuvers and counter-maneuvers, Japan pushed back the Russian fleet at the Battle of Port Arthur in 1905. With the conclusion of the 1904–1905 Russo-Japanese War with the Treaty of Portsmouth, the way was open for Japan to take control of Korea. After the signing of the Protectorate Treaty in 1905, Korea became a protectorate of Japan.


Itō Hirobumi was the first Resident-General of Korea, although he was assassinated by Korean independence activist An Jung-geun in 1909 at the train station at Harbin.


The strategic rivalry between Russia and Japan exploded in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-5, won by Japan. Under the peace treaty signed in September 1905, Russia acknowledged Japan’s “paramount political, military, and economic interest” in Korea. A separate agreement signed in secret between the United States and Japan at this time subsequently aroused anti-American sentiment among Koreans. The Taft-Katsura Agreement was cynical by modern standards, exchanging what amounted to a lack of interest and military capability in Korea on the part of the United States (Japan was given a free hand in Korea) for a lack of interest or capability in the Philippines on the part of Japan (Japanese imperialism was diverted from the Philippines). Given the diplomatic conventions of the times, however, the agreement was a much weaker endorsement of the Japanese presence in Korea than either the Russo-Japanese peace treaty or a separate Anglo- Japanese accord. Two months later, Korea was obliged to become a Japanese protectorate. Thereafter, a large number of Koreans organized themselves in education and reform movements, but by then Japanese dominance in Korea was a reality. Japan annexed Korea as a colony on August 22, 1910


In 1910,

although many Koreans opposed the annexation, the Japanese Empire annexed Korea by force

The Japanese Administration of Korea 

Did Japan ruin the economy of Korea during the Japanese Administration? Koreans say that Japan did, and that they even stole all the rice and left people starving. However, there is a lot of evidence to say that was not the case.

During the period of Japanese Administration,

there were great increases in population, unprecendented in Korean history. This is not consistent with a people that are starving, because the population should decrease in that case.

Not only are the Korean claims dubious, but it seems that they benefitted in many ways from the Japanese Administration. Lets take a look at picutures of Korea before and during the Japanese Administration.

This was the true state of Koreans in the Choson Era.

Before the Japanese introduced medicine in Korea, Koreans would cure Malaria by writing their names on their feet.

Pre-Japanese era Korean medicine. This childs parents are trying to cure this childs disease by throwing away this straw doll. Various diseases could be ‘cured’ by this ‘method’. The average Korea lifespan at this time was around 24 years old. Thanks to Japanese investment in medicine and nutrition in Korea, the lifespan went up to nearly 50 years old by the end of WW2

The center of Seoul, Namdemun, Circa 1880. Thatched buildings and shops.

Compare that with 1850′s Tokyo. Korea was a basket case.

The common people of the Choson Era lived in a state of slavery, if not in name then in practice. Picture is of Namdemun.

bare breasted woman
Typical Korean Woman of the pre-annexation period. It was common for women to walk around bare breasted in Korea at the time, as in Africa.

It is common in Korea to claim that prostitution did not exist in Korea before the Japanese came, but here is a picture of one anyway.

Che Yonhi
Koreans say that they were simply slaves during the Japanese administration, and werent even allowed to have Korean names. I wonder then how they explain the existence of dancer Che Yonhi, who not only became wealthy and famous, but kept her Korean name. Surely if the Japanese wanted to force Koreans to have Japanese names, they would have started with Korean role models? This is a picture of her in a hotel cafe in Seoul.

A department store in Seoul for Korean consumers. Picture 1937.

Koreans boldly claim that Japan destroyed many Korean cultural monuments that were in truth destroyed by Korean neglect. The above is a before and after photo of Namdaemun. Is this what Koreans mean by Korea being ‘ruined’ by the Japanese?

Massive Japanese investment created industry where there was none. The raised living standards and provided housing. The landlords and oppressors of common people lost their legal right to lord it over others.

The worlds largest Hydroelectric generator (at the time) was built in Korea by the Japanese, at the expense of the Japanese. This contributed much to Korea’s development.

This was Pyongyang under Japanese rule.

Pyongyang again.

Really, one could go on and on about this. I would conjecture that this kind of information is nowhere to be found in Korean textbooks, based on my conversations with Koreans. Could Korean anti Japanism be mostly founded upon Koreans vain belief in their ‘Great History’


Research Articles and Chapters

“Chosŏn hugi ŭi mukwa chedo wa Han’guk ŭi kŭndaesŏng” (The Late Chosŏn Military Examination System and Korean Modernity). In Korean. Han’guk munhwa (Korean Culture) 51 (September 2010): 299–319.

“Saeroun kajoksa ŭi ch’ugu: kŭndae Han’guk ŭi chokpo p’yŏnch’an kwa chungin ch’ŭng ŭi panŭng” [A search for a new family history: genealogy compilation and the reactions of chungin stratum in modern Korea]. In Korean. Trans. Yi Kanghan. Yŏksa munje yŏn’gu (Critical Studies on Modern Korean History) 20 (October 2008): 139–167.

“Imagined Connections in Early Modern Korea, 1600–1894: Representations of Northern Elite Miryang Pak Lineages in Genealogies.” Seoul Journal of Korean Studies 21.1 (June 2008): 1–27.

“Status and ‘Defunct’ Offices in Early Modern Korea: The Case of Five Guards Generals (Owijang), 1864–1910.” Journal of Social History 41.3 (Spring 2008): 737–757.

“War and Peace in Premodern Korea: Institutional and Ideological Dimensions.” In The Military and
South Korean Society, edited by Young-Key Kim-Renaud, R. Richard Grinker, and Kirk W. Larsen, pp. 1–13. The Sigur Center Asia Papers Vol. 26. Washington DC: Sigur Center for Asian Studies, George Washington University, 2006.

“Local Elites, Descent, and Status Consciousness in Nineteenth-Century Korea: Some Observations on the County Notable Listings in the Chosŏn Hwanyŏ Sŭngnam.” In Han’guksa e issŏsŏ chibang kwa chungang [The periphery and the center in Korean history], edited by Chŏng Tuhŭi and Edward J. Shultz, pp. 205–225. Seoul: Sogang University Press, 2003.

“Military Examinations in Sixteenth-Century Korea: Political Upheaval, Social Change, and Security Crisis.” Journal of Asian History 35.1 (2001): 1–57.

“Military Examinations in Late Chosŏn, 1700–1863: Elite Substratification and Non-Elite Accommodation.” Korean Studies 25.1 (2001): 1–50.

“Chosŏn ch’ogi mukwa ch’ulsin ŭi sahoejŏk chiwi: T’aejong-Sŏngjong nyŏn’gan ŭi kŭpcheja rŭl chungsim ŭro” [The social status of early Chosŏn military examination graduates: passers from the reign of T’aejong through that of Sŏngjong]. In Korean. Yŏksa wa hyŏnsil (Quarterly Review of Korean History) 39 (March 2001): 100–126.

“Military Examination Graduates in Early Chosŏn: Their Social Status in the Fifteenth Century.” The Review of Korean Studies 3.1 (July 2000): 123–156.

Between Dreams and Reality: The Military Examination in Late Chosŏn Korea, 1600–1894

As previously mentioned, Rhee Syngman (李承晩, 이승만/리승만, 1875-1965) was the other South Korean president who wrote Classical Chinese poetry. He was of the Jeonju Yi Clan, the same family clan as the old royal family of the Chosun dynasty. His pen name was U’nam (雩南, 우남). After receiving his education in the US, Rhee Syngman became active in the Korean independence movement and served in the Provisional Government of Korea in Shanghai. As president, he was vigorously anti-Communist and went after the leftist political dissidents. He was also a bit mad with the lust for power and changed the election procedures in his favor. He also had members of the old royal family under house arrest, fearing their popularity. After his fourth re-election, the people started demonstrating and Rhee Syngman was exiled to Hawaii, where he passed away in 1965. The following is a poem, he presumably wrote during wartime, based on the title.

戰時春 전시춘

A War Time Spring

半島山河漲陣烟 반도산하장진연
胡旗洋帆翳春天 호기양범예춘천
彷徨盡是無家客 방황진시무각객
漂泊誰非辟穀仙 표박수비벽곡선
成市遺墟如古壁 성시유허여고벽
山川燒地起新田 산천요지기신전
東風不待干戈息 동풍불대간과식
細草遍生敗壘邊 세초편생패루변

On the mountains and rivers of the peninsula, military camps are full of smoke.
Barbarian [1] banners and Western sails conceal the Spring sky.
Wandering and lost are these exhausted travelers without homes.
Among the drifting and roaming, who is not as if living off of little sustenance [2]?
[Where] markets were open, the remaining ruins are are like old  walls.
In the mountains and streams, lands are being burn to arise [again] as new rice paddies.
The eastern winds do not tarry for resting pikes and shields [3].
On the sides of the defeated forts, small grass have [started to] grow about it.


  1. 胡 (호, ho) – refers to the Chinese here. This is the same character that was used referred to the Manchurian Qing Dynasty.
  2. 辟穀 (벽곡, byeokgok) – refers to abstaining (辟, 벽) from grains (穀, 곡).
  3. That is, soldiers.


  • 漲 (장, jang) – to be full of water (물이 넘치다); to be much (많은 모양).
  • 翳 (예, ye) – to conceal or cover (가리다).
  • 彷徨 (방황, banghwang) – to be lost or roaming.
  • 墟 (허, heo) – ruins or to be in ruins.
  • 壘 (루, ru) – small military encampment or fort.


 The last imperial family

This photo, taken about 1915 (actually a compilation of individual photographs taken since the Japanese did not allow them to all be in the same room at the same time, and some were forced to leave Korea) shows the following royal family members, from left: Prince Ui (Ui chinwang 의친왕), the 6th son of Gojong; Sunjong, the 2nd son and the last monarch of Joseon; Prince Yeong (Yeong chinwang 영친왕), the 7th son; Gojong, the former King; Queen Yoon (Yoon daebi), Queen Consort of Sunjong; Deogindang Gimbi, wife of Prince Ui; and Yi Geon, the eldest son of Prince Ui. The seated child in the front row is Princess Deokhye (Deokhye ongju 덕혜옹주), Gojong’s last child.

After the annexation of Korea by Japan in 1910, the Princes and Princesses of the Imperial Family were forced to leave for Japan to be re-educated and married. The Heir to the Throne, Imperial Crown Prince Uimin, married Princess Yi Bang-ja née Nashimoto, and had two sons, Princes Yi Jin and Yi Gu. His elder brother, Imperial Prince Ui had twelve sons and nine daughters from various wives and concubines.

The Crown Prince lost his status in Japan at the end of World War II and returned to Korea in 1963 after an invitation by the Republican Government. He suffered a stroke as his plane landed in Seoul and was rushed to a hospital. He never recovered and died in 1970. His brother, Imperial Prince Ui died in 1955 and the Korean people officially considered this to be the end of the Royal line.[citation needed]

Presently Prince Yi Seok is one of two pretenders[citation needed] to the abolished throne of Korea (the monarchy was abolished in 1910 by Japan and following Japan’s defeat in World War II, North Korea has been organized as a communist regime and South Korea has been organized as a republic). Prince Yi Seok is a son of Prince Gang of Korea, a fifth son of Gojong of Korea and currently a professor of history lecturing at Jeonju University in the Republic of Korea.

Furthermore, many descendants live throughout the United States, Canada and Brazil, having settled elsewhere, outside of Korea.

Today, many tombs of the descendants still exist on top of the mountain in Yangju. According to the pedigree written on the tombstone, it is believed that these descendants are from the great king of Joseon, Seongjeong (The 9th ruler of Joseon Dynasty). It was discovered that this mountain belongs to the member of the royal family named Yi Won (Born in 1958). More details of current descendants of the House of Yi.

 The imperial family

the end @ copyright Dr Iwan 2011