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Korea and her Neighbours: A Narrative of Travel, with an Account of the Recent Vicissitudes and Present Position of the Country

From the back cover of the Pacific Basin Books edition (Kegan Paul, 1985):

Isabella Bird’s account of her journeys in Korea in 1898 represents one of the very rare accounts of that country in the latter part of the nineteenth century. At that time Korea was virtually a forbidden land and had only been open to foreigners for about ten years. It was and had been under Chinese influence for centureis.

The trip was very difficult but so fascinating that, true to character, Isabella adored it. She undertook many arduous journeys by land and river, observed the breathtakingly beautiful countryside, visited Buddhism monasteries and had many audiences with the Korean king and his soon to be assassinated queen. While Isabella was on her journey the Japanese invaded Korea and she had to leave hastily, ending up in China, penniless.

Isabella L Bird (Mrs Bishop) was born in 1831. She won fame in her own time as surely the most remarkable woman traveller of the nineteenth century. she published 9 books about her travels, all of them best sellers in their day. The daughter of a cleric, it was not until she was 44 that she embarked on her mammoth journeys to Hawaii, Japan, Tibet and many other places. her writing is guaranteed to produce a thirst for adventure and travel. She died in 1904.

LKL adds

The text is available in a number of editions from different publishers. The edition linked above is a two-volume illustrated edition from Cambridge University Press (2012), but plenty of other versions are available, with Routledge / Kegan Paul being consistent supporters of the text. Simply search your normal bookstore for one that suits your needs.

Table of contents

(from the Adamant Media Corporation edition)

Introductory Chapter

  1. First Impressions of Korea.
  2. First Impressions of the Capital.
  3. The Kur-Dong
  4. Seoul, the Korean Mecca
  5. The Sailing of the Sampan
  6. On the River of Golden Sand
  7. Views Afloat.
  8. Natural Beauty – the Rapids
  9. Korean Marriage Customs
  10. The Korean Pony – Korean Roads and Inns
  11. Diamond Mountain Monasteries
  12. Along the Coast
  13. Impending War-Excitement at Chemulpo
  14. Deported to Manchuria
  15. A Manchurian Deluge – A Passenger Cart – An Accident
  16. Mukden and Its Missions
  17. Chinese Troops on the March
  18. Nagasaki – Wladivostok
  19. Korean Settlers in Siberia
  20. The Trans-Siberian Railroad
  21. The King’s Oath – An Audience
  22. A Transition Stage
  23. The Assassination of the Queen
  24. Burial Customs
  25. Song-Do: A Royal City
  26. The Phyong-Yang Battlefield
  27. Northward Ho!
  28. Over the An-kil Yung Pass
  29. Social Position of Women
  30. Exorcists and Dancing Women
  31. the Hair-Cropping Edict
  32. the Reorganized Korean Government
  33. Education and Foreign Trade
  34. Dæmonism or Shamanism
  35. Notes on Dæmonism Concluded
  36. Seoul in 1897
  37. Last Words on Korea


Appendix A. Mission Statistics for Korea 1896.
Appendix B. Direct Foreign Trade of Korea 1896-95.
Appendix C. Return of Principal Articles of Export for the Years 1806-95.
Appendix D. Population of Treaty Ports.
Appendix E. Treaty Between Japan and Russia, With Reply of H. E., the Korean Mlnister for Foreign Affairs.

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