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Art&CultureHistory
Charles Chaille-Long: In the footprints of Kublai Khan, Part 5
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승인 2010.01.04  22:17:53
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▲ A gate leading to the Jeju Government Office, circa 1900. Photo courtesy “Korea 100 Years Ago in Photographs,” by Kim Won Mo and Cheong Song Ki

Joining the escort provided for him, Chaille-Long was given a small but fierce Korean pony to ride. According to him, the pony was “untamed and unbroken” and “the two men who held him by means of ropes on each side kept the beast at arm’s length and darest [sic] not approach him.” He was only able to mount the “wild little mustang” through ruse and once he had succeeded in gaining his mount the pony commenced a series of gyrations and gymnastics that were rarely “equaled, even in the camp of Buffalo Bill.” It was only after the pony tired of its dismounting tactics that it deigned to proceed, but only for a short distance, and then refused to move any further until the offensive Westerner was banished from its back.

In despair and disgust Chaille-Long dismounted, much to the entertainment of the assembled host. He sarcastically noted that he had “won some applause for not having had my neck broken, as I had every reason to suspect had been the intention of the prefect in giving me the brute.” Unwilling to tempt fate, he opted to walk the rest of the way to Jeju’s capital.

Finally, after a march of two hours, they came to the southern gate of Chu-song city. Unlike the mainland cities where the gates were closed at night, the gates of Chu-song were always kept open except, ironically, when a guest arrived, at which point they were firmly closed and would not be opened until permission was granted by the governor. Despite having been summoned by the governor, they were kept waiting for nearly an hour during which time Chaille-Long found himself the object of much unwanted attention.

“The walls of the city on all sides swarmed a mass of human heads who peered down from their perches upon us, or crowded around to suffocation to catch a glimpse of the stranger.” Not all were content to merely watch from afar. Chaille-Long bitterly wrote: “One fellow came up and thrust his face close to mine, leered at me, and, like some insolent [goblin], said ‘Boo! Boo!’ as if to frighten me, all of which caused no little merriment among the crowd.”

Even his Korean servants, Kim and Chung, were unnerved by the attention and sought to distance themselves from him by staying as close to the prefect as possible in hopes that no one would associate them with the Westerner. The prefect remained aloof and deemed not to notice Chaille-Long’s growing uneasiness.

At last the gate was opened and Chaille-Long and his escort proceeded through the crowded streets of the capital. The guards used their clubs unmercifully upon the curious people in order to clear a path to the great audience hall where another hundred or more soldiers, whom he described as “wild and barbaric looking men as it is possible” held back the crowd.

The master of ceremonies eventually led Chaille-Long and his servants into the august presence of the governor of Jeju. Chaille-Long described him as “a man of perhaps fifty years. His features were cleanly cut and his face clearly of the Tartar type, although somewhat obscured by a pair of huge spectacles of smoked glass. Dressed in a court costume of rich and varicolored silk, his hat of black felt was ornamented with the decoration of a peacock’s feather and other insignia of high office.”

At first he was convinced that the governor was an uncrowned king but that illusion was soon shattered when the governor whispered to him (interpreted by Kim) that his visit had caused great trouble and that the governor feared not only for Chaille-Long’s life but his own life as well. The people of Jeju were “rude and ungovernable” and more than 200 of them had protested allowing Chaille-Long to enter the capital. The governor explained that he had told the people that Chaille-Long was not a merchant or missionary but was a representative of a foreign nation and a friend of Korea. His explanation had appeased the unruliness of the islanders but he warned Chaille-Long to not climb Mount Halla and to leave as quickly as possible if he valued his life.

Chaille-Long assured the governor and the assembled crowd that he would not climb the mountain and would leave soon. His declaration was met with approval.

Food was brought but Chaille-Long did not have the appetite to partake of much and instead watched and listened to what was going on around him. According to him, “Kim was asked a thousand and one questions about myself, and what he didn’t know he supplied from his fertile imagination, and if the Governor should be addicted to writing history, I am certainly booked for a place in the annals of Chae-ju not less grand than that of the great Khan.” In this, as in other things, he was mistaken. Few modern Koreans are even aware of his visit let alone any of his exploits in Korea or Africa.

Finally the feast was over and the master of ceremonies conducted them to their quarters. He was less than pleased with his accommodations and promptly began cursing the shade of Hamel. “No human being could withstand the awful odor of the place,” he declared to Kim and bitterly complained, “they gave me a pony this morning to break my neck, and now we are to be asphyxiated. The Fates of Chae-ju are implacable.”

Prior to sleeping he promised his servants they would be back on the boat by the following night.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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