[KS] Percival Lowell

Frank Hoffmann hoffmann at koreanstudies.com
Thu Apr 16 01:37:52 EDT 2015

Dear Hyung Il, and All:

Well,Lowell does not even touch that question, and that would have been 
a little too much to expect, given there are not even any new Korean 
studies touching this in depth (at least not that I know of). That was 
rather thought to be a serious question. ... So, let me explain. 

Chapters on Korean hats can be found in many of these early Western 
travelogues on Korea. Lowell's might indeed be the first one, not sure, 
but it is certainly not a very analytic description -- rather 
Bostonian, with some supplementary Latin names for Korean hats, 
references to Europeans -- even an sarcastic hint to Hegel ("Professor 
Teufelsdruck of Weissnichtwo"), and some stilted but forced elegance 
that his middle-class readership could enjoy. What I found interesting 
is his description of the military hat shop (pp. 342-343), emphasizing 
the colorfulness of the hats there, and other details. All those early 
descriptions spend 90% of their ink to describe man's wear -- women's 
dresses did not impress anyone really. Once you look at the detailed 
and colored sketches many travelers, hoppy artists, and early 
ethnologists produced you will understand why so: men were just soooo 
much better dressed than women! And here especially the military 
officers with their colorful cloth, with so much ornamental detail -- 
more as if they came from the court of Louis XIV; this was not to be 
found in woman's cloth, and while the Confucian scholars kept it to 
Lutheran monotonism.

Regardless, the most detailed report about Korean hats from that early 
period, although not as early as Lowell's, is probably Foster H. 
Jenings illustrated essay from 1904, published by the Smithsonian. I 
uploaded a copy for you (will be deleted in a week or so): 

Back to my question, and why that was meant to be a serious one: when 
and if we would have a BETTER, a precise, DETAILED understanding of the 
different Korean hat forms, the shapes, etc., at different periods 
(such as the issue of the mentioned complete transparency of the hats 
in that photo), then that will make it possible to use that knowledge 
as social archaeology of sorts, especially with images of the late 
Chosŏn period. Interpretations could then be far more concrete when it 
comes to the interpretation of WHAT exactly we see, what classes, what 
CHANGES in class mobility did occur, what modernizations happened and 
how did these relate to class, how did fashion relate to a changing 
economic and political situation, etc. (not in every case, of course, 
but often). ... I asked this before, of course. 


Frank Hoffmann

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