Korea and Her Neighbors

Read by Availle

(4.5 stars; 8 reviews)

In this book, Isabella L. Bird, who had been elected a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society only 2 years prior, describes her travels through Korea from 1894 - 1897 in her well-known style. She went on lengthy trips through the interior of what is today both North- and South Korea and vividly describes the landscapes, people and customs of the "Hermit Kingdom".

Isabella's sojourn coincided with a time of great turmoil in Korea. Shortly after her arrival, the Japanese occupied the country, ostensibly to protect their expatriate community. But when relations worsend further, Isabella was forced to flee, first to Manchuria, and, after the outbreak of the first Sino-Japanese War (1894 - 1895), to Russia. She returned to Korea only days after the assassination of Queen Min in October 1895, and saw King Gojong reduced to a mere "salaried automaton" until he fled to the Russian Legation in 1896. Isabella, having had several audiences with the monarchs throughout her stay in Seoul, gives a first hand account of the political and governmental changes throughout this time.

Altogether, this is a fascinating account of Korea at a time when the country was not only torn between tradition and modernisation, but also found herself a pawn of Japan, China, and Russia, all vying for control in the Far East. (Summary by Availle)
(18 hr 25 min)


Preface and Author's Prefatory Note 15:45 Read by Availle
Introductory Chapter 30:07 Read by Availle
I. First Impressions of Korea 27:45 Read by Availle
II. First Impressions of the Capital 31:58 Read by Availle
III. The Kur-dong 25:04 Read by Availle
IV. Seoul, the Korean Mecca 16:48 Read by Availle
V. The Sailing of the Sampan 13:12 Read by Availle
VI. On the River of Golden Sand 26:15 Read by Availle
VII. Views Afloat 41:18 Read by Availle
VIII. Natural Beauty - The Rapids 40:05 Read by Availle
IX. Korean Marriage Customs 15:09 Read by Availle
X. The Korean Pony - Korean Roads and Inns 29:05 Read by Availle
XI. Diamond Mountain Monasteries 44:35 Read by Availle
XII. Along the Coast - Part 1 35:39 Read by Availle
XII. Along the Coast - Part 2 32:27 Read by Availle
XIII. Impending War - Excitement at Chemulpo 19:17 Read by Availle
XIV. Deported to Manchuria 17:37 Read by Availle
XV. A Manchurian Deluge - A Passenger Cart - An Accident 15:50 Read by Availle
XVI. Mukden and its Missions 17:35 Read by Availle
XVII. Chinese Troops on the March 15:04 Read by Availle
XVIII. Nagasaki - Wladivostok 24:38 Read by Availle
XIX. Korean Settlers in Siberia 38:02 Read by Availle
XX. The Trans-Siberian Railroad 14:51 Read by Availle
XXI. The King's Oath - An Audience 39:35 Read by Availle
XXII. A Transition Stage 18:17 Read by Availle
XXIII. The Assassination of the Queen 33:37 Read by Availle
XXIV. Burial Customs 22:00 Read by Availle
XXV. Song-do: A Royal City 20:51 Read by Availle
XXVI. The Phyong-yang Battlefield 47:45 Read by Availle
XXVII. Northward Ho! 25:23 Read by Availle
XXVIII. Over the An-kil Yung Pass 19:07 Read by Availle
XXIX. Social Position of Women 13:47 Read by Availle
XXX. Exorcists and Dancing Women 35:35 Read by Availle
XXXI. The Hair-cropping Edict 29:49 Read by Availle
XXXII. The Reorganised Korean Government 38:28 Read by Availle
XXXIII. Education and Foreign Trade 28:38 Read by Availle
XXXIV. Daemonism or Shamanism 24:14 Read by Availle
XXXV. Notes on Daemonism Concluded 43:43 Read by Availle
XXXVI. Seoul in 1897 40:39 Read by Availle
XXXVII. Last Words on Korea 35:46 Read by Availle


Korea at a critical moment

(3 stars)

This rather long book recounts the events surrounding a pivotal moment in the modern history of Korea. As such it is more an analysis of political machinations of the time than a travel story and less engaging than the other extraordinary books by this wholly remarkable traveller. However the reading by Availle is, as always, superb.

Another FANTASTIC reading from Availle

(5 stars)

Isabella Bird was an amazing woman, and this is another of her incredible travelogues. Availle is one of my favourite readers on the site and it's a joy to hear this book. I have listened to it three times and there is still more to find out each time. Highly recommended and thoroughly enjoyed.