Eric Squires
Pipes in Korea Part Two
This is Part Two in a series... PART ONE

(A sensible water-carrier smoking a short pipe, 1904.)

Common throughout Korean pipes both utilitarian and elegant, and marking a notable variation from the Japanese kiseru, was bowl-size. Due to the great abundance of tobacco being produced natively, Korean pipes typically sported a chamber of much greater depth than those of their Japanese counterparts, albeit with much the same diameter. This preference for deep-but-narrow proportions may have been an aesthetic choice, though it does also suggest the tobacco being grown by Koreans may have possessed similar smoking properties to our familiar Virginias.

(Boatman on his boat, circa 1904. It was his boat, so he could sit on it when he wanted to.)

(Woman fulling clothes (or at least posed as such), circa 1904. Judging by her surroundings, and a pipe exceeding the length of her own arms, one would presume her family was fairly well-off.)

Not quite every Korean was entirely enamored with the simple enjoyment of a smoldering bowl of leaf, however. As England had King James I (reigned 1603-1625, author of that great indulgence in fast-and-loose nagging, A Counterblaste to Tobacco), Korea had King Kwanghae-gun (reigned 1608-1623), who banned all smoking from his royal presence. This, it should be noted, gave birth to a particular quirk of traditional Korean smoking etiquette: No smoking in front of those senior to you in the social order. In Korea and the Sacred White Mountain British explorer Captain A.E.J. Cavendish provides one eyewitness account of this rule being reinforced:

“On our way back through the native village, we were overtaken by the Prefect of Inchon, who is the Korean Superintendent of Trade here, borne alone in a box-like chair, preceded and followed by attendants, some armed with pikes, some with trumpets, and some with fans. A respectful demeanour is required from bystanders when the great man passes by, and we were amused to see one of his ‘soldiers’, every now and then, rush at a man who had not left off smoking, seize his pipe, break it in pieces and throw them away, at the same time whacking the smoker over the head with his fan.”

As many parallels as we find between early American and old Korean pipe smoking, that tradition, I suspect, would not have gone over well if transported from one land to another. Still, at least they only whacked the impertinent over their heads with fans, rather than the pikes.

Category:   Pipe Line Tagged in:   History Pipe Culture


    • Luiz Cesar on July 28, 2014
    • Nice piece of history!

    • Smokingpipes Blog on August 4, 2014
    • Thanks, Luiz!

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