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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Hideyoshi espied the Korean musicians


After

a short interval, Hideyoshi retired behind a curtain, but all his officers remained in their places. Soon after, a man came out dressed in ordinary clothes, with a baby in his arms, and strolled about the hall. This was no other than Hideyoshi himself, and everyone present bowed down his head to the ground. Looking out between the pillars of the hall, Hideyoshi espied the Korean musicians. He commanded them to strike up all together as loud as they could, and was listening to their music when he was reminded that babies could despise ceremonies as much as princes, and laughingly called one of his attendants to take the child and bring him a change of clothing. He seemed to do exactly as he pleased, and was as unconcerned as if nobody else were present. The ambassadors, having made their obeisance, retired, and this audience was the only occasion on which they were admitted to Hideyoshi's presence.

After long delay Hideyoshi replied to the letter carried by the above envoys, and his language is important as clearly indicating the part which he designed for Korea in the pending war. The document is thus translated by Mr. Aston:

This empire has of late years been brought to ruin by internal dissensions which allowed no opportunity for laying aside armour. This state of things roused me to indignation, and in a few years I restored peace to the country. I am the only remaining scion of a humble stock, but my mother

once had a dream in which she saw the sun enter her bosom, after which she gave birth to me. There was then a soothsayer who said: "Wherever the sun shines, there will be no place which shall not be subject to him. It may not be doubted that one day his power will overspread the empire." It has therefore been my boast to lose no favourable opportunity, and taking wings like a dragon, I have subdued the east, chastised the west, punished the south, and smitten the north. Speedy and great success has attended my career, which has been like the rising sun illuminating the whole earth.

When I reflect that the life of man is less than one hundred years, why should I spend my days in sorrow for one thing only? I will assemble a mighty host, and, invading the country of the great Ming, I will fill with the hoar-frost from my sword the whole sky over the four hundred provinces. Should I carry out this purpose, I hope that Korea will be my vanguard. Let her not fail to do so, for my friendship with your honourable country depends solely on your conduct when I lead my army against China.

The Korean envoys entrusted with the delivery of the above despatch were accompanied by one of the chief vassals of the Tsushima baron, and a monk, named Genso, who acted in the capacity of interpreter. By these two Japanese the Korean Government was clearly informed that nothing was required of Korea beyond throwing open the roads to China, and that she would not be asked to give any other assistance whatever in the war against her northern neighbour. In the context of this explanation, the Seoul Government was reminded that, three centuries previously, Korea had permitted her territory to be made a basis of Mongolian operations against Japan, and therefore the peninsula might well allow itself to be now used as a basis of Japanese operations against China. From Korean annals we learn that the following despatch was ultimately sent by the Korean sovereign to Hideyoshi*:


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