Dr. E. B. Landis (1898)

By the death of Dr. Landis, at Chemulpo, Corea, we have lost a member in the prime of life and just when he was beginning to give us the results of years of hard work, and to be known as an authority on the languages of and matters connected with Corea.

Eli Barr Landis was born in Lancaster, Pa., America, and was educated at the University of Pennsylvania, where he took his degree in medicine. After being some time Assistant Physician at the lunatic asylum of Lancaster, he moved to Philadelphia, and soon after that, feeling anxious to devote himself to missionary work, he joined the mission of the Church of England in Corea as a medical missionary, engaging in 1890 to serve there for five years. From the day of his landing till his death he gave himself up to his medical work and to studying the Chinese and Corean languages and the people of the country, their history, customs, beliefs, and lines of thought; realizing, what is too often not thought of, that the first step in missionary work is to get to understand all about the people whom one wishes to influence. With this in view he lived in a small native house as a Corean, without any European surroundings save his books. Having a remarkable talent for languages, a keen delight in all sorts of antiquarian research, and a simple pleasant manner with the people, he succeeded in becoming proficient in the Corean vernacular, a good Chinese scholar, and a trusted friend of the natives, so that he acquired a large stock of information about the country, especially in the way of history, folklore, and demonology. Bishop Corfe writes: “The industry with which he attacked Chinese literature and Corean colloquial, the kindliness of his manner to Coreans, enabled him to be the most remarkable as he was the most hardworking, versatile, and successful member of the mission staff. His income never exceeded £90, which was all I could give him, and with which he was always quite content, managing (I know not how) to save money from it to support a Corean lad, whom he adopted as his son, and to buy himself books which always illustrated his love of antiquarian learning. He was much attracted to Corean folklore, and wrote papers thereon. His knowledge of Chinese script promised to be phenomenal; I never knew a man who in so short a time managed to acquire so many characters.” Another witness of his life says “he loved the people, and they are not easy to love, and he acquired a knowledge of the people such as had been rarely, if ever, equalled by anyone in Corea.”

Shortly before his death Dr. Landis sent to the Royal Asiatic Society a valuable communication, “Biographical Notes of Ancient Corea,” containing notices of the Rulers of Corea from B.C. 2365 to A.D. 925, i.e., the Sin La, the Ko Kou Rye, the Paik Chyei, and the Ka Rak Kouk Dynasties. Unfortunately room could not be found for the paper at the present time in the Journal, but it is one which well shows the author’s great diligence and scholarship. This is not the place to speak of Dr. Landis’ work as a medical man or missionary, but it may be mentioned that the services he rendered to the sick and wounded during the Chino-Japan War were conspicuous, and were recognized by the Governments of both nations, and the Emperor of China conferred on him the Order of the Double Dragon.

The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland (London: Royal Asiatic Society, 1898), pp. 919-920.


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