Buddhism teaches you to cleanse your body, and this custom deeply affected the lives of the Shilla people. An interesting fact is the record of the first bath in the literature of the Korean people that was taken by King Park Hyeokgeose, the founder of Shilla, and Queen Aryeong. The bath culture of the Shilla Unification became more popular in the Goryeo Dynasty. GaoliTujing (GoryeoDogyeong) of Xu Jing, who was an envoy from the Song Dynasty of China, stated, “The people of Goryeo bathe 3-4 times a day, and the men and women gather at a big river in Gaeseong to bathe together.” The women at that time went in the water to bathe while wearing ramie skirts. The concept of treating and preventing diseases through bathing was also introduced around that time. According to “GoryeosaJeolyo: Essentials of Goryeo History”, the kings of Goryeo enjoyed going to the hot springs and required the ill servants to take baths in the hot springs. The bath culture of the Korean Peninsula spread to Japan when Baekje brought Buddhism to the country. Japan had a hot and humid climate, as well as many hot spring baths, so the bath culture
became popular in a completely different way. In Korea, we scrub the body until it is completely clean from filth, but the people in Japan simply wash their bodies with water without any scrubbing. While in their homes, they fill the tub with hot water and everyone in the family take turns in going to the tub, starting with the head of the family. In the Joseon Dynasty, exposing the body was considered a taboo because of the influence of Confucianism. As a result, the royal and noble people washed their bodies while in their bathing clothes. Most of the time, it was ‘partial bathing’, which involves using a pail or a bucket, and full-body bathing became a special event for certain occasions. Samjitnal (March 3), Dano (May5), Yudutnal (June 15), and Chilseok (July 7) were holidays during the Joseon Dynasty when all commoners took full-body baths. The use of herbs or spices while bathing became popular in the Goryeo Dynasty. The women used peach blossom water or boiled orchid water in order to have fairer looking skin. ‘Beauty baths’, wherein plant leaves, stems, and fruits were double-boiled and mixed with bath water, were also popular in the Joseon Dynasty. The two most popular baths were the Ginseng Bath with brewed ginseng leaves and the Garlic Bath with steamed garlic in cotton pockets and vinegar. Bathing was not as popular as before, but the women of Joseon still longed to have fine-looking and beautifully scented skin. This means that the modern women are not the first to enjoy the bath-time aromatherapy for beauty, fragrance, and health.