Since taking a bath was one of the precepts of Buddhism through the Age of the Three Empires and the Koryo Dynasty, bathing became a public custom. With the influence of Confucianism, the Joseon Dynasty believed that bathing together or publicly exposing the entire body was subversive, so members of the royalty and novelties bathed in bathing suits. It was called ‘partial bathing,’ but the purpose was not cleansing, but skincare or health. Bathing in tubs became popular among the royalties and high-class novelties, and it was a kind of halfbody bath. They enjoyed using red bean and mung bean powder for facial cleansing, while grain powder, as a type of scrub, naturally exfoliated the skin. Also, they brewed various plant stems, leaves, fruits, and roots to treat illnesses or to provide skincare for young women prior to wedding ceremonies. Among the bathing waters of the Joseon Dynasty, the most effective and the most widely beloved was ‘Ginseng Bath’ with brewed Korean Ginseng and ginseng leaves. It was particularly popular among noble women, as it made women’s skin smooth and radiant.
It is said that ‘garlic bath’ is also effective, and it was prepared by applying a cotton pocket of peeled and crushed garlic and then adding vinegar. This bath was not only good for skincare, but it also treated acne and it prevented frostbites. Also, people bathed with seasonal plants or fruits, such as iris in the late spring, peach in the summer, and yuzu in the winter. ‘Nantang,’ which consisted of brewed orchid, could be enjoyed all year with its subtle, graceful scent. It effectively removed the fishy smell of mung bean or red bean powder. As you can see in the old literature, the kings of Korea loved hot spring baths. The Japanese are known for enjoying bathing the most. Entering the bathtub means ‘warming the body to the core,’ so they enjoy hot baths even in the middle of summer. They allow their bodies to relax in the hot water, relieve themselves from fatigue, and start anew. The history of public bath houses in Japan goes back to the 6th century, when Buddhism was introduced in Japan. In the Edo period, public bath houses flourished, and the culture of bathing continued. The Roman Empire also had a glamorous culture of bathing. Founder Augustus started building public bath houses about 2000 years ago, and there were nearly 850 bath houses by the time of the late Roman Empire. The bath houses were not just for cleansing, but they were vast social spaces with saunas, libraries, shops, and even stadiums. Large hot spring baths were built wherever the Romans stayed, including the Bath in England, Baden in Switzerland, Baden-Baden in Germany, and Vichy in France. The novelties discussed politics, culture, and economy in these bath houses.