« PreviousContinue »
who are not slaves go always armed with a poniard.
They adapt their dress to their occupation, and instead of long flowing garments which other Asiatics wear, they are clothed in short garments closely buttoned. The mahometan religion has been introduced among the Malays, and with it the use of the Arabic characters. Their language is a dialect of the Sanscrit, and is remarkably soft and musical, most of the words ending in a vowel.
730. Productions and Commerce. . Malacca is not highly cultivated, rice being the chief grain raised for food. But the soil is rich, and its spontaneous productions are numerous and valuable. The country is covered with odoriferous trees and flowers, such as the tambac, the sandal, and the odorous cassia, with pepper, spices, gums, and that delicious fruit, the mangostan. Tin and ele. phant's teeth are said to be exported. The forests abound with elephants, wild boars, tigers, monkeys and fowls. The chief city of this peninsula is Malacca, on the southern shore, a place favorable for trade, taken by the Portuguese and held till 1641, when the Dutch took it. It contains 12 or 15,000 inhabitants.
THE BIRMAN EMPIRE. 731. Situation and Extent. The Birman empire comprehends the kingdoms of Ava, on the north, and Pegu, or Bagoo, on the south. The Birmans were formerly subject to Pegu, but they revolted and subjected the whole country in the 16th century. This empire now extends from the 9th to the 26th degree of north latitude, and from the 92d to the 103d east longitude. Its length is more than 1000 miles, and its medial bredth about 500. It is bounded on the south by the Malays, on the west by the bay of Bengal and the British dominions, on the north by Asam, and on the east by Tibet, China and Siam. The population is estimated at 17 millions of souls.
732. Mountains, Rivers, Forests, &c. We have no correct delineation or account of the mountains of Birman. A chain on the northern frontier is mentioned, and another on the west, dividing this empire from the
British dominions. The chief river is the Irrawady, which enters the bay of Bengal after a course of 1200 miles. The Mague, or river of Siam, which is of equal length, enters the gulf of Siam. There are many other considerable rivers, and branches of the larger streams, of which our accounts are confused and imperfect. The forests are numerous and large, supplying timber in abundance, and especially the teak, a timber far superior to the European oak.
733. Productions. . The lands of Birman, like those of the adjacent countries, produce trees and plants of the most valuable kind in rich abundance. Here rise in luxuriance the white sandal and tambac, whose fragrance delights the senses ; the durable teak, the jet black ebony, the sycamore fig, the Indian fig, the banyan tree, whose foliage is impenetrable to the ardent rays of a tropical sun. Ginger, cardamom, turmeric, betel, cinnamon, laurel, tamarind, aloe, sugar cane, plantain, cocoa, and innumerable other trees and shrubs of the most valuable kind, adorn the forests and enrich the gardens of this favored region. Rice is the chief grain raised for food, but wheat and other grains are cultivated.
734. Animals and Minerals. The animals are such as are common to India. Elephants are numerous in Pegu, and buffaloes in the mountains. A kind of wild fowl, called henza, or braming goose, is, like the Roman eagle, the symbol of empire. This country is the golden Chersonese of the ancients, and gold is yet found in the rivers of Pegu. There are also mines of gold and sil. ver, tin, iron, lead, antimony, arsenic and sulphur. Ru. bies, sapphires, garnets, amethysts, chrysolites, jasper, load-stone and marble are also found in this country.
735. Religion and Government. The Birmans adhere to the Hindoo faith and worship, as the disciples of Boodh. The Birmans believe in the transmigration of souls, and that finally those which are radically bad will be condemned to everlasting punishment. They have numerous temples, with idols sitting in the posture of tailors. The priests or talapoins inculcate morality, but the manners of the country are repugnant to our ideas of morals. The government is arbitrary, but the king con
sults a council of nobles. There are no hereditary honors or offices, but all offices cease on the demise of the king. Nobility is graduated by strings, three, six, nine or twelve, while the prince alone wears twenty-four.
736. Language and Literature. The language of Birman must be nearly allied to that of Hindoostan. Literature is cultivated by certain classes of men, and their libraries are filled with books on various subjects, chiefly on divinity. The royal library contains at least 100 chests of books, classed, and the contents of each chest written on the lid in letters of gold. The Birmans write from left to right, like the Europeans, and their books are neatly executed.
737. Manners and Customs. The Birmans are a lively, inquisitive, impatient, irascible race of men. Females are not secluded from public notice, as in some eastern countries, but they are degraded in condition ; their testimony in a court of justice being of less weight than that of men, and being forbid to enter a court, they are obliged to deliver their testimony on the outside. The lower classes often sell their wives and daughters to strangers, a practice which is said to proceed from their poverty. A bankrupt and his family become the slaves of the creditor, The Birmans are fond of poetry and music, and among their instruments is the heem, like the ancient pipe of Pan, formed of several reeds, united and sounded by a common mouth-piece.
738. Chief Cities. The ancient capital was Ava, which has declined since the building of Ummerapoora. This city, now the royal residence, is on the eastern side of a large river which flows into the Irrawady, with a lake on the opposit. side. It is ornamented with tall groves of mango, palmyra and cocoa trees. It contains a lofty obelisk, numerous spires and turrets, a square fort with a gilded temple at each corner, nearly 100 feet high, and in the center is the royal palace, which has a wide court in front, and a council hall on 77 pillars in eleven rows. The population is not known.
739. Pegu. Pegu, formerly the capital of the kingdom of that name, and a most magnificent city, is also in ruins, since the conquest of that kingdom. It is, however, the residence of a viceroy, and decorated with a vast pyramid, a sacred edifice or temple, standing on a double terrace, one side of the lower one being 1391 feet, and of the upper one 684. It is composed of brick and mortar, octagonal at the base, and spiral at the top. On the summit is an umbrella of open iron work, 56 feet in circumference, and the whole edifice is 361 feet high. There are many large cities in this empire, as Rangoon, a commercial port containing 30,000 inhabitants, and others little known.
740. Manufactures and Trade. The Birmans excel in gilding and other ornamental manufactures. Their war boats are of singular construction, formed out of the solid trunk of the teak tree, and from 80 to 100 feet in length. Their barges and their edifices are built and finished with singular taste and elegance. In Chagain is a manufacture of idols from a fine and almost transparent marble.
With the Chinese in Yunan, the Birmans trade in cot ton, amber, ivory, precious stones, and betel nuts, receiving in return silks, velvets, gold leaf, hardware and paper. Vast quantities of rice are transported on the river to the capital from the southern provinces. Cloths, hardware, muslins, porcelain and glass are imported by foreigners. The Birmans, like the Chinese, have no coin, but uncoined silver and lead are current as money.
HINDOOSTAN. *41. Name and Situation. Hindoostan, or Hindustan, is not the primitive name of this country, but seems to have been given to it by the Persians. The name is, like India, derived from the celebrated river Indus, with the termination Tan or Stan, which in Persian signifies country.
This extensive and populous region of Asia is situated between the 8th and 35th degrees of north latitude, and between the 65th and 92d degrees of east longitude. Its utmost length north and south is 1880 miles, and its bredth 1600. On the west it is bounded by the Ocean and by Persia ; on the north by chains of mountains sepa arating it from Tibet ; on the east by the Birman empire, Asam and the Ocean, and on the south by the Ocean.
742. History. The earliest correct accounts of this Gountry are given us by the historians of Alexander the Great, who conquered some part of Hindoostan. In that age, the state of society in India was nearly the same as at present. In subsequent periods, this country has been repeatedly overrun or conquered by the more hardy inhabitants of the north, and in particular by the Mone guls in 1525, and by Aurunzeb in 1678. The death of the latter, in 1707, was soon followed by a rapid decline of the Mongul power. The Portuguese, Dutch and French successively established factories, and made conquests in several parts of Indoostan. The French power ceased with the loss of Pondicherry in 1761. The English, who long had factories in the country, began their conquests in 1749, and have extended their do: minion over a large portion of Hindoostan.
743. Mountains. The principal mountains in Hindoosa tan are those which border Tibet on the north, called Himinala, which signifies snow. It is supposed that this chain is a part of what was called by the ancients Imaus. Two other chains, called guuts, are distinguishable, one about 70 miles from the western coast of the Deccan, the other at a distance from the eastern coast. These rise abruptly, forming, as it were, walls supporting a vast elevated tract of intermediate country. On the east of the Burrampooter are also considerable chains of mountains. - 744. Rivers. The Ganges. The noble Ganges, a river held sacred by the Hindoos, originates in the Ti. betan Alps, and receiving a great number of subsidiary streams, from the north and west, it runs a south easta erly course of about 1400 miles, to the head of the bay of Bengal. Before it arrives at the sea, it is joined by the Burrampooter, and forms several channels, around a Delta and a number of islands. The annual inundations of this large river spread the water over the adjac cent lands to the extent of 100 miles.