Page images

lately taken by the English. The inhabitants, who are of Hindoo race, and called Singalese, remain in their native state, and are little known, except on the sea coast. Trincomalee, on the east, affords a good harbor. The chief town is Colombo, on the west side, which gives name to a bitter wood used by us. The commeree of the island is chiefly valuable for its cinnamon, precious stones, and pearls. 770. Pearl Fishery. The taking of pearls at Ceylon commences in February and continues till April, when the south west monsoon begins. Thousands of people throng to the shore, with their huts, tents and bazars. The pearls are taken by divers, who descend from five to ten fathoms, and remain under water about two minutes. They carry down small nets, and bring up 100 oysters in a net. The pearls are found in or upon oysters, formed like the coats of an onion, around a grain of sand, covered by the animal with a glutinous substance to preserve it from friction. The gold colored pearls are the most esteemed by the natives. 77 l. The Maldives and Laceadives. South west of Cape Comorin lies a cluster of low islands, called Maldives, which are said to be a thousand or more in number. They are peopled by Mahometans and Pagans. The chief products of the islands for export, are cocoanuts and fish, particularly a shell fish called cowrie, which is used for money. The Laccadives, west of the Malabar coast, are a groop of islands, about 30 in number, which afford the same articles as the Maldives, and ambergris is said to be found floating on the adjacent Sea. 772. Andaman and Micobar. Opposit to the coast of Malacca, lies a range of islands, the principal of which are Andaman and Nicobar. Andaman is 140 miles in length, but narrow, and has good harbors. The soil is good, and the forests afford ebony, and a kind of bread fruit. The sea abounds with oysters, mullets and soles, but the inhabitants are savage, and what is remarkable, they have woolly hair like the Africans. The Nicobar islands are three, the largest about fifteen miles in circumference. The people appear to be of Tartaric origin. 773. Sumatra. Sumatra is an island of 950 miles in length, and 200 in bredth, south of Malacca, from which it is separated by a narrow strait. Chains of high mountains run the whole length of this island, which render the air cooler than in Hindoostan. The year has two divisions, the dry and rainy monsoons. The dry, or south east monsoon, commences in May and ends in September ; the north west, or rainy monsoon, begins in November and ends in March. The soil is rich, and a great part of the island is covered with an impervious sorest. The animals and plants of Sumatra are the same as in other Asiatic countries within the tropics. The principal commodity for export is pepper, which grows on a creeping plant or vine. Other products are coffee, ebony, rattans, camphor, benzoin, cassia, and cotton, of which the kind called silk cotton is of distinguished gloss and delicate texture. The people excel in gold and silver fillagree, and in weaving silk and cotton. The English possess Bencoolen, on the south western side of the island. 774. Inhabitants of Sumatra. The inhabitants are Malays, Mahometans, and inland natives, some of whom, as the Googoo, are said to be covered with hair, and little superior to the Oran Outang. The natives have a yellow or tawney complexion, with flat noses, and dark clear eyes. The noses of infants are flattened, and their ears extended. In the interior mountainous parts, the people have the goiter. The clothing of the natives is made of the bark of trees. Both sexes file their teeth, and stain them black. Their houses are of wood and bamboo, covered with leaves of the palm, and standing on pillars. The furniture is simple, and rice the principal food of the inhabitants. The villages are on hills, surrounded by fruit trees. Their amusements are combats of cocks and quails, with a variety of dances. There are several volcanoes on the island, and violent thunder is frequent. 775. Java. Java, an island of 650 miles in length, but narow, is situated south east of Sumatra, from which it is separated by the strait of Sunda. It abounds with forests, and is covered with perpetual verdure. On the north side stands Batavia, a large town belonging to the Dutch, whose low situation and canals render it very unhealthy. The water also is of a bad quality, and the musketoes vexatious. The Javanese are of a yellow complexion, and generally Makometans. Batavia is chiefly peopled by the Chinese, but the natives of many countries resort to the place for trade. The productions of Java are nearly the same as those of Sumatra, but the chief export is coffee. 776. Borneo. East of Sumatra, under the equator, lies Borneo, reputed the largest island on the globe, being 900 miles in length by 600 in bredth. The sea coast consists mostly of marshes; the interior contains mountains, some of them volcanic, whose eruptions occasion tremendous earthquakes. But the inland parts of the island are little known. On the coast are seen Malays, Moors, and Japanese ; but the native inhabitants are black, with long hair, of a middle stature, feeble and inactive. The chiefs extract one or two of their teeth, and substitute others of gold, and strings of tiger's teeth are worn round the neck as a badge of rank. On the sea coast, houses are built on pillars supported by rafts, and at the Banjar river, they rise and fall with the tide. 777. Manilla Isles. The Manillas, called also Phillipine islands, lie north east of Bornco, and east from Cochin China, extending from about 5 to 20 degrees of north latitude. The largest of them are Luzon and Mindano. Luzon is near 500 miles in length by 100 in bredth. The natives seem to be of Malay origin. The island is pervaded by a chain of mountains, but is fertile, producing cotton, Sugar cane, cocoa trees, and other plants suited to the climate. The houses are built of bamboo, and elevated 8 or 10 feet on posts, as in other islands. Mindano is next in size to Luzon, and its inhabitants and productions are of the same kind. There are several other isles of considerable magnitude, and the small ones amount to hundreds. Among them are several * This groop was discovered by Magellan in 1521, and on one of them he lost his life. Some of these islands are in possession of Spain.

778. The Celebez. To the east of Borneo is Celebez, an irregular island of 600 miles in length, but deeply indented with bays. This island presents the most romantic scenery, of high mountains, rocks, rivers, and lofty trees. The inhabitants, called Macassars, are said to be addicted to piracy, and to poison their lances and

arrows with the juce of the Upas. Like the inhabitants

of other Asiatic isles, they raise their houses on pillars on account of the deluging rains of the west monsoon, from November till March. This island is in possession of the Dutch, who restrain the depredations of the natives. It is surrounded by numbers of smaller ones, forming a large groop.

779. Moluccas. The Moluccas, or Spice Islands, lie east of Celebez, the most important of which are Banda, Ternate and Amboyna. These islands are possessed by the Dutch, who expelled the Portuguese, the first European settlers. The chief quadrupeds are goats, hogs and deer. The natives are pagans or mahometans. These islands are chiefly valued for the spices which they produce, especially nutmegs and cloves, but an earthquake and hurricane in 1778 almost annihilated the nutmeg trees in Banda. This tree rises to the size of a pear tree, the leaves resembling those of the laurel, and it bears fruit from the age of ten to one hundred years. The nutmeg, when growing, is of the size of an apricot, shaped like a pear, and when ripe, the rind opens,

and discloses the mace, of a deep red color, which covers the nutmeg, --4--TARTARY.

780. Situation and Extent. That part of Tartary which is not subjected to any neighboring nation, extends from the Caspian sea to the mountains of Belur, about 870 miles, from east to west; and from north to south, from the mountains of Gaur to the boundaries of Russia, a Space of 1500 miles. 781. Mountains. The Belur Tag, or ancient Imaus, * $*** Alpine chain of mountains, perpetually covered with snow, limits Independent Tartary on the east, and divides it from Little Bucharia, the country of Kalmucks, who have been rendered tributary to China. In the center are the mountains of Alak, the Kizik Tag, the Kara Tau and Ak Tau. On the south are the mountains of Gaut, which separate Tartary from Hindoostan. 782. Rivers. The chief rivers are the Amu, called by the ancients Oxus, and the Sirr, the ancient Iaxartes. The Amu, which the oriental geographers call Gihon, has its sources in the Belur Tag, and being augmented by streams from the Gaut, or Hindookoh, on the south, it runs northerly to the lake of Aral, a course of about 900 miles. The Sirr, or Sihon, rises also in the mountains of Belur, and falls into the same lake, after a western and north western course of 500 miles. The smaller rivers are numerous. 783. Lakes. The largest lake is the Aral, east of the Caspian, which is 200 miles in length, and 70 in bredth. It receives the two great rivers, Amu and Sirr, and has no outlet into the ocean. Its water is salt, like that of the Caspian, and there are saline lakes in its vicinity. This lake is surrounded by sandy deserts, which have not been explored by Europeans. East of the Aral lies the Balcash, or Palkati, a lake of 140 miles in length, by 70 in bredth. The smaller lakes are little known. 784. I’ace of the Country and Productions. The distinguishing feature of Tartary is the steps, vast barren plains in the north, which are possessed by the Kirguses, who consist of three hords or tribes. On the east of the Caspian is an extensive desert, but the lands on the rivers Amu and Sirr are fertile, especially in Sogd, the ancient Sogdiana. The mountains of Tartary afford many valuable minerals, and the earth is capable of producing all kinds of grain and fruits suitable to the climate, but the Tartars suffer most of their land to lie in pasture for their flocks and herds, on which they chiefly subsist. - 785. Religion and Manners. The prevailing religion is the Mahometan, and the government, administered by khans, or kings, is mostly absolute. Their language is Turkish, or Zagathian. In general the Tartars are

« PreviousContinue »