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mode of conducting traffic which is here described is so similar to that mentioned in the Sequel, that there cannot be a doubt, I think, that the Seres and Sesatæ are identical. Justice, which is mentioned by Pomponius Mela as a characteristic of the Seres, means here, honesty in carrying on traffic, and a strict regard for truth--virtues which all the hill tribes on the eastern frontier of Bengal have the character of possessing in an eminent degree. The desert is the jungle or forest (aruni) at the foot of the hills, where the hill people barter their goods to the merchants of the plains.
Pliny gives a similar description of the Seres. He states that they are a quiet, and inoffensive people, but that they resemble wild beasts in one respect, namely, that they flee from the sight of men, or rather that they shun intercourse or personal communication with other people, though they are at the same time desirous of carrying on traffic with them.* This, no doubt, refers to the caution and reserve which the hill tribes have always exhibited in their traffic with the people of the plains. Pliny also mentions the Seres as celebrated for silk which their woods produced. In speaking of the embassy from Ceylon to the emperor Claudius, he represents the chief ambassador as stating that they (the people of Ceylon) knew the Seres through the medium or channel of trade, and that his (the ambassador's) father, by name Rachia, had often visited them. He informed the emperor that if strangers approached the country of the Seres, they incurred the risk of being assailed by wild beasts—a remark, which seems to imply, that there was a dense jungle infested with beasts of prey on the frontier of Serica, and that it was dangerous for persons unacquainted with the paths or roads through it to travel to Serica. The Seres are described by the ambassador as giants or people exceeding the ordinary stature of men, as having red hair, and blue eyes, and as speaking an unintelligible language, which rendered it difficult to carry on trade with them.† Pliny mentions that the first river in the country of the Seres was called Psitaras (the Tistha in Rungpore ?), and that in carrying on traffic with them, the merchants placed their merchandize on the farther side of the river. If the Seres wished to barter, they took the goods which were there deposited, and left the commodities which the foreign mer. chants wanted in exchange. The people referred to by the ambassador Pliny. Lib. VI. C. XVII.
+ Ibid. Lib. VI. C. XXII.
appear to be the Bhotiyas, who are a tall race of men, and who probably dyed their hair of a red colour. According to Klaproth,* the ancient Tibelans called Khiang, who were of the Bhotiyah race, painted their faces of a
red colour. The Bhotiyas repair to the great fair held annually in the il Rungpore district, and it was probably here that Rachia, the ambassa
dor's father, saw them. Pliny himself, in describing the Seres, seems to allude to the aboriginal tribes of Rungpore bordering on Assam. The forests of their country produced silk (tassar) which was bartered on
the banks of a river described as the first in their territory, and which j was perhaps the frontier between Bengal and Assam. The barter was
carried on in the manner mentioned by Arrian and Pomponius Mela.
Pausanias mentions two nations of the Seres. Holwell in his Dictionary extracted from “ Bryant's Analysis of Ancient Mythology" states : “ Pausanias (L. 6. p. 519.) describes two nations of the Seres who were of an Ethiopic
, Indic and Sythic family. The first was upon the Ganges, the other region of the Seres is the same with China, and Lies opposite to the island of Japan, called by Pausanias Abasa and Sucaia.” The Ethiopic and Indic Seres here mentioned are the hill tribes and the people of the valley of Assam. The term Ethiopic was applied to the former from the similarity of some of their features to those of the Negro race. Megasthenes compares the inhabitants of India with the Ethiopians. Sir William Jones also remarks, “ that the mountaineters of Bengal and Behar can hardly be distinguished in some of their features , particularly in their lips and noses, from
the modern Abyssinians;" —a fact which he adduces in confirmation of the opinion that Ethiopia and Hindoostan were peopled or colonized by negroes. The Indie Seres, on the other hand, were a people who occupied the lower or western part of the valley next to the Ganges, and who consisted of the descendants of the early Hindoo invaders of the country and of the
aboriginal inhabitants of the plains. The Scythic Seres may be regard.
ed as the Thinæ or Since who occupied Upper Assam and the region extending to the gulf of Siam, opposite to which was the island of Abasa or Sacaia, which is apparently Java.
The loven Reggapa Empôr of Dionysiuss are the Sesatæ of Arrian, or some kindred uncivilized hill tribe bordering on Assam. He describes * Nouv. Journal Asiatique, Tom. 4, p. 104.
Orb. Descript. V. 752.
† As. Res, Vol. I. p. 427.
them as possessing neither flocks nor herds, but as employed in gather ing from the flowers of the desert, a substance that was carded and wover into precious or costly fabrics, which surpassed in the variety and rich ness of their colors the mingled beauties of the enameled mead, anci which rivalled in their delicate texture, even the fineness of the spider's web. The material here referred to, is tassar or moonga silk, which abounds in the forests or jungles of Assam (the desert aruni mentioned in the text), and the rich and varied colours that are mentioned, were nc doubt, imparted to it by the indigenous dyes of Assam, namely, lac, room, manjit, and mismee-tita, which give the beautiful red and blue colours with which the silks of that country are prepared in the present day.
The Schiratæ or Siratæ of Elian are evidently the Ethiopic Seres of Pausanius, or the Sesate of the Sequel. They are mentioned as a people with flat noses, situated in India ultra Gangem--in whose country there were serpents of an enormous size (Boa or python tigris) that devoured cattle. Sir. W. Jones regards the country of the Siratæ of Elian as identical with Sylhet, Siret or Srihaut, a place, which he states, was celebrated among the ancients for the fragrant essence extracted from Malabathrum.* The Seres mentioned by Horace,
" Doctus sagittas tendere Sericas
Hor. Lib. i. 29. are the mountain tribes bordering on Assam, all of whom are expert at the use of the bow and arrow.
The Seres are mentioned by ancient writers as a people who are remarkable for their longevity. They were said to live to the age of two hundred years.
Ctesias and Elian state that the fruit of a tree called Siptachora, from which amber exuded, and upon which there was found a small insect yielding a purple dye, possessed the virtue of prolonging life to the same number of years. It would seem from this circumstance that the Seres inhabited the country in which the Siptachora grew, and as there can be no doubt that the insect alluded to is the lac insect, it may be concluded that Lower Assam is the region which is here referred to. This is rendered the more probable from the account which Ctesias gives of this country. Wilford mentions that Ctesias (accord
* Works of Sir W. Jones, Vol. VI. p. 381.
ing to a passage in the Bibliotheca of Photius) gives the name of Hyparcho to the river which proceeded from the country whence the Siptachora was brought. “ The mountains abound with trees hanging over the numerous streams which flow through them. Once a year during thirty days tears flow plentifully from them, which falling into the waters beneath coagulate into Amber. These trees, the Hindoos call Sipa-chora. In the country about the sources of this river there is a flower of a purple color which gives a dye, not inferior to the Grecian, bat eren much brighter. There is also an insect living upon these arber-bearing trees the fruit of which they eat, and with these insects bruised, they dye stuffs, for close vestures, and long gowns of a purple colour superior to the Persiau. These mountaineers having collected the amber and the prepared materials of the purple dye, carry the whole on board of boats with the dried fruit of the tree, which is good to eat, and then convey their goods by water to different parts of India. A great quantity they carry to the emperor (the king of Magad'ha) to the amount of about one thousand talents. In return they take bread, meal, and coarse cloth. They sell also their swords, bows and
Assam appears to be the country which is here referred to by Ctesias. Lower Assam abounds in lac, while munjit, mishmi-tita and room, which are found in Upper Assam, are apparently the dyes that are mentioned, as produced about the sources of the river Hyparcho. Room is a species of Ruellia, of the family of Acanthacea. Dr. Griffiths states, that with it the deep blue cloths of the Kamptis and Singphos are dyed; he calls it “a valuable dye and highly worthy of attention.”+ According to Ctesias the term trapxos “Hyparcho,” the name that was given to the river proceeding from the country in which the σιτταχόρα grew, means φέρων πάντα τα αγαθά, i. e. “producing all good things."I This must have reference to the valuable merchandize consisting of silk, lac, and other dyes, lign aloe, musk, ivory, gold, silver, and steel, which were exported to India, viâ the Brahmaputra.
Strabo mentions that the Seres formed a republic or commonwealth ;
Wilford's Essay on Anugangam. As. Res. Vol. IX.
Amber is still found in the north-eastern parts of Assam in considerable quantities, or rather between Assam and Burmah.
and that it was governed by a council of five thousand persons, every one of whom found or provided an elephant for the use of the State
Nam Seres tam longæ dicuntur vitæ ut ducentesimum annum exce dant. Ferunt etiam quendam optimatum ordinem rempublicam guber nare ex quinque millibus consiliorum constantem, quorum quisquo:elephantem reipublicæ præbeat.” (Strabo, Latin text, p. 702.) This seems to have reference to the Raj corporations of Assam. Majoi Fisher remarks : "the most ancient form of tenure by which land was held in Assam was under a grant from the prince addressed to a body.. of proprietors, who were erected into a corporation called a Raj, and who possessed the land on terms by which they were bound each fore, the other and for the whole estate. The proprietors of land in every Raj were classified according as they paid revenue to the prince direct, or to some one in whose favour an assignment was made.
The Raj was entrusted with the local administration of affairs and transacted, business in periodical meetings.”* It is probable that the council of five thousand, which Strabo mentions, consisted of the heads or chiefs of these corporations, and that each Raj was bound to provide an elephant for the service of the State. The circumstance of the country of the Seres furnishing the number of elephants here specified is, of itself, sufficient to identify Serica with Assam. There is no other country in the situation assigned to Serica, namely, on the north of India extra Gangem and of Sina or Siam, than Assam, that abounds in elephants, and it may, therefore, be inferred from this fact, coupled with the accounts of other ancient writers, who describe Serica as an extensive and fertile valley watered by large rivers, and abounding in silk, that Assam is the country that is here referred to. It is estimated that upwards of 700 elephants are exported annually from Assam: many also are killed for the sake of their tusks.
Ptolemy describes the Seres and Sinæ as contiguous nations. India extra Gangem, which comprised Arracan, Pegu, and Ava ---constituting the Argentea regio and Aurea Chersonesus of Ptolemy-is mentioned by him, as being divided from the country of the Sinæ by a line commencing at the extremity of Serica, and extending through the middle of the great bay (Sinus Magnus) on the south. The country of the Sinæe therefore was adjacent on the west to India
* Journal of Asiatic Society, No. 104.