صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني


produced in the country, with which three-fourths of the people are
clothed. The raw material is seldom purchased; each family spins and
weaves the silk which it rears, and petty dealers go round and purchase
for ready money whatever can be spared for exportation or for the use of
the few persons who have none of their own. Considerable quantities
of the two coarser kinds are also exported. There may be one loom for
every two women, and in great families there are eight or ten which are
wrought by slave girls.” The Muga moth is reared on seven different
Farieties of trees, and the extent of the plantations in Lower Assam is
estimated by Mr. Hugon at 5000 acres exclusive of what the forests
produce.* In Upper Assam the plantations are still more extensive.
Mahomed Cazim describes the silks of Assam in A. D. 1661 as being
of excellent quality and as resembling those of China.” He also states
that the Assamese were skilled in embroidering with flowers and in
weaving velvet and a kind of strong silk fabric called tautbund for mak-
ing tents and khenauts.t Tavernier states that there is in Assam
"great store of silk but coarse," and that there is a sort of silk found
under the trees which is spun by an insect like the silk-worm. The
nature of Muga silk appears to have been unknown before this time.
Methold, who visited India prior to A. D. 1620, speaks of it as being
the production of a certain tree. He mentions as the imports into
Masulipatam from Bengal, "calicuts, lawns, and divers sorts of cotton
cloths, raw silk, and Moga, which is made of the bark of a certain
tree ;” and he adds “many curious quilts and carpets are stitched with
this Moga."$ Muga appears to be the substance which is mentioned
under the name of sericum by the ancients, and which is described by
them as being procured from the leaves or bark of certain trees. It is
evident that they regarded it as a different article from the produce of
the mulberry silk-worm which they designated bombycina. Bombycina
was the name that was applied to the threads spun by an insect called
Bombyx, which Aristotle describes as a horned worm that undergoes
several transformations in the course of six months, and that produces
the substance called “Bombykia.” On the other hand, “Sericum” was
supposed to be a vegetable production. Theophrastus, Virgil, Diony-
sius Periegetes, Pomponius Mela, Seneca, Arrian, Claudian, and Jerom

Journal As. Soc. Vol. VI. p. 21. + As. Res. Vol. II.
Tavernier's Travels. Chap. Assam. & Purchas's Pilgrims, Vol. V.

[ocr errors]

p. 174.

p. 1005.

[ocr errors]

describe it as an article that was obtained from the flowers, leaves, oi the bark of trees. Pliny distinguishes between silk, muga, and cotton The first which he calls bombycina, he mentions as the produce of the insect bombyx, which he refers to Assyria ; the second, or sericum, he describes as a downy or woolly substance which the Seres combed from the leaves of trees, which, he remarks, were different from the wool-bearing trees of Tylos in the Persian gulf, by which he means cotton trees. The latter are mentioned as differing from the trees in the country of the Seres in this respect that they produce down or wool, not on their leaves, but in a fruit, which is described as of the shape of a gourd, and of the size of a quince, and which, when ripe, opens and and displays within balls of down or wool, of which fine and costly' cloths are made. This substance was the produce of trees called Gossampinæ in the lesser isle of Tylos. (Pliny, Lib. xii. Chap. x. and xi.)

The word eplov in the Sequel, which Dr. Vincent has rendered raw silk, is used to designate the woolly substance, which the Seres combed from the leaves of trees. It might be supposed to be derived from eria, ko the name of one kind of indigenous silk of Assam, which Mr. Hugon states was formerly exported to Lassa, but it is evident from other ancient authors who make use of this term, that this is not its origin, and that it is merely the word eplov, lana, which is employed to express a: woolly or downy substance which was procured from trees, and that it is applicable, therefore, to cotton, or to the Muga and other silks of Assam supposed to have been carded from the leaves, bark, or flowers of trees. This word in the passage ινδοι εριω χρωνται η λινω in Dionysius Periegetes, is rendered by Salmasius the wool not of cattle but of trees. Pullux mentions ξυλου εριον and Theophrastus εριοφορα δενδρα-terms which may be considered as referring either to cotton or the indigenous silks of Assam. Sericum, or the indigenous silk of Assam, though generally regarded by the ancients as the product of trees, is nevertheless mentioned by Pausanias as being produced by an insect.

The term Metaxa (uérača) which was subsequently applied to Sericum, appears to be a compound of the words muga and tassar, which are indiscriminately applied about Dacca to the muga silk of Assam or moongatassar, as it is frequently called. Raw-silk is mentioned under the name of Metaxa by Procopius, Suidas, Theophanes, and in the Digest. It was an article of import into Tyre and Baretus, where it was

poten into cloth. Silk merchants were called “metaxiarii,” and the duty that was levied on the raw material was denominated “metaxiati. eum.” It is stated that the price of metaxa was raised by a tax imposed on it in Persia ; and that, on the manufacturers, in consequence of this daty, charging a higher price for their cloths, Justinian fixed a maximum and ruined the trade.

From the manner in which Muga silk is produced, namely, by worms found on certain trees in the forests, or reared on trees planted for the purpose, the error of supposing this substance to be the product of the bark, leaves, or flowers of trees, is easily accounted for. The ancients knew that bombycina (or the mulberry silk) was procured from an insect, but the indigenous silk of Serica or Assam, which they thence called sericum, was supposed, from the accounts they received of it, to be the production of the leaves, the bark, or the flowers of trees.

Ammianus Marcellinus describes the process to which this supposed vegetable product “ fetus arborum” was subjected, in order to facilitate the drawing out, or the reeling of the threads of which it consisted. This was performed by means of frequent sprinklings of water (or perhaps by immersing the silk in water and potash as is practised in Assam in the present day). From this mixture of down and liquid (ex lanu. gine et liquore mistam) the Seres combed out a very slender filamentous substance, and spinning it into woof threads, they wove them into the cloths called Sericum. The author mentions that this kind of cloth was originally, or on its first introduction into Europe, worn only by the nobility, but that in his time it was in common use among the lower classes of people. The cloth, which he here alludes to, appears from the woof alone having been made of silk, to have been mixed cottou and silk fabric, such as is manufactured about Dacca in the present time. These cloths called Kaseedas, consist of two kinds, viz. of Muga silk and cotton woven in the loom, and of cotton cloths embroidered with Muga silk with the needle. The former have been manufactured here from time immemorial. Both kinds are annually exported from Dacca to Bussora and Jidda, whence they are conveyed into the interior of Arabia and Mesopotamia, where they are used as turbans, rests, &c. by all classes of people in these countries. A large quantity is sold at the great annual fair held in the vicinity of Mecca. Formerly, they were an article of export to Egypt and Turkey : and it

[ocr errors]

is probable, therefore, that they are the cloths of that kind which i designated “subserica" by ancient authors, from being made partly c metaxa or tassar silk, and partly, either of cotton or flax.

It would appear, also, that the ancients imported the strong sil fabric, which the Assamese formerly manufactured for tents. Dioi Cassius (L. XLIII.) states, that Julius Cæsar, when he entertained th Romans with magnificent spectacles, covered the amphitheatre witł awnings of sericum to shelter them from the sun. (Vide Macpherson's Annals of Commerce, Vol. I. p. 138.) This, no doubt, was the cloth called tautbund, which Mahomed Cazim states was used for tents and khenauts (or the outer walls of tents).

Ammianus Marcellinus describes the Seres, as people of a most peaceable disposition, as most frugal or provident in their habits, and as shunning intercourse with the rest of mankind. Their mode of carrying on traffic, as mentioned by him, is similar to that described by Pomponius Mela, and Pliny. He states, that when strangers crossed the river to purchase thread or other commodities, the Seres carried on trade with them without interchanging words, and estimated the value of the merchandize offered for sale by inspection alone—disposing of their own goods [by bartering them for articles of country produce] but declining to buy foreign commodities in return. Solinus writes, “Primum eorum fluvium mercatores ipsi transient, in cujus ripis nullo interpartes linguæ commercio sed depositarum rerum pretia æstimantes sua tradiunt nostra non emunt.” The river, on the banks of which the traffic here alluded was carried on, appears to have been the boundary line between Bengal and the country of the Seres. It is apparently the same river, which Pliny designates the first in the country of the Seres, and it

may be regarded, therefore, as having been the frontier one: (Primum eorum noscitur flumen Psitaras.) It appears to be a river in the Rungpore district, and is perhaps the Tistha. The Seres here mentioned are some of the hill tribes bordering on Sylhet and Assam, and the thread, which the strangers or foreign merchants purchased from them, was, no doubt, the Tassar or Muga silk thread of the latter country, &c.

Ammianus Marcellinus alludes to other articles of merchandize besides the thread which the Seres bartered. They comprised skins and iron, and, in all probability, lign-aloe, musk, lac, hair-chowrees, and rhinoceros's horns.


[ocr errors]
[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

Shias. — Pliny mentions that the Seres exported skins and iron along wjzh their cloths. These skins are mentioned under the name of Empiran Pepuere in the Periplus. They evidently refer to the rhinoceros and farfalo hides of Assam, from which the Sylhet shields are made, and which are celebrated throughout India, both on account of their strength, and the fine polish which is imparted to their surface by the juice of the Semicarpus anacardium. The Romans in all probability aprted these bides for the manufacture of their shields.

Iron. — The iron of Serica was considered the best in India (Ex omnibas generibus palma Serico ferro est. Seres hoc cum vestibus suis pellibusque mittunt. Secunda Parthico, neque alia genera ferri ex mera acle temperantur, ceteris enim admiscetur).* Assam and the adjacent countries abound in iron. Dr. Buchanan states that “at Doyang, southFest from Jorhat, a day's journey, there is an iron mine which is sought on account of the king. It supplies the whole country with abundance.”+ Speaking of the places where iron ore is dug out by the Khassias, Lieut. Yule remarks: “so numerous and extensive are the trees of former excavations, that judging by the number at present in progress, one may guess them to have occupied the population for faenty centuries.” | Malte Brun mentions that “ Assam is celebrated for its steel."

This refers to the days that are manufactured by the till tribes, viz., the Nagas, Abors and the Khamtis.

Chocrees.- The fly drivers made of the long glossy hair of the tail of the Yak (Bos grunniens) appear to be the articles mentioned under the uame of Capilli Indici in the Digest. A chowree was one of the insignia of royalty among the ancient Hindoos, and was used in Persia for the fringed knots called Kirtas, which are generally ornamented with gold, and hung round the necks of horses, as a charm against fascination. The Chinese make tufts of it for their caps, and the Turks adorn their military standards with it. Chowrees have always been an article of importation into Rungpore and Assam from Bootan and Thibet, and no doubt, they formed one of the exports from the Gangetic mart of the Periplus. Alian mentions the long bushy tail of the Yak, and it may, therefore, he concluded that it constituted the Capilli Indici specified

* Pliny, Lib. XXXIII. C. XIV.
† Martin's Eastern India, Vol. III. p.

Journal Asiatic Society, Vol. XI. p. 853,


« السابقةمتابعة »