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Many of them are huntsmen by profession, living for months in the wildest forests, where they shoot elephants for the ivory; they are also the trappers, tamers, and managers of elephants in general, to them in their own country the most important of domesticated animals; while in the Tenasserim provinces, under Burmese rule, elephant scarcely ever known tamed. The greatest part of the Siamese in the provinces approach more to the Malay than Chinese type in their features, which are generally very coarse, and their women very ugly, though both are generally well built, and taller than the Burmese. The huntsmen, particularly, are very nimble, sprightly, dexterous, and courageous; while the peaceful cottagers of the two settlements of Boukpeen and Lennya, which existed before the British occupation, are on the contrary dull. We cannot be allowed to judge of the Siamese as they appear in Tenasserim, for they were before they arrived the poorest elass of depressed slaves, whom necessity only drove to seek a peaceable asylum. The more wealthy and favoured Siamese in the great delta or valley of Menam, and those towards the gulf of Cambogia, are said to be intellectually much advanced, and the great number of Chinese living among them, will have communicated to them more civilized manners, and improved modes of cultivation.
4. The Kareans—their origin.— The Kareans are the inhabitants of the longest standing in the provinces, who have survived the shocks of succeeding revolutions. Their origin cannot be traced. Some suppose them to be the aborigines of the country, some affirm they are the wreck of a great nation, fallen into dependence and slavery, expatriated and spreading afterwards over a wide extent of Indo-China, for they are found from the 11th to the 23rd degree of north latitude. The American missionaries, who are much interested about this people, are of opinion that they originally came from Thibet; the opinion seems however to rest only upon the congruity of names and some manners.
Their station.—Wherever they exist, they hold an inferior station in the country, excepting the so-called red Kareans to the north of Maulmain, who have resisted the Burmese influence,-they are mountaineers, subsisting upon prey and plunder.
The Kareans of the Tenasserim provinces, forming separate colonies, inhabit such parts as are unoccupied by any other inhabitants, which are the inland portions of the country; they there choose their abodes either on the banks of rivers or in secluded valleys. These communities do not generally consist of more than from three to twelve houses or families. As they have the custom of intermarriage, they are nearly related to each other. Soli
tary huts of Kareans are often to be found in places where for many miles in circumference no other human being is to be found. They live exclusively upon the produce of the soil, planting mountain-rice, and some other indispensable articles, generally as much as they want for home consumption. Very rarely has a Karean a sur. plus, more frequently not sufficient to subsist upon.
Migration seems almost incompatible with the occupation of a husbandman, and is certainly a strange anomaly in a country highly productive; yet the Kareans subsist solely upon the produce of their plantations, and have no permanently fixed habitations.
Modes of cultivation.—When a Karean family has chosen a place for a plantation, huts of bamboo thatched with palm leaves are constructed, and then a part of the forest is cleared, just as much as is necessary to plant the ground with rice, requisite to maintain the number of persons settled for a year. The paddy is sown upon the imperfectly burnt down forest, without any tillage or other preparation, and whatever else is wanted (cotton, indigo, sesam, vegetables, &c.) is promiscuously sown or planted on the same spot. The following year, another spot is cleared in the vicinity, and after some years, or when a death happens, the family removes to a greater distance, and begins again the highly laborious task of felling immense forest trees, visiting only from time to time the old establishment, which yet yields fruits surviving several seasons; and so the Karean wanders all his life time, without having settled permanently.
The reason for this extraordinary custom is differently accounted for. The Kareans say, that one and the same place does not produce rice for several years ; an objection which is refuted by the example of other countries similarly situated, where new lands are not so abundant as here.
Others say, that there is greater trouble in keeping the ground clear from weeds, than to fell a new forest, which seems equally incredible. Probably the roaming propensity of the Kareans, and old established custom, are the chief reasons ; to which must be added a great superstition and fear of nats and evil spirits ; such beings, having in their opinion, an allotted dominion over certain districts.
Whatever may be the origin of this extraordinary custom, certain it is, that the produce must be inferior ; all perennial cultivation being in this way excluded, and gradual amelioration quite out of the question; hence it may be that the Kareans have remained always stationary, upon a low scale of civilization.
Their fate under the Burmese government.—Under the Burmese government the Kareans were depressed, and were liable to be called upon to do public works without remuneration, whenever it pleased the government.
This relation towards their masters exposing them to all kinds of vexations without hopes of redress, seems to have been the first reason of their retiring into seldom visited, or sometimes inaccessible parts of the country, where they hoped to be beyond the immediate reach of their oppressors.
Though they have been placed on the same footing with the Burmese since the conquest of the country by the British, and en. joy at present formerly unknown rights and an impartial justice, yet they are still so timid that they can scarcely be prevailed upon to visit the towns on the sea-coast.
They have a language of their own, which has lately been drawn from its obscurity by the exertions of the missionaries, though they are without any communication with their brethren in Siam and Burmah, even confined sometimes as long as they live to the narrow sphere of their self-chosen district; yet it is affirmed that the Burmese Kareans bordering upon China, at a distant of 130 of latitude, speak a dialect of the same language which is current amongst the Kareans of Mergui Province.
5. The Seelongs-their origin.-— These are again a variety of people different from all others just enumerated. They are the last in the scale of civilization, but not the least interesting.
The Seelongs are the inhabitants of the islands constituting the archipelago of Mergui, and are a race of wandering fishermen, building temporary huts of reeds, palm-leaves, and bamboos during the inclemency of the monsoon, and passing the rest of the year either in boats, or on the sea-beach under the shade of trees; they live upon the spontaneous productions of nature, but chiefly upon the produce of the sea ; turtles, fish, and shell-fish forming the principal food.
They never cultivate the ground. Their origin is unknown. Whether they are the wreck of some more numerous and independent nation, as they pretend to be, gradually vanishing from the face of the earth; or whether they are the descendants of shipwrecked people, a mixture of different races, augmenting in the course of time, will scarcely ever be determined.
Their number.-As they exist at present, they form but a petty tribe, not exceeding, it is said, one thousand souls in number, and they will probably soon be extinct, for they are diminishing annually.
They have a peculiar language, but too little is known of it to determine whether it is a mixture of the languages spoken around them, or a peculiar tongue.
Their civilization.-It may well be imagined, that they are on a very low scale of civilization, one should think far below the North American Indians ; yet the term savages, so lavishly bestowed upon so many nations not meriting that epithet, is not applicable to them.
Their communities. They form communities, divided into families, governed by strictly determined usages, which are always punctually adhered to; they accommodate themselves willingly to the laws of the government on which they are dependent ; they carry on a petty trade of exchange ; they have a correct notion of right and wrong; crimes are little known, and the transgressors rigidly punished; they live in peace and harmony amongst each other ; their food is the spontaneous productions of nature; they are totally ignorant of what exists beyond their rocks and islands ; they have no established form of religion, pretending, as they express themselves, never to have thought whether there be a future existence or not.
Their former relations with Burmah.-At the time of the Burmese rule they were the most independent and unharassed people of the provinces. The Burmese have always been very bad seamen, scarcely able to retain possession of the islands belonging to their territory, and never could cope with the skilful Malay pirates. The Seelongs however, though freed from Burmese oppression, were nevertheless not better off, for they were a prey to all the numerous buccaniers not long ago infesting these seas.
Their seclusion. It is very difficult even to this day to meet this roaving tribe amongst the islands which they visit; they hide themselves whenever they see a strange sail approaching, and it cannot be denied, that they have reason to be apprehensive, for to this day irregularities can easily occur in the Mergui archipelago, where not a shadow of British authority is permanently established, on account of these parts having hitherto been entirely useless and unknown ; and it is only to be wondered, that depredati. ons on a larger scale have never occurred in those parts in late years.
The whole population considered. These are the different races inhabiting the provinces. The small number of all (taking them collectively, not exceeding one hundred thousand) spread over an area of thirty thousand square miles, proves clearly that these unfortunate countries have been the constant scene of contest; that as the one or
the other nation settled, and began to thrive, it excited the envy and desire of a powerful neighbour, who in a single successful invasion devastated all, exterminated, dispersed, and carried away the population; and that the descendants of these, in their turn, were treated in the same manner by subsequent conquerors. The Talians, the Siamese, and Burmese, experienced successively these calamities, and the remaining mixed populations are the wreck and ruins of their forefathers, surviving their former sway and subsequent downfall. The Kareans and Seelongs, who as far as it is known, were always in subjection, had still less opportunity to increase and flourish.
Having no country of their own to retire to, they in the first instance under the scourging authority of the conqueror, felt all the calamities of invasion, and never enjoyed a time of undisturbed peace and prosperity, which was at least accorded to the conquered, in the intervals from one invasion to another.
6. Foreigners—Chinese. — The most important and most useful of all foreigners are the Chinese, whose semi-compulsory emigration disseminated them over the whole of the Indian archipelago, and other adjoining parts.
The tide of this emigration poured in, in the first instance, into Cochin-China and Cambogia, on account of their vicinity to China Proper, and half of the present inhabitants of these countries are represented to be of Chinese origin. They have acquired great importance in Siam, where 200,000 of this people are said to be alone in Bankouk and its neighbourhood. The Chinese also form a part of the population of the Philippine Islands. The Dutch though treating them from time to time very harshly, patronize them on the whole, in their possessions and dependencies, and their numbers are continually augmenting in Java, and in the Moluccas. Chinese are settled in Borneo, Celebes, Timor, and Sumatra. The British possessions in the straits of Malacca are full of Chinese ; and Chinese are found to the north of Ava in Burmah.
Their settlement in Tenasserim.—The Tenasserim provinces held out but a slight prospect to the Chinese under Burmese rule, on account of the insignificance of the country. The Burmese authorities seem to have encouraged their settling, and the small number who did settle, acquired wealth and consequence, by succeeding in monopolizing the few lucrative branches of occupation in the country. They do not palpably increase, but will certainly augment rapidly when the provinces become of greater importance.