There is no place in town which I so much love to frequent as the Royal Exchange. Factors in the trading world are what ambassadors are in the politic world; they negotiate affairs, conclude treaties, and maintain a good correspondence between those wealthy societies of men that are divided from one another by seas and oceans, or live on the different extremities of a continent. I have often been pleased to hear disputes adjusted between an inhabitant of Japan and an alderman of London, or to see a subject of the Great Mogul entering into a league with one of the czars of Muscovy. I am infinitely delighted in mixing with these several ministers of commerce, as they are distinguished by their different walks and different languages; sometimes I am jostled among a body of Armenians; sometimes I am lost in a crowd of Jews; and sometimes make one in a group of Dutchmen. Nature seems to have taken a peculiar care to disseminate the blessings among the different regions of the world, with an eye to this mutual intercourse and traffic among mankind, that the natives of the several parts of the globe might have a Kind of dependence upon one another, and be united together by their common interest. For these reasons there are not more useful members in the commonwealth than merchants. They knit mankind together in a natural intercourse of good offices, distribute the gifts of nature, find work for the poor, add wealth to the rich, and magnificence to the great. Our English merchant converts the tin of his own country into gold, and exchanges his wool for rubies. The Mahometans are clothed in our British manufacture, and the inhabitants of the frozen zone warmed with the fleece of our sheep.
In the preceding chapters I have briefly sketched the annals of the great empires of antiquity on the two older continents. But there are yet to be described on these continents nations almost as ancient, if not as famous, as were the Babylonians and Assyrians, the Egyptians and Phoenicians, of all of which mention is required in a work whose theme is the wealth of the world. The remaining countries of Asia, and the islands thickly clustered in the East Indian archipelago and in Polynesia, will form the subject of the present chapter, Africa being reserved for later description, since recent explorations and discoveries are the principal topics of interest pertaining to that continent.
Beginning therefore with the Chinese dependencies, let us turn to Mongolia, of which there are few authentic records until the reign of Genghis Khan, who at his death, in 1227, bequeathed to his sons an empire extending from the China sea into the heart of modern Russia.
By Ogdai, his second son was completed the conquest of northern China, and a few years later the Mongol armies extended his kingdom in all directions, to Korea, to the central provinces of China, to western Asia, and far into the center of Europe. With fire and sword these destroying hordes laid waste the Countries through which they passed, committing the most hideous atrocities and sparing none save those who could minister to their needs or lusts. Ryazan, Moscow, Vladimir, and Kieff they captured with little resistance, and there were enacted such nameless horrors that, as was said, "no eye remained open to weep for the dead." Men and women were roasted or flayed alive; some were impaled, and under the nails of others were driven splinters of wood. At Vladimir a host of fugitives, among whom was the royal family, perished in the flames which laid in ashes the cathedral whither they had fled for refuge. At Kieff hundreds were buried under the flat roof of a church which gave way beneath the crush of those who sought escape from the general massacre. Advancing into Poland and Hungary, the Tartars defeated the opposing forces, taking the Hungarians by surprise and strewing the road with their corpses for a score of miles beyond the battlefield. At their approach the people of Cracow and Liegnitz burned their cities to the ground, leaving as spoils for the conquerors the blackened walls of their former homes. Further outrages were stayed only by the demise of Ogdai, who with half the world at his feet gave himself over to debauchery and died a drunkard’s death.
Early in the reign of Mangu, nephew of Ogdai, his capital was visited by Christian monks, one of whom gives a description of the royal palace, somewhat in contrast with the tents and camping grounds of his ancestors. In its central hall, with nave and aisles divided by columns, sat the members of the court on state occasions. Here also was the throne of the khan, in front of which was a tree of silver, with lions at the base, from whose mouths spouted into silver basins, wine, koumiss, and mead. Above the tree the figure of an angel, also fashioned in silver, sounded a trumpet at intervals, as a signal to replenish the tanks of liquor beneath. During the administration of Mangu, the empire was further extended by conquests of his brother Hulagu, and a disturbance in the province of Persia was quelled with the usual barbarity. Baghdad, for centuries the seat of eastern culture wealth and learning, was for seven days subjected to pillage and massacre, with the sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of lives and hundreds of millions in booty. Famine in its direst form followed in the footsteps of the Tartars; but marching onward into Syria, Aleppo was sacked, Damascus captured, and when summoned homeward by tidings of his brother’s death, Hulagu was planning an attack on Jerusalem.
To Mangu succeeded his younger brother Kublai, of whose exploits sufficient mention has been made. It remains, however, to be said that his campaigns were conducted with humanity, and that for the first time perhaps in the annals of Mongol warfare, the lives of the captured were spared. Then follows a succession of khakans, or chief khans, as to whom there is little of special interest. Though appointed usually by right of primogeniture, the right was confirmed election with attendant ceremonies and lavish dispensation of presents. After the election for instance of Kubluk Khan, nephew to Kublais son and successor he was raised aloft by princes of the blood, and while prayers for his welfare were being offered by the shamans, the ground was covered with pearls, and donations distributed from vehicles filled with gold and costly fabrics. Then came an entire week of feasting, during which were consumed several hundred oxen and many thousands of sheep.
At Peking, or Yenking, as was christened the city built anew by Kublai Khan was now the Tartar capital, afterward known to the Mongolians as the Khanbalik, or city of the Khan. Here, for three years during the reign of Yissun Timur sojourned the Franciscan friar Odoric, who gives an interesting description of the royal palace, written, doubtless, after his return to Europe in 1329. The walls were hung with red leather of finest quality, and within were four and twenty pillars of gold. Almost in the center stood a huge vessel several feet in height and fashioned of a stone so precious as to be worth a city’s ransom. Into this vessel wine was conveyed by pipes, and around it were golden goblets from which those might drink who would. When the khan took his seat on the throne, the queen sat on his left, and a step below him were two of the ladies of his court, the remainder standing at the foot.
All the married women wore head-dresses adorned with the feathers of cranes and with the finest and largest pearls that the realms of the sovereign contained.
With the reign of Yissun Timur comes to an end the magnificence of the Tartar empire, and presently the empire itself. The monarchs who followed were noted only for gross dissipation and licentiousness, leaving the affairs of the kingdom in the hands of ministers who were not slow to follow their example. As the natural result came discontent and disorder, further increased by disastrous floods which destroyed many thousands of homes, and by earthquakes which laid entire provinces in ruins. By one of the most violent shocks was demolished the temple of the Imperial Ancestors, and from its altars were stolen the silver tablets of the khans. To prevent the periodical overflow of the Yellow river, Toghon Timur, the last of the sovereigns descended from the house of Genghis Khan, levied a burdensome tax for the construction of a new channel, a work that required the enforced labor of 60,000 men. Then came insurrection, headed by a Buddhist priest, whose raw recruits defeated the trained soldiery of the empire. Province after province yielded to the rebels; cities opened their gates, and finally Peking was captured. Toghon betook himself to flight; the Buddhist priest, and the Tartar the Hidalgo of his countrymen, ascended the throne as the first of the great Ming dynasty, invaders were driven back to their pasture grounds.
Soon afterward the Mongols were disintegrated as a nation, and divided into many branches whose fortunes we cannot follow. Some retained their independence for several centuries, ever engaging in wars that resulted in alternate victory and defeat; but one by one they fell under Russian or Chinese domination, the former power absorbing the best of their territory, while that which now remains to the latter is little better than a desert waste. In all Mongolia, with nearly 1,300,000 square miles of territory, there are barely 2,000,000 inhabitants, divided into a number of petty tribes, of which the Turkis in the western portion are among the most barbarous of human of horses and beings. The rearing of cattle and sheep, camels is the chief and almost the only industry; for rain falls seldom and in the smallest quantities, restricting agriculture to the mountain slopes, where melting snows supply the needed moisture. Such wealth as exists is in the form of flocks and herds, and there are few towns or even villages worthy of the name.
The Manchus. or people of Manchuria, first appear in history as a group of nomad tribes paying tribute to China in gold, hawks, and arrowheads fashioned of stone. Later they invaded the Chinese empire and there established dynasties, first the Leaon or Iron, and then the Ken or Golden dynasty; for, said the founder of the latter, by whom its title was adopted, "iron rusts, but gold never loses its purity and color." Expelled by Genghis Khan, the Manchus fell into obscurity until, under Nohachi, they regained their foothold in the northern provinces. Near the middle of the seventeenth century they were invited to suppress a rebellion with which the imperial forces were unable to cope; but this accomplished, instead of returning homeward, they advanced on Peking, and there proclaimed, under the title of Shunche, the first emperor of the present dynasty.
But while China has been ruled for centuries by Manchu sovereigns, Manchuria is not as yet a Chinese province, though promising soon to become so; for most of its people are Chinamen, and the Chinese language is taught in all its schools. Both are essentially agricultural communities, indigo being largely cultivated in the southern plains, and the poppy wherever it will grow; for the latter is the most profitable of all the crops, among which are also cereals, cotton, and tobacco. In minerals the country is exceedingly rich; gold, gems, iron, and coal being found in such quantities as with the use of modern appliances should insure an ample return. Its flora resembles closely that of England, and in its fauna are included nearly all the wild animals found in Europe. The rivers abound with fish, and especially with salmon, which at certain seasons appear in swarms even larger than those which frequent Alaskan rivers; so that in the smaller streams thousands are crowded out of the water by those below, and east upon the ground.
Hence probably the legend of the Manchurian Phaeton, a prince of supernatural birth, who, coming to a broad river over which there was no bridge nor other means of crossing, cried to his father for help: whereupon fish came to the surface in shoals so compact that he walked upon them to the opposite bank.
Moukden, or as in the Chinese, Shing Yang, the capital of Manchuria, is a city of some importance in the southern or Leaon-tung province, with its 12,000,000 or 13,000,000 inhabitants, of whom perhaps 250,000 are denizens of the metropolis. Its streets are wide and regular, and its shops well stored with goods. Around it is a wall of imposing aspect, pierced with several gates, and within which are duplicated the famous drum tower and great bells of Peking. Of Leaon-yang, the former capital, much of its site, where once were busy marts of trade, has been converted into vegetable gardens. At the present day commerce centers mainly in the treaty port of Yingtsze, the Principal Street of which a league in length, is lined with stores and warehouses its foreign and internal trade probably exceeding $20,000,000 a year.
East Turkestan was a dependency of China as early as the first century of our era; but the yoke sat lightly on her people and was easily shaken off. Then came a succession of invaders and first the Ghetes, a horde of whom, driven by the Huns from Mongolia roamed, through the great plateau of eastern Asia. In the seventh and eighth centuries this region, in common with other portions of western China, was occupied at intervals by the Tibetans, who presently gave way to the Turks, and these again to the Tartars, the country forming a portion of the great empire conquered by Genghis and Kublai Khan. But throughout these and other changes China never entirely lost her hold on what is now termed Eastern or Chinese Turkestan, the defeat, in 1879, of the last of many insurrections completing its subjugation. Silk and cotton are the chief articles of export, and these and leather together with copper, iron, and leather goods are manufactured to a limited extent; but stock-raising on the pasturage of the foot-hills is the leading industry and the principal source of wealth. Gold has been found both in alluvial and quartz deposits, especially in the district and near the city of Khotan, where also are precious stones, jade, antimony, copper, iron, and coal, with sulfur and saltpeter here and elsewhere widely distributed. Commerce is of course insignificant; much more so than in the days of antiquity, when east Turkestan was on the route of numberless caravans journeying westward from China. Kasghar on the Tuman River, with a population of perhaps 120,000, is the chief emporium of trade. Near the old quarter of the town called Kuhna Shahr, surrounded with turreted and bastioned walls, are the ruins of a larger city, destroyed in 1514 during the invasion of Said Khan.
Nearby are the mausoleum and shrine of a king worshipped after death as the patron saint of the country, and an edifice surrounded with gardens and orchards, serving at once as mosque and monastery. The new quarter, or Yangi Shahr as it is termed, is also encompassed with bastioned and turreted walls; but as all the fortifications are of mud and rest on a porous, well-watered soil, they are probably more of a threat than a protection to the inhabitants. Until recent years Kasghar was the seat of government and here about the year 1870, Yakub Beg, who then held sway over the land, wrested for a time from Chinese domination, built unto himself a palace, with a spacious enclosure for the three hundred women of his harem.
As the greater portion of cane bridge west Turkestan has been absorbed in the Russian empire, most of the surface now virtually forming a portion of south-western Siberia, and with much of the remainder under Russian domination, it will be treated later in that connection.
Tibet is for the most part only a Chinese dependency in name, while many portions are the domain of the wild beast rather than of man. Except by nomad tribes, only the southern regions are inhabited; for the country is extremely mountainous, with table-lands 10,000 to 18,000 feet above the level of the sea, and chains and peaks from 20,000 to 25,000 feet in height. None of the invading hordes, which from the highlands of central Asia forced their way through Himalayan passes into the fertile plains of India, passed through the wilderness of Tibet, even Genghis Khan avoiding these bleak and desert wastes. To the outside world it was entirely unknown, an Italian friar who made his way to Lhasa about the year 1328 being probably the first to enter, though on his first public mission in the service of Kublai Khan, Marco Polo passed through its border on his way to northern Burma. Most of its 700,000 square miles of area is still unexplored, and probably will long remain so; for to Europeans it is a forbidden realm, and one from which chance traders and travelers are speedily expelled.
To the Chinese portions of Tibet were known at least as early as the eleventh century of the pre-Christian era; but not until many centuries later are there authentic records of Tibetan dynasties and kings. Since time immemorial wild animals, especially the yak, have roamed in countless herds over the northern plateaus, the milk of the female being used for the moistening of cement, as in the building of the palace of Namrisrongbtsan, by whom was discovered the largest salt mine in the world, its yield still undiminished after the lapse of 1,300 years. To this monarch was also attributed the first knowledge of arithmetic, and to his son and successor, by whom was founded in 639 the city of Lhasa, the Hindu alphabet and the art of writing. Of Muni Btsanpo, in direct line of succession, whose reign began in 743, it is related that, for the purpose of placing all his subjects on an equality, he ordered the rich to share their possessions with the poor; but though several times repeated, the result of this experiment was always the same; that each class returned to its former condition, or rather that the one increased in wealth and the other was sunk still deeper in poverty.
Without following further various dynasties, including reign of the lamas, until in the eighteenth century Tibet became a dependency of China, let us turn to its capital, Lhasa, or God’s ground, where are many architectural monuments. First of all may be mentioned the monastery of Buddha La, a little outside the city limits, where resided the Delai lama, the Tibetan deity in the flesh, and here the chief, if not the sole object of worship, though elsewhere are minor and local incarnations. The central structure is surmounted by a gilded dome and enriched by a peristyle of gilded columns, beyond which are smaller buildings for the housing of the priests. Within the city are more pretentious edifices, and especially the temple and palace of Labrang, the St Peter's of Buddhism in Tibet and also the center of civil administration, whence radiate, as from ancient Rome, all the great public roads. In the chancel of the temple are the thrones of the Grand Lama and of Buddha, near which are large disks of silver inlaid with precious stones and inscribed with Buddhist symbols. There are also vast stores of gold and silver lamps and vessels, exposed to public gaze only at the spring festivities.
In no country in the world are there so many monasteries as in Tibet, some of them containing from 2,000 to 3,000 priests, all pledged to celibacy and living together in communities. Though some are not without beauty of design, they are for the most part mere rows of cells, grouped around courtyards, in the center of which is an altar or shrine. In the district of Lhasa alone are thirty large and scores of smaller establishments, with the capital as their center, as the seat also of a Tibetan papacy, and the goal of pilgrimage from far and near. Here come by thousands the devout and the greedy of gain, the former to worship the living Buddha and to ask forgiveness of sins, returning as do the Mohammadans from Mecca, with store of relics manufactured for sale to the unwary.
On a rocky eminence in the suburbs of Lhasa is the Potala, on the summit of which are the it palace and temple of the grand lama, a majestic group of buildings, whence the great potentate looks down on thousands of his votaries kneeling before the sacred hill as they count the beads of Buddhist rosaries. Elsewhere are other palaces, temples, and pavilions glittering with gold and silver, their walls and ceilings covered with richest draperies of silk.
In the midst of a lake near the foot of the hill is the garden of the Tibetan pope, who in one of his several villas adjacent to the city receives at times the minor, or Teshu lama the two Buddhas incarnate drinking tea together.
In the city itself most of its 80,000 inhabitants except, priests and students live in dwellings of clay and sundried brick with houses of stone and brick for the wealthier classes, and some constructed entirely of horns held together with mortar, these the most picturesque and by no means the least substantial. Here and at Shigatze mainly centers the trade of a country where all are traders, commerce being conducted by caravans and at local fairs. From China come brick-tea, silks, and carpets; from Mongolia, leather goods and livestock; from Nepal, sugar spices and other Indian products, and from various countries, rice, tobacco, and a large variety of goods; but tea is the principal commodity, for this the Tibetan a necessary of life, and is imported at the rate of at least 12,000,000 pounds a year. Exports are chiefly of silver and gold, of salt, sulfur, and borax, and of wool and woolen fabrics; for wool is the staple product, and the coarse cloth fashioned by women about the only form of manufacture, except for a little jewelry and such weapons as are needed for domestic use. Agriculture, except in the most favored regions, is impracticable, grains and fruits being raised only in the valleys and to a small extent. Wild and domesticated animals are in abundant supply, and of metals, in addition to those already mentioned, there are iron, copper, and tin, though mining and metallurgy are restricted through lack of fuel, for which are largely used the argols of the antelope and yak. In Tibet the houses even of the rich have few comforts. Besides a box in which valuables are kept, there is a table, a fire-pan, and a few cushions. In the middle of the room is a stone on which pieces of pitch pine are burned by way of fire, and for light a bowl of butter with lighted wick which glimmers on dingy roof and stone walls.
Of Afghanistan may first be mentioned its antiquities; for few Asiatic, countries are richer in remains that bear silent witness to the past. In the plains of Peshawar and elsewhere are the ruins of many cities and villages, of many monasteries, dhagobas, topes, and temple caves, with sculptures suggestive of Greek art, probably introduced by those who accompanied the expedition of Alexander the Great: for at Beghram and elsewhere have been found many thousands of Greek coins belonging to the period in which he lived and conquered.
At Talash and on the hills skirting the Peshawar valley are the remnants of massive fortifications of ancient but unknown date. Of many architectural monuments all traces have disappeared, as of the dhagoba erected by King Kanishka in Peshawar, and described by Fa Hian, who passed through that province about the year 200 AD, as "more than 470 feet in height, and decorated with every sort of precious substance, so that all who passed by and saw the exquisite beauty and graceful proportions of the tower and the temple attached to it exclaimed in delight that it was incomparable.” From the stages of this tower were taken, as related by Hiouen Thsang some two centuries ago, ten bushels of Buddhist relics; for Buddhism was long the prevailing religion of Afghanistan, and of this there are many things to remind us.
At Kabul, or Cabul, on the river of that name, formerly a walled town and probably on the line of Alexander's march to India, sacred shrines are plentiful amid its terraced gardens, and not far away, on a hill overlooking his chosen city and the fertile plain that surrounds it, is the tomb of the sultan Baber, a descendant of Genghis Khan and the founder of the Mogul dynasty. Here Baber reigned fifteen years before undertaking the expedition which gave to him the empire of India; for he loved well this city of which he said that within two hours' journey from it one might find a place where the snow never melts, and within one day's journey a region where snow never falls. Though still the capital it is not an attractive spot with streets, no better than lanes, not wide enough for the passage of vehicles, with buildings of wood and sun-dried brick, and without public edifices worthy of description. Mosques are numerous; but among them are none that compare in beauty or magnificence with those of Hindustan. Industries are concentrated among guilds or crafts, and trade is conducted in bazaars, the finest of which erected in the seventeenth century, was destroyed by the British as a measure of reprisal for the treachery of the inhabitants.
Kandahar, the largest of Afghan cities, is built almost entirely of mud, and of mud is its surrounding wall, nearly four miles in circumference and about 30 feet in height. Of its 200 mosques there are none that need description, and except for the tomb of Ahmed Shah, there are no architectural monuments. A little to the west is the ancient city of Kandahar, founded, as is said, by Alexander the Great, and sacked in 1738 by Nadir Shah. Little of it now remains, except for the citadel overlooking its crumbling ruins, and a flight of steps cut from the solid rock, leading to a dome-covered recess, where is recorded in Persian inscriptions carved in relief the vast extent of the domain of Sultan Baber. In the modern town are nearly 2,000 shops and bazaars, the latter well stored with Asiatic and English goods, cotton fabrics forming the bulk of the imports and wool and fruits of exports. Imported commodities are highly taxed, sometimes as much as 30 percent of their value, the proceeds being applied toward the expenses of the city and province. In the tariff are many curious items, as a charge of one rupee per capita on slave girls, together with five percent ad valorem.
Herat, which has been termed the key of India, though early in the century with a population of 100,000, is now little more than an immense redoubt, within which, apart from the garrison, are 20,000 or 30,000 inhabitants. Its earthworks are on a stupendous scale, four miles in circuit, more than 200 feet in width at the base, 50 in height, surmounted by a wall 25 feet high, on which are scores of towers, and protected by a ditch more than 40 feet wide and 15 in depth. Though it could probably offer but little resistance to a modern European army, it was strong enough to withstand, in 1837, a ten months’ siege by 35,000 Persian troops, well supplied with artillery and aided by Russian officers. Herat is an ancient city, so ancient indeed that as to its origin there are none but traditional records, its name first appearing as among the earliest of Zoroastrian settlements. Far along the slopes of adjacent hills extend the ruins of a much greater city, containing, it is said, more than 1,000,000 inhabitants, and of which the present town was little more than the citadel. Here are the remains of palatial edifices, bearing witness to the architectural grandeur of a metropolis that in bygone ages was the wonder of surrounding nations. Not even in India are there more imposing ruins than those of the mosque of Mosella, erected in the twelfth century and rebuilt in the fifteenth as the final resting plate of the imam Reza. Portions of it still remain, the body of the structure, surmounted by a spacious dome, being covered with glazed bricks in tessellated patterns of artistic design, the seven minarets, all of beautiful workmanship, yet almost intact, as are several of the arcades, whose massive proportions are suggestive of Assyrian architecture. Nearby, and adjacent to the marble mausoleums of the house of Timur is the tomb of Abdullah, erected centuries ago by the grandson of the great Conqueror, and containing some of the finest specimens of oriental sculpture. Here also was buried the famous Dost Mohammad Khan, by whom the city and province of Herat were incorporated in the Afghan monarchy. Nor should we forget the royal palaces from the terraced gardens of which, watered with running streams and shaded with stately plane trees, is a view of one of the most fertile plains in southern Asia.
In contrast with these glories of the past is the city of today, with its dilapidated and half deserted dwellings of mud and brick, its streets without drainage or sewerage, and except for a mosque erected by a member of the Timur family, with no architectural monuments worthy of the name.
Of Kashmir, the most valuable portion is the vale whose beauties were celebrated by Mohammadan writers long before Moore reproduced them in romance. It is a sheltered and smiling valley, its bright, fresh verdure encircled in spring with glistening snow-crowned ranges, while autumn affords striking combinations of foliage tinted in the richest of hues, and at all seasons of the year between stately groves and avenues and quaint, tall, shadowy buildings, flows onward the smooth-gliding river. Grain of various kinds is grown in abundance, and except for rice without irrigation. Of fruits and vegetables there are many varieties, and on mountain slopes and foothills is a large supply of useful timber. Apart from the valley, which forms only a small portion of the domains of the maharajah, the resources are chiefly in the form of minerals, though these are not wanting in the valley itself, consisting chiefly of the useful metals and building and ornamental stones. Of manufactures there is a considerable volume, especially at Strinagar, the capital, an ancient city whose crowded, narrow streets, lined with overhanging houses whose upper stories are supported on poles, are relieved with pleasure gardens, mosques, and temples. Here are chiefly made the famous Cashmere shawls, though less in favor than in former years. Silks and embroideries are largely produced, and there are vases, goblets, and other useful and ornamental articles pertaining to the goldsmith’s, silversmith’s, and coppersmith’s art.
Ruins are plentiful; for Kashmir is among the oldest of Asiatic countries, its earliest emir of Bokhara as is shown in their ancient town inhabitants belonging to the tree and serpent worshippers, of Anantnag, which signifies the eternal snake. In the valley are many remains of the Hindu period with traces of Hellenic art probably belonging to the Graeco-Bactrian era, the most ancient being those of the temple reared on the hill named Tukht-i-Soliman or Solomon’s throne. At Matan is a temple of the sun and elsewhere are numerous fanes and shrines, many of them in shattered condition, for earthquakes are frequent.
Of Baluchistan nothing was known until the days of Alexander the Great, whose march through this region, together with the region itself, is described by Arrian the historian of his campaigns. As it was in the days of Alexander so, the country and its people remain almost unchanged today. The surface is rugged, mountainous, barren, and in many portions such is the scarcity of water that as Arrian relates, it could only be obtained by digging into the beds of former rivers and torrents.
Of the inhabitants, fish and fruit were almost the only sustenance, and to support an army was impossible; the Macedonian conqueror losing by famine in these desert wastes more men than had fallen by the sword in all his encounters with the Persians. At present, however, the Baluches consume enormous quantities of flesh in a half raw state and in whatsoever form it can be obtained, not refusing even that of the camel: but their principal food is milk, and that which is made of milk with bread or boiled, wheat, onions, garlic, and all such stimulating condiments as they can purchase or steal. In several of the provinces cereals, cotton, tobacco, indigo, and madder are produced to a limited extent; and in the single province of Cutch-Gundara, with its rich, loamy soil, could be raised crops sufficient for the entire population of Baluchistan, some halt a million in number. Domestic animals are plentiful, and of minerals there are gold, silver, antimony, tin, lead, iron, and coal, with alum, saltpeter, and mineral salts, most of them in abundant supply. While the country is in a measure feudatory to the British crown, its nominal rulers are the khans of Khelat, who preside with doubtful authority over a number of minor chieftains, collecting an uncertain revenue from tribes which do or disobey their bidding, as suits their interest and convenience. Khelat, the capital, lies about 7,000 feet above the level of the sea, and beneath it is a fertile plain where are cultivated many of the grains and some of the fruits of temperate and subtropical climes.
Turning to south-eastern Asia, may first be mentioned the Burmese empire, formerly a country of vast extent, and still with nearly 200,000 square miles of territory, as now contracted by British conquest, shorn of its seaboard and with only small tracts remaining of its rich alluvial plains, it is for the most part an upland region, rich in minerals and forest growth, and by no means deficient in other resources. Gold exists in the sands of various rivers, and silver in the mountains adjacent to the Chinese frontier. The ruby and sapphire, the topaz, and amethyst are obtained in various districts. Copper iron and tin; sulfur salt niter and petroleum are also fairly abundant, though little utilized except the last, the yield of which permits a considerable export. Teak is perhaps the most valuable timber: but nearly all the varieties common to India are found in Burmese forests, where is the home of the elephant and rhinoceros, the leopard, and deer of several species: the buffalo, ox, and horse being the only domesticated animals, though smaller stock are kept tor curiosity rather than use.
Mandalay, the capital of independent Burma, is surrounded with a crenellated wall 26 feet in height, about five miles in circuit, and with a moat 100 feet broad, the gates, of which there are three on each side, being surmounted by watchtowers. In one of the inner enclosures, all of which are protected by interior walls, is the royal palace, where dwells The Lord of Earth and Air, with its lofty campanile visible from afar, and its hall of audience of carved and gilded teak in the shape of a colonnade 260 feet in length. At the extremity of the hall, and in the exact center of the city, stands the royal throne, on a dais richly gilded and flanked by silk umbrellas in white and gold as symbols of royalty. Here are served banquets at which the entire service is of gold and silver. There are also minor audience chambers, one named the Golden Palace, entirely covered with gold, and another, the Crystal Palace whose decorations are in the shape of mirrors or trimmings in porcelain and isinglass. On the right of the principal edifice are the gardens set apart for the king: on the left is the abode of the White Elephant, a sacred appendage of royalty: and nearby are sheds containing war and working elephants. In a neighboring creek are kept the war canoes, handsomely gilded and with high curling prows and stern, some requiring 40 and some as many as 60 rowers. “The king's barge," says one who has seen it "is a splendid vessel built on two of the largest canoes and covered with the richest carvings and gildings. In its center is a lofty tower with square stories in black and gold: the prows of the two canoes of which this water palace is constructed consist of immense silver dragons, behind which are colossal figures of a Burmese warrior deity. The queen has also her separate barge decked and divided into apartments.
British Burma, acquired with recent additions after two protracted wars conducted by the Indian government, is ruled by a chief commissioner assisted by various officials, not least among whom is the agent appointed for the court of Mandalay for the furtherance of British commerce. As far back as 1872, exports and imports about equally divided, were little short of $55,000,000, and are now more than double that amount. Of the former, rice is the leading article and next are timber, raw cotton hides and horns, jade and precious stones, ivory petroleum and tobacco. Cotton and woolen fabrics, cutlery sugar and liquors form the bulk of the imports. Manufactures are increasing, though still somewhat rude in character, and of mineral products there are nearly all that are found in independent Burma, marble of excellent quality being common both to the province and the empire.
Agriculture is somewhat backward, not ten percent of the cultivable area being as yet under actual cultivation.
Adjacent on the cast to British Burmah is Siam, a kingdom whose limits have varied at different periods and even now cannot be distinctly traced, except on its western frontier, much of the territory that passes under that name being occupied by independent tribes. The surface is diversified with rich alluvial plains, spacious and fertile valleys flanked by lofty mountain ranges; on the west of the gulf an arid region, and south of this a luxuriant forest growth. The most productive portion is the delta of the Menam river, which is to Siam what the delta of the Nile is to Egypt; both having an area of many thousands of square miles subject to annual overflow, and both with an almost unlimited capacity for the production of cereals. A few miles from the estuary of the Menam, and on both sides of the river, is built the city of Bangkok, with some 450,000 inhabitants, the capital since, in 1767, Ayuthia, now Krung Krao, was sacked and partially destroyed by the Burmese. The quaintness of its architecture, the streets intersected with canals, the buildings raised on piles, and the house-boats moored three deep to the river banks, which serve as dwellings for a large proportion of the people, give to the metropolis a striking appearance, which is further increased by the bastioned and turreted wall that surrounds the eastern portion. Temples and palaces are numerous, the spires of the former and sometimes the entire edifice gilded or covered with mosaic work of most fantastic pattern. The royal palace, surrounded with lofty walls a mile in circuit, consists of many buildings and is used for many purposes. In the center of the main court are the audience chamber and the throne; there are temples rich in monuments and relics, among them a jasper statue of Buddha; and there is a theatre, an arsenal, and quarters for an army of troops, with stalls for war and sacred elephants. In contrast with this semi-barbaric splendor are the abodes of those by whom it is supported, most of them built entirely of wood and not a few of bamboos.
Krung Krao, a few leagues north of Bangkok, founded in the middle of the fourteenth century, and in the sixteenth nearly ten miles in circumference, is still an emporium of trade. Here are the most imposing monuments of Siam, or rather their ruins; for little now remains except crumbling blocks of sculptured masonry, almost buried beneath the luxuriant growth of a tropical vegetation. The best preserved among them is the so-called Golden Mount, built in the form of a pyramid 40 feet in height and capped by dome and spire. At Koras, Bassac, and elsewhere in the district north of the great lake of Siam, are the remains of walled cities of vast extent, of stone bridges of remarkable design and workmanship, and of artificial lakes encompassed by walls of stone, with temples and palaces of wondrous dimensions and most elaborate design.
But these are of Cambodian origin, the capital of this, one of the most ancient kingdoms of south-eastern Asia, now lying buried the forest not far from the lake, and near it the temple of Nakhon Wat, or city monastery, one of the architectural marvels of the world.
Except for the friendly overtures of the Portuguese after their conquest of Malacca, European intercourse with Siam began late in the sixteenth century, when by the advice of his ministers the king sent an embassy to Louis XIV, resulting in Jesuit intrigues which cost the minister his life. About the same time commercial relations were opened with Japan, and later with Holland and England, James I exchanging letters with the Siamese monarch, by whom were accorded privileges to vessels arriving from London, then a metropolis no larger than his own. Thus trade was gradually developed, but with many interruptions from war and other causes that need not here be mentioned. For 1890 the exports of Bangkok, where centers the foreign trade of this kingdom, amounted to $16,000,000 rice exceeding in value all the rest. Imports for that year were stated at somewhat over $11,000,000, and consisted chiefly of cotton and silk stuffs, treasury jewelry and machinery. Inland trade is mainly with China, and conducted largely by caravans, though several railroads are in process of construction, and one at least from Bangkok to Paknam is completed. There are no manufactures worthy of the name, and agriculture is largely conducted by the enforced labor of serfs, compelled by local governors to a stated term of servitude. Of the rich alluvial lands in the delta of the Menam not five percent are under cultivation, and yet from this delta could be raised sufficient crops to supply the world with rice, besides large quantities of other products, some of which are indigenous to that region.
As to Cambodia, though in common with other portions of Indo-China a veil of obscurity hangs over this kingdom, the traditions of its ancient grandeur are fully sustained by the stupendous architectural remains which recent explorations have brought to light. In Chinese legends it is mentioned under the name of Fuman many centuries before the days of Christ, and in the second century of our era its ports were visited by trading vessels from western Asia, then under Roman domination. By an envoy dispatched from Peking soon after the time of Kublai Khan, its court and capital are depictured in glowing terms, and at this date—that is at the close of the thirteenth century—there were several wealthy and fortified cities. But later came invasions from several quarters, especially from Siam, and gradually the country fell into decay, until in 1863 it became a dependency of France, nothing worthy of description now remaining of its former greatness.
Under the name of Cochin China may be included, apart from Cambodia, the French possessions in the Indo-Chinese peninsula, all of them under the control of a superior council, and forming a customs union with receipts of some 30,000,000 francs a year. Of these Cochin China has an area of 23,000 square miles, with a population of about 2,250,000, of whom less than 4,000 are French. The entire surface, some of which is below the level of the sea, consists of alluvial deposits, rice being the staple product, with exports of 400, 000 to 500,000 tons a year. In Annam and Tonquin, which virtually form one country, with an area of more than 100,000 square miles, 15,000,000 people are kept under control by a few thousand French and native troops, though the area actually under French occupation is limited extent. Commerce is almost entirely in the hands of the French; at several points coal mines are worked by French companies, and there are valuable deposits of gold, silver, copper, and iron as yet almost untouched. Among the chief products are, in addition to rice, sugar, cotton, silk, tobacco, spices, and fruits, exports of these and other commodities amounting perhaps to 30,000,000 francs a year. In the forests are several varieties of timber for building purposes, and here the sportsman may indulge his tastes at will; for in these forests are the royal tiger, panther, elephant, rhinoceros, wild boar, wild ox, and stag, with monkeys in countless swarms and of many species. There are game and other birds of brilliant plumage; the rivers swarm with fish, and of domestic animals there is a large supply.
Of Tonquin, or Tong King, there are Chinese annals dating back to the twenty-second century of the pre- Christian era, and in the twelfth century mention is made of ambassadors arriving from that country in “south-pointing chariots”, which some have interpreted as compasses mounted on vehicles. About the year 115 BC it became a Chinese dependency, and then followed cycle after cycle of wars and rebellions, the people never remaining long at peace until after the French intervention and conquest. Hanoi, the capital, with its palace and royal pagoda, its treasury, courts of justice, and public offices, owes its importance rather to its facilities of communication with the rich provinces of southern China than to its local commerce. Haiphong, built on a navigable canal a few miles from the sea, is the port and chief commercial center of Tonquin, and through it passed a large proportion of the $34,000,000 of imports and $19,600,000 exports included in the foreign commerce of 1891, nearly 800 vessels entering that port during the preceding year.
Malacca, or the Malay peninsula, though known to Europeans at least as early as the sixteenth century, is still, apart from its coast regions, comparatively unexplored. Its surface is extremely mountainous, with numerous ranges and ridges from 9,000 feet in height, trackless and with many of their passes covered with a dense growth of jungle. Only in limited areas on the east and west are there plateaus, valleys, or lowland plains; the rivers are short and few are navigable; the climate oppressive, moist, and unhealthy eve in the upland regions, with an average rainfall of 115 inches, clothing the land with a luxuriant tropic vegetation. Of cultivated plants, rice, cotton, tobacco, yams, and sugarcane are the most common; but though rice is first among them, the country does not produce sufficient for its own consumption. The flora and fauna are extremely rich, and here was first discovered the gutta-percha tree, which with the camphor, ebony, and others form a considerable source of wealth. It is in minerals, however, that the resources of this region mainly consist, the abundance of gold causing it to be named by the Romans the Aurea Chersonesus. Yet, though found both in alluvial and quartz deposits, the yield has seldom amounted to as much as 30,000 ounces a year. Of tin there is an inexhaustible supply, the veins extending at intervals throughout the entire length of the western slope of the dividing range. Iron is also plentiful, especially in the south, and coal has been found at points convenient of access.
The Malays are probably of Mongol stock, though intermingled with other elements, and especially with the Siamese, to whom belongs the northern portion of the peninsula, and with whom they are largely assimilated. The remainder of the territory is virtually under British control, though many of the states are nominally independent, the town of Malacca now forming a portion of the so-called Straits Settlements, which include also the cities of Penang and Singapore. Malacca was captured by Albuquerque, and here, until 1807, stood the fort erected by this Portuguese conqueror, little but its arched gateway and the ruins of its massive wall now remaining of Malaccan antiquities, except for the remnants of a Dutch redoubt hidden beneath the tangled vegetation. The old Dutch stadhouse, however, is still preserved, and in other buildings may be noticed the tile-covered roofs and other characteristic s of the quaint Dutch architecture of the sixteenth century. Though long outstripped by rival ports, Malacca has a considerable trade, and in the European quarter, with its spacious and handsome residences surrounded with, orchards and flower gardens, are hundreds of wealthy residents.
In 1819 a British trading factory was erected on the southern coast of Singapore, and a few years later the entire island was purchased from the sultan of Johore for $60,000 in Spanish coin and a life annuity of less than that amount, a reasonable price withal for more than 130,000 acres of excellent land, with gold and tin in abundance, and with exports now exceeding $120,000,000 a year.
But when first this region came under British Occupation, it was covered with forest and jungle; and these cleared away, many branches of industry were tried before it was known for what the island was best adapted. The planting of nutmeg trees was first attempted, and for a score of years was fairly profitable; but presently the trees were blighted, and thus the colony was deprived of its principal source of wealth. Then came cotton and cinnamon, neither of which proved successful. Guttapercha fared better for a time, but under a system so wasteful that the trees were soon exterminated, while pepper and other productions were tried with different results. Coffee, sugar, cocoa-nuts, and aloes are now among the leading products, while fruits of many descriptions thrive on this fertile soil.
On the site of the present city of Singapore was founded by colonists from Sumatra, early in the Christian era, a settlement named Sinhapura, or the Lion city. Gradually it became of commercial importance, and so remained at least until the fourteenth century, but later fell into decay, a few inscriptions on the rocks being all that marked its former existence when its advantages of location were recognized as an emporium for British trade in the east. As now it stands the metropolis of the Straits Settlements and far in advance of its former rival, the port of Malacca, much of its importance is due to public and other works completed largely within recent years. Among them are several docks from 400 to 500 feet in length with a large admiralty dock and the docks and depots of the Messageries Maritimes and the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation company.
Penang, or Pulo Penang, that is to say the island of the Areca nut, but officially named after the prince of Wales, was purchased in 1785 by the East India company, which gave in return to the rajah who owned it a pension of a few thousand dollars a year. Here, by a captain in the company’s service, was established in the following year, on the site of the present city of Georgetown, what he terms "a compact little township with fort and public buildings." Apart from this township the island was almost uninhabited, though but a very few miles from the western coast of the Malay Peninsula, and with a fertile soil and the richest of forest growth. Sugar coffee and pepper, cocoa and areca-nuts, cloves and nutmegs are now its principal products; though but a small portion of the surface is under cultivation or has even yet been cleared. Meanwhile the "compact little township" has developed into a thriving city, with a foreign commerce exceeding $100,000,000 a year. Of Province Wellesley, which with the so-called Dindings is included in the Straits Settlements, and of Perak and adjoining states under British protection, it is unnecessary here to make other than passing mention. Of the first, however, it may be said that, acquired originally for a trifling sum, mainly as a basis of operations against pirate hordes, it now contains a large number of tea and sugar plantations.
Sumatra, one of the largest of the group of islands between the Asiatic and Australian continents, with an area thirteen times as large as the country of which it is a dependency, probably owes its early civilization to Hindustan; for here as elsewhere in the Malay archipelago are many traces of Hindu influence. The remains of Buddhist temples arc numerous; in the various languages spoken by native tribes Sanskrit words are of frequent Occurrence, and inscriptions point to the existence of a powerful Hindu monarchy, founded toward the middle of the seventh century, when, as we have seen, the Buddhist sovereign, Siladitya, ruled over a score of tributary princes. A few centuries later there are traces of Muslim ascendency, one of the most powerful dynasties boasting its descent from an Islam missionary. Presently comes European intervention, and for a few years beginning with 1811 the most valuable portions of Sumatra are occupied by the British, later to be ceded to the Dutch, who now control the entire cast, though in the interior are many independent tribes.
The physical configuration of the island is bold and striking, lofty mountain ranges, in which are many volcanoes, active intermittent and extinct, extending throughout its entire length of nearly 1,000 miles, and bounding on the west a vast alluvial region.
The flora is extremely rich, especially as to the forest growth, causing Sumatra to rank among the foremost of the richly wooded regions of the archipelago. Of cultivated plants there are coffee, rice, sugar, and tobacco, the cocoa-nut and sago palm, with fruits and vegetables of many descriptions, while in the south the production of pepper has been for centuries the staple industry. Here, as in Java, coffee is a leading article of export, and though less in favor than the product of the sister isle. Sumatran coffee is not inferior in quality.
But minerals form the principal source of wealth in Sumatra, though latent wealth as yet, except for a little gold-mining and gold-washing in Padang and Menankabau. Copper is also worked to a limited extent, and there are oil wells in various districts. Coal and iron arc in fair supply, and in the volcanic regions are sulfur, naptha, saltpeter, and alum. But the people incline not to mining, nor in truth to any other form of industry; for most of them are of Malayan stock, and the Malays are incurably indolent. All enterprises worthy of the name are in the hands of the Europeans, of whom there are less than 5,000 out of a total population estimated at 3,500,000. Apart from a mosque erected in 1740, one of the finest in the Dutch East Indies, there are no architectural monuments nor in the cities and settlements is there anything that here needs special mention.
Passing to the adjacent island of Java, by far the richest and most populous in the Indian archipelago, we find a region filled with objects of interest, first among which are the great temple ruins that mark the path of Hindu conquest. Most remarkable of all are those of Bara Budur, on a hill near the bank of the Praga river, surrounded with the terraces and ramparts rising in successive tiers, of which the main body of the structure consists. On the outside wall of the second row are more than 100 niches each with an image of Buddha enthroned, and between the cavities seated figures of men and women. On the inner side are hundreds of bas-reliefs, representing scenes in the legend of the great apostle, as of his descent from heaven, his transformation, and his labors as a teacher of men. Elsewhere are Vishnu Siva, and other divinities; but above all, Gautama Buddha is preeminent. A few miles distant are the remains of another temple of most elaborate design, unearthed some threescore years ago from the ashes of a volcanic eruption beneath, which for centuries it lay buried. At Brambanam, twenty miles to the southeast, is the site of the ancient Hindu capital, marked by the ruins of many temples, of which little as yet is known. Chief among them is the Chandi Siwa, or thousand temples, its central portion richly carved and decorated as are the 238 smaller structures that surround it, in each a small square-cell that once contained the cross-legged figure of a saint. In the residency of Bagelen, on a plateau designated as the sacred mountain in the most ancient of Javanese inscriptions, is a group of temples approached by a stairway with 4,800 steps, and by the so-called roads of Buddha, ascending from plains more than 6,000 feet below.
Elsewhere are the temple caves where Siva worshipped, and a structure of white limestone belonging to period of Hondu-Javanese art. Finally there are tree and serpent temples, most of them in the shape of pyramids, which, if they could be restored, might throw much light on these ancient forms of Hindu worship.
Though entangled with many complications, the political annals of Java may be classed under three periods almost corresponding with those of Sumatra both as to incidents and dates. Following the rule of native; princes comes Hindu domination, giving place in the 15th century to Mohammadan ascendency, and this in turn to European interference, culminating in the war which, after a vain struggle for independence, placed the island at the disposal of the Dutch. One of the most favored tropical regions in the world, it is one of the most productive, with a wide extent of alluvial coast lands and of valleys opening into broad champagnes, with a richer store of products than in any territory of its size, and now with a denser population than the most populous of European nations. Of rice the crops are enormous, yielding a large surplus for export besides serving as the principal diet for 25,000,000 Javanese, among whom to be without rice is to be without food. Other cereals are raised on a smaller scale, and of fruits the variety is endless. To Dutch owners and to the Dutch government, the coffee and sugar plantations, worked by enforced labor with average wages of $2.40 a month, are an unfailing source of wealth; of tea the production is from 8,000,000 to 10,000,000 pounds a year, and of tobacco thrice as much. With minerals, Java is poorly supplied, except for tin, more than 400 mines, of which the most productive are on the island of Banca, yielding some 20,000 tons a year of that metal. Yet the people are skilful as metallurgists, especially in the working of gold and silver and in the fashioning and decoration of weapons.
Batavia, the capital of the Dutch East Indies, was founded in 1619, and in the last year of that century was partially destroyed by an earthquake, where after, the streams being choked with volcanic mud, the Climate became so unhealthy that, as is related, 1,000,000 deaths occurred within a score of years. As now it stands with its old and new town, the former at one time surrounded with ramparts and containing many costly buildings long since fallen into decay, it is a city of pleasing appearance, with streets laid out in regular lines, most of them fringed with shade tree s and some divided by canals.
Miscellany—Traveling in what was then a province of Mongolia, the Polo brothers, Maffeo and Nicolo, visited the court of Barkha Khan at Sarai, where, as he relates, was a great edifice surmounted by a golden crescent weighing two kantars of Egypt, and surrounded by a wall with towers. Sarai was at one time in the see of a Latin and also of a Russian metropolitan; it was destroyed by Timur in 1396 and rebuilt on another site; but was again destroyed a century later by the Russians.
Proceeding in their journey the brothers Polo came in due time to the court of the great khan, who gave them a tablet of gold with instructions thereon to all his subjects that everything needful should be provided for the travelers in the countries through which they intended to pass. On their second great journey, begun in 1260, they were accompanied by Marco, then only 17 or 18 years of age. Arriving at the imperial palace of the great khan, not far from the present city of Peking, they were kindly received. Marco became a favorite with Kublai, and after studying the languages used in his dominion, and especially the court language, was employed as an agent in his service, travelling extensively and taking notes on all that seemed to him most curious and interesting. These he afterward gave to the world. All the brothers became wealthy, remaining many years with the khan, who refused to part with them until 1286, and then consented with reluctance. It was not until 1295 that they finally reached their native land; for the journey was attended with man's detentions and disasters.
In Marco Polo's city of Mien, "there is a thing so rich and rare that I must tell you about it," he says. "You see there was in former days a rich and puissant king in that city, and when he was about to die he commanded that by his tomb they should erect two towers, one at either end, one of gold and the other of silver, in such a fashion as I shall tell you. The towers are built of fine stone, and then one of them has been covered with gold a good finger in thickness, so that the tower looks as if it were all of gold; and the other is covered with silver in like manner so that it seems to be all of solid silver.” In the province he calls Koloman, "there is a good deal of gold, and for petty traffic they use porcelain shells. There are merchants in this country who are very rich, and dispose of large quantities of goods.”
Of Khotan, the former metropolis of east Turkestan, Marco reports that "everything is to be had there in plenty, cotton flax hemp wheat and wine." A traveler who visited that district in 1865, but apparently knows nothing of what is beyond it, pronounces the country superior to India and equal to Kashmir, the chief grains being corn wheat and barley, and for fruit, pears apples peaches and apricots. Jasper and chalcedony are spoken of by other travelers, and jade found in water-rolled boulders fished up by divers in the rivers of Khotan, but also obtained from mines in the valley of the Karakash River. Timkowski says that "some of the jade is white as snow, some dark green, like the most beautiful emerald, and some yellow, vermilion, and jet black." The jade of Khotan seems to have been first mentioned by Chinese authors during the Han dynasty, in the second century of the pre-Christian era. An image of Buddha carved in jade was sent as an offering from Khotan AD 541. The stone is largely used by lapidaries, and in Europe, so far as is known, has never been found in situ.
Most of the fine, long, silky hair of the Kashmir goat from which are made shawls worth $500 to $2,000 apiece comes really from Tibet and sells for as much as $3.00 a pound. At a place which he calls Caindu. Marco Polo reports "a lake where are found pearls that are white but not round, but the great khan will not allow them to be fished; for if people were to take as many as they could find there the supply would be so vast that pearls would lose their value, and come to be worth nothing. There is also a mountain in this country wherein they find a kind of stone called turquoise in great abundance, and it is a very beautiful stone. The money matters of the people are conducted in this way: they have gold in rods which they weigh, and they reckon its value by its weight in saggi, but they have no coined money. They have salt which they boil and set in a mold, holding half a pound, eighty molds of which are worth one saggio of fine gold, which is a weight, so-called; so this salt serves them for small change." In another province called Carajan, they used for money "certain white porcelain shells that are found in the sea. In this country gold dust is found in great quantities; that is to say in the rivers and lakes, while in the mountains gold is also found in pieces of larger size. Gold is indeed so abundant that they give one saggio of gold for only six of the same weight in silver." At Zardandan, "the people all have their teeth gilt; or rather every man covers his teeth with a sort of golden case made to fit them, both the upper teeth and the under; this do the men but not the women."
The old Afghanistan city of Balx is described by early travelers as something magnificent.
Of all the islands of the Malay Archipelago Borneo is probably foremost in mineral wealth. The diamond mines of Borneo have been worked for centuries, and among the many large brilliants taken there from was one of 367 carats which passed into the possession of the sultan of Matan; it remained as an heirloom in the family of four successive monarchs and was about the last that remained of all the appendages of royalty. Gold mining was also among the industries of former ages when both gold and diamond fields were much more profitable than at the present date. For 1812 the yield of the former was estimated at more than $5,000,000, and on the mines at Mentrada and other points on the western coast 32,000 Chinamen were at work.
While voyaging among the islands of the Pacific in 1521, the members of Magellan's expedition relate that they found there native rulers with earrings of gold, and wearing tunics of cotton cloth embroidered with silk, silken turbans, and daggers with handles of gold. They were invited to a Bornean feast, at which capons, veal, and fish were the principal dishes, with rice eaten from golden spoons and arrack, distilled from rice, served in porcelain cups. Though gold was plentiful, the people used brass coins as currency. The king, it was said, possessed two pearls of priceless value, large as pullets eggs, and so round that when placed on polished tables they rolled continually.
In the island of Timor, near the coast of northern Australia, gold, copper, iron, and other minerals are known to exist in large deposits, as yet untouched, while in tile forest sandalwood is plentiful. The population, chiefly Papuan, is divided into a large number of petty states, nominally subject to Holland or Portugal, between whom the island is divided, each having its outport, which is also the seat of government.
Separated from Borneo by the strait of Macassar is the island of Celebes, its 70,000 square miles of area and 800,000 people practically under Dutch control, though as to internal affairs most of the territory is under the administration of native chieftains, some of whom pay to the Dutch authorities a certain tribute in gold. In the northern portion gold is found in many localities at a depth of a very few feet, and thence the deposits extend downward to at least 100 feet; but as the island contains only a handful of white inhabitants, they have been worked without system and with the rudest appliances. Vegetation is luxuriant, and many of the plants that furnish food for man are found in their natural state, while others can be readily cultivated. For the most part, however, industrial pursuits are not in favor among the aborigines, who incline rather to hunting, gambling, and cock-fighting, content to dwell in huts of wood and bamboo, so frail that they are readily overturned by the force of the wind. In the districts where Dutch influence has made itself felt there is a better condition of affairs. In the residency of Minahassa, for instance, coffee, tobacco, rice, nutmegs, and cocoa are among its staple products, the last introduced by Spanish navigators at an early but unknown date. Of coffee the yield is rapidly increasing; for the plant thrives well at an elevation of 2,000 to 4,000 feet , producing a berry which commands a much higher price than that of Java growth.
Except Australia, of which at one time it probably formed a part, New Guinea is the largest island in the world, with a length of nearly 1,500 miles and an area of more than 200,000,000 acres. Gold mines are worked on several of the adjacent islands; on the mainland are valuable timber and other native products, while a large area of land adapted to sugar plantations is offered at $1.25 an acre.
The Moluccas, or Spice islands, the goal of Magellan's expedition, though its commander never lived to reach them, were known to the conquerors of Mexico as portions of a group "fabulously rich in pearls and precious stones, and undoubtedly in gold, since they lie to the south." So at least wrote Albornoz to the king of Spain in 1525 suggesting that a fleet , be sent in search of them; for their exact location was unknown, though they were believed to be not more than 700 leagues from the Mexican coast. In this and the two following years several fleets were dispatched to this fabled realm; but we hear of no definite results, except that on one of the vessels was shipped, instead of gold and pearls and precious stones, a quantity of cloves. Meanwhile Portuguese settlements had been established at several points, and for a time were fairly prosperous. Presently came Dutch traders followed by Dutch occupation, which still continues in the northern and southern groups, where are the residencies of Ternate and Amboyna. The Banda isles are the Spice islands proper, the largest of them being almost covered with a forest of nutmeg trees, the fruit of which, with a proportionate quantity of mace, is gathered at the rate of hundreds of tons a year. Elsewhere cotton, tobacco, cocoa-nuts, sago, and cloves are the principal products.
As the progenitors of the native races of America were believed by many to have been the ten lost tribes of Israel, so was the Ophir of Solomon long sought in these and other parts. Many besides Columbus at Veragua supposed that they had found the spot, the viceroy of Peru, for instance, sending westward, in 1567, a vessel for purposes of discovery, under command of Mendana de Neyra, who gave its name to the Solomon group of islands, surmising for reasons best known to himself that the gold for the temple was taken thence. By a second expedition, intended to establish colonies, were discovered the Marquesas and Santa Cruz islands; but on one of the latter Mendana died, and not until two centuries later was the Solomon group relocated by various navigators. Presently came traders and missionaries, none of whom met with success and not a few were murdered; but though crafty, thievish, and bloodthirsty, the natives are susceptible to kindly treatment and some are even employed as servants. They cultivate the soil with a certain degree of skill, though bread-fruit, cocoa-nuts, yams, and fish can be had without labor, while the plains are clad with luxuriant vegetation and the mountains with a magnificent forest growth. Their weapons are bows and arrows, spears and clubs, all fashioned with nicety of finish, and though men and women are naked or with the scantiest of covering, they are not unacquainted with textile and other manufactures in rude and primitive form. Of all the Pacific groups the Solomon isles are the least known; yet sufficient is known to indicate that they are not lacking in resources and from the northern cluster, now in the possession of German, there are already considerable exports, chiefly of sandal-wood, ebony, and tortoise-shell.
Of minor groups, as the Gilbert and Marshall islands, the latter also a German possession, it is unnecessary to make other than passing mention. The Caroline islands, which belong to Spain and were named after Charles II, though some have a well-wooded surface and fertile soil, are at present of little value. In the Ladrones, which Magellan's sailors christened for reasons that explain themselves, the Islas de los Ladrones, or islands of the Thieves, are Spanish colonies subject to the government of the Philippines. While capable of a large variety of products, agriculture and all other industrial pursuits are at their lowest ebb; for such is the laziness of the natives, of whom only a few thousand survive, that cattle and swine are allowed to run wild in the woods, to be hunted for food as required.
The Philippine islands, some 1,400 in number with an area of 114,000 square miles and a population of about 12,000,000 are, except Cuba, the most valuable of the colonial possessions of Spain. In several of the islands minerals are fairly abundant. Gold is widely distributed, but seldom found in paving quantities. Of cinnabar and lead the deposits, though numerous, are also of slight economic value. Copper mines have been worked at various points In a company founded in 1862, while long before that date copper was extracted and fashioned into utensils by native miners and artisans. Iron is plentiful; but its production is restricted to a single province, where are a few small foundries. Of coal lands the area is considerable, and among them are beds from 15 to 20 feet in thickness the output of which is used only for local consumption.
The fauna of the island is defective, the deer and wild boar being the only indigenous animals that serve as food. Most of the isles are covered with dense vegetation, among which are known to exist at least 4,500 species of plants, and in the forest are many descriptions of merchantable timber. Nearly all the fruits and food plants common to the Malay Peninsula are found in the Philippine groups, rice being the staple food and tobacco hemp sugar coffee and cocoa the chief products of commercial importance. For an entire century, ending with 1882, tobacco was a government monopoly; could be sold only to the government and at its own price, averaging for the later years of the term some 13 cents a pound for leaf of first-class quality. Production was on an enormous scale, most of the crop being made into cigars, of which about 300,000,000 were manufactured annually by 20,000 operatives. Hemp, produced mainly by hand labor with the aid of simple native implements, is chiefly raised in the south-eastern portion of Luzon, the largest of the islands. Of sugar exports in favorable years have exceeded 200,000 tons, the most valuable plantations, some of them 1,000 acres in extent, belonging to catholic monasteries and leased in sections to Chinese half-breeds, whose minute and careful system of cultivation is rewarded with excellent results. Manufactures are few and for the most part of textile fabrics, silks and cottons of finest pattern and finish being fashioned on Manila looms.
For many years after the Spanish occupation the commerce of Manila was restricted to the cargo of a single galleon, voyaging yearly to and from Acapulco with commodities specified by the government and sold at extravagant prices for the benefit of Seville merchants. It was not until 1764 that goods from Spain were shipped by way of the Cape.