THE story of exploration in the Indo-Chinese peninsula is typical
of the whole modern process of discovery. You have a land known long ago to the old world; visited at intervals during the Middle Ages by credulous travellers ; conquered, but not developed, by one or other of the great Western Powers; remaining, on the whole, an unknown and un- travelled country till the dawn of the present modern era, when in half-a-century it is fully traversed, mapped, and described. Among the earliest geographers there was a tale of an island, Chryse the Golden, lying somewhere off the mouth of the Ganges ; then, when its peninsular character was recognised, it became the Golden Chersonese, which Josephus identified with Ophir. So great an authority as M. Pavia has followed him in this conjecture ; but though hidden away in the Malayan forests there are immense relics of ancient workings, the balance of evidence makes Ophir a distributing port on the Red Sea, to which came the treasures of the land we now know as Rhodesia. Of the Khmer civilisation in Indo-China, which left behind it the great ruins of Angkor, we can only guess dimly, and of the prehistoric Malayan kingdom we know nothing. The East still hides, in Mr. Clifford's words, " in her splendid tattered bosom the secrets of the oldest and least amply recorded of human histories." With Marco Polo we come into the half-light of a kind of history. The adventurous Venetian visited several of the islands in the Archipelago, and has left us, along with much myth, some descriptions of their fauna and customs which can still be identified. In Sumatra he found the unicorn, a beast which had " hair like that of a buffalo, feet like those of an elephant, and a horn in the middle of the forehead, which is black and very thick,"—an account in which we may recognise the rhinoceros. One or two solitary wanderers followed him, such as Odoric and Friar John, and were able to travel unmolested even in countries, like China, which later were to be a byword for exclusiveness. The European invasion of Asia which Vasco da Gama inaugurated had an ill effect upon the character of Oriental peoples.
There is no greater adventurer in history than the same da Gama, but it is with the African Continent that his name is most associated. It was the famous Dalboquerque, or Albuquerque (his name is spelt in about a dozen ways), who first established Portugal as the Sovereign of all the Indies. The story of the fall of Malacca ranks high in the annals of filibustering, and the capture of the key-port gave her the trade of Malaya. Dalboquerque was a great Viceroy as well as a great soldier. He did not desire an extensive Empire, but rather the command of the sea and naval and commercial bases. And his foresight was justified, for the power of Portugal, in spite of native risings and much misgovernment, was never shaken till she was chased from the ocean by hardier sailors. The Bull of Alexander VI. gave her a monopoly of the East like Spain's in the West, the route round the Cape of Good Hope was regarded as her private preserve, and hence came the struggles of Spaniards like Magellan to find a new way to the Indies by Cape Horn, and of the Dutch and British to discover the North-West Passage. The gates could not be kept shut for ever. In 1591 the Englishmen Raymond and Lancaster sailed round Africa, and harried Portuguese shipping almost within sight of Malacca. Lin- schoten published his book in 1596, and opened the eyes of
• Further India : being the Story of Exploration from the Earliest Time in Burma, Natalia, Siam, and Indo•China, By Hugh Clifford, C.M.G. " The Story of Exploration." London : Lawrence and Sullen. 17e. 6d.] the traders of Holland to the chances of wealth which were awaiting them. The Dutch began well in the East, being an orderly and peaceable folk, who did not proselytise, and asked only for trade. Step by step they drove the Portuguese before them, till in 1641 Malacca fell, and the Empire of Dalboquerque was at an end. Then came the era of the trading
companies. A charter was granted to the British East India Company in 1599, and the Company's hold was soon extended
over Assam and Chittagong. With the creation of British India the seclusion of Further India was gone, but for long little notice was taken of her peoples, and these years are thick with strange stories. Perhaps the most curious is one which Mr. Clifford relates of a certain Greek named Falcon, brought up in England, who by his native adroitness rose to be Prime Minister of Siam. Oddly enough, this supple gentle- man in his later years developed a proselytising zeal, and in the end was massacred along with his Jesuit colleagues.
The modern history of Indo-China is the history of its gradual absorption into European " spheres of influence," and especially of its exploration. Most stories of discovery centre on some great river, such as the Nile or the Amazon, which
dominates the imagination of the pioneer, and gives him a clear path into the heart of the continent. Such was the
Mekong to Francis Gamier, whose doings fill one-third of Mr. Clifford's book. We do not grudge the space, for Gamier is one of the most attractive figures among the great explorers, a gentle, imaginative, and cultivated man, but one tenacious of his purpose and intrepid in its pursuit. His great expedition lasted over two years, and opened to our knowledge the Mekong up to the Chinese border, and a considerable part of Yunnan. The Englishman Macleod had indeed preceded him in the northern part of the river valley, but to Gamier is rightly given the credit of its continuous exploration from the sea up to within a measurable distance of its source :—
" A dreamer of dreams," says Mr. Clifford, " he saw visions of an Empire won for France which might equal, if not transcend, the Empire which Clive had wrested from the hold of Dupleix ; a statesman bent upon developing the resources of the colonies which France had already conquered, he thought to find in the upper reaches of the Mekong a trade route which should divert the commerce of the Chinese Empire from her own coast-ports to those of French Indo-China ; a man of science who loved know- ledge for its own sake, he longed to learn the secrets hidden so closely since the beginning by that untrodden wilderness."
Only the last purpose can be said to have succeeded; but it was well for it that the others were conjoined, for little pioneering would be undertaken were there not some grandiose and impracticable ideal to inspire it. Gamier, indeed, believed in a political future for the inhabitants of
South-East Asia, particularly in the upper valley of the Mekong, which facts do not justify. Their career ended with the fall of the Khmer Empire ages ago, and the very toleration of foreigners which he noted in people like the
Laotines was of bad augury. As Mr. Clifford says justly, " this is a virtue which, in the East, never yet sprang from intellectual energy. It is in the Oriental a sure sign of the apathy of decay." Much valuable political information was collected on the journey about the true frontier of Annam, and
ultimately the expedition reached Se-Mao, the first Chinese city of Yunnan, from which it proceeded to the coast at Hankau. The futility of the dream of a new trade-route had been proved, and the sources of the great river had been left unexplored, but few expeditions have given us a more accurate knowledge of so large a territory. Later travellers have filled up most of the gaps in our knowledge, Prjevalsky and Prince Henry of Orleans having traced the stream into the tangled mountains of Tibet. We now know it as the third or fourth longest river in Asia, with a course of about two thousand eight hundred miles, and its exploration has been almost entirely a French exploit, perhaps the greatest in France's fine record of discovery. Elsewhere in the peninsula the work has been mostly done by Englishmen, and to-day there are few secrets left un-
revealed. With the exception of the actual sources of the Irawadi and the Salwin, Indo-China has no rewards to offer the pioneer. " The geographer has done his work, and has done the moat of it in less than a century of time; and it remains for the scientist and the ethnologist—above all, the ethnologist—to complete the task?' Mr. Clifford has given us an excellent monograph, written with much grace of style, and containing matter of high interest both to the
geographer and the historian. Occasionally the book seems to suffer from faulty proof-reading, and in a work whose main value is geographical, perhaps it would have been well to have given us modern section-maps of the chief theatres of exploration.
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