AMONGST THE SHANS.*
THE contents of this large volume are divided into three parts,
with considerable disproportion of interest between them, and no similarity of style. Holding the middle place, preceded by a learned "Introduction on the Cradle of the Shan Race," by the Professor of Indo-Chinese Philology at University College, and followed by an "Historical Sketch of the Shans," by Mr.
Holt Hallett, the lively personal and descriptive narrative of Mr. Colquhoun is, like Miss Blimber in Dombey and Son, "a little squeezed, but extremely charming." The illustrations are all old acquaintances ; we met them first in that delightful book of travel, Garnier's Voyage d'Exploration dans l'Indo Chine, to which it would appear the French statesmen and speculators of these later times did not go for information that might have saved them a good deal of what their recent enterprise has cost. Mr. Colquhoun's Across Chryse was received with great disfavour at Paris, where some presumably reasonable persons believed it to be " inspired " by the Govern ment of perfidious Albion in order to discourage the enterprise of the Great Nation, in the direction of the pioneer labours of Monhot and Louis de Came. So vigorous is the vitality of the legend of the guineas of Pitt.
The vast antiquity and the remote and mixed origin of the Shams having been demonstrated by M. Terrien de la Couperie, 21r. Colquhoun, taking it for granted that after that his readers must know where the Shans live, is rather vague for the general apprehension. A good map Of the Golden Peninsula, however, makes the position of these strange and widely-varying people plain. Touching Independent Burma on the India side, and Anam on the China Sea side, the Shan States of the King dom of Siam, and the Independent Shan country above them, extend northward to the border of the great Chinese province, Yunnan.
The interest of Mr. Colquhoun's narrative begins with the crossing of the Salween, from the British Burmese to the Siamese side of that great river. There is something impressive to the imagination of "stay-at-home travellers" in the mere plain statement of the grandeur and the high connections of the Salween. The Mississippi has lost its charm through the vulgarizing influences of steamboats and the statistics of trade; the Congo and the Zambesi do not greatly overawe us,—the one suffers from Mr. Stanley's bounce, and the other from Dr. Livingstone's inarticulateness ; but the Salween tempts to a fanciful voyage upon its mighty flood :—
"Its course extends through upwards of sixteen degrees of latitude, and fourteen of longitude, rising in the west of the great central tableland of Thibet, and having a branch within 150 miles of the broad waters of the Indus, Ganges, and Bramaputra. After proceeding nearly due east, from 83° 30' east to 94° 10' east, it makes an 8-curve, and passing through a precipitous gorge, which sometimes widens into a narrow valley, continues through mountains towering from 18,000 to 20,000 feet in height, as far as the 28th degree of north latitude."
There is a spot, below a certain magnificent rapid, where the width of the river is only two hundred and fifty feet. "It is near this point," says resolute and sanguine Mr. Colquhoun, "I propose to cross my projected railway from Maulmain to Kiang Hung ;" that is to say, from British territory on the Gulf of Martaban to the northern border of the Siamese Shan States. It was not easy to effect the crossing of the Salween with thirtytwo elephants in company; but it was done, and the march through Siamese territory lay first through the border villages of the White Karens, "a quiet, simple, timid race, whose spirit has been broken by centuries of oppression, and who are being rapidly absorbed into Christianity, in consequence of the labours of the American missionaries." The Shans were the least cruel
of the tyrants of the White Karens. The Red Karens are a different and very objectionable tribe, inveterate man.stealers, and troublesome interceptors of Mr. Colquhoun's trade-routes view. Their country forms a block to all our traffic with the part of the independent Shan country west of the Salween ; and " only our having made a pact with the King of Burmah, by which it was agreed that neither of us would annex Karen-nee,has allowed this lamentable state of affairs to continue to the present day." The author dismisses the Burmese, who have an arrogant contempt for the Shans, with the following remark :—" The intense conceit of the Burmese character, and the airs which the Buormans give themselves, are unparalleled by those of any people known to me." The Anamites, Shans, and Cambodians are all slave-dealers. But here is the other side of the picture :—
"The life of a slave is not that of the Southern plantation type ; for although usually employed in agriculture and domestic work, they are treated with the greatest kindness. They live an intimately and familiarly with their masters, that but for their long hair and different physiognomy, they could not otherwise be recognised [as slaves] by a visitor. Prisoners of war belong to the chief, and their children are born slaves ; they are either used as soldiers, as in Siam, or distributed among the petty chiefs. There are also bond-slaves and slaves by judicial confiscation for theft and other crimes."
The Red Karens, who live on the west of the Salween and close to our northern Tenasserim boundary,. are said to be a part of a Chinese force engaged in the Mongol invasion of the country south of Yunnan in A.D. 1300, who overslept themselves, and were left behind by the main body, when obliged to retreat from want of supplies. They are a curious people; and the author's account of them is an especially interesting portion of the book. The most widely-marked differences exist between tribes in the heart of Indo-China, whose territories touch. Immediately after a description of the Yendalines, a particularly debased tribe, comes the following account of the Let-htas :—
" These people are said to have absolutely no belief in a future State; bat they have religious ceremonies. The sacrifices made by them are confined to fruits and flowers, which are placed on rude altars of bamboo, on the highest pinnacles of their mountains. The youth of both sexes are kept with strictness in separate houses. They have no laws or rulers, and the Karma say they do not require any, as the Let-htas never commit any evil against any other people or among themselves. The sense of shame among this tribe is so acute, that on being accused of any evil act by several of the community, the person so accused retires to a desolate spot, digs his grave, and strangles himself. Such occurrences are not frequent, and the reason most likely is that they abstain from intoxicating liquors. They possess no slaves, nor are any of their race sold into slavery."
The Siamese Shan city of Zimme is described by the author as "a perfect nest of poongyces, or Buddhist monks," and the chapter which he devotes to them and to the history of Buddhism in Siam will be a shock to those among his readers who have been revelling in "The Light of Asia." Mr. Colquhoun evidently dislikes Buddhism cordially, and insists on its atheistical tendency, either ignoring or disdaining the controversy on that point. He gives a very interesting chapter to the monasteries at Zimme, the late King's determined efforts to purify and reform the priesthood in whose hands the education of the whole male population is placed, and to the generally excellent "Maxims for Monks " (according to him, chiefly honoured in the breach of them) ; and he sums-up his observations in the following judgment upon Buddhism :—" It is, in fact, a religion of nnthankfulness and utter selfishness ; of fear and hope, without the divinest attribute of religion—love." In one of the pleasantest passages in the book the author notes the superiority of the training which girls receive at home, "under the immediate supervision of their mothers, who teach them to be industrious and train them in the acquirement of common sense ; so that at a very early age they become far-sighted little women of the world." This is, to us, quite a new view of the condition of any women in the Far East, and their social equality with the men of Burmah and Siam, their companionship with them— not slavery to them—is confirmed by the forty years' testimony of the Roman Catholic Bishop of Burmah, who, however, annoys Mr. Colquhoun very much by giving the credit of "this strikingand—to the lover of true civilisation—most interesting result" to the doctrines of Buddhism. "No, no !" says Mr. Colquhoun, "the equality of the sexes prevailed long before Buddhism took any hold upon the country." The Yun, or Shans, of the provinces of ZimmO are a decidedly interesting people, sturdy fighters, good strategists, and doughty hunters, with more grit and manliness than the Burmese, who are the Gaseous of the Golden Peninsula. The author gives very interesting glimpses of animal life in the vast region peopled by the Shang. Here is something new to us about buffaloes :—
"It may seem strange to those who have not been in Burmah or the Shan country that buffaloes are more hostile to Europeans than any other animal. Stich is, nevertheless, the case. They are fine, large animals, of an exceedingly suspicions disposition, gentle and obedient to those they know, but violent and dangerous to strangers. It is curious to see, as one sometimes does, a stalwart Englishman protected from a buffalo by a little Burman lad of ten or twelve, who quietly leads away the startled animal, which, but for his appearance on the scene, would have charged and possibly killed the detestable white man."
The author gives us interesting particulars of the importation to British Burmah of elephants, ponies, and cattle from the vast grass-plains and wide-spreading wooded country of the Shane. The account of the customs of the people inspires considerable respect for them. They are kindly, cleanly, domestic, and generally free from the vice of drunkenness. Their marriagecustoms are simple ; their divorce law is simplicity itself. As both husbands and wives have separate property, they simply dissolve partnership, the wife taking her pods and chattels with her. If only the husband wishes for the divorce and the wife has done no wrong, he has to give her twenty-four rupees, and hand over half the property and the custody of the children. Should she have misbehaved, she can claim nothing whatever. In the same way, should the husband take to drinking or otherwise miscondacting himself, the wife has a right to turn him adrift, and to retain all the goods and money of the partnership.
"But," says the author, "the women are good little bodies, and will put up with a great deal before they take such strong measures with a man they have once been fond and proud of."
The trade in spirituous liquors and opium is entirely in the hands of the Chinese, who also " farm " the gambling, and these industries constitute the curse of the country. "Once the taste for opium is acquired by the Indo-Chinese," says the author, "it is almost impossible to wean them from it ; they will rob and even murder to procure the drug."
The Shans dispose of the dead by cremation, except in the
case of the chaos—a kind of "big swell "—and high officials, who are buried. A curious description is given of their practice of tattooing and its method.
Mr. Colquhoun pleads the cause of his projected railway—in this case a "golden road "—with urgency and reason, from more than the material and commercial point of view, after he has described the products of the country and summed-up the very limited knowledge which we possess of Siam. He is antagonistic to the French views and designs on the Golden Peninsula, and sure of the friendship of the King of Siam, whom he regards as "one of the most enlightened of Eastern monarchs." "It is only by obtaining ready means of access to the remote parts of his dominions," says the author, "that the young King can hope effectually to suppress the bond-slavery which is the curse of Siam. With the sound of the railwaywhistle feudal oppression will disappear for ever." His forecast of the result of the railway is far too much in the prospectus vein ; but even with a good deal of discount off, the following passage has some weight :—
" The enriching of Siam by the introduction of railways means the opening-up of an immense and yearly increasing market for our manufactures. Every fresh acre of paddy-land ; every new mine, made possible in Siam by the construction of the iron way, will imply fresh hands in Manchester mills and growing activity on Liverpool
wharves The civilising of the Siamese peasant and the Shan gardener and miner will return a splendid recompense to English commercial enterprise. The Straits Settlements have an export and import trade of upwards of 235,000,000. It may be confidently asserted that the connection of-South China with Bangkok and British Burmah will imply a much larger increase to our commercial prosperity. The field is large, populous, and fertile ; and the inhabitants are traders by nature."