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best sailors in East India, and only settle down to agriculture when nothing else is left them. In this respect they are the exact contrary of the Chinese, who, it is true, have a great nomadic tendency, but shun the sea and seek the interior of the country, where they devote themselves chiefly to trade and agriculture,
The Thai, or Siamese proper, belong to the Mongolian race. They are of middle height, generally powerfully built and well proportioned, and their colour is dark brown. The cheek-bones project, the forehead is low, the nose thick, the lips are somewhat swollen, and the mouth is broad. The eyes are well formed and not cat-like, and the hair is black, thick, and harsh. The beard, however, is very weak and generally plucked out, as is the case nearly throughout the East. The dress of the Siamese is very simple, consisting chiefly of the languti, which both sexes wear in common. This is a piece of striped calico, which falls from the hips over the knee, the front end being pulled between the legs and fastened behind. In addition, a narrow strip of stuff in the shape of a scarf is worn across the shoulders. The men employ this scarf at times as a girdle, and it does not usually serve to cover any portion of the body. The women when working frequently bind it across the breast, but in-doors they lay it aside, and the body is exposed down to the hips. During the cold season, from October to January, which, according to our notions, would still be called hot, every man of the people wears a tight-fitting calico jacket, while the rich prefer a blouse generally of bright colour and handsomely embroidered. In-doors, however, both are laid aside, and the languti is the sole article of clothing for the king as for the lowest slave. Shoes are quite unknown, and the head, too, remains uncovered. The higher classes protect themselves against the burning sun by means of parasols, the poor at times with basket-shaped hats of palm-leaves.
The coiffure of the Siamese is peculiar, and almost exactly alike with both sexes. The head is shaved, and only one tuft of hair is left on the forehead, which bears a great likeness to a coarse brush, and is not at all ornamental. The women have also a tuft of hair pendant over either ear, but so thin that strangers hardly notice it. As, moreover, the features of the women are as harsh as those of the men, and they are not inferior to them in robustness, the sexes can be scarce distinguished.
The Siamese display a great liking for ornaments, and every one who can adorns himself with spangles, rings, and chains of silver or gold. In this respect great luxury is displayed as regards children. The latter run about naked up to their twelfth year. The girls only wear a figleaf in the shape of a gold or silver heart, but are otherwise overladen with ornaments, and it is not unusual for children of wealthy parents to wear two or three pounds of the precious metals on their neck, arms, and feet.
As regards the character of the Siamese, we can generally speak in favourable terms. They are peaceable, cheerful, and open, and there is none of that propensity for lying which is found in China, even in the most indifferent matters. On the other hand, they are indolent and fickle. The dolce far niente constitutes their great enjoyment, and this is the reason why the Siamese, as a rule, do not get on, while the foreign elements settled in the country, for instance the Chinese, soon become rich through their industry. For all that, though, you are scarce ever annoyed by beggars in Siam. On the one hand the great fertility of the soil produces any quantity of food with a minimum of labour; and then, again, charity is a universal virtue, and both individuals and the state take care that the poor shall not starve. The only exception is the priests, who are bound by their religion to beg their daily food. On the other hand, even rich persons have no shame in asking foreigners to give them whatever they may take a fancy to, and the king sets the example.
Humanity towards both human beings and animals is characteristic of ethe Siamese. Rough outbreaks of violence and murders are extremely rare, and even if this may be partly ascribed to the strict adherence to the laws, facts prove that individual feelings are greatly the cause of this. Buildings have been erected by the people, motu proprio, on all the highways for travellers, where they find a gratis shelter against storms. In the same way large water-tanks are placed by the roadside, and the women living near constantly fill them with fresh water, so that travellers may enjoy a refreshing draught. Slavery is very wide-spread in Siam, but the slaves are generally treated better than are servants in Europe : they are regarded as belonging to the family. The Siamese are also very indulgent to animals. Bangkok swarms with masterless dogs, which are anything but a pleasant addition, but you never see them roughly handled or maltreated, and many Siamese are said to be so merciful that they will not even kill a fly that stings them. Obedience and respect to the law are in a high degree peculiar with the people, although the despotic form of government may have something to do with this. Great reverence is also paid to old age, and the children treat their parents with the utmost attention. Thieving is rare, and the peaceful character, as well as the temperance of most Siamese, prevents many of the crimes and misdemeanours that fill European gaols.
The intercourse between the two sexes is extremely reserved. In this respect Siam forms a commendable exception among the Oriental countries, where usually very lax morality prevails. The law interferes powerfully in this matter, and any one who dares to insult the wives or daughters of others is threatened with a trial, the result of which may be very unpleasant. As a rule, the culprit is sold for a slave, and this prospect never fails to exert a salutary influence. The chief food of the people consists of rice and fish, vegetables and fruit. On the table of the wealthy, however, you frequently find meat, game, and poultry, and the Chinese seem to have found in the Siamese imitators of their preference for eccentric dishes, for the latter do not despise rats, mice, or bats, and have even acquired a taste for the flesh of the alligator and boa-constrictor. This taste is not compulsory, as in China, through a deficiency of food, but emanates solely from gourmandise, and is only found in cities, while the poorer and rustic classes live very simply, and almost entirely on vegetable produce and fish. Just as in Japan every dish is spiced with soy, in China with garlic, among the Malays with Cayenne pepper, so namfrik and curry are employed in Siam. Namfrik is a very piquant sauce, whose chief components are Cayenne and black pepper, garlic and onions. These substances are pounded into a paste, and generally thinned Aug.- VOL. CXXVIII. NO. DXII.
with lemon-juice ; gourmets at times add ginger, tamarinds, and gourd. The sauce is certainly very sharp, but at the same time agreeable ; it excites the appetite, and may be recommended to Europeans, upon whose digestive organs the hot climate has a debilitating effect. The food is brought in in copper vessels and dishes. The guests sit on the floor, and only use their fingers, for they have no knives, forks, spoons, or chopsticks. The meat is on this account previously cut into suitable lumps. The meal is eaten in silence and rapidly : everything is finished within twenty minutes. Whether there be two or twenty persons at dinner, the same solemn silence prevails, and you hear scarce a word. The ordinary beverages are water and tea. The latter is not prepared in cups, as in China, but in pots of red earthenware, and is served in very small porcelain cups. It is drunk without sugar or milk, and, like every other beverage, after the meal, never before or during it. Recently coffee has been becoming fashionable, as the king and the nobles, who follow his example, cultivate it largely. Arrac is made in the country, but the consumption among the Siamese is trifling. Wine and liqueurs are imported from Europe, and find their way to the tables of the wealthy, who are fond of them.
During the last thirty years the English have, unfortunately, succeeded in conveying opium to Siam, where it was previously unknown. The charm of this narcotic is so tempting, that the severest punishments could effect nothing against opium smuggling. Hence the present king has legalised the opium trade, and appointed certain officials, to whom alone the article may be sold. In this way the consumption is more easily controlled. The Chinese pay an annual tax of eight dollars for the permission to use opium. The king feels less anxiety about this class of his subjects, who only make Siam a temporary home, and cares but little about their bodily welfare. The Siamese, however, can only make use of the drug under a heavy condition : they must wear the Chinese pigtail. This is as great a disgrace for them as it is for a Chinaman to have his tail cut off. The only choice is between this degradation and death. Tobacco is largely consumed in the shape of cigarettes, and lads of five or six years of age steam away like the grown-up persons. Betelchewing, however, is universal among rich and poor, young and old. This habit, it is true, is spread through the whole of India, but nowhere attains such a pitch as in Siam. No one who can possibly prevent it ever takes the betel out of his mouth, and the rich do not proceed a yard from their house except accompanied by a slave with the betel-box. Great luxury is bestowed on these boxes : among the rich they are always of pure gold, and frequently inlaid with pearls. This box is in constant motion between master and servant, no matter whether the former be in the temple, or seated on the judicial bench, and contains, in addition to the betel-leaves, various additions, such as areca-nut, lime dyed with turmeric, and tobacco. The areca-nut is the fruit of the palm-tree of the same name: it is of the size of a walnut, of a yellowish-red colour when ripe, and it has a hard, bitter, and rough kernel. A piece of this nut is wrapped up in a betel-leaf, covered with lime, and chewed. The betelbush is a crawling plant, whose leaves are heart-shaped and rather thick, and have a sharp aromatic taste. Chewing the areca-nut produces a
large secretion of saliva, which is of a blood-red colour. Large spittoons, made of earthenware, brass, silver, or gold, according to the owner's position, are, consequently, found in large numbers in every Siamese house. In time, betel-chewing turns the teeth black, which at first produces a repulsive effect on the foreigner. It is, however, stated to be an excellent preservative of the teeth. The Siamese are remarkably clean in their persons: they regularly bathe several times a day, and also change their languti daily. Fleas are unknown in Siam, although there is plenty of vermin which cannot be got rid of by mere cleanliness.
Education is at a very low stage in Siam. While in China scarce thirty per cent., in Japan scarce five per cent. of the population cannot read and write, there are not in Siam ten per cent. who can do so, and, moreover, these acquirements are restricted to the men. There are no public schools in the country. The representatives of learning and teachers are the Talapoins, or priests of Buddha, who, however, are generally quite ignorant. Teaching does not commence in childhood, but only with puberty. Attaining this stage of life also forms an important and joyful epoch in the life of the Siamese, and is connected with great festivities and shaving the head. From birth up to the fourth year the heads of children are shaved close, in order to make the hair strong; after that a tuft is left on the forehead of both males and females, which is allowed to grow up to the age of puberty. During this period children enjoy their youth to the fullest extent—that is to say, they have nothing to do beyond playing and amusing themselves. When the hour for head-shaving has arrived, the parents give a grand festival, to which all friends and relations are invited, who bring the child presents and cakes. The priests wash the head of the consecrated child with the Buddhistic purifying water, saying prayers the while, and then the nearest relatives cut off the tuft of hair. The child is dressed up for the ceremony with every possible ornament. The relatives offer their congratulations, and each lays a money present in a copper or gold vase, set aside for the purpose. At times the amount of the presents will exceed several hundred dollars, which the parents appropriate, and defray with them the cost of the festival. Music, fireworks, acting, and an open table, glorify the solemnity, which, among the rich, often lasts two or three days. After this epoch the boys are sent to school, or rather to the pagodas, in order to be instructed by the Talapoins in reading and writing. They remain for from four to six years in the temples, and act as serving-lads to the priests during the period. The young Siamese, however, learn very little from the priests, and hence the great majority of them can neither read nor write at the expiration of the time. As the superstitious faith is not satisfied by merely being a priest's servant, and as the Buddhistic creed estimates the merit of having worn the holy gown so high that it even liberates a man's ancestors from the inferno, every one before entering public life is ordained a Talapoin, if only for a few months, as he is always at liberty to leave the order whenever he likes.
The education of the girls is limited to cooking, and the preparation of cigars and betel. Most of them cannot even sew, which, indeed, is hardly necessary here, as the few articles of clothing are woven in one piece, and have no seam. The daughters of the lower classes, however,
have more work put upon them, for the management of the household and the cultivation of the fields and gardens are almost entirely left to the women.
In spite of the low scale of education among the Siamese, they are a remarkably polite people. Acquaintances never meet without bowing, and when one man passes another, he never omits apologising to him. Their language is carefully chosen and respectful. People of equal rank address each other as “my elder brother” or “my elder sister.” If they are speaking of elderly persons, they call them “my father," “ my mother,” “my uncle,” or “my grandfather.” It is a great breach of good manners to address a man by his plain name. They never say directly “ I,” but “ your servant." The conversation with men of rank is carried to a ridiculous excess. In such cases the inferior calls himself “ I who am only a hair,” “ I the animal,” &c. Speaking in the second person singular is only employed with slaves. Persons of equal rank salute each other by raising their clasped hands to their mouth. If an inferior meet a superior, the former crouches down, raises his hands above his head, and says " your slave salutes you,” or “the animal salutes you.” If an inferior is speaking of, or with, officials, he follows rules which are strictly laid down by etiquette. Lower mandarins are called “benefactors ;" higher ones, “gracious lords of benefactors.” To princes they must say, “I dust of your exalted feet;" to kings, “I dust of your sacred feet,” or “divine mercy.” Inferiors approach the mandarins, or slaves their masters, on their knees, with their hands raised above their heads. At audiences, in the public courts, a man of rank can be recognised by the fact that he is sitting or standing, while all the rest are on their knees with bowed heads. If you visit a superior, you must take him presents in the shape of fruit, cakes, tea, pork, or other edibles. These are laid on large brass dishes, and placed under a conical cover, the top of which is decorated with scarlet cloth. The number of such salvers is regulated by the rank of the audience-giver: an inferior official receives two or three, a minister from five to six, a prince at least a dozen, and the king some twenty. A visitor, on his arrival, is offered betel, and in better-class houses tea, which the host himself makes, if he wish to honour his guests. Should the person visited happen to be dining at the moment, the guest is hospitably invited to join him. As a rule, no entertainments are given, with the exception of great family festivals, such as the first head-shaving, a marriage, or building a new house. On the latter occasion, the family desirous of building the house collects the necessary materials, and invites all its friends and relatives to the building. These arrive at the appointed time with their slaves, and bring with them all the instruments required for building. Then the whole party set to work. Some drive in posts, others split bamboos, out of which to plait the walls and flooring, and, ere the day is ended, the house is finished. The owner's family have no share in the building, and only provide the food, cigars, betel, and requisite beverages. The workmen generally take their meals together, and the scene is very cheerful. As a rule, the Siamese are a jolly, merry set, who amuse themselves when they get a chance, and have an immense delight in all games, music, and the theatre.