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Title: The Karens of the Golden Chersonese
Author: A R McMahon
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Title: The Karens of the Golden Chersonese
Author: A R McMahon

The Karens of the Golden Chersonese
Lieut-Colonel A R McMahon, F.R.G.S. (fl. 1876)
Madras Staff Corps; Deputy Commissioner, British Burma

Bookseller to the Queen and B.B.B The Prince of Wales



When in charge of the frontier district of Toungoo, in British Burma, a
few years ago, I was called on to furnish information regarding the
origin, history, traditions, religion, language, habits, and customs of
the various peoples having their _habitat_ therein, in view to
incorporation in a Gazetteer.

Ethnologically speaking, Toungoo is perhaps the most important district
in this region, as in it are found representatives of most of the
various tribes and clans known under the generic name of Karen, whose
curious traditions, especially those which refer to biblical events, as
well as the marvellous success which has attended the efforts of
Christian missionaries among them, have enlisted much interest and
sympathy in their behalf. The late Dr. Mason and other missionaries who
had long devoted themselves to the people, and through whose writings
the Karens have become known to the outer world, were fortunately in
Toungoo at the time, and owing to their generous assistance I was placed
in possession of materials far in excess of the Government requirements.

The subject was in itself so interesting, however, that I pursued my
inquiries further, and the more I learnt the more fascinating it became,
especially when I was able, by intimate communication with the people in
my tours through the district, sometimes in jungles where a white man
had never been seen before, to confirm by personal experience much of
the information I had acquired from others or from books, and also to
collect much matter which had not been noticed by former observers.

Much has already been written about the Karens, but in somewhat a
desultory fashion, and not easily accessible to the general reader. By a
diligent search in American publications, secular and religious, most
excellent articles are to be found here and there scattered through
magazines, and books published in England and India; papers by Dr.
Mason, Mr. O'Riley, Mr. Logan, and others are published.

But no general account of the people noticing the different heads,
indicated in the Government circular, has ever been written. It
therefore struck me that I might endeavour to supply this desideratum
when the pressure of official work allowed me. But this was not to be
while in Burma, and it was only when I obtained leave to visit England,
that I was able to carry out this idea.

Even then, however, I did not see my way towards publication, as I was
aware that the best efforts in this direction would only appeal to the
sympathies of a limited circle of readers.

Much more interest having lately been taken in Burma and adjoining
countries, my friends in England with whom I left the MS., thought this
was an opportune time for publishing them.

With a hope that this may be the case, and at the same time conscious of
many imperfections in the work, it is with much diffidence I submit it
to the judgment of the public, whose indulgence I would crave for this
attempt to give a general account of a most interesting people.

To several friends my hearty acknowledgments are due for their kindly
assistance. To none more so than to the lamented Rev. Dr. Mason, who not
only favoured me with valuable memoranda on many subjects, but
generously allowed me to avail myself of his MS., and published papers.

To other Missionaries my thanks are also due for aid in prosecuting my

I am further not a little indebted for much valuable information,
especially about Karennee, from a perusal of Mr. O'Riley's interesting


Prome, 4th October, 1875


I.    Introductory
II.   Etymology of the word Karen----Character and
      Physical Characteristics of the Karens
III.  Language
IV.   Education
V.    Government
VI.   Origin
VII.  Religion, Mythology, Folk-lore, &c.
VIII. Rise and progress of Christianity
IX.   Toungoo: its physical Geography and History
X.    Nattoung, or "Demon Mount"
XI.   Reminiscences of an Annual Gathering of Christian Karens
XII.  Among the Tsawkoo Karens
XIII. A Summer Tour in the Bw-Karen Country
XIV.  Trip to the Gaykho Country
XV.   The "Happy Hunting-Grounds" of Meekyin
XVI.  Karennee, or the Country of the Red Karens




From that comparatively unexplored, although prominent, region on the
confines of Tibet, lying between Assam and China, a number of noble
rivers rush to the east and to the south, the ethnological influence of
which, in reference to the tonic region, or that portion of the world's
surface which is solely occupied by peoples distinguished by
monosyllabic speech, is so paramount, as to claim more than ordinary
attention, when considering the probable directions of migration and
connection of the ultra-Indian and Chinese races. In this splendid river
system, of which the Hoangho and the Irrawaddy form the eastern and
western flanks respectively, we have included the Salwen, Mekong, and
Yang-tse-kiang, as well as the secondary basins of the Menam, Sonka, and

The great Himalayan chain which forms the southern boundary of its land
of origin, is intercepted on the south-east confines of Tibet by a
transverse mountain system, originating with the Yunling and allied
ranges, and also forming the ultra-Indian peninsulas, by which the
Hoangho is forced far north, and ultimately finds the way into the Gulf
of Pecheli.

The same cause operates in driving the Yang-tse-Kiang in a contrary
direction as far as the borders of Yunan, where becoming involved in
longitudinal ranges to the east of the Indo-Chinese river system, it is
abruptly turned, and, flowing parallel to the Hoangho, effects an exit
into the Yellow Sea.

We now come to the rivers comprising the western division of this
fluviatile region, namely, the Irrawaddy, Salwen, and Mekong.

The first two debouching into the Bay of Bengal, and the third into the
China Sea, are hemmed in for the most part by subordinate ranges of the
Himalaya, which take an independent turn to the south, and after vainly
striving, as it were, to emulate in colossal grandeur, the high places
of the earth they have left behind, sink into insignificance in the
promontory of the Malay peninsula, and are finally lost in the
archipelago to the south.

These rivers and their valleys were evidently the primeval highways by
which the peoples of Farther India came down from the dreary and
inhospitable margin of the great central plateau to their present
dwelling-places. And no doubt there was a time when there were no other
routes available, even in the more favourably circumstanced countries of
India and China. In this sparsely populated region, river and streams
for the most part regulate the distribution of its human inhabitants,
for it is on their banks the great bulk of the population is to be
found. This is, and will necessarily for a long time be the case, more
particularly in those portions of the country intersected by a labyrinth
of tidal creeks, such as characterises the delta of the Irrawaddy.

The same phenomenon is observable, although not to the same extent, in
the interior of the country, but the natural obstacles to communication
therein have been partially overcome by the energy of peoples who have
attained the status of separate nations, but who possibly for ages were
cut up into petty tribes on the banks of rivers or their affluents.

The whole of the region comprised within this river system is well
adapted for the habitation of man, as the rich and fertile alluvial
plains are capable of sustaining a large population, and the natural
means of internal communication by water abundant; while the valleys,
although separated from each other by high mountains, are united by the
highway of the sea.

The ethnology of the region from which these rivers take their rise is
still very obscure, but the little data we have is sufficient to warrant
us in coming to the conclusion that it will prove of extraordinary
interest in determining the many ethnological questions in reference to
the peoples of Farther India, which are now necessarily conjectural. For
in a country almost inaccessible from lofty mountains and other physical
causes, many of the inhabited districts must still be secluded, and the
numerous petty tribes to be found therein, retaining their original
languages and customs, probably afford the missing links for determining
whether the theories in regard to the affinities of language and
similarity of manners between the people influenced by these rivers and
the great table lands to the north are well founded. The relative
positions of the ultra-Indian races, as well as their languages, as far
as we known at present, give ample grounds for connecting them, with
what are supposed to have been their ancient location and subsequent

Geographically speaking, it is also almost a _terra incognita_ even in
regard to the sources of those fine rivers, which for a long time, it
was hoped, would prove the natural outlets of commerce from the greater
part of Western China. The subject was, it is true, exhaustively handled
by recent writers,[1] who prove that much of the ancient geography that
we pinned our faith upon is no longer to be relied on. No new light,
however, has been thrown on the question, and little to the credit of
our character for enterprise, no attempt appears to have been made to
solve this interesting problem by actual exploration.

It has been proved that the Salwen and the Mekong are impracticable, on
account of the many rocks and rapids encountered in their course. The
Irrawaddy, however, is navigable by ordinary river steamers for at least
one thousand miles from the sea. The Burmese, much to their honour, were
the first to prove this by the actual experiment of running a good-sized
steamer as far as Bhanio, or to the point where the old caravan route
from Yunan struck the Irrawaddy----a route which, it is hoped, will ere
long be revived, to result in such a measure of wealth and prosperity to
the region it will affect, as to enable it to claim, with some show of
truth, its ancient name of the Golden Chersonese.

The territory influenced by these rivers, extending from the Bay of
Bengal to the Chinese Sea, and as far south as the Straits of Malacca,
is inhabited by a branch of the great Mongolian family, many of whose
tribes, although differing somewhat in their mental and physical
characteristics, in the general affinities of their languages, as well
as in their manners and customs, have yet many striking features in
common, and possess a homogeneity sufficiently marked to enable us to
include them in one family, when speaking of the nations of the earth.
This family, divided into numerous people and languages, none of which
appear indigenous, is styled Indo-Chinese by ethnologists, and the part
of the globe they occupy, for want of a better name, is called Farther

On the extreme west of this territory, and hugging the Bay of Bengal, is
a strip of country extending from the 10th degree of north latitude as
far as Chittagong, comparatively narrow up both ends, but of greater
bulk in the centre, having an area of nearly ninety-four thousand square
miles, and with a population of about two millions and a-half.

Of the three divisions of which it is comprised, the main or central one
consists of the fertile region of Pegu, the ancient kingdom of the Mons
or Talaings, which stretches inland for a distance of nearly three
hundred miles and includes the important valley of the Irrawaddy and a
portion of the Salwen.

Arakan, or the northern division, which was originally a powerful
kingdom till conquered by the Burmese, is a comparatively narrow tract,
extending from the borders of Chittagong to Cape Negrais, between the
sea and a high mountain chain, while the southern division of Tenasserim
is a somewhat similar piece of coast territory, stretching from the
Salwen river to the Siamese boundary on the south, comprising also the
islands known as the Mergui Archipelago.

After the first Burmese war, in 1825, Arakan and Tenasserim were
forteited to the English, Pegu being spared, as it was not then thought
advisable to deprive the King of Burmah of the whole of his seaboard.
But, after the second war in 1852--53, such forbearance was no longer
considered necessary, Pegu was accordingly annexed, and the kingdom of
Burmah was thus cut off from maritime intercourse, save through British
territory, China, or Siam. The three divisions we refer to were formerly
under separate administrations, but, in 1862, were constituted into one
province, and styled British Burmah, in contradistinction to Burmah
proper, whose seaboard it formerly was, while the name of the latter was
somewhat arbitrarily changed, in official quarters, into Ava, in
consequence of the confusion that is said to have arisen from the
indiscriminate use of the term Burmah.

It is with reference to this Burmah and its adjacent territory, in
connection with one of the most interesting races in the world, that we
would fain hope to enlist the attention of our readers. But it is not to
the Ava, or the Burmah of yesterday, we would claim this privilege, but
to its far more interesting equivalents of _Aurea_, _Regio_, _Chryse_,
_Survarna-Bhumi_, _Aurea_, _Chersonesus_ and _Ophir_, by all of which
synonyms this region was known to the ancients.

And what food for reflection does not the very name of Ophir suggest!
carrying us back, as it were, in imagination some three thousand years,
when the great and wise King Solomon, in organizing his plans for the
building of the temple which was to be the glory of his reign, entered
into a treaty of commerce and friendship with Hiram, King of Tyre, by
which the latter was to supply gold of Ophir, cedar-wood from Lebanon,
purple from the Tyrean looms and Zidonian workmen, in exchange for corn
and oil from the territories of King Solomon.

And when we call to remembrance the results of this famous alliance with
the Phoenicians, who were the great maritime and commercial people of the
ancient world, we are reminded that it marks an eventful era in the
history of the Jews as a commercial people, showing when they began to
take an interest in personal intercourse with foreign countries, which
hitherto they had hardly known by name.

For it was then that the ports of Elath and Ezirengeber, in the Red Sea,
were filled with their ships, and that Phoenician pilots and such as were
skilled in navigation were commanded by Solomon to go with his own
stewards "to the land that was of old called Ophir, but now the Aurea
Chersonesus, which belongs to India, to fetch him gold."[2]

With little effort, then, can we picture to ourselves the splendid
navies of Solomon and Hiram, built of the fir trees of Senir, with their
oars of the oak of Bashan, masts of the cedar of Lebanon, embroidered
sails, and ivory benches brought out of the isles of Chittim, manned by
the mariners of Zidon and Arphad, piloted by the wise men of Tyre, and
well found, in every respect, laying at anchor in the different emporia
of the Golden Chersonese, and tempting the inhabitants with embroidered
fine linen from Egypt, blue and purple from the isles of Elishu,
emerald, corals and agate from Syria, oil and palm from Judah; rich
wares, wine of Helbon, and white wool from Damascus; iron, cassia, and
calamus from Dan and Javan: for Ezekiel, speaking of the Tyre that was
"of perfect beauty," and "glorious in the midst of the seas," says, "thy
wares went forth out of the seas, thou filledst many peoples; thou didst
enrich the kings of the earth, with the multitude of thy riches and thy

We can imagine with what zeal and diligence the wise and astute
astewards and servants of Solomon wandered over this beautiful country,
and while delighting in its magnificent and varied scenery, enquired at
the same time into its resources, to enable them to secure the more
readily their freights of gold, almug trees, and precious stones. And
with what pleasure they exchanged their beautiful wares for the silver
and ivory they needed, not forgetting to take with them zoological
specimens, in the shape of apes and peacocks, which, from their novelty,
would be appreciated in their own country.

We can also picture to ourselves the anxiety which these ships, absent
perhaps for nearly three years at a time, occasioned, and the delight
with which their return, laden with the rich treasures of the East, was

A great diversity of opinion, we are aware, exists as far as to the
identity of Ophir.

It is placed in Peru by numerous authorities, to whom the venerable
Purchas gave the appellation of "owls." Some place it in the East,
others on the West Coast of Africa, while Arabia, Ceylon, and Persia,
have their adherents in reference to the solution of this problem.[4]
But the balance of evidence is in favour of the Aurea Chersonesus of
Ptolemy. "A great deal has been written," observes Max Muller, "to find
out where this Ophir was; but there can be no doubt that this was in
India. The names for apeas, peacocks, ivory, and algum treesa re foreign
words in Hebrew, as much as gutta-percha or tobacco is in English. If,
therefore, we can find a language in which names which are foreign in
Hebrew are indigenous, we may be certain that the country in which that
language was spoken must have been Ophir." Mr. Buckton, on the other
hand, in reference to algum trees and peacock, says, "it has not been
proved that the words in Hebrew so translated are Sanscrit, and the same
may be said of the other articles in that country."[5]

In the Golden Chersonese, apes or monkeys and peacocks are common,
silver is plentiful on its borders, and although gold is not found so
abundantly as probably was the case in ancient times, it is met with and
worked in small quantities in many parts of the country.

The principal portion of the gold in use with the people now is imported
from China in the shape of gold leaf, which has from times immemorial
been extensively used in ornamenting their religious buildings, as well
as the palaces, carriages, boats, trappings, and other paraphernalia
belonging to the Royal family, or persons of distinction.

The term golden is also universally used when referring either to the
personal or mental attributes of Royalty, and is even tacked on to the
names of the humblest persons in the community. It was no wonder then
that even comparatively modern travellers seem to have been profoundly
impressed with the appropriateness of the term Aurea Regio. Nature again
has endowed the country with vast stores of mineral wealth, although it
is true that much of this lies dormant.

Rubies, sapphires, and gems of great value, are found in great
quantities, and it is therefore not improbable that the precious stones
intended for the Temple were obtained in this region.

In regard to algum or almug trees, we acknowledge there is a difficulty,
owing to the learned not being agreed as to what wood is referred to.
Some conjecturing it to be the sandal wood of the East, others ebony,
pine, coral, or shittim.

There are several species of acacia, to which the shittim of scripture
is allied----Burmah and two or three of the genus Erythrina or coral
tree.[6] Ebony is also plentiful, and pine is found on the hills, but
teak is the great tree of commerce, and as "it is hard, tough, smooth
and very beautiful," it is identical, in these respects, with the
precious wood so extensively used in the temple.

Josephus[7] tells us that about the time the Queen of Sheba visited
Solomon, "there were brought to the king from the Aurea Chersonesus, a
country so called, precious stones and pine trees, and these trees he
made use of for supporting the temple and the palace, as also for the
materials of musical instruments, the harps and the psalteries, that the
Levites might make use of them in their hymns to God. The wood that was
brought to him at the time was larger and finer than any that had been
brought before; but let no one imagine that these pine trees were like
those which are now so named, and which take their denomination from the
merchants who so call them, that they may procure them to be admired by
those that purchase them; for those we speak of were to the sight like
the wood of the fig tree, but were whiter and more shining. Now we have
said this much that no one may be ignorant of the difference between
these sorts of wood, nor unacquainted with the nature of the genuine
pine tree; and we thought it both a seasonable and humane thing when we
mentioned it, and the uses the king made of it, to explain the
difference so far as we have done."

Purchas, who gave early attention to the navigation of the Phoenicians
and the voyage of King Solomon's servant to Ophir, says, "The region of
Ophir we take to be from Ganges to Menam, and most probably the large
kingdom of Pegu."[8]

In his pilgrimage (page 756) he goes on to say that Dr. Dee, that famous
mathematician, hath written a very large discourse of that argument,
which I have seen with Dr. Hakluyt, much illustrating what the Ancients
have written of these seas and coasts, and concluded that Havila is the
kingdom of Ava, subject to Pegu, and Ophir is Chryse or Aurea, before

Sir Arthur Phayre tells that by the name Thooewa-na-bhoomee (Survarna
Bhumi)[10] is meant the country inhabited by the Mon or Talaing race,
whose chief city was on the site of the present Thatung (Thatone), when
the Buddhist missionaries Oo-tara and Thau-na, deputed by Dham-ma Asoka
visited it in the year 308 B.C. "That gold was anciently found in that
vicinity," he adds, "is testified by the Burmese name of Showe-gyren,
literally 'gold washing' now borned by a town on the Sittang, and gold
is still found there, though probably in diminished quantity to what it
was anciently. This no doubt was the origin of the name 'Aurea Regio' of

There are reasonable grounds for believing that a comparatively advanced
maritime civilisation existed on the seaboard of this region from the
most ancient times, and that a few tribes favourably placed became
considerable nations. These maritime races were exposted at intervals to
the irruption of inland peoples, impelled by the pressure of others
behind them from the bleak and arid regions of the north. The
ultra-Indian tribes, it woud, appear, have ever been distinguished for a
chronic proneness to mutual hostilities, and the comparatively civilised
peoples on the seaboard have frequently succumbed to stronger and more
warlike races.

The Mons, or Talaings, have been almost obliterated by the Burmese. The
Burmese, in turn, have been enveloped and pressed forward by the Shans
or Tais, which have also influenced the whole of the Menam basin, and
the upper basin of the Mekong, just as the former have influenced the
lower valley of the Irrawaddy. The ancient tribes, as Mr. Logan says,
were doubtless equally aggressive, and annexation and absorption must
always have been in progress.[12] It is therefore beyond the bounds of
probability that the archaic ethnic affinities of the region which
played such an important part in connection with the voyages of the
Phoenicians, and King Solomon's servants, can now be traced.

Although, then, in this crude dissertation, we do not presume to give
more than the tangible points illustrating the vexed question of the
identity of Ophir,----the elucidation of which interesting subject
requires far more learning than we possess----even were such a course
advisable in this narrative; still, a short digression seemed called for
to enable us to show that we have reasonable grounds for assuming the
title of "Golden Chersonese" for the country in which our scenes are

The traveller who has left behind him the sad-coloured and surf-bound
coast of Coromandel, with its monotonous rows of palms, or the equally
uninteresting sunderbunds of the Ganges, with their low lying, slimy
banks, covered with dank and miasma-breeding jungle----fit abode for the
alligator and the tiger, but deadly to human life----cannot fail to be
struck with the rich, varied, and glorious scenery of the Golden

Whether his approach be through the tawny-coloured waves, which mark
where a great river, thickly charged with alluvial deposit, mingles with
the ocean, or whether it be through the clear blue sea that washes its
rock-bound coast, he is sure to be charmed.

Here a cluster of islets, covered to the water's edge with dense foliage
of varied hue, with beautiful headlands and tiny inlets, the
representatives in miniature of the bold bluffs and deeply indented bays
of the mainland, claim his attention.

There, grotesque and weather-beaten crags, crop out of the rich verdure,
marking the places where the natives of the Archipelago--the "Sea
Karens," or "Selungs," find lucrative employment in collecting the
edible birds' nests, the "Celestial" so dearly loves.

Ranges of lofty mountains, which claim relationship with the Great
Himalaya, at times looming in the distance, and anon throwing out
feelers into the sea, form a background of surpassing grandeur; while
the nearer inspection which a sail up its rivers affords, reveals new
beauties----approaching the sublime----when contrasted with what he last
saw, and worthy of comparison with the most favoured places in the

Language is certainly a feeble agent in depicting the scene of Nature's
grandeur, which he is now privileged to witness. Hills, with rounded or
rugged contour, whose summits, as well as every other vantage ground,
are crowned with pyramidal pagodas, and quaint flagstaffs, whose silvery
bells tinkle in every breeze, diversified by sequestered, but
picturesque little nooks, planted with jack, mango, tamarind, and other
fruit trees, from which the triple-roofed monasteries of Buddhist monks
peep forth, are conspicuous objects in the foreground.

Plains, with vivid green, yellow or sombre patches, shining brilliantly
in the sun's rays, or temporarily obscured by passing clouds, with
curious masses of limestone, here and there heaved up and scattered over
them in the wildest disorder, form pleasing objects in mid-distance.
Horizons, now bounded by congeries of hills, that heap up behind each
other till lost in the misty distance, or again contrasted by range with
the most fantastic outline, which "Lift to the clouds their craggy heads
on high, Crowned with tiaras fashioned in the sky."

Deep rugged ravines and stupendous cliffs, often shooting up sheer two
thousand feet; streams that course down the mountain sides, forming
brawling cascades, or trending through undulating valleys, flash like
silver in the sunlight; great rivers, on which the ships of all nations
securely float; combining, one and all, many of the softer beauties of
wood and water, with all the stern sublimity of mountain scenery, give
to the landscape a character inconceivably fascinating, and taking the
beholders for the nonce, far away from the tropics, realize for a moment
the scenes of more temperate climes, justly famed for their exquisite

That this description applies to the whole of the country it is far from
our intention to imply. Indeed, exception, at first sight, may, we
allow, be taken, in this respect, to the flourishing but not strikingly
picturesque port of Rangoon, but subsequent acquaintance proves that its
environs yield not in homelike, tranquil beauty, to the most favoured
localities. The intricate creeks of the delta of the Irrawaddy, fringed
with huge elephant grass, or interminable mangrove jungle, relieved
though it be, at intervals, by rich cultivation, that return
eighty-fold, ninety-fold, and even one-hundred fold to the "dogged
toiler," we must also allow, soon weary with their monotony; but, on
ascending some distance up the noble river, the landscapes become more
varied, and here and there culminate into a wild sublimity and grandeur
which vie with the magnificent scenery on the coat.

_Climate_----The unhealthiness of Burma some years ago was proverbial,
and not unjustly so, arguing by the results of our occupation. Its
climate, especially that of its seaboard, was then the theme of many
writers on hygiene, who generally condemned it. Subsequent experience,
however, caused them to moderate their views considerably, and the
balance of evidence, as collected from the different health reports of
the province, proves that the old impressions regarding the deadly
nature of its climate are without foundation; for the actual death-rate
among Europeans contrasts favourably with more temperate climes. Still,
of those who suffer from ill-health, a greater percentage apparently are
obliged to have recourse to more bracing climates than is the case in
less healthy portions of India. The climate is certainly depressing to
invalids; and to ensure permanent recovery, in many cases a trip to the
Nilgherries, or other hill stations in India, or perhaps to England,
becomes imperative. Much expense is entailed thereby on many hard worked
officers of the State, merchants and others, and a vast outlay is
incurred by Government on account of its invalid soldiers and families,
which might be spared if we had hill sanitaria in Burma.

It seems, therefore, worthy of the consideration of Government, whether
one or more of the hill sites within the province might not be made
available for the accommodation of its soldiers, and for the growing
wants of many of its subjects, who are now compelled to leave it when
change of air is necessary.

The average temperature is greatly affected by the sea breeze; and in
the hote weather some of the inland stations are some 14 or 15 degrees
hotter than those on the coast. Locality naturally affects the
temperature; and as Dr. Mason remarks, "ther Flora reads a lesson as to
the climate of the country that cannot be mistaken, and, in accordance
with it, where pines and rhododendrons are found, hoar frost is seen in
January." In the plains tropical luxuriance of verdure is seen in all
its variety; while on the hills, the Alpine plants and grasses, many of
which are common in Europe, testify to their temperature climate.

_Animal Kingdom_----The usual domestic animals found in India are
common. The buffaloes, especially those on the sea coast, are splendid
animals, while the other horned cattle, although small, are strong,
compact, and sturdy.

Of the wild animals, the following are the most noteworthy:----

_Carnivora_----Royal tiger, leopards (of three kinds rufus, black, and
tawny), Malay bear, monkey tiger, (_artictis penicillata_), otter, Malay
and Zibeth civet cats, tiger cat, leopard cat, and wild dog.

_Pachydermat_----Elephant, rhinoceros (single and double horned), Malay
tapir, and wild pig.

_Ruminantia_----Rusa deer or elk, brow-antlered rusa, barking deer, hog
deer, goat, antelope, bison, wild bull (_bos sondaicus_).

_Rodentia_----Hare, porcupine, and several kinds of squirrels and rats.

_Quadrumana_----White-handed and two-lock gibbon, several species of
monkey, lemur, and sloth.

_Products_----There are several valuable spontaneous products in the
country. Of these, teak (_tectona grandis_) is the most important; the
annual gross revenues of the Forest Department for the last four years,
exceeding L80,000.

Perhaps next in importance, and exceeding teak, as an article of general
demand, in some portions of the country, is the wood-oil tree
(_dipterocarpus lvis_).

These magnificent giants of the forests, whose stems often measure from
twenty to thirty feet in circumference, and shoot up without a single
branch for more than one hundred feet, provide, as remarked by Mr.
O'Riley, a never-failing supply of an article almost as indispensable to
the people as food and clothing.

The following trees, used for house-building purposes, are
common:----_Eng_ (dipterocarpus grandiflora), _pyinma_ (lagerstrmia
regina), and _pyingado_ (xylia dolabriformis).

_Thengan_ (hopea odorata) is much prized for boat hulls, some of which,
untouched by the adze, have been known to fetch as much as L80. The
solid cart-wheels of the country are generally made of this timber, as
well as of _padouk_ (plerocarpus dalbergisides). The latter is a
beautiful wood, nearly equal in appearance to mahogany.

The celebrated black varnish tree, _thitsay_ (melanorrha usitatissima),
so much in demand for the manufacture of the circular and other boxes
peculiar to the country, is common. It was the only tree, apparently,
which was conserved under the Burmese _rgime_, and so highly was it
prized then, that persons injuring it were severely punished.

Among other spontaneous products may be mentioned cardamums, beeswax,
honey, dammar, cinnamon, gamboge, with numerous other drugs and gums of
more or less commercial value, but which, in common with much mineral
wealth, must remain dormant till the almost impracticable hill country
is opened by means of roads.

The whole of the vegetable kingdom not actually poisonous is appreciated
by the Burmese and Karens. In addition to the common fruits and
vegetables, the following indigenous forest products are used as food by
them:----Mayan, pierardia, edible salacca, bread fruit, Otaheite
gooseberry, earth nuts, and Chinese dates, sandoricum, horse mango, and
hog chesnut.

Rice is the staple product of the country. It is said there are thirty
varieties grown in the lowlands; some soft and sweet, intended for home
consumption, others of harder grain, more fit for export.

The Karens have distinctive names for more than forty kinds of all
colours, from pearly white to jet black. Different methods of rice
cultivation obtain in the lowlands and on the hills. In the former, the
seed is either sown broad-cast in the inundated fields or transplanted
from nurseries in June, and is not reaped till December; the latter is
planted in April, while the ground is yet dry, and the harvest is
gathered in some portions of the country as early as August, in others a
month or two later.

The Yabines and Karens cultivate the mulberry, and, rearing silkworms
extensively, supply the market with silk.

Arakan tea is proverbially excellent.

Different kinds of tobacco thrive remarkably well. Cotton flourishes,
but the cultivation might be improved and increased with advantage.

English vegetables grow well in the cold season.

Wheat and grain have been tried with success. The culture of English
potatoes, except of diminutive proportions, has hitherto failed, but it
is hoped it may yet prove successful. The best substitute for them is
the Karen potatoe (_dioxorea fasciculata_), the best vegetable produced
in Burma.

_Population_----No regular census of the people has ever been taken ever
in British territory, but a rough census is annually prepared by the
Thoogyees, or tax collectors, when submitting their returns of
capitation tax, recording results sufficiently accurate for all
practical purposes. But, owing to the exigency of the statistical
returns for Imperial use, the published records do not classify the
population of British Burma, so as to exhibit all the prominent races of
which it is composed; and as the Karens, who next to the Burmese, are
not even noted, it is, of course, impossible to estimate their numbers
therefrom. Roughly speaking, then, perhaps we would not be far wrong to
allow 600,000 of the 2  millions in British Burma, 200,000 for
Karennee, and a like number for the various tribes in Upper Burma, as
well as those to be found between Karennee and Western China and in
Siamese territory, making in all a population of about one million.

Of the ancient records or chronology of the Golden Chersonese there are
no credible materials, and what records we have were apparently compiled
by persons who either drew on their imaginations for their facts, or in
subservience to the ambition of their kings, under whose direct
influence they were inspired, endeavoured to prove the descent of the
royal race from the people who brought them letters, science, and
religion. Some of the leading races are distinguished by having
elaborately written histories of themselves from the earliest times,
which are kept with religious care in their monasteries. These histories
or _thamines_, as they are called by the Burmese, replete as they are
with imaginary dates, and with the imaginary doings of their
semi-deified monarchs, are nevertheless more or less authentic records
of events since the twelfth century, excepting where they are
disfigured, as occasionally is the case, by manifest perversion of fact,
in cases where an obstinate adherence to truth may have been deemed

The chief of these is the _Maha Radza Weng_, or the "Chronicles of the
Kings of Burma."

We are so fortunate as to have an authentic copy of this valuable work
in our possession, which we procured from the royal library at Mandelay,
and have also had access to two of three English translations thereof.
Of these the most valuable is by Sir Arthur Phayre.

As we are diffident in our abilities to improve his rendering by any
attempt of our own at translation, it appears to us that a few extracts
of his version, giving a succinct account of the antecedents of one of
the most prominent peoples in this region, appears, therefore, a fitting
prelude to our notices of a people to whom they stood in the relation of
the dominant power.

The _Maha Radza Weng_ commences with describing the self-development of
the world, and the appearance of man therein. The system of cosmogony
has, together with the Buddhist philosophy and religion, been derived
from India, and the Burmese kings profess to trace their descent from
the Buddhist kings of Kappilawot, of the Sakya tribe, to which race
Gautama Buddha belonged. The history contains the Buddhist account of
the first formation of human society; the election of a king, and the
grant to him of a share of the produce of the soil. These legends
constitute to this day the foundation of the authority, temporal and
spiritual, of the Burmese kings. The foundation of that authority they
continually refer to, and it is ever present to the minds of their
subjects. It is proper, therefore, briefly to record that portions of
their national history.

The history opens with announcing that, after a cycle of the great
revolutions of the universe, wherein worlds are destroyed by fire, by
water, and by air, had elapsed, the present earth emerged from a deluge.
A delicious substance, like the ambrosia of the gods, was left by the
subsiding water spread over the earth. The throne of Gautama first
appeared above the water. At the same time, the beings called Brahma,
who live in the upper world or heavenly regions, had accomplished their
destinies. They then changed their state, and became beings with
corporeal frames, but without sex.[13] Their bodies shone with their own
light, and full of joy they soared like birds in the expanse of heaven.
From eating of the ambrosia the light of the bodies of these beings
gradually declined, and because of the darkness they became sore afraid.
Because of the glory of those beings, and because also of the eternally
established order of nature, the sun, of gold within and glass without,
fifty yoodzanas[14] in diameter, and one hundred and fifty in
circumference, appeared above the great Eastern island (of the solar
system) and threw forth his light. The inhabitants of the world were
then relieved from fear, and called the sun (in Pali) _Shoo-ree-ya_.

In like manner the first appearance of the moon and stars is described;
the central mount _Myenmo_ (Meru) and the whole sekya or solar system.
The history then proceeds:----

"Of the world's first inhabitants, some were handsome, some not
handsome. As the handsome ones despised the others, in consequence of
the haughty evil thoughts thus engendered, the ambrosia of the earth
disappeared, and they ate of the crust of the earth. Then, in process of
time, selfishness and desire increasing, the earth's surface crust
disappeared. They then ate of a sweet creeping plant; when that
disappeared, the Thalay rice came up, which, as they gathered it, was
renewed morning and evening. Placing it in a stone jar, flames issued,
and it was prepared for food. Its flavour was whatever the eater
desired. From eating of this food human passions were developed, and the
beings became men and women. Then, as evil deeds began to prevail, the
wise censured and severely treated the others. The latter wishing to
hide their evil deeds, built houses. Then, the lazy among them having
stored up the food, the Thalay rice acquired husk, with a coating of
coarse and fine bran, and where it once had appeared it did not sprout
again. They then said, 'It is good for us to divide among us the Thalay
rice plants, to possess each his own.' Then they distributed the Thalay
rice plants. After that, an unprincipled one among them, fearing that
his own share would not suffice, stole the share of another. Once and
twice he was warned; in the third offence he was beaten. From that time
theft, falsehood, and punishment existed."

The world's first inhabitants then assembled, and thus consulted
together: "Now wicked times have come; therefore let us select an
upright, religious man----one having the name and authority of a ruler,
to reprove those who deserve reproof, and to expel those who deserve to
be expelled, and let us give him a tenth share of our Thalay rice." This
was agreed to, and an excellent man, full of glory and authority, the
embryo of our Gautama Phra, being entreated to save them, was elected
king, and was called Mah-tha-ma-d."

This history represents King Mah-tha-ma-d as reigning for an
_athen-khye_, being a period represented by a unit and one hundred and
forty cyphers. He had twenty-eight successors, who reigned in the
countries of _Malla_ and _Kotha_watler_. The next dynasty, which
numbered fifty-six kings, reigned in _Ayooz-za-poora_. The next, of
sixty kings, reigned in Bara-na-thee, or Benares. Then eighty-four
thousand kings reigned in _Kap-pi-la_, the native country of Gautama, in
distance after times. Next thirty-six kings reigned in Hatlipoora.
Numerous other dynasties are mentioned, which are presented as
established in various countries of India, and as lasting for many
millions of years.

Having brought down the narrative of events to the death of Buddha
Gautama, the first volume of the work proceeds to give an account of the
geography of the world of _Dzam-booo-dee-pa_, where the Buddhist kings

The second volume opens with the following words:----

"In the first part we have narrated the history of the kings, commencing
from Mah-tha-ma-d up to the time of the excellent Phra Gautama, there
being 334,569 kings in lineal succession. In this second portion we
shall narrate the history of thirty kings commencing from Peim-ba-thara
up to King Dham-ma-thau-ka."

The history of Dham-ma-thau-ka, as the great supporter of Buddhism, the
founder and encourager of missions, is narrated at considerable length.

The second volume of the history ends with the death of this king.

The third volume of the _Maha Radza Weng_ commences with the direct
history of the Burmese kings, in the following words:----

"We shall now relate the first commencement of the long line of the
Mrau-m kings in the great country of Tagoung; the origin of all the
kings who have reigned in the land; and also treat of the first
foundation and the progress of Divine religion in the Mrau-m country
under the Mrau-m kings."

From the history we learn, that at an early period there were three
tribes in the valley of the Irrawaddy, who appear to have been the
progenitors of the present nation. These tribes are called Byoo or Pyoo,
Kam-yan or Kanran, and Thek or, by the Arakanese, Sk.[15] They probably
were three allied tribes, more closely connected with each other than
were others of the same original stock, settled in the Upper Irrawaddy
Valley, or on the adjoining mountains. I see no reason for doubting that
they had found their way to the valley of the Irrawaddy by what is now
the track of the Chinese caravans from Yunan, which track debouches at
Bham on the river. There they probably remained for many ages without
being disturbed by any superior tribe.

We may then conclude that the rude tribes inhabiting the valley of the
Upper Irrawaddy, who at that time, like the hill tribes of to-day,
worshipped only the spirits of the woods, the hills, and the streams,
were converted and civilized by Buddhist missionaries from Gangetic
India. A monarchy was then established at Tagoung, which gradually
extended its authority, and appears from the history to have been
overturned by an irruption of (so-called) Tartars and Chinese. The names
given to the invaders are Ta-ret and Ta-rook. The latter word is
evidently the same as Turk, and is applied at the present day by the
Burmese to the Chinese generally. The destruction of the kingdom of
Tagoung led to the establishment of a monarchy at Tha-re-khet-te-ya,
near the modern Prome. Whatever this event, as told, may really mean, we
may consider it as certain, that the tribes dwelling in the country
round Tagoung, where Buddhism and some degree of civilisation had been
established under a powerful dynasty, were overwhelmed by a horde of
invaders from the north-east, and that many of them found a refuge among
their kinsmen the Pyoos.

Burmese history, elaborate though it be, is absolutely misleading and
consequently worthless in an ethnological point of view, especially as
regards their origin and the routes by which they arrived in the country
they now occupy. For being based on the assumption that their kings are
the lineal descendants of the royal race of Kappilawot in Hindustan, to
which the founder of their religion belonged, an emigration from thence
to Burma is actually invented for the natural history. Now when we come
to consider the impracticable nature of the country between the Ganges
and the Irrawaddy, and the little inducements which the valley of the
latter would afford to tribes which believed that Gangetic India was the
most favoured land of the earth; and when we also recollect that so
sea-hating a people would hardly have gone on a voyage of discovery for
the purpose of colonizing an unknown land; the supposed emigration,
therefore, seems very improbable. The more so, when we look upon the
face of the typical Burman, which has his Tartar genealogy marked upon
it in characters that cannot be mistaken.

The Karens, it is true, cannot boast of historical records, but their
real traditions, which points to Central Asia as their ancient home, and
which also indicate the route by which they came therefrom, are far more
trustworthy, and consequently of much more ethnological value than the
pretentious productions of the more civilized races that surround them.
Their religious traditions especially, which correspond so minutely with
many of the most prominent events in the Bible, and incidentally
corroborate what we may call their geographical traditions, have earned
for them a deep and intelligent interest among Christian communities,
which the marvellous success of the efforts of Christian missionaries
for their evangelization has enhanced.

A critical examination of their physical and moral attributes, their
mythology, their manners and customs, and the affinities of their
language, afford us at the same time considerable aid, if not unerring
data, in arriving at reasonable conclusions in reference to their
archaic history, indicated perhaps somewhat faintly in these traditions.

Burmese history does not assist us in our investigations in regard to
the Karens. The meek and lowly inhabitants of the plains were treated
with contempt by their former masters and little or no information could
be procured about them. The same may be said in reference to the more
independent tribes to the north, for, with that arrogance which is
characteristic of the Burmese, they estimated the neighbouring
hill-tribes as little removed from brute beasts and disdaining to
inquire into their habits, customs or capabilities for improvement,
superciliously disposed of them under the generic name of _Ayain_ or
"wild men."

Thus, on our occupation of the country, we found ourselves hampered with
a people declared to be so wild and so untamable, that none, excepting a
few adventurous petty traders, ever penetrated their country out of
hearing of the guns of Toungoo.

The annals of the Portuguese, who early in the 16th century established
a maritime empire in these regions, with Malacca for their capital,
contain much valuable information connected with the affairs of the
Golden Chersonese, during the 16th and early part of the 17th centuries,
but close somewhat abruptly about the year 1640, when the Portuguese
power was on the decline. The authorities for its later history are
taken from the _thamines_ already noticed, which deserve far greater
attention, and their translators more encouragement, than is at present
given them; from the accounts of Fitch and other English travellers, the
experiences of Symes, Cox, Crawfurd, and other envoys, as well as from
other sources, official and personal. From all these we can gather a
succinct and tolerably connected narrative of events connected with the
Burmese, Shans, and Talaings, especially from the time that Alompra
founded the dynasty which is still reigning at Mandelay. But in these
accounts we learn little of the ruder people which inhabit the country.

What is now known as Pegu was the ancient kingdom of the Mons or
Talaings, a people distinguished by a language that apparently bears no
affinity in its vocables to Chinese or any of the Indo-Chinese dialects,
and is not cognate with any of the cultivated tongues in Hindustan.
Little can be gathered of their ancient history, excepting what relates
to the introduction of the Buddhist religion by Asoka's missionaries.

Burmese concurs with Talaing history in representing the Talaings as a
civilised people, and in possession of the Buddhist scriptures at any
earlier period than the nations around them.[16]

Overlapping the Burmese at numerous points, and found from the borders
of Numnipoor to the heart of Yunan, and from the valley of Assam to
Bangkok and Cambodia, are the Shans or Tai, as they call themselves;
"everywhere Buddhist, everywhere to some extent civilized, and
everywhere speaking the same language with little variation; a
circumstance very remarkable amid the infinite variety of tongues that
we find among tribes in the closest proximity of location and probable
kindred throughout those regions."[17] Their ancient glories when the
kingdom of Pong (on the north of Burma) existed, have departed, and the
utter want of political unity, which is such a distinguishing
characteristic of the Indo-Chinese peoples, had split the race into a
great number of unconnected principalities; all their states, excepting
the kingdom of Siam (which preserves its independence), being subject or
tributary to Burma, China, Cochin China, or Siam.

Besides these prominent races which have played the historic part on the
field of Indo-China, there is, as Colonel Yule says, "A vast mass of
races of inferior importance, and generally termed _wild_ or

"The fact is that their civilization varies through every degree of the
scale except the highest. Many of them are inferior to the so-called
civilized races whom they border, only in the absence of a written
language, while others are head hunters in almost the lowest depths of
savagery. Some are as elaborate in the cultivation of their rice
terraces as the Chinese themselves; others migrate in the forest from
site to site, burning down at each remove new arras on which to carry
out their rude husbandry. Nearly all on the frontiers of the states
claiming civilization are the victims of kidnappers and international
slave dealers.

"Among those, so to call them, uncivilized tribes, none are more worthy
of note and of interest than those called _Karen_, of whom so great a
number have, in our own time, become Christians, chiefly under the
teaching of American missionaries. Even before this closer claim a new
interest arose, they were remarkable for the value of their traditions,
both religious and what we may call historical."[18]

It is with reference to these Karens, of whom hitherto only fragmentary
information has been recorded that we claim, and shall endeavour to
justify, the interest of our readers.

The Karens, as will be explained hereafter, are divided into three great
families, the _Sgan_, the _Pwo_, and the _Bghai_ or _Bw_, which are
again subdivided into numerous clans.

The Sgaus and Pwos proper form the bulk of the agricultural population
in the delta of the Irrawaddy, and also have their habitat in the
Sittang Valley and its adjacent mountain ranges as far as 18 30 of
north latitude.

Above this the Pwos practically disappear, while the Sgaus have
comparatively few representatives, the bulk of whom are confined to the
Pegu Yoma range and its numerous spurs. The Sgaus and Pwos are also
found on the interior of the Tenasserim division, as well as beyond the
boundary in Siamese territory, and in the Salwen Valley, about as far
north as they are to the west.

The Bws are met with immediately above the Sgaus and Pwos, ion the left
bank of the Sittang, and on the water-shed between it and the Salwen.

North of the Bws, mixed up with the Shans and extending as far north as
to touch the Kakhyens and Singphos, in north latitude 24 25, are
numerous tribes, such as the _Yens_, _Yenis_, _Yen-baws_, _Yen-seiks_,
and others of whom comparatively little is known. East of the last, and
located on the basins of the Salwen and the Mekong, and reaching as far
as Esmok, the border town of China, are the _Kakis_, _Kakas_, _Lawas_,
and others mentioned by Captain (now General) McLeod.

All these in their manners and custom, as well as physical
peculiarities, seem allied to the Bw or hill Karens of Burma. Some of
them even exceeding in ferocity the most savage specimens of the latter;
in that international tribal feuds, which seem the normal condition of
all, are supplemented on the part of the _Lawas_, by raids simply for
the purpose of procuring human heads, which are much prized as
decorations for their houses, as well as for the purpose of propitiating
the genii of the woods, hills, and crops.

The Karen highlanders compare unfavourably with the lowlanders in
general physique, although in the exhibition of a warlike and
independent spirit, they are immeasurably their superiors; just as the
sturdy little Ghoorkhas, insignificant as they appear beside the tall
and martial-looking Hindustani Sepoys, excel them in "dash," as well as
in many other soldierly qualities. Secure in the almost unassailable
positions which they affect on the lichen covered heights of the
mountain systems near the Sittang and the Salwen, or in the obscure
gorges, where perennial streams, cool and refreshing and pure as
crystal, come tumbling over huge granite boulders, and wake up the
normal stillness of the forests through which they tread, the hill
tribes have ever showed a bold front and indomitable perseverance, in
resisting oppression, and by their self-reliance have commanded the
respect which their reputation for turbulent and undisciplined
behaviour, has not a little enhanced.

The people in the plains, on the other hand, with no such extraneous
advantages of position to boast of, endeavoured to escape observation by
hiding in the dense forests, or in the huge prairies of elephant grass
which cover the face of the country, or by resorting to secluded nooks
far from the haunts of other peoples, and meekly accepting the degraded
position they held towards the dominant race as a matter of course,
humbly endured the troubles and indignities they were called upon to
suffer. Patient and unrepining as they were under their grievous wrongs,
they felt them not the less acutely. But hopeless and dismal as their
lot appeared, they were, however, buoyed up with a firm conviction that
ere long they would be delivered from this bondage.

It has long been recognised as almost an axiom that different races
cannot live long together without a process of assimilation commencing
which extends to the various physical and mental attributes that
distinguish the human race.

It is also maintained that in spite of geographical barriers that may
exist, and the prejudices that may intervene for a time between man and
his fellows, these results may be anticipated sooner or later.

The rule, it is said, more particularly applies to those cases where
either civilized peoples meet or where they come in contact with ruder
tribes. In the latter cases, the superior race, while perhaps
revolutionizing many of the manners and customs, habits of thought,
religion, and language of the inferior, cannot help being influenced,
more or less in turn.

In no county is this argument more convincing than in the region of the
Golden Chersonese, for at this moment, a process of assimilation and
absorption is going on, which is fast removing the characteristic
differences between peoples who hitherto played as prominent a part in
its history as the English, French, Germans, and others have played in
the history of Europe.

As an instance of our meaning, we may cite the Mons or Talaings, who
formerly were the ruling power on the sea-board, but who have, within a
comparatively speaking recent period, been so incorporated with the
Burmese, as to have practically disappeared.

Dr. Anderson predicates the same fate for the Shans located in the
central basin of the Irrawaddy, near Bham.

The state of affairs that has long existed between the Burmese and
Karens, appears, however, exceptional.

The tribes in the plains, though influenced by Burmese contact, have not
been affected to an appreciable extent, considering the length of time
the two races have been living together.

Conservation has been carried out more in its integrity by the wilder
tribes on the hills, who are less exposed to the indirect influences to
which the others are subject, and who, in their isolated position,
influence none and remain uninfluenced by others.

Buddhism, the religion of the Burmese, has made little or no progress
with the Karens; but then it must be allowed that the Burmese, though
personally bigoted, have liberal views as to the obligations of others,
and do not interfere with their religious views in any way.

The Burmese, Shans, and Talaings, on the other hand, although strict
Buddhists, still retain as a substratum of their faith, the propitiation
of the _Genii loci_, which is the only worship of the Karens who have
not been affected by Christianity.

With few sympathies in common; with disdain and oppressive bearing on
the one side, and with fear, hatred, and a desire for revenge on the
other, the Burmese and Karens have long pursued parallel courses, making
little or no attempts to bridge the gulf between them by efforts towards
a better social intercourse, or the promotion of the more intimate
relationship, as well as humanizing influence of the marriage tie.

The case of the Burmese and Karens is paralleled by that of the Dryans
and Aborigines of Bengal, and what Dr. Hunter says of the latter can be
equally applied to the former. "Two races," he says, "the one consisting
of masters and the other of slaves, are not easily welded into a single
nationality. Concession must precede union, and a people have to make
some advances towards being one socially before it can be one

The Karens, from the impetus that has been given to education, and the
independent spirit that has been evoked in them under a more liberal
system of government, are fast earning for themselves the social
position which was denied them by their former masters.


Dr. Mason, in his work on "Burmah," passes somewhat severe strictures on
the governing class of that country in reference to its alleged
partiality for the Burmese as compared with the Karens, and this he
attributes partly to the fact that the English ruler usually belongs to
the "aristocratic classes," and having no sympathy with his own
countrymen, cannot be expected to have any "with the down trodden serfs
of the dominant race;" partly from his ignorance of the Karen language,
he is obliged to look at everything that concerns the Karens through
Burmese spectacles, and partly because he is swayed by the lavish
flattery of the Burmese, who thus distance a people who have no word for
flattery in their language.

In giving instances of the oppression to which the Karens used to be
subject, owing to these shortcomings on the part of their rulers, he is
not the less chary in awarding commendation in those cases where he
considers an improvement has taken place, and even modifies his extreme
views in favour of some officers who distinguished themselves in
"raising up" the Karens.

Now while we admit that the change of partiality may have been deserved
in days gone by, and that even now this reproach may not be groundless
in some instances;----for, owing to the imperfection of human nature,
the wisest among us may succumb to the cajolery of a race who are
described as knowing all the weak points of the man with whom they deal,
as being "as cunning as the old serpent in Eden, and as well able to
beguile men as he was to deceive women;" still, whatever sins of
omission may be brought to the account of those concerned in the
administration of the country----who, by the way, can hardly be said to
belong to the aristocratic class----the comparative want of sympathy
with the Karens must be attributed to other causes than caste prejudice.
As well might we say that the partiality which the American missionaries
who labour among the Karens evince in favour of their converts is
attributable to a democratic spirit which has no sympathy with the

Oppressively treated as the Karens were for many generations by their
old masters, it naturally takes time for so diffident and so suspicious
a people to have that confidence in the intentions of the officers of
Government towards them, as it is the wish of the latter to inspire.

Encased, too, as they are in a hopeless imperturbability and
incorrigible apathy that encourages them to sit down meekly under
wrongs, unless some one else take the trouble and responsibility off
their hands, they afford a strong contrast to the Burmese, who naturally
possessing the art of "savoir faire" to a high degree, as well as
considerable amount of self possession, with a genial and independent
bonhomie especially taking, contrive to have more attention paid to them
than the Karens, who appear dumbfounded, let their case be what it may.

There is also a strong tendency on the part of the latter to make a
"stalking horse" of their pastor and master, in case they have dealings
with a Government official, and by so doing put both in a false
position. They even persist in doing so in cases where, to obviate such
necessity, one of their own people, chosen by themselves, and able and
willing to help them, has been appointed for the express purpose of
assisting them in all matters which they should have occasion to

Some missionaries of our acquaintance have, we know, done their best to
teach the Karens to be more independent, while others, we are sorry to
say, encourage them in an opposite course, by not taking sufficient
trouble to disabuse their followers of the idea they hold of the
impossibility of obtaining justice of any sort without the help of the
missionaries. So far is this carried out in some instances that the
latter occasionally entrust parties in cases before the Courts with
letters to the judge on the bench, a proceeding which is highly
objectionable, not only because it gives the Karen an idea he can obtain
justice more efficaciously and far less expensively than any one else
can proceeding in the usual way, for it affords the Burmese a handle to
imagine that it is in opposition to that spirit of fair play which he
expects to get when he appeals to an English judge, but it also tends to
lessen the sympathy which ought to exist between the governed and their
rulers, which all earnest men, whether clerical or lay, should be so
desirous of promoting. In recording these remarks in reference to a
small minority of that admirable body of men to whom we owe so much, we
can at the same time heartily endorse the following apposite remarks
recorded by Sir A. Phayre, in a minute written in May, 1863, in
reference to the results of missionary work in the Toungoo district:----

"Any one," he says, "who supposes that such a change could have been
wrought among a savage people by missionaries without their 'mixing
themselves up with the secular affairs' of the people, I am compelled to
differ with very materially.

"It was neither desirable nor possible for missionaries earnestly bent
on doing their duty, to avoid teaching the people in every walk of life,
or to abstain from advising or leading them in their social progress.
Such a people too, oppressed by the Burmese, when opportunity offered,
would naturally look to the missionaries as their advocates and
protectors. Even with the Karens in the plains, situate among the
Burmese, such action of Christian missionaries is most beneficial. I
could name many missionaries, both Catholic and Protestant, to whom I am
under deep obligations for having brought to my notice grievances great
and petty which otherwise would probably have never reached me.

"A district officer who fails to avail himself of such means of honest
and disinterested information, I consider neglects a very efficient help
to the performance of his duty."

In the deep despondency that occasionally oppressed the Karens under the
old rgime, a cheering thought, like a ray of light in the gloom of
their morbid imaginings, encouraged them to look forward with hope, and
to recognize a silver lining in every cloud that overshadowed them.

Their traditions taught them that they were to look to the West for
their deliverers-----the white foreigners who were to come by the ocean,
bringing with them the Book, once theirs, which was to make them
acquainted with the true God, and free them from the yoke of the

The advent of the English was accordingly hailed by the Karens with a
delight that was intensified by the fact that the American missionaries
brought with them the Book for which they had so long yearned.

An opening was accordingly made and eagerly taken advantage of by the
Karens, their new rulers, and their new teachers, laying the foundation
of a feeling of mutual confidence, which has year by year become more

An impetus was given at the same time to the spread of Christianity,
resulting in a success that has placed the Karen Mission in the position
it so deservedly fills, as perhaps the most promising in the world----a
mission that claims our widest sympathy, not only because of the triumph
of the sacred cause to which its servants have devoted their lives, and
to which everything else must be with them subservient, but because that
victory has been achieved by the voluntary agency of the people
themselves, who gave their substance, and in some cases their very
lives, as an earnest of the sincerity of their religion.

It also deserves the cordial recognition of all thinking men, for the
fearlessness and tact with which it has attacked and broken down the
strongholds of ignorance, superstition, and savagery, fighting a good
fight in the cause of civilization, not indeed with carnal weapons, but
having as it were for its motto, the grand watchword that has been
handed down to us from the very dawn of Christianity----

"Peace on earth, and good will towards men."


_Etymology[20] of the word Karen_

Karen or Kayen[21] is a name we have adopted from the Burmese, the
etymology of which, as far as we can ascertain, has not been
satisfactorily determined. It conveniently designates a people, divided
into three great families, comprising numerous clans; having, it is
said, a language of common origin, embracing many dialects, but without
any common designation for themselves.

In this respect they do not differ from the peoples of Hindstan, dubbed
Hinds or "black men," by the Persians, and called so ever since. The
same may be said in regard to our own ancestors, till the seventh
century, when, by common consent, the term Angle, or the name of one of
their tribes, was adopted as general appellation for the whole race.

From Mr. Cross we learn that the word Karen is supposed to bear two
significations, "aborigines," and "wild people in general"; and that a
popular error prevails among Europeans generally that the Burmese call
the people Karen because they are uncivilized as compared with
themselves. This error, he says, arises from confounding two Burmese
words; _yine_ "savage, wild," and _yin_ or _yen_ "prior or first."
_Yine_, as he justly points out, would be used indiscriminately by the
Burmese, in reference to any wild tribes, and would even be applied by
them towards their own people if characterized by uncouth or savage

At the same time, he thinks that it is evident that they regard the
people whom they call Karen or Kayen, as the aborigines, because they
found them occupying the country when they first took possession of it.
We have frequently suggested this idea when consulting monks or other
learned or intelligent Burmese, in regard to the derivation of the word;
but, unless we put it so as to partly beg the question----when of course
a polite Burman will always accept the cue----we never obtained an
answer sufficiently clear to justify us in accepting the proposition of
Mr. Cross.

Another consideration that militates against, if it does not prove fatal
to his interpretation, is that _yin_ also signifies "civilized," in
antithesis to _yine_ "uncivilized;" so that the Burmese in talking of
the Karens, frequently discriminate between those that have been
affected by civilization, and the wilder tribes by calling them
Kayin-yin, "civilized Karens" and Kayin-yine, "uncivilized Karens,"

Karen has been written in various ways by various writers, according to
their different notions of spelling. Thus Father Sangermano[22] styles
the people Carians, and Symes,[23] who first heard of them from
Sangermano, refers to them as Carayners or Carrianers. Cox, whose
otherwise interesting narrative is conspicuous for its ludicrous
perversity as regards rendering the English equivalent of Burmese names,
disposes of them as Carrians:[24] while in Crawfurd's more ambitious
work, the author, noticing the name Karian, explains that it should be
written Karen, and yet in his next chapter he alludes to the people as

There is some excuse then for the fancies of some authorities, which
have connected the origin of the Karens with M. Pauthier's
Caraian----the Carajan of Marco Polo----which we know to be Yunan. This
fallacy has been disposed of by Colonel Yule in his recent work.[26]

To the Buddhist Bishop of Toungoo we are indebted for a suggestion that
Karen is derived from a Pali word meaning "dirty feeders," or "people of
inferior caste," and from a note thereon favoured us by Dr. Mason, we
find that the Burmese compilers of the Pali vocabularies, render Kirata,
"mountaineers, or outcasts of India," by the term Karen, simply because
they were a people of similar habits; and again in Wilson's Sanskrit
Dictionary, the word Kirta is defined "a savage, one of the barbarous
tribes that inhabit woods and mountains----the Kinhad of Arian."[27]

But these examples prove nothing, and must be taken simply for what they
are worth.

The generic name that the Shans give the Karens in their own country is
Yang[28] which is softened in Burmese into Yen or Yein. Admitting this,
and taking Mr. Cross' theory so far as it goes, we are still in the
dark, as to the signification of the particle KA; although possibly it
may be urged that among the affinities of Karens with the Yuma dialects,
is a tendency to affect the prefix KA, which it sometimes unites with
the root.[29]

The Burmese in naming wild tribes have taken advantage of some
peculiarity in their dress or occupation to distinguish them; thus we
have "Red Karens," "White Karens, "Great butterflies," "Little
butterflies," "Wild bees," etc., or else they adopt the term used by
different tribes, in speaking of themselves.

Dr. Mason points out that Karen is sufficiently near Kayong and Kaya,
the names that the Gaykhos and Red Karens give them, to be the same
word. It is certainly nearer than the equivalents of Karen, furnished by
the European writers we have quoted; and as the Gaykhos and Red Karens
were probably the first tribes with which the Burmese came in contact,
before they conquered Pegu, Dr. Mason's suggestion as to the origin of
the word, commends itself to careful attention.

In the "Transactions of the Ethnological Society," vol. v, Sir A.
Phayre, quoting from Mr. Logan, says, "The root of Mranma is _ran_, one
of the forms of a widely spread Himalaic body for man, Karen has the
same root with the guttural in place of the labial prefix." Mranma,
which accords with the Arakanese pronunciation of the Burmese
orthography, would under ordinary circumstances be Myenma, in the
dialect of Pegu and Burma Proper, but is arbitrarily pronounced Bam,
hence our word Burma.

Sir A. Phayre, on the authority of the "Chronicles of the Kings of
Burma," or _Maha Radza Weng_, records in the same article, that "at an
early period there were three tribes in the valley of the Irrawaddy, who
appear to be the progenitors of the present Burmese nation. These tribes
are called Byoo or Pyoo, Kanyan or Kanran, and Thek, or by the Arakanese

Kanran softened as above explained would be Kenyen or Kenren. The
consonant _n_, too, when final in the first syllable of a word of two or
three syllables, is in Burmese often mute, so we should then have Keyen
or Keren. And in fact Father Sangermano does eliminate the _r_.[30]

If it be true, as Sir A. Phayre thinks probable, that these three tribes
were the progenitors of the present Burmese nation, it is just possible
that the title of Kanran, which is no longer applied by the Burmese to
any tribe of cognate origin, may have been transferred to the Karens,
just as Talaing,[31] the appellation by which the original Peguans or
Mons are still known, may (as suggested by Sir A. Phayre) have been
derived from the Telingas, a Hindu race which formerly had extensive
settlements on the Burmese coast.

Dr. F. Porter Smith somewhat authoritatively disposes of a question
which has hitherto baffled those most competent to form an opinion
thereon, as follows:----"There is little doubt that the word Karen comes
from the same root-word as Kara,[32] the Mongol word for black,
conveying also the idea of an inferior or subjugated race. The Chinese
call Karens the Wu-man, or the 'black aborigines,' denoting their
relationship with the scattered tribes (distinct from the Miau-tsze)
which inhabited the south and west parts of China, and are still found
as distinct tribes in Kwei-chau and Szch'uen."

But then it is well known that none of the Karen tribes can properly be
called black men, while many of them are quite as fair as the Chinese,
the girls, in some instances, exhibiting white and red in strong
contrast in their faces.

While placing on record the different speculations on the origin of the
word which have come to our notice, we would fain hope to enlist the
interest of those who have given attention to the subject, in view of
obtaining a satisfactory solution of this etymological problem.


"The Karens are a meek, peaceful race, simple and credulous, with many
of the softer virtues and few flagrant vices. Though greatly addicted to
drunkenness, extremely filthy and indolent in their habits, their morals
in other respects are superior to many more civilised races."[33] So
wrote Mrs. Judson many years ago, and the description is sufficiently
accurate now, when speaking of the comparatively civilised _Sgans_ and
_Pwos_ of the sparsely populated Tenasserim coast, the delta of the
Irrawaddy, and the alluvial plains of Pegu; but when we come to the
tribes that have their habitat on the slopes of the great watershed of
the Sittang and Salwen valleys, and the more northern regions, we find
them distinguished for their unrelenting ferocity, and for their
turbulent and undisciplined bearing, differing as widely in their moral
characteristics from their conquerors of the plains, as in their
physical peculiarities.

Tempted by the abundance of available wasteland in British Burma, the
Karen can indulge his natural nomadic tendencies to their full extent,
he therefore "cares as little to be the proprietor of the land on which
he erects his booth, as the bird does to own the tree on which it builds
its nest, or perches to pick the fruit." But in Karennee, where the
population is comparatively great in proportion to the area of the
country, he is forced to pay more attention to agriculture, to abandon
his roving habits, and to be dependent on the protection that larger and
more settled communities afford.

For the most part, however, preferring to live far from the bustle of
cities and towns, from choice ensconcing himself in the dense forests,
or perching on the eyrie-like heights of almost inaccessible mountains,
and perchance hiding in the tall elephant grass on the margins of
streams and rivers, the Karen is occasionally found hovering round the
outskirts of civilised life, ministering to its necessities, but not
caring to join in its pleasures or in its pursuits. Living with the
hitherto dominant race, but not of them, timid and suspicious to a
fault, owing perhaps to long endured oppression under the whole rgime,
the mild _Sgans_ and _Pwos_ exhibit a strong contrast to the more
warlike and independent _Bws_, who boast with some reason of having
ever defied the most strenuous efforts of the Burmese to exercise
control over them.

Differing as the various tribes do in many ways, they have many points
in common, which allow us to speak of them as a homogeneous whole, but
in the very characteristics which admit of this deduction, we find them
contrasting still more strongly with the Burmese.

"The Karen," says Dr. Mason, "is the antipodes of a Burman in every
respect. The manners of the Burman are polished and winning, of a Karen
cruel and repulsive. Flattery is so foreign to his thoughts, that he has
no word for it in his language." The typical Karen is certainly very
matter-of-fact, and so absolutely devoid of humour, as to be unable to
appreciate a joke of any kind. The Burman, on the contrary, has a keen
sense of the ludicrous, and so far does this carry him, that even in a
criminal court it is by no means unusual to find the audience (including
the prisoner at the bar) giving vent to suppressed merriment, when
anything strikes them in a ridiculous light. The Karen rarely exhibits
feelings of surprise, joy, gratitude, or admiration, like the more
demonstrative Burman, nor is he endowed with a feeling for art like the
latter, who decorates his carts, boats, agricultural implements,
articles for domestic use, dwellings, rest-houses for travellers,
monasteries and other religious buildings, &c., with bold, elaborate
carving, unique of its kind.

It must be confessed, however, that the Christian Karen is not so
encouraged by the missionaries as he legitimately might be with a view
to his developing talent of this kind; for in the building of their
chapels, school-houses, dwellings for teachers, and in laying out
gardens, the sthetical seems to be wholly sacrificed to the
utilitarian, and no attempt made to establish a sense of order, or to
inculcate the love of the beautiful, characteristics in which the Karen
is lamentably deficient.

The difference between the Malay and Papuan, as described by Mr.
Wallace,[34] might, _mutatis mutandis_, be applied to the Karen and the
Burman respectively. He says:----"The Malay is bashful, cold,
undemonstrative, and quiet; the Papuan is bold, impetuous, excitable,
and noisy; the former is grave, and seldom laughs; the latter is joyous
and laughter-loving; the one conceals his emotions, the other displays

"A well-read Burman," remarks Dr. Mason, "has a mind like a schoolman of
the middle ages, a repository of obsolete metaphysics and exploded
science. A Karen knows nothing, but he acquires knowledge as readily as
an Anglo-Saxon, detects a sophism as quickly as a Master of Arts, and
requires the reason of things like one grounded in Euclid."[35]

Judging by the accounts given by the missionaries, the Karens as a race
compare unfavourably with the Burmese, who have not been contaminated by
the ways of seaport or other large towns, in having little or no regard
for truth. "I have never met a Karen," says Dr. Mason, "in the Church or
out of it, that when he had committed a wrong, would not tell a
falsehood to cover it. What a Karen says he will not do to-day, under a
change of circumstances he will do to-morrow, and seem to think it all

With few prejudices, and no deeply-rooted convictions to get rid of, his
whole system of religion consists in propitiating the tutelary deities
presiding over the various objects of nature; the Karen therefore is
naturally more susceptible to the teachings of Christianity than the
Burman, who is trammelled with the dogma of metempsychosis and the
metaphysical conceptions of the faith of Buddha. As Dr. Mason happily
puts it:----"The faith of a Burman is the faith of a man welling up from
the deeps of his mental faculties; but the faith of a Karen is the faith
of a child with no deep roots in the understanding. The Karens are like
the Samaritans, who at the first hearing, 'with one accord, gave heed
unto the things that Phillip spake;' but the Burmans are like the
Bereans, who searched the Scriptures daily whether those things were

The success of missionary enterprise among the Karens has had a
marvellous influence on their character, for they have not only been
weaned from the debasing habits that hitherto characterised the race,
but a healthy sense of their obligations as good and loyal citizens has
been implanted in their minds, fostering an honest pride that stimulates
them to more independent action, and to a sense of the responsibilities
they incur in their endeavours to raise themselves, practical proof of
which they afford in the commendable liberality with which they support
their pastors and village schools, and the alacrity with which they
undertake their fair share of the burden of education, recognizing the
rights of women to intellectual teaching, and in this respect, at least,
creditably contrasting with the Burmese and many more civilised nations.

While it is admitted that, to the casual observer, the uneducated Karen
presents an example of the most stolid, many hopeless stupidity, owing
partly to his nervous and suspicious nature, which often prompts him to
affect ignorance as the easiest way to evade inquiry or avoid
compromising himself; and wild and uncultivated as he naturally is, he
is at the same time highly susceptible of social, moral, and religious
improvement, when his confidence has been won and his sympathies


To the eye of the practised observer there are many shades of difference
to be detected between typical specimens of the various tribes.

Locality also seems to affect the countenance, as those who come from
the south of Burma can easily be distinguished from individuals of the
same tribe that are settled in the north, apart from any peculiarities
in their dress or dialect.

Education, too, has its share in producing this result, so much so, that
those who have been for some time in the Mission Schools, would be
pronounced quite a different type to their wilder brethren.

It would not be easy, nay impossible, without the aid of photography, to
picture to the eye of the reader the physical characteristics observable
by an ethnological comparison of the different tribes.

As a general rule, it may be conceded that the average height of the
Karens equals that of the Burmese, but falls considerably short of the
European standard.

Dr. Mason measured 100 men and 100 women of a promiscuous assembly,
composed of several tribes, and found two men of 5 ft. 7 in., eight of 5
ft. 6  in., and all the rest shorter. Of the women, two were 5 ft. 1
in., eight about 4 ft. 10 in., and the rest shorter. From these
measurements and long experience, he estimated the height of the men at
5 ft 4  in. To 5 ft. 5 in., and of the women at 4 ft 9 in., which seems
to be near the truth.

The Red Karens are, however, an exception to the rule, in which the male
exceeds the female in stature and dimensions, in that their women
frequently equal, if they do not surpass, the men in height and bulk.

The Red Karens, Gaykhos, and Northern Bws, are considerably taller than
the hill tribes to the south of them, or the dwellers in the plains, and
would probably average 5 ft. 5 in., or more. Mr. O'Riley assumed the
ordinary height of the Red Karens to be 5 ft. 7 in., but this we think
gives too high a result.

If we exclude these tribes it will be found that the Karens prove an
exception to the rule in colder climates, where the Highlanders are
stronger and hardier than the Lowlanders; whether it be from effect of
locality or other causes, the hill tribes in this respect compare
unfavourably with those that inhabit the plains.

The latter are (comparatively speaking) a short, muscular race, the
males somewhat resembling the agricultural class of Burmans in this
respect, while the females are sturdier, with larger limbs than the
Burmese women. Where with them "the body is found square, low, and thick
set, with the pelvis broad and expanded, these features in the Kayas are
modified to a more upright frame, narrow and sloping shoulders, longer
neck and body, with limbs more in proportion to the vertebral
column."[38] Mr. O'Riley was of opinion that the Red Karens preserved a
distinctive difference in mould of form and feature, and particularly in
their carriage when compared with other tribes. He also observed that
the skull of the _Kaya_ is smaller as a general rule than that of the
Shans or other Karens, and that "in form it is an intermediate between
the two, the anterior part small and less developed than that of the
Karen, and the posterior part so uniform in its outline as to present a
semi-spherical appearance when viewed from the front."

The narrow and sunken small black eyes, set far apart, and more or less
oblique, but far less so than the Chinese, the high cheek bones, giving
to that portion of the face its greatest breadth and a comparative
narrowness to the forehead; the flat face with the bridge of the nose
very little above it; the square lower jaw, and general contour of the
lozenge-shaped countenance, joined to the pyramidal head, with its
straight black hair and the absence of beard, found in representative
types of all the tribes, unmistakably stamps the Mongolian origin of the

It is true that occasional, and sometimes remarkable exceptions to the
prevailing type are to be met with, bearing out the description given by
Dr. Macgowan[39] as to their possessing tolerably distinct "Caucasian"
features----long faces and straight noses: still the national
physiognomy is essentially Indo Chinese.

As far as we could judge there is no prevailing disproportion between
different parts of the body, excepting in the case of the lower limbs of
the Red Karen female, wherein by the pressure of beads below the knee,
and the habit of carrying heavy loads on their backs by a sling passing
round the forehead and over the shoulders, the calf of the leg is
developed to a size out of all proportion to the rest of the body, and
as facetiously remarked by Mr. O'Riley would extort, "the envy of the
flower of the London _Jeameses_."

The Karens of the plains are of the same clay colour as the Burmese and
other peoples of the Indo Chinese family. Their women, however, are
often of a much lighter complexion, and some of the girls who have not
been exposed to the sun are very fair.

With the Red Karens the prevailing colour approaches a copper of medium
shade and brightness. The hill tribes generally have a tinge between
these two; while the _Gaykhos_, _Bws_, and other tribes to the north
are of a dingy white or yellow, resembling Chinese; and not a few are so
fair as to show red and white in strong contrast in their countenances.
Many of the young girls of the plains as well as the hills are very
pleasing in appearance, and in the case of those belonging to the more
northern clans there is, says Mr. O'Riley, "an approach in youth to what
in our philosophy we term good-looking; but with the universal antipathy
to ablution, the features of both sexes become so foul as to hide the
natural expression of a clean cuticle, however fair the proportions may
be beneath."

The Karens as a rule do not marry with other races, and as the instances
where this has occurred with the Burmese are comparatively rare, it is
impossible to form any definite conclusions on such intermarriages. Dr.
Mason has observed that in a few cases which have come to his knowledge
where Burmans have married Karen women, the offspring have invariably a
Burmese cast of countenance.

Marriages between near relations are the rule with some of the tribes,
but it is not known whether this practice is attended with any practical
results as regards the physical or moral character of the issue.


THE materials available for a full review of the languages that pertain
to the Golden Chersonese are very meagre; all, therefore, that can be
done at present is to examine the prominent characteristics of each,
compare them with the results that have been arrived at by the study of
the dialects best known, and endeavour to ascertain thereby their
ethical affinities. This is confessedly a difficult task, and much must
be left to conjecture, owing to our ignorance of the region comprised in
the great river system on the extreme east of the Himalaya, whose origin
is coincident with the people of mono-syllabic speech, and whom it
influences to its extremities.

Judging by what we know about this territory, it is reasonable to hope
that the most interesting ethnological results may be arrived at by a
philological comparison of the languages, and an inquiry into the
manners, customs, and traditions of numerous tribes, who, owing either
to our apathetic indifference, or to a morbid fear, engendered by
over-coloured impressions of the political difficulties attending the
exploration of that country, are as little known as if they were the
inhabitants of another planet.

From Dr. Hunter we learn that "Bengal, with its dependencies, forms a
vast basin, into which every variety of speech has been flowing since
prehistoric times," and he is even sanguine enough to believe that "the
materials which Turanian scholars, such as Klaproth, A. Remusat, and
Castren had to collect, by laborious research or perilous travel, like
at the very door of the Indian missionary or magistrate," and that the
study of the aboriginal languages of Bengal is destined to effect, for
the "vast ethnical residue," what the study of Sanskrit has done in
bringing "to light the affinities of the long separated Aryan members of
the inflecting class of languages, the common parentage of two-thirds of
civilised mankind."[40]

It may be, as Dr. Hunter says, that all the three classes into which the
languages of the world are divided, meet us upon a common camping-ground
in India, and that the gap that Brousen admitted between Chinese, the
"monument of antideluvian speech," and other formations, has been
bridged over by subsequent philological research, still we must confess
that we would prefer to go to the fountain head of the ethnic affinities
of the Golden Chersonese, which is doubtless in the territory we have
indicated, rather than trust to what has filtered beyond this fluviatile
region to which the isolated monosyllabic tongues are confined. Secluded
as this region is, it has undergone many changes in its population,
owing to incursions of nomadic Tartar hoards and the influx of Chinese.
Its language, which appears to have a Chinese basis, while its general
character is Scythic, has apparently influenced the hill tribes among
the northern margin of the valley of the Ganges, and the eastern borders
of Bengal, as well as the Burmese and numerous wilder septs around them,
all of which have Mongoloid features, but it appears to us that no
satisfactory conclusion can be arrived at till the _terra incognita_ we
have referred to has been explored.[41]

The Karen language is rather a family of languages than a single one. It
has a base of between two and three thousand roots, and these are found,
more or less modified, in the dialect of each tribe, with a few other
roots peculiar to that tribe.

Though the Karen dialects are very numerous, all may be reduced to three
principal ones, the _Pwo_, the _Sgan_, and the _Bghai_ or _Bw_. The Pwo
is characterised by its numerous final consonants, with liquid and nasal
sounds, while the Sgan and the Bw have all their words ending in
vowels. The Bw is also known from the other dialects by its peculiar
mode of designating the four digits above five, for which it has no
proper names, six, for instance, is literally three couple; seven, three
couple plus one; eight, four couple; and nine, four couple plus one.

In this it resembles the first Himalaic tribes of the Ganges, who appear
to have brought with them the Chino-Tibetan system of numerals, in one
of its older forms. The first four numerals of the native population
were adopted by them, and remained current with the Himalaic names,
which were ultimately disused. Five remained Himalaic, while above it
the lower numbers of both systems were repeated.[42]

It differs, too, in its sibilants, thus it cannot pronounce the
aspirated S of the Pwo and the Sgan, but changes it into Sh, a
difference of dialect that prevailed in the spoken Hebrew in the days of
Jeptha, when the Ephraimites were known by their inability to pronounce
Sh. Judges xii, 6.

The arrangement of words in a Karen sentence corresponds with the
English, while the Burmese is more like the Latin, hence the Burmese has
an affix to make the objective case, because it precedes the verb, while
the Karen has none, because the object is placed after the verb, and is
known by its position in the sentence.

The Karen follows the Mon-Anam formation in this last particular, as
well as having "the directive before and the demonstrative, as well as
the qualitative, after the substantive. But the possessor precedes the
object possessed, as in Burmese and Chinese."[43]

The Karen, like all Indo-Chinese languages, is monosyllabic, and, like
them also, each syllable changes its signification by a change of
intonation. Thus, in Burmese, the same root may mean three very
different things, by varying the pronunciation. This peculiarity is
carried to a greater extent in Karen, for each syllable, as is the case
with the Shan and Siamese languages, has five varieties of
pronunciation, with as many changes of signification. For instance, in
the Sgan dialect, _tau_ pronounced in an ordinary even tone signifies
"to limit, to separate;" when struck on a high note, as when calling to
a person in the distance, it means "just, right;" when uttered with a
heavy, falling accent, it is the verb "to strike;" when the utterance is
retracted in the throat, it means the noun "stockade;" and when spoken
as if with a circumflex, as used by teachers of education in English, it
means "to bethink."

In Annamitic, which is said to be a cognate[44] language, we find that,
"_ba_, pronounced with a grave accent, means a lady, an ancestor;
pronounced with a sharp accent, it means the favourite of a prince;
pronounced with the semi-grave accent, it means what has been thrown
away; pronounced with the grave circumflex, it means what has been left
of a fruit after it has been squeezed out; pronounced with no accent, it
means three; pronounced with the ascending or interrogative accent, it
means a box on the ear; thus, ba, b, b, b, is said to mean, if
properly pronounced, 'Three ladies gave a box on the ear to the
favourite of the prince.'"[45]

In its tonic character, Karen "resembles the Chinese and Mon-Anam
languages. Its glossarial affinities, on the other hand, are very
slight, with the Mon-Anam tongues in general, and very numerous with the
Tibetan Burman. With Mon it has special affinities, evidently
attributable to long contact."[46]

The Chinese language has numerous intonations, and is said to be spoken
in various dialects, some of which, like the _Pwo_, have final
consonants, with nasal tones, and some like the _Sgan_ and _Bw_, whose
words all end in vowels.

"It is, for instance," says Professor Max Muller,[47] "one of the most
characteristic features of the literary Chinese, the dialect of Nankin,
or the idiom of the Mandarins, that every syllable ends in a vowel
either pure or nasal.," And again, that "it is by no means certain
whether the final consonants which have been pointed out in the vulgar
dialects of Chinese, are to be considered as later additions, or whether
they do not represent a more primitive state of the Chinese language."
Quoting Lon de Rosuy's remarks on the language of Cochin China, he also
records that "all words are monosyllabic, and people distinguish their
significations only by means of different accents in pronouncing them.
The same syllable, for instance _dai_, signifies twenty-three different
things, according to the difference of accent, so that people never
speak without singing;" and goes on to say, "this description, though
somewhat exaggerated, is correct in the main, there being six or eight
musical accents or modulations in this as in other monosyllabic tongues,
by which the different meanings of one and the same monosyllabic root,
are kept distinct. These accents form an element of language which we
have lost, but which was most important during the primitive stages of
human speech."

Eighty-eight common Karen words, selected by Dr. Mason to develop the
affinities of the language, showed that sixteen words are allied to the
_Tai_, that is Shan and Siamese, eleven to Chinese, ten to Burmese,
three to Tibetan, three to Botian, three to Simboo, one to
Indo-European, and one to each of the five North-Western tribes.

With our present knowledge, then, he argues that the affinities of the
Karen language are strongest with Tai and Chinese, and when we know more
of the Chinese languages as spoken in the south of China, he thinks that
Karen will be found to be an off-shoot of Chinese.

Mr. Logan,[48] again, is of opinion, that the Karen dialects belong to
the Yuma family, which "is one of the subdivisions of the Western or
Tibetan branch of the Himalaic alliance, which was preceded in India and
ultra-India by the Eastern Mon Anam. The Himalaic formation is
intermediate in its characters, structural and glossarial, between
Chinese and Scythic; and as the existing languages of Tibet are pure
Himalaic, and are conterminous with Scythic and Chinese, it is inferred
that the cognate southern tongues are derived from the north of the
Himalaya, that is from the ancient Tibetan province."

In the same proper, Mr. Logan remarks that the "ethnic relations of the
Kaya (Red Karens), like those of other unlettered tribes, must be
chiefly sought in the unconscious autography of their language;" and he
goes on to say, that "it is evident that the Kaya is a distinct and
archaic dialect of the Yuma family. With Sgan, Pgho, and Toungthoo, it
may be considered as forming the Karen branch of that family." A branch
in which the "Mon-Anam influence has somewhat modified the proper
Tibeto-Burman structure."

The Red Karen traditions, in reference to their association with the
Chinese at Pagan, and to their being driven thence by the Burmese, as
well as the Sgan legend as to the route by which they came into the
country, have, by Mr. Logan's showing, the support of linguistic
evidence. "Karen," he points out, "even in its Chinese characters, has a
development so independent and peculiar, that it must have long preceded
Burman in the middle and lower valley of the Irrawaddy. Toungthoo, in
its vocabulary and phonology, is merely a dialect of Karen. The Yuma,
Munipuri, and Naga dialects are so closely related to them glossarily as
to show that, before they assumed their Chinoid form, they belonged
mainly to this group, although their northern position gave them a
Brahmaputran element also." An examination of the progress and course of
the emasculated ultra-India dialects must," he adds, "begin with Karen."
The highly monosyllabic, vocalic and tonic character of the Karen, he
also appears to think, was caused by long and intimate connection with
the Chinese, just as other attributes are the result of long contact
with Mon, although he by no means infers that it possesses radical
affinities with either.

The peculiar character of the Karen language would, he says in
conclusion, "be accounted for if they were the tribe that possessed the
valleys of the Shue-ly (Show-lee) when the Chinese pushed their
boundaries forward to the Irrawaddy," and as the town of Bham,
immediately north of this valley, is mentioned in Karen traditions in
connection with the Chinese, it is very probable that such was the case.

The Karen language was first reduced to writing in 1832 by Dr. Wade, who
constructed an alphabet consisting of twenty-five consonants and nine
vowels. The Sgan tribe was first met with, then the Pwo, and the
missionaries, in making a philological comparison of their languages,
noticed that although the roots in both dialects were substantially the
same, there was a considerable difference in the languages themselves,
so much so, as to induce indefatigable men to give their undivided
attention to one or other of these dialects only, and act independently
of each other. Thus, if we mistake not, the Roman alphabet was first
adopted by those who made the Pwo dialect their special province, while
the Burmese alphabet was used by the Sgan students.

Ultimately a modification of the Burmese character was fixed upon in
preference to the former in both dialects, which, in spite of all that
is said to the contrary, could, we venture to think, be easily adapted
to all the requirements of Karen pronunciation, leaving out of the
question the desirability of associating their written character with
that of their present rulers, rather than with the ancient rgime.

A grammar of the Sgan language with a vocabulary of the Pwo, intended
for the use of European students, was published by Dr. Mason in 1846.
Another Sgan grammar, whose object was to aid the Karens in acquiring a
correct knowledge of their own vernacular, was printed by Dr. Wade in
1861. Both are esteemed by competent judges as works of great merit, and
highly creditable to their authors.

Dr. Wade, with a view of obtaining as much information about the people
as possible, and at the same time fixing their language within definite
limits and on a sound basis, compiled a kind of Karen Thesaurus, of four
large octavo volumes, consisting of a repository of legends and
traditions of various kinds in poetry and prose, and also of a lexicon
or cyclopdia of words and phrases, and their different shades of
meaning as given by the people.

Dr. Mason was, we believe, one of the chief contributors to this book.
His name is further distinguished by his having been the first to
publish a vernacular newspaper east of the Ganges. The Karen periodical,
started by him at Tavoy in 1842, is we believe still in existence.[49]

Their first book consisted of detached portions of the Gospel. These
were followed up by religious tracts, as well as treatises on geography,
trigonometry, history, arithmetic, &c., in the various dialects. The New
Testament was translated into the Sgan dialect by Dr. Mason, assisted by
other missionaries, in 1843, and the Old Testament was, we believe,
completed by Dr. Mason without aid in 1853.

Regarding this grand work, a very competent judge has remarked that "he
did not know of any other translation of the Bible that approached in
all respects so near perfection as this one."[50]

In conclusion, we may say that there is abundant proof that the Karen
language is sufficiently copious for all present requirements.


THE words civilisation, education, religion, and many others, are among
those expression which are so often used without any clear, definite, or
precise ideas being attached to them. Civilisation in its popular and
ordinary signification suggests the idea of a community that is
advancing cautiously and methodically, in promoting the best possible
organisation of society in view to the improvement of its social
relations, and the furthering of its material progress. The term also
seems to convey something of a more elevated and dignified character
than the mere perfection of the social relations. In this other aspect
of the word it embraces the intellectual and moral faculties of man; of
his feelings, his tastes, and his ideas. Here we touch on the subject of
education, which is the very soul of civilisation.

The question of education or civilisation is, we admit, one of degree as
well as a matter of opinion, The civilisation of the West differs from
the civilisation of the East.

To the typical _John Bull_, and to the typical Frenchman, all other
nations are beyond the pale of civilisation, taking it in its widest
sense; while to to the "Celestial," all who do not belong to the
"Flowery Land" are "Outer Barbarians." So it is with education.

With every desire to make due allowance for the Karens, it would not
appear that their attainments when first encountered by the
missionaries, was of a sufficiently elevated type to warrant our using
the term civilisation or education even in their most limited popular
sense in respect to it.

The term education then, whether interpreted in its generally accepted
sense, or taken in its widest meaning, seems singularly inappropriate
when applied to the intellectual, physical, or moral condition of the
wilder clans of the Karens. When first encountered they were
characterised by an ignorance the most deplorable, not only as regards
intellectual culture, but also of the most simple arts. In some
instances they evinced a savagery almost unparalleled, and bore a strong
impress of the ethnic struggles of a bygone age, wherein, crushed,
humiliated, and broken up by fiercer and more warlike tribes, they have
incurred the inevitable penalty that such internecine strife inflicts on
the weaker, and have evidently deteriorated as regards their physical,
if not their moral education, compared with the time when, in a strong
and apparently well organized array, they encountered the dread terrors
of the Gobi and marched southwards.

They have traditions of having had the same opportunities as other
peoples for acquiring knowledge, God having given them books when
similar gifts were bestowed on the Burmese and Chinese, but they
foolishly neglected to take advantage of these opportunities, and lost
their books as well as the little knowledge they had derived therefrom.
The same obtuseness inference to other matters seems, by some accounts,
to have prevented them from taking their proper status among the nations
of the earth, and, if truth be told, they seem to have voluntarily
accepted the position, as one ordained by fate, and have never striven
to be emancipated therefrom.

The Karens were first communicated with by means of the Burmese
language, and so hopeful were the indications of the possibility of
doing good among them that two missionaries, Doctors Mason and Wade,
devoted themselves to the acquisition of the language. The names of both
these gentlemen have for many years been prominent on account of the
success of their exertions in raising the Karens, and deservedly hold a
high place in the records of the progress of civilisation and education
among this interesting people.

The Karens, like many nomadic tribes, had no written character till Dr.
Wade reduced their language to writing; but in this respect they do not
compare unfavourably with the most favoured nations, for from Mr.
Crawford we learn "that no mere shepherd or nomadic people seems ever to
have invented the act of writing, and we can readily believe that the
nomadic state of society would afford no leisure or opportunity for such
an invention." ... "But by far the most remarkable instance of a people
who have failed to invent either symbolic or phonetic writing, is
afforded by the races of Europe. No race from the Euxine to the
Atlantic, or from Greece to Scandinavia, has ever invented an

It had never struck the Karens that this language, like that of others
could be represented by signs, and when this was an accomplished fact,
the effect on them was quite electrical.

Tottering old men and aged matrons, as well as youths and maidens, shows
pleasure were hitherto aimless and profitless, if not absolutely
vicious, vied with each other in endeavouring to acquire even a
smattering of learning, so as to be able to spell over the little
Christian tracts which were first printed in their mother tongue.
Actuated by such a spirit, their progress in the art of reading was
marvellous, and the first literary ventures of the missionaries in the
Karen language----devoured with enthusiasm by thousands----were
eminently successful.

The fact of possessing a written language of their own, stimulated,
moreover, in the minds of this simple people an honest pride, that
encouraged them in a measure to shake off the listless apathy that
distinguished them, and to emerge from the "slough of despond" which
appears to have drowned their dormant energies for centuries.

With such a feeling to work upon, the task of the missionaries was
henceforth comparatively easy. Able and zealous assistants were found
among the people, who, without pay or emolument of any kind, or other
prospect of reward, save the satisfaction of doing good to their people,
and the thought that their efforts towards promoting a national
literature, put them more on a footing with civilised nations, entered
on their duties with devotion. The mass of the people readily responded
to their efforts, and encouraged their aspirations. The old folks, 'tis
true, after the first novelty wore off, put away their spelling-book,
and reverted to their chronic state of lethargic indolence; but the
young people were still encouraged to persevere, and a great impetus was
given to secular and religious education.

Whether, then, the Karens "shall or shall not become a civilised
people," is, as remarked by Dr. Mason, "simply a question of whether
they are or are not to have the necessary culture to make any uneducated
people such."

Christian missionaries have nobly done their duty to solve this question
in the affirmative, by establishing village schools all over the
interior of the country; and by making the religious element the
predominating influence therein, encourage a system of education which
appeals so strongly and so effectively to the sympathies of the
Buddhists, and has caused the elementary education which the Burmese can
boast of, to compare favourably with that of the most civilised peoples
in the world.

But while adopting this system so far as it goes, they essay to go far
beyond it, and, taking "excelsior" as their motto, endeavour to develope
the mental faculties of the Karens as much as possible by personally
superintending the more advanced schools to be found at the principal
towns in Burma. The Burmese, on the other hand, seem to have no ambition
to extend their curriculum further than the standard required by their
forefathers for many generations, and are not, perhaps, one whit more
advanced in this respect than they were one hundred years ago.

To the credit of the Karens it must be allowed that they early
recognised the importance of encouraging women to qualify themselves to
undertake their natural sphere as instructors of the young. Against good
report and evil report, the champions of these liberal views have
successfully combated the ancient prejudices of the people against
bringing women forward in any way, and have not only convinced them of
the advisability of sending their girls to school, but have also
succeeded in having them regularly trained as school-teachers.

Many young women thus qualified have accomplished great results by
exercising not only the beneficial influence that good and earnest women
must have, but laying a foundation in the minds of their youthful pupils
for future successful culture.

Not a few too, endowed with great mental capacity and energy, have
successfully vied with men in the higher branches of education; and
though sneered at first, have, by their perseverance and devotion,
disarmed their opponents, who, in many instances, have appreciated their
work as it deserves.

The bright and intelligent appearance of both boys and girls who have
been influenced by education stands out in strong contrast with the
apparently impracticable and stolid stupidity of the same class in their
natural state of wild ignorance, and the high result of intellectual
learning of which they are capable, is evinced by the very creditable
knowledge displayed by the pupils in the various missionary schools, of
astronomy, history, geography, arithmetic, mensuration, and of general

The students in the schools at head-quarter stations have succeeded in
obtaining a most creditable standard as compared with those belonging to
other nationalities, with the same advantages as they enjoy, and as the
more important of these institutions have been subsidized by
grantes-in-aid from Government, their sphere of usefulness will, it is
hoped, be much extended, and result in that practical benefit to
education which has been so well earned by the exertions of the people
themselves in furthering the good cause.

The uncivilised Karens are very deficient in works of art; and there are
no monuments or relics of any kind, tending to prove that their
education in this respect was formerly of a more advanced type than it
is at present. Dr. Mason accounts for this from a desire on the part of
the people that their localities should be unknown to the outside world.
The women of most of the tribes weave a coarse and durable cloth, and
embroider their garments very tastefully: but, in regard to some of
those belonging to the more secluded clans, it is said, "they toil not,
neither do they spin."

The people in the Tenasserim provinces make very neat baskets and tents.

The latter are woven in many fanciful patterns, to which they attribute
(says Dr. Mason) a divine origin.

"When God was about to die, as the legend runs, he called all nations to
him to receive his dying legacies; but the Karens being tardy in coming,
they arrived only in time to see his mats burning, and to note the
figures on the ashes which had been woven into them; and they have made
their mats, they say, after these patterns ever since."[52] The Karens
manufacture a few rude musical instruments. The Bws and Red Karens
forge their own clumsy axes, hoes, and spears, and also make all the
common silver ornaments worn by the women; while some of the tribes on
the borders turn out very fair match-locks.

The Karens display no ingenuity in their works, as Dr. Mason says, have
no particular tastes or bent of any kind; and what is inculcated into
them would seem to be the result of mere drudgery. To this rule an
exception may be made in favour of the decided talent they evince for
music. Mr. Hordern, the Director of Public Instruction, when reporting
on Mr. Carpenter's school at Bassein, remarked that "the capacity of the
Karens for learning English music is remarkably shown here. Led by a
Karen teacher, and reading easily from notes on a black board, they sang
part songs in a way that would certainly astonish many an English church
choir. The girls all play the harmonium."

Although the Karens originate nothing, they appear to be apt imitators,
and to evince a decided capability for instruction to a high degree.
Many who were dubbed _Loo-yine_,[53] or wild men, by the Burmese, a few
years ago, can survey land and plot it afterwards; while others can use
the sextant, measure heights and distances, take the sun's meridian,
altitude and calculate the latitude.

They are fair carpenters, too, but not so good as the Burmese or the

Quoting again from Mr. Hordern's report, we find that in the workshop,
which was furnished with a lathe and other tools, he saw specimens of
the pupils' work which was well turned out; the school desks and forms
being creditable specimens of their handiwork. The Karens show a decided
talent for the duties of a printing office, as evinced by the "Pali
Grammar," "The Burmese Handbook of Medicine," and other works which have
been published in Toungoo, under the auspices of Dr. Mason.

The production of the "Handbook of Medicine" elicited the following
well-deserved criticism from Sir A. Phayre:----

"I had the great pleasure to receive two copies of your 'Burmese
Handbook of Medicine.' I need hardly say how delighted I am to see this,
knowing that if properly used, it is calculated to do a vast deal of
good. It is beautifully printed, and I am really astonished that you
have been able to bring the art to such perfection in Toungoo. This of
itself is evidence of the great advance made by the Karens under your

We had also the pleasure of recording our appreciation of the word, at
the same time, in the following terms:----

"The preface to your 'Burmese Handbook of Medicine,' is A COMPLETE
SUCCESS IN THE ART OF PRINTING, and is highly creditable to your Karen

"The printing is quite equal to that of the Journal of the Bengal
Asiatic Society, with which I have compared it, and if your paper were
better than it is, I am not sure whether it would not excel it.

"Success in teaching the Karens any of the useful arts, and thereby
making them more useful members of society, will always be a matter of
congratulation to every one who has their advancement at heart, and I
heartily congratulate you on the results you have been able to show."

While, therefore, it must be admitted that the wilder tribes are stupid
in an ignorance of the most debased type, those that, within the period
of even a single generation, have been emancipated from this thraldom,
afford an instance of what can be done by well-considered and persistent
efforts for promoting and encouraging education.


THE use and necessity of government are such, that it is said there
never was an age or country without some sort of civil authority, but as
men are seldom unanimous in the means of attaining their ends, their
differences in opinion as to what constitutes good government have
produced many forms of it.

Thus we have the monarchical, republican, and despotic governments, with
their different offshoots.

The independent or quasi-independent tribes of Karens afford an instance
of a people who practically set at nought the axiom of political economy
with which we preface this chapter; for what Mr. O'Riley records of the
Red Karens, may be reasonably applied to most of the other tribes. "They
possess neither law nor dominant authority," and the only semblance of
the latter which "exists among them, is that of the chief, or head of
the tribe or community, who is regarded simply as the patriarch, but
whose power for good or evil is nominal."

Their traditions refer to a time when they were an undivided nation with
a king of their own; and some of their present aspirations point to a
monarchical government in course of time, under which they anticipate
great temporal prosperity; these hopes even take the shape of prayer to
the Almighty in the following strain:----

"O Lord, we have had affliction for a long succession of generations;
have compassion, have mercy upon us, O Lord. The Talaing Kings have had
their season, the Birman Kings have had their season, the Siamese Kings
have had their season; and the Foreign Kings have all had their season;
the Karen nation remain. Let our King arrive, O Lord. Thou, O Lord, whom
we adore, to whom we sing praises, let us dwell within the great town,
the high city, the golden palace. Give to us, have compassion upon us, O
Lord .----Let us have Kings, and let the city, the town, the great town,
the Silver city, the new town, the new city, the palace, the royal
residence, arrive to us all, O Lord."[54]

The millennium, that they are sanguine enough to hope for consequent on
the rule of their monarchs, is portrayed in the following stanzas:----

"When the Karen King arrives There will be only one monarch; When the
Karen King comes, There will be neither rice nor poor."

"When the Karen King arrives, The beasts will be happy, When the Karens
have a King, Lions and leopards will lose their savageness."[55]

In spite of these prayers and aspirations, there is no record that the
Karens ever strove, or any evidence that they intend to strive for the
practical fulfilment of their hopes; in fact, they seem reconciled to
the isolation and state of dependence which has been their lot for ages.

It is generally accepted as an universal fact, that whereas a number of
individuals have assembled on the face of the earth, they have adopted
certain rules for their mutual guidance. Now, though we do not say that
these tribes form an exception to the rule which proves that the
association of men is not accidental but an inherent attribute of human
nature; and though we can also make allowances for the diversity of
circumstances which necessitate a revolution of the ideas as to what
constitutes government in more advanced nations, still the state of
affairs among them would seem to belie the facts, borne out by history
and by general experience, that the political and social economy of the
human race must be worked out by combined effort, and not by the
desultory and isolated action of independent individuals.

_Government_----Although the term government may be too comprehensive
when applied to the polity that obtains among the wilder clans, yet they
possess an oral law for the regulation of society almost as cumbrous as
the written law of more civilised peoples.

With no tradition of a Lycurgus, they imagine that their law came down
to them in a state of perfection from the Ancients, and consequently
like that of the Medes and Persians it altereth not.

Of this unwritten or common law, as we would term it, the elders of each
tribe are the recognised interpreters, just as the secretaries of state
of European Powers are the official interpreters of royal warrants.
These elders[56] are expected to teach the young people to do good and
to eschew evil, and it must be said in their favour, that in their
jealous care and reverence for ancient traditions, they honestly and
consistently endeavour to hand down the maxims they have received
intact, although it must be confessed that many of those whom they
strive to teach, having no restraint on their passions, save that of
superstition,[57] and the fear of retaliation, acknowledge no right of
control, and taking the law into their own hands, apply it as it suits
their savage inclination.

According to Karen law, each family is encouraged to avenge its own
wrongs, and provided aggrieved persons, in proceeding to extremities
that involve the loss of life or liberty of their enemies, or otherwise
taking the law into their own hands, conform to the customs as handed
down from the ancients, which have acquired the force of law, they are
held to have acted in conformity with strict procedure. Having
practically no court of law to which they can appeal, the people
constitute themselves "judge, jury, and executive," and as all offences
against the person, however heinous, are commutable by fine, the
compensation demanded by those who consider themselves injured in any
way, is often of the most arbitrary description. The consequence is,
that defaulters have to comply with these extortionate requisitions by
equivalent payment in kind or money, become the bonded slaves of those
who have claims against them, or give occasion to the latter to assume
the functions of sheriffs' officers by the system of forays in
retaliation for wrongs both civil and criminal, which is in accordance
with their unwritten civil and criminal codes combined. This anomalous
state of affairs, although fairly representing the normal conditions of
the social relations that exist among the more savage tribes, is subject
to considerable modification where the people have been directly or
indirectly influenced by civilised nations, or where their chiefs,
either by a combination of fortuitous circumstances, such as possessing
more property than their neighbours, commanding a wider family
connection; inheriting a prestige won by their ancestors, or by sheer
force of character, acquire and exercise an influence, which in the case
of other so-called chiefs, is simply nominal.

"The government of the Karens,"[58] says Dr. Mason, "may be compared to
that of the American Indians at present, or to that of the Scottish
clans in the days of Rob Roy. As a whole they are ungoverned and
ungovernable." "Each village, with its scant domain, is an independent
state, and every chief a prince; but, now and then, a little Napoleon
arises, who subdues a kingdom to himself, and builds up an empire. The
dynasty, however, lasts only with the controlling mind."

The chieftainship is usually hereditary in the family of the chief, but
it is often elective, when the person who aspires to this honour has not
obtained the tacit or declared suffrages of the people.

Under the most favourable circumstances however, the chief can only be
regarded as the patriarch, and occasionally the High Priest of his
tribe. He is also, in conjunction with the elders, the recognised
referee in the settlement of disputes, and in the arrangements necessary
for the adjudication of real or fancied wrongs. But, in cases where his
interests and those of his people are identical, or where he has the
power to punish the refractory, his influence is sufficient to enable
him to raise levies to attack his enemies, or to plunder his weaker
neighbours, and sometimes even extends to the powers of life and death.
Thus, in ancient Caledonia, although the chief had great power with his
clan in the different relations of landlord, leader, and judge, his
authority was far from absolute, as he was obliged to consult the
leading men of the clan in matters of importance.[59]

Nevertheless, as a general rule, the chiefs are unable to extend towards
their nominal subjects that protection which an organized form of
government affords, or even to insist on the payment of taxes, which
they might legitimately demand for such protection.

it is true that contributions in the shape of articles forming the
necessities of life, are sometimes offered by the people to their chiefs
on the occasion of national or other festivals, and in honour of
domestic occurrences; as well as to assist him in carrying out the
hospitality which he, as representative of the tribes, is expected to
afford; or perhaps they may be intended to provide for the "sinews of
war" for a foray; still, with the exception of the people of Eastern
Karennee, none of the clans are regularly assessed by their chiffs.

_Sawlapaw_ Chief of Eastern Karennee has alone succeeded in enforcing
this recognition of his sovereignty, by levying a capitation tax; and
supported by the influence of the Burmese Court[60] to which he is
tributary, has used his powers to convince the tribes in his vicinity
that union is strength, and that an alliance offensive and defensive
with himself as recognised ruler, is conducive to their mutual
advantage. As a rule, however, the division of the people into tribes
and clans, as was the case with the ancient Caledonians, engenders a
spirit of reciprocal hostility, which prevents any political union or
amalgamation of their common interests, and it is only when a foreign
foe threatens their existence, that a sense of danger forces them to
unite for a time under the command of a chief enjoying the greatest

The Chief of Western Karennee, it is true, receives contributions from
the neighbouring villages, on the occasion of a great annual gathering
that takes place in his village; but it would appear that these may be
considered more in the light of offerings to their High Priest, than as
tribute to their ruler. On this occasion, the chief, with considerable
ceremony, uncovers and brings forth the ivory and metallic tablets
(mentioned in another chapter) and presides at the scarifices and
oblations in their honour. The people who have a superstitious reverence
for these plates, "feed" them with money or its equivalent, which is
recognised as the perquisite of the chief. Other chiefs of lesser note
levy a sort of black-mail form those weaker than themselves, as the
price of exemption from attack, but these desultory extortions can
hardly be held in the light of legitimate tribute.

In the case of those tribes which have not been influenced by the
Christian religion, or by the advantages of our rule, a feeling of
insecurity exists, and every male is constantly armed for the purpose of
offence or defence; and this is true, not only as regards isolated clans
and small communities, but also holds good in the case of the people of
Karennee, who have long lost their nomadic habits and are settled
residents in a country with a considerable population. Superstition too,
as was the case with the Scottish highlanders, adds its influence in
asperating animosities by teaching the clansmen, that to revenge the
death of a relation or friend is a sacrifice agreeable to their shades:
thus engaging on the side of most implacable hatred and the darkest
vengeance, the most amiable and domestic of our feelings----reverence
for the memory of the dead, and affection for the virtues of the

The people of Western Karennee, fully alive to these evils, and aware of
the advantages that a good government affords, have for many years
yearned to submit themselves to our rule, but, unfortunately for the
people, our policy precludes the possibility of acceding to their

We can only hope that the efforts of Christian missionaries, which have
already been appreciated by them and borne good fruit, may be as
successful as has been the case with other tribes; for in reference to
them as well as to those clans in which civilization has made no
progress, we may reasonably conclude in the words of O'Riley, and say
that "if it be an axiom that all civil governments are based on
religion, not until their present impure faith has given place to a more
enlightened one, will any improvement in their social condition be
effected by their own voluntary agency."


ALTHOUGH the historical traditions of rude and unlettered tribes have
seldom much ethnological value; the traditions of the Karens in
reference to their origin and older movements, have the support of
linguistic evidence not accorded to the elaborate histories of the more
civilised nations that surround them. And when we compare these with
their physical and mental characteristics, state of social relations,
system of government, manners and customs, and religious and
mythological observances, we are involuntarily reminded of that
"well-marked civilisation characterised by a common morality, and by
distinctive social, domestic, and religious institutions and
practices,"[62] whose original seat, geographical, concurs with
linguistic evidence in assigning to middle Asia.

Deeply imbued with those superstitious observances that were the science
and religion of the primitive Asian civilisation, the Karens recognise,
in common with the ancient tribes of Central Asia, an immaterial and
imperishable spirit in men.


They believe with them, that spiritual power over health and life,
extending even to the realms of the dead, is obtainable by the living,
and wizards and necromancers are both respected and dreaded. The
practice of sorcery, divination, and ordeals, as is the case with other
Tibeto-Burman tribes, is universally practised, and deeply influences
life, "by holding it in an atmosphere of distrust, dread, and revenge. A
complex and burdensome system of taboo is the necessarily result of the
fear in which spirits, especially those of man, are held." Offerings to
the manes of deceased ancestors hold almost as prominent a part in the
Karen ritual as in that of the Chinese. The Karen believes that all
objects, natural and artificial, have their presiding deities which have
to be appeased or kept in good humour, or that the soul, or L, has the
power of leaving the body during sleep, causing sickness even unto
death, if too long absent, and their habit of propitiating the ghosts of
the dead by the consecration of miniature houses to their use, in which
boiled rice, plantains, and other food are put, is among the Lythic and
other branches of the Archaic Asiatic faith. Their religion is precisely
the same as the Naturalism and Shamanism of the Tartars, in that besides
the recognition of spirits and spiritual influence over the affairs of
this world, the idea of a supreme God has been attained----"the Maker of
all things visible and invisible, and the Distributor of good and evil
in this world; but they worship Him not with prayer or praises, or any
kind of service."

The custom adopted by the Karens of placing in and upon the graves of
the dead articles adapted for the use and consumption of the living,
concealing the burial places of their chiefs as practised by the Red
Karens, the binding of slaves and ponies near the graves of the dead in
lieu of the obsolete custom of human sacrifices at the funerals of
influential persons, their feasts and oblations in honour of the spirits
of the dead, are essentially similar to those observed by the tribes in
Central Asia and in China.

Their divination by fowls' bones, as we have noticed in another chapter,
is precisely the same as the practices observed by the Miau-tsze [63] or
hill tribes of China, who Mr. Lockhart [64] believes possess strong
marks of similarity of origin with the Karens of Burmah; and although
the Karen method, in its entirety, does not obtain with any other
peoples we have read of, we have hazarded the conjecture that the Tartar
divination by twigs, and the Chinese method of tossing in the air two
symmetrical pieces of wood [65] may be the same. Augury, according to
Mr. Logan, is a generally practice among the Himalaic tribes. "The Goras
and the Miri consult the entrails and especially the livers of the
sacrificed offerings. The Augami have recourse to eggs."

Their social system under which each village or group of villages is a
little republic, under a hereditary chief or patriarch, obtains, as a
general rule, among all the tribes of the Himalaic family. For it does
not appear that the latter, before crossing the snows on their way from
the central plateau, had ever attained to a condition of society
favourable to the growth of monarchy; and this fatality towards
disintegration and isolation seems to have followed them into the
sunnier South, except in the cases of the few that have become nations,
and aided in undertaking a _role_ foreign to their natural predilections
and antecedents. The great mass of the _Tai_ race afford a prominent
instance of a Himalaic tribe preserving the ancient form, although
familiar with kingly rule. With the wilder clans, as with the Tibetan
tribes, humanity has made little or no progress. Selfishness reigns
supreme, blunting natural affection even for their kindred, and
producing indifference to human suffering and bloodshed. Tribe feuds,
lasting for many generations, with their usual concomitants of rapine
and murder, are the normal condition of their society. The sexual
relations have received no refinement, and strength alone being
respected, the strong are free to indulge in their savage inclinations
to their fullest bent.

Marco Polo, talking of the natural beverage of the Tartars, says, "their
drink is mare's milk, prepared in such a way that you would take it for
white wine, and a right good drink it is, called by them _Kamiz_."[66]
In like manner the Karens have a national beverage, prepared from rice
or millet, called _Khoung_.

It would appear that the intoxicating power of both "varies according to
the brew," and in regard to both it may also be said that they are "the
drink of all, from the suckling upwards, the solace of old age and
illness, and the greatest of treats to all."[67] Above all things, it is
said the Tartars "eschew drinking plain waters," and as for the Red
Karens, "water rarely touches the surface of their bodies by their own
voluntary intention, and as rarely, in its pure state, passes into

From Mr. Logan we learn that the personal ornamentation of the Karens
"follows the ordinary Himalaic and Indonesian fashion, in which heavy
tiers of rings on the arms and legs, and sometimes on the waist, with
enormously distended ear-perforations are conspicuous."[69] The long
house in which a whole community dwells is decidedly Himalaic. To sum
up. The Tibeto-Burmans, to which family Mr. Logan allots the Karens,
"where least modified by Indian and modern Chinese influences, preserve
all the traits of the ancient race and civilisation of Upper and Eastern

"They are Turanian and Mongolic in person only. Their native usages are
of Archaic Mid-Asian origin, like those of the Tartar hordes and of the
Chinese themselves.

"In remote ages the Mid-Asian usages received modifications in the
Lythic, the Himalaic, and the Chinese families, and the later
civilisations of the Tartars and the Chinese, especially of the latter
have greatly masked them."[70]

The religious traditions of the Karens, which we have noticed in another
chapter, unmistakably point, it is said, to an ancient connection with
the Jews or Nestorians, whose policy and exploits form a prominent
feature in the history of Central Asia. Dr. Macgowan in reference to
this subject remarks that their "religious dogmas cannot be referred to
a Christian, Mahommedan, or Pagan source, they were derived neither from
the New Testament, the Koran, or the Vedas; they are manifesty Hebraic.

"The question here presents itself, are the Karens descendants of the
Jews, or was it in consequence of intercourse with Jews that they became
possessed of so many scriptural truths? The solution of this question
is, perhaps, impracticable, but facts connected with it are of peculiar
value to the science of ethnography."[71]

Dr. Mason, in some of his earlier publications, was inclined to think
that the Karens were of the Hebrew descent; and although subsequent
experience seems to have caused him to modify his first impressions, yet
from a perusal of his latest work we are somewhat in doubt as to whether
he adheres to his original assumptions, in its entirety, or leaves it an
open question as suggested by Dr. Macgowan.

In this, he says,[72]----"Since some of their traditions are so definite
and truthful, they must have been derived directly from the Bible; and,
as they contain nothing peculiarly Christian, they could not have come
from persons acquainted with the New Testament, they are Old Testament
traditions, so that we are shut up to the conclusion that they come from
the Jews. Their Jewish origin was first doubted when I first propounded
the theory, but I think it is very generally accepted now. The Chinese
missionaries, who are the best situated to judge of the probabilities of
the case, very generally adopt my views, and by their own researches
concerning the existence of Jews in China, have added to the evidence."
Mr.Knowlton remarks in the _Missionary Magazine_ for September, 1857,
"We have discovered evidence of the existence of a Jewish colony in
Chingtu, not far from Lushau, nor yet from the original seat of the
Karens, a century before our era. Now, as the Jews of Chingtu seem to
have disappeared about the period when the Huns were expelled from
China, we are of opinion that they fled to the mountains, and if they
are not the progenitors of the Karens, the latter are at least indebted
to them for their remarkable scriptural traditions." While we agree with
Dr. Macgowan,[73] in thinking that the coincidence pointed out by Dr.
Mason, admitting them to be nothing else, are highly suggestive, still
the absence of those physical and moral characteristics, which, wherever
they may be found, unmistakably stamp the lineal descendants of Abraham,
speak volumes against admitting the Karens among the "chosen people,"
although the alternative hypothesis, in reference to their religious
traditions, undoubtedly carries weight.

With every respect for those early writers, who held that the Karens
were of Caucasian origin, we cannot help thinking that more experience
would have taught them to alter their opinions on the ethnical
peculiarities of this people. Dr. Macgowan argues that "the absence of
the rite of circumcision and their use of swine's flesh, does not
strongly militate against the hypothesis of the Jewish origin of the
Karens. The Jews in China (who appear to have come hither in the century
before our era) have found the rite and prohibition to be extremely
burdensome, and so much condemned by the Chinese, that they seem quite
willing to discard them altogether. Now, if the Karens form any portion
of that body of Israelites, which was carried to the interior of Asia
B.C. 772, or of those of Judah taken into captivity subsequently, it is
not strange that they should have lost all trace of such custom, their
circumstances being peculiarly unfavourable to their observance."[74]

In the opinion of some ethnologists, the evidence of language (which
appears to be the strongest point in the elucidation of the origin of
the Karens) is irrefragable, and it is the only evidence worth listening
to; with regard to ante-historical periods, others say that "language,
although yielding valuable evidence of the history and migrations of
man, affords no sure test of the race he belongs to."

One school looking back into the obscurity of primeval dawn, from the
evidence of language alone, and without apparently a vestige of history
to warrant its deductions, readily accept the Aryan theory, which
assumes that a tawny race residing in a temperate clime, _trans Oxus_ in
some unaccountable way, broke up into two huge waves, one of which,
passing over the sows of the Himalaya, broke over the sultry regions of
Hindustan and became black men, while another wave, drifting in a
western direction, permeated the whole of Europe and became a white

The opposite school avers that history has no example of any deep or
permanent change, affected in the human race from the earliest times;
and taking as it were for their text, "Can the Ethiopian change his
skin?" contend that the diversities of type and complexion cannot be
accounted for, from the effects of climate, food, or manner of life.

Even taking for granted, however, that in phonetic character, and in
some words, there exist that resemblance between the Chinese and Karen
languages, that is characteristic of the affinities which philologists
perceive between some of the languages of Europe and those of the
northern portions of Hindustan; we are not, we confess, prepared to
extend the principles of the Aryan theory, as regards the Chinese and
Karens, although we think we should have as good grounds for arriving at
this conclusion as those who maintain, from the testimony of language,
that the swarthy Hindu and the fair Englishman are of one and the same
stock. Although a similarity exists in the structure and sound of the
numerous monosyllabic tongues, belonging to distinct races of men, which
inhabit the countries between the Bay of Bengal and the Sea of Japan;
still these very languages, according to Mr. Crawfurd, afford a very
thorough refutation of the above theory.

"If language were a test of race," he also remarks, "we should be
tracing some of the negroes, settled in America, first to England and
then to Germany and Italy."

No such startling hypothesis obtrudes itself when hazarding the
suggestion that the Karens come from Central Asia, as their physical and
moral characteristics, their traditions, and their customs (which are
perhaps less subject to change than language) harmonize with linguistic
evidence in support of this idea.

Mr. Logan in his paper on the ethnographic position of the Karens,[75]
prefaces his remarks, in reference to the deductions to be made from the
investigation of their language, in elucidation of his subject, by
saying that "the most satisfactory evidence of the older movements and
relations of rude tribes is to be found in their language."

He refers the Karen to the Yuma family, which belongs to the Western or
Tibetan branch of the Himalaic alliance; the southern dialects of which
appear to him "simply less modified dialects of the same group with
Karen, that is, they preserve the same form that Karen itself had when
they separated from it, and preceded it in the spread of the group to
the southward. Karen remained in the north till a later period and has a
large admixture of the same Bramafrutran glossary that is the principal
ingredient in Burman." Arguing on the fact of the approximation of Karen
to Chinese, Mr. Logan is also of opinion, that it is probable the Karens
were, at one time, the dominant tribe in the valley of the Irrawaddy,
and that they occupied the position the Burmans now hold.

The peculiar character of the Karens, he goes on to say, which indicates
that the people were in contact with the Chinese and Lau on the one
side, and with the Naga-Manipuri and Yuma tribes on the other, would be
accounted for on the supposition that the people possessed the Show Lee
Valley when the Chinese pressed forward to the Irrawaddy. This
supposition is borned out by the traditions of the Karens, which prove
that they once occupied the country in the vicinity of Bham.

The western and southern movement of the Karens, he further urges "which
brought them after the language had been modified by the Chinese, into
contact with the Naga-Manipuri tribes, and with the Mon, was probably
the consequence of one of those determined, but unsuccessful revolts
against the authority of the conquerors of Yunan, or Yun-nan, of which
the Chinese annals speak." He also rejects the idea that the Chinese
element in Karen was derived through Burman, by referring to the Chinese
vocables which it has acquired.

Dr. Anderson arguing on the ethnological phenomena observable in the
Show Lee Valley at the present time, appears inclined to put little
faith in deductions based merely on a philological review of the
affinities of language, and doubtless his remarks carry more weight in
reference to the contact between the Burmese and Shan race, than if he
carried the same analogy to the credit of the isolated and exclusive
Karens. "As far north as Bham,' he say,[76] which was once a Shan
principality, and in which there are few, if any Burmese, the language
of the latter people has largely taken the place of Shan, and, is
understood by the majority. "This conversion of the Shans of the
Irrawaddy into a Burmese speaking population has been brought about in
three and a quarter centuries, and there can be little doubt that the
process of assimilation, which was commenced so long ago, is in full
activity, and it may be that another century will find the Shans knowing
only of their own tongue through their chronicles, and in the course of
other and following years, these may one by one disappear, and the only
remaining trace of the language may be the impress it may have made on
the Burmese tongue. Facts like these indicate that no sound system of
ethnology can be reared on any other foundation than that of history as
the interpreter of the facts of philology, and of the modifications of
physical form induced by the blending of races.

"The study of the changes at present going on in the languages of two
peoples, such as those of the Shans and Burmese of the Irrawaddy Valley,
and the accurate regarding of the effects of intermarriage, and the
crossing and re-crossing of the two tribes, might ultimately result in
our being able to cull, from the mass of facts, certain persistent
phenomena, which might be proved by further observation to be of
universal occurrence under similar conditions. They would be of two
kinds, philological and anatomical, but as it is not the study of an
isolated organ, or part of the body that will yield the result that
would be necessary to place the anatomical wall of the temple of
ethnological science, on a secure basis, no more would the results of
the simple comparison of vocabularies be accepted by the philosophical
philologist, as a foundation on which to rear the superstructure of his
system of knowledge."

Leaving generalities aside, we cannot help thinking that in our present
imperfect knowledge of the languages with which Karen is supposed to
bear affinity, and in spite of what Mr. Logan so learnedly says, it
would be impossible, from the evidence of language alone, to come to any
satisfactory conclusion on the subject of the origin of the Karens. The
Karen tradition of their origin, at least of the routes by which they
arrived at their present seat, are, on the authority of Sir A.
Phayre,[77] more trustworthy than those of the Burmese or the Talaing
regarding themselves, and are in harmony with this view, for from the
Sgans in lat 11 N., to the Gaykhos in lat. 1950 N., all the tribes,
more or less, are impressed with a vague idea of having come from the
north. Thus[78] legends that take more tangible shape among some of
their communities by indicating a most intimate connection with the
Chinese in former times, or by referring to places of which the
narrators know nothing but the bare names.

Thus, Bham or Bhauman, a town on the Irrawaddy, 135 miles from Mousiew
or Tugyev, the frontier city of Yunan, frequently occurs in old Bw
poetry, as the name of a large Burmese city, near which their ancestors
formerly dwelt, one of the songs saying----

"Go buy a large cleaver in Bhauman, Return buy a large axe in Bhauman."

An old myth also represents Ywa or God, when about to die, sending for
the Burmese and Karens to receive dying gifts, after which they returned
to Bham.[79] Another instance of their northern origin is adduced from
the fact of Karens, from the far north, having revealed to their
southern brethren words in their language which, from disuse, had been
wholly forgotten, or explained the meaning of others which, though in
existence, were no longer in common use.

The Sgans at Tavoy, as well as the Red Karens, have a legend in
reference to their first connection with the Chinese, and noteworthy
only as such, the pith of which we have been unable to discover, unless
it be intended to point a moral, like the egg of Columbus.

From this it appears that the Chinese and Karens, when travelling
together, secured a quantity of shell fish (cytheria). The Karens
hearing that they were good to eat, boiled them and, without more ado,
essayed to eat them, but they found that the more they boiled them the
harder they grew, so they gave up the attempt in despair, and it was
only on ascertaining that their brethren, the Chinese, broke the shells
first that they found out how easy it was to accomplish this object. In
the traditions of both these tribes we find, also, that the Karens
formed part of a Chinese expedition into Burmah, but were left behind by
their allies on account of their sluggish movements, and built
themselves cities and villages where this separation took place. Some
accounts indicate the locality as identical with Ava, others with
Pagan[80]; the discrepancy, however, is of little importance, for both
give one the impression that they intended to convey the idea that the
Karens settled near the then capital of the Burmese empire, and in
giving it a local habitation and a name, in good faith, mentioned the
most ancient Burmese capital of which they had any knowledge. And, if we
look at the matter by the light of contemporaneous history, the balance
of evidence is in favour of Pagan, which no doubt was the metropolis of
Burma, when the Chinese overran the country. No mention appears to have
been made of the Karens, either in the Chinese records, relating to the
invasion of Burma, or in the Burmese chronicle of the same event. This
silence is, however, by no means conclusive against the authenticity of
the Karen tradition.

Indeed, the latter is strengthened, if not verified, by a remarkable
coincidence between the name of the city where the king's palace was
located with that of the Burmese capital, when the Chinese visited the

The Karens call their city _Hotaylay_, or the "gold and silver city,"
which we may not unreasonably assume to be identical with the city of
_Mien_ with its "gold and silver towers," mentioned by Marco Polo."[81]
The term _Showaymys_, or "golden city," is to the present day, applied
to the city honoured as the king's residence. No baser metal than gold
is now alluded to when describing any of the attributes of Burmese
royalty, and it is certainly remarkable that the ancient name of the
capital, as given by that prince of travellers, should be verified from
so humble a source. The Red Karen tradition admits that the Chinese,
though weary of the company of their brothers the Karens, dealt
honourably by them, as regards their share of the patrimonial
inheritance. This consisted, among other things, of a book composed of
metallic or ivory plates, which has been reverently kept ever since by
successive chiefs of Western Karennee.

The Sgan version relates how in ancient times there were seven[82]
brothers, whose parents divided a bamboo bucket into seven pieces, and
giving a piece to each, told them that they would become the
representatives of different peoples and clans, and after having been
estranged from each other for a season, would eventually come together
again, and living in peace and friendship, would bring with them their
portion of the bucket, and restore the latter to its original shape.

Some of the people are fully impressed with the belief that this is
symbolical of the fact of their becoming hereafter a great and undivided
nation, and in anticipation of this event, they repeat stanzas the
substance of which is given in the following doggerel:----

"Down the Roy country they come, they come, To measure the bucket they
run, they run, The people of Roy now here we have, So put up the bucket
with every stave."

The _Sgan_ tradition goes on to say that the Karens stayed with the
Chinese as long as they could. The latter separated themselves from
them, however, and when the Karens in seeking them, found that a
plantain tree, which the Chinese had cut down, had grown up again, they
came to the conclusion that it was useless to follow them.

They have preserved this tradition in a couplet, of which the following
is a free translation:----

The Cytheria spiral shell, Elder brother Paku, boiled them well, Red
Alisma, younger brother, Red Alisma from his centre popped, White
Alisma, younger brother slew, Up from her centre White Alisma grew.

Many of the wild tribes of the Deccan and other parts of India are
supposed to be typical representatives of the various communities in
whose vicinity they dwell, before the latter were modified by Hindu
civilization, and, by all accounts, their physical characteristics, as
well as other traits, are sufficiently in accord with those of their
reputed descendants to warrant the assumption.

Distinct as the Karens are in aspect, form, and bearing, as well as in
their social characteristics, from the Burmese, Talaings, Shans, and
other races in Burmah, one would imagine that this theory would not be
adopted in regard to them by the most casual observer. Still, Colonel
Low, in writing about them, says:----"In the Indo or Hindoo Chinese
countries, with few exceptions, inspection will convince us that
wherever such wild tribes exist, their external conformation and
bearing, if not their language and habits, bear an analogy more or less
strong to the same characteristics displayed by the more civilised
nations or tribes which have supplanted them in their ancient

Some years ago it was very generally supposed that the Karens were the
aborigines of Burma. There is, however, a considerable difference of
opinion on this point at present. The Rev. Mr. Cross argues in favour of
the supposition we have advanced. Dr. Mason[84] opposes it, by
distinctly asserting that it is quite certain the Karens are not the
aboriginal inhabitants of Burma; while Colonel Yule and Sir Arthur
Phayre incidentally support Dr. Mason's opinion, by giving the weight of
their authority in favour the _Mon_ or _Talaing_ people.

Colonel Yule, speaking of the Indo-Chinese tribes that have descended
from beyond the Himalaya, assigns their order of migration as
follows;----1st, _Malays_; 2nd, _Chams_; 3rd, _Mons_ or _Talaings_; 4th,
_Khmer_ or _Kambojans_; and 5th, the _Anam_. The Shans may have
succeeded the latter tribes, he thinks, the _Karens_ "probably followed.
Then we have the _Maramas_ or Burman race apparently descending the
Irrawaddi, pressing before them the _Mons_ into the Delta, the Khyens
and like tribes into the bordering mountains."[85]

While Sir A. Phayre says:----"Among the earlier emigrants from that part
(great central plateau) of Asia towards the south, as far as we can now
discover, were the ancestors of the present _Mon_ or _Talaing_ people,
the _aborigines_, so to speak, of Pegu."[86]

Mr. Cross refers to a tradition preserved by the Mons, who, he thinks,
are manifestly a more ancient people in Further India than the Burmans,
which he is of opinion shows that the Karens were already in possession
of the country to the east of the Bay of Bengal, when they themselves
made their first appearance, in their southern progress, as far as the
Promontory of Martaban.

After quoting Dr. Mason, to the effect that when Gaudama visited Thatone
several centuries before the Christian era, he found the Talaings
occupying the country, surrounded by barbarous people styled Beloo, the
Burmese equivalent for wild man, he goes on to say "that the Beloos were
Karens may be inferred from the fact, that the island[87] south of
Martaban, was found to be almost exclusively inhabited by Karens." But
does not this prove too much? for when Buddhist missionaries visited
Arakan, in which Karens in any numbers have never been located; the
inhabitants were dubbed _Rek Khaik_ or Ogres, the exact equivalent in
Pal to the _Beloo_ of the Burmese. "Even in the polished age in which
the Ramayan and the Mahabbarat were composed, the south was the land of
fable, the dwelling of bears and monkeys and it was not till a very late
period, that these apes, and goblins, and monsters were transformed into
orthodox Hindoos."[88]

Dr. Mason and Mr. Cross adduce in favour of the position they have
taken, very interesting Karen traditions.

Mr. Cross says,[89] "one of their ancient traditions distinctly gives
their location on the eastern side of a body of water, which they called
_Kaw_ or _Kho_. The present inhabitants have lost the meaning of these
words, and the so-called body of water has become a mystery to them, so
ancient is the tradition which refers to it. Yet the tradition when
examined carries with it its own explanation; Kaw, according to our
ancestors, is a river or body of water to the west. They represent the
_buceros_ or hornbills, as migrating across it in seven days----as soon
as the rainy season begins, the hornbills migrate to the other side of
the Kaw, to the country where it is a dry season, which is a seven day's

"They there lay their eggs and raise their young----again when the dry
season returns here, it is wet seasons on the opposite side, and the
hornbills return across the Kaw to this side, and after a journey of
seven days arrive again in this country.

"Again _Kho-lo_ or _Kaw_lo_, the river Kho or Kaw, is a compound----of
the meaning of this expression, or to what river or body of water it
refers, we are now ignorant.

"It is preserved in tradition that it is an immense body of water, the
largest in the world, lying in the west, and that it runs back towards
its source. This tradition and one or two others, which refer to the
same body or bodies of water, plainly indicate the Bay of Bengal. The
difficulty appears to be in applying the word _lo_, which is now used
for a stream, to a body of water so large as the Bay of Bengal. But it
sometimes refers to the ocean, and need not be wholly restricted to a
river. It is a fact that the rainy and dry seasons exactly conform to
the tradition. The wet season begins on the western side when it ends on
the eastern, and _vice versa_; and perhaps the habits of the hornbills
conform, for we do not remember to have seen them on the eastern coast
during the rainy season. From this tradition we infer that, from a
period very remote, the Karens have occupied the country which they now
occupy on the eastern side of the Bay of Bengal. A marked circumstance,
which fixes the Bay of Bengal as the Kaw of antiquity, is that it
reverts or runs towards what is naturally taken to be its source, a
strong current sets to the north from Achen-head, or the upper end of
the island of Sumatra, and passes the Nicobar islands. This would be
taken by the inhabitants of the eastern shore of the bay, as a running
back to its source, since all the rivers of the Burmese empire run
directly to the south, and opposite to this current, which is evidence
of the bay. This body of water is said, in tradition, to be the largest
in the world, showing that at some remote period that Karens had either
crossed it, or had been familiar with those who had; as is also
indicated in the tradition of the migration of birds, and the
peculiarities of alternate wet and dry seasons.

"No other body of water can answer to this description, and it is
evident no larger body of water had ever been seen by them within the
reach of their tradition. We may conclude, therefore, that the eastern
shore of the Bay of Bengal has been their inhabitation from time
immemorial, and perhaps before the Talaing, the Burman, or the Siamese
Empire was in existence."

But that they did not first form as a nation, or race, far to the north
of the provinces of South-Eastern Burmah, we would not pretend to
affirm. Exceptions may, we think, be taken against Mr. Cross's very
ingenious theory. In the first place the peculiarity in reference to the
current he speaks of is true as regards a portion of the year only, and
there is nothing in the antecedents of the Karens to warrant the
supposition that they have ever been a seafaring people, or so
interested in the affairs of those that "go down to the sea in ships,"
as to hand down by oral agency a fact which ordinary landsmen would
hardly think worthy of notice. Still, against this idea may be argued
that Ceylon occurs in Karen tradition under the name of Sale, identical
with the Sal (Simundus) of Ptolemy.[90]

Apropos of this subject we quote Sir Arthur Phayre,[91] who says: "The
country in which Europeans first came in contact with the Karens (those
on the sea coast) has only lately been occupied by them, but the
mountain country between the Salwen and Sittang rivers has probably been
theirs for ages."

Other reasons adduced by Mr. Cross, which he considers may be given in
favour of the idea that the Karens are the aborigines of at least the
south eastern provinces of Burma, are:----Firstly, the Burmese believe
they are so; secondly, the name _Karen_[92] means _first_ or
_aboriginal_; thirdly, the people bear out the character of aborigines,
owing to their simple and primitive habits, and in their relationship to
the dominant races. Dr. Mason,[93] on the other hand, quotes a tradition
in proof of the Karens having emigrated from China and settled in the
Shan States, on their way to their present seat, some centuries after
the Christian era, and long after the Burmese and Talaings had occupied

They showed him the precise spots they had fled to in the days of
Alompra, and told him that the cities in their forests were in ruins
when they first arrived in the country from the North, and that they
were then independent of the Burmese, Siamese, and Talaings. When asked
about the time of their dispersion they were silent. "The fact was
clearly before them, but the retrospect was too obscure to determine the

Far in the dim horizon was the river of "running sand"[94] which their
ancestors, led by a chieftain of miraculous power, had crossed before
coming----a fearful trackless region, where the sands rolled before the
wind like the waves of the sea. This description evidently refers to the
dread terrors of the Gobi, so graphically described by Marco Polo as
well as by Fahian. "In this desert" says the latter, "there are a great
many evil demons, there are also sirocco winds, which kill all who
encounter them. There are no birds or beasts to be seen ;but so far as
the eye can reach the route is marked out by the bleached bones of men
who have perished in the attempts to cross the desert."[95]

To what this river of running sand referred was inexplicable to Dr.
Mason still he read the journal of Fahian, a Chinese Buddhist pilgrim
who visited India in the early part of the fifth century, and who thus
designated the great desert between China and Tibet.[96]

"This emigration," Dr. Mason goes on to say, "occurred about the time
the Shans settled in Labong and Zimmay, because the tradition represents
the chieftain to have come over first with an exploring party, and that
they selected the region about Labong and Zimmay as their future home;
but when he returned with his nation he found it occupied by the Shans.
On this the Karens cursed the Shans, saying, 'Dwell ye in the dividing
of countries,' the applicability of which, as suggested by Colonel Yule,
is shown by the fatal want of coherence, which has split the race into a
great number of unconnected principalities, many of which are
incorporated in the Chinese province of Yunan, and others tributary to
Burma and Siam." The story of coming to Zimmay, as Sir Arthur Phayre
justly points out, "must be accepted as the modern version of the fact,
that about Zimmay they were stopped in their progress south along the
watershed range between the Salwen and Menm rivers by the previous
occupation of the Shan race."[97]

Taking for granted the correctness of Shan history (as recorded by Dr.
Richardson) which states that _Labong_, the oldest of these cities, was
built in A.D. 574, Dr. Mason argues "that this emigration of the Karens
may have occurred some centuries after the commencement of the Christian
era." As above shown, Mr. Cross has endeavoured to prove that the Karens
are, and Dr. Mason that they are not, the aborigines of Burma.

Leaving this question a moot point, it is evident that the Karens, in
common with other Indo-Chinese races belong to that family of nations
commonly described as of Tartar origin, which, during the decline of the
Roman Empire, began permanently to forsake the great plateau in Central
Asia in search of more fertile regions, and rushing impetuously over
China, Persia, and all Central Asia, established for a time the most
formidable Empire known in the world's history, whose terror and fame
under the appellation of Huns, the ancestors of the present race of
Mongols, extended to the frontiers of Italy; who, under the famous
Timour, founded a dynasty in India which formed the most splendid court
in Asia till the end of the eighteenth century, and whose Eastern
hordes, known as Manchau tartars, established the present reigning house
in China. "And if" (says Mr. O'Riley)[98] "the doctrine of distinct
races of men, and their physiognomical peculiarities be taken as a
medium of identification then the almost perfect Esquimaux features and
shape of head which prevails generally, but in some of the wilder tribes
more especially, mark them as the descendants of the ancient Tartar
hordes, as we read, swept from their inhospitable steppes, across the
region of Central Asia, far into the plains of Hindustan, whence they
have been subsequently dispersed into the more inaccessible mountain
systems of the Himalaya and its subordinate ranges.



IN those Archaic Mid-Asian Mythologies, traces of which have been
preserved more or less intact by the Karens, there was a genuineness
reminding us of the broad simplicity that characterised the gallant and
hardy old Norsemen in their searches after truth. The vast and solitary
grandeur of the Gobi inspired the one just as the inhospitable regions
of the North, with their "snow jokuls, roaring geysers, sulphur pools,
and horrid volcanic chasms, like the waste chaotic battle field of frost
and fire," inspired the other.

The primary characteristic of the Asiatic as well as the Scandinavian
beliefs seems to have been an "earnest simple recognition of the
workings of nature as a thing wholly miraculous, stupendous, and divine.
What we lecture on as a science they wondered at and fell down in awe
before as religion." "To these primeval men," says Carlisle, "all things
and everything they saw exist beside them were an emblem of the
God-like----of some God. And look what perennial fibre of truth was in
that. To us also, through every star, through every blade of grass, is
not a God made visible if we will open our minds and eyes? We do not
worship in that way now, but is it not reckoned still a merit proof of
what we call a 'poetic nature' that we recognize how every object has a
divine beauty in it?" Nature was to the first rude peoples that began to
think "what to the thinker and prophet it for ever is, _preter_
natural." "The world, which is now divine only to the gifted, was then
divine to whomsoever would turn his eyes upon it. He stood before it
face to face."

As with the Scandinavians, so with the Mid-Asian peoples, bewildering
and inextricable as their ideas may appear to us, their religion was a
great reality. To account for it as the trickeries of mere quackery or
priestcraft, or attribute it to the shadowing forth by allegorical fable
the visionary ideas of poets, does not, as Carlisle so forcibly points
out, meet the question. Let us try, as he says, whether "we cannot
ascertain as much at least, that there was a kind of fact at the heart
of them, that they too were not mendacious and distracted, but in their
own poor way true and sane."

Besides the evidence of the common origin of archaic religious ideas, we
learn from the analogies in the Egyptian, Indian, Greek, and other
systems, that Mythology had advanced to a certain point before the early
migrations took place from Central Asia.[99]

In the earliest ages of the Hindu religion, as taught in the Vedas,
dating possibly 1400 years before our era, the "leading doctrine is the
unity of God; and the various divinities, the personification of the
elements, whom the devotee is required to invoke, are manifestations of
the Supreme Being." "In that early age, indeed, there appears to have
been no images, and no visible types of worship." From what we can
gather from the songs of the Rig Veda, it would appear that the religion
of the Aryans consisted in the worship of the different phenomena of
nature. The early Hindus then, although not idolatrous in the sense of
image worshippers, were decidedly polytheistic, their chief gods being
Indra, Varuna, Agni, the Sun, the Dawn, the Winds, the Earth, the
Waters, &c.

In the "Institutions of Munoo," published about five hundred years
afterwards, the worship of the elements, of the heavenly bodies, and of
inferior deities, is inculcated; but, though idols are noticed, the
adoration of them is discountenanced.

The worship enjoined by Munoo was succeeded by that of Brahma, which was
almost, if not altogether spiritual. Then came the deification of
heroes, with which the popular system of idolatry may be said to have

Thus the Hindus and many other nations of the East for a long time
retained the worship of the true and only God.[101] At length, however,
idolatry broke in, and like an impetuous torrent overwhelmed them,
carrying away in its eddies the vestiges of their purer faith.

The Karens, judging by their traditions, seem, like the Hindus, as well
as the Chinese and Egyptians, to have long retained and practised the
Noachic religion, in which "fable and fancy could find no place, and all
was genuine unsophisticated truth;" but though now they appear to
depreciate the efficiency of such service, they cannot be said to have
degenerated into idolaters.

They are apparently distinguished from the peoples that surround them by
their belief in the existence of a Supreme Being, God eternal, the
creator of heaven and earth and of all things, for, in one of their
religious traditions, we have the following stanzas:----

"God is unchangeable, eternal, He was in the beginning of the world; God
is endless and eternal, He existed in the beginning of the world; God is
truly unchangeable eternal, He existed in ancient time, at the beginning
of the world; The life of God is endless; A succession of worlds does
not measure His existence, Two successions of worlds do not measure His
existence. God is perfect in every meritorious attribute, And dies not
in succession on succession of worlds."

In ancient times, they say, God associated with them, and kept them
under His special protection; but, in punishment for their disobedience
and grievous backslidings, He withdrew His favour from them (after
endeavouring in vain to lead them to Himself), and has since betaken
Himself to the "seventh heavens."

Like the unclean spirits in Holy Writ, who recognised the majesty of the
Lord Most High, the Karens believe in the omnipotence of Jehovah, but
also seem to say, "What have we to do with Thee?"

Occasionally, when sickness or other dire calamity overtakes them, they
cry to God in their distress, but it is "_to the unknown God_," referred
to by Saint Paul, to whom the Athenians raised an altar, that their
supplications go forth. A cry, indicative of the pent-up and despairing
yearnings of unregenerate human nature, endeavouring to throw itself on
the protection of something better and stronger and wiser, when all
subordinate agency, which it has been taught to reverere and to depend
upon, has failed.

Every object of nature, say the Karens, has its lord, thus all bodies
celestial as well as terrestrial, every human being, nay, all animate
things, as well as things inanimate, which can be brought into practical
use, have their guardian spirits. The air they breath, too, is thickly
peopled with the ghosts of the unburied dead, and the spirits of their
departed ancestors crowd round them. They have the god of the sun, the
god of the moon, and the god of the earth. The mighty ocean, the
trackless desert, the lofty mountain, the wide river, or the yearning
chasm which, from the natural awe they inspire, demand reverence; the
spreading banyan tree, the rice field, the vegetable garden or the hill
clearing, which minister to their wants, have each and all their tutelar
deities, which, as subordinate beings to some greater power, must be
propitiated.[102] The Greeks too, besides the greater gods, gave a
presiding spirit to almost every part of visible nature: trees of
various kinds had their dryads, hama-dryads, and other nymphs; rivers,
lakes, marshes, and wells had their naiads, as plains, mountains, caves,
and the like had their presiding spirits; and each "genius loci" of
later times varied with the place.[103]

These spirits, which we call demons, are "demons only in the
signification the Greeks used the word,"[104] for they are not naturally
aggressive; unluckily, however, mortals are apt to trespass
inadvertently on their domains, and are punished for such branches of
etiquette with sickness or death. To avert these calamities, they must
be appeased with offerings of food, and sacrifices are made in their
honour of buffaloes, oxen, swine, fowls, and dogs, the worst parts of
which are left for the deity, and the rest eaten by the devotees.

With the Karens, as with the natives of Central Asia, "the earth and its
interior, as well as the encompassing atmosphere, are filled with
spiritual begins, which organise and influence, partly beneficent,
partly malignant, on the whole of organic and inorganic nature .....
Especially are deserts or other wild and uninhabited tracts, or regions
in which the influences of nature are displayed on a gigantic or
terrible scale, regarded as the chief abode or rendezvous of spirits
....... And hence the steppes of Turan, and in particular the great
sandy desert of Gobi, have been looked on as the dwelling-place of
malignant beings, from days of hoar antiquity.[105]

The Burmese, although strict Buddhists, and indeed carrying out the
tenets of their religion, perhaps more strictly than any other nation,
privately as well as publicly indulge in the worship of spirits or
_nats_, which are supposed to be endowed with bodies of such subtle
nature as to be able to convey themselves at pleasure, with the utmost
rapidity, from their seats in the upper heavens to that of man, and
_vice versa_. These are the good genii.

Other nats, again, who have been banished from their blissful abodes, on
account of misconduct, and doomed to drag on a wretched existence in
gloomy recesses, vent their spite on mortals by bringing down all sorts
of calamities on their heads. In Buddhist lore, the exertions of good
and beneficent nats, in causing virtue to triumph over vice, are always
a prominent feature; we also find examples of the malpractices of wicked
nats, who seem to take a pleasure in ministering to the evil passions of
men. "A good deal of the worship of Buddhists consists in superstitious
ceremonies and offerings made for propitiating the good nats and
obtaining favours and temporal blessings from the good ones. All kinds
of misfortunes are attributed to the malignant interference of the evil
nats. In cases of severe illness, that have resisted the skill of native
medical art, the physician gravely tells the patient and his relatives
that it is useless any longer to have recourse to medicines, but a
conjure must be sent for, to drive out the malignant spirit who is the
author of the complaint. "A shed having been built and offerings
deposited therein to appease the inimical nat, a female relative of the
patient is set dancing, to the sound of musical instruments. The dance
goes on----at first in rather a quiet manner, but it gradually becomes
more animated, until it reaches the acme of animal frenzy." At this
juncture the conjuror steps in, and on ascertaining from the "medium"
that the invisible foe has disappeared, hands over the patient again to
the doctor, assuring him that his remedies will now act beneficially,
since their action will not be opposed by the wicked nat.

Bishop Bigandet, after long experience of a country where Buddhism has
prevailed from time immemorial, and having observed the effect of
superstition on the minds of the people, is of opinion that there is
scarcely an action done without the influence of some superstitious
motive or consideration.[106]

According to Burmese notions, there are two distinct bodies or systems
of the creatures called _nats_. The one is a regularly constituted
company, of which _Tragya Meng_, or Indra, is the chief, unknown to the
Burmese till they became Buddhists. These are the real Dewah or Dewata.
The others are the creatures of the indigenous system existing among,
and constituting the only worship of, all the wild tribes bordering
Burma, which the Burmese acknowledged and worshipped before they were
converted to Buddhism.[107]

Karen mythology proper may, we think, be confined strictly to the latter
system, for although their elders teach that those who have performed
meritorious works go to a place of happiness above, corresponding with
the Deva heavens of the Buddhists; those who have sinned who sent to the
regions of torment, while those who have not acquired merit, or whose
crimes are of but neutral tint, are allotted a place in Hades, still
these views, which are at best, confused and contradictory, are
evidently grafted on the indigenous system whose ritual of observances
simply enjoins the necessity of sacrifice and oblation, either to avoid
calamity or to obtain blessings in this life, without admitting that the
good or the bad actions of its votaries meet with reward or punishment
in the world to come.

The unconverted Karen have therefore, strictly speaking, no religion,
like other peoples, who though they worship idols, endeavour by
sacrifices and offerings to procure benefits in a future state.

Strong as is their faith in spirits, and absurd as are many of the
legends they tolerate about God, the Karens as a race abstain from the
worship of idols, although among the Bws, a kind of fetichism prevails,
in that they have stones in their houses, that they suppose possess
miraculous power, and which seem to represent the household gods of the
ancients.[108] Some of these are supposed to be the habitat of malignant
beings, while others are much prized because they are believed to be
animated by benevolent spirits. Doubtless, however, these shapeless
symbols, like the stones in the temples of the Todas on the Nilgheri
hills, are merely representations of an unseen power, and not in
themselves actual objects of worship; though with other races preserving
less strictly their primitive character, this original use has
degenerated into idolatry.[109]

Like all other nations in a state of ignorance, Karens believe in elfs,
fairies, brownies, witches and wizards; in necromancy, soothsaying and
augury, and are particularly distinguished for their quaint conceits
with reference to a certain attribute of all animated nature, as well as
implements useful for man, which the Pwos call _La_, the Bws _Lai, the
Sgans _Kala_, or _Kelah_, and the Red Karens _Yo_.

_La_, which Dr. Mason defines to be the personification of the life or
efficiency of a person or thing, resembles, he says, the Psyche of the
Greeks as well as the Genius of the Latins, possessing at the same time
many attributes peculiar to itself.

The Burmese, as he also points out, have somewhat similar ideas
regarding a guardian spirit, calling it _Leipya_, or butterfly.

Although, therefore, these people have a conception analogous to one of
the most beautiful conceits in Grecian mythology, there is nothing in
their religious beliefs to warrant the presumption that they share the
ideas of some writers in reference to the allegory in connection with
Psyche representing the union between the Divine love and the soul.

"This _La_," they say, "existed before man was born, comes into the
world with him, remains with him until death, lives after death, and for
ought that appears to the contrary, is immortal. Yet no moral qualities
are predicated of it. It is neither good nor bad, but is merely that
which gives life to mortality." After death, the "_La_ and the man
himself --the ego--are said to be distinct; yet in all the
representations of the future state the man seems to be absorbed in the

This is somewhat inconsistent with their idea that the_La_ may be
separated from the person to whom it belongs during life; for the _La_,
whose proper place is on the head or neck of the person it protects,
sometimes leaves him while he is asleep and wanders away to the ends of

The primary import of the name is, says Mr Cross, _pure_, unmixed, clear
or transparent. _La_ or _Kelah_, would, he adds, signify _life_ or
_existence_, and its primary meaning is retained. Life or existence in
the abstract is personified. It is considered as independent of the
organization of the body, and as entering it to dwell there and leaving
it at a will. As bare existence, it is the individuality or general idea
of an inanimate object. It is also the individuality of the animated
being. It, in fact, personates the varied phenomena of life.

The _Kelah_ is not regarded as the responsible agent in human action.
The good and bad actions of the individual in this sense of the _Kelah_
are not attributed to its influence .An extract from a native's remarks
upon it, will shew the distinction made between the soul or responsible
agent and the Kelah: "When we sin, or commit any offence, it is the
_thah_, soul, which sins; and again when we perform any good action, it
is the _thah_. Praiseworthiness or blameworthiness is attributed to the
_thah_ alone. By some the _Kelah_ is represented as the inner man, and
with the others the inner man is the _thah_. When the eyes are shut and
in sleep the reflective organs are awake and active. This is sometimes
attributed to the _Kelah_. Hence the _Kelah_ is the author of dreams."
The Karens say that the _Kelah_ is not the soul, and yet although
distinct from the body its absence therefrom results in death.

According to the representations of some authorities the guardian _La_
on departure from the body of a man leaves him to the tender mercies of
seven other malignant _Las_, that are constantly devising his death, and
are only prevented from destroying him by its presence.[112]

It is, therefore, a matter of great moment for a Karen to be on good
terms with his _La_, and he accordingly pays great attention to it,
makes it offerings of food, and uses many devices to secure its presence
and good will, believing that if he does not keep it in good humour it
will cease to protect him from his bad demons, or the _Las_ of madness,
epilepsy, lechery, wrath, bad dreams, diseases, and languor; which
though seven, are seven in one.

The guardian spirit on the head of a man Mr. Cross calls _Tso_, which he
defines by the word _power_. "A probable explanation of the _Kelah_ and
the _Tso_, taken together, is the following. The _Kelah_ signifies that
part of human nature that pertains to life--the sentient soul, or the
animal spirit, the feelings, and particularly the passions, which, in
fact, are continually tending in the present condition of our nature to
evil and to destruction. This part of our nature, being observed, is
accounted for on the supposition of in-dwelling personalities, which,
though distinct and dissimilar, are nevertheless united into one,
constituting one whole class of faculties, or the whole of the sentient
soul. High above this, and in its own proper seat, is _reason_, or the
_Tso_, the true power of the man, which, until dethroned or enfeebled,
so orders the whole as to protect it from injury, and so guides as to
protect from ill. But this system, not recognising any higher system
than reason, all failures are attributed to its defects or its absence."

The Karens believe that, under certain circumstances, they have power to
detain the spirits of the dying and even of the dead. This idea is
somewhat similar to the superstition prevalent in Lancashire and other
parts of England to the effect that"a person cannot die in the arm of
one who strongly desires to retain the parting soul," as well as to the
Dutch custom of shading a dying child by a curtain from the parents'
sight, lest the loving glance should detain the parting spirit, and
prolong the death struggle.[113]

Dr. Mason gives the following story in his "Mythology" of the Karens. A
man's wife died when he was absent on a journey, and when he was
returning he met her _La_. Believing it to be his wife in the flesh, he
spoke to the _La_, which conversed with him, telling him she was on her
way to visit her parents. As they had far to go, they agreed to spend
the night at the place they met, and in the morning they separated to
pursue their several journeys.

"When the husband got back to his house, he found his wife dead, and his
children and neighbours preparing for the funeral. Then the truth rushed
on his mind, and he said, 'Children, I met your mother last evening on
the road, and we spent the night together; she was going on a visit, but
alas! it was her _La_. Had I known it I would have called her back.'

In Scottish mythology there are traditions of mortals having obtained a
release from fairy land through the exertions of their friends. Ethert
Brand, or as the Karens would have it, Ethert Brand's _La_, was released
by the intrepidity of his sister, as related by Sir Walter Scott in the
"Lady of the Lake."

"She crossed him thrice, that lady bold; He rose beneath her hand, The
fairest knight on Scottish mould, Her brother Ethert Brand."

The _Kelah_ is more apt, they say, to forsake feeble persons and
children. Hence, when corpses are carried by, in removing them from the
house children are tied to a particular part of the house with a
particular kind of string, lest their _Kelahs_ should leave them, and
pass into the corpse which is passing. The children are kept tied in
this way till the corpse is carried completely out of sight.

Dr. Mason, quoting a _Sgan_ authority, says, "The _La_ before it comes
into the world, becoming a material body, promises God that it will die
by one of seven ways. These are--in the mouth of a tiger, by disease, by
drowning, by the hand of man, by a fall, by a blow, or, of old age, and
carries out its promise invariably."

Although, therefore, Karen physiology is somewhat confused on the
subject of these mysterious beings, it is extremely interesting as
representing the crude ideas of savage men feeling after the truth.

Karen ideas, in reference to the future, are somewhat like those held by
the Greeks and Romans.

The spirits of the dead resolve themselves apparently into four classes.

The first consists of the _Plupho_, or inhabitants of Hades. They are
the shades of those who have died natural deaths, and have been decently
buried. "They go to their proper country, and renew their earthly
employments. As the North American Indian, with his dog and bow, seeks
food in the beautiful hunting-ground of the world of the departed, so
the Karen, with his axe and cleaver, may build his house, cut his rice,
and conduct his affairs after death as before."[115]

The second are the _Sekhahs_, or ghosts of infants, or of persons who
from accident have not been buried, and debarred thereby from entering
Hades, wander about the earth, and occasionally show themselves to men.
These ghosts are supposed to be harmless, and are consequently not
propitiated with offerings.

The third are the shades of those who have died violent deaths, and are
known as _Therets_. These vampires are supposed to seize the _Las_ of
men, causing mortal disease. Hence they must be appeased by offerings to
induce them to free the _Las_ they have seized. The Kakhyens have a
similar superstition in regard to ghosts of this kind, which they call
_Munla_. They have the power of entering into people, and of acquainting
them of events that may be happening similar to those by which they met
their death.[116]

The fourth, known as _Tah-mus_ and _tah-kas_, are the spectres of wicked
men, of tyrants, of unjust rulers, and of those who have expiated their
crimes by an ignominious death at the hands of justice. These also
remain on earth, and torment the_Las_ of men.

"After they leave the body, they appear in the form of horses, elephants
and dogs, crocodiles and serpents, vultures, and ducks; and this, not in
the way of metempsychosis, but as the immediate choice of the spirit at
the time, and simply for apparition."[117]

Varied offerings, says Dr. Mason, are made to this last class of ghosts.
In one kind, after the usual oblation of food has been set out, the sick
person whose _La_ is supposed to have been seized is sprinkled with
charcoal, and prayers are offered to the ghost, to induce it, to desist
from its wicked purpose.

Wicked man and murders are supposed to be able to raise ghosts, and
harass their enemies by the simple process of securing of a human skull,
and keeping it by them.[118]

MYTHOLOGY _Worship of Ancestors_--The propitiation of the manes of
deceased ancestors by libations of khoung or whiskey; and sacrifices of
animals, is a distinctive feature in Karen mythology, and as we have
remarked in our chapter on Origin, unmistakably points to contact with
Mongolian peoples. It is also in accord with the practices of the
ancient Romans, which possibly may have originated from the same source,
interesting evidence of which may be traced in their historical records,
as well as from inscriptions on stones and funeral urns, frequently
found in their old burial places, both in England and elsewhere, with
the letters D.M.S.; that is, _Dis Manibus Sacrum_--sacred to the manes
gods. There is, however, this difference apparently between the
Mongolian and Roman mythologies compared with the Karen, inasmuch as
with the former, all their departed ancestors appear to be sacred,
irrespective of the lives they led in his world, whereas with the
Karens, only those who have performed meritorious deeds, are considered
worthy of being deified as the spirits, who are supposed to preside over
births and marriages, and to exercise a watchful care over them.

Dr. Mason says, "There are different classes of worshippers or sects, as
they may be denominated, who make different kinds of offerings, one set
of worshippers offers only rice and vegetables, another offers fowls,
another hogs, and another oxen or buffaloes. Those who sacrifice
animals, sometimes offer all three as different rites, but those who
offer rice and vegetables never offer sacrifices.

"These different rites are hereditary in different families of the same
or of different tribes. Those whose ancestors offered bloodless
offerings, offer bloodless offerings; and those whose progenitors
sacrificed animals, sacrifice animals."[119]

The Bw custom differs from the Sgan, in that women are the officiating
priestesses; men being strictly tabooed from taking any part in the

When offering sacrifices to the manes, or in the exercise of other of
their superstitious rites, the Karens invariably remain in their houses,
and are usually impracticable as regards ordinary sublunary affairs, as
officers of government, who may require their presence, and to whom time
may be an object only know too well.

The _Mukhahs_, as the begins to which we refer are sometimes called, are
supposed, says Mr. Cross, to be the creators of the present generation
of men, and offerings are made to them rather to appease them than from
any supposed obligation. For though they are in the main good, they are
not wholly devoid of that vampirism which runs through all the classes
of mythological beings which have anything to do with men.

The halt, the maimed, the blind, or other imperfect specimens of
humanity, are said by some to be the handiwork of the king of _Mukhahs_,
who having so much to do, has either no opportunity or lacks inclination
to become a finished workman, while the lovely and perfectly shaped, are
the results of the more elaborate care and attention, which his subjects
bestow on their creation.

Others interpret the state of affairs in the Mukhah country in a more
complimentary sense towards its ruler, reminding one somewhat of Burns'
famous lines----

"Her 'prentice han' she tried on man, An' then she made the lasses, O!"

A chapter on mythology would hardly be complete without some allusion to

_Fairies_----Fairies, according to the mythology of western nations, are
supposed to be a kind of intermediate beings, partaking of the nature
both of men and of spirits, with material bodies which they have the
power of making invisible, and of passing through any sort of
enclosures. They were also thought to be remarkably small and of _fair_
complexion, hence the English name say some authorities.[120] But this
etymology, as well as the name of Brownies for the domestic sprites with
swarthy complexions, seems doubtful.

Both are said to possess all the passions and wants of human beings, and
to be great lovers of cleanliness and propriety although the Karens have
good and bad fairies. There is nothing apparently in their mythology
exactly corresponding with the creative fancies of Shakespeare, when he
gives to

"These airy nothings A local habitation and a name."

Besides these terrestrial fairies, however, there are quasi-infernal
sprites which dwell in the mines and are kind to the work-people, which
are somewhat similar to the good-natured spirits among the Karens.

_Ceres_ or _Goddess of the Harvest_--"Among the sprites of nature," says
Mr. Cross, "and one of the most benevolent, is _Pheebee Yau_ or Ceres,
who sits in her place on a lonely stump the live-long day, to watch the
growing corn and the ripening ear. Her object is to fill the granaries
of the frugal and industrious with rice, and she is a great favourite
among the people."

Dr. Mason refers to this personage as "Grandmother _Bie-yau_,"[121] and
it would appear from the accounts given him, that she was originally a
serpent and is now a widow. "Offerings are made to her in a little house
built for her residence, in which two strings are put for her to bind
the _La_ of any one that may enter into the field."

_Spirit-rapping_--It is interesting to notice that "spirit-rapping" has
long continued to exercise a fascination among the Karens, somewhat
similar to the popular interest it excited in England, France, America,
and other western countries some years ago. They have not, it is true,
arrived at "table-turning," but, possibly the science may acquire this
development when their archaic fashion of squatting on the floor, has
been supplemented by the introduction of the more modern inventions that
constitute the furniture of "hat wearing" nations. Spiritualism retains
a very strong hold even on those converted to Christianity, and the
missionaries confess it is one of the most impracticable of the
illusions with which they have to grapple. Their method of calling back
the _La_, or spirit of a deceased person, "illustrates," says Mr. Cross,
"a curious fact of electricity manifestly connected with some striking
phenomena which now seem to be recognised in this country,"[122] and
possibly will be accepted as a convincing proof that "there is something
in it," by those who believe in the efficacy of the innocent diversions
to which we allude. The ceremony has been so well described by Dr.
Mason, that we cannot do better than quote what he says:--

At the Sgan funerals, the presence of the _La_ is said to be manifested
thus. One end of a slender erect bamboo is attached to the bone of the
deceased that has been taken from the funeral pyre. A small thread with
alternate tufts of cotton and bits of charcoal, with a metal ring, or
bangle, at the extremity is tied to the other end, which makes the
bamboo bend down in a curve; and under the bangle, nearly touching it,
is a brass bason containing a boiled egg.

The closing ceremony of the bone feast, is calling the _La_ of the
deceased, which is supposed to be hovering around till the funeral rites
are completed; when, should it respond to the call, it is bidden to
depart in peace to Hades.

When the apparatus has been put in order, the relatives of the dead
approach in succession and strike the head of the brass cup with a bit
of bamboo; and when the one that was most beloved touches the cup, the
_La_ responds by twisting and stretching the string till it breaks, and
falls into the cup; or at least shakes and rings against it.

A hundred witnesses could be produced, who have seen it done. Indeed,
the thread is of such slender material that a very little legerdemain
would be required to break it under the weight of the bangle, and the
bamboo is so slender, that still less would be necessary to make it
spring up and down, and hit against the sides of the cup. But I have
watched the whole ceremony, kept the crowd away from the machinery, and
there was no more answer to the calls, than there was to the cries of
the priests of Baal before Elijah.

_Spatulancy_[123] or _Divination by Fowls' Bones_--Indifferent as the
Karens are in regard to matters connected with the next world, they are
keenly anxious to anticipate future events in this, and never enter into
the commonest undertakings of life that involve any uncertainty of
result, much less the more important, without consulting and obtaining a
favourable response from the augury of fowls' bones.

Their method of divination is as follows:--An elder,[124] skilled in the
interpretation of fowls' bones, is appointed master of the ceremonies,
and a fowl is placed in his hands.

After invoking the presiding spirit to reveal the truth that is in him,
in reply to the inspection of the augury, he causes the fowl to be
killed, and, after extracting the leg and wing bones, he holds them
parallel between his foreigner and thumb, placing the right and left
bones in juxtaposition on his right and left respectively, the minute
air-holes for the transmission of the blood-vessels being upwards. He
then ascertains whether the bones differ or assimilate in any way, and
accurately notes the number and relative position of the little
apertures on their surface, into each of which he inserts a straw to
indicate its direction. "Should they," says Mr. O'Riley, "occur in
certain forms considered favourable, and in accordance with his own
previously conceived result, he is satisfied with the spirits'
approbation, and his mind is relieved of all care for the future result
of his undertaking."

But as many irregularities are noticeable in the bones of different
fowls, and in the holes therein, there are many nice distinctions that
have to be attended to, so that it requires an adept in the art of
divination to read the oracle correctly; and, as the elders do not
always agree in their readings, a second or third fowl is killed, till
the desired result is obtained.

Thus, by the mere turn of a straw, it i decided whether war shall, or
shall not, be declared; whether an expedition shall be undertaken or
abandoned; whether the marriage of a maiden who has already plighted her
troth to her lover, shall be consummated or not; whether a wizard shall
die or be suffered to live; whether an accused person be guilty or
innocent, and as if to exemplify the very narrow margin that exists
between the sublime and the ridiculous, an orthodox Karen would not
venture to tempt Providence so far as to take an emetic or purgative, to
name his child, dig his garden, or depart in any way from the ordinary
groove of his domestic concerns without resorting to this oracle.

Once a year a national festival is held among the Bw tribes in which
this species of divination[125] is a most important feature. We are
indebted to Dr. Mason for the following interesting account thereof.

"When the time approaches, the people prepared beforehand ardent
spirits, and buy hogs and fowls, and get everything ready.

"When the time comes the villagers perform the ceremony, two or three or
four families a-day, till it has gone through the whole village. The
first thing done is to bring up two jars of arrack, and secure them by
tying them to a bamboo, and the next is to bring up a hog and fowls.
Then an eating dish is washed and filled with water and set by the side
of the jars with spirits."

"An elder is now called on," who takes a fowl in his hands, cuts off its
bill, "dips its head and feet in water, and then drops the blood from
the bleeding head on the forehead of the oldest man of the family that
is performing the ceremony."

"The master of the ceremonies then addresses the elder, and says: 'The
hand-tier devours three. Thou hast the jaundice, thou art shrivelled up,
thou art not strong, thou art weakly. Now we give food and drink to the
hand-tier. Mayest thou be strong. Mayest thou be vigorous. Mayest thou
be established as the rock, indestructible as the hearthstones. Mayest
thou have long life. Mayest thou have a protracted existence.' After
besmearing the elder's forehead with the fowl's blood, the master of the
ceremonies pinches a few feathers and a little down from the fowl's
neck, and sticks them on the blood, while they adhere perhaps for the
whole day."

He then addresses the fowl, and says: "Arouse, arouse, Thiekeu's[126]
fowl, Mokhie's fowl we give thee food, we afford thee sustenance. Thou
drinkest in a knowledge of the future, thou eatest superhuman power. In
the morning, thou seest the hawk, in the evening thou seest man. The
seven heavens, thou ascendest to the top; the seven earths, thou
descendest to the bottom. Thou arrivest at Khuthe; thou goest unto
Tha-ma [i.e., Yu-ma, the judge of the dead]. Thou goest through the
crevices of rocks, thou goest through the crevices of precipices. At the
opening and shutting of the western gates of the rock, thou goest in
between; thou goest below the earth where the sun travels. I employ
thee, I exhort thee. I make thee a messenger, I make thee an angel.
Good, thou revealest; evil, thou revealest. Arouse thee fowl, arouse;
reveal what is in thee. Now I exhort thee, I entreat thee; if this man
is to live to an old age, if his head is not to be bent down, if he is
not to come down crash, like a falling tree, let the right hand bone
come uneven, let the bones be short and long. Thou art skilled in the
words of the elders, thou knowest the language of old men. The good,
thou fully knowest; with the evil thou art perfectly acquainted. Fowl, I
exhort thee, I entreat thee; reveal whatever is in thee. And now, if
this man's head is to bend down, if he is to come down crash, like a
falling tree, if he is to be unable to rest himself from incessant
trouble; if unable to overcome obstacles which shall meet him on every
hand; if unable to rise up or lie down, if his life is not to be
prolonged, if he cannot live, then, fowl, come up unpropitious, come up
with the tendon short on the right side, come wrong end foremost. If he
be able to obtain sufficient to support life, if he be not overcome by
feuds, fowl, come up even. Thiekeu's fowl, Mokhie's fowl, I pull out thy
feathers, I pull at thy skin, I dip thy head, I dip thy feet. Arouse
fowl, reveal what is in thee."

Everyone in succession is then besmeared on his forehead with the blood
of a separate fowl; and then everyone marks his own fowl by tying a
string to it that he may recognize it after being cooked. Some tie a
string on the neck, others on the leg, others on the wing, and others
elsewhere. They next scorch off the feathers, and boil them.

Mr. O'Riley and Dr. Mason quote legends in connection with this
superstition, from which we find that in ancient times God gave the
Chinese a book of paper, the Burmese a book of palm-leaf, and the Karens
a book of skin, each containing His written law. The Chinese and Burmese
took care of their books and diligently studied them, but the Karens did
not sufficiently value their copy, and leaving it in an insecure place,
a hog tore it into fragments, which were afterwards picked up by the
fowls. The great loss that had befallen the Karens was only brought home
to them when they found that the Chinese and the Burmese excelled them
in knowledge, owing to their acquaintance with books. They came to the
conclusion, however, that as the fowls had eaten up their book they must
necessarily possess all the knowledge that it contained, consequently
fowls were at once recognised as the depositories of the lost law, and
have ever since been consulted through the medium of their bones.

To Colonel Low[127] we are indebted for another version of this story.
He relates that a "Superior Intelligence" vouchsafed to thee Karens a
religious and civil code, which was engrossed on parchment. This was by
accident left on a bush whilst its keeper crossed a stream, and a dog
seized and ran off with the precious roll.

The dog on being pursued drooped his prize, but before the owner could
recover it, a fowl scratched out the characters inscribed thereon.
Hence, according to Colonel Low's informant, the Karens venerate the
feet of the common fowl, because the sacred writing adhered to them. He
concludes his article, however, with a crude notice of the divination by
fowl's _bones_, and had he followed up his inquiries on this subject, it
is very probable he would have modified his conclusions as to the
alleged reverence shown to fowls' feet.

The common barn-door fowl, like the progenitors of the Karens
themselves, was a native of Central Asia, whence it passed into Persia,
over which country (according to Aristophanes) it reigned supreme prior
to Darius and Megabasus. From Persia it found its way into Greece, and
thence through Rome to France and Britain. In all these countries it was
regarded superstitiously. In Persia it was used for the purposes of
divination, as it was afterwards by the Greeks and Romans. It was a cock
that assured Themistocles of his victory over Xerxes, influenced the
decision of Romulus in choosing the site of Rome, and inspired Numa

Coming nearer home, we find in Croker's "Researches in the South of
Ireland" that in the year 1325 A.D., a woman was charged with having
sacrificed nine red cocks to her familiar spirit.[129] Crossing the
snows of the Himalaya, and travelling in a southerly direction, the cock
seems to have imbued the inhabitants with a similar superstition to that
we have noticed among the Celts, for the Buddhists of Ceylon and the low
castes in the south of India used to sacrifice red cocks to evil
spirits. Turning his back on his Central Asian home, and visiting
Eastern countries, his progress has been marked with similar results,
for even the matter-of-fact Chinaman has succumbed to his
influence;--sacrificing a cock before a Court of Justice, when giving
evidence, being considered by him as equivalent to the most binding

The cock then, in archaic times, seems to have been a distinguished and
honoured guest, although subsequent ages have so far modified the
veneration originally paid him as to utilise[130] him as an article of
food, somewhat in the same fashion as the South Sea Islanders are said
to have "utilised" their missionaries after their first feelings of
reverence wore off.[131]

Claiming as the Karens do, a common home with this well-known bird, and
possibly leaving the Great Central Plateau simultaneously, it would
indeed be surprising if they were not somewhat tinged with a
superstition so universal.

Their augury by fowls' bones, according to Mr. Lockhart, is essentially
the same as that which obtains among the Miau-tsze or hill tribes of
China, with whom, by some accounts the Karens bear considerable

Marco Polo refers to a divination by a cane split into two pieces, by
which certain Christian astrologers foretold the issue of a battle
between the troops of Chinghis Khan and Prester John, which may have had
a common origin with the Karen superstition. There is no doubt that
practices with similar objects in view, although perhaps not exactly
like the Karen method, have existed from the most ancient times.

We have the following interesting note on the text of the Venetian by
Colonel Yule. "A Tartar divination by twigs, but different from that
here employed, is older than Herodotus, who ascribes it to the
Scythians."[132] We hear of one something like the last among the Alans,
and from Tacitus, among the Germans. The words of Hosea (iv, 12), "My
people ask Council at their stocks, and their staff declareth unto
them," are thus explained by Theophylactus:--

"They stuck up a couple of sticks, whilst murmuring certain charms and
incantations; the sticks then by the operation of devils, direct or
indirect, would fall over and the direction of the fall was noted," &c.
The Chinese method of divination comes still nearer to that on the text.
It is conducted by tossing in the air two symmetrical pieces of wood or
mambo of a peculiar form.[133]

The divination by the bones of a sheep in vogue with the ancient British
and the Persians, seems identical with the Karen augury, for we read
that on the faintly traced lines and marks observable in the shoulder
blade of a sheep, future events were supposed to be indicated to those
who had the skill to read them.[134]

That we to this day resort to a kind of divination of fowls' bones is
proved by the very common custom observed by young people of pulling the
merry-thought of a fowl to ascertain which of them will be married
first.[135] Possibly the practice may owe its origin to the ancient
custom of deducing omens from the inside of animals. Whatever then may
be said in reference to the superstition which forms the subject of this
paper, it cannot be said to pertain exclusively to the Karens.

_Lares and Penates_--As not only all the prominent objects of nature,
but also everything that adds to the comfort or the pleasure of man,
even to the axe with which he fells the trees of the forest, and the
knife that he sticks in his girdle, has its presiding deity, it is
hardly necessary to add that beings similar to the _Lares_ and _Penates_
of the ancient Romans hold a prominent place in Karen mythology.

It is a matter of some difficulty to know who the _Penates_ were, but
there is no reason for supposing that they were the same in every
family. So with the Karens there is much confusion in relation to the
character of the beings addressed. Besides the many tutelar demons, who
may be said to be public property, the Karens (as we have already
noticed) appear to recognize a distinct order of spirits, which has no
concern with "outsiders," and with whom the head of the family only has
to do; just as the master of a Roman family was the priest to the
_Penates_ of his own house, a custom still retained, it is said, by the
modern Genoese.

The Lahones, a tribe located near the Kakhyens, between Bham and Momein
have also a guardian spirit of the house which they call Shitah, and
none of other tribes is allowed to go through the door sacred to him
without having first presented a peace offering to the nat.[136]


_Witchcraft_--If we look at our own early history, it will be seen that
Witchcraft was one of the oldest and most deeply rooted articles of the
superstitious belief of the Anglo-Saxons. It was rightly considered by
them as relic of paganism, and as such was proscribed by all the
earliest ecclesiastical laws.[137] It was made a punishable offence by
secular law so far as it was supposed to be the means of inflicting
personal injury. Subsequently, however, the ecclesiastical courts seemed
to have lost jurisdiction, for Wright says,[138] "Till the fourteenth
century witchcraft and sorcery appear to have been crimes cognizable in
the secular and not in the ecclesiastical courts." But its existence was
not doubted and was looked upon with the more horror as being the
supposed results of some kind of intercourse with the spirits of evil,
the "demons" who were generally supposed to have been the objects and
supporters of idolatry. These demons, it was supposed were either
compelled to perform certain things by spells which bound them, or were
excited to act in favour of persons who performed certain superstitious

The Karens hold somewhat the same belief as our forefathers, and the
analogy between the two systems is still further borne out by the fact
that neither with the Karens, nor with the Anglo-Saxons, do we find any
traces of those compacts with the evil one which became so famous in
after times.

In the laws of King Ethelred and Cnut, witches and sorcerers were
strongly denounced. In one of the edicts of the latter occurs the
following passage: --"We earnestly forbid every heathenism. Heathenism
is that men worship idols: that is, that they worship heathen gods, and
the sun or moon, fire or rivers, water, wells, or stones, or forest
trees of any kind; or love witchcraft, or promote _morth_ work in
anywise; or by _blot_ or _fyrht_, or perform anything pertaining to such

A sorcerer or magician, says Grose,[139] differs from a witch[140] in
this, a witch derives all her power from a compact with the devil. A
sorcerer commands him and the infernal spirits by his skill in powerful
charms and invocations.

In Karen mythology there is nothing to correspond with this definition
of witch, although they have necromancers "who profess to have eyes to
see unseen spirits, to tell what they are doing, and even to go to
Hades, and converse with the spirits of the dead there."

They are believed to be ordinary persons under demoniacal influence,
who, if all accounts be true, are quite as malignant as the veritable
witches and sorcerers of western lore.

The Karens have peculiar conceits in reference to persons possessed with
a familiar spirit, which some tribes call _Na_ and others _Ne_.

Mr. Cross[141] appears to think that _Na_ is identical with the Burmese
_Nat_, synonymous with the _Deva_, or Devata, of Hindu mythology, and
that the Burmese either borrowed the term from the Karens, or that both
are derived from a common source. Dr. Mason (we believe rightly) is of
opinion that _Nat_ denotes an entirely different being.

The _Na_, or _Kephoo_, as it is sometimes called, is, according to one
myth, said to be a horrid vampire, which sallies forth at night in the
repulsive form of a human head and entrails, seeking whom it may devour.
A person poissessed of a _Na_ under the strange hallucination that human
beings are rats, dogs, pigs, or other animals fit for human food, is
supposed incontinently to devour them.

An instance is given of a man going so far as to eat himself up. The
story for which we are indebted to Dr. Mason, is as follows:--

"Once upon a time, there was a worthy couple who had two little

"When the younger was able to leave home, she followed her father to the

"On arriving a t the foot of a tree, the bewitching power of an evil
spirit came on the man, and he devoured his child.

"He then went home, and said to his wife, 'The young child is unhappy
alone, send to her the elder sister.' So the other child went along with
her father, and on arriving at the foot of the same tree, he ate her up

"He returned again to the house, and said to his wife, 'The children are
not happy in the field alone, go to them.'

"So she followed her husband to the foot of the tree, where he left her
to seek an impaling stick.

"A touktay or lizard in the tree, thought to himself, 'This woman knows
nothing; her husband will eat her.'

"Thinking thus, he called out, 'This night thy husband will eat thee. If
thou believest me not, look by the side of the road, and thou wilt see
the skulls of thy children.'

"The woman looked, and saw what the touktay said was true. She was
greatly terrified, and said to the latter, 'Grandfather! what shall I

"The touktay replied, 'if thou art afraid, take hold of my tail firmly,
and fear no more.' The woman did as she was bid, and the touktay drew
her up to the tree top by his tail.

"Soon her husband came back with an impaling stick on his shoulder, and
said, 'old rat,[142] where are you?'

"He sought for his wife everywhere roundabout, but did not discover her;
while she, almost dead with fear, was holding on to the tail of the
touktay, who said to her, 'Hold on firm, I am afraid thou wilt let go.'

"When the man could not find his wife, he actually ate himself!

"He sliced up his hands, arms, feet, and legs, his flesh and skin, and
left nothing but his trunk.

"On this, the touktay saying to the woman, 'Your husband cannot devour
you now; fear him no more,' let her down by his tail.

"When the man[143] saw her, he cried out, 'Woman, restore me to life;'
but she left him, and ran away as fast as she could go to her friends."

According to another myth, a person possessed of a Na, is said t oattack
and destroy the L, or vital principle, leaving the body intact; and if
not too viciously inclined, to eat the eyes only, which in some
unaccountable way retain their shape and substance, but become blind.
Such persons are also supposed, by their sorceries, to be able to cause
others, however distant, to be attacked by disease, resulting in death;
and so strong is the belief of the Karens in their supernatural power,
that contagious or malignant diseases, such as cholera, small pox, or
measles, are almost always attributed to their malignant influence.

They are put to death[144] if accessile, but it not infrequently happens
that, by the augury of fowls' bones, it is discovered that the
objectionable _Na_ resides in a village against which the suffers have a
feud, and a claim for _akha_, or compensation, is at once made on its
chief, to be followed up by a raid if he refuses to comply with their
extortionate demands.

Persons possessed of Nas are held to be accursed; and it is considered
quite as meritorious to get rid of them as to kill dangerous animals or
poisonous snakes. Apropos of this subject, Dr. Mason records an instance
of two young men who appeared before a Karen magistrate in Mergui, and
charged a man with possessing a _Na_. The magistrate's reply was such
that they immediately went and killed the man in open day. Such an evil
influence is supposed to emanate from people so possessed, that even
their praise is considered unlucky. Hence, one must be chary of praising
the Karens or their possessions; for, if by chance any misfortune should
happen to them subsequently, he may find himself in the unenviable
position of a reputed Na.

Another idea prevalent maong the Karens is, that nightmare is caused by
a Na sitting on the stomach of the person afflicted. This (as Dr. Mason
points out) is precisely the same notion as they used to have in Europe,
and is not unlike the Runic theology, in which "Mara, from which our
nightmare was derived, is held to be a spectre of the night, which
seized men in their sleep, and suddenly deprived them of speech and
motion." But there is nothing in Karen mythology, analogous to the old
Gothic or Scandinavian superstition in reference to a witch riding
horses at night.

A person possessed of a Na has the power to take the form of another,
and this interchange of persons is sometimes affected by a change of
skins. Dr. Mason quotes stories related of a woman named _Pokla_, black
as a crow, who, endowed with this faculty, amused herself by putting on
skins of white women, giving them her own black skin in exchange. One of
these is a charming idyll, in which Pokla, when slave of a young man of
property, succeeded in exchanging skins with the beautiful white bride
of her master, without the latter's suspecting the change.

The lovely bride was now beaten and cruelly used by her former slave,
and obliged to perform every menial office. One of her occupations was
to scare the birds from the crops, and while so engaged she managed to
secure the affection and allegiance of the feathered tribe. One of
these, the dove, she commissioned to secure for her some miraculous
fragrant oil with which she anointed herself, and became "beautiful for
ever." With the confidence which her renewed attractiveness gave her,
she denounced Pokla to her husband, and, in proof of her assertion, told
him that he would be satisfied of Pokla's deceit by looking at her
tongue. But Pokla was fully aware of her one weak point, and it was
difficult to obtain a sight of her tongue.

All attempts to make her laugh failed, but on being struck suddenly, she
screamed and exposed her tongue, which was seen to be jet black. Her
master being convinced of her real character, slew her with a sword.

His true wife at first refused to live with him again, but after he had
satisfied her of his contrition, by performing a penance she enjoined on
him, she relented, and they lived happily afterwards.

The "Trolls" of Norse folk-lore, like the Nas of the Karens, sometimes
change skins with ordinary mortals, and cause confusion and trouble by
so doing.

From "New Tales from the Norse,"[145] we read of a youth, who, with a
companion, went roaming about the world in search of a princess of whom
he had dreamt, and by means of magical instruments, which he had
obtained from certain _"Troll-wives,"_ was enabled to find the princess,
and after many adventures, to marry her.

"On the wedding night," so says the tale, "she intended to kill him
during his slumbers, but he, acting on the advice of his follower, did
not go to sleep, and he jumped up and seized her when just about to
commit the murderous act. Having whipped her well with rods, he then
proceeded, according to his follower's instructions, to scrub her skin
('which was as black as a crow all over her body') with a kind of
cheese, and afterwards to scour it with sour milk and sluice it with
sweet milk, the result of the treatment being that the 'Troll-hide
slipped off her, and she became soft and fair; fairer than she had ever
been before.' "

The Karen _Na_, has not only all the attributes of the Norwegian
_Troll_, as well as of the witches and wizards of our ancient
mythologies, but it also seems to be endowed with peculiarities which
amount to a _spcialit_ in demoniacal acquirements. Dr. Mason says that
_Na_ is analogous to the Burmese _Sung_, which we presume to be
equivalent to_Son_. But _Son_ with the qualitative masculine or feminine
affix, is simply a wizard or witch of the ordinary type, of somewhat
inferior position to the _Nats_, or tutelary deities of the Burmese, and
consequently of less importance as an object of dread than the Karen

The belief in the existence of these Nas is, we believe, still prevalent
among even the more civilised tribes, although education has done much
to dispel this and other absurd illusions.

_Necromancers_--_Wees_--Having disposed of the sorcerers, who, according
to Karen religion, are "Anathema and Maranatha;" we will now proceed to
give some particulars in reference to their orthodox necromancers or
Wees, who are supposed, and suppose themselves, capable of working
themselves into a "superior state," in which they are enabled to see
what is invisible to other men. They can see the departed life or spirit
(the sentient soul) of the dead, and even have the power of recalling
this spirit, and bringing it back to its body, and thus restoring the
dead[146] to life. When a prophet is approached by an inquirer after
future events, or anything which is hidden from other men, the prophet's
first object is to throw himself into a state of clairvoyance. He
writhes his body and limbs, rolls himself on the ground, and often foams
at the mouth in the violence of his paroxysms. When he is satisfied with
his condition, he becomes calm and makes his prophetic

There is another class of prophets of a different character, rarely
making pretensions to the predictions of future events, who are called
_Bookhahs_, or masters of feasts, and might be called the priests of
religion. They have methods of determining the future in cases of
sickness, take the direction of the general religious ceremonies of the
people, and teach the doctrines of the system they adopt in worship, the
charms, &c. They are not so much dreaded by people as the _Wees_.[148]

Among the Karens proper, it would appear that it is not absolutely
necessary that a necromancer shall be subject to any discipline before
he assumes his functions, and in this respect they differ from many
savage peoples in various parts of the world, who put no confidence in
those who do not give evidence of being qualified for this position by
their acknowledged or assumed superiority over ordinary mortals.

According to Major Sladen,[149] one who aspires to the dignity of Medium
or Necromancer among the _Kakhyens_, who, with some truth, are said to
bear close affinity to the Karens, must climb a ladder made of sharp
swords with their edges upwards, and sit on a platform thick set with
spikes, without personal inconvenience, before he is believed in.

In Dr. Anderson's more recent work, no mention appears to be made of
this fact, and it would seem, from what he heard, that on a youth
exhibiting certain phases of character, he is encouraged to cultivate
them and is duly installed when the recognised medium dies.[150]

The many interesting particulars Dr. Anderson gives of the _Kakhyen_
sorcerers, are valuable in bearing additional testimony in favour of the
supposition that the _Kakhyens_ and Karens are allied.

These sorcerers, he says, are of two kinds, the _Toomsah_ and the

The _Toomsah_ attends on all occasions on which sacrifices have to be
offered; and in cases of sickness, resulting either from natural causes,
or from the influence of bad _Nts_, he is called to ascertain from the
spirits the kind of offerings required for the removal of the spell, and
to assist at the sacrifice to which he has to invite the presence of the

The _Meetway_ is not a sacrificial priest, and his services are only
called into requisition when it is desirable to ascertain the mind of
the _Nts_ on questions of importance. He foretells future events by the
occurrence of certain natural phenomena, such as the peculiar appearance
of fowls' bones, and from the character of the fracture of pieces of
"null" grass which have been held over a flame.[151] "The _Meetway_,"
Dr. Anderson says, in another place, "when he is consulted, becomes like
a person possessed with a devil. He seats himself in a corner of the
house on a small stool, surrounded by the anxious chiefs and their
head-men, and with his elbows resting on his knees, and his face buried
in his hands, his body begins to quiver from head to foot, and piteous
yells and groans announce that the_Nt_ is entering into him. When the
demon has gained possession of the priest, he then communicates the line
of action that the chiefs are to pursue, and how many buffaloes or pigs
it will be necessary to offer to secure the goodwill of the Nts.

"The similarity of these ceremonies to those described by Marco Polo as
prevailing during his time in _Kardaudan_ requires no remark."

The Kakhyen necromancer has, therefore, all the minor attributes of his
Karen confrre, but he does not appear to have the more enviable faculty
said to be possessed by the latter of being able to go to Hades,
converse with the spirits of the dead there; and, if desirable, to
compel their return to the bodies they have abandoned.

While, therefore, we may deplore these superstitious practices on the
part of the Karens, it will be found that even in these enlightened
days, many simple persons may be met with in England every whit as
credulous on the subject of witchcraft as these poor people; and we must
not forget at the same time that little more than two centuries ago
thousands of people, including persons of the highest rank, were put to
death on charges of witchcraft, approved and confirmed by King James I,
who further gave his countenance to these diabolical proceedings by
publishing a work entitled "Dialogues of Dmonologie."


VICTIMS as the Karens are of a degrading superstition, that recognises
the efficacy of offerings to spirits or demons, for benefit in this
life, without fear and without hope as regards their future state, they
afford an instance of a people who, humanly speaking, seem impracticable
to the teachings emanating from a purer faith. But the history of
religion teaches us that many rude and uncultured races, whose only
worship consists in the adoration of the heavenly bodies or the
principal objects of nature, present as it were a virgin soil in which
the seed of new ideas takes root and fructifies; whereas, sown where the
alluring dogmas of Mahomet have been firmly established, or the
metaphysical conceptions of Brahma or Buddha have taken hold of the
imagination, the seed often falls on barren soil and dies.

Mahomet taught his followers many admirable moral maxims, permitted the
plurality of wives and concubinage, and promised the faithful a sensual
paradise, in short, offered them a faith which, appealing to the moral
instincts, as well as to the carnal appetite of human nature, is
eminently calculated to enslave its votaries.

The same may be said in reference to the Hindoo and Buddhist religion,
but from a different stand point. Both, by elevating the soul from those
"imperfections forced on her by connection with matter, and setting her
free from the sway of passions that keep her linked to the world,"[152]
have a common object in view, although both are at variance as to the
end to be arrived at. "The Brahmin leads the perfected being to the
supreme essence, in which he is merged as a drop of water in the ocean,
losing its personality to form a whole with the Divine substance."

"The Buddhist, ignoring a supreme being, conducts the individual that
has been emancipated from the thraldom of passions to a state of
complete isolation called Neibbau or Nirvana."[153]

Although based on many capital and revolting errors, these religions, as
originally conceived, are remarkable for the purity of the precepts they
inculcate, the moral truths they teach, the vast ability with which they
have been projected, and the intimate knowledge of human nature evinced
by their projectors.

It is no wonder, therefore, that their adherents hold steadfastly to
their faith, and that the efforts of Christian missionaries to grapple
with and disentangle the labyrinth of metaphysical ideas and theory of
metempsychosis, which comprise the fundamental doctrines of these
religions, are comparatively speaking futile.

Where such or similar barriers do not exist, the blessed truths of
Christianity have been disseminated with almost incredible success, and
bear out the wisdom of our Lord's saying, "Thou hast hid these things
from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes."

The mission of St. Augustine to England, and the baptism of the natives
at the rate of ten thousand a-day, owed its origin to the presence of
English slaves in Rome.

St. Gregory, when he saw the Angli, desired for them the condition of
angels, and fired by a missionary spirit, started for England to convert
them, but finally committed the work to St. Augustine.

So the mission to the Karens originated in the presence of a Karen slave
in the family of a Burman Christian, who afterwards proved a second
Augustine to his countrymen.

This slave, known as _Ko-tha-byn_, had been redeemed by a Christian
Burman from his Buddhist master, owing to the missionaries expressing a
wish to become more acquainted with a people of whom little was known
for several years after their arrival in the country.

He was described as rude, passionate, and otherwise disagreeable, so
that he proved an unpleasant accession to the family of the
philanthropic Burman, and an arrangement was entered into by which his
services were transferred to Dr. Judson and Mrs. Wade, and not long
afterwards, says the latter, "we began to perceive the influence of
religion on his outward character, and that by slow degrees, light
dawned upon his dark mind, and the work of the Holy Spirit became
perceptible on his hard heart."[154]

It was characteristic of that pride of race which never dies with a
Burman, that the Burmese converts were at first slow to acknowledge the
right of the poor despised Karen to be admitted into their Church; but
it was equally honourable to them as a Christian community to purge the
old leaven form their hearts, and vote unanimously for his admission, so
soon as they were convinced that he was a fit subject for baptism.

_Koh-tha-byn_, the first Karen convert, was accordingly baptised on the
16th May, 1828, by Mr. Boardman, whom he accompanied to Tavoy.

This remarkable man had been a robber and a murderer, and possessed such
an ungovernable temper, that even after his conversion, he had often to
spend many hours in prayer for strength to overcome it.[155]

"His frailties, however," says Dr. Mason, "should be compared, not with
those of one who was born under Christian influences, and has been
subjected to the restraints of civilised society, but with those of a
youth and manhood spent in a manner that makes me shudder to think of
and unwilling to repeat; so that often under the influence of passion,
he said things that would be quite inexcusable in others."[156]

He was very illiterate, but his mental powers, though limited, were well
directed, and "he had the rare faculty of concentrating all his powers
and bringing them to bear upon a certain point. Thus having once
realized the great doctrine of justification by faith, it seemed to be
all-sufficient for him. It was the alpha and omega of his preaching,
for, ignorant as he was upon all other subjects, and obtuse in all his
conceptions to a proverb, the moment he touched his favourite theme, he
exhibited a power and force of illustration that surprised all that knew

These qualifications eminently adapted him as a pioneer among the wild
and untutored Karens, with whom his thorough earnestness seems to have
commended itself in a most remarkable degree. Glorying in, and never
weary of repeating the message of glad tidings which had proved of such
comfort to himself, he carried conviction to the hearts of his hearers,
and by his indefatigable and earnest labours, earned for himself the
title of Karen Apostle,[158] a most appropriate cognomen for the first
Karen preacher to his countrymen in the districts of Tavoy, Moulmein,
Rangoon, and Arakan.

_Koh-tha-byn_, soon after his baptism became a preacher to his people,
and travelled all over the Tenasserim provinces to proclaim the Gospel.

Mainly through his influence, the timid Karens, laying aside their fears
of civilised life and its belongings, flocked in from the distant
jungles with curious interest to see the white teacher, Mr. Boardman,
and to listen to the wonderful truths he taught.

One community so far testified their confidence in Mr. Boardman as to
bring with them a sacred book which had been entrusted to them by a
Mahomedan, fully recognising in him the teacher whom their traditions
taught them would be able to explain its mysteries. This book had been
preserved by them with the greatest care, and was considered in an
object of veneration and worship, although they were ignorant of its

They were anxious, therefore, to have Mr. Boardman's opinion upon the
venerated relic, and with considerable ceremony escorted it to his
residence and reverently unfolding its muslin envelope, disclosed to his
view a tattered and worn-out volume, which proved to be the "Book of
Common Prayer and the Psalms." "It is a good book," said Mr. Boardman,
"it teaches that there is a God in Heaven, whom alone we should worship.
You have been ignorantly worshipping this book; that is not good; I will
teach you to worship the God whom the book reveals;" paraphrasing
perhaps involuntarily the words of St. Paul to the Athenians, when he
stood in the midst of Mars Hill and declared unto them the _unknown God_
whom they ignorantly worshipped.

Prepared to listen to what the teacher said, the latter was not slow to
avail himself of the splendid opportunity afforded him for revealing its
truths, and the Karens, it is said, evinced the greatest interest in the
instructions which he gave them.

"The aged sorcerer who had been the keeper of the book for twelve years,
on hearing Mr. Boardman's decision, perceived that his office was at an
end, relinquished the fantastical dress he had worn, and the cudgel
which for so long had been the badge of his spiritual authority, and
subsequently became a humble believer in the Lord Jesus Christ."[159]

The devotion to work and anxiety which distinguished Mr. Boardman began
to tell upon his health, just when the results of the embryo Karen
Mission began to be most hopeful, and for more than a year before his
death "with the very important exception of Mrs. Boardmans' invaluable
labours with the people when they visited the town, the whole care of
the church, and the instruction of the inquirers, devolved on
Ko-tha-byn, and the numbers that were baptized within this period afford
the best comment on his labours."[160]

Preaching with him was a subject of absorbing interest, and "if Karens
were accessible, no fatigue, no obstacles would prevent his seeking them
out, but if not, he would attack the Burmans and their idolatry most
unmercifully, utterly heedless of the ridicule that they would sometimes
heap upon him for being an ignorant Karen."

An anecdote is also told of him when he was in danger of being upset in
a boat near Moulmein, illustrating his ruling passion. "I shall be
drowned," said he, "and never more preach the word of God to the
Karens."[161] Still "he was not adapted to the pastoral office, his work
was breaking up the fallow ground, and casting in the seed. Send him to
a new post, and everything seemed to give way before him, allow him to
remain, and the very individuals who, a little time before had blessed
God for his instrumentality in their conversion, were ready to exchange
his services for those of any other man, and yet no man was more highly
esteemed by the native Christians than Ko-tha-byn, while he applied
himself to his appropriate work."[162]

After the missionaries had baptized several hundred Karen converts in
Tavoy and Moulmein, Ko-tha-byn proceeded to Rangoon to assist Mr.
Bennett, and there also he was the first to proclaim the Gospel to his
heathen countrymen. The great success that attended his labours aroused
the opposition of the Burmese officials, and the Christians, it is said,
were sorely persecuted, even unto death.

"His health becoming feeble, and war being expected between the English
and Burmese, he returned to Moulmein, and Sandoway, in Arakan, having
been selected by the missionaries as favourably placed for opening up
communication with the Karens who dwelt in Burmese territory."

Ko-tha-byn was chosen as one of the pioneers of this mission, which was
established by Mr. Abbott, in 1840.

The news of the arrival of this mission soon spread, and "although the
passes were guarded by Burmans, many escaped their watchful vigilance
and flocked over the mountains, some for books, some for baptism, and
others desiring to remain and study with their beloved teacher."[163]

In this way Ko-tha-byn's converts found their way from the delta of the
Irrawaddy in such numbers as to arouse the jealousy of the Burmese, and
to induce them for a time to extend a more conciliatory policy to the
Christians, lest they should be terrified into emigrating in a body into
the British provinces. But a year or two afterwards, "in consequent of a
royal order to exterminate the white people, and the religion of the
foreigners, the persecution of the Karen Christians raged with
unmitigated fury. In their houses and in their places of worship whole
families were seized, and often cruelly beaten; while mothers, separated
from their children, were driven like sheep to prison, where they
remained until they could satisfy the rapacity of the Burman officers."

This oppression on the part of the Burmese caused hundreds of the
persecuted Karens to leave the fields they could no longer cultivate,
and escape into Arakan, with as much of their little possessions as they
could hastily collect together. Their condition was most pitiable, and
met with generous sympathy, not only from the missionaries, but from the
British residents in the province.

Captain Phayre, the Assistant Commissioner, supplied them with food, and
gave them one year to repay his loan without interest.

Ko-tha-byn, who had assisted in the work with his characteristic
devotion, only remained long enough to inaugurate it satisfactorily,
when he was summoned to his eternal rest.

Of him it was said that "perhaps not one in a thousand (from the days of
the Apostles to the present time) of those who may have devoted their
lives exclusively to this work, have been the instrument of converting
as many individuals as this simple-hearted Karen." When he died in 1840,
or twelve years after his conversion, there were officially reported as
members of Christian congregations in Pegu, above one thousand two
hundred and seventy individuals of his countrymen, most of whom were
indebted for their saving grace to his efforts. After his death
Christianity rapidly spread, in spite of the drawbacks offered to its
progress, and in 1852, or when the English declared war with Burmah, we
find by a note from Dr. Mason, that seventy-six churches, with five
thousand members, were reported to exist in Lower Pegu.

About the time of Ko-tha-byn's conversion, Dr. Judson baptized a
respectable and intelligent Burman named _Ko-Myat-Kyan_, who had been a
tax collector in the _Show-gyen_ district, and proved an honourable
exception to the rule as regards Burmese officials, in making it a point
of being familiar with the language, customs, &c., of the Karens. "After
his conversion, _Ko-Myat-Kyan's_ mind reverted with deep interest to the
Karens, and he often assured the missionaries that they would receive
the Gospel much more readily than the Burmese. His genuine enthusiasm on
this subject enlisted the sympathy of the missionaries in behalf of this
people, and they at once decided on making an effort towords their
evangelization. We record the result in Dr. Wade's account quoted from
Mrs. Wyllie's "Gospel in Burmah." He says, "My impressions on this point
were so strong that, with the advice of Dr. Judson, I set out with him,
and two or three other Burman converts, to visit a Karen village at
_Dongyan_, about twenty miles north of Moulmein."

"On our arrival, every man, woman, and child had deserted their
dwelling, and hid themselves in the jungles.

"We sat down in the shade of their houses, and after some time one or
two of the men summoned sufficient courage to show themselves, and ask
our object in coming to their village.

"Ko-Myat-Kyan told them our only object was to tell them about the true
God, and the way of salvation.

" 'Oh, is _that_ your object?' they replied, 'we thought you were
Government officials, and we were afraid; but if you are religious
teachers, come to tell us of God, we are happy; we will listen, Have you
brought God's Book? Our father say: the Karens once had God's Book
written on leather (parchment), and they carelessly allowed it to be
destroyed. Since then, as a punishment, we have been without books and
without a written language. But our prophets say, the white foreigners
have the book, and will in future time restore it to us. Behold, the
while foreigners have come, as our prophets foretold! Have you brought
God's Book?' (few of these simple timid villagers had before see a
'white foreigner.') I replied, yes, we have brought the Book of God
(showing them a Bible), but it is in the language of the foreigners,
though parts of it have been translated into the language of the
Burmans. Can you read Burman? 'No, we cannot; you must translate it for
us, as you have for the Burmans.' By this time the villagers generally
had learned our object in coming, and ventured out of their hiding
places, so that we had a large company of men and women and children
around us; some eagerly examining my strange dress; others astonished at
the whiteness of my face; but more still, intent on hearing what I had
to say about the Book of God, which they had so long expected the white
foreigners to bring them. To their last request, I replied, 'I came from
the land of the foreigners, to teach the Burmans the true religion. I
have learned their language, but do not understand Karen. I am obliged
to speak to you through an interpreter; but I will write to those who
sent me out, to send a teacher for the Karen, who will study your
language, reduce it to writing, and translate God's Word for you, if on
your part you will agree to learn to read, and let your children learn;
else the labour and expense will be lost. Will the Karens do it?' 'Yes,
we _will_, and we will worship God, when we are taught his requirements.
Our father have told that when the white foreigners bring us the lost
Book, and teach us the true religion, we must listen and obey, then
prosperity will return to us: but if we do not listen and obey, we shall
perish without remedy. Long have we suffered, and prayed for
deliverance, and now that the white foreigner has come with the lost
word of God, according to the saying of the fathers, if we do not
listen, we known that the threatening also will be fulfilled. Yes, we
will listen and obey; but how long will it take for a teacher to come,
learn our language, reduce it to writing, and translate for us the Book
of God?' I said I thought it could be accomplished in ten years. 'Alas!
it will not then be done in _my_ day,' exclaimed a man who had nearly
completed his three-score years and ten. 'But you must not wait for a
new teacher, _you_ must begin _at once_.' Many others joined in this
request, but I could not then say, I will; for the idea of becoming a
Karen missionary had not yet occurred to my mind; my hands were full of
work in the Burman department, and thirty converts were baptized and
added to the Burman church in Moulmein during that year."

It was then that Dr. Wade commenced the task, which he by degrees so
successfully accomplished, of reducing the Karen language to writing. In
the prosecution of this interesting work, and the evangelization of the
people, his mind became involuntarily absorbed to the detriment of his
health, so that he had to return to his native land for a season, after
having baptized fourteen Karens, two or three of whom gave promise of
becoming preachers of the Gospel to their heathen countrymen.

A Karen school had been opened in Moulmein, and left in charge of Dr.
Judson, who also looked after the little community in which Dr. Wade was
so interested, with such success that when the latter returned from
America with Messrs. Vinton and Howard, as special missionaries to the
Karens, he found that one hundred and eleven Karens "had been baptized,
churches had been formed, a good number had learned to read their own
language, and several of the most intelligent and best instructed were
already traveling from village to village preaching the 'Gospel of the
Kingdom,' or watching over the little flocks in the wilderness."[164]

Dr. Wade, on arriving at Burmah, was directed to proceed to Tavoy, to
assist Dr. Mason in his duties, with special reference to Karen
literature, which the latter was carrying on alone, owing to the death
of his colleague, Mr. Boardman.

Dr. Mason arrived at Tavoy in the end of January, 1831, just in time to
witness Mr. Boardman's triumphant death.

"This lamented missionary," says Dr. Macgowan,[165] "was permitted to
commence the work of evangelizing these wild men, but he fell early in
the warfare, and closed his brief and useful career like an intrepid
soldier on the field of conflict; borne on a cot to the margin of a
majestic stream, he there witnessed the baptism of a large body of
Karens, the first ingathering from that nation, took part in further
ceremonies attending their reception into the Christian Church, and
calmly expired, as it we in the arms of victory. A morally sublime

After the close of the last war, resulting in the annexation of Pegu,
the work which had begun so well in the Rangoon and Bassein districts,
received a fresh impetus, and large missions were also established in
the more northern districts.

It is beyond our province to enter into detailed information in
reference to the work which is being carried on in Burmah: it will
suffice to say that the efforts of the missionaries with the mild
_Sgans_ and _Pwos_ in the Tenasserim provinces, and the alluvial lands
of Pegu, have since then been rewarded with continued success.

Under the protection of the British flag, the work has also progressed
steadily and quietly, without exhibiting either the violent contrasts
which are so characteristic of the experience of the Christian missions
under the Burmese _rgime_ or without affording prominent points to
attract the notice of the general reader.

The marvellous results of missionary efforts among the inveterate
Caterans of the hilly districts in Toungoo, who from their heights bade
proud defiance to their quasi rulers, and who were supposed to be so
wild and so untamable as to be utterly irreclamable, deserve, however,
more than a passing notice.

Quoting from a minute by the Chief Commissioner of British Burmah, dated
1st May, 1863, we find that "the district of Toungoo was occupied by
British troops early in 1853. In the autumn of that year, the Rev. Dr.
Mason and Mrs. Mason came to the districts, as also did the Karen
minister the Rev. San-Qua-la, and immediately commenced mission work
among the Karens, near the city of Toungoo.

"At that time nearly the whole of the Karen tribes on the mountains east
of Toungoo, that is, over an area of more than 2,000 square miles, were
in a savage state. The Burmese government never had authority over any
of the tribes living more than a day's journey from the city and river.

"In process of time, from the constant labour of the above-mentioned
missionaries, many thousand of the mountain Karens were instructed in
Christianity, had abandoned their savage mode of life, and their cruel
wars, and lived as Christian men and women." And further on he records a
graceful testimony to the value of the labours of these worthy pioneers
of civilisation and religious enlightenment, in the following terms: "I
have had ample opportunity personally of observing and of learning from
former cases as well as the present, what the Rev. Dr. and Mrs. Mason
have done for the Karen mountaineers in the Toungoo district. They found
them in a state of savage barbarism. There are now twenty-five thousand
of them either Christians, or under Christian influence and teaching.
They found them split up into tribes and clans, warring against each
other, and taking captives to sell as slaves. Wherever the Gospel has
been spread such acts no longer prevail. They have ceased not only
amongst Christian tribes, but also maong the heathen tribes, except
those on the extreme border.

"Now, I confidently attest that this great and beneficial change has
been accomplished mainly, indeed almost entirely, by the labours of Dr.
and Mrs. Mason, and of the Karen minister, San-Qua-la. I assert, from
long experience among similar tribes, that such results could not be
obtained by the Civil Administration, unaided by missionary teaching."

Dr. Mason, who had been labouring for more than twenty years in the
Tenasserim provinces, became so enfeebled form ill health, that he was
obliged to return to America to recruit his worn-out energies. Fully
realising, however, the importance of introducing Christianity amongst
the Karens of Toungoo, "who associated with the rule of the 'white
foreigners' a time of prosperity and peace, and of enlightenment in the
knowledge of the Eternal God," he made an effort to visit that ancient
kingdom before he turned his face homewards.

The result of his labours was most encouraging; but when all seemed
fairest and most hopeful, he was compelled to abandon what had been so
well begun. At this juncture, however, a man after Dr. Mason's own
heart, "eminently gifted with all the needful graces for proclaiming and
establishing the Gospel," was raised up from the Karens. We allude to
_San-Qua-la_,[166] who was destined to perform as great a work among the
turbulent hill tribes, as made the name of _Ko-tha-byn_ famous as the
"Karen Apostle" of the more southern districts.

San-Qua-la was prompted to visit Toungoo owing to the exhortations and
representations of a Karen named _Dumoo_, who had come from the Toungoo
district in search of his daughter, and who, after having been converted
to Christianity, never ceased in his efforts and entreaties to stir up a
missionary spirit among the pastors of Tavoy, in favour of his clansmen
in the north. "The churches in the southern provinces were very
unwilling to let San-Qua-la go, but it was in vain they endeavored to
detain him. A memorial, signed by every assistant south of Tavoy, and by
the churches, remonstrating in affecting terms against the departure of
one whose instructions were so much valued by them, was presented to the
Association," but afterwards, with a self-abnegation worthy of the high
cause in which they took such a deep interest, the worthy Tavoyers
consented to part with their "tried minister, not the mediocrity, but
the most talented, best educated, most efficient, and most highly

"San-Qua-la was the child of Karen parents, born and nurtured in one of
the wildest of their mountain glens," but still within reach of the
oppression which the Burmese, when opportunity offered, exercised over
their race. They had long chafed under the bitterness of Burman wrongs,
when reports reached them that "the white foreigners had come by sea to
the Burmese ports, and believing that these white men were destined to
be their deliverers, they began to look forward with hope to the day
when their galling yoke would be broken, and the oppressed allowed to go

"It was about this time that their second child was born, and to him
they gave the significant name of _Quala_--'Hope,' because, they said,
'We hope happiness will come to us in his days.' It was no wonder that
the boy should grow up with a thirst for liberty, or that he should
treasure in his memory every tradition which prophesied of the
emancipation of his nation from the Burman rule."

Their anticipations were realized, for when San-Qua-la was about
fourteen or fifteen years old, the English took Tavoy, and by the kind
treatment which they extended towards San-Qua-la's parents, and other
Karens who visited the town, entirely won their confidence.

Two or three years after this _Ko-tha-byn_ was baptized, and following
out the natural impulse of most of the converted Karens, proceeded at
once to preach the Gospel to his countrymen; and it so happened that the
first house in which he proclaimed the message of mercy was that of
Quala's father.

San-Qua-la was deeply affected by what he heard, and said to himself,
"is not this the very thing we have been waiting for?" His mother too
embraced the truth; his father, however, was so strongly opposed to the
new religion, that his son became spiritless and disheartened for a
time, but subsequently "he made a public profession of his faith, and
was admitted into the Church of Christ by baptism," and not long after
he was able to convince his unbelieving parent that he had chosen the
right path.

From the time of his conversion to the end of his course, he held on
steadfastly and "by his unblemished Christian character won the respect,
confidence, and affection of all connected with him."

San-Qua-la was an interested and sympathizing spectator of that sublime
scene when Mr. Boardman ceased from his earthly toil, for he was
"amongst the number who carried that fading form to the little
sequestered cove, where, beneath the shadow of the broad-leaved trees,
he witnessed the baptism of thirty-four Karens, for whose salvation he
had prayed and labored," and afterwards consigned the body of his
beloved pastor to its last resting place after the spirit had fled.

Few who had witnessed such a convincing proof of the vitality of
religion as the death of Mr. Boardman afforded, could have remained
unmoved, much less San-Qua-la, who was bound to him by the most sacred
ties of affection and respect, and no doubt what he had seen of and
heard from the dying missionary must have made a lasting impression upon

From the opportunities which Dr. Mason had of observing the character of
San-Qua la, he was convinced that he had no ordinary mind or heart; he
accordingly kept him with him for awhile, and afterwards sent him to
Moulmein to enable him to secure extra advantages in his education.

On his return to Tavoy, Dr. Mason employed him in committing to writing
all the traditions in poetry and prose with which he was acquainted, as
well as those he was able to collect from others.

Among these collections are the remarkable scriptural traditions, the
publication of which has done so much towards exciting an intelligent
interest in the Karens. He was also indebted to San-Qua-la for valuable
assistance in translating the New Testament.

San-Qua-la had, as is the custom with some of the clans, been betrothed
to a little girl when he was a child, and when they had grown up, one of
the elders of his village, according to Karen usage, "was deputed to
visit his betrothed to ascertain the nature of her feelings towards
him." The only remark she made was, "Oh, yes! I love San-Qua-la
amazingly, now he is baptized. Had he not been baptized I should not
have loved him at all." This signified according to their mode of
expression a decided rejection, and here their engagement ended, they
never meeting again. This was fortunate for San-Qua-la, for he soon
afterwards found a wife whose zeal and devotion in the missionary cause
were such as to greatly strengthen his hands, and afford a bright
example of what a pastor's wife should be.

San-Qua-la had more than one opportunity of securing lucrative
employment under Government but his wife ever gave him her support and
counsel in his determination not "to mix up God's work with Government
work," a temptation to which some missionaries in the East are too apt
to succumb, and thereby cause a reproach to be cast on the profession.

After accomplishing great results in Tenasserim, San-Qua-la proceeded to
Toungoo in the end of 1853. In the following month he conducted the
first ordinance of baptism in the presence of more than fifty Burmans,
whom he addressed in a judicious and eloquent manner. Some English
officers who were interested spectators of the scene, "were much
gratified with the fearlessness, dignity, and propriety of the

Work begun in such a spirit merited and obtained success, for we find
that at the close of that year there were 741 converts; in 1856 they had
increased to 2,124, belonging to thirty churches, and year by year fresh
accessions having been made to the Christian ranks, there is every hope
that before long the impure faith that distinguishes these wild people
will give way to a nobler one, enabling them to forget all their ancient
feuds and differences, and become an undivided people, under the banner
of Christ.

A very prominent characteristic of the Karen Mission, is that from the
beginning, up to the present time the work has been carried on mainly by
the exertions of the people themselves. The missionaries, therefore,
early realized the necessity of imparting a good education to those who
were destined for the ministry, with the view of utilizing them more
efficiently, and have accordingly instituted normal schools at the
principal towns with this object. The most important of these
institutions is the College at Rangoon, which has been for so many years
presided over by the Rev. Dr. Binney.

San-Qua-la, and men like him, have not only been useful as evangelists,
but have also done good work in assisting the officers of Government in
civilising the people, and in ably carrying out with zeal and discretion
many commissions with which they have been entrusted. San-Qua-la, when
he accompanied Mr. O'Riley on more than one of his tours, was an example
of this, and we could name several to whom we were indebted for valuable

Their devotedness in the sacred cause which they have chosen is,
however, their most distinguishing characteristic, for many of them
leave their families far away, and itinerate for months at a time, often
enduring much hardship and fatigue, with little or no emolument, and
without food, excepting such as is given them where they labour.

After San-Qua-la had been working with Karen assistants for about three
years, Mr. and Mrs. Whittaker went to aid them. The former was, however,
but a short time there when he died after a career of usefulness which
is still held in affectionate remembrance by the people.

Dr. and Mrs. Mason returned to Toungoo in 1857, and were welcomed by the
Karens with the most fervent joy, and the work which had been so
successfully inaugurated by San-Qua-la assumed such vast proportions as
to cause the Toungoo Mission to be one of the most extraordinary in

Messrs. Cross and Bixby joined the mission in 1860, and for a year or
two all went well, when unfortunately misunderstandings arose owing to
exceptions being taken by some of the missionaries to certain views
propounded by one of their number, which caused a considerable scandal
in the Church, as well as much sorrow to persons interested in the
mission. This schism was the more deplorable as it caused much confusion
among the converts in the Toungoo district.

Time has, however, somewhat allayed the bitter feelings evoked by the
unfortunate affairs to which we allude, and it is hoped that by degrees
they will have entirely abated, and enable the Christians to be an
united brotherhood as before.

From the statistics of the Baptist Missionary Convention which met at
Toungoo in November, 1870, we find that there were "18,860 church
members belonging to the different mission stations in Burmah, reported
to be of good standing."

For the same year the annual contributions for religious purposes were
upwards of L1,900, and for schools, books, &c., upwards of L1,300,
giving an aggregate of more than L3,200, contributed in one year by
these poor people for religious and educational purposes, affording
sufficient convincing evidence of the vitality of the religion they

Of the genuineness of the conversion of the Karens, there is abundant
evidence from a missionary as well as from a secular point of view, and
there are not a few, who, although they ordinarily profess to discredit
the alleged success of missionary efforts among the Burmese, Hindoos,
Mahomedans, and other races, admit the wonderful results that have been
achieve among the Karens.

When old and evil customs, such as distinguished the Karen race in its
natural state of savage barbarism, have been suppressed by the teachings
of a purer faith, even the most sceptical must allow that the
missionaries have done good. Some writers argue that the mere contrast
with a higher state of civilisation would have abolished them, without
the necessity of any distinct religious teaching, and a notable proof of
this is given in the success that attended the efforts of the celebrated
Akbar, in extending towards the wild peoples of Central India, a firm
and judicious policy, which "broke up the feudal system under which
strong government and permanent improvement were impossible, and which
merely insisting on nominal submission to his empire, with permission to
administer their country after their own fashion, exercised such an
influence over them as to give an impetus to the civilisation of these
dark regions, and to put a stop to the lawlessness and strife which
characterised them before the inauguration of his wise and beneficent

History again, in many instances, teaches us that the onward destiny
which the white man assumes to be special privilege Providence
vouchsafes to his race, has also led to the moral and physical
degradation as well as to the gradual extinction of the aborigines.

The Karens, especially the hill tribes, afford an instance of a people
surrounded by nations whose claims to be considered within the pale of
civilisation are indisputable, but who under the Burmese Government,
never did, or probably never would have emerged, from that state of
social degradation which is characteristic of the tribes unaffected by
Christian teaching.

Whether the more conciliatory policy that distinguishes the British
Government in its dealings with wild peoples, could, if it relied simply
on its own merits, have achieved the high results that have been
attained in conjunction with the efforts of the missionaries, is a
problem which it would be difficult to solve, even were it incumbent on
us to endeavour to do so, and we may, therefore, rest content with
giving the benefit of the evidence of act in favour of these worthy
pioneers of civilisation.

As far as we can judge, we have no hesitation in saying, that the
Karens, as a rule, seem to appreciate the beauties of Christianity for
its own sake, and to recognize the necessity of leading a new life to a
greater extent than any converts we are acquainted with, either in India
or in the Trans-gangetic provinces.

We believe, and the missionaries will, we think, bear us out in this,
that there is here and there a considerable falling off from the
extraordinary high standard attained when the saving truths of
Christianity were first divulged by the Karen Apostles _Ko-tha-byn_ and
_San-Qua-la_, but as it is not unusual to find that re-action ensues
after those religious revivals and sudden demonstrations that
occasionally take place in Christian countries, it would be unreasonable
if we were to find fault with the Karens for not rigidly acting up to
first professions, resulting from an enthusiasm suddenly evoke under
exceptional circumstances.

In reference to this people, it may with justice be conceded, that as
regards a due appreciation of the duties incumbent on them as good
Christians, and a conscientious discharge of the same, they compare
favourably with Christian communities in more civilised countries,
especially is this the case in the moral courage they evince in
observing a "teetotalism" worthy of the strictest disciple of Father
Matthew, and in their praise it must be admitted that, once having "take
the pledge," they, as a rule, adhere to it, and exemplify by their
conduct an exception to the rule among other peoples, that chronic
drunkenness is incurable.

Mr. Malcolm, to whom was entrusted the duty of reporting on the mission,
testifies to the temperance of the Christians in the following terms:--

"The change in regard to temperance is not less remarkable. Unlike the
Burmans, whose religion utterly forbids the use of strong drink, and who
scarcely ever use it, the Karens use it universally and generally to
excess. Every family make arrack for themselves, and from the oldest to
the youngest partake. Drunkenness, with all its train of horrors, is
rife among them, of course. But no sooner do any become serious
inquirers, and consort with the disciples for further instruction, than
they totally abandon the 'accursed thing.'

"The children of the very men who were sots, are growing up without
having tasted or seen it. The consequence to domestic peace and general
welfare may be supposed."[168]

Even taken for granted that they are merely nominal Christians, it is
much to say for their religion, that besides curing them of this
debasing habit, it has induced them to abandon their bitter blood feuds,
many of long standing, to refrain form their kidnapping and plundering
forages, to give the open hand of fellowship (dirty thought it be!) to
their neighbour, instead of stroke of sword, or prick of spear, their
normal greetings in ancient times; and to endeavour with a will to lead
a new life, consistent with the teachings of the book brought by the
"white men from the west."

Having given a short _rsum_ of the rise and progress of Christianity
among this interesting people, we now propose to devote a few pages to a
brief notice of the religious traditions which have caused such a deep
interest to be evinced in the Karen Mission, and which have tended to
lighten the preliminary labours of missionaries among them.

These traditions coincide so minutely with the biblical record, that in
the opinion of Dr. Mason they must have been derived therefrom, "but the
absence of anything Christian in all" he adds, "proves that they never
had the New Testament among them, and that if derived from a written
source, those traditions must have come form the Old testament alone."

The Karens too, are fully under the impression that in ancient times
they had books of skin, in which was embodied the Word of God,
containing instructions to make them wise unto salvation. These books,
judging by a description given in a poetical fragment quoted by Dr.
Mason, were similar to the old parchment records in use with the Jews
and other nations before paper was known. They are referred to as

"The palm leaf book that is written in circles.

"The book of palm leaf that in circles is written.

"The elders drew out the lines in long coils;

"They became great winding paths;

"The letters of the palm leaf books teach ancient wonders;

"The pages of the palm leaf books show wonders of antiquity.

"God sent us the book of skin;

"It is at the feet of the King of Hades;

"God sent us the book that has neither father nor mother,

"Enabling every one to instruct himself.

"The book of one sided letters, the letters ten,

"Is at the feet of the King of Hades;

"The book of one sided letters, of letters many,

"All men could not read."

The "one sided letters" referred to in these stanzas further bear out
this assumption, for we find that copies of the Pentateuch obtained by
missionaries from Jews in _Khai-fung-fu_ in China, are described as
"beautifully written without points or marks of division on white sheep
skins, cut square and sewed together about twenty yards long, and rolled
on sticks."[169]

Although the use of skins for writing purposes has become obsolete among
the Karens and the other Indo-Chinese races with which we are
acquainted, we learn form Chinese authority that so late as the 14th
century "their neighbours, the Cambodians, wrote their books and public
records on skins dyed black, and used pencils composed of a paste
resembling lime, which made indelible impressions."[170]

The idea entertained by many, that the Karens are indebted either to the
Jews or Nestorians for their Scriptural traditions, appears reasonable;
for the Jewish religion was, as we know, introduced into China in the
Han Dynasty, or between 200 B.C., and 226 A.D., [171] while the
Nestorians arrived in China about 629 A.D., [172] or the same year that
the celebrated pilgrim _Hiouen Thsang_ set out for India, and we find
from Colonel Yule, that at the time of Marco Polo's visit, and in the
preceding centuries, the Nestorian Church "was diffused over Asia to an
extent of which little conception is generally entertained, having a
chain of bishops and metropolitans from Jerusalem to Peking."[173]

We may here conveniently quote a few of the most remarkable of the
traditions to which we refer. The resemblance of some of these with the
accounts in the Bible is so startling that not a few are sceptical as to
their alleged antiquity, although they fully appreciate the
discriminating tact and critical acumen evinced by Dr. Mason in sifting
the wheat from the immense amount of chaff to be found in the Karen

_Creation_--In reference to the creation of the world, the Red Karens'
tradition after stating that "God was before all things," records that
"He formed first the heavens, a dwelling place for himself, and then he
created the earth; but the earth was mixed with water and there was no
solid ground.

"Then God divided the land from the water, and made the water to gather
itself together in one place in the great ocean, when the dry land

"In ancient times God created the world; all things were minutely
ordered by Him. In ancient times God created the world. He has power to
enlarge and power to diminish.

"God created the world formerly: He can enlarge and diminish it at

"God created the world formerly; he appointed food and drink."

Another version,----

"God created heaven and earth. "The creation of heaven and earth was

"He created the sun. He created the moon. He created the stars. The
creation of the sun, the moon and the stars was finished. He created
again --man; and of what did He create man? He created man at first from
the earth. The creation of man was finished.

"He created a woman. How did He create a woman? He took a rib out of the
man and created a woman. The creation of woman was finished.

"He created again life. How did He create life? Father God said,--'In
respect to my son and daughter, I love them; I will give them my great
life.' He took a liittle piece of his life, breathed into the nostrils
of the two persons, and they came to life and were real human beings.
The creation of man was finished.

"He created again food and drink. He created rice. He created water. He
created fire. He created cows. He created elephants. He created birds.
The creation of animals was finished.

_Garden of Eden_--We now come to the Garden of Eden and the commands of
God to our first parents when He placed them therein.

"Father God said, 'My son and daughter, your Father will make and give
you a garden. In the garden are seven different kinds of trees, bearing
seven different kinds of fruits; among the seven one tree is not good to
eat. Eat not of its fruit; if you eat you will become old, you will die.
Eat not. All I have created I give to you. Eat and drink with care. Once
in seven days I will visit you. All I have commanded you observe and do.
Forget me not. Pray to me every night and morning."

_Temptation and Fall_--With reference to the following traditions on the
Temptation and Fall, which is perhaps the most extraordinary of all, Dr.
Mason remarks, "it is worthy of observation that had it been a modern
composition, Adam would not have been _Thanai_ nor Eve _E-u_, but
_A-wa_, as written by both Protestant and Catholic missionaries in

"Anciently God commanded, but Satan appeared bringing destruction.
Formerly God commanded, but Satan appeared deceiving unto death.

"The woman E-u and the man Thanai pleased not the eye of the dragon.

"The dragon looked on them--the dragon beguiled the woman and Thanai.

"How is this said to have happened?

"The great dragon succeeded in deceiving--deceiving unto death.

"How do they say it was done?

"A yellow fruit took the great dragon, and gave to the children of God.

"A white fruit took the great dragon, and gave to the daughter and son
of God.

"They transgressed the commands of God, and God turned away from them.

"They kept not all the words of God--were deceived, deceived unto

"They kept not all the law of God--were deceived, deceived unto death."

Another version,--"O children and grandchildren! in the beginning, God,
to try man, whether he would or would not observe His commands, created
the tree of death and the tree of life, saying concerning the tree of
death, 'Eat not of it.' He wished to see whether man believed; not
believing, he ate of the fruit of the tree of death, and the tree of
life God hid. Because the tree of life has been hidden, men have died
since that time."

"Temptation, temptation, the fruit of temptation.

"The fruit of temptation fell on the ground,

"The fruit of temptation was bad,

"It poisoned to death our mother;

"The fruit of temptation, 'Do thou eat it not.'

"In the beginning it poisoned to death our father and mother.

"The tree of death came by woman,

"The tree of life by man!"

They have other prose as well as poetical accounts, one of which enters
more into detail. These remarkable examples are, however, sufficient to
illustrate their traditions on this subject.

_Curse_--The result of disobeying the commands of God is described as

"The day after they had eaten, early in the morning God visited them,
but they did not (as they had been wont to do) follow him singing

"He approached them and said, 'Why have you eaten the fruit of the tree
that I commanded you not to eat?' They did not dare to reply and God
cursed them. 'Now you have not observed what I commanded you;' he said,
'the fruit that is not good to eat, I told you not to eat; but you have
not listened, and have eaten, therefore you shall become old, you shall
be sick, and you shall die."

_Angels_--Although in the indigenous belief of the Karens their idea in
regard to angels is rather confused, their traditions teach them to
believe that there are beings in Heaven who have never sinned, and that
they are employed in executing God's purposes.

"The sons of Heaven are powerful,

"They sit by the seat of God;

"The sons of Heaven are righteous,

"They dwell together with God;

"The sons of Heaven are good,

"They lean against the silver seat of God.

"The beings whom God employs to execute his purposes have to the present
time the reclining place of God."

_Satan_--The same may be said in references to their notions about

"Satan in ancient times was righteous, "But he transgressed the commands
of God;

"Satan in ancient times was holy, "But he departed from the love of God;

"And God drove him away.

"He deceived the daughter and son of God,

"And God drove you away,

"You deceived of the daughters and sons of God.

"O children and grandchildren! though we were to kill Satan he would not
die, but when the time of our salvation comes God will kill him. Because
that time has not yet arrived he still exists."

The following may be accepted as having some reference to an universal
deluge, but it is not so marked as some of the other traditions.

"It thundered, tempests followed. It rained three days and three nights,
and the waters covered all the mountains."

Again--"Anciently, when the earth was deluged with water, two brothers
finding themselves in a difficulty, got on a raft. The waters rose and
rose till they reached to Heaven; when seeing a mango tree hanging down,
the younger brother climbed up it and ate; but the waters suddenly
falling left him in the tree."

_Dispersion of Men_--The story of the bamboo bucket divided among seven
brothers who separated and afterwards became separate peoples, which we
have noticed in our chapter on origin, may have some indistinct allusion
to the dispersion of nations.

One of their traditions also says--

"O children and grandchildren! men had at first one father and mother;
but, because they did not love each other, they separated. After their
separation they did not know each other, and their language became
different, and they became enemies to each other and fought."

_Resurrection_--Confused and contradictory as the Karens' ideas are in
regard to a future state, we may quote the following tradition in regard
to the resurrection:--

"O children and grandchildren! you think the earth large. The earth is
not so large as Entada bean. When the time arrives people will be more
numerous than the leaves of the trees, and those who are now unseen will
then be brought to view. O, my children, there will not be a
hiding-place for a single thing on earth."

"The Karens," says Dr. Mason, "explain this by saying that the earth is
only as large as a bean when compared with the whole of God's works.
Concerning the numerous people that are to appear they confess their
ignorance, but think that the inhabitants of Hades (the invisible or
lower world) are intended, whom God will cause to come up upon the

Dr. Mason gives translations of many of their moral precepts in
reference to love to God, prayer, idolatry, filial piety, love to
enemies, with admonitions against murder, robbery, adultery, false
swearing, &c., which are identical with the precepts derived from the
Scriptures, from which we quote the following:--

_Precepts--Love to God_--"O children and grandchildren! love God, and
never so much as mention his name; for, by speaking his name, He goes
farther and farther from us."

_Repentance and Prayer_--"O children and grandchildren! if we repent of
our sins, and cease to do evil, restraining our passions, and pray to
God, He will have mercy upon us again. If God does not have mercy upon
us there is no other one that can. He who saves us is the only one God."

_Idolatry_--"O children and grandchildren! do not worship idols or
priests; if you worship them you obtain no advantage thereby, and
increase your sins exceedingly."

_Giving Alms_--"O children and grandchildren! give food and drink to the
poor; and, by so doing, you will obtain mercy yourselves."

It will be found that many of the most prominent incidents in the Bible
have been paralleled by traditions which have been asserted to exist
among various nations, and which have often been brought forward in
proof of certain conclusions, such as the universality of the deluge,
and the unity of the human race.

In this instance they are adduced in support of a much less important
hypothesis, and if there was a possibility of sifting these traditions,
it would probably be found that they are not so ancient as they are
supposed to be; since, among nations without a written language, the
origin of anything is very soon forgotten.

Some argue that as the imaginations of the Karens are uninventive, the
few traditions of antiquity that they possess have been remembered more
faithfully, handed down more or less intact, and are therefore more
reliable, and "conservation," as remarked by Mr. Logan, "is the most
powerful principle in isolated and exclusive communities. The sole form
of nationality in lower ethnic stages."[174]

But as all rude nations, like children, have a tendency to re-echo
stories that have made a vivid impression on their imaginations, it is
possible that some of the tales that have been registered as ancient
traditions do not really go back so very far.

For, as some writers suggest, they may have been simply mythical
accounts of common local events, such as a great flood, a revolution and
consequent dispersion of the weak by the strong. Independent natural
beliefs, and sheer accident, may further have contributed to those
resemblances in tradition which are so much relied on.

The history of the Baptist Mission in Burmah teaches us, say others,
that a period of twenty years elapsed between the first arrival of
Protestant Missionaries, and those who devoted themselves to the study
of the Karen language, and that, as in this interim, the Missionaries
appear to have been almost entirely dependent on Burmese interpreters in
their communications with the Karens, and the accounts received from
this source are more or less untrustworthy; for, they argue, the Burman
from his proneness to involuntary exaggeration, and his natural
politeness which induces him to accommodate his information to what he
knows to be the desires of the recipients, is not as a general rule to
be relied on in matters of this kind. For granted that he be honest as
the sun, say they, it may happen that expecting or wishing to find
legends of which he is in search, he may jump too rapidly to
conclusions, on finding certain accidental resemblances, and by leading
questions, obtain what are said to be traditions.

While agreeing in the main with this estimate of Burman character, we
have every reason to rely on the tact and discretion of the earnest and
thoughtful men who first gave attention to this subject, as well as to
believe that the unquestionable honesty that characterises them would
have prompted them to modify their previous statements, if subsequent
inquiry suggested such a course.

Sympathizing as we do with the missionaries, these remarks will not, we
trust, be interpreted into a captious spirit on our part. We confess it
would give us much pleasure to be convinced of the authenticity of the
various traditions, the importance of which in an ethnological sense, if
in no other, are apparent; but the more valid the conclusions sought to
be arrived at, the more desirable it is that they should be supported by
unquestionable testimony, hence we acknowledge the propriety of
proceeding with reasonable caution before accepting as evidence,
traditions which may have only a fanciful resemblance to well-known
events to recommend them.

The Karens, say the elders, through carelessness lost their books, and
with their books they lost their knowledge of God, and, consequently,
deteriorated socially as well as morally.

Degraded, however, as they were destined to become, a hope was held out
to them of deliverance, if they were not enticed away by false prophets,
who were to arise and endeavour to deceive many before the Word of God
should come to them.

These traditions teach them that "God created man holy like himself, but
that man fell from his state of holiness into a state of sin and misery,
by eating the forbidden fruit through the temptation of Satan, but that
God has promised to restore man to his favour."[175]

This knowledge, or Word of God, they were further taught to believe, was
in the possession of the white foreigners, who would come from the West,
and the faithful were therefore exhorted to look towards the ocean for
their saviours.

That a nation, oppressed as the Karens have been, should have traditions
promising deliverance from their oppressors, is perfectly natural, and
if the story regarding the advent of the white foreigners be genuine,
the coincidence with similar stories in China, Siam, and Mexico, is, to
say the least, very remarkable.

We may here embody a few extracts from an unpublished address to the
Governor-General of India, written by San-Quala, exhibiting the
anticipations of the Karens on this subject.

"Great Ruler! The ancestors of the Karens charged their posterity

"Children and grandchildren! if the thing come by land, weep; if by
water, laugh; it will not come in our days but it will in yours. If it
come first by water, you will be able to take breath; but if first by
land, you will not find a spot to dwell in. Hence, when the Karens were
in the midst of their intense sufferings, they longed for those that
were to come by water, to come first.

"Again, the Elders said, when the Karens have cleared the Hornbill
city[176] three times, happiness will arrive. So when the Burman rulers
made them clear it the last time, they said among themselves, 'Now we
may suppose that happiness is coming, for this completes the third time
of clearing the Hornbill city;' and true enough, before they had
finished, we heard that the white foreigners had taken Rangoon.

"After this, we heard that the foreigners had taken possession (of
Tavoy) and that those who wished to go to the city had liberty. Then the
Karens rejoiced and said, 'Now happiness has arrived. The thing has come
by water, now we can take breath;' and those that were concealed
returned to their homes with their wives and little ones."

On looking at the white foreigners, he was reminded of the words of
their prophets, who sang:--

"The sons of God, the white foreigners, Dress in shining black and
shining white, The white foreigners, the children of God, Dress in
shining black and shining red."

"We had never seen white foreigners before; but we had heard the Elders
say, 'as to the white foreigners they are righteous. They were the
guides of God anciently, so God blessed them, and they sailed in ships
and cutters and came across oceans and lands."

The Elders further sang:--

"The sons of God, the white foreigner, Obtained the Word of God; The
white foreigners, the children of God, Obtained the Word of God

Before the arrival of the white foreigners a prophet singing, said:--

"Great Mother comes by sea, Comes with purifying water, the head water,
The teacher comes from the horizon, He comes to teach the little ones."

Hence not a few of the Karens believed.

They Mexicans believe that the Bible the "white people have was once
theirs, that while they had it they prospered exceedingly, but that the
white people bought it of them and learnt many things from it, while the
Indians lost their credit, offended the Great Spirit, and suffered
exceedingly from the neighbouring nations."[177]

Again, we find them Dr. Mason, that when Gutslaff, the first Protestant
missionary to Siam, reached Bangkok, his appearance "spread a general
panic, as it was well known from the predictions of the Pali books, that
a certain religion of the West would vanquish Buddhism."[178]

And "Buddhism," he goes on to say, "was introduced into China in the
first century, because the Emperor dreamed that the 'Holy One, of whom
the ancient native odes had made mention, was born in the West,' and the
messengers that he sent in search of him, first met with Buddhist
priests, where they ought to have found Christian missionaries."

This assertion is identical with the account embodied in Schlegel's
"Philosophy of History," from which we learn "that the Chinese so
vividly expected the Messiah's advent, the Great Saint, who, as
Confucius state, was to appear in the West, that about sixty years after
the birth of our Saviour, they sent their envoys to hail their expected

These envoys encountered on their way the missionaries of Buddhism
coming from India; the latter announcing an incarnate God was taken to
be the disciples of the true Christ, and were presented as such to their
countrymen by the deluded ambassadors."[179]

This story, says Mr. Beale, is without foundation in Buddhist records,
and in reference to the Emperor's vision, he remarks that "there appears
to be no authority for the explanation given by the early Christian
missionaries that its interpretation was connected with the supposed
saying of Confucius, that the 'Holy man is in the West.'"[180]

Be this as it may, and leaving it an open question as to the origin of
the Karen tradition, it served with other articles of belief among them,
to prepare the people to accept the truths of Christianity without that
suspicion which is so characteristic of the race, in regard to other
innovations which have been introduced among them, and has mainly helped
to place the Karen Mission in the high place it deservedly fills.

This mission field is worthy of large sympathy, inasmuch as the people
themselves support their numerous native evangelists and teachers, build
their own chapels and schools, and also subscribe towards the general
expenses of the mission.

Many of these who, within the last quarter of a century, and less, have
been reclaimed from savage barbarism, now live as quiet industrious
people, anxious for improvement.

Christianity has indeed wrought a vat change in the habits, the
feelings, and the hearts of the Karens, for in many of the villages
where strangers dared not enter while the people were engaged in
sacrificing to the demons, or in other heathenist rites; the chapel bell
or gong now daily tolls a glad welcome to all comers to join in prayer
and praise to the living God.

Christianity has made rapid strides wherever it has been firmly
established, radiating towards all points and achieving such marvellous
success as to cause the Karen Mission to be recognised as one of the
most important and the most interesting in the world, and gives promise
that before many ears, the hideous demons of superstition, mistrust, and
ignorance will be banished by its efforts, and allow the glorious
tidings brought the Karens, to sink as deeply in the heart of the
nation, as was the case with our own ancestors when they received the
same message from St. Augustine.

In this rough sketch we have necessarily given a prominent place to the
work of the American Baptist Missionaries, who were the pioneers in this
noble work, and who, as it were, have borne "the burden and heat of the
day;" but we do not the less appreciate the zeal and devotion with which
the Roman Catholic Missionaries followed in their footsteps in promoting
the cause of civilisation and religious enlightenment among the Karens
in many parts of the country, which before were steeped in ignorance and

These earnest and worthy men, who carry out their appointed work in the
most secluded places, with a self-denial truly surprising, convey to our
minds in that respect the apostolic idea to a greater degree than
missionaries of any other persuasion.

We have purposely resisted the temptation of adverting to the rise and
progress of Christianity among the Burmese, in which the exertions of
Roman Catholic Missionaries deservedly hold a prominent place, as it is
manifestly beyond the scope of this work.

[ Illustration--Toungoo View of Karen Settlement ]


Two hundred miles or so to the north-east of the flourishing city of
Rangoon, lies the small town of Toungoo, which, from its inaccessibility
some years ago, enjoyed the unenviable distinction of being farther
away, in point of time, from the General Post Office of London than any
other place in British possessions having postal communication.

It is still known in official records under its old Pali designation of
_ketumati_, i.e., "possessed of the Royal Standard," but more generally
as Toungoo on _promontorium_; a name, however appropriate to the ancient
capital of Zeyawatana, is singularly inapplicable to the present town
which is situated on a plain.

Toungoo, which derives its only importance now from being the
head-quarters of the frontier district of the same name, was celebrated
a century or more ago as the royal residence of a line of kings who
extended their conquests over Pegu, Burmah proper, Arakan, and Siam.

Insignificant as it now is, history teaches us that, in the beginning of
the 16th century, it was the royal residence of a Sovereign who extended
his conquest over Ava, Mogoung, Zuninay, the west of Yunan, and other
adjoining states, in remembrance of whose glorious achievements, the
title of _Htsen-byn-mya-shin_, or "Lord of many White Elephants," by
which he was known is, to this day, retained by the Kings of Burmah, and
the splendour of whose court made Pegu famous in Europe, as an empire of
fabulous magnificence, and went far to bear out the title of Aurea
Chersonesus, bestowed on this part of the world by the ancients.

The ruins of the ancient city walls and fosse, five miles in
circumference, the golden palace, and royal lakes, constructed at the
behest of its despotic rulers, by the enforced labour of thousands,
still exist; but little vestige of their former glory remains to tell
the tale.

Although its ancient glories have departed, it is, nevertheless, the
centre of a district eminently interesting to the ethnologist and
philologist, as well as to the lover of botany and geology; and, as many
of the least known tribes of whom we are about to write, have their
habitat therein, a short description thereof seems desirable.


The district of Toungoo is bounded on the north by Burmah proper, from
which it is dived by a line of pillars; on the east by lofty mountains
known as the Watershed, between the Salwen and Sittang rivers; on the
south by the _Show-gyen_ and Rangoon districts respectively and on the
west by the Pegu Yoma range. It comprises four townships and twenty-five

The district is of very irregular shape. Its greatest length is on the
west, extending over 150 miles. It varies much in breadth. Between 18
and 19 30 lat., it is of an almost uniform width of about 82 miles,
and for all practical purposes may be said to be divided by the river
Sittang; it then suddenly contracts to nearly half that breadth for
about twenty miles, having the Sittang at its boundary on the east.

The surface of the country is most varied, but is chiefly hilly. Right
through the centre of the upper portion of the district, and to east of
the middle portion, runs the alluvial valley of the Sittang. It is
hemmed in to the east of the river by the innumerable spurs of the
Poungloung Mountains, and has an average breadth of not more than five
miles, while on the west it stretches a distance of some twenty miles,
till it reaches the Yoma range, or is intercepted here and there by
offshoots therefrom.

This valley contains the only champaign land in the district. It is more
or less cultivable, and many parts are well adapted for rice and other
cereals, as well as for miscellaneous cultivation.

The Sittang river, rising near Yeme, then flows generally in a southern
direction through the district, but its tortuous course, not inaptly
likened to the writhings of a wounded snake, frequently deviates to
every point in the compass in a distance of a few miles. In the monsoon
it rises from 18 to 24 feet, and is then navigable for steamers of
considerable draught. It has several affluents, insignificant when
compared with the parent river, but important inasmuch as they develope
the natural resources the district possesses in its valuable teak
forests and other products.

The largest of these streams is _Thouk-yay-gat_, which rises in latitude
19 28 on the great Watershed between which and the Poungloung ranges
it flows southwards for some miles; and then, taking a western course,
empties its waters into the Sittang about five miles below Toungoo.

Fed as it is by numerous perennial streams flowing from their
inexhaustible reservoirs in the mountains, it is comparatively little
affected by the extreme draught in the hote weather, and its waters are
always clear, cook and refreshing.

It derives its present name from a King of Pagan having drunk water from
it, and originally bore the romantic appellation of "emerald stream,"
from the greenish hue of its waters. It is an outlet for a considerable
quantity of teak (_opea odorata_), canes, mats, bamboos, seassamum, &c.

There are three mountain ranges in the district running parallel to each
other, and the Sittang river. The Pegu Yomas, the Poungloung, and the
Great Watershed.

The Yomas, although from their geographical position better known that
the other two, look dwarfed when compared with the Poungloung range
within a few miles to the east of the river, but both sink into
significance before the Great Watershed mountains, looming in all their
massive grandeur fifty miles to the east, with glorious "Nattoung,"
their captain, a very "Triton amongst minnows," proudly lifting up his
bald and hoary head 8,000 feet above the sea, and towering above a
succession of smaller ranges of every conceivable size and shape, that
lie between himself and his big brethren to the north and the Poung Wung

There is much valuable timber in the district; the produce of the teak
forests forming an important item of revenue.

They are situated for the most part on the mountain ranges to the east
and west, or on their spurs: the richest both in quality and quantity
having their habitat to the west. The area covered by teak forests may
be roughly estimated at 300 square miles.

The Yoma range, according to the geological note in William's map of
Pegu, is composed of brown or grey slate clay, with thin layers of
bituminous limestone, containing fossil ostraceous remains, frequently
alternating with, and entering into, beds of argillaceous sandstone,
generally soft and friable, although stiff and hard in places. In the
higher ranges the sandstone is indurated, and assumes a basaltic
character. Resting on and overlaying the slate clay and sandstone, and
folding round the base of the high hills, is a base of laterite.

"On leaving the alluvial lands of the river," says Dr. Mason, "and
proceeding east, the first high land met is found to be formed of beds
of laterite; going farther eastward, limestone appears, and beyond that,
slate and sandy shales; but their precise condition with the limestone
has not been noted. The limestone is supposed to be above the slate.
Beyond the slate, granite rocks appear, and are found continuously to
_'Nattoung;'_ but in the valley of the Salwen, north of Nattoung, all
the rocks that show themselves are limestone, forming high hills and
grotesque crags, like the limestone in the valley above _Moulmein_, and
seem to be of the same age."

The valley of the Sittang is almost exclusively occupied by Burmese
villages; the agriculturists having their habitations near their fields,
while the banks of the river and streams are chosen by those whose
occupations are various.

The bold and rugged heights of the granite mountains to the east, the
slopes of the _Yoma_ range, or the deep gorges that form the beds of
perennial streams, are adopted by the Karens for their dwelling-places.


_Toungoo_, or the capital of the ancient kingdom of _Zeyawatana_, from
which the present town derives its name, is of great antiquity.

Three separate histories, written in Burmese on palm leaves, for which
we were indebted to the courtesy of some learned monks, who placed their
libraries at our disposal, agree in stating that _Dumma-Athawka_, or the
Great _Asoka_, Emperor of Hindustan, sent for the Chiefs of Toungoo, in
the year 326 B.C., and, on their presenting themselves before him five
years afterwards, gave them certain sacred relics of _Gaudama_, the last
Buddha, instructing them at the same time to enshrine them in temples,
which were to be built and completed during an eclipse of the moon,
which occurred soon afterwards. Materials and workmen were accordingly
in readiness at the appointed time, and determining to carry out Asoka's
instructions to the letter, the chiefs contented themselves with
building four miniature pagodas, so as to have them finished before the
shadow had left the moon's surface. Two of these, called
_Kyouk-souk-mok-tau_, were erected in a place about twenty miles to the
west of Toungoo; and two others, called _Myat-saw-nyee-noung_, near our

Prior to Asoka's alleged mission, and for some fifteen centuries
afterwards, the palm-leaf records are blank, and we are led to infer
that the country fell into great decay, and that when
_Nara-pudee-thee-thoo_, the King of _Pagan_, having heard of these
little pagodas, came to worship them in 1191 A.D., he found the country
a wilderness, and the pagodas in ruins. He accordingly repaired the
latter, and made them thirty cubits in height; and considering the
country a fine one, and easily developed, he appointed _Nandathoorya_, a
favourite minister, its governor.

After this event, the Burmese chronicles afford more or less authentic
intelligence of its history till the occupation by the English.

_Nandathoorya_ soon after died, and was succeeded by his son
_Menhla-saw_, of whom there is nothing particular on record.

His son, _Thawonletya_, removed his residence on the left banks of _Swa
Khoung_, about twenty-five miles north of Toungoo. Population increased,
and the country continued very prosperous till 1256, A.D., when
_Wariru_, King of Martaban, attacked the city, took the governor
captive, and placed him in a village called _Byoo_, about fourteen miles
south of Show-gyen.

_Thawonletya_ had two sons, _Thawongyee_ and _Thawongnay_. When he was
very old, he enjoined them, after his death, not to remain in the
Talaing kingdom, but to proceed to _Zeyawatana_, and build a city on
ruins they would find on a large affluent of the Sittang, like the
Sittang itself. They ascended the river in 1278 A.D., and mistaking
their father's directions, went up the _Kaboung_ stream instead of the
_Swa_, and finding the ruins of a town near its source on the spur of a
mountain, built a town, which they called Toungoo, afterwards Little
Toungoo, 1279 A.D.

As there was little room there for a large city, they went over to Karen
Myo, or Karen town, founded, according to some authorities, by a Burman
nicknamed _Karenba_, or Karen's father, because, having lost his own
children, he had adopted a Karen child, but who, Dr. Mason states, was
undoubtedly a Karen. The two brothers and _Karenba_ made a treaty of
friendship, and searching the country for a suitable place, pitched on
Great Toungoo, or _Dinyawadee_, which was built 1299 A.D.

According to this treaty _Thawongyee_ became king, _Thawongnay_ heir
apparent, and _Karenba_ prime minister. _Thawongnay_ had his brother
murdered when on a pilgrimage to some pagodas on the Sittang river, 1317
A.D., and the place where he was killed is to this day called
_Noung-byin-seik_. He then usurped the Government, and died of fever
after a seven years' reign. He left an infant son, whose mother
conspired to kill _Karenba_, fearing he would kill her child. The latter
finding out her schemes, killed her as well as her child, and ruled till
1342 A.D., when he died. He was succeeded by his son-in-law, whose
younger brother wrested the Government from him after he had reigned two
years, and he in turn was deposed after a reign of two years by

_Theimaka_ had no royal blood in his veins, but was chosen as
_Karenba's_ prime minister on account of his great abilities. On his
accession he sent ambassadors to Ava, Pegu, Siam, and other countries
with presents, and having ensured their goodwill by these means, his own
country enjoyed tranquility for the 17 years of his reign. He died in
1363 A.D. His son _Pyau-Khyee-gyee_, who was then on a visit to the King
of Pegu, came up at once and succeeded him. He is described as very
pious. He, however, gave offence to the Kings of Prome and Ava on
account of his entering into a treaty of friendship with the King of
Pegu. At first they intended to attack him, but finding he was
reinforced by 3,000 men from Pegu they resorted to stratagem on coming
to the conclusion that they were not strong enough to conquer him.
Accordingly, they sent ambassadors with a friendly letter suggesting
that arrangements might be made to join all the three kingdoms together,
making him emperor, and with an invitation for him to go to Prome to
arrange for a marriage between his son and the King of Prome's daughter.
He went to Prome accordingly, but was treacherously waylaid and murdered
by the King of Prome's people. His son _Pyau-Khyee-gnay_ and his
son-in-law escaped to Toungoo, where they found that _Nga-Tsein_ (who
had been appointed regent) had usurped the throne. They won over the
people of Toungoo to their interests three months after their return,
and caused _Nga-Tsein_ to be killed. _Pyau-Khyee-gnay_ began to reign
1370 A.D., and was succeeded by his brother-in-law _Tsokaday_. Tsokaday
was at war with all the neighbouring kings, and on bad terms with his
own subjects. He was slain by _Phoungyee_, who proclaimed himself king
in 1378 A.D.

_Phoungyee_ entered into treaties with the Kings of Ava and Pegu. The
arts prospered in his peaceful reign, and an impetus was given to works
of public utility. Soon after his accession he started with the
intention of paying a visit to the king of Ava, but had only gone part
of the way when he heard from his queen, whom he had left behind as his
_locum tenens_, that his Shan subjects had rebelled. He accordingly at
once returned and caused the Shans to be massacred. He died 1392 A.D.,
and was succeeded by his son. The latter had only enjoyed the throne a
year when, in some unaccountable way, the King of Ava, taking advantage
of his youth, appointed _Nay-mee_ King of Toungoo, who reigned ten
years, and was succeeded in 1403 A.D. by Prince _Goungyee_.

His first act on assuming the reins of Government was to have some Shans
massacred. The reason of this severity is not recorded. He reigned
judiciously at first, and the country and arts prospered; but when he
grew old and childish the people, fearing he would not be able to cope
with the Talaings and other neighbours, deposed him and appointed
_Thenkaya_ king in 1406 A.D. The latter reigned four years, and was
succeeded by his son and namesake in 1410 A.D. He was murdered by the
Shans in 1411.

The Prince of Padoung succeeded _Thenkaya_, whether by the suffrages of
the people or by usurpation on his part is not stated. He was noted for
his wisdom and charitable disposition. He paid a visit to the King of
Ava according to promise, and was so annoyed with the want of respect
shown to him on his reception, that on returning to Toungoo he declared
war with that king, and conquered several of his tributary states in
1418. He also made an alliance with the King of Pegu, to whom he gave
his daughter in marriage, and with an army of 20,000 foot, 1,000
horsemen, and 200 elephants, marched on Prome. The King of Pegu made a
diversion in his favour by the Irrawaddy with 5,000 men in 700 boats.
They took Prome and carried off much booty, amongst which was a white
elephant, which, in some unaccountable way, they lost again. He died in
1427 from illness contracted out hunting after he had reigned 15 years.

The succeeding 30 years formed an uneventful period in the history of
Toungoo; but, in 1458, we find that the King of Ava appointed
_Zeyathora_, the governor of _Toungdwen_, as king, without prejudice to
his former appointment; but distrusting him after he had reigned seven
years, appointed the _Meaday_ Prince, _Zayathengyau_, as his successor
in 1465; but on the occasion of his death, some time afterwards,
_Zayathengyau_ threw off his allegiance to the throne of Ava. On this
the then reigning sovereign sent an army consisting of eight regiments
of foot, numbering 7,000 men, 6,000 cavalry, and 3,000 elephants, under
the command of the heir apparent, to compel the King of Toungoo's
homage. The latter sought and obtained help from the King of Pegu; but
in a pitched battle fought on the banks of the Kaboung creek, the allied
forces were worsted and the Toungoo king taken prisoner. He was taken
captive to Ava, subsequently pardoned and entrusted with the Government
of two districts tributary to Ava.

_Zaythoo Kyawden_ was proclaimed King of Toungoo in 1470. There is
nothing to mark his reign. He was succeeded by his son in 1485, who was
killed by _Mengyeenyo_, for failing in his promise of marrying his

_Mengyeenyo_ usurped the Government, and acquitted himself so well, that
the Kings of Pegu and Siam acknowledged his authority by sending him
presents. He built the town of _Dwyawaddie_, now known as _Myo-gyee_,
one of the present suburbs of Toungoo.

Owing to aggressions on the Talaing frontier, the King of Pegu sent an
army against _Mengyeenyo_, which the latter signally defeated, and
afterwards took the war into the enemy's country, achieving a brilliant
victory over the Talaings. For this service the King of Ava gave him the
title of _Zeyathoora_. He then threw off all show of allegiance to the
King of Ava; and when the latter sent an army against him, he defeated
it in three successive battles, and cut off the commander's head.

_Zeyathoora_ built _Ketumati_, the present city of Toungoo, in 1510;
48,000 persons were employed in its construction. He also erected a
splendid palace inside the walls, the ruins of which are now visible,
and converted loathsome swamps into four ornamental lakes. Shortly after
the city was built, Naraputi, King of Ava, assisted by a Shan _Tsawba_,
or Chief, made war on Toungoo, which was, however, so successfully
defended by its king, that he completely routed the Burmese army.
Zeyathoora died A.D. 1530, at the age of 72, after a reign of 46 years.

He was succeeded by his son, _Mentara Show Htee_. This king invaded
Pegu three times to no purpose, but was successful in his fourth attempt
in 1537, when he conquered the country. The King of Pegu fled to his
brother-in-law, the King of Prome, who obtained promises of aid from the
King of Ava, the Shan States, and the King of Arakan (or Arracan).

Nothing daunted, _Mentara Show Htee_ attacked the King of Prome, and
having utterly routed him, took possession of his territory in 1541. He
also conquered Arakan in 1545; and flushed with success, it is said, he
also had the temerity to attack and conquer Siam in 1548, and only
refrained from annexing Ava and the Shan States because their rulers
promised him allegiance. He died in 1549, after which the Peguans had a
king of their own for some time. Before his death, on the occasion of
his departure for Pegu, he gave the government of Toungoo to a Shan, who
ruled wisely and well, and was beloved by his people. This Shan was
succeeded by his younger son, _Theehathoo_, in 1548.

The elder son, _Hsen-mya-byoo Thin_, then at Pegu, wrested the
government from his brother. After reigning two years, and having
conquered Prome and Pegu, he removed to the latter, having left his
brother as ruler of Toungoo. Before obtaining Toungoo, it should be
stated, he built the fortified town of Zeyawaddie, about 31 miles south
of Toungoo, the ruins of which are now to be seen. He was called "Lord
of many white elephants" (a title still retained by the King of Burmah),
from having captured three white elephants when he conquered Siam. He
died in 1584, and was succeeded by his son, who entered into a treaty of
friendship with the King of Arakan in 1598. After his uncle's death he
threw off all allegiance to the Talaings, and invaded Pegu. The heir
apparent of Pegu placed himself under his protection, and as the kings
on both sides were near relations, matters were amicably settled, the
Toungoo king being acknowledged ruler over the Talaing kingdom as well
as Toungoo, and the Talaing king taking up his residence at Toungoo.

In 1599, the King of Siam made a diversion in favour of the King of
Pegu, by surrounding the town of Toungoo with his troops; but not being
able to effect an entrance, he was obliged to retreat in 1600 A.D. After
this, the heir apparent had the Pegu king murdered, lest the Siamese
king might think it worth his while to attack Toungoo again on his

In 1602 this prince rebuilt the palace erected by _Zeyathoora_, and
beautified it. He also designed the islands in the lakes, and in the
same year built the _Show Tsan Daw_ pagoda. He died in 1606, and was
succeeded by his son.

Soon after the accession of the latter Toungoo was invaded by the King
of Ava and the Toungoo king, having ignominiously shown the white
feather, was obliged to submit to his wishes, having his brother and
other relatives taken from him and placed in _Penya_ in the year 1607.

After this, the Toungoo prince sent letters to the Siriam ruler, Phillip
de Buto, to come and take Toungoo. The later did as he was requested,
and carried away the Toungoo king as a prisoner to Siriam in 1621. The
same year the King of Ava attacked Siriam, killed Phillip de Buto, the
King of Toungoo, and others, and took away several of their followers to

_Nat Shin Noung_ was the last king of Toungoo. after his death, a
comparatively unimportant official, with the title of _Abaya Kamanee_,
looked after the affairs of Toungoo till 1637 A.D., when the first
governor was appointed from Ava.

From that time, Toungoo continued a dependency of Ava till the British
took the town in 1853. _Moung Show Tsee_, the newly appointed governor,
made his escape before the British troops entered the place.

Edward O'Riley, Esq., was the first Deputy Commissioner of Toungoo.


SOME forty miles, as the crow flies, south-east of the ancient city of
Toungoo, and at the extreme southern limit of a chain of lofty
mountains, which serve as the watershed of the valleys of the Salwen and
Sittang rivers, is the notable peak of Nattoung, or "Demon Mount,"
famous in mythological story.

This splendid range which though comparatively so near, was in the hot
weather completely hidden by the smoke of the countless jungle fires
that mark the sites where the Karens pursue their wasteful system of
husbandry. But in every break of the South West Monsoon, it stood out in
massive grandeur, and culminating in its sublime beauty when the rains
had cleared away, invited us, as it were, to visit it; so it was with
many pleasurable anticipations we made arrangements for a trip thereto.

Accordingly, on a beautiful morning in January, 1868, accompanied by two
friends, we set out on our journey.

An hour after crossing the river we arrived at the Seven Pagodas, well
known to English residents as a pleasant place for picnics and
interesting to pious Buddhists, as noticed in our chapter on the history
of Toungoo.

After leaving the village the road was excellent for more than half the
way to our destination, but afterwards more rugged and difficult owing
to its following the rocky beds of two or three affluents of the
_Thouk-yay-gat_ stream, or to being blocked up by huge trunks of fallen
trees, denizens of the primeval forests we were traversing.

One of our companions was in his glory in these magnificent forests, and
enhanced our appreciation of his social qualities by giving us an
immense amount of information in regard to the flora and rest of the
vegetable world around us, in an easy and popular way. The least
observant, however, without the guidance of such an excellent cicerone,
could hardly fail to be astonished at the variety of plants that met our
gaze. Nature is indeed lavish of her bounties to this and other
evergreen forests in the hills, but it would be impossible to give an
idea of their great interest to the botanical world, without trespassing
longer on the patience of our readers than is intended by these
recollections. Suffice it to say we were charmed with the novelty of the
scene, still the first open glade we came to, struck us with its calm
beauty more than anything else seen during our trip. For, fully
impressed as we afterwards were with the beautiful scenery to be met
with all over the eastern portion of the district, admitting to the full
the sublime grandeur of the view from the summit of glorious _Nattoung_,
that rears his hoary head eight thousand feet above the sea, marking the
limit of British supremacy to the far east, and accustomed to the
imposing forms and variety of colour that nature assumes in eastern
climes, we unanimously confessed that the scenery of the _Thouk-yay-gat_
stream near Paylawa, especially at the point we first struck it, was
without exception the loveliest we had seen in this country.

This beautiful _Thouk-yay-gat_ rushing with a swift ripple over the
sandy shoals, and anon madly forcing its way through massive granite
boulders, assuming the many fantastic shapes that only a mountain stream
can boast of, and here and there forming for itself angry little
whirlpools, or tranquil basins where the fish securely swam, stood out
in bold relief from a background of luxuriant vegetation of every
conceivable form and colour, enchanted us with a scene that reminded us
of our own beloved bland. At first it was our intention to go on at once
to _Bawgalay_, which is only a short march; partly, however, as both we
and our followers were fatigued from our journey of the previous day,
and partly because the Karens at _Bawgalay_ are strict Sabbatarians,
whose prejudices we did not care to offend by marching on Sunday, but
chiefly, it must be confessed, so enchanted were we with the "emerald
stream"--the old name for the _Thouk-yay-gat_, that orders were given
for a halt, although the elephants were nearly loaded.

Fishing rods were jointed instanter, and after an earnest consultation
as to the most taking form and colour, flies were adjusted and the work
of whipping the stream began in earnest, but though we diligently tried
every likely spot, we unfortunately succeeded in catching nothing bigger
than sprats.

Romantically situated as our locality was, having our lodging in a
little hut near the margin of the stream, the stern reality of noxious
odours in the vicinity, incompatible with nature as she ought to be in
such a rural spot, was at once apparent when we betook ourselves to the
place prepared for us, which being in close proximity to a temporary
bazaar held in the dry weather (at which the mountain Karens dispose of
tassamum and other products to Burmese traders), was anything but
pleasant. These, however, were slight evils when other advantages of the
place were taken into consideration; and after refreshing ourselves with
a swim in the clear pool in front of our camp, to the astonishment of
the Karens, we were quite ready to appreciate dinner, and to sleep
soundly afterwards, not even dreaming of the herds of wild elephants
which occasionally take possession of these hills and glens, and
remaining for weeks, render the travelling dangerous.[181] Immediately
on leaving _Paylawa_, we had practical experience of the perversity of
the Karen mind in making hill roads. It was aggravating to notice that
had the ridgway of easy incline existing between _Paylawa_ and
_Bawgalay_ been made use of in the way that common sense points out,
there would be little difficulty in making a good road for ponies and
ordinary pedestrians, instead of taking the path right up the face of
the hills and straight down the opposite incline, necessitating one to
be sound in wind and limb to walk up them with any comfort. It was
decided as cruel to make our ponies carry us up the steep places, so we
manfully tackled the difficulty on foot, and thanks to the thermometer
standing at 50, were able to overcome it successfully, occasionally
taking advantage of a bend in the road to admire the view, and also to
rest our lungs, which were not in that sate of perfection which
subsequent use made them.

Just before reaching _Bawgalay_ we were met by the Actuary _Nakhan_, or
extra Assistant Commissioner, and shortly afterwards were received by a
deputation of the village elders, with their native pastor at their
head, all of whom seemed glad to see us. The Karens kindly placed their
chapel, a neatly shingled wooden building, commanding a glorious view,
at our disposal, and some of the church property also, including the
minister's desk and chair, were made to serve our comfort.

A bath-room, as well as places for our servants, had also thoughtfully
been built, and on our expressing a wish to perform our ablutions, a
troop of women and girls immediately started off to draw water for us.
Each woman carried five or six buckets made from single joints of the
_Bambusa gigantea_, which ranges in size from twenty to twenty-four
inches in length, and sometimes as much as thirty inches in

These buckets are slung together on a cord, and carried on the back, the
cord being brought around the forehead of the water carrier, the _tout
ensemble_ being strikingly picturesque.

Just at dusk the minister's chair and desk were held in temporary
requisition for Divine Service, to which the people were summoned by the
chapel gong. Soon after about fifty of the villagers came in and sat on
the floor amid profound silence. The service commenced with a hymn, in
which all the congregation joined, an extempore prayer delivered by the
pastor followed, who after this read a small portion selected from the
New Testament, illustrating his subject by a short lecture. His delivery
was simple and fluent, and judging by his earnest manner, his
exhortations were calculated to do good. The service, which was most
interesting, concluded with the Doxology, rendered by the sweet voices
of the women, and by the partially trained bass notes of the men, in a
way that would have gladdened the heart of many an English vicar.

The missionaries have taken considerable pains to develope the natural
talent for melody that the Karens possess, and some of their
congregations which have had this advantage reflect credit on their
instructors, and produce results both pleasing and effective; while
others having been taught only those old-fashioned refrains which, in
spite of their utter dulness, positive deficiency of melody and
inadaptability of words to music, commend themselves to some persons in
an unaccountable way, involuntarily reminded us of the incongruous
results attending similar eccentric views which not long ago, if not to
the present day, distinguished many a country choir.

"Fortunately for the ears and risibilities of present generation," as a
writer in "Notes and Queries" remarks, "our tunes are now selected with
much greater regard for the proprieties than some thirty or forty years

The more spirited, but not less devotional character of the metres
adapted to the psalmody of the present day, seems to have struck the
keynote of popular sympathy to a degree never accorded to the more
monotonous hymnology of our forefathers, which till obtains among many
well-meaning people, who resent the innovation we allude to as somewhat
unseemly in places of worship.

Instances of abortive attempts to fit in words to these mournful
measures, resulting apparently in lack of genius for adapting music of
the orthodox doleful pattern, will occur to many of our readers.

The "humouring," or constant repetition of syllables and words, which is
such a distinguishing feature of the Irish ballad, owes its origin very
probably to the same causes which led to the adoption of "humouring' in
our hymnology of the past generation; for the more lugubrious an Irish
ballad, the more it is supposed to appeal to the popular sentiment, and
the more monotonous the hymns to which we allude, the more were they
considered adapted to sacred purposes.

Numerous examples might be given both in Karen and English to explain
our meaning, but we shall content ourselves by selecting a few from our
miscellaneous note-book, from "Notes and Queries," and odd corners of
our memory.

For instance, a common metre tune, called "Miles' lane," sung to verse 5
of hymn 126, Book II, by Dr. Watts, produces the following results:--

"And more eggs--more eggs--more exalts our joys."

The simple line "And love thee better than before," when sung to "Job,"
is rendered thus:--

"And love thee Bet, And love thee better than before."

While "Stir up this stupid heart to pray," would be

"Stir up this stu-Stir up this stupid heart to pray."

A writer who signs with the initials B.P.W., notes that he heard a choir
sing the following to the tune of "Aaron," 7s.

"With thy Benny--With thy Benny--With thy Benediction seal."

The same writer declares that the line, "And take thy pilgrim home," was
sung in a fashionable church in London as follows:--

"And take thy pil--And take thy pil--And take thy pilgrim home."

To a writer in the "Quarterly Magazine" for 1862, we are indebted for
cases in point, "My poor polluted heart" being mangled as follows:--

"My poor pol--My poor pol--My poor polluted heart."

But the most ludicrous of all, and the last with which we shall inflict
our readers, is one quoted by S.H.H.:--

"And we will catch the flee--And we will catch the flee--And we will
catch the flee--ee--ing hour."

So soon as the service was over, the people retried, as they came, in a
quiet and orderly manner.

Some of the men, before leaving, were taken apart by the pastor, and
from the earnestness of the latter, we at first believed he was
exhorting some unruly members of the congregation to turn form the error
of their ways; but it turned out that the worthy man was impressing on
our porters the virtue of punctuality, in reference to the arrangement
for the following day. After dinner we were agreeably surprised by a
visit from the pastor's wife and two or three nice intelligent looking
women, who came to get quinine for their children and to have a chat.
Knowing Burmese fairly, they conversed for an hour or so, intelligently
and pleasantly, on a variety of subjects; after which they bade us "good
night, shook hands, and retiree;" leaving us favourably impressed with
their modes and sensible behaviour.

From what we have observed since then, as well as from accounts we have
had from the missionaries, we should say that many of the Karen women
are gifted with more than ordinary mental capacity, as compared with the
women of other eastern races; but their powers, as is the case under
more favourable conditions in civilised countries, are often nullified
by the prejudices against the education of women, and their talents crop
out only when fostered by the culture of the missionaries. It is much to
be regretted that more is not accomplished for the advancement of women
as teachers of the young--her natural vocation; still strenuous efforts
have been made in this direction in Rangoon, Bassein, Toungoo, and other
places, and several young women taught in the mission schools, have, as
wives of village pastors or teachers, done good work. Two of the women
who came to see us were educated by Mrs. Mason at _Toungoo_, while
another for two or three years taught a school in a limestone cave, in
which she and other Christian converts had hidden themselves to escape
persecution. We have seen letters written by some of these female
teachers detailing their experiences among some of the most savage
tribes, which were not only replete with valuable information in
reference to the people in whose territories they consented to exile
themselves, but amply testified to their unselfish devotion.

_Bawgalay_ is situated on a lofty ridge about 3,000 feet above the sea,
and from its vicinity top Toungoo, its freedom from rank vegetation, and
the abundance of sites available for building purposes, is eminently
adapted for a sanatarium, as proposed by Mr. O'Riley.

The results of a comparison between the temperature of _Bawgalay_ and
_Toungoo_, proved that there was an average difference of 10 in favour
of the former at different times of the day during the hot weather.

Thus _Bawgalay_, although hoter than many other places on the hills with
a lower elevation, but more thickly covered with forests, was a decided
advantage over the plains, inasmuch as its airy situation is equivalent
to at least 10 less than the thermometer registers, as regards the
effect on persons who leave the sultry valley of the Sittang, and try a
change of climate therein.

Before the introduction of Christianity, _Bawgalay_ consisted of one
village on the top of the hill, with three or four smaller hamlets
situated in glens or on knolls on the sides of the mountain. In 1855,
the people of these villages were induced by Chief _Pawba_ to come
together and build a large chapel on the mountain summit; but they are
fast disintegrating again, for there are now two or three distinct
hamlets in the old localities, besides the village near the chapel. The
places were formerly much infested by tigers, and the people have a tale
of one having visited the pastor's schoolroom one night, some 12 or 13
years ago, and carried off one of his pupils.

The sides of the mountain were selected by Mr. Leeds, the conservator of
forests, for a chincona plantation, for which they seem well adapted;
for of four plants which were brought here, two of them sickly when they
arrived, two remain, and when last seen were flourishing trees some 15
feet high.

_Bawgalay_ is the best known, if not the most important of the Karen
villages near _Toungoo_, and deserves special notice on this account,
leaving aside the necessity of endeavouring to give a description of the
peculiarities which it shares with other villages built by many of the
Karen tribes.

The so-called villages in this region consist generally of one or two
houses, while in _Bawgalay_ there are three or four. Some of these
houses contain 60 or 70 rooms, each occupied by a separate family, so
that the size of a village is estimated by the number of hearths it
contains. Viewed from a distance, some of them reminded one of Swiss
chalets, especially near pine forests, but the enchantment that distance
lends them, is broken on a nearer view by the dirty tumble-down
appearance which characterises them.

When first seen, they gave us the impression of being very like a
cluster of big rabbit hutches, on rickety poles not thicker than
scarlet-runner sticks, fastened together in the primitive way peculiar
to English school boys, whose building materials are limited and skill
in carpentry defective; the funny corners sticking out here and there
being in perfect keeping with the idea, till it was dispelled by
observing that the passages communicating with the "hutches" were
occupied by men, women, and children, under circumstances that clearly
proved they were used as their habitations.

On a nearer view, we found that the "grand staircase" consisted of a
huge bamboo, cut in notches about a foot apart, convenient enough for
people with bare feet, but at first impracticable to those wearing
boots. Similar steps communicated with the roof, on which the people
spread their cotton, chilies, cocoa nuts, &c., to dry. Pigs, goats, and
other live stock luxuriated in pens below, while the poultry simply
roosted over the heads of the inmates, realizing a state of dirt and
discomfort scarcely conceivable, but which the inhabitants, from habit,
accept as a matter of course.

Both Jupiter and Venus were visible every evening. We were able to
distinguish Jupiter's moons with a glass very clearly, and the Karens,
as well as our Burmese followers, evinced considerable interest in what
to them was a discovery. One or two of the teachers had acquired the
rudiments of astronomy at the mission schools, and could speak on the
subject intelligently. The uneducated, however, do not know much about
it. They believe the sun goes round the earth, but, according to Dr.
Macgowan, they are comparatively far advanced in that they "hold to the
astronomical system of Ptolemy, while adjacent Buddhist nations suppose
the sun, moon, and stars revolve round a great mountain to the north, in
lines parallel to the earth."[182] The Karens do not recognize any
planet except Venus. "When a morning star, she is called the 'star
receiving the morning,' when an evening star, the 'star receiving the
evening;'"[183] while the Burmese admit eight planets, from which the
days of the week have their names, two being devoted to Wednesday.

They also speak of the sun as a planet. Dr. Mason has recorded some
interesting notes on the astronomy of the Karens, in the "Journal of the
Asiatic Society of Bengal," from which we glean that the people have
names for a few of the most prominent constellations. The "Great Bear"
they call an elephant, while the pole star is a mouse crawling into the
elephant's trunk. The Pleiades is termed the "great house," and with a
somewhat similar conceit to the seven daughter of Atlas and Pleione of
Greek mythology, who after death changed into stars, is regarded a
family, consisting originally of seven persons, one of whom has been

The milky-way is known to the southern tribes as the "Paddybin" while
the Bws named it "Bayar street," because the innumerable clusters of
stars therein remind them of the indistinguishable mass of people
generally found in a bazaar.

A shooting star is held to be a "youth-star going to visit a
maiden-star;" a more pleasing, if not more poetical idea, than the Arab
belief, which assumes it to be Azrael's death summons. Possibly the
superstition that exists in some parts of England that shooting stars
are unlucky, may have an eastern origin.

Gold and silver is sure to be found, they say, where another class of
meteors falls to the earth. The latter are supposed to be animals that
produce these precious metals. In common with more enlightened peoples,
the Karens regard the appearance of comets as indicating approaching
war, famine, pestilence, or other public calamity. Our ancestors had a
somewhat similar fancy, for Milton speaks of a comet----

"That fires the length of Orphiuchus huge In the Arctic sky, and from
his horrid hair Shakes pestilence and war." "Paradise Lost," ii.

It is, at any rate, of ancient date, for Shakspeare, in "Richard II,"
tells us that--

"Meteors fright the fixed stars of heaven; The pale-faced moon looks
bloody on the earth, And lean-looked prophets whisper fearful change;
These signs forerun the death or fall of kings."

As the elephants were slow at hill work, we discarded them here in
favour of porters, which we found a much better arrangement.

Our march from _Bawgalay_ was like that of the previous day, the ups and
downs however being decidedly more telling. It was with admiration that
we, puffing and blowing like porpoises, witnessed the agility of the
Karens who, carrying our traps in their peculiar conical baskets, like
huge strawberry pottles, on their backs, went up the steepest hills with
marvellous ease; but our feelings actually amounted to envy, when we
heard one of our Burmese retainers, a dweller in the plains, singing
operatic airs from the "Silver Hill," and other popular dramas at the
top of his voice, apparently as little distressed as the mountaineers.

We passed through three picturesque Karen villages, namely,
_Yaythogyee_,[184] _Kolo_, and _Mondinegalay_, before we reached our
destination at _Mondinegyee_.

All the village pastors, elders, and others met us at a little distance
from their villages, and gave us a hearty welcome, presenting us at the
same time with eggs, plantains, and other marks of their good will.

The greater part of our route now wound along ridges little differing in
the vegetable clothing, being for the most part through "toungyas," or
hill clearings, more or less deserted, and partially overgrown with
bamboos or elephant grass.

_Mondinegyee_, where we arrived early in the afternoon, consists of
three hamlets pleasantly situated half way up a ridge, at an elevation
of about 2,200 feet above the sea, in the middle of very beautiful areca
gardens, famed all over Burmah for the excellent nuts they produce.

From a note with which Dr. Mason has favoured us, we find that _Mondine_
or _Mondinegyee_ was a stirring place some 50 or 60 years ago, when a
Karen from the south came to the village with a single follower; and,
setting up a peculiar system of worship, told the people that in a
little while they would see God come with power. The villagers built a
chapel for him and assembled for singing and prayers every evening. The
doctrines taught by this southerner spread, and he soon counted nearly
the whole of the _Pakus_ and the _Maunepghas_ among his disciples. They
threw off the Burmese yoke, and for four years paid no taxes. The
Burmese sent out troops against them, and a battle was fought in which
200 Burmans were killed, without the loss of a single Karen. The Burmese
eventually prevailed, after sustaining another defeat, and compelled the
Karens to pay tribute.

When the Karens were defeated, the leader of their worship said to his
disciples, "The obstructions are so great that you cannot seek the way
of God now. When you hear of a tiger devouring men on _Nattoung_, or the
arrival of white foreigners below, then know that the Word of God and
your salvation has arrived."

The _Bawgalay_ porters were relieved here, but their old Chief Ld
agreed to stay by us. He proved a good man and true, and we were
indebted to his influence for having the roads, in his jurisdiction,
cleared, and everything well arranged for our comfort and pleasure. Ld
had the reputation of being one of the staunchest pillars of the Baptist
Church, promoted education, and gave his cordial aid to everything
calculated to do good to his countrymen; and, in spite of old age and
its consequent infirmities, and occasional prostration from attacks of
fever, was always cheerful and ready with his help and advice.

He did not object to sporting when it came in his way, judging by the
interest he evinced in matters pertaining to the chase, and ate
_Plomado_, on our return journey, successfully negotiated the purchase
of a dog famed all over the country as an elkhound, for the modest sum
of five rupees, or ten shillings.

The dog, a small piebald cur, with a short tail, not unlike the
"Poonamallee terrier," which the British soldier is wont to manufacture
from pariah dogs for "Griffins" with sporting proclivities, was brought
up for inspection. It was laughable to notice how keenly Ld and his
companions discussed all his points, rubbing down one leg, then another;
now criticising the way the head was put on, then the tail; his muscles,
too, underwent a rigid examination by pressure, particular attention
being paid to his girth. In short, it was a ludicrous caricature of what
takes place in more civilised societies when purchasing a horse.

The parallel was perhaps more perfect, from the fact that Ld
persistently found many faults with the animal before he purchased it,
and declared it to be perfection afterwards.[185]

We left _Mondinegyee_ at sunrise, and in two hours reached the village
of _Sucheden_, situated on the spur of a range over which the road runs
parallel to an extensive valley.

About a mile and a half from_Sucheden_ we came to another hamlet of the
same name, on the banks of a stream which reminded us much of the
_Thouk-yay-gat_ at _Paylawa_, owing to its homelike beauty. With this
difference the _Paylawa_ scenery assumed more of the appearance of the
secluded parts of the Highlands, or Killarney; whereas here, with a
small flight of the imagination, one might fancy himself on the
threshold of an English nobleman's demesne.

Instead of crossing this stream and climbing the ridge behind it, which
is doubtless the hill famed for its rare orchids, described by Dr.
Mason, we made a tour in a south-easterly direction to _Plomado_, which
we reached early in the afternoon. _Plomado_ is a considerable village
consisting of three hamlets such as have already been described,
containing about 60 hearths, and is situated on an eminence in a valley
surrounded by hills, with very fine areca and other gardens in its

Under the Burmese rgime, the people of _Plomado_ had charge of the
passes to the _Yousalen_ valley, and to the Salwen river by Nattoung.
For this service they were exempt from all taxation, on the condition
that they kept watch and ward against attacks on the Burmese territory.

In like manner the Bw Karens in the _Koon-oung_ circle held their lands
under similar tenures for guarding the passes from _Karennee_.

In the evening, when having our usual talk round a roaring fire, our
guides informed us that Christian influences extended only a few miles
further to the east, and as they were doubtful as to how we should be
able to get on in heathen lands, strongly urged us to enlist _Lootoo_,
the pastor of the village community, in our behalf, as he was much
respected, and had much influence.

We acted on their advice, and succeeded so well that, with a little
persuasion, he not only promised to induce his flock to accompany us as
porters to _Nattoung_, but also agreed to join our party, a promise he so
fully carried out as to enhance the pleasure of our journey, and to
induce us afterwards to advise that his earnest co-operation should be
ensured in furthering the scheme of Government to establish a chincona
plantation at _Plomado_.

Two young men have since gone to the _Nilgherries _ to learn how to
cultivate the plant (our guide _Tawdee_ being one), and we trust
_Plomado_ has a brilliant future before it, as we are satisfied that,
owing to the success attending the culture of the chincona plant at
_Bawgalay_, which has not the same advantage as _Plomado_, the
experiment now tried in the latter place will prove a decided success.

Tea and coffee plantations might also be worked there to advantage, if
the people could be induced to take an interest therein.

After passing _Plomado_, we had an opportunity of seeing the Karen hill
country in its virgin state. Immense forests, studded with gigantic
trees of similar character to those met in our first day's march,
attracted the attention; and if anything more was wanted to prove that
we had arrived far from the haunts of men, it was the peculiar wailing
cry of the white-handed _gibbons_, challenging or answering each other
from their inaccessible heights or in the deep woods.

Before arriving at our camping place, we had our first view of the pine
forests, a most refreshing sight in this country.

Of the trees now met with, the following were the most common:--Two
kinds of arboreous _vaccinium_, or bilberryworts; two species of
_eurya_, or wild tea; several oaks, rhododendrons, and a species of
coffee; while a gigantic _mucuna_, or cow-itch, with pods two feet in
length, and not unlike the _entada_ creeper, is occasionally seen. The
trees in these ridges are full of orchids, many of rare kinds.

We now came on _toung-yas_ or hill clearings, differing in character
from those met with in our second and third day's marches. In them we
noticed several species of wild tea and cinnamon trees, and our eyes
were especially gladdened, too, by the sight of two kinds of
raspberries, the common English fern or brake (_plexis aquilina_), as
well as everlasting flowers; the rich, loamy soil, formed from the
disintegration of the superior granites, evidently suiting them

Shortly after passing the most eastern hamlet of _Bookyee_, we ascended
_Thooboo_ ridge, which, owing to the ground being covered with pine
needles, was tedious and difficult; on reaching the summit, however, we
were rewarded for our exertions by obtaining the first view of
_Nattoung_, which had hitherto been shut out by the _Poghaw_ range,
visible from Toungoo.

The march from this point to the "Boulder Station," at the foot of Mount
_Lokho, _ was very interesting. Several European plants now began to
show themselves, among others a species of gentian, several sedges, and
last, but not least in interest to us, two kinds of violets.

We were also fortunate enough to secure capital specimens of that
curious orchid, the "Toungoo Lady's Slipper" (_Cypripedium_). Its flower
is a handsome one, of orange greenish hue, that bears not an inapt
resemblance to a slipper. Just before reaching our destination, the
pines and other alpine forests having been left behind, we again entered
evergreen forests, but of a very different kind to those previously
seen. The _Bucklandia populi folia_, only known hitherto as having its
habitat in the _Himalaya_ and _Khasya_ hills, makes its appearance here;
also a species of maple (_acer_) (European genus), not known to grow in
Burmah till Mr. Kurtz visited these regions in 1868. Tree ferns of
thirty feet in height are not uncommon. Of climbing plants, several
kinds of pepper deserve notice; Mr. Kurtz also talks of a species of
bamboo bearing fruit as big as one's fist. Ferns are common, and all
different from the forests in the lower ranges.

We encamped on the banks of the _Laylo_, a mountain torrent tributary to
the _Yonsalen_ stream, a temporary hut having been built for us under the
shadow of gigantic granite boulders, some forty feet high.

Next morning we ascended _Lokho_, or Wild Palm Mount, so named from the
number of wild palm trees growing thereon. The ascent was rather steep,
but was accomplished in a few minutes over an hour, and after this we
were able to reach the summit of _Nattoung_ in another two hours with
little difficulty.

The splendid view that now met our gaze repaid us for all our trouble.

To the North, _Poghaw_ loomed out in massive grandeur, the foremost of a
line of giants that troop behind him, marking out in bold and
imperishable outline the boundary between the British possessions and
_Karennee_; paying homage, as it were, to glorious Nattoung, which,
although in reality two hundred feet or so lower than _Poghaw_, is to
this day supposed by the Karens to be higher, and in traditionary lore,
both poetical and prose, holds a higher position. On all other sides
there was a grand panorama spread out before us, obscured somewhat by
cloud and fog, but still sublime.

On looking back to the west, the various ranges that gave us so much
trouble to cross, dwarfed into comparative insignificance, and ending
abruptly apparel to high light in the landscape that flashes here and
there, and which we knew to be the Sittang. Beyond this lay the valley
of the same name, studded at intervals with patches of gold, where the
sun caught the rice-fields, still yellow, although the crops had been
taken to the threshing- floor; the whole being bound by the Yoma range.

To the east several ranges were also seen, apparently surpassing in size
and grandeur those to the west, a glimpse of the Salwen river
occasionally relieved the otherwise monotonous aspect of that portion of
the view devoid of water scenery, while to the south lay the beautiful
valleys of the_Yonsalen_ and _Yaw_, bounded on both sides by lofty
mountains, now presenting a deserted appearance, but less than half a
century ago they were most populous. "Nattoung," or "Demon Mount," so
called by the Burmese because it was the reputed dwelling-place of a
powerful _Nat_, or spirit, is also known to them as "_Toung-goung-don_,"
or Bald-headed Mountain, because its head is bare of trees; to the
Karens, as _Thauthie_, meaning "as much as a comb." Dr. Mason says that
the summit when seen from a distance, bears a somewhat striking
resemblance to the little comb a Karen sticks slantingly in the knot of
hair that he twists on his head, but as we had left the mountain before
we had heard the Karen signification, we were unable to judge for

The Karens were almost indignant at being told their favourite mountain
was not the highest, and brought tradition to bear on us in the
endeavour to prove us wrong. Tradition has it that the whole world was
covered with water except a tiny bit of its top, "as much as a comb,"
and only when the waters had somewhat abated, the highest peak of the
chain of mountains to the north appeared sufficiently out of the water
to allow a bird, called by them _Poghaw_ (we forget the English
equivalent), to rest upon it, hence its name.

In the "Toungoo News," published in 1865, Dr. Mason writes, Nattoung
figures in Karen "poetry as a place where the Karens had formerly "gone
in the midst of persecution to worship God; "and as one where God would
appear for their "deliverance. We met with the following lines at "Tavoy
more than a quarter of a century ago, three "hundred miles south of

"God will come and bring the Great Thauthie; "We must worship, both
small and great. "The great Thauthie, God created; "Let us ascend and
worship. "There is a great mountain in the ford; "Can you ascend and
worship God? "There is a great mountain in the way; "Are you able to
ascend and worship God? "You call yourselves the sons of God; "How many
evenings have you ascended to worship God? "You call yourself the
children of God; "How often have you ascended to worship God?"

There is a divine female who dwells on the mountain, whom Dr. Mason
refers to as the "Goddess of Fortune."

She "spends all her time in blessing and cursing." The elders say: "If
she curses the leaves that they may fall, they fall; if she blesses the
young leaves, they sprout. If she curses the trees to die, they die; if
she blesses them to live, they live."

Everything, the Elders say, takes place according to her imprecations.

When the long-armed apes are heard screaming at night, it is said they
scream on account of having heard the imprecations of the goddess Tl,
the name given to this lady. The apes on Thauthie hear her words and
cry, and the language is taken up by all the other apes within hearing,
and is thus passed on from one to another throughout the whole land.

_Thauthie_ or _Nattoung_ has many places on or near its summit suitable
for residences. When we were there, water for drinking purposes was
available within easy distance and is said to be so all the year round.
It is clothed with alpine pasture chiefly consisting of arundinella,
fringed by rather stunted trees packed in dense forests. Among the most
noticeable were a species of pean tree, one or two kinds of oak, three
of _bacinnium_, or wortleberry, two of rhododendron, besides a great
number of plants known in Europe. Nearly all the trees were covered with
beautiful mosses, ferns and orchids. On the roots of some of the trees
we noticed a very curious reddish parasite, something like coral in
appearance, but of a flesh-like substance. Mr. Kurtz calls it

A well-beaten path in an easterly direction, we were informed, led to
the tin mines, noticed in our account of Karennee, as extensively worked
by the Karens. We unfortunately had not time to visit them.

Our followers having cut down a tree with a very straight stem,
manufactured it into a flagstaff, and one of their number, for "a
consideration," gave up his red turban for a flag, which having hoisted
in the very spot where many years ago O'Riley erected a beacon, at the
request of the Karens we fired a salvo in honour thereof, and wended our
way to camp at the granite boulders.

At midnight we had an unpleasant visitor in the shape of a tiger, who
announced his arrival in the very middle of the camp by a peculiar noise
like "thit, thit," which there is no mistaking if one has ever heard it.

The alarm was at once given and the ominous cry of "tiger" vociferated
in some half dozen languages, effectually scaring the brute, who seemed
bent on hastening the time of the spiritual deliverance of the Karens,
by devouring a man in the region of _Nattoung_, and thus verifying the
tradition already referred to in this chapter.

The following day being Sunday, our Christian friends were desirous we
should halt, but much as we should like to please them, prudence
strongly urged that we should push on, as we made the alarming discovery
that our provisions had dwindled to a seriously low ebb; we were
therefore forced to make a sabbath day's journey to the hamlet of
_Bookyre_, where we encamped for the night.

After dinner, as usual, the Karens came round our bonfire to warm
themselves and talk. Among others the chief's brother, who perhaps
feeling himself more at home than the wilder beings around him,
deliberately lifted his coat-tails and proceeded to warm himself after
the manner of "Paterfamilias," in England; with this essential
difference that whereas "Paterfamilias" wears "inexpressibles," this
worthy was in _puris naturalibus_, by no means verifying the saying,
"when unadorned, adorned the most."

An almost irresistible inclination to apply a lighted cheroot to his
centre of gravity was modified by a less practical hint that this was
"bad form," and the man at once apologised for his unintentionally rude

In the course of the evening he good-naturedly responded to the wishes
of the company by narrating the Karen version of "Jack the
Giant-killer," the substance of which is as follows:----


A certain woman had seven sons and seven dogs. The youngest son
possessed superhuman wisdom.

The seven sons with the seven dogs went out to clear land, and after
their departure a giant came to the old woman, and was about to devour
her, when she said to him, "Grandfather, before you eat me let me call
the sevens sons I have; after you have devoured them then eat me."

The giant said, "Very well, call them;" so she called, "Mother's seven
sons, mother's seven dogs! A monster, a monster will eat mother.
Mother's sons come to mother.

"Mother's seven dogs, mother's seven sons! A monster, a monster will eat
me. Come to mother."

The seven sons in the clearing heard their mother's voice, and one said
to the eldest, "Mother is calling loudly, go and see what is the

He went, and the giant devoured him. In this way six sons were devoured,
but the seventh being wiser than the rest took one of the dogs and bound
him all round with thorny ratans, and told the dog, "When I call 'Dog,
dog,' bite hard; when I say 'So, so,' then relax your grasp."

On receiving instructions the dog went up to the giant and bit him, and
the giant could not handle him nor drive him off, so he called out
"Grandson, cal off your dog, grandfather will die." Then the young man
called out "dog, dog!" (as if calling him off), but the dog bit the
harder the more be called, till the giant expired.

When the giant wad dead he called out "So, so;" and the dog gave up his

Then he ripped up the giant, and restored to life his six brethren, and
when they were all restored to life they singed the body of the giant
(as they would a hog), and chopping up the flesh into small pieces,
pickled it.

Before long the wife and children of the giant came to seek him, and the
mother of the seven sons invited them to her house; she cooked rice for
the whole, and made curry of the pickled giant.

The relations of the giant ate heartily, but one of the youngsters said,
"This curry smells strongly of grandfather!" His mother reproved him,
and said, "Do not talk such folly, lest the traps are destroyed."[186]

By and by one of them found a bit of the old man's nose in the curry,
and none could eat anything more.

After they had eaten, they all said their tongues itched exceedingly,
and asked the old woman, "What shall we do?"

She replied, "Scratch them with grandmother's whisky," and spreading it
on their tongues scratched them. Soon their tongues fell out and all

Therefore the Elders said, "If there be seven sons, one of them will
have uncommon wisdom, if the youngest one has it not, the eldest one
will have it, and if the eldest one has it not, one of the middle ones
will have it."

The chief having finished his tale, called upon one of his followers for
another, who, without more ado, began the story of


Once a upon a time a woman had a bloodsucker, or tree lizard for a son,
and died soon after it was born.

The grandmother took care of the child, and in the course of time it
said to the grandmother, "Go and espouse me to the king's youngest
daughter, please."

She answered, "Grandchild, you are a tree lizard; do you suppose the
king will be pleased with you?" However, the old woman went to the king
and said, "My grandson, a tree lizard, has bid me come and espouse him
to your youngest daughter, do you approve?"

The king called his eldest daughter and said, "Would you like to marry a
tree lizard?"

"A lizard, a lizard, how could I love a lizard?" she replied; six
daughters answered their father in this way, and then he called his
youngest and said to her, "Daughter, would you like to marry a lizard?"

She answered her father, "If father gives me a tree lizard, I will take
him; if father gives me a flying lizard, I will take him."

So she consented to take the tree lizard for her husband.

The old woman returned, and told her grandson that she had succeeded in
betrothing him to the king's youngest daughter, and she took and put him
in a basket, and carried him on her back to the place where he was
married to the king's daughter.

After awhile, when harvest was over, and the time for clearing land
arrived, all the men went to the woods to cut down trees, but he
remained in the house with his wife.

She said to him, "The men have all gone to cut down trees, why do not
you go?" He answered, "I will go to-morrow."

The next day he went out and ascending a stump, he whistled, and all the
trees and bamboos on seven mountains immediately fell flat on the

The mother of the princess asked her daughter, "What does your husband
appear like at night?" She replied, "He becomes at night a beautiful
young man, when he takes off his skin he is handsome."

Then the mother said, "If that be the case, when he pulls off his skin
to-night, throw it over to me."

When night came and the lizard stripped off his skin to sleep, his wife
took it and threw it over to her mother, and her mother put it into the
fire and burnt it up.

In the morning when he work up, he said to his wife, "The fire has burnt
up my clothes." So his wife furnished him with suitable clothing, and he
ceased to be a lizard.

As it was early, the same narrator was asked, and consented to repeat
the tale of


It is stated that Ai-pho-so was a cripple, but he was able to grow a
little paddy, which a rat came to eat. He said to the rat, "Why will you
eat my paddy, when I am such a cripple?"

The rat replied, "Give me one full meal and I will get you the king's
youngest daughter in marriage."

He gave the rat a full meal of his paddy, and then the rat went to the
royal pagoda, and gnawed a hole, and hid himself in it. Soon after, the
king's youngest daughter came to the pagoda and prayed, and when she had
finished, the rat called out, "Princess! listen, i will now pray, listen
to my prayer."

Then he said, "Let the king's youngest daughter take for her husband
Ai-pho-so the cripple. If she takes Ai-pho-so for her husband, may the
towns be permanent, the cities established for ever. If she does not
take Ai-pho-so the cripple for her husband, may the towns be destroyed,
the cities go to ruin."

The princess heard this prayer and repeated it to her father.

So the king took Ai-pho-so for his son-in-law, and in the course of
time, a dog came smelling for food under the house, and Ai-pho-so's wife
went down and beat it to death.

The king ordered his son-in-law to watch the body of the dog, and while
thus employed, a crow came and screamed out at him.

Ai-pho-so said, "When I have so much corruption as this to watch over,
why do you come and scream out at me?"

The crow replied, "Give me one full meal, and I will do you good."
Ai-pho-so allowed the crow to eat so much of the carrion as it pleased,
and the crow in return cured him of his lameness. He subsequently
enjoyed perfect health, and eventually became king of the country.

This wound up the entertainment for that evening, and the people
returned home, apparently well pleased.

These nursery tales, childish as they may appear, are interesting in
that they have been handed down from generation to generation, and have
a link with that misty past which reveals itself in the bold saying of
having "come from the north."

The same may be said of our own nursery tales for the legends of the
ancient Scandinavian creed, from which many of ours are derived,
although greatly metamorphosed, show themselves everywhere in a renewed
and immortal bloom.

The names of Odin and Thor, Trigga and Iduna, are forgotten, but their
deeds of potency remain, and cast a spell on all the nurseries of
England, Normandy and Germany, as well as over those of all the north of

All the witch, fairy, and dragon lore which Odin and the Asar brought
from the East, exist under new names in the nursery lore of our infancy,
in "Jack the Giant-killer," "Cinderella," "Blue Beard," "The Giant who
Smelt the Blood of an Englishman," "Puss in Boots," &c.

On returning to our old quarters at _Plomado_, the Karens advised that
we should take the southern road instead of by _Bawgalay_, and we,
nothing loth to diversify our route and thereby see more of the country,
gladly acquiesced in the arrangement, so Tawdee, our guide, trotted off
on his little rat of a pony to apprise the good people of _Tawthadeu_
that we should stop there for breakfast.

In a little over two hours we crossed the _Myitgnan_ stream, which
brought us into the country of the _Maunepghas_, and in another two
hours reached _Tawthadeu_, after crossing several beautiful perennial
rivulets, some with falls, which added to their charms.

_Tawthadeu_ is very picturesquely situated on a knoll, half way up a
steep mountain, and is on a more ambitious plan than the villages in
this part of the country, as it contains a row of houses on each side of
a broad street, which serves as a market-place and village green, the
whole being commanded by the chapel in the centre. This is a great
improvement on the usual barrack-like accommodation affected by other
communities. Early in the afternoon we reached _Owndaw-byay_, situated
on the pinnacle of a steep hill, 3,000 feet above sea level, and
commanding a most extensive view of the country around,. The people had
made many preparations for our reception, but as we wanted to get into
Toungoo next day, we determined to push on _Wabo-Khyoung_ village, where
we put up in a good -sized chapel; but, owing to the prevalence of the
measles, all the villagers had scattered into the woods as is their
custom in visitations of this sort.

The same cause prevented our getting porters for our traps, but luckily
we were able to procure elephants. Half an hour's walk brought us to
_Ownben-gyoung_ village, so that we were sorry we did not push on the
night before, for it is a much more considerable and neatly-arranged

After this our journey lay along this course of the _Khyoung-ma-gnay_,
which we crossed no less than thirty times in three hours, from thence
to _Swata_, joining our old road a little to the east of the Seven
Pagodas, and arriving at Toungoo well satisfied with our trip to the
hills. Our Karen followers were also pleased, and in detailing their
experiences to their pastor, Doctor Mason, acquainted him with the
surprising fact that none of them had been kicked or cuffed during the
whole tour. This incident, trivial as it may appear, is sufficiently
suggestive to future tourists, who wish to succeed as well as we did in
pleasing ourselves and the people about us.

The conclusion to be derived from the experiences of our journey is,
that a road sufficiently practicable for elephants and ponies is
indispensable before any of the sites mentioned can be made available
for sanataria.

We apprehend no great engineering difficulties in the accomplishment of
this object. A very beautiful country with a temperate climate is now
shut out from all excepting those who are in sufficiently good health to
overcome the present difficulties in mountain travelling; but it is
hoped that the Government may at no distant date take into its
favourable consideration the propriety of facilitating the means of
getting thereto.

[ Illustration--??? ]


"NOBODY ever thinks of reading missionary reports," remarked a friend of
ours when we, in perhaps a weak moment, confided to him our intention of
recording our experience of some of the results of missionary enterprise
among the Karens of British Burmah. While we admit there is some truth
in our friend's remark, we at the same time cannot help thinking that
the missionaries are in many instances to blame for this lack of
interest, simply because they have not the courage to leave the official
groove, and make their narrations of more general interest to the public
than they now are; but as previous notices from the pens of missionaries
regarding the wonderful success attending the evangelisation of this
interesting people, have proved exceptions to the rule in finding favour
with the public, we trust that a plain unvarnished tale by a layman on
the same subject may be acceptable.

The Christian Karens in Burmah have for several years been in the habit
of holding a great gathering at some convenient place previously fixed
upon, at which delegates from the different churches in the district, as
well as all those who can manage to do so, are expected to attend. At
this meeting the affairs of the mission are discussed, and reports are
read from the pastors of the different villages in regard to the moral,
social, and religious progress or decadence of the communities under
their respective charges, describing the state of their chapels and
schools, recording the amount of interest therein, as evinced by the
subscriptions of the people thereto, as well as statistics detailing the
number of communicants, those who have embraced Christianity, or have
fallen away from their professions since the previous reports, and in
fact all particulars that may prove generally interesting.

These meetings are held in the cool weather, when the forest roads and
paths are cleared of the dense vegetation that accumulates thereon in
the rainy season. Opportunities are thus given for the Karens to have
friendly and social gatherings, which serve to cement a better
understanding among the different tribes, who for many years were
jealous and suspicious of each other, and also tend to strengthen the
people in their religious professions, in encouraging each other in
supporting pastors and teachers, building chapels and schools, and
advancing the cause of education and religious enlightenment. Two of
these meetings were held by the Toungoo Karens in January, 1869. One,
three or four days' journey to the east of the town, was composed of
members of the different Christian communities, under the direction of
the Reverend Messrs. Cross and Bunker, and another, about thirty miles
south-east, comprised of people under the care of Dr. and Mrs. Mason. As
we had expressed a wish to be present at one of these gatherings, we
were courteously invited to attend both, which we resolved to do, but
from unforseen causes were obliged to content ourselves with visiting
Dr. Mason's people only, who on this occasion fixed on _Lookladen_, a
village known to the Burmese as _Ownben-Khyoung_, for their meeting. The
writer, accompanied by his wife and little girl, left Toungoo two days
before the day fixed for the meeting; Ramprasand, a famous tusker, being
pressed into service as our riding elephant, while two other elephants
carried our baggage, the ponies and attendants bringing up the rear. We
had not proceeded far when we were obliged to dismount and remove the
traps, to enable the elephants to ford the Sittang river, which was
deeper than was expected, owing to a sudden fresh. Some delay therefore
occurred in transporting the baggage in boats and repacking the
elephants; so we amused ourselves in the interim by watching a Chinaman
bargaining with some _Paku _ Karens for their pigs. The Pakus, unlike
many of their brethren further removed from the borders of civilization,
seemed almost as keen hands at bargaining as the cunning "celestial" but
in default of further competition, no doubt disposed of the animals at a
sacrifice rather than take them home again; for unacquainted with, or
perhaps sceptical of, the efficacy of Paddy's well-known method for
inveigling his pig to market, by mendacious assertions as to its
destination, have given up all idea of combating swinish obstinacy, and
therefore carry their porkers in neatly-made baskets, suspended by
crooked sticks over their shoulders.

The Pakus, a sub-tribe of the Sgan family, are the first tribe met with
after crossing the river Sittang at Toungoo, and are to be found as far
as the "Great Watershed," some forty miles to the east. They are
distinguished from other tunic-wearing Karens by having their tunics
embroidered, each village clan being known by its distinctive
embroidery. They are now a quiet and inoffensive people, who devote
themselves assiduously to the culture of oranges, citrons, and limes, as
well as to the breeding of pigs for the market. But when the English
first occupied Toungoo, and for some time afterwards, the people were
constantly engaged in feuds among themselves, or in fighting with the
Red Karens.

We were met, soon after starting again, by some _Paku_ chiefs, some of
whom wished to accompany us to _Lookladen_, and others to escort us to
the limits of Paku territory, where we encamped for the night. A message
was also sent us from Dr. and Mrs. Mason, regretting they were unable to
attend the meeting owing to the illness of the former. _Sheemon_ and
other Karen teachers, earnest and thoughtful looking men, represented
their venerable pastor, while a troop of about fifteen bright, cleanly
dressed, and intelligent-looking girls form Mrs. Mason's school,
accompanied their relations and friends to the meeting instead of being
in the train of their beloved mistress. Although disappointed in being
deprived of the society of the worthy pastor and his wife, we were glad
to have an opportunity of seeing what the Karens would do when left
entirely to themselves.

After proceeding for about an hour, chiefly through elephant grass, we
reached a small picturesque place known to English residents as the
"_Seven Pagodas_," which, according to Burmese lore, is noted for two
Pagodas, which it is said were built by _Asoka_[188] some _three hundred
years_ before Christ. Then turning to the right, our road took us
through some magnificent forests, in which trees more than 150 feet high
are common.

Amongst those deserving of special notice were _Kanyin_ or wood-oil
tree, two kinds of oak (_Quercus Lappacea_ and _Amherstiana_), a wild
chestnut tree (_Castanea ferox_); three kinds of nutmeg trees, the
cinnamon (_Cinnamomum iners_), the sappy kanazo (_Pierardia sapida_),
toon (_Cedrela toona_), and the Pegu upas (_Antiaris ovalifolia_),
besides several curious parasites with ribband-like stems a foot broad.

The march was a delightful one, as the trees, forming a canopy overhead,
effectually shaded us from the heat of the sun.

The spot chosen by the Karens for our camp was picturesque in the
extreme. A semi-circular glade of some thirty yards square, under the
shadow of three or four forest giants, was carefully cleared, and neat
huts for the accommodation of ourselves and our retainers, were built
within easy distance of a beautiful stream known as "_Thouk-yay-gat_,"
because a Burmese king drank of the water thereof, but which used to be
more appropriately called "_Mya-khyoung_" or emerald stream, from the
tint given to its waters by the reflection of the evergreen forests that
overhang its banks. As it became dusk, the Karens made huge bonfires,
partly on account of the cold, and partly to scare away wild beasts,
for, although none have done mischief in this neighborhood lately,
still, the fact of a tiger trap having been passed on our way, as well
as an officer's pony having been devoured by a tiger, some time ago near
our halting place, were sufficiently suggestive of the necessity of
taking reasonable precautions. After seeing that we were comfortably
settled, the Karens made arrangements for bivouacking for the night, but
before retiring, they all assembled in a convenient place a little
apart, and led by Pastor _Sheemon_, sang a hymn, followed by the
Doxology, in a most creditable manner.

With no other accompaniment than the musical ripple of the neighbouring
stream, they gave out their song of praise in the temple they had found
in the depths of the forest, with an earnestness and singleness of
heart, quite inspiring.

"Not to the domes where crumbling arch and column, Attest the feebleness
of mortal hand, But to that fane most catholic and solemn Which God hath

"To that cathedral boundless as our wonder, Whose quenchless lamps the
sun and moon supply, Its choir the winds and waves, its organ thunder,
Its dome the sky."

After a good night's rest, we were summoned an hour before daylight,
which gave us just time to pack up bag and baggage, and enjoy a cup of
chocolate by the remains of the bonfire, before staring on our travels

By getting under weigh thus early, the beauty of the scenery was
enhanced, although our path lay at first through the same description of
forests as we passed the previous day.

The distance to _Lookladen_ might have been accomplished without
halting, but the Karens, fearing we should be tired if we attempted to
do so, thoughtfully built a rest-house half-way, and we, nothing loth,
consented to halt there for breakfast. Our route after this, followed
the bed of a stream, which we crossed more than twenty times, and early
in the day we arrived at our destination.

The people of the village were evidently on the look-out for us; for
long before we arrived, they came out to meet us headed by their pastor;
and then began an ordeal, which, even subsequent use, never reconciled
us to; we refer to the custom introduced by the American missionaries of
shaking hands. Of this we had the full benefit on this occasion, for
every one in the village, from the tottering blear-eyed grandfather to
the wee baby swathed in a cloth and slung on its mother's back, put out
his or her hand (just as an educated dog "gives the paw") as we passed
by, and as several of the community evidently belonged to the family of
the "great unwashed," and in their persons practically demonstrated the
evils attendant on a want of attention to cleanliness, the ceremony,
which, in the estimation of these simple people, almost amounts (as
suggested by one who knew them well) to an article of faith, was, till a
"happy thought" suggested the use of gloves, to us a positive
infliction. It struck us too, that the mere fact of the Karens being
nominal Christians, should not give them the privilege of shaking hands
with Government officers and others, who, consistently with either
custom or propriety, could not rightly extend the same courtesy to
Burmese or other people of inferior social standing to themselves.

Next morning the village put on quite a gala appearance, for numerous
petty traders had come from the plains with beds, gaudy handkerchiefs,
looking-glasses, needles, thread, matches, &c., and had erected a small
bazaar with a double row of booths, which seemed to be much appreciated
by the hill people. We made several investments therein; and by giving
little presents to the different chiefs and their wives, made
considerable progress in their good will at a very moderate outlay.

At about 10 A.M., the people assembled in a commodious bamboo building
which had been constructed for the occasion; and, shortly afterwards, we
were invited to attend. There were about three hundred persons present,
the men being arranged on one side and the women on the other. All were
seated on mats spread on the ground. At one extremity of the building a
slightly raised platform was conveniently placed for those who were
about to address the meeting, or otherwise take part in the active
business thereof; and on this platform were arranged benches for the
chiefs, as well as chairs for our accommodation. From statistics which
were afterwards furnished us we ascertained that representatives from
forty villages attended.

Pastor _Sheemon_, who, on the previous annual meeting, had been selected
to inaugurate the present proceedings, rose, and saying "Brethren, let
us sing to the praise and glory of God;" gave out a hymn in which nearly
all the company joined. The singing which was led by the girls, taught
by Mrs. Mason, was remarkably good, and would have been creditable to
many a village choir in England. An extempore prayer followed, after
which the pastor read a few verses from the Bible, and gave a short,
apposite, and eloquent discourse on his text, pointing out the necessity
of praying that the Almighty might vouchsafe to shed His Holy Spirit on
all flesh, and specially bless their proceedings.

When Pastor _Sheemon_ sat down, it was proposed and unanimously carried
that he should act as chairman of the meeting. No better selection could
have been made for this office, for he exhibited business proclivities
of a rare order, in introducing the different subjects mooted by himself
and others in a few well-chosen words; and, in causing the different
resolutions come to by the assembly, to be then and there recorded by
secretaries, whom he had nominated by a show of hands, and to be
disposed of regularly and in order, after much more rational discussion
than often obtains in more civilized communities.

The following resolutions were proposed by the Chairman, and carried

I. That two of their pastors be secretaries to record proceedings

II. That two other pastors should read the reports from the different
villages which have sent delegates to the meeting.

III. That a committee be nominated whose business it shall be to exhort
"transgressors"_ to abandon their wicked ways.

IV. That a second committee of three be appointed to select a fit place
for next year's meeting

V. That a third committee select a person to inaugurate proceedings in
the next assembly.

VI. That two pastors be deputed as messengers to the different Christian
communities which have not sent representatives to the meeting, to tell
them what has taken place here.

After these preliminaries the Chairman called on one of the pastors
already nominated to read the reports from the different out-stations.
As all these were made out in precisely the same fashion, and, as a
general rule, simply recorded the statistics already enumerated in this
paper, the recapitulation became somewhat wearisome to us, although no
doubt it was interesting to those who had a more intimate acquaintance
with the people referred to therein. We were not sorry, therefore, when
about half the reports had been read, to hear the Chairman propose that
the disposal of the remainder should be postponed till later in the

At the request of the chiefs we briefly addressed the people in Burmese,
the Chairman translating our remarks with great nicety and readiness
into Karen, for those who did not understand Burmese.

We contrasted, with congratulation, the aspect of present affairs, which
exhibit such a marked advance in the social, religious, and moral
condition of the Karens of the Toungoo district, with what obtained only
a few years ago; for then the people embittered by blood-feuds, which
had existed in some cases for many generations, were at continual war
with each other. The inordinate use of spirits, and consequent almost
chronic drunkenness inflamed their worst passions levelling them even
below the brute beasts. Acknowledging, it is true, a supreme spirit, the
great God and Ruler of the Universe, but believing He had forsaken them,
their religion, if it could be so called, was one of fear and not of
love, for they gave themselves up to a degrading superstition,
deprecating with offerings the wrath of the tutelary demons of the
hills, streams, and forests, and with only vague views of a future,
ignored the idea that anything they might do would influence that

Now, however, the devoted exertions of Christina missionaries, as well
as the firm and conciliatory policy of Government, with a view to the
amelioration of their hitherto degraded condition, have borne good
fruit; for where the blessed light of Christianity has shone, the people
have relinquished their bitter blood-feuds, as well as the use of
intoxicating spirits, the primary cause of much that was to be deplored
in their character, and have evinced in the most practical manner, by
liberal subscription towards the maintenance of teachers, schools and
churches, their deep interest in the cause of religion and civilization.
These wonderful results, we added, were hailed with delight by all
friends of Christian missions, as well as other philanthropists, who
still continue to evince the most lively interest in the Karen people,
and we further exhorted them not to be "weary of well doing," but to
persevere in the good way they had chosen.

The Chairman, after this, again addressed the meeting, and remarked that
he was sorry to find from the reports of one of their committees that
although the people had last year promised with one accord to send their
children to school, many parents had failed to carry out their promises.

He admitted that in some cases there was more difficulty in this respect
than in others, especially as regards poor or invalid people who were
dependent on the exertions of their children for the daily duties
connected with the house or fields, still he hoped that parents would do
their best to enable their children to profit by the schools, and he
therefore exhorted the people to renew the promise made last year. And
while on this subject, he called their attention to the state of some of
their chapels and schools, and asked the people to pledge themselves to
see that these buildings were kept in proper repair.

Both suggestions were put in the usual way, and unanimously agreed to.

The Chairman having invited the pastors and elders to make any remarks
that might suggest themselves, several resolutions, whose object was to
ensure the welfare of the community were submitted, and carried _nem.

After another short address from the Chairman followed by prayer, the
people were dismissed, and many of them started the same day for their

We left much impressed with the decorum and order that had been observed
during the whole proceedings, and with the business-like way everything
had been done, which would have been creditable to these poor people had
Dr. and Mrs. Mason been present to help them with suggestions, but
marvellous when we consider that the details were originated and carried
out by them without such aid.

On leaving the village next morning, our road first took us through
extensive plantations of the areca palm (_areca catechu_), irrigated by
means of bamboo ducts and other channels by which the bright clear
perennial streams that abound in the part of the country are cleverly
and usefully diverted. And it is no doubt owing to this careful; system
of irrigation that the areca nuts from this region are so highly prized.
The areca nut, wrapped up with a species of lime and other condiments in
the leaves of the piper betel, is extensively used by the Karens,
Burmese, and other peoples of the East. In default of a watch it is also
often used to compute time.

Thus with a Karen or a Burman to say, "as long as it would take to chew
a quid of betel," or to "boil a pot of rice," is sufficiently near the
truth for all practical purposes, although perplexing in English courts
when an alibi, or other issue depending on time, has to be proved.

The betel vines, which in the lowlands are trained over a trellis work
of bamboo, are, on the hills, made to climb over the gnarled trunks of
forest trees, which have been left standing within a convenient distance
of the villages, with their lower branches lopped off on purpose. "Karen
boys and maidens," says Dr. Mason, "engage in these leaf harvests with
great zest, and it is not uncommon for young men, in seeking companions,
to enquire who are the most agile climbers of the _Poolah_ or betel leaf

The village where our meeting took place is situated about the middle of
the region inhabited by the _Mawnepghas_, a small tribe found on the
hills immediately north of the _Youk-thwa-wa_ stream, which divides the
Toungoo and Show-gyen districts, and on the left bank of the Sittang
river. _Mawnepghas_ according to some Karens, signifies "persons led
captive," and was applied to this and other tribes who paid taxes to the
Burmese Government. "It is fatal to this derivation," says Dr. Mason,
"that several large villages that paid taxes in the Paku district, never
had this name applied to them."[190]

Mr. Cross seems to think that the _Mawnepghas_ are related to the _Pwo_
family, having the strong nasal accent peculiar to the Pwo dialect,
which is also extremely guttural, but Dr. Mason classes them as a
sub-tribe of _Sgans_.

The people, with but few exceptions, have embraced Christianity, and are
industrious, quiet, and orderly.

They cultivate a comparatively large area of rice, and pay some
attention to the culture of cotton, from which their women weave strong
and durable clothing for home use.

Immediately after quitting the environs of the village a steep scent
took us to the brow of a hill, where we involuntarily paused to rest
ourselves, as well as to admire the scene we had left behind. Far below
us, but standing out clearly from the rest of the landscape, was the
village we had just left; the sun had just shown himself over the
shoulder of the hill on which we stood, and lit up with brilliant effect
the flat bamboo roofs of the houses as well as the little chapel with
its triple roof (borrowed from the Burmese), which backed by a graceful
cluster of the giant bamboo, added not a little to the beauty of the
middle distance, to which an additional charm was lent by a back ground
of gently undulating hills, sufficiently inclined towards the village as
to give us an exquisite peep of the Sittang Valley, bounded by the range
known as the Pegu Yomas some _thirty_ miles to the west. After making
this ascent the road was comparatively easy till within a quarter of a
mile of _Own-daw-byay_ our next destination, when we had another rather
stiff hill to mount. We were, however, repaid for our trouble; for the
village, which is situated on a narrow ridge some 3,000 feet above the
sea, connects two of the interior ranges of a congerie of hills in this
part of the district, and thereby commands most superb views of the
valleys to the west and the east.

We were most kindly received by the people, who placed their
school-house at our disposal, and had a bath-room and cook-house
prepared for our use.

The assistant pastor or curate, probably from his knowledge of Burmese,
was deputed to do the honours of the village, instead of the pastor and
chief, who were absent, and acquitted himself well.

Zealous in the matter of hospitable cares, he not only selected a fat
porker from under one of the houses, but when it was dragged out by a
man simply clad in a garment which seemed a compromise between a
nightshirt and an English carter's smock, our clerical friend, with one
well-directed stab in its neck, inflicted by a long knife he carried in
his hand, soon put a stop to the squeaking expostulations of poor
"piggy," who was discoursing anything but sweet music in the High Street
of the village, in which we were strolling, without any expectation of,
and certainly with no wish for, such a catastrophe. For although we do
not object to pork when "properly educated," the conditions under which
the "unclean animal" is domiciled with the Karens, or suffered to roam
near their villages, are not such as to encourage fastidious tastes to
include the flesh of Karen swine in their dietary system. We therefore
carefully eschew it, but there were many in our company, fortunately,
who had no such scruples, and did ample justice to the curate's

Next day being Sunday, the people had Divine Service at their chapel
three times, exclusive of the usual morning and evening services,
observed in all the Christian villages among the Karens, one being
conducted in Burmese for our edification. The pastor was by no means so
eloquent as our friend _Sheemon_, still his extempore prayer and
discourse did not suffer in comparison with some ministers we have

Finding that some of the pastors in this locality had some difficulty in
procuring port wine for the administration of the Holy Sacrament, we
were glad to be able to make some acknowledgment of their civility to us
by giving them a few bottles. This would obviate, we trusted, the use of
Bass's pale ale, which, in default of the orthodox wine, was, we hear,
in good faith taken advantage of by a pastor not far form this, when
celebrating the Lord's Supper.

Our informant, who was an interested spectator of the proceeding, could
not, he said, refrain from respecting the honesty and single-mindedness
of the pastor, as well as communicants, although the fact of seeing the
minister uncork and pour out bottled beer into tumblers, appeared at
first ridiculous, if not profane, in a place of worship. On leaving
_Own-daw-byay_, we returned to Toungoo, making a short _detour_ by
Pastor _Sheemon's_ village, knowing that this would gratify him.

_Omens_--One of the villages where we proposed to encamp on our way, we
found had been deserted. Many of the houses had been dismantled, and the
little property they contained had been carried off; but some of the
people, in the hurry of their exodus, had left some of their household
goods behind them, to be removed at leisure. An old cock, which had
evidently evaded capture at the time of flitting, resenting, as it were,
being disturbed, as he was about to settle himself comfortably to roost
on the roof of his master's dwelling, flapped his wings and somewhat
arrogantly challenged us, but was ignominiously knocked from his vantage
place by a well-aimed blow of a fire billet, to be subsequently utilized
for soup.

In the meantime, a lean and miserable cur, the recognized guardian of
the place, thinking discretion the better part of valour, fled on the
first appearance of strangers, and carefully ensconcing himself at a
safe distance from the new comers, howled miserably, secure in his
immunity from utilization in any way.

It wa nothing new to us to see this desolation such as we have
described; for, on occasions of small-pox, measles, or other epidemics,
the Karens invariably abandon their villages, believing that segregation
of human beings, as with cattle, is far more efficacious than any other

In the case of the hamlet we are speaking of, however, a far less
tangible excuse was given for deserting it. A barking deer, it was
alleged, had come into the village and "barked'" and, as this was
considered a very bad omen, the elders had encouraged the people to
leave the village, lest some calamity should befall them. The Karens are
peculiarly addicted to omens. Their divination by fowls' bones, which we
have described elsewhere, affords an instance of their extreme credulity
in this respect. But if we were to investigate the subject of belief in
omens, it would most probably be found that many ignorant people of the
most civilized nations have prejudices every whit as foolish as the most
barbarous tribes.

Csar and other writers[191] record, that the ancient Saxons held that
it was unlucky for a labourer to meet a hare when he was proceeding to
his work. Their descendants outlived this superstition; and in case of
an encounter of this kind just now, the ill-luck would most probably be
on the hare's side, if the labourer were armed with any missile. The
canny Scotchmen of the same pride, with some method in their madness,
considered it a bad omen only when they did not catch the hare thus met;
for from Dr. Browne we learn that, "if they observed a deer, fox, hare,
or any four-footed beast of game, and did not succeed in killing it,
they prognosticated evil."[192]

To this day, in Ireland, meeting a weasel under certain circumstances is
considered unlucky, and with reference to some parts of England, in
olden times, Melton, in his "Astrologer," tells us that it is a very
unfortunate thing for a man to meet early in the morning all
_ill-favoured man_ or _woman_, a _rough-footed hen_, a _shaghaired dog_,
or a _black cat_.

The crash of a falling tree, the cry of an otter, the sight of a snake
or a scorpion, or the sound of a woodpecker tapping, is sufficient to
deter a Karen from taking a journey, as was the case with the ancients.

The Caledonians thought it unlucky for a bare-footed woman to cross the
road before them, and to avert the calamity that such an omen betided,
they seized her and drew blood from her forehead, whereas if they met an
armed man they believed that good was portended.[193]

"The woodpecker is said by the Karens to be the ghost's dog, employed by
the shades to hunt game, hence it is a bird of ill omen, and when a
Karen hears it scream he cries out: 'Woodpecker shun me afar off--shun
my house, shun my road, shun my way, shun my field, shun my garden, shun
the roof of my house, shun my place, shun my stream, shun my brook, shun
the place where I draw water, shun me, keep afar off, go thine own way,
thine own road.' "[194]

Here in Britain a single magpie, like the woodpecker with the Karens,
prognosticates evil, for what child does not know the doggerel----

"One for sorrow, two for mirth, Three for a wedding, and four for a

But if we were to seek for analogies we might go on _ad infinitum_, for
the ancient civilization of the East corresponds with that of the West
in this particular, as well as in many others.

Wherever we went we constantly had applications for medicine, especially
quinine, which the Karens have much faith in.

_Castor Oil_--Accustomed as we were to administer remedies for all the
"ills that flesh is heir to," our slender stock of simple medicines had
sensibly diminished when a venerable patient suffering from old age
applied to us for relief.

At the risk of our reputation for a knowledge of medical science, we
candidly confessed our inability to prescribe for his complaint. But as
the old man was very anxious that we should experiment upon him, we
yielded to his importunity by administering him a dose of castor oil,
believing that it could do him no harm, and hoping that we would thereby
deter similar applicants. Our anticipations in the latter respect were,
however, without foundation. In the morning we awoke to find ourselves
famous! For soon after early dawn a confused murmur of voices attracting
our attention, we got up to ascertain its cause, and on appearing were
beset with numerous and vociferous applications from a crowd of men,
women, and children, beseeching us to let them have some of the
wonderful medicine we prescribed the previous evening. Each held up a
cup, a betel box, an old cocoa- nut-shell, or the first utensil they
could lay hands on, in the hope of securing some of the precious fluid
before it had all been dispensed. The whole of our supply , consisting
of two quart bottles, quickly disappeared, without satisfying numerous
applicants, who, like Oliver Twist, asked for more; while one old woman,
who, in default of a cup, received her share in the palms of her
hands--chary of her prize, refused point blank to allow one of her
disappointed neighbours to have a "lick!" With this incident in our
memory, and from subsequent knowledge of the peculiar taste of the
Karens in this respect, we can readily credit the story told of a
well-known officer, who, on giving a entertainment to some hill Karens,
substituted castor oil for sherry and bitters as a zest before dinner!

_Conclusion_--Our ten days' trip was one to which we shall ever look
back with pleasure. We enjoyed ourselves thoroughly, and were glad to
see for ourselves that good honest work has been done among the Karens,
and that there is every prospect of a glorious future for them if they
only persevere in carrying out the noble work of civilization and
evangelisation which has so happily been begun.


IN that "debatable land," situated near the great watershed of the
Sittang and Salwen rivers, a few tribes still exist, who more or less
retain their ancient practices, and occasionally give rouble.

Among these the Tsawkoos are the most notorious. Inhospitable towards
strangers, and addicted to fighting among themselves, they excited much
aversion as well as terror among their more peaceably disposed
neighbours, so that none valuing their lives ever cared to enter, much
less to make themselves acquainted with a country where each man's hand
was against his fellow, and casual visitors were looked upon as lawful

In the beginning of 1869, we paid a visit to the Tsawkoos with the
twofold object of bring those wild and hitherto impracticable people to
their proper bearings, in respect to their normal habit of levying
"black mail" on travellers, and of opening out a good and safe road for
traffic between Toungoo and Karennee as well as the Shan states.

Recent inquiry had elicited that toll had been demanded by the Tsawkoos
on cattle and laden porters passing through their country, and so long
as they were satisfied with small gains, no objections appear to have
been made to their demands; but, emboldened by this and the comparative
independence they enjoyed from their isolated position, the Tsawkoos
became more exacting, even resorting to force when travellers refused to
comply with their extortionate demands; and, as a climax, so far took
the law into their own hands as to make a raid on Karennee traders, who
were bringing down a large herd of cattle to Burmah, and carry off
forty-six head, by either driving the animals into dense forests or
causing them, by prick of spear or sword, to jump over precipices, and
leave their carcasses to be picked up at leisure.

Patient and uncomplaining as the Karennees had hitherto been under small
inflictions, the inquiry of this affair was too much for their
equanimity; so, on arrival at the head-quarters of the district, they
reported the matter to us. We at once took action by sending up an
assistant, with instructions to demand satisfaction, and as he obtained
promises from the chiefs of restitution in the matter of the stolen
cattle, and was afterwards met by assurances, and apparently reliable
proof, that the difficulty had been arranged by a solemn compact between
the parties aggrieved and the Tsawkoos, it was considered that the
results of his mission were satisfactory.

It was, however, elicited, on further inquiry, that the Tsawkoos had
done nothing in the way of making reparation for their recent
depredations; and having ascertained at the same time, from Messrs.
Bunker and Vinton, American Baptist Missionaries, who had been lately
passing through the country. that they had been subject to illegal
exaction on the part of the Tsawkoos, we lost no time in proceeding to
that portion of the district.

Hearing that the Reverend Signor Biffi, Prfet Apostolique of the
Italian Mission, was about starting for Layto, a small village about
thirty miles north-east of Toungoo, where he has just established a
missionary station we gladly availed ourselves of his company so far on
our journey, and on arrival there received a warm welcome from his
assistants, the Reverends R. Tornatore and S. Carboni. We found it
advisable to wait at Layto for a day or two, to give time to the Tsawkoo
chiefs to meet us at a rendezvous on the Touk-yay-gat stream, one day's
journey off, and accepted with pleasure the hospitality of thee worthy
fathers in the meantime.

Although they have been located here but a short time, they have
thoroughly won the confidence and affection of the people, and
notwithstanding the great difficulties under which they labour in being
obliged to learn Burmese, as a vehicle for the study of Karen, they have
already made considerable progress, in that they have established a
school, and have daily exercises in the vernacular.

The Karens have built a neat chapel and school-house for the
missionaries, which are beautifully situated on a rising ground
surrounded by an amphitheater of hills, about 3,000 feet above the sea.

These buildings, like the houses the inhabitants live in, are of the
most temporary description, for, owing to the system of cultivation that
obtains on these hills, the ground is not worked for more than three
years, and is afterwards allowed to lie fallow for five or six years
more. The people are, therefore, compelled to move their dwellings, in
order to be near their fields and cannot afford to build substantial
structures. The fathers hope in time to improve this wasteful habit of
husbandry, in view to induce the people to build more permanent
locations; but we fear that it will take very many years before the
former can induce their followers to imitate the terraced gardens one
sees among the industrial peoples in Switzerland and Italy.

After two days' pleasant sojourn at _Layto_, we proceeded to the
rendezvous, accompanied by the Reverend Signors Biffi and Tornatore, and
found that the Karens had built us a commodious hut on the confluence of
two streams, selecting a spot which in sylvan beauty vied with the most
picturesque scenes in this naturally favoured land.

Another travelling party of Karens had arrived before us and had
arranged themselves for the night under the spreading branches of a
large tree close to the water, by placing their sleeping mats in a
circle with their property, consisting of four or five kyee-zees or
drums in the centre, which they said they were taking to sell among the
neighbouring tribes.

Among the most valued possession of the hill Karens is the _kyee-zee_,
consisting of a copper or spelter cylinder of about a quarter of an inch
in thickness, averaging about two feet in length and of a somewhat
greater diameter at one end, which is closed with the same kind of
metal, the smaller end being left open. They are ornamented in a rude
style with figures of animals, birds, and fish, and according to size
and volume of sound, are valued at from L5 to L50.

"On the outer circle are four raised frogs, as the figure of the cat
sometimes surmounted the ancient sistrum. Whether the sound of the
instrument is intended to emulate the voice of the frog or not must be
left to conjecture, for no one can give any reason for the frog being

"They have" (says Dr. Mason), "distinctive names for ten different
kinds, which they pretend to distinguish by the sound."

In the settlement of their quarrels, and in the redemption of captives,
the indemnification always takes the shapes of a _kyee-zee_, or more,
with perhaps a few buffaloes or pigs as make-weights, just as in more
civilized countries a concession of territory, and perhaps some
men-of-war is insisted on.

To such an extent does the passion for the possession of these
instruments predominate among the more secluded tribes, that it is said
"instances are by no means rare of their having bartered their children
and relations for them."[196]

"A superstition," says Mr. O'Riley, common to all mountain tribes, which
he had met, "that the deep-sounding note of a monotoned instrument
propitiates the presiding nats (genii) of the mountains, and averts evil
from them, is a reasonable enough cause for such a propensity to possess
them, and those tribes who have the greatest number are regarded as the
most powerful. In all their gatherings, whether for peaceful enjoyment
or preparatory to an expedition to arrange some intertribal blood feud,
the _kyee-zees_ are brought forth and beaten, and as the resonance
echoes back from the deep gorges of the mountain glens, they regard it
as the approving answer of the Spirit, become excited by drinking a
spirit rudely distilled from rice, and a scene of the wildest revelry

By other accounts it would appear, that its "music hath charms to soothe
the savage breast;" for, "when a good kyee-zee is struck, the Karens say
the music softens the heart, and the women weep for the friends they
have lost, or from whom they are separated. The possession of kyee-zees
is what constitutes a rich Karen. No one is considered rich without
them, whatever may be his other possessions. Everyone who has money
endeavours to turn them into kyee-zees, and a village that has many of
them is the envy of other villages, and is often the cause of wars to
obtain possession of them."[197]

Ll, the chief of Layto,whom we had dispatched to summon the Tsawkoo
chiefs, had already caused the attendance of several, and brought the
remainder of the principal men with him next day.

Business began after breakfast, all the chiefs sitting round us with
their followers; but at the most interesting part of the discussion, it
happened that one of the numerous sporting-looking dogs accompanying the
Tsawkoos gave tongue in the jungle; and as the people are passionately
fond of the chase, nearly every one in the assembly, armed with
match-locks, spears, or dahs (swords), started off helter-skelter in
pursuit of the game, leaving us with a few old men, whose joints were
too stiff to follow their example. This escapade resulted in the capture
of a wild pig, but, as the consequent excitement precluded any chance of
rational discussion that day, the meeting was put off _nem. con._ till
the next, at the village of Mallapoolee, of which Kharo, the most
influential man among the Tsawkoos, is chief.

We started early next day, and were met about half-way by a deputation
from the village, consisting of all the elders, with a number of young
men armed with muskets, cross-bows, spears, &c.[198]

They were accompanied as usual by their dogs, and on seeing us, fired
shots, shouted, and otherwise testified their welcome. Many of these
were wiry, well setup-up, and straight-limbed young fellows, with less
of the Mongolian type of feature than other tribes of Karens, but much
darker than their neighbours the Gaykhos.

Their dress is scanty, consisting of merely a pair of short dun-coloured
drawers, with red stripes, supplemented by a profusion of beads of many
colours. Some had even chaplets of beads; and one young buck, who
evidently considered himself somebody, had a small turban of red cloth
with the maker's name, "Macguffie, Glasgow," emblazoned in gold letters
on green ground, conspicuously placed in front--a certain proof that
British trading energy was not to be baffled even in such an unpromising
land as this.

On arriving at Mallapoolee we found the villagers busy building a hut
for our use, but as it would have taken some time to finish it, we,
nothing loth, accepted the hospitality of Chief Kharo, who kindly gave
us up his house, reserving a side apartment for the accommodation of
himself and several belongings.

A description of Kharo's house will serve generally for those occupied
by the Tsawkoo Karens, who have some ten or twelve villages in this
locality. The house is built on bamboo piles, with the floor raised some
fifteen or more feet from the ground, and consists of a common hall in
the centre, with three side-rooms, each containing its family hearth.
These rooms are intended for the accommodation of the chief and his
immediate family, as well as of his sons-in-law and their belongings;
access being had thereto by a ladder drawn up at night through a
trap-door in the hall floor.

The shape of the mansion is oblong, rounded off at the corners, the roof
being well sloped to keep out the heavy rains. The poultry find resting
places in the rafters, while the pigs and other live stock luxuriate in
pens below; and when we add, that the presence of much more
objectionable inhabitants was evinced by the friendly offices cheerfully
undertaken in public by the people for mutual relief, we somewhat
regretted that we agreed to have a Tsawkoo chief for our host.

Although our anticipations as to certain discomforts were amply
realized, owing to the too obsequious attentions of the obnoxious
animals to which we refer,[199] still we somewhat recompensed by having
an opportunity of seeing Tsawkoo domestic life, which we otherwise
should not have observed.

The reception-room, owing to our advent, had been removed to one of the
side-rooms, and here Kharo had a levee which lasted all night. The old
chief was rather taciturn, and his guest were not particularly
communicative. The absence of intellectual entertainment was, however,
apparently fully compensated for by the presence of a small tub or
barrel of khoung (a spirit distilled from rice), in which were inserted
several reeds, used like sherry-cobbler straws, to which (and this was
often) the guests put their lips when, like Mrs. Gamp, they were so

After breakfast, the discussion, which was so suddenly brought to a
close on the previous day, owing to the sporting proclivities of the
members of the committee, was resumed, to be interrupted occasionally by
the exhibition of another weakness of this singular people, of
invariably ignoring the laws of _meum_ and _tuum_, whenever they have an

This was exemplified by several attempts on the part of the younger
members of the community to pilfer the looking-glasses, beads, &c.,
which we had placed near us for distribution after business was over.
But as this propensity was well known to our people, a strict watch was
kept, and a hue and cry raised when anything disappeared, to be followed
in every instance by the capture and condign punishment of the

In spite of these and other interruptions, more or less ludicrous,
mattes were at last satisfactorily arranged. It was decided that, as the
Tsawkoo chiefs had no immediate money assets available, Ll, Chief of
Layto, should pay one-half of the value of the cattle stolen in the
Tsawkoo country, the chiefs faithfully promising to reimburse Ll. The
chiefs also agreed to refrain from molesting travellers, in the way of
illegal exactions or otherwise, and to further by every means in their
power the objects of Government, in having a good and safe road for free
traffic. On the other hand, we agree on the part of Government, to
appoint Ll as agent for the collection of a tax, as follows:--

For an elephant, one rupee, or two shillings For a buffalo, four annas,
or sixpence For a bullock two annas, or three pence For a laden porter,

The proceeds of this tax to be rateably shared by Ll as well as the
chiefs of the country, with a view of reimbursing them for their trouble
in clearing the road, scarping it, and reducing the inclines where
necessary, and in fact, making it as practicable as possible for

As the Tsawkoos have no faith whatever in written documents, it was
arranged that this agreement should be ratified in the manner held by
them to be most binding. This was by "drinking truth," a description of
which ceremony may not be out of place. A silver bowl embellished with
the signs of the Zodiac, in that raised work peculiar to Burmah, was
filled with _khoung_, a liquor something like whisky, which has already
been noticed, and placed on the ground, the chiefs of the different
villages, as well as Ll on the part of the Government, sitting gravely
in a circle round the bowl. A gun, a sword and a spear, were then
produced, and portions of the steel therefore carefully scraped into the
spirit. These weapons were then inserted into the bowl, and
simultaneously held by all the contracting parties, who severally agreed
to abide by the terms of the contract noted above, and drank off the
_khoung_ in witness thereof.

_Freemasonry, Covenants, &c._--The Karens have established forms for
making covenants of friendship and reciprocity treaties of various kinds
with other tribes or peoples, which savour of the archaic civilization
to which so many of their customs belong, rather than to the more recent
civilization which prescribes the necessity of documents duly signed and
sealed for arrangements of this nature. The blood of bulls and goats, of
swine and dogs, of fowls, and men, mixed with whisky, and occasionally
diluted with water, and drank with the usual accompaniments of excessive
feasting and revelry, which often degenerate into the wildest orgies, is
with them of far more efficacy than the more matter-of-fact pens and
ink, sealing-wax, and parchment, which are considered such important
elements in the covenants of Western nations.

Mr. O'Riley and other writers have given us interesting details of these
ceremonies, in which they were either observers or partakers, and refer
to them as "treaties of amity," "brotherhood," "drinking truth," and the
like, all of which appellatives, though fully suggestive, are evidently
adopted from the Burmese. To Dr. Mason we are indebted for a description
thereof from a Karen stand-point, in which he aptly compares the most
binding ordeal to "Masonry, without its secret."

In this "Freemasonry" there are, he says, three grades--_Mghe_, _Tho_,
and _Do_. The most sacred is the _Do_. The obligations of the _Tho_ are
less than those of the _Do_; and of the _Mghe_ less than the _Tho_.

When two person wish to become related to each other, the one who is at
home takes a hog or a fowl, and cuts off the hog's snout or the fowl's
bill, and rubs the flowing blood on the legs of the other, and sticks on
them some of the feathers or down of the fowl. Then they consult the
fowl's bones, and if they give a favourable response, they say, "We will
grow old together, we will visit each other's houses, we will ascend
each other's steps." the visitor next kills a hog or fowl, and performs
the same rites on the other. On consulting the fowls' bones, he says,
"If the fowl's bones are unfavourable we will die separate, we will go
separate, we will work separate, we will not visit each other's houses,
we will not go up each other's steps, we will never see each other but
for a short time." If the response is favourable, the two have entered
into the relations of _Do_, and consider themselves pledged friends,
bound to help each other as long as they live in any way that they may
require assistance, and they no longer call each other by their proper
names, but by that of _Do_. In seasons of famine or scarcity, a _Do_
helps his colleague to the extent of his ability, and if a man is abused
and evil spoken of, his _Do_ defends him saying, "That man is my _Do_,
and to speak evil of him is to speak evil of me, I do not wish to hear
it." Many multiply their _Dos_ in different villages, so that wherever
they go they may be sure of hospitable treatment; and if their enemies
plan a foray upon them, and the project become known to a _Do_, they are
immediately informed of it. It is said that the _Dos_ very rarely
quarrel, but remain faithful to each other, and the institution seems to
exert a very favourable influence in wild Karen society.

_Treaty of Peace_--Sometimes treaties of peace are ratified by
contending tribes that have been at feud, by assembling round a large
and durable tree in the forest, and cutting notches therein.[200]
Libations of the "peace-making water" (mentioned elsewhere) are drunk,
imprecations are invoked, and speeches made on both sides, the text of
which is that they shall hereafter act in harmony, and associate with
each other as brethren. "Beyond this notch in a tree," says Dr. Mason,
"no monuments of peace or war are known to be exist."

After the ceremony, presents of silk handkerchiefs, looking-glasses,
needles, thread, and common beads, were given to the chiefs and their
wives, and were duly appreciated by all the community; so much so, that
we were promised an operatic performance and dance, with a full-dress
company if we consented to part with a portion of the remainder of our
treasures of this kind. This we gladly agreed to do, and the people kept
their word.

Soon after sunset we repaired to the only piece of level ground in the
neighborhood, which was chosen for the entertainment. We found that our
chairs had been made to answer for the boxes or dress circle, while the
orchestra, consisting of an harmonicon, flute, and flageolets, and a
nondescript instrument intended to serve as a drum, had been hastily
improvised from bamboos, cut in the adjacent jungle. Some thirty to
forty of the young men and maidens composed the corps dramatique, while
the rest of the villagers perched on eminences around, or seated on the
ground, composed the audience.

Some little time having been taken by the musicians to tune up their
instruments--a proceeding involving as much care and anxiety to them as
to their more tutored brethren in art at the Royal Italian Opera, or La
Scala at Milan, the performance began by a grand flourish from the full
band, which to our perhaps uncultivated taste appeared as if all the
performers were devouring to make as much discord as they could by
playing different tunes; an impression which, by-the-by, our hosts would
probably feel if they heard "Israel in Egypt," as played at the Handel
Festival, or other great triumph of music, in which the people of
Western countries take such delight.

After a short overture, the performance commenced by all the dancers
holding hands and moving backwards and forwards in slow time, a gradual
advance being made in crab fashion to a certain distance, and then they
retraced their steps. In time to the music, whether grave or gay, they
endeavoured, with indifferent success, to make their movements accord,
now moving their arms up and down like children at play and anon holding
them simultaneously to the rear, they gravely "curtseyed," and
occasionally gave a "whoop," ludicrously reminding one of the
exclamations which are found so exhilarating in the Scotch reel or Irish
jig, and producing a result which was at once novel and amusing.

The dress of the men has already been described, and no change was made
therein for the occasion, except that they put on a few more beads.

The women, however, donned their remarkable head-dresses, which are worn
on such rare occasions, that not even the Karens of other tribes
belonging to our party had ever seen them. This head-dress resembles a
brimless hat made of basket work, embroidered in fanciful patterns with
beads of several colours, and is about eight inches in height. It has no
top, but this omission is concealed by three or four plumes made of the
brilliant feathers of birds found on their hills. These are fixed in
front of the hat, and, at a short distance, have not an inapt
resemblance to the plumes of a Highlander's bonnet, while pendant from
behind are strings of beads and green beetles wings, which accord well
with the rest of their ordinary costume, which is also very peculiar.
This consists either of the white and red short tunic worn by their
neighbours to the north and north-west, or one of darker hue, which they
particularly affect. Below they wear a short petticoat, reaching
half-way down the thigh, blue with red stripes. Round the neck are three
or four coils of lead, of the thickness of an ordinary finger. On their
arms they have brass coils reaching to the elbow; on their legs brass
greaves of a thicker quality, reaching from the knee to the ankle, and
weighing some seven pounds, all of which is supplemented by a profusion
of beads, fastened on in every place they conveniently can be. The _tout
ensemble_, assisted by its attendant accessories, being strikingly
effective and picturesque in the torch-light.

If our interpreters are to be belied, we were being favoured with the
Tsawkoo version of "Don Giovanni," and we must admit that the
confessions of their Leporello seemed to be as much appreciated by the
audience as those of his distinguished prototype in Mozart's famous
opera are by more refined critics. Lest, however, it should be thought
by a censorious public that the Tsawkoos have plagiarized from the work
of the famous composer, we hasten to assure our readers that the Tsawkoo
language has not as yet been reduced to writing, and that the people
knew no other tongue.

With this defect in their education, we could hardly expect _librettos_,
and although our interpreters did their best to give us the substance of
what was going on, we felt they hardly did justice to the subject,in
that the dialogue was conducted in a dialect with which they were
imperfectly acquainted and they were obliged to translate it to us in
Burmese, which is not their mother-tongue.

We therefore soon tired of what was at first somewhat interesting from
its novelty, and accordingly made good our exit, after having duly
distributed the promised presents among the performers.

Our companions, by their affable and winning demeanour, quite won the
affection of these people, who, having heard of the good done to their
countrymen, belonging to the Bw tribe, were anxious to participate in
these benefits. They received earnest appeals from _Perreekee_, and
other lesser chiefs, to take up their abode with them, promising to
build them dwellings and school-houses, as well as to do their utmost in
making them comfortable.

The fathers promised to visit them, and if possible to extend their
mission to these villages, at which the people seemed much passed.

The religion of the Tsawkoos, if it may be so called, consists entirely
in attempts to propitiate by sacrifice the malignant demons, and scenes
of wild revelry ensure on these occasions.

When the people of a village or the members of a household are engaged
in one of these orgies, they put up a bow with an arrow ready fitted to
the string, or some other sign, to indicate that there is "no
admittance," or that "trespassers will be prosecuted according to law,"
and these insignia are scrupulously respected.

Judging by the success that the Baptist missionaries have had with the
neighbouring tribes, and the anxiety the Tsawkoos evince for
instruction, it is hoped that these superstitious rites will soon be
abandoned. The political difficulties in connection with this strange
people have been much softened owing to our visit; and as the Italian
missionaries intend to occupy the country as soon as they can, it is
trusted that the civilizing influences that will then be brought to bear
on the border tribes will produce fruit.

Two men in the crowd that always surrounded us while in Tsawkoo land,
attracted our attention by their very peculiar appearance. They were
profusely ornamented with beads of various colours, and wore short
breeches and armlets of brass like the _Tsawkoos_. But here the
similarity ended, for they were distinguished from all other Karens that
we have met by having their hair cut quite short, leaving an elf lock on
each temple. The Burmese, from this circumstance, call them _Goung-don_
or "bald heads," and sometimes _Beloo_ or "Monster," from their hideous

The Red Karens call them _Taru_, the _Gaykhos_ know them as _Lahta_, but
_Kha-hta_ is the name they give themselves. In spite of their frightful
appearance, they have the reputation of being a very quiet and
inoffensive people, and according to Mr. O'Riley, are the most
interesting of the whole of the Indo-Chinese races which exist in this
reign. In his report on the people he says it is surprising to find a
community of civilized beings existing in the centre of some of the most
degraded specimens of humanity, who appreciate virtue and good and
practise them for their own sake alone, and who are considered by those
races as the only existing exception to the vitality and operation of
the evil principles of human nature.

They have, it is said, the reputation of being able to withstand the
temptations of over-indulging in strong drink, which they have the sense
to know is the root of all evil, and they are also noted for the
comparative decorum observed by them in relation to the intercourse
allowed between the sexes--boys and girls being domiciled separately.
Mr. O'Riley was told that their "sense of shame was so acute that on
being accused of any evil act by several of the community, the person so
accused retired to some desolate spot, there dug his grave and strangled
himself." Dr. Mason suggests that "if this be correct, the custom
indicates a connection with China."[201] And, indeed, China and Japan
are the only other countries apparently, in which the peculiar custom,
known as "the happy dispatch," by which a condemned person is allowed to
be his own executioner, is prevalent.

Mr. O'Riley, who saw several of the tribe was of opinion that in
comparison with the Karennees, "they presented so great a difference of
feature and form of head as to make them clearly a distinct race." But,
judging from the specimens we saw, we could not distinguish any such
marked peculiarities.

Mr. O'Riley fancied their language was distinct form _Shan Toungthoo_ or
Karennee, but he confesses that he failed "to catch the pronunciation of
the names they gave to the different objects," while Dr. Mason, who gave
some attention to the language, was of opinion that it was "remarkably
near the _Pwo_ Karen."

Their social customs in reference to births, betrothals, marriages, and
deaths, do not differed materially from those observed by the Red Karen,
and some of the tribes near our northern boundary.

Betrothals of children are the rule, and in funerals the corpse is
rolled up in flattened pieces of the giant bamboo, owing we presume to
the scarcity of timber suitable for making "dug out" coffins, which all
the Bw tribes affect if possible.

It is affirmed that they do not weep for those that die, because death
being inevitable it is simply useless to mourn! This primitive people
have no idea of a future, and the supplication they offer to the Genii
loci on the pinnacles of their hills, is to obtain benefit to avert
evils in this life only.

They are to be found north-east of the _Gaykhos_, and within easy
distance of Karennee, and were estimated by Mr. O'Riley to number from
3,000 to 4,000 souls.

Adjoining the _Tarus_ or _Lahtas_, is another tribe of Karens noticed by
Mr. O'Riley,[202] of equally primitive habits but far inferior to them
in their sense of decorum.Thus, while the _Tarus_ sedulously separate
the sexes from infancy, and permit their cohabitation only with the
consent of the parents of the female after arriving at the age of
pubescence, the Yindalines, it is said, not only allow their children to
do as they please so soon as they come to the years of discretion, but
actually send them to shift for themselves, just as the birds turn their
young out of the nest so soon as they can fly.

As a general rule, therefore, it is impossible for the people to know in
what degree of relationship they stand to each other, as they, like the
inhabitants of the northern island of Burmese cosmography, have no test
by which they can guide themselves in this respect. In this island,
owing to the women abandoning in their new-born babes soon after birth,
the inhabitants are unable to ascertain who are their parents, the more
so as all are of the same shape and figure and of the same golden
colour. Hence it is provided, that when a couple, moved by reciprocal
affection, wish to united in wedlock, they should withdraw themselves
under a certain beautiful tree. If this lowers its branches and covers
them round with its leaves, it is a sign that they are not near
relations, and, consequently, the marriage is completed. If, on the
contrary, the tree does not lower its branches, they consider it a proof
of their consanguinity and abstain from proceeding any further.[203]

The state of social degradation obtaining among the _Yindalines_, which
is so revolting to our sense of the fitness of things, tended, in the
opinion of Mr. O'Riley's informant (a Yindaline) to promote their
well-being, but Mr. O'Riley believed it was certain that it was a cause
of the visible falling off in their natural physique compared with that
of the other races[204] he had met within that reign.

Owing to the female leaving the breast uncovered, as well as from the
lower intellectual and moral standard of the people as compared with
their neighbours, Mr. O'Riley considered they were a distinct tribe,
although they seemed content to remain in humble dependence on the Red
Karens, by whom they are employed in working the Teak forests, and in
performing all work of hardship and exposure which the dominant race
decline to undertake.

Of their origin and traditions Mr. O'Riley could learn nothing further
than the bald statement that they came from the north many years ago.

They numbered then about four hundred families, but appeared to be under
a process of absorption on the part of the Red Karens.

The part of the country inhabited by the Tsawkoos lies between Bw
territory and the Great Watershed. The soil is deep, and rich, and
produces the usual cereals and esculents.

Hoar frost is found in December and January, and judging by our short
experience of the county, and from what we heard from the people on the
spot, the climate would appear to be salubrious. Fever and bowel
complaints are, however, prevalent at some seasons of the year. Goitre
is common, and cutaneous diseases of the worst kind prevail.

Medical treatment, of which they are entirely ignorant, would doubtless
alleviate much of the sufferings they now endure.

The inconvenience they often felt, owing to the want of salt need no
longer obtain, if they encourage trader to pass through their territory,
as the Red Karens invariably take large quantities of salt to their own
country form the Toungoo markets.

The people are well armed, and never move far from their houses without
some weapon of offence. Many of them use the cross-bow with poisoned
arrows. The tree from which this poison is extracted is, they say, only
known to a few, but, it most probably is the Pegu Upas (_Antiaris
ovalifolia_) which is found in many parts of the district.

Poisoning, says Dr. Mason, is not uncommon among the Karens. They
purchase some of their poisons from Shan traders, and procure others
from their forests.

They also use poison fangs and stones which are supposed to cause the
death of their would-be victims, after certain ceremonies have been gone
through with them.

But it is satisfactory to find that the possession of such poisons, real
or imaginary, are held in abhorrence by the people. If a man is caught
with poisons in his possession, he is sometimes tortured by being bound
in the suspense for some days, or he is sold into slavery. It is even
considered a meritorious deed to put a poisoner to death.

It is hoped that the conditions of society in Tsawkoodom have improved
since our visit, and that the necessity of bearing arms and of using
poisons will soon be things of the past, and the more intercourse they
allow with more civilized peoples, the quicker will this come to pass.

That the Tsawkoo route is the most natural course for traffic to take
was then apparent by the number of Karennees that took advantage of it
in spite of the unenviable notoriety the inhabitants enjoyed, and has
since been proved by the great success of our present negotiations,
resulting in the subsequent development of trade in cattle, clutch,
salt, _ngapee_ or fish-paste, piece-goods, &c., between British Burmah
and Karennee, as well as the Shan States.

As the arrangements we proposed could be carried out without the least
expense to Government, and would, with the more subtle influences and
example of Christian missionaries, tend to the moral and physical
advancement of this hitherto, degraded people, they were submitted with
confidence for the favourable consideration of Government, which was
pleased to convey its acknowledgements to us, in the most flattering


IN the hot season of 1869, when the arid heat of the plains made the
English cantonments almost intolerable, we were not sorry that duty and
pleasure combined rendered it desirable that we should take up our
residence in that portion of the district, inhabited by a tribe called
_Bghai_, or _Bw_, the least known, although not the least important of
the three great families into which ethnologists have found it
convenient to divide the Karen race.

_Bghai_, the English equivalent of the Karen spelling, as rendered by
the missionaries, is somewhat arbitrarily required to be pronounced
_Bway_ or _Bw_. We propose, therefore, to adopt the phonetic spelling.

The Bws are the most numerous of the three families and comprise in
their body, the _Kayas_ or Red Karen, Tsawkoos, Padoungs, Hashwies,
Prays, and other minor clans.

The Bws proper are found on the left bank of the Sittang, immediately
above Toungoo, south of the Gaykhos, having the Tsawkoos and other
cognate clans to their east.

Those located on the affluents of the river wear short drawers like the
_Gaykhos_, with radiating red lines near the bottom, while those south
of them wear white armless sack-like garment, with perpendicular bands
fashioned like those patronized by many other tribes.

[ Illustration--House at Layto (Bw Trip) ]

The missionaries have accordingly distinguished them by the names of
Pant Bghai (Bw) and Tunic Bghai (Bw) on account of these peculiarities
in their dress.

Similar designations are given them by the Burmese who also call them
_Leik-bya-gyee_ (Great Butterfly) and _Leik-bya-gnay_ (Little Butterfly)
probably from some fancied resemblance in their dress in these insects.

The appellation Bw is borrowed from the Sgan Karens, and the people
recognise the term so far as apply it with an adjective to sub-tribes,
although they have no distinctive name for themselves excepting _Pieya_,
their word for man.

Thus the"Gensbracata" speak of the tunic wearers as _Bw-ka-tai_, or
"Bw at the end of scarcity," food being more abundant in their
localities; the latter returning the compliment by calling their
neighbours _Bw-ka-htai_, or "Upper Bws," because they reside north of
them; while both clans call the Red Karens _Bw-ma-htai_, or "Eastern

We fixed on the village of Layto, which is situated at an elevation of
three thousand feet above the sea, and within thirty miles of the town
of Toungoo, as our summer retreat, because its airy situation promised
to afford us an agreeable change as well as the pleasant society of the
Italian fathers.

We were further induced to select Layto, as our friend the Prfet Biffi
kindly volunteered to superintend the erection of a house we directed
the Karens to build for us; and so charmed were friends who had just
come out from England with the idea of a "trip to the hills," that they
joyfully consented to accompany the writer and his family into the Karen
wilds. Arrangements were made accordingly.

"Ramprasand," a splendid tusker, was ready at the appointed time to
carry the ladies and children in that most convenient of all howdahs,
shaped like an Irish car.

The mahout had taken advantage of the occasion to embellish his charge's
head and trunk with various Arabesque designs in chalk; and clothing him
with a many-coloured carpet and other gay trappings, betaken that his
services were required far something less exciting than his ordinary
duty as shikar or shooting elephant, when simpler paraphernalia
sufficed; for while he was celebrated for his staunchness and courage
when the dread roar of the tiger, or the impetuous charge of the bull
bison, made less steady animals waver, he was no less distinguished as
one of the best travelling elephants in the Commissariat Department.

As most of our baggage and other belongings had already been sent on to
Pudd, where we were to encamp for the night, we managed to make a start
quicker than is usual on the occasion of a first day's march, and
arrived at our destination in good tome, all charmed with what was to
some of our party their first essay in jungle travelling.

Ramprasand at first did not belie his character for steadiness and
discreetness, but afterwards indulged in such eccentricities as to cause
some alarm to the ladies, and to bring on himself condign punishment
from his mahout, supplemented by abusive language in connection with his
female relatives to the third and fourth generation.

This unwonted behaviour was occasioned by our riding too closely in his
rear, and caused him to exhibit a weakness to which the most courageous
elephants are prone, however used they may be to ponies. The cause of
his uneasiness having been removed, he pursued the even tenor of his way
and restored the equilibrium mentally and bodily of his riders.

The people of the village managed very nicely for us, having, by a
judicious disposal of clean mats and _kullagas_, or curtains, made of
gaudy handkerchiefs sewed together, and of pieces of chintz,
illustrating in bright colours incidents in the life of Gaudama, which
they borrowed from a neighboring monastery, made the old zayat, or
rest-house, very comfortable, and as our servants had been equally
attentive to their duties, dinner was soon served, ushered in by that
inimitable soup, which Madras cooks enjoy the secret of making to
perfection on the march, but which they never succeed in equalling when
surrounded by all their home appliances.

We rose betimes next morning to enable the elephants to get under weigh
early, and also the better to enjoy the march, the ladies getting on
their ponies by way of a change, and our little girl being carried in a
light Sedan chair on the shoulders of two of Mrs. Mason's Karen youths,
who gaily tripped along much to E.'s satisfaction, who was highly
delighted with her conveyance and very proud of her "little men."

Our road for the most part was through what the Burmese called
_Eng-dine_, or forests composed of the _dipterocarpus grandiflora_,
somewhat monotonous when unrelieved, as is usually the case, by other
trees, but excellent for travelling purposes being smooth, hard, and
free from undergrowth.

In the more rugged parts, the Eng gave place to the varied vegetation
which is such a characteristic of this part of the country, interspersed
here and there by belts of the giant bamboo, which having flowered and
seeded that year, died in the effort, as is the case with all of the
grass genus, and falling with a crash prone to earth in the more exposed
parts, or lying for miles like a Brobdignagian hayfield beaten down by
Brobdignagian hail or rain, effectually blocked up the ordinary roads,
and by their withered and dismantled appearance afforded a melancholy
contrast to the vivid evergreen forests that surrounded them. The
elephants, however, soon made their way through the tangled masses, and
opened out the roads, while our followers busied themselves in
collecting the bamboo seed, which has the appearance of Patna rice, and
is said to be very good to eat.

Halting during mid-day in a shady dell near a brook, called Karen
stream, we pushed on it the cool of the evening to_Nga-moay-zayat_, so
called because a zayat or rest-house, built by Nga-moay (long since
gathered to his fathers), once stood there; but the only thing left of
this work of merit consists in a delapidated Buddhist flag-staff,
surmounted by the sacred Henza, indicating, at any rate, that the place
chosen by Nga-moay is one of singular beauty, as well as commodious for
travellers, being well shaded by lofty trees, and close to a magnificent
mountain torrent.

The Bw Karens belonging to the neighbouring hamlets had renovated the
little hut they had erected for the accommodation of the Prfet and
ourselves the previous month, and having thoughtfully constructed neat
bedsteads, tables, and seats from the giant bamboo, made it exceedingly

The presence of English ladies and children was a source of wonder and
delight to these simple people, who for the first ten minutes did little
else than gravely stare at them; but having been called to their duty by
their chiefs, energetically assisted our retainers in making the
necessary arrangements for the night, while one young fellow, who shot a
jungle cock in a sportsmanlike manner within a stone's throw of our
camp, gave us a welcome addition to our dinner, for which a bathe in the
cool, clear brook hard by proved an excellent preparation.

Our guests were looking forward with some impatience to enjoy the
beautiful mountain scenery of which they had heard so much, but for an
hour or two they had to content themselves with a road bounded on both
side by forests, in which the view was necessarily limited, although
there was still much to arrest the attention, for every turn in the path
revealed new beauties; flowering trees, endowed with a wealth of colour
peculiar to these forests, relieved with brilliant effect the somewhat
sombre hues of the evergreen vegetation, helped here and there by what
are called in higher latitudes autumnal tints, but which are here caused
by Dame Nature discarding her extra clothing in the hot weather before
she puts on her summer suit.

The _Dalbergias_ again, with their white stems, so smooth and slippery,
as to defy, it is said, the effort of monkeys to climb thereon, and
hence called monkey-crying tree (_Myouk-gno-ben_) by the Burmese, were
prominent objects; not to mention the numerous orchids and ferns that
were to be seen clinging to the trees in every direction; while near
their roots a beautiful crocus, which is a sure harbinger of the rains,
and known in the vernacular as _Pudessa_,[205] reared its modest head.
Gigantic parasites hanging from lofty trees seemed like the appliances
of a gymnasium for veritable sons of Anak, and made capital swings for
the monkeys, which chattered and "swore" at us as we went along, while
one remarkable creeper strangling three forest giants, with but little
effort of the imagination reminded us of the famous Laocoon in the

Before ascending the heights leading to Nature's picture gallery, we
came to a huge granite boulder, some twenty feet high in the care of
whose tutelar deity all walking-sticks have to be consigned, just as in
visiting galleries of art elsewhere, sticks and umbrellas are left in
charge of the doorkeeper, with this essential difference, that in the
latter case we can get back our property by producing vouchers, whereas
all the sticks left against this rock are recognised as legitimate
perquisites of the guardian spirit. Not only the Karens, but the Shans
and Burmese, deposit their sticks here for luck, just as we have seen
frequenters of a "wishing well" in Ireland propitiate the presiding
fairy by fastening little rags on an adjacent tree, or Hindoo pilgrims
attaching streamers to the _ficus religiosa_ with a somewhat similar
object; consequently the guardian spirit of the rock has a large supply
of alpenstocks to choose from, in case he wishes to take a stroll among
the neighbouring hills in search of adventures.

To the north of this rock, and on the summit of a hill, is a still more
remarkable boulder, said to be some sixty feet high, regarding which,
legend has it that a fond but foolish maiden suffered herself to be
enticed away from her friends by an ogre, who assumed for this purpose
the shape of an attractive young man, and having her, as he thought, in
his power, when they arrived at a lonely place on the mountain summit,
threw off his disguise, and was about to devour her, when the girl
prayed to a rival spirit, guarding the rock on which she stood, to save
her; the spirit answered her prayer by causing the rock to shoot up from
the level of the ground to its present height, and out of reach of her
tormentor, who shortly left in high dudgeon. The damsel's protector
escorted her home, but left the stone in its exalted position, as a
lasting memorial of her folly as well as of her deliverance.

After passing these rocks, the road gradually ascended, and then took us
up the face of a hill some 3,000 feet high, from the summit of which to
our destination it proved very easy.

The Karens carried the ladies in chairs fastened to bamboos, and the
latter were thereby enabled to enjoy the beautiful scenery which opened
up before us as we slowly mounted from the valley.

We reached Layto in time for breakfast, and were delighted with the
house the Karens had made for us, assisted by the good fathers.

The pan, for which we were indebted to our friend the Prfet, who took a
great interest in its construction, was admirable.

It consisted of two commodious bedrooms, with verandahs and bath-rooms,
raised on stout bamboo poles, some twelve feet from the ground, to which
communication was had by a ladder on one side. Underneath was a pleasant
room surrounded by lattice work to the height of three feet, but
otherwise open all round.

Assisted by the taste and ingenuity of the ladies, this was soon made
into a charming sitting-room and dining-room combined. Gay carpets
spread over the mats, curtains hung here and there, the introduction of
a few easy chairs, with a couple of tables covered with bright cloths,
soon gave an air of comfort to our apartment, which was further
tastefully adorned with rare and beautiful orchids and flowers gathered
in the jungles. Within easy distance of this mansion was our kitchen, on
repairing to which, in our tour of inspection of the surrounding
premises, we found Govindoo the cook, who had preceded us in a state of
considerable alarm, owing to a tiger having looked in at the kitchen
door the night before. We were at first inclined to believe that the
tiger was simply the offspring of one of the hideous nightmares to which
the old cook was subject after indulging in ardent spirits, but the
footprints of the beast being still discernible, proved that on this
occasion it was no phantom of the imagination.

The Karens assured us that this tiger was a harmless animal that
frequently roamed about in the vicinity of the village, picking up a
stray dog now and then, but doing no other harm; still the servants were
not quite satisfied with the explanation till experience proved the
truth of what the Karens said.

Within easy distance of Layto a band of Karennee Caterans had, a few
days before our arrival, attacked a body of Shan traders who were
returning to their own country from Rangoon. The Shans resisted, and a
determined fight seems to have taken pace, for three Shans were killed
and three wounded so severely as to be unable to proceed, while several
of the Karennees were wounded, if not killed, but they managed to carry
of those hurt in the fray. Baway, the East Asian Commissioner, and Ll,
the Chief of Layto, at once went in pursuit but the Karennees had got
too great a start of them, and managed to get into the debatable land of
the Tsawkoo country before traces could be found of them, and
consequently nothing could be done.

We went off to _Leppet-eng_, or Tealake village, to see the wounded
Shans, but they were unable to tell us more than we knew already, and as
there was not the slightest clue to identify their assailants, attempt
to discover the miscreants was hopeless.

The Karennee attack was one of those regularly constituted forays which
are a recognised institution among all the tribe of the Bw family.
These latter have forays for plunder, for the sake of vengeance, and to
recover debts, and here a few remarks thereon may be acceptable, as any
account of the Bws would be incomplete without some nonce if their

All are systematically organized, but those for debt or alleged claims
are not usually such formidable affairs as the raids that owe their
origin to a desire for vengeance on account of the death of friends or
for love of plunder.

Many a times as we sat round our evening bonfire have we talked over
bygone days with the chiefs and elders, who are now foremost in
encouraging the mid teachings of Christianity, but who, only a few years
ago, were ruthless marauders, notorious for their reckless blood feuds
and savage forays.

They gave most interesting accounts of what they did and what they
suffered, which helped to enliven the hours till bed time most
agreeably. We recorded the information at the time, but subsequently
ascertained that most of the detail in connection with the Karen system
of forays have already been published by Dr. Mason. In the following
notice we have, therefore, availed ourselves of his papers to supplement
our own notes.

When a chief determines to attack another village, he kills a buffalo,
bullock, or pig, according to his means or the importance of the
enterprise, and invites all whom he wished to join in the foray to the
feast. Those who accept his invitation are bound to assist in the
projected undertaking, and to each his proper place is allotted, with a
view to ensure success by a well-directed combination.

But before the inauguration of this festival, which is never held till
the augury of fowls' bones has pronounced in favour of the expedition,
the avenger of blood kills a hog or fowl, and taking therefrom bits of
the heart, liver, and entrails, minces and salts them, and rolls the
mixture up in a leaf. After prayer to the lord of heaven and earth and
other tutelar deities, to vouchsafe their aid, by confounding his
enemies and otherwise taking action in his favour, he entrusts this
parcel to two spies, with instructions to proceed to the enemy's village
and collect all the information they can with a view to attack, if
feasible; and further, desires them to accept his enemy's hospitality,
and on finding a good opportunity to drop the mixture in his food, so
that it may cause him to lose all self-possession and fall an easy prey
to the avenger. On the report of these spies, action is either taken at
once or postponed, according to the prospect of success or otherwise.

As the Karens never declare war, and endeavour to take their enemies by
surprise, a successful foray is characterised by fearful atrocities. The
advanced guard rushes into the house in which, according to Bw custom,
each community dwells,[206] and cuts down all who oppose it, while the
remainder of the party surround the building and intercept the
fugitives. Infants and decrepit persons are slain, as they say it would
be useless to take them away, while children and adults are often
massacred and mutilated in a wantonly cruel and diabolical manner.

Before leaving, the house is fired and the attacking party decamp with
their captives, whom they hold to heavy ransom or sell as slaves. "It is
instructive," says Dr. Mason, "to see how the same act looks when viewed
from different stand-points. The forays of the wild Karens appear to
civilised people little better than unqualified robbery and murder; but
a Karen looks upon them much as Europeans do suits at law, and the
execution of judgments by the sheriff."[207]

The forays for debt are arranged in somewhat the same fashion, but death
rarely occurs unless the debtor or his friends offer resistance.

The creditor simply forms a _posse comitatis_ of his neighbours, and
waiting his opportunity, suddenly pounces on his debtor with perhaps two
or three members of his family, and causing him to be brought before
him, reads him a homily on the iniquity of not liquidating his just
debts, and calls upon him to pay up with heavy interest, or incur the
penalty of being sold as a slave. If the debtor has assets, his ransom
is easily effected at the intercession of his friends, but the
negotiations for the redemption of captives taken in the intertribal
blood feuds are more serious matters, and are always entrusted to an
elder of a neutral village.

After delivering his credentials, the messenger explains the object of
his visit to the head of the feud, and if recognised as an "ambassador
of peace," his legs are smeared with the blood of a hog, which is killed
in honour of the event. After being well entertained, the envoy is sent
back with the legs and head of the hog, and these are accepted by those
who engaged his services, "as sealed documents that his mission has been

When the preliminaries have been satisfactorily settled, the heads of
the feud enter into a treaty of peace, which is done by drinking what
they call "the peace-making water," composed of the blood of a fowl, a
hog, and a dog, mixed with water and seasoned with the filings of a
spear, a musket barrel, and a stone. The parties to the arrangement sit
opposite to each other, and having divided the head of the unfortunate
dog that has been sacrificed, in twain, each slings one of the halves
round his neck, and drinking the mixture, they solemnly interchange
promises of good will, and invoking terrible curses on themselves, say,
"Now that we have made peace, if any one breaks the engagement, if he
raises up the feud again, may the spear enter his breast, the musket his
bowels, the sword his neck. May the dog devour him, the cat devour him,
the stone devour him. When he drinks spirits may it become the water
that oozes from a corpse. When he eats a hog may it become the hog which
is eaten at his funeral feast.[209]

On our way we passed a little ravine literally puddled with marks of
deer and other game, the foot prints of a tiger being also visible.

The Karens, taking advantage of the passionate fondness of deer for
salt, had put a quantity in holes which they had dug within a few feet
of an ambush near a spot to which they were in the habit of resorting,
when in want of venison. The villagers were very anxious that we should
sit up that night for game, assuring us that we should not be
disappointed, but having a horror of this unsportsmanlike practice, we
declined the honour.

_Baw-ay_, however, who had no such scruples, and who was only too glad
to have a chance of getting venison for his followers, posted himself
the same evening, and in about an hour shot a magnificent stag sambock,
or elk (_Rusa hippelaphus_), which came up, he said, almost to the
muzzle of his musket.

One of our first excursions was to a hill belonging to the same ridge as
Layto is built on, which we unanimously called "Orchid Mount," from the
numbers of orchids to be found there.

It afterwards became a favourite resort, and we seldom returned without
being well laden with these beautiful plants. Orchid Mount would make an
excellent sanatarium for temporary resort in the hot weather, as the
summit consists of a narrow strip of table land about one mile in
length, sufficiently extensive for building accommodation, with a
delicious climate compared with the plains, from which it is distant but
two day's march.

Our first day was further pleasantly diversified by visiting the
fathers, whose house and chapel was situated on an eminence close to our
house, examining their school which they have lately established, and in
making acquaintance with the people of the village.

In the evening, while we were trying to account for the fact of the
absence of games of any kind among the Karens, we determined to put to a
practical test whether this deficiency arose from a natural defect in
their constitution, or from want of opportunity, and set the boys to a
game of leap-frog. They fully entered into the spirit of the game, and
before many evenings were over, so successfully acquitted themselves in
the high branches of the art as to be advanced to the exciting pastime
of "high cockalorum."

Many of the missionaries who endeavour to promote the physical, as well
as the intellectual and moral advancement of their pupils, have
succeeded in introducing games among the boys, but it appeared to us
that the latter evince a want of spirit in their pastimes in comparison
with Burmese lads, who rival English school boys in this respect.

Next day the three Italian gentlemen joined our party at dinner; a fat
hill goat was sacrificed for the occasion, and pronounced by every one
to be as good as grain -fed mutton. There is something in the herbage of
the Karen hills that has a wondrous effect on the goats that live
thereon, making their flesh of a very different favour to that of their
congeners of the plains.

A reciprocal arrangement was a the same time entered into, by which the
fathers agreed to come over occasionally in the day time, as well as
joining us in our walks so as to improve their knowledge of English,
while the ladies gladly accepted their aid in brushing up their
acquaintance with Italian.

Several people from the neighbouring villages came into Layto, and most
of them sat down at a little distance from our verandah to have a look
at the white ladies and children. E. won all their hearts by her funny
ways, and vain endeavours to induce the quaint and sober little Karen
children to join in a game of romps.

The women had donned their gayest apparel, some wore the half white and
half red jackets peculiar to the Gaykhos, others the red Bw tunic,
while most of them had on their heaviest lead necklaces, as well as
brass greaves and arm-pieces, supplemented by a profusion of beads.

Even the men who, except on rare occasions, never condescend to make any
addition to their toilet, had bound round their unkempt heads bits of
book muslin we had given them previously. Evidently there was something
unusual going on, so we followed the stream to ascertain what it was. On
entering the village, we found that the neighbours had assembled at one
of the principal houses, at which a kind of Dutch concert was going
on--a volunteer band playing on the reed pipes, harmonicans, and
bassoons, with a _martellato_ accompaniment of _kyee-zees_ or drums,
while the general company, stimulated by frequent libations of _khoung_,
energetically beat the "devil's tattoo' on the sides of the houses, by
banging them with sticks, and at the same time danced, sang, and
otherwise gave vent to extravagant merriment. We naturally concluded
that a wedding or some such festive ceremony was going on, and we were
rather taken back to find that we had come on the funeral of one of the
inmates of the house.

The friends of the deceased, we were told, had met for the twofold
purpose of condoling with the survivors, and exorcising the malignant
spirits; but having drowned dull care in the bowl, the fun became as
fast and furious as in an Irish wake, and at last degenerated into an
orgie, which the demons they had come to scare might have, thoroughly

All this time little or no notice was taken of the corpse, which lay in
a coffin dug out of a single tree; this rested on a platform, and was
covered with handkerchiefs and sheets from the gaze of the bystanders.

Little tables made of bamboo had been placed at the head and the feet of
the corpse. On the former were arranged pork, chicken, and other
eatables, with spirits, for the use of the guardian spirit of the
deceased. On the latter rested a vessel containing fire, the
significance of which we did not ascertain.

A miserable fowl, tied by the leg under the coffin, was placed there, we
were told, soon after the deceased was confined thereto, and would be
killed when the procession moved off to the burial-ground and buried
with the corpse, but they were unable to acquaint us with the origin of
this custom. The Santals have a similar usage at their funerals, as they
nail a cock through the neck to a corner of the pile, or to a
neighbouring tree.[210]

Early in the afternoon the funeral procession was formed, the people
exhibiting a subdued demeanour more befitting the occasion than the
drunken revelry of mid-day.

The corpse was consigned to its last resting-place on the side of a
hill, close to the public road, the mourners and other friend ranging
themselves round the grave, with bamboos divided lengthwise in one hand
and little sticks in the other; the former they thrust into the grave
before it was filled in, and exhorted their own guardian spirits[211] to
come away therefrom, pointing out an easy way of exit by dragging the
sticks along the grooves of the bamboos. The bamboos were then thrown
away to get their guardian spirits temporarily out of harm's way, in
case they should inadvertently be buried with the corpse in the process
of consigning earth to earth; and when leaving the place, the bamboos
were carried off, and the spirits entreated to accompany them. A little
house was afterwards erected over the grave, on which were hung baskets
and other property of the deceased, while the head, feet, and other
refuse parts of the buffalo, killed for the occasion, were left for the
sustenance of the attendant spirits.

Padre Tornatore, who has some knowledge of medicine, and by his
successful treatment of several cases of fever and bowel complaints has
given a people, who have no doctors and no medicines, some confidence in
the efficacy of assisting nature by medical science, instead of leaving
her to herself. His fame as a "great medicine" has been also enhanced by
the success of a surgical operation on a lad whose leg had been broken
by the kick of a buffalo, and he held quite a leve at his little
dispensary daily.

Among his most constant visitors was the father of this boy, a funny
little man of about five feet in height, chief of the neighbouring
hamlet, who daily reported progress in regard to his son's case, and
apparently considered it a part of his duty to sit down and look at us
for half an hour or so, if he did nothing else.

The little fellow, who had not honoured us with his visit for some days,
came one morning earlier than usual to apologise for his absence. His
wife had, he said, presented him with a son, and as is customary with
his people, he had to undertake her duties.

On questioning him further, we ascertained that on the birth of a child,
whether boy or girl, the father proceeds to the well and draws water for
use in the lying-in room. He then boils it, kindling the fire with fuel
of his own cutting, and enters the house by means of a new ladder, which
he must make himself, carrying the hot water in buckets. The mother
washes the child if able, otherwise the mid-wife does so. The empty
buckets are left in the room for three days, and are then taken away by
the father, who descends by his new ladder, and then throws it away or
breaks it, as it is unlucky for other people to make use of it. The
buckets, which are placed under the house, must not be used for other
purposes for six days.

Dr. Mason, in reference to the customs of some clans, says, "if the
child be a girl, the father goes through the pantomime of performing a
woman's labours, beating paddy in a mortar, and the like. If a boy, he
spears a hog, and seizing the first man he meets, wrestles with him, to
indicate what his son will do when he comes to manhood."

Our informant made no allusion to the wrestling process, perhaps
inwardly acknowledging the absurdity of even the bare mention of feats
of strength in connection with such an insignificant specimen of
humanity as himself.

Another constant visitor was a fine-looking young fellow, rejoicing in
the name of "Fierce Tiger," whose personal appearance contrasted
strongly with our diminutive acquaintance. He was tall and well
proportioned, with a good-humoured and intellectual face, which he
occasionally washed, and thus made himself conspicuous in the crowd of
the unwashed with which we were surrounded. With a cheery manner, that
made him a general favourite, he was, although he had arrived at the
mature age of twenty-five, still a bachelor, and was consequently
continually rallied on the subject, as early marriages are the rule with
the Karens of all tribe. "Fierce Tiger, it appears, had fallen in love
with his cousin,[212] the daughter of a neighbouring chief, known as the
"Rising Moon," who reciprocated his passion, but the old adage in
reference to true love verified itself in this case, as the parents of
the damsel had betrothed her in infancy to one of their neighbours's
sons, who insisted on the bargain being adhered to in its integrity.

The augury of the fowl's bones, however, had as yet been unfavourable to
the projected marriage, and the lovers were living in hope.

"Fierce Tiger" did his best to make "Rising Moon" break her engagement,
but she knew well that her father discouraged the idea, as he had no
wish to incur the expenses consequent on an action for breach of promise
which his son-in-law elect would be sure to bring against him, and she
was further taught that want of duty to parents reaped its own reward in
calling down the wrath of the God of heaven and earth on the head of the
transgressors, by depriving them of all temporary blessings; so that
while inclination called her one way, stern duty dictated an opposite
course, leaving her undecided.

Should a couple who have been betrothed in infancy mutually object to
the union when they arrive at marriageable age, matters are amicably
arranged by the parents of the girl paying half the expense of the
betrothal feast, which is provided by the boys' parents; but if either
party refuse to carry out the promises made in their behalf by their
parents, it is understood that the man loses all that was spent in the
betrothal feast,[213] while the woman pays a fine.

The Karens, as we have noticed elsewhere, believe that person who marry
carry out the obligations incurred in their behalf by their guardian
spirits before they were born. Hence, when a match is broken off, the
parents say, "Ah! their spirits did not consent, their guardian spirits
did not make the agreement," while the young people sing--

"God and the Spirit, Without their consent No marriage is made. God and
the Spirit, And with their consent No marriage is stayed."[214]

When the preliminaries are arranged for a wedding, the bride is escorted
by the elders of her village and other friends to the bridegroom's
house, where all enjoy themselves in feasting and making merry, which
seems to be the chief features of all their social customs, whether
grave or gay.

Some of the people in our neighbourhood have apparently adopted the
custom of the Burmese, inasmuch as the fact of a bachelor and maiden
eating in public from the same dish is considered tantamount to the
irrevocable "I will" in our service. But the indigenous custom is
evidently the one described by Dr. Mason,[215] wherein two elders take a
cup of spirits, which is called the "covenant drink," and one standing
sponsor for the bride, the other for the bridegroom, mutually
acknowledge the obligations incurred by the latter as man and wife. Each
elder then offers drink to the other, and says, "Be faithful to thy

The parties concerned do not interchange any vows, but by their silence
give consent to the utterances of the elders in heir behalf, while,
instead of the formula, "to have and to hold from this day forward, for
better for worse, for richer for poorer, &c." the people present take up
the refrain, and say, "they are man and wife, and may live where they
choose; they have food or no food, clothes or no clothes; they may live
in peace, or fight and quarrel --no one will interfere. It is nobody's
business but their own. No one has any right to control them."[216]

On taking a stroll through the village one evening, we came upon the
elders engaged in investigating a case in which the accuser stated that
another had cursed him.

The accused admitted the charge, but pleaded justification, in that the
opposite party had given him serious provocation.

The only issue fixed by the court was, whether the defendant's plea was
just or otherwise, for the Christian maxim, "Swear not at all," is with
them "Swear not without cause."[217] Their traditions teach them that if
with reason they imprecate evil upon others, the curse will have effect
upon the cursed; but, if otherwise, it will roam about in search of the
person to whom it applies; and if unsuccessful, the "Lord of the land
and waters, the God of the heaven and earth, is displeased, and says to
the curse, 'There is no reason why thou shouldst hit this man; he has
done no evil, go back to the man who sent thee.'"[218]

The curse accordingly recoils against the man who uttered it, causing
him to languish and die.

Owing to very contradictory evidence, the members of the court were
divided on their issue, and were consequently unable to agree to a
verdict; the case was accordingly dismissed, and the court dissolved.

_Homicide_--Some days after this an incident occurred which serves to
illustrate the peculiar notions of this people on the subject of

A young man had been killed in a drunken brawl, and as every man has his
price among the Karens, the relations demanded the same from the persons
concerned in the fight, waiving their privilege of blood for blood as
laid down in their criminal procedure.

The accused resisted the claim on the ground that the deceased lost his
life through misadventure while the whole company were drunk, and as
there was no suspicion of malice on their part, they could not be held
responsible. The elders decided that as the complainant had nothing to
urge against the plea offered by the accused, the offence with which
they were charged came under the head of "general exceptions" in their
law. The nice distinction of the framers of the Indian Penal Code, that
"voluntary drunkenness is no excuse for crime" not obtaining in their

Although, then, by the strict letter of the law transgressors are
exonerated for what they do under the influence of intoxication, as well
as in cases where they can reasonably plead justifiable homicide,
murderers are left to be dealt with by the family of their victims, who
are considered to have a righteous claim as avengers. But terrible
remorse, making life a burden, and the loss of all one cares for in this
world, say the ancients is the lot of him who kills another without
cause. They also predict that the murderer's fate is to die miserably,
without kith or kin to perform his funeral obsequies, his body being
left exposed to feed vultures and wild beasts. While of the lover of
peace it is said, his house shall be established, and he will be blessed
with a numerous and dutiful progeny; "his daughters will demean
themselves with propriety, his sons will live happily, he will have no
adversaries, he will have no enemies. The lovers of peace will live long
and be prosperous,"[219]--a rough paraphrase of the words of David,
"Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them, they shall not be
ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate."[220]

The sky, which had been clear and bright on our arrival at Layto, now
began to be dark and lowering, and the Karens therefore lost no time in
covering our roof with mats, to make it as water-tight as possible, and
in placing bamboo stays against the posts of the house, as a precaution
against the effects of the violent though short-lived storms that herald
the approach of the south-west monsoon. And soon had we occasion to be
thankful for this forethought, when a violent thunderstorm that awoke us
at midnight, accompanied by torrents of rain, practically tested the
value of their labours.

The rain alas! should not be denied, and came pouring in every
direction, but this was a comparatively small matter, causing merely
temporary discomfort; the danger was that the wind would either bodily
lift our fragile house off its supports, or bring it down with a crash.

Thanks, however, to the arrangements made by the Karens it stood the
severe strain, although it shivered and bent as a reed in the wind; in
short, as seamen always say when their vessel has almost foundered,
it"behaved nobly."

The storm subsided as suddenly as it came, leaving us to repose as we
best could in the few dry places to be found.

The weather, which had been pleasant before, was now positively
delightful, and the atmosphere--hitherto lurid and hazy with the smoke
of a hundred jungle fires, which as they wound up the sides of the
mountains in the obscurity of night were not inaptly likened to the
fiery dragons of mythological story--soon became beautifully clear,
revealing, in all their lovelines, many distant hills and vales that had
been obscured, and involuntarily reminded the Italians of their own most
beautiful land.

_Reprisals_--We were glad to ascertain from despatches received from
head-quarters, that the wife and children of a Burmese resident of the
plains who had been carried off by the _Shoungs_, on our northern
boundary, in satisfaction of _akha_, or demand for compensation for the
life of one of their relatives, had been given up in consequence of
measures taken by us, and had returned in safety. The particulars of
this affair will give some notion of the Karen system of reprisals.

A few months previous to the attack on his house, it appears that the
Burman, when tracking a buffalo which had been stolen from him, picked
up a knife which was claimed by a Karen, who, on this admission, was
apprehended by the police on a charge of theft, but subsequently
discharged. The Karen died of measles on his way home, and his relations
at once made a claim on the Burman for _akha_, or compensation, on the
ground that he was the indirect cause of the death of the former.

The Burman, confident in the protection of duly constituted authority,
laughed them to scorn, although he was told by a Phon-gyee, or monk,
that they intended to attack him. This report was soon verified, and in
great distress he came to us to complain of the outrage, endeavouring,
with tears in his eyes, to enlist extra sympathy by informing us that a
baby, the joy of his household, was at the tender mercy of the ruthless

Suffice it to say, the Karens were given to understand that proceedings
of this kind could not be tolerated in British territory, and they had a
more constitutional remedy if they deemed they had any claim. So the
captives were given up, and the bereaved father had soon the happiness
of embracing his family once more, and of finding that even the precious
baby was none the worse for its travels.

This puts us in mind of a somewhat similar case in which the delinquents
resided beyond our eastern frontier, and consequently could not be dealt
with so summarily as our own subjects. Measles, it appears, had attacked
a village in _quasi_ independent territory between us and Karennee; and,
as usual, an inquiry was made to ascertain what person, or which
locality, was to blame, for introducing this disease, which, with the
Karens, often assumes the form of a violent epidemic.

A village under the British protection was fixed upon as the place from
which the disease emanated. A demand was accordingly made on it for
compensation, which was refused; a raid was then made thereon, and an
influential man carried off for whom a heavy ransom was demanded.
Circumstances which it is needless to detail rendered it advisable to
adopt the "suaviter in modo" in this case, before assuming the "fortiter
in re." A letter was consequently written to the offending chief,
demanding the restitution of the captive, and hinting that we should
have more to say to him in the event of his refusal. At the suggestion
of the people who had complained of the outrage, two official seals were
placed on this document to make it look more imposing, and whether owing
to the potency of the double seal, or to the influence of British power,
or to both combined, we known not, but at any rate the prisoner was
released with many expressions of good-will to ourselves, and to the
intense satisfaction of his friends and fellow-villagers.

The system of _akha_ or claim for compensation on account of real or
fancied injuries which is such a distinctive feature in the social
relations of the Karens, deserves special notice.

The Mosaic law which says "an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth,"
and which awards the punishment of death to the shedder of blood, is
fully appreciated in this system; and there is something reasonable in
demanding satisfaction when some tangible cause of offence can be
substantiated; but when the people, bowed down by a debasing
superstition, step over the bounds of common sense, and ascribe
misfortunes that may befall them to witchcraft, the evil eye, magic or
other occult influence, it can be well understood what interminable
vexations, as well as perplexing results, are involved in demands based
on such imaginary wrongs.

Thus the principle of demanding a life for a life, or an equivalent in
the shape of restitution, or heavy fine when the accused has been guilty
of robbery, theft, slander, or the like, may rightly be conceded; but
when it goes further than this, and the people give themselves up to an
abject fear, that induces them to attribute their misfortunes to the
machinations of supernatural agency, rather than to natural causes, it
requires no great effort of the imagination to conceive the inevitable

Some of the people here are musical, and are fond of playing an
instrument called _htwai_ in one dialect, and _nai_ in another peculiar
to these hills.

It consists of a gourd, in one end of which is inserted a mouthpiece,
and in the other a number of hollow reeds or bamboos of different
lengths pierced with small holes for modulating the same, and ornamented
with red silk or cotton tassels.

The performer uses the mouthpiece like that of a clarinet, to the sound
of which it bears not an inapt resemblance.

Dr. Mason recognised the picture of a Chinese "Gong" or organ used by
the Chinese mountaineers or _Miautsi_, which he saw in the "Sunday at
Home," as precisely similar to the Karen instrument.[221]

In one of our evening rambles we came on the old site of the village of
Layto, which had been vacated for the present site a few months before.
We were surprised to find that not only building materials, but
different household property in the shape of kitchen utensils, farming
implements, bundles of silk and other valuables were left behind till
their owners could conveniently fetch them.

This alone afforded a convincing proof of the truth of the report that
the people in this neighbourhood are singularly free from the crime of
theft, and act up to the teaching of the ancients.

They contrast favourably in this respect with their neighbours, the
Tsawkoos, who, though they belonging to the Bw family, are reputed to
be notorious thieves, whose only shame, if they confess to any, is to be
found out and thwarted in their knavery.

The Bw law as handed down by their elders is particularly strict on the
subject of theft. Honesty is impressed on them as the best policy, and
they are encouraged to obtain their living by the "sweat of their face"
rather than by fraud or theft, for much as they may strive to hide their
wrong doings, their deeds, it is said, will find them out in the ordeals
of diving under water and of ascending trees, and will be displeasing to
the Lord of heaven and earth. Their credit for honesty will also be
gone, for men will then say to them, "Once honest, ten times honest;
once a thief, ten times a thief."[222]

Bw law is lenient in the cases of those convicted of a first offence.

A tyro in the crime of theft was usually permitted to go free on his
restoring the stolen property, and promising to amend his ways; but, to
a confirmed thief, they showed no mercy, often selling him as a slave to
strangers, so that they might have no more trouble with him.

_Ordeals_--In cases of suspicion of theft, or when there is no positive
evidence to sustain the charge, the Karens, like the Burmese, have
recourse to certain ordeals to determine the guilt or innocence of the
accused. They have the water ordeal, the tree ordeal, and some say the
candle ordeal.

In the first the accuser and accused, in the presence of their friends,
stand or sit up to their necks in water, with a plank placed on their

At a given signal they are simultaneously immersed, and he who remains
longest under water is pronounced the winner. If the verdict is against
the defendant, he is adjudged to restore the value of the stolen
property with heavy interest; if against the prosecutor, he has to pay
damages for preferring a false charge.

In the second, a _Sterculia_ tree is stripped of its bark, and the
accused has to prove his innocence by climbing the slippery stem.

In the third, each party holds a lighted taper, and whoever keeps his
alight the longest wins the case.

This last is almost exclusively resorted to by the Burmese. The tree
ordeal may be said to be a _specialit_ of the Bw Karen, although it is
seldom used; while the ordeal by water is largely affected by both
Burmese and Karens, and many instances are recorded, wherein foolish and
infatuated people lose their lives, by submitting thereto. This absurdly
superstitious custom not only obtains among barbarous peoples, but is
recognized in the criminal procedure pertaining to the _Hlot-daw_ or
Supreme Court of the King of Burmah, where the farce is carried out to a
more ridiculous extent owing to the judges occasionally permitting the
parties to provide substitutes, thereby defeating the original object of
the ceremony, which no doubt was the exposure of the delinquent, who,
burdened with a guilty conscience, was supposed less likely to have his
wits under such control as to carry him through the ordeal

An amusing incident relative to this indulgence occurred when we were at
Mandalay in 1870.

A Persian trader accused a Burman of having robbed him, the latter
denied the charge, and it was decided that the dispute should be settled
by the water ordeal. The wily Burman managing to obtain a medical
certificate was permitted to nominate a substitute, and selected a
professional diver.

The poor Persian, although willing to compete with his rival on even
terms, naturally demurred against this arrangement, and contended that
he should also be allowed the privilege accorded to the accused, but was
either in such robust health or was unable to get a doctor with
sufficient flexibility of conscience to assist him, so the judges
refused his request.

The Persian appealed to us to assist him, and although we could not
officially do so, a private opinion that we expressed in his favour was
of sufficient weight to cause the judge to reconsider his refusal, and
the man obtaining (we heard) the services of a Madrassee pearl-diver,
fairly distanced his competitor, and won his case.

Another ordeal used by the Sgan Karens came to our knowledge on the
occasion of a Burman having been robbed in one of their villages.

Circumstances proved that the theft must have been committed by some one
in the village numbering twelves houses, so the chief decided that every
householder should fetch as much bran as he could carry in his two hands
together and throw it on a common heap, the object being to give the
thief an opportunity of restoring his ill-gotten gains, by appealing
either to his sense of shame or to his fears, without having to confess
his guilt.

The experiment came to nothing in this case, although it is said to be
often successful.

There was considerable excitement one day owing to a man in a
neighbouring hamlet having eloped with another man's wife. The man who
was aggrieved submitted his complaint to the elders, but they declined
to take up the case without our permission; this we at once accorded,
because we could not of course interfere unless the husband took the
initiative; and it was also desirable that a domestic matter of this
kind should, if possible, be settled among themselves.

On inquiry, we were told that their practice in cases of _crim. con_ is
identical with the custom described by Dr. Mason, which is as
follows;--The transgressors jointly purchasing a hog kill it, and each
holding a foot of the animal scrape a furrow in the ground therewith,
and pour the blood into the furrows. They then scratch the ground with
their hands and repeat the following prayer:--"God of heaven and earth,
Lord of the mountains and hills, I have destroyed the productiveness of
the country. Do not be angry with me, do not hate me, but have mercy and
compassionate me. Now I repair the mountains, now I repair the streams.
May there be no more failure of crops, no more unsuccessful labours, no
more unfortunate efforts in my country. May the paddy be fruitful, the
rice abundant, the vegetables flourish."[223]

This prayer is enjoined, because they are taught by their traditions
that incontinence is punished not only by bringing down every possible
evil on the heads of the transgressors, but by displeasing the God of
heaven and earth entails a general calamity, which is only to be averted
by sacrifices and prayer on the part of the offenders.

On submitting to this ordeal, and paying a fine to the plaintiff, a
decree _nisi_ is passed by the elders, who act as judges of Divorce
Court, after which, but not before, Bw society recognises the
transgressors as man and wife, while the bereaved party is of course at
liberty to marry again.

On the authority of Dr. Mason, we learn that the Bws who have come
under British rule declare that profligacy has increased amongst them
owing to the English law viewing breaches of chastity more leniently
than their own law did, but our experience was not long enough to enable
us to form an opinion on this point.

The Italians evinced an intelligent interest in the culture of the
mulberry and the breeding of silkworms as carried on by the Bws, and
hoped, in time, to induce them to adopt a better and more lucrative plan
than their wasteful and slovenly system, whereby no effort is taken to
keep the insect away from the influence of culinary operations or other
noxious smells, or to realise the advantages to be derived form that
proper care, which the Padri, by practical experience, knew to be so

The silk produced in the west of the Toungoo district is said to be
superior to all other kinds in Pegu, and, from recent reports on the
subject, published by Government, it would appear that the eggs of the
worm bred in Karennee are highly prized.

There would, then, be less difficulty apparently in improving the breed
in the Bw region by importations from Karennee than is the case in the
plains of Pegu, where it is said the worms deteriorate to the level of
the local breed in the course of two years, owing to the warmer
temperature to which they are exposed.

Our commissariat not being in such a flourishing state as when we first
arrived, and having long since accounted for the few goats and fowls the
neighbours were able to supply, we were obliged to send for more to the
Mopgha country which lies between the Kannee and Thouk-yay-gat streams,
and is contiguous to the Bw district.

Some of the Mopghas came to see us, but we should not have noticed them
as strangers, as they dress like the Tunic Bws. Here, however, the
similarity ends, as their language is a dialect of _Pwo_, with some
peculiarities which it is needless to detail. Mopgha is the name of one
of the villages from which the missionaries have named the whole tribe.
The people called themselves _Piezan_, _Piedo_, and _Plan_, the
equivalent for "man" in different dialects that exist even in this small
tribe, which has not more than a dozen villages belonging to it.

Most of the people have accepted Christianity, and are earnest in
promoting education. The Rev. Mr. Cross, in speaking of them, says, "I
know of no tribe or variety of Karens whose morality is so strict and
stern as theirs."

The Burmese distinguish the Mopghas from other tribes by calling them
_Tanbya_ or Wild Bees, from their custom of supplying the market with
honey and bees-wax.

The honey obtainable in the portion of the district, occupied by this
tribe, is of considerable value, and used, at one time, to be farmed out
in accordance with the principles of taxation adopted in British
Burmahs, by which fisheries, edible birds' nest, honey, c&., with
certain boundaries are leased annually or for a term of years. But this
right was waived by Government when it was under contemplation to being
down "ten thousand Karens " to form a colony in the plains, and the
honey as well as the fisheries in the Mopgha circle were declared free
to all.

As this project failed, the advisability of again forming the honey
districts was mooted. The Mopghas, however, demurred to this, and
asserted that certain families of their tribe had gained a prescriptive
right to gather honey within certain limits, a privilege that had
hitherto been held of great importance as the honey districts were
considered in the light of real property, which the possessors had the
power of selling, and were usually hereditary.

The question was accordingly held in abeyance, although it was
understood that Government did not officially recognise exceptional
claims of this kind.

After one of those bright shows, peculiar to this season, a very
beautiful and perfect rainbow appeared in the East, enhancing the
splendour of the magnificent panorama disclosed to view form the effects
of the recent thunderstorm, which quenched the jungle fires and cleared
the smoke-laden atmosphere. Even the phlegmatic Karens seemed, like
ourselves, to appreciate the loveliness of the scene, but it was with
very different emotions they looked thereon. What engendered in us
feelings of unalloyed pleasure and silent admiration struck them with
superstitious awe, for the rainbow is appropriate termed the "Arc of
God," _Khouz-i-Khuda_ by the Mahommedan, and which the Green, the
Indian, the Icelandic, and other nations agree with us in accepting as
an emblem of hope, is to them a harbinger of woe.

"In Homer the rainbow is spoken of as a prodigy, and as a sign of the
divine presence and favour.

"In Indian mythology it is the sign which Indra, the Sun God, displays
when he has defeated the Water Giants.

"In the Icelandic Eddas it is the bridge _Bifrost_, over which the
demi-gods pass to the earth."[224]

Whereas with the Karens this beautiful phenomenon "is deemed to be a
spirit or demon, but the people are not united in regard to its true
character. Some say it is a woman who died in pregnancy, others that it
is a demon which devours the spirits of human beings, and then they
appear to die by accidental or violent deaths;"[225] on finishing its
meal, they say it becomes thirsty, "therefore, when people see the
rainbow they say, the rainbow has come to drink water. Look out, some
one or other will die violently by an evil death;" while even children
are stopped in their play so long as it last, let some accident should
befall them.

One of the few unpleasant recollections we have of Layto is the
irritating attacks we were subject to on the part of a species of
gad-fly, whose bite caused the part affected to swell and be rather
painful. They were a source of special annoyance to some of our
scantily-clothed follwers, one or two of whom were nearly placed _hors
de combat_ from their insidious assaults.

Nearly every day batches of Red Karens, returning with salt, fish paste,
cotton twist, &c., purchased with the proceeds of cattle, ponies,
sticlac, and other produce of Karennee,, which they had disposed of in
Toungoo, came to have a look at us. Indeed, the big trees near our
domicile, and skirting the high road to the Tsawkoo country and
Karennee, not only afforded a grateful shade to weary travellers, but
furnished seats on their gnarled trunks, from which they could at ease
look on the wonderful white people.

Like the other Karens on this side of the Watershed, they generally
contented themselves by staring, but without otherwise giving vent to
any signs of pleasure or surprise.

On one occasion, however, a few who had never seen Europeans before
proved an exception to this rule, by greeting us with loud laughter.

Our retainers, shocked by this unusual demonstrativeness, request them,
rather peremptorily, to "move on," so that we had no opportunity of
ascertaining what had struck them in apparently a ridiculous light; and
we thought nothing more of the matter till, on looking over some notes
of Mr. O'Riley's, we find this weakness is referred to as a
characteristic feature peculiar to the Red Karens, especially exhibited
by the females. He says, "I note this as indicating their comparative
position in the human family, that is, their abject barbarism, or
advance towards civilisation; thus, I have never been seen by these
people for the first time without exciting their _intense laughter_,
accompanied by an apparent fearfulness of my presence. With all other
communities of Karens of the lowest grade, as with the Shans, whose
curiosity to see a white man for the first time is intense, their
surprise, or whatever the feeling may be which is excited by my personal
appearance, is expressed by a simple exclamation, nor, unless tickled by
some facetious remark of one of the party, do they give way to the
boisterous laughter of the Red Karens.

"I am at a loss to account for this difference in behaviour, and
therefore conclude that the impulse to laugh, combined with fear of the
object, is peculiar to those races which are furthest removed from

"Perhaps my appearance realises their minds a 'Beloo' or the _'Fan-qui'_
(foreign devil) of the Chinese, associated with their spirit worship;
but why should they express their feelings in laugher? Now, judging of
myself by our own civilisation, I may fairly state that I am not
positively ugly, perhaps a redundance of beard may hide any lines of
classic beauty I may possess; be that as it may, in this country I am
simply the laughing-stock of the whole race of Karennees, and were I
possessed of any vain opinion it would receive a rude shock from the
ridicule which it apparently excites, and brings forcibly to my memory
the lines of Burns;- -

'Oh would some power the giftie gie us To see ourselves as ithers see

The moral of which is, that no man priding himself on his personal
appearance should venture into Karennee, where his mortification would
be intense."[226]

The ridiculous superstition that influences the wild Karens about us,
trammels them as much as the decrees of caste influence the Hindus. An
instance of this was afforded in the case of one of our neighbours, who
absolutely refused to take some purgative medicine till he had consulted
the augury of fowls' bones, putting us in mind of Mr. O'Riley's
experiences when he prescribed an emetic powder for a chief's son, who
was deterred from taking it by the result of the indications of the
augury he had consulted, which was unfavourable.

Much as we enjoyed our jungle life, the advent of the English mail was
an event looked forward to with much interest. On one occasion,
policemen, who were charged with the postal budget, were a day longer
than usual in accomplishing the journey, and on asking for an
explanation, they informed us that the packet had only been given to
them on Saturday evening, and being Christians, they could not be
expected to travel on Sundays. Although one cannot help respecting men
who, for conscience sake, refrain from unnecessary labour on Sunday,
still it is not difficult to imagine the awkward consequences that might
ensue if every policeman struck work on that day, and they were
accordingly informed that such a wide discretionary power could not be
given them so long as they were in Government employment.

The Italian missionaries have introduced the custom of kissing, the
hand-shaking as adopted by the Americans. The former practice is,
however, confined to the embryo Christians kissing the hand of their
priests and perhaps is the least objectionable, while the Baptist
converts consider it a matter of duty to shake hands all round, a
proceeding, we think, decidedly inconvenient.

In another chapter we have endeavoured faintly to describe the terrible
hand-shaking ordeal one is expected to undergo on being introduced to
the member of a Christian Karen village, and the precautions we were
obliged to adopt to avoid catching that cutaneous disease which is so
prevalent among the people, and which is said to be solely attributable
to a deeply-rooted superstition, which causes them to think that the
lavish use of water, for the purposes of ablution, is prejudicial to

"Surely," as Mr. O'Riley remarks,[227] "with the symbolical rite of
their initiation into the Christian faith, as taught by the Baptists, it
were equally merciful to inculcate tint of these poor wretches the
cleansing of the body by the same element by which much of the sickness
they suffer might be averted, and, if by such teaching, they could be
brought to appreciate the use of soap occasionally, more valuable by far
than either 'Godfrey's Cordial,' or the 'Balm of Gilead,' it would prove
a real blessing."

When crossing the little "babbling brook," fed from springs on the
elevations around us, we noticed that one of those miniature houses,
containing the usual humble offerings, had lately been erected on the
margin of the stream, in honour of the attendant water sprite or kelpie.

The people could not give us much information about this superstition,
further than the bald statement that it was done for luck; but from Dr.
Mason[228] we find that "the waters are inhabited by beings, whose
proper form is that of dragons, but that occasionally appear as men, and
who take wives of the children of men. Unlike the Naiads of classic
antiquity, they never take the forms of females, but always appear as
men." Dr. Mason has published several interesting particulars in
reference to the quaint conceits among the Karens on the subject of
water spirits, from which we quote the following:--

"A girl, who had been deceived, and had taken an inhabitant of the water
for her husband, was told that she might ascertain his true character by
watching him privately when he bathed. She did so, and saw him in the
water change to a monster dragon, with a crest as large as seven wide
mats. He threw up the water to the heavens, which descended in heavy

In the same paper, Dr. Mason gives a detailed account regarding
_Mawlau-kwie_, a water spirit, which figures largely in Karen myths. A
girl is represented as holding clandestine meetings with this personage,
whom her father slew by personating his daughter.

The latter, full of devotion to her lover, consented to face numerous
perils by water to get him to life again, in which she succeeded twice,
to become a third time a widow, and by the rashness of her own father
was consigned, with her child, to a watery grave, to be eventually
translated to the great hall of her husband, the water-sprite.

So with the Scotch, we find, that "every lake had its 'kelpie,' or
water-horse, often seen by the shepherd as he sat on a summer's evening
on the brow of a rock, dashing along the surface of the deep or browsing
on the pasture-ground on its verge. Often did the malignant genius of
the waters allure women and children to his sub-aqueous haunts, there to
be immediately devoured. Often did he also swell the torrent or lake
beyond its usual limits, to overwhelm the hapless traveller in the

The "Legend of the Lady's Leap,"[230] one of the most charming idylls
which beguile the tourist visiting the far-famed lakes of Killarney, is
somewhat of the same character as the Karen conception, and is so
beautiful that we cannot refrain from quoting it entire:--

"In days bygone, a lovely maiden dwelt in one of the glens of Glena. The
only daughter of a king, fair and pure as a lily, and soft voiced as a
dove, she was the heart's desire of the princes of Erin. But her love
was not for them; her heart was given to the great O'Donoghue. On the
morning of a sunny May-day she sat on the mountain side and called him
to her. As she spoke, the silver shoes of his steed flashed across the
lake, and brought him to her side. He dismounted, and knelt before her,
and the strong forest trees and the tender wild flowers alike bent low
in homage to their lord.

"The water-king, enraptured by her beauty, returned the love of the
child of earth, and promised if she remained faithful to him for seven
years, and met him alone on six May mornings at the same spot, that on
the seventh he would bear her away to be queen of his palace in the
lake. True to troth, on six May mornings, while the dew still sparkled
on the grass, she met her royal lover, and held sweet converse with him.
The seventh morning came, and the lady arrayed in a snow white robe and
crowned with a wreath of lilies, repaired to the trysting-place. The
bridegroom was waiting to receive her, and his horse's hoofs pawed the
water in impatience. As she drew near, he stood in his stirrups, and
held out his arms. Giving one last fond look back, she waved a farewell
to her old home, and sprang to his embrace. Away galloped the steed
across the waves, the attendants and the music following, and in a
moment the new queen of the lake palace was hidden from mortal eye. The
spot is still pointed out to the tourists as 'the Lady's Leap.'"[231]

As the office work at this time of year was comparatively slack, we
found that an occasional trip to head-quarters sufficed to do what was
necessary for the satisfactory travelling of the Government coach, and
as we were able to prepare our annual reports with less interruption and
with more satisfaction in the cooler climate of Layto, we had just made
up our minds to a longer stay, when we received a telegram ordering us
to take charge of another and a more important district.

We were therefore obliged to bid adieu to this interesting region sooner
than we expected, with much regret, and at once returned to Toungoo,
with the most pleasing reminiscences of our tour.

[ Illustration--Gaykhos with Chief's Coffin ]


FROM our hill head-quarters at the village of Layto we made many
pleasant excursions to places in its vicinity, the most interesting of
which was to that portion of the district on the Burmese frontier,
inhabited by a people called by the Burmese _Kay_ or _Gaykho_ Karens,
but they have no distinctive name for themselves beyond _Pr-ka-young_,
or _Ka-young_, their name for man.

We left Layto early in the morning of the 5th April, 1869, accompanied
by the Rev. Signor Tornatore, the Gaykho agent, Moung _Showay Yah_, the
Karen Extra Assistant Commissioner, and others, and in less than an hour
arrived at the beautiful little valley of _Leppet-eng_, or "Tea-lake,"
which derives its name from a number of tea trees that grow round a
little pond situated therein. Major Lloyd, hoping that he had found the
true tea of commerce, some years ago collected some of the leaves, and
submitted them for professional opinion, when they were pronounced to be
_Eurya_, or wild tea, which is common in many other parts of the
district, especially near _Nattoung_.

After leaving _Leppet-eng_, the gradients are so easy, and the road
itself so good, that with very little trouble it might be made
practicable for carriages as far as the ridge on the south of the
_Nankyo_ valley, the descent to which is very steep.

Passing through the stubbles in the valley, we flushed a beautiful
silver pheasant (_Phasianus fasciatus_); and as the Karens said these
birds are plentiful, we immediately seized our gun, but, finding no
more, we were fain to shoot some green pigeons (_Treron cicincta_),
which were in great numbers on the banyan trees (_Ficus religiosa_), the
berries of which they are very fond of.

The Karens made arrangements for breakfast at a village picturesquely
situated near the margin of the stream inhabited by a tribe called
_Toungthu_ by the Burmese, which means either mountaineer or southerner,
but who designate themselves as _Pa-au_.

This industrious and interesting, but compara little known people, are
found scattered in small communities in Burmah proper, the Shan States,
the Cambodia, as well as in British Burmah. In dress they are not unlike
the _Khyens_, another isolated tribe found here and there in Burmah, but
oftener in Arracan.

The _Toungthus_ wear dark blue or black garments, the women having the
usual frock worn by the Karens, supplemented by a head dress of the same
material and colour, with a border of deep rd, which has a good effect.

Like the Karens, they have traditions of having come from the north; and
we find from Dr. Mason that they represent themselves as formerly having
had a king of their own, the seat of whose Government was at _Thatung_
(Thatone).[232] We should be inclined to class the _Toungthus_ in the
Karen family from their relation to the _Pwo_ Karens by affinities of
language, and from their possessing characteristics in common with some
of the mountain Karen tribes.

Mr. Logan is further of opinion that Toungthu, in its vocabulary and
phonology, is merely a dialect of Karen, though, like Karen, it has
acquired some Mon words. It probably, he says, preceded the Sgan and
Pwo, or has remained more secluded.[233]

Dr. Mason, whose experience has been more varied, declares, "there is
nothing to associate this tribe with the Karens but their language."
Captain Foley, quoted by Dr. Mason, says, "both men and women closely
resemble the picture of the _Huns_, drawn by Gibbon in his immortal
history," and further on he adds, "I am persuaded that these people are
descendants of the _Tanjau_, described by Gibbon, a _remnant of the
ancient Huns!_ preserved during the lapse of 1788 years uncomminuted
with the blood of strangers."[234]

Although unable to subscribe to the rather startling theory advanced by
Captain Foley as to their origin, we are unable at the same time to
gainsay it, and must be content to abide the results of further inquiry,
in order to pronounce definitely on many points connected with this
singular people.

The day we arrived seemed quite a red-letter day with the villagers who
had donned their best and gayest apparel, not in our honour as we at
first imagined, but on the occasion of a marriage which had just been
celebrated. We were unable to be present at the ceremony; an
eye-witness, however, gave us the following interesting details, which
show that in one of their most important social customs the _Toungthus_
differed from the Karens as well as the Burmese.

After all the friends of both parties assembled, related our informant,
the bridegroom who was seated opposite his bride took a cotton
thread[235], and, binding it several times round the wrist of the
latter, repeated the following formula. "This is my wife; may she enjoy
long life and escape the ninety-six diseases.[236] May our union be
blessed, and may she be fortunate in everything she undertakes."

The bride then bound the bridegrooms' wrist in the same manner repeating
the same formula. Each, then, fed the other with rice which seems
equivalent to signing the parish register in more civilised communities.

On leaving the _Toungthu_ village, a road ran along the _Nankyo_ valley,
crossing the stream several times, then came a steep ascent which took
half an hour to surmount, after which, by fairly easy inclines we
reached the village of _Ngamoung_, called after its chief, the most
influential personage among the northern Bw Karens.

The _Nankyo_ is similar to the _Thouk-yay-gat_, and other bright clear
streams that add such a charm to the hills in the eastern portion of the
district, and many parts of its valley, clothed with rich vegetation of
the same character as that met with in similar localities elsewhere
described, yields not in picturesque beauty to the more southern portion
of the district noticed in our tour to _Nattoung_. It was here we came
upon dense thickets of wild raspberry bushes covered with yellow fruit,
not quite so luscious perhaps as its European congener, yet sufficiently
palatable to revive old recollections, and to be fully appreciated by
the ladies, for whom we gathered a large basket full.

It is also remarkable for a very beautiful waterfall, which Dr. Mason
has called the "McMahon Cascade," in compliment to the first English
lady who visited these remote regions. It is well worth visiting, and,
although so near, the road to it might easily be missed were it not that
the noise of the fall naturally attracts one to a charming little dell,
through which the stream trends its turbulent passage, and, forcing
itself between battlemented rocks (covered to the water's edge with a
wealth and variety of verdure which owe their luxuriance to the
nourishment afforded by constant moisture), falls sheer some forty feet
into a deep limpid basin, which, surrounded on all sides by walls of
stone of massive boulders, to which ferns, orchids, and parasites of
various kinds cling in fantastic profusion, seemed worthy to be abode of
a genial _nat_ or sprite, and may well be called the "Fairy's Grotto."

Like its grander prototype O'Sullivan's Cascade, in Killarney, it may be

"The ungovernable torrent, loud and strong, In thunder roaring as it
dashed along, Leaping with speed infuriate wildly down, Where rocks
grotesque in massive grandeur frown. With ocean strength it rushes on
its way, 'Mid hoary clouds of everlasting spray To its rock basin with
tremendous roar, The brown hills trembling on the wizard shore."[237]

The village of _Ngamoung_ is comparatively a well-to-do place, as the
houses are substantially built on stout posts, and the people who are
Christians seemed to pay more attention to appearance as well as
comfort, than is the case with other Bw Karens.

The view on leaving the village next morning was superb, and indeed, the
whole of our journey was most interesting from the charming views which
opened out on every sides as we progressed northwards.

Arriving on the border of the Gaykho country, a deputation from the
village of _Ningian_ met us; and, firing off pistols as a mark of
respect, as well as to intimate to their fellows that we were coming,
assured us of their delight at seeing us.

Farther on stood the widow and representative of _Ningian_, the late
chief, with a number of her maidens dressed in all their finery, who,
standing on a rock in a stream which flows by the village, shook hands
with us, and, cordially bidding us welcome to her country, immediately
busied herself in giving orders in regard to the disposal of our camp,
and for the necessary supplies.

Although the Salic law, we were informed, is generally adopted among the
_Gaykhos_, no one of sufficient importance had as yet come forward to
take up the mantle of the late _Ningian_, a man of extraordinary energy
and influence; his _chief_ widow, therefore (for he has two if not
more), had consequently assumed the reins of power during the
interregnum in favour of her son, a minor, and acquitted herself
apparently with eminent tact and vigour.

She has certainly established for herself a reputation for cleverness,
in retaining her late husband's influence with a large portion of the
tribe in her own favour, as well as managing her domestic concerns with
care and prudence; facts that very probably accounted for the marked
attention paid to the buxom widow by the Gaykho agent, who has th
manifest advantage over her other _foreign_ admirers, of being able to
converse with her in her mother-tongue instead of through the medium of
Burmese or other dialects of Karen, with which she is imperfectly

Although suffering from an attack of fever she paid us a visit in the
evening to see that all her orders for our comfort and convenience had
been carried out, and begged our acceptance of a spear, baskets, and
wearing apparel, as specimens of Gaykho workmanship, to which we made
suitable acknowledgment in the shape of a gift of silk handkerchiefs,
looking-glasses,& c. She also showed herself considerably in advance of
her people by eagerly accepting our offer to treat her for fever,
instead of deprecating by sacrifice the wrath of the malignant demons
whom, they (in common with other savage Karens) believe, are the cause
of all their diseases. With such a faith it is hardly necessary to add
there is no opening in this country for medical practitioners, and the
only use we have ever heard of medicine of any kind being put to among
the tribes in this region is in the case of _Hashwi Karens_ whom Dr.
Mason has heard use _Perry Daris's "Pain Killer"_ as an ingredient in
their manufacture of gunpowder!

To the credit of Western science it is satisfactory to record that our
diagnosis of the widow's complaint having been made on correct premises,
we were fortunate in effecting a perfect cure, not without a suspicion
on the part of her conservative advisers that "the bitter white
medicine" (quinine) we administered was simply a charm or antidote
against the effects of demoniacal influence.

Leaving _Ningian_ early next morning we arrived in time for breakfast at
a village called _Ngakyaw_, which has been selected for our camp, as the
village in which _Bogyee_, the principal chief of the country resides,
is not so accessible.

The old chief apologised for not being present to welcome us in person
as he had to superintend the burning of a clearing, which, being in the
vicinity of his village, required extraordinary care, but arrived in
camp just after we had retired to rest. Having been thoroughly roused by
the noise made by the advent of the chief and his party, we had an
interview with the former, in which we, by mutual consent, confined
ourselves simply to ordinary topics, leaving the great question of
opening out the trade route to the Shan States, to be discussed on the
following day.

The chief has none of the physical characteristics of his tribe, or
indeed may of the races of Mongol origin, for were it not for his copper
colour, he has the appearance of a bluff old English farmer, and his
face, in spite of the ravages that a too ardent devotion to spirits has
made upon it, is still a fine one, exhibiting signs of intellectual
power although sadly wasted, and reminded us much of the portraits of
some of the old Roman emperors.

We found _Bogyee_ an intelligent old man; and, having won his heart by a
glass of Exshaw's best brandy, obtained from him a considerable amount
of information without the necessity of his employing an interpreter
owing to his being able to speak Burmese with considerable fluency. A
second glass of brandy was discussed by their chief on his departure,
and agreeably to his request we promised him a "full bottle properly
corked and sealed" so soon as our conference to be held that day was

The Gaykhos were even conspicuous for their invertebrate hostility to
the Burmese, who invariably extended towards them as well as to other
Karens that harsh and inconsiderate policy with which it is to the
present day their wont to awe the _Kakhyens_ near Bham, a people who
have many of the characteristics of the hill Karens, and who, like them,
have an implacable hatred to the Burmese Government.

When the English obtained possession of the country they found
themselves burdened with a disagreeable legacy, for the Gaykhos as a
matter of course transferred their feelings of ill-will to the new
rulers. Owing, however, to the conciliatory measures adopted by the
officer in civil charge of the district, and to the successful results
of Christian teaching, this feeling of distrust and hatred has been
happily eradicated, and it may be said that the people of some of their
villages so appreciate the benevolence shown by the inhabitants of
Toungoo as well as by the English Government on the occasion of a
feminine which threatened them in 1867, that they may now be reckoned as
our firm friends.

These people, less provident than their neighbours, had no stores of
corn, and depended for their chief sustenance on the rice crops, which
were utterly destroyed by a vast number of rats, which, attracted by the
flowering or seeding of the bamboos, had assembled in great numbers, and
after devouring the bamboo seeds, made an incursion into the fields, and
ate up the rice also.

These armies of rats, consisting of many thousands, occasionally make
similar visitations on the plains of Pegu, and although their advent is
the signal for all the villagers to turn out with sticks and staves to
deal destruction as much as they can, the rats are sometimes so numerous
as to defy these exertions towards their extermination, and the vast
assemblage pours on, after greatly damaging the crops, to commit fresh
havoc elsewhere.

The shortest route to _Moby_, _Mon_, and the Central Shan States from
Toungoo, passes through the _Gaykho_ country, and consequently the
advisability of making this route practicable for Shan traders was
apparent to Major Lloyd when in charge of the district, who, after
encountering some diplomatic difficulties owing to the savage nature of
the people, succeeded, with the assistance of the Rev. Mr. Bixby, and
_Moung Showay Yah_ (an influential Bw chief, who has since been
appointed Gaykho agent), in making arrangements with _Bogyee_ and
_Ningian_, two of the principal chiefs, by which it was agreed that the
latter should be allowed to collect a tax on cattle and laden porters
that passed through their country, on condition that they opened out the
route, and kept it open as well as safe for travellers.

The Burmese authorities trans-frontier at once saw that their profits,
legitimate and otherwise, would sensibly diminish if the slave-traders
were diverted to this new road from the more circuitous one in Burmese
territory, and consequently did their utmost to nullify the arrangement
made with the Gaykhos by enforcing prohibitory imposts on traders who
entered the British territory in that direction.

These measures in part succeeded, but, owing to the inordinate rapacity
of the Burmese officials along the old road, and the obstruction placed
by them in the way of importing cattle into British Burmah the Shans
again began to turn their attention to the new one, and it was therefore
our obvious policy to assist them as much as possible, and thereby
develop our trade with the Shan States.

We therefore made a point of going over the Gaykho route, with a view to
ascertaining whether the promised made to Major Lloyd were kept, and
regretted to find that the road was far from being in the condition it
should be, for owing to the passive indifference of the chiefs, rather
than to any active opposition on the part of the people, the impediments
in the Gaykho country were such as to deter traders from taking full
advantage of this natural route for traffic.

The subject as discussed at length with _Bogyee_, and all the other
principal chiefs of the country, and we took care to lay before them
clearly the whole of the facts of the case, pointing out particularly
that the obstructive policy of the Burmese in regard to trade was their
opportunity, and that they owed it to themselves and their people to
afford every encouragement to the Shan traders to take advantage of the
road, by making it more practicable than it was then for beasts of
burthen, and taking care that travellers were not murdered, robbed, or
molested in any other way.

_Bogyee_ and the other seemed to take an intelligent interest in what we
said, and confessed that the manifest advantages that would accrue to
them from a proper conservancy of the route through their country, had
not been brought home to them so clearly before, and pledged themselves
to endeavour to carry out our wishes. It was finally arranged that
_Bogyee_ should be the responsible chief for superintending the
necessary arrangements connected with the road, and that the agent,
_Moung Showay Yah_, should reside in his village during the months the
road is open for traffic, and assist _Bogyee_ in ratably sharing the
proceeds of the toll he is allowed to collect from cattle and laden
porters, in giving advice and assistance with a view to keeping the
other chiefs in order, and in furthering the objects for which this road
has been opened.

The arrangements for improving the traffic with the Shan States, though
crude, were the best that could be made at the time. The civilising
influences that were brought to bear on the _Gaykhos_ produced good
fruit, in changing them from determined foes to friends; still may of
their savage instincts remain, and it requires some tact to manage them.

Our visit was, we trust, productive of good, as the people seemed
heartily glad to see us; and no doubt, after they have had more
intercourse with our officers, this friendly feeling will increase.

Never acknowledging, nay, defying the authority of the Burmese, it is
satisfactory to record that the Gaykhos were anxious to evince their
loyalty to the English by voluntarily offering to pay taxes, but it was
considered inexpedient to comply with their request.

_General Description of the Country_--the territory inhabited by the
Gaykho Karens is divided from the Sittang river by the district occupied
by the _Shoungs_, and is located on both sides of the boundary line
between British and Burmese territory.

The _Hashwi_ country lies on its east, and that of the Bws forms its
southern boundary. The Rev. Mr. Bixby, who had travelled all over the
country, was under the impression that it lies lower than the portion of
the district contiguous to the Sittang, and that it has a general slope
in a northern direction, towards which its streams flow. The general
appearance of the country gives the idea that it was at once time more
thickly populated than it is now, as it contains comparatively little
timber trees, and there are signs of its having been more extensively
cultivated than it is at present.

_Products and Manufactures_--Among this products may be mentioned silk,
cotton, tobacco, rice, and all the vegetables common to Burmah, the
mulberry being extensively cultivated.

The Gaykhos, as well as many of the adjoining tribes, make gunpowder.

Rude blacksmiths' work is found among them, but they are dependent on
the Shans for guns and other weapons, as they are at present ignorant of
most of the useful arts.

_Physical Characteristics_--The Gaykhos claim to be superior to all the
other Karen tribes; not without some reasonable grounds, for the men are
stout, tall, and muscular; daring in adventure, and warlike in
disposition; while the women are fair, well developed, and occasionally

Many of the people are as fair as the Chinese, and among the young
people are sometimes found individuals with red and white, in strong
contrast in their faces, but never with that clearness of complexion
that Europeans possess.

In general appearance they resemble the Bws more than any other tribe
of Karens.

_Dress_--The men wear short drawers with red embroidery, similar to
those worn by the Bws. The women wear the ordinary petticoat,
supplemented by a red and white jacket, and load their legs and arms
with heavy brass coils, and their necks with similar coils of lead.

_Language_--According to Dr. Mason,[238] a considerable number of the
vocables of the Gaykho language are allied to the Red Karen, although
the people themselves regard it as related to the _Shoung_, whose
numerals, as well as some other words, are identical; but Dr. Mason
says, that the _Shoung_ dialect proves the people to be of _Pwo_ origin,
so that if most of the affinities of the _Gaykho_ language agree with
the Red Karens, it may reasonably be placed in the _Bw_ family.

[ Illustration--The Chief's Widow Welcoming Us To Gaykho-land ]


_Births_--The ceremonies connected with the births, as well as the
naming of children, are nearly the same as those observed by the Bws.
The father for the nonce undertakes the mother's duties, in drawing
water from the spring, boiling it for the use of the lying-in chamber,
with wood of his own cutting, and performing other household work, the
peculiar province of women under ordinary circumstances.

Consulting the oracle of the fowls' bones with its invariable
accompaniment of feasting and drinking are, it is hardly necessary to
add, prominent features in these ceremonies.

_Betrothals_---Like the Bws, they are accustomed to betroth their
children when they are mere infants, but the children often resent these
arrangements as inconsistent with the right of selection, which they
naturally arrogate to themselves, and when they arrive at years of
discretion form unions for themselves, based on mutual love or liking,
instead of allowing others to choose for them.

When a young man is determined to act in the defiance of the agreement
entered into by his openly, but visits her, as our informant related,
like a "thief in the night."

If the maiden accepts her lover's addresses, she admits him into her
chamber by stealth, and when the other members of the family have
retired to rest, they hold sweet converse till the early dawn,
discussing the prospects of their reciprocity treaty.

This custom, however, is not confined to the _Gaykhos_, for it is
identical with what obtains among the Burmese, and it is not an unusual
thing when the police take up young fellows at unreasonable hours of the
night for them to confess they have been on a courting expedition, a
sufficiently tangible excuse for a Burmese constable, if other
suspicious circumstances do not belie the assertion.

We need not indeed look so far as Burmah for parallel, for human nature
is the same everywhere, and if we are not mistaken, the farm and
domestic servants in some parts of Scotland conduct their love affairs
much in the same way as the_Gaykhos_ do, and in this particular we have
an instance of sympathy between Celt and Mongol if in no other.

If the match should be broken off by mutual consent or otherwise, the
matrimonial prospects of the Gaykho spinster are not lessened, for at
the worst, her lover has to pay heavy damages, which serve to enhance
her value in the matrimonial market.

_Marriage_--The actual marriage ceremony appears to be celebrated in the
same fashion as in the Bw country, a description of which we have given
in another chapter.

_Death_--Their funeral ceremonies are also identical with those observed
by the _Bws_, but in the funeral of the chiefs or other men of
importance the coffin is a much more important element in the affair,
for, owing to the scarcity of heavy timber trees (already noticed) there
is occasionally some difficulty in finding a fitting receptacle for the
corpse, as in such a case it is customary to hew the coffin from an
immense log, and it not unfrequently happens that it is prepared long
before the death of the intended recipient, owing to the time and
trouble it entails.

On our way to our rendezvous with the Gaykho Chiefs we saw one of these
coffins in a hut erected close to the pathway, and if we recollect
rightly, it was intended for old _Bogyee_ after he departed this life.
It as about six or seven feet long by three feet deep, with wings like
the prow of a boat at each end, and with four short legs at the corners,
intended to keep it off the ground when used, but in the meantime the
coffin had been placed upside down to keep it clean. It was scooped out
so as to allow a corpse of ordinary dimensions to lie prone at bottom,
but so narrow was the opening at top that the most attenuated body could
scarcely be squeezed through it without much pressure, much less one of
the obesity which is a characteristic feature in the old chief,
involuntarily reminding us of the scene so graphically described by
Bishop Bigandet on the occasion of the corpse of a Buddhist monk or
Talapoin, which he was being put into a coffin of scanty dimensions, and
vividly picturing to our imagination the hideous results likely to occur
if force were employed in consigning the mortal remains of a Gaykho
Chief to its last resting place.

Dr. Bigandet says:--"A Talapoin of my acquaintance had died a fortnight
before, after thirty years of profession. His body laid in the coffin
was to be for ever concealed from human sight. . . . Two stout
carpenters appeared bringing a board four or five inches thick, designed
for the cover. They vainly tried to fit it in its place; the hollow of
the coffin was neither broad nor deep enough for holding the corpse,
although reduced to the smallest proportions. The operation was not a
very easy one to bring the board in contact with the sides of the
coffin, despite the resistance that was to be offered by the corpse. The
carpenters were determined not to be disappointed. At the two ends and
in the middle of the coffin, ropes were passed several times round it
with the utmost tension, in such a manner as to have six or seven coils
in the same place. Enormous wooden wedges were inserted right and left
in three places between the sides and the coils. On these wedges the
workmen hammered with their whole strength during about twenty minutes,
to the great amusement of all the bystanders. Each blow of the hammer
lessened the distance between the cover and the brim of the coffin.
Every perceptible success gained over the latent resisting power
elicited a burst of applause, and a cheer to the persevering workmen. At
last, all resistance being overcome, the cover rested fixedly in its
place. It is needless to add that the corpse inside was but a hideous
mass of mangled flesh and broken bones."[239]

Dr. Mason writes:--"When a chief or any other slaveholder dies, one of
his salves is said to be buried alive with the corpse, to wait upon him
in the next world, a custom that formerly exited in China. A cylindrical
hole is dug deep into which the salve with some provisions is put; over
him, the pit being widened for the purpose, the corpse is laid, and the
grave is then filled up with earth."[240] But the bare notion of such a
practice, which possibly may have existed in times long gone by, is now
scouted by the people as false, although occasionally, it is said, a
slave is bound near the grave of a chief (as is sometimes the custom
with the Red Karens), to obtain his final release from bondage on his
freeing himself.

_Government_--Owing to their prominent energy of character, _Bogyee_ and
_Ningian_ were held to be chiefs of the Northern and Southern Gaykhos
respectively, and since the death of the latter, _Bogyee_ would fain be
ruler of the whole country were it not for the persistent obstinacy of
_Ningian's widow_, who seems determined to keep her late husband's power
in her own hands, till her son is old enough to take his father's place.

The power of either, excepting over their immediate followers, in their
capacity of Patriarch, was however merely nominal; the lesser chiefs, as
is the case with other tribes, acting independently of them and of each

_Religion_--In common with even the most savage of the Karen tribes, the
Gaykhos acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being, the Creator of
heaven and earth, and Ruler of the universe, who in ancient times looked
with favour upon the Karens, but who has turned away his face from them
on account of their grievous sins, leaving them to the mercy of demons
and other inferior spiritual agents, who are only to be approached by
deprecatory offerings of the blood of fowls or animals.

But unlike many others who believe in a future, although they do not
hold that their actions in this life influence that future, the Gaykhos
acknowledge that they will be punished or rewarded hereafter according
to their acts on earth. The wicked, they say, are sent to a place of
torment, while the just will be received into an abode of bliss, to
which is added the comforting hope, held by many Christians, that the
spirits of beloved ones who have gone before, will be ready to welcome
them at the threshold, and remain with them joyfully evermore, instead
of being subject to the sorrowful partings that take place in this
transitory world.

They have also traditions regarding the Creation as well as the Deluge,
somewhat similar to those pertaining toe the _Sgans_ and others, noticed
elsewhere; absurd and confused, it is true, but important in so far as
they bear out the idea that the Karens are indebted to the Jews or the
Nestorians for traditions which accord so well with events recorded in
the Old Testament.

The seeds of a purer faith have already begun to germinate in this
barren soil, and it is trusted that the blessings of Christianity, which
have done so much in ameliorating the spiritual condition of more
barbarous peoples, may be extended to the _Gaykhos_.[241]


_History_--Like may of the other tribes, they have traditions of having,
in ancient times, "come from the North," and also having enjoyed great
consequence and power at _Thatone_, near Moulinlin, which is so famous
in the annals of the Buddhist religion. But these traditions are so
vague that it is impossible to form a conjecture as to the period of
their location at Thatone, much less of their exodus from the North.

On the authority of Chief Bogyee, it would appear that some fourteen
generations ago the Gaykhos occupied that portion of the country now
known as the Western Shan States, and were ruled over by a chief called

_Klieperee_ had a daughter famed in all the regions round for her great
beauty, who had numerous suitors for her hand; of these, the most
celebrated was a handsome young Shan Saubwa, or chief, named _Gwaynee_,
ruler of the country now occupied by the _Gaykhos_, who was not only
distinguished for his gallantry and chivalric bearing, but also for the
wisdom and tact with which he administered the affairs of his people. He
was so fortunate as to secure the affection of _Klieperee's_ daughter,
but the old chief, who had ulterior views as to the disposal of her hand
to one of his own kith and kin, and was horrified at the idea of her
marrying anyone but a Karen, resolutely forbade the bands.

The gallant _Gwaynee_, nothing daunted, eloped with his fair inamorata,
and refusing to comply with the demands made by _Klieperee_ as
compensation for this outrage, was obliged to defend himself from the
Gaykhos, who immediately declared war against his country. If Gaykho
history is to be credited, the Shans were driven out, and the Gaykhos
occupied _Gwaynee's_ territory, which they still retain, but it is far
more probable that the Gaykhos, like other Karen tribes, have gradually
been driven from the North by more warlike peoples, and have long
remained unmolested in a religion eminently suited to their
requirements, but which offers little inducement to the cupidity of a
foreign people.

Living here for many generations in a state of chronic warfare with the
neighboring tribes and with each other, and having a character for
ferocity only equaled perhaps by the Red Karens, the Gaykhos enjoyed an
unenviable notoriety for their lawlessness, as well as their
independence of control on the part of the Burmese Government, but under
the milder as well as the firmer rule of the British, there is every
reason to believe that a great change has taken place in the feelings of
the people, and that by degrees, as they become accustomed to the
advantages of an organized system of Government, they will be good and
loyal subjects.

_Padoung Karens_--Within view, and easy distance to the east of our
Gaykho camp lay the territories belonging to the _Padoungs_, _Hashwis_,
and _Prays_, which we were most anxious to visit, but owing to pressure
of time were unable to do so.

Numerous representatives of these tribes, however, came to visit us.

The _Padoungs_ and _Hashwis_ resemble the Gaykhos somewhat in physical
characteristics, dress,[242] and many of their customs and habits, while
the _Prays_ are more like the_Tsawkoos_. We will therefore content
ourselves with a few general remarks regarding them.

The Padoungs, located on the extreme north-eastern corner of British
possessions, extend to the north into Burmah proper, as well as beyond
the Great Watershed to the east.

Their country, with its bold limestone peaks, covered with white
lichens, towering over the dark and heavily-wooded valleys below, is in
striking contrast with the richly cultivated table land of Karennee to
the east, as well as to the comparatively low hills and undulating lands
of the Gaykhos on the west. Unlike them, too, its soil is hard and
unproductive, and the people often find it hard to live when, as
occasionally happens, they have bad harvests.

Bordering on to the Shan states, the people speak Shan as well as their
own dialect, and occasionally adopt Shan proclivities, so much as to be
called by some people Shan Karens. They live in large villages similar
to those in Karennee, each presided over by a chief or patriarch, all of
whom are independent of each other.

Unaccountably, they have the reputation of being peaceful and honest
people, although they are notorious for the bitterness of their feuds,
as well as for the effrontery with which they make raids on their weaker
neighbours, and sell their captives into slavery.

Christianity, when we were in the country, had made little or no
progress among them or the other tribes on the Watershed immediately
south of them.

_Hashwi Karens_--_Hashwi_, as they are called by the Bw Karens, and
_Hashu_ as they designate themselves, is the name of a small tribe
located immediately south of the _Padoungs_. Their territory presents
the same physical aspect as the Padoung country, and is remarkable for
numerous saltpetre caves, which will be noticed hereafter.

The men are tall, slender, active, and warlike. The women are not so
good-looking as the Gaykhos, and carry out the absurd fashion of wearing
leaden coils round the neck, and brass coils round the legs and arms to
a more extravagant degree than the women of other tribes.

To obtain a Hashwi damsel in marriage, it is necessary for the
intending Benedict to purchase her with a _kyee-zee_ or drum; and before
the nuptial knot is tied, this must be begged, borrowed, or stolen, if
not already in the possession of the enamored swain.

On the principle that all is fair in love, the Hashwi youth, however
punctilious he may be as regards the laws of _"meum and tuum"_ on
ordinary occasions, has no compunction in stealing a _kyee-zee_, if the
want of one is the only obstacle towards the fulfillment of his hopes,
and thus probably creates a _casus belli_, not to be amicably settled
for generations.

Slavery is a recognized institution with the Hashwis, as it is with
their neighbours, but to a casual observer the social condition of the
slaves differs little from that of their masters.

_Pray_ or _Say-may Karens_--Immediately south of the Hashwis is a small
tribe called _Pray_ by the Red Karens, and _Say-mays_, or blacknecks by
the Burmese, on account of the black coils they wear round the throat.

They appear to be a sub-tribe of the Bw family, and (on the authority
of Dr. Mason ) are acknowledged as such by the Red Karens and other

They are described by Mr. Bixby as lean and cadaverous looking, with
little clothing, existing chiefly by plunder; savage, treacherous,
ignorant of all the useful arts, and in, in short, regular Caterans.
Ishmael among the other tribes, their hand appears to be against every
one, and every one's hand against them.

It is hoped, however, in time, that civilisation and religious
enlightenment may have the same happy results with these poor savage
people, as it has had with tribes equally barbarious.

_Saltpetre_--The manufacture of saltpetre, as carried on by these wild
tribes, deserves special notice.

The products of their limestone caves proves that the crude article is
not saltpetre proper, nitrate of potash, but nitrate of lime; for
saltpetre, as it is found in such deposits, is always more or less
contaminated with the nitrates of lime, magnesia, and soda, besides the
corresponding chlorides and sulphates.

The Karens dig out of these caverns earth highly charged with nitric
acid, produced, in their opinion, from the excrement of bats, hence
their name for saltpetre is _bla_, "bat dung," which no doubt
contributes to furnish nitre, as would be the case in all situations
where animal matters are completely decomposed with access of air and of
proper substances with which they can readily combine. This earth they
place on a raised platform made for the purpose and deluge it with a
strong lye or water impregnated with alkaline salt from straw ashes. The
water takes up the salt, filters through the earth to a receptacle
below, and is then removed to huge iron cauldrons or earthen pots, and
boiled down. The water dissolves the nitrate of lime, the lye furnishes
carbonate of potassa, and thus a soluble nitrate of potassa is formed,
and an insoluble carbonate of lime. hence, when boiled down, the lime is
dropped, and crystals of nitrate of potash are formed.

The Gaykho agent believes there are about thirty caves in the territory
occupied by the _Hashwi_ and _Padoung_ tribes, which, roughly
calculating, yielded about five thousand pounds annually.

The manufacture is carried on only once a year, and apparently exhausts
the produce for that year. The only use the Karens make of saltpetre is
as an ingredient for gunpowder.

The caves are said to be no great distance form the high road from the
Shan States to Toungoo, and in this case the difficulties to be
contented with in conveying the saltpetre to the Toungoo market are by
no means impracticable.

_Gunpowder_--Most of these tribes, as well as those beyond our borders,
manufacture a coarse kind of gunpowder. Its composition does not differ
essentially from that of other countries, as it is an intimate mixture
of saltpetre, sulphur and charcoal, but the proportions in which these
ingredients are mixed have not been ascertained.

The people obtain the saltpetre from their own caves, the sulphur from
the Shans or from Toungoo, and make their own charcoal.

It is a remarkable fact that these wild and uncultivated people who are
completely ignorant of many of the arts that are common among civilised
communities should retain their knowledge of the manufacture of
gunpowder. We say retain advisedly, as in all probability they acquired
it from the Chinese, who are said to have possessed the art many
centuries before it was known in Europe. Dr. Mason states that the juice
of the lime, orange, and some other fruits is used in its composition,
and also notices that the people have an idea that certain alcoholic
mixtures add to its powder, and that "Perry Davis's Pain Killer" has a
reputation with the powder-makers![243]

_Karen Dinner Party_--An old chief whose unkempt hair was partially tied
up with an old and tatter piece of muslin, mud-coloured from use, with
breeches originally striped in the fashion affected by his tribe, but of
the same sad hue, with no other raiment, but with the indispensable bag
which all the Karens sling from the shoulder, well filed with odds and
ends, consisting, among other provender, of a fat snake, whose tail hung
out at one corner (for all is fish that comes into a Karen's net), tall
and weird-looking; was a conspicuous figure in the crowd of
strange-looking beings around us.

This old fellow whose name had long been a household word for the
truculent ferocity with which he conducted forays, had, it was said,
entirely repented of his former habits; and, in token of his desire to
lead a peaceful life, had given up his spear to the Rev. Mr. Bixby. He
had slain some thirty men with his weapon, and valued it, till he
adopted peace proclivities as his most trusted friend.

We have retained it as a curiosity. Some old men who accompanied him
said they had been at a dinner party we have given to the hill Karens
some eighteen months before, and asked us if we were going to give

The entertainment to which they ferreted had impressed the poor fellows
very much, and was evidently reckoned as a red-letter day in their
mental almanacks, as it certainly is in our note-book.

The party, as originally conceived, was a much more modest affair than
it subsequently developed into.

Soon after our arrival in Toungoo we had a visit from Mrs. Mason's
school girls, a troop of merry bright-eyed and laughter-loving maidens
who, with their clean frocks and bright head-dresses, afforded a great
contrast to their careworn and dirt-begrimed sisters in the jungle
villages, who seldom laugh, and hardly know what it is to play. Being
very busy at the time, we had to dismiss them somewhat unceremoniously,
but lest the little girls should be hurt at our neglect, we asked them
to repeat their visit at a more convenient time, when we promised them
tea and cakes. By some misunderstanding, the invitation which was
intended to include only our little visitors, who were perhaps thirty in
number, was accepted in the names of some forty chiefs, who, with their
followers, were expected to number four hundred souls. It was too late,
we found, to rectify the mistake, as the invitation, it was said, was
"flying all over the hills," so we were fain to accept the increased
responsibility thus thrown upon us as we best could. Accordingly, three
huge pigs were slaughtered, roasted, and cut up; large iron cauldrons
full of tea were prepared; requisitions on the Chinese bakers for a
proportionate excess of the abnormal demand for bread and cakes were
duly made; large supplies for plantains and other fruits with rice and
the usual condiments and garnishing the Burmese are so fond of, were
also laid in; in short, a sumptuous repast was ready on the day
appointed. Amusements, too, were not wanting. Merry-go-rounds, in which
venerable chiefs took their turn with solemn visages which seemed to
betoken that they were martyrs to a stern sense of duty, were a
prominent feature in the outdoor programme, which also included races
and other juvenile games; while an English piano and a magic lantern
fully engaged attention when the darkness brought the former diversions
to a close.

The proceedings commenced with a formal address form the assembled
chiefs, neatly translated into Burmese by one of their number, to which
we made a suitable reply and, after some conversion with some belonging
to the more remote clans, who had never even ventured into Toungoo
before, we endeavoured to make all feel thoroughly at home under the
novel circumstances in which they found themselves. That we did not
entirely fail was proved by the interest with which the event was
discussed by the people, for many months after it took place.

Considering the state of social relations among these very people only a
few years before, in which numbers of different tribes dared not for
their very lives pass the boundaries of their scant territories, it
certainly was a most intersecting and instructive gathering, showing
what a better state of things has done for them.

Having remained in Gaykho-land a day longer than we intended, to enable
us to effect the restoration of a lad who had been taken away in a foray
from a Bw village, and rejoicing the heart of his mother (a poor widow
who had followed us for some marches) thereby, we retraced our footsteps
to Layto by the road we came, thus ending a tour which has afforded us
many pleasing recollections.


THE representatives of the _Sgan_ tribe in Toungoo are confined to that
part of the district west of the Sittang river, and are to be met with
chiefly on the _Pegu Yoma_, or its numerous spurs.

Between this range and the river a few of their villages are hidden in
the high elephant grass or the dense jungle that abounds in the sparsely
populated region to the south, and probably would never have been known
to anyone but the tax collector, were it not for the "happy
hunting-grounds" of Meekyin in their vicinity.

In the "good old days," when under certain conditions commissariat
elephants were placed at the disposal of Officers of Government,
_Meekyin_ was in its glory; but, previous to our departure, this
indulgence was withdraw, and possibly the arrangements for beating up
its far-famed jungles, which are hopelessly impenetrable without the aid
of elephants, must now be carried out more economically and less
efficiently by sportsmen. Probably, too, with less advantage to
Government, for the commissariat elephants, when not employed by other
departments, seemed to have nothing to do but carry their own food, wag
their tails and trunks in their stables, die of _ennui_, and form
subjects for inquests.

In the Beginning of May, 1868, we arranged with a few friends to spend a
week at Meekyin. The elephants and servants were accordingly sent on to
_Bom-Maddee_, a village about twenty-five miles south-east of Toungoo,
and when we cantered up in the evening, with two companions, we found
everything arranged comfortably. One of our party, having no pony, was
obliged to precede us, and had made himself quite at home in the place,
having, by pantomimic gestures, effectually made known his wants, after
trying in vain to do so by expressing them in language. The stupid
Burmese could not, he complained, understand plain English, and, after
airing a few Hindustani phrase for their edification, with
unsatisfactory results, they were given up in despair, as idiots who did
not understand their own language! Our friend was therefore fain to
express his meaning by mute action, when he wanted fowls, eggs, milk,
&c., supplementing his dumb show by the crowing of a cock, to make sure
of obtaining this chief necessary of a jungle dinner.

The little village of _Bom-Maddee_ was, it is said, a town of
considerable importance at one time; probably before the river, which
used to flow quite close to it, changed its course. Toungoo history has
it that, in A.D. 1191, _Maya-pudee-thee-thoo_, the king of Pagan,
stopped here on his way to visit the pagodas near Toungoo, hat had been
built by the order of Asoka, fourteen centuries before, and during his
stay his queen presented him with a son. Great were the festivities that
took place in honour of the auspicious event, the chief element of
which, as would be the case in the present day, was a great deal of
noisy music. This was more than the delicate nerves of the queen could
endure, so the king issued an urgent edict of _Bom-ma-htee_--"Beat not
drums" --a name which has been retained ever since, to the exclusion of
the ancient name, which has been forgotten.

Next day we arrived at Banloung, in time for breakfast. Here we found
two officers of the 24th Regiment, who were on a shooting tour. The
latter pushed on to _Meekyin_, promising to await our arrival there,
while we, tempted by the glowing accounts given by the head man of the
village, in reference to the spot to be had within easy distance,
decided on halting for a day or two.

The village _motsho_ or _shikaree_ was confident in being able to show
us bison (_bos gaurus_) as a small herd had been seen quite lately in
the neighboring jungles, and a graphic account he gave us of the recent
experiences of the Chaplain of Toungoo afforded us good ground for
hoping that he would be as good as his word. Our friend, he told us, had
suddenly come upon the herd, and was deliberating whether he should
stalk a bull on foot or risk disturbing him by attempting to get nearer
on the elephant, when the animal settled the question by charging his
elephant. So impetuous and so unexpected was his rush that he came in
contact with the elephant without giving the reverend gentleman, who is
an excellent shot, an opportunity of even raising his gun, which was
knocked out of his hand by the concussion. The elephant stood the charge
bravely, and put such a bold face on the matter that the bison made good
his retreat, while the motsho, it appears, fell off the elephant in the
scuffle, and the sportsman had as much as he could do to cling to the
pad to save himself from a similar catastrophe.

This story, which was afterwards confirmed in its more prominent
particulars by the chief actor, is, we believe, unparalleled in the
annals of bison shooting. We were not fortunate enough to see any bison
although some of us got snap shots at deer, but without "bagging" any.
We also stalked a large herd of _thameng_ (brow-antlered rusa); the
animals were, however, so wary, that it was impossible to get within
range, so that we had to relinquish our pursuit when night came on. Next
day, being Sunday, we contented ourselves by moving on to _Meekyin_, a
distance of six miles only. There is a capital roomy bungalow here, used
as a shooting-box, and far from any village, consequently we were
obliged to take with us all our supplies, with the exception of eggs and
milk, for which we wee dependent on a few Karen cultivators who lived
close by. Soon after daybreak we were all ready to commence operations.
Each of our party had an elephant, and perched up behind his howdah was
one of the recognized motshos, or gamekeepers of this district, or their
assistants, the head motsho attaching himself to us, and arranging that
the direction of affairs should be given by signals from him.

The campaign was opened soon after we had started, by a good deal of
sharp-shooting practice at the little _dray_ or hog-deer (_cervus
porcinus_), that popped about in the long grass like rabbits in a clover
field, affording us only now and then the chance of a snap shot. Most of
us were tyros in the art of shooting from a howdah, which is not to be
acquired without much practice; and finding it almost impossible to make
sure of these little animals with bullets, spare guns, charged with
shot, were taken in hand, but the dray afforded us no further
opportunity that day, having apparently been confined to a "hot corner,"
as they returned form grazing in the plains. We soon after gave up the
shot-gun in disgust, after firing at an elk, and, of course, making
little or no impressing on his tough hide. We had hardly done so when
another elk jumped up close before us; the elephant gave a lurch as we
rather hurriedly fired, and a white mark on a tree, just above the elk,
showed whether the ball had gone. The motsho, with a view of consoling
us, of course, gave vent to one of those truisms which can be taken in a
complimentary sense, and which are as characteristic of the Burmese
gamekeeper as of his European congener, reminding us of a polite but
truthful Irish follower, who, when a young friend missed a partridge in
the stubbles at home, exclaimed, "Begorra, yer Honour, you made feathers
fly anyhow!" We were more fortunate afterwards, a fine stag behind
placed to the credit of our gun.

Several tigers were met with during our stay at _Meekyin_. The first
seen rose leisurely within a few yards of the elephant ridden by one of
our party, at the extreme end of the lien. His rider took steady aim,
but unfortunately his gun missed fire, and the tiger vanished
instantaneously into the thick jungle. The brute had evidently been so
intent on watching a doe as not to notice the elephants' approach, and
the poor doe herself, between terror of her deadly foe on one side, and
fear of some wild dogs (_canis rutilus_) who were prowling about on the
other, allowed us, got our surprise, to come quite close to her, seeming
instinctively to know we were keeping our shots for nobler game. This
was the first time we had seen the wild dog of Burmah; they struck us as
lithe, graceful animals, something like an English fox, judged from a
distance of fifty yards. On another occasion we came on a big tiger that
was stalking deer in a plain covered with high grass. His whereabouts
were pointed out by a sharp-sighted _motsho_, and we were moving in line
to the spot, when the brute became alarmed, and began to slink off; in
doing so, a bit of his black and tan coat glinted in the sun's rays, and
although he was a hundred and fifty yards off, one of our party could
not resist the temptation of having a shot at him. In answer to the
report, the tiger whisked his tail into the air, and suddenly
disappeared; his whereabouts being indicated by the aforesaid caudal
appendage, which was seen moving above the grass straight and stiff,
something like a pump-handle. The sight excited even our phlegmatic
mahouts, who drove their elephants as fat they could go, but without
being able to overtake the tiger. Shortly afterwards, as we came to a
tangled mass of jungle, we heard a peculiar noise, something like the
sharp bark an elk gives when he is startled; one of our party went round
a clump of bamboos from whence the sound proceeded, and, to his
surprise, saw a tiger, somewhat under full growth, sitting on his
haunches like a dog, and amusing himself by giving vent to the short
barks we had noticed, and which is a peculiarity in the habits of the
"king of the forest," regarding which we had never heard before. His
discoverer shot him as we afterwards ascertained, through the body, but
too far back to disable him at once. The brute crawled into a thicket
hard by, which we surrounded with the elephants; but so thick was the
undergrowth, that although he was occasionally almost beneath our feet,
we could not see him. What with the elephants trumpeting, some with rage
and others from fear, the mahouts urging them on with loud
vociferations, party abusive and partly endearing; the cries of the
motshos, "Here he is!" "There he goes!" together with the encouraging
shouts of some of the sportsmen, and what with our own elephant taking
it into his head to perform first a _pas de seul_ on a large tuft of
grass which he evidently considered concealed his foe, and secondly, to
change the same tuft with his tusks, putting us in imminent danger of
being throw out of the howdah, if not on to the tiger, the scene was
certainly enlivening if not exciting. Diligently as we searched we could
not get the tiger then, but his body was found some time afterwards.

One day was devoted to some famous jungles, where it was said there were
several bisons; it was agreed accordingly that no other game should be
fired at. About midday, however, several deer jumped up simultaneously,
and a stag proving too great a temptation to one of our party, he fired
at it, and the spell being broken, it was of course useless to search
for bison anywhere within hearing of the report, so it was unanimously
decided to make a halt for breakfast. This meal offered a pleasant
diversion, giving us an opportunity of resting ourselves and the
elephants in the hottest time of the day. Two of our friends had a
capital contrivance with them in the shape of a common cooking-pot, into
which venison, pork, ducks, jungle fowls, and everything they shot, was
put, and seasoned with different sauces; and as it was hermetically
sealed every time the cover was put on, the contents remained good for
an indefinite time; a valuable desideratum in a country where the usual
supplies are difficult to procure. This "perpetual stew-pot," as we
called it, for want of a better name, was invariably brought out, and
with a few roasted potatoes, furnished a repast to which we always did
full justice.

After breakfast we all promised to do our best to resist temptation in
the way of other game, in the hope of seeing bison, and although many
dear were on foot, we refrained from firing at them. We were rewarded
for our self-denial by the sight of a magnificent bull-bison just as we
were going to give up in despair. A companion on our left came
point-blank upon him as he lay alone in a dense thicket he had chosen
for his midday siesta, and fired right into his face. The bison,
probably just waked up out of a nap, was somewhat startled, and instead
of charging, crashed through the tangled and apparently impenetrable
undergrowth as if it were made of paper, and crossing a little glade,
within twenty yards of us, gave us a fair shot as he sped along. The
impetus with which the noble beast made his rush carried him apparently
unscathed for some yards farther, when he made a half somersault, picked
himself up again, and endeavoured to continue his mad career, but to no
purpose. He was evidently badly hit as he limped painfully along in the
comparatively open jungle he first took to, so much so as to give us
hopes of overtaking him on the elephants. This was soon proved futile,
as the latter, though urged to their topmost speed by their excited
drivers, were soon left behind.

Some of our party then stalked the wounded animal on foot, guided by the
motshos, who proved excellent trackers, and though they evidently were
quite close to him on several occasions, as his halting places, clotted
with blood, indicated, they were obliged give up the tantalizing pursuit
as night set in.

The next day, no restrictions being considered necessary, nothing in the
shape of game was allowed to pass within shooting distance without being

A herd of wild pigs afforded some excitement, as well as amusement, but,
although we joined in the _battue_, it was not without compunction, for
anyone who has followed the "mighty boar" on horseback, with a spear,
would as soon think of using a gun or rifle to encompass his death in a
"pig-sticking" country as a fox-hunter would of shooting a fox in
England, but as nowhere in Burmah is the noble sport practicable, the
wild boar, one of the most courageous of animals, whose prowess has long
been the theme of prose and song, has to submit to a more ignoble face.

It is not our intention to weary the reader with a detailed account of
our exploits although interesting to us at the time, and looked back to
as a joyous holiday, or even to tell of the wonderful shots made by some
of our party, much less to chronicle the many misses, suffice it to say
we had average spot, and were on the whole well satisfied with our

On our way back, one of our followers went to pay his respects to a
monk, who lived in a large and finely carved monastery on the banks of
the river, shaded by lofty and beautiful trees, and, as it was not the
etiquette to go empty-handed, he took some venison for the senior abbot.
The old man with whom we entered into conversation favored us with a
homily on the wickedness of taking life, applying, as a moral, the case
of our predecessor, of whom he predicted a sad end, unless he gave up
his unholy practice of killing animals. He congratulated us, at the same
time, on having escaped such sin. Honesty prevented us accepting the
implied compliment without remark, and the venerable abbot was not a
little concerned to hear such a terrible confession from one of whom he
had hoped better things. We delicately suggested that his accepting and
eating game that had been killed by others was something like being an
accessory after the fact, but this he maintained--with the jesuitical
though not convincing casuistry of Buddhists when assailed with this
argument--was a "very different thing."

We returned to head-quarters without further incident, determining, if
opportunity should again offer, to revisit a place which so well repays
the trouble.


When standing on the vantage-ground presented by the "bald head' of
_Nattoung_, with our feet resting on grassy undulations, reminding us of
English downs, and the flora around us giving evidence of a temperate
climate, we obtained a bird's-eye view of country, lying in a
north-eastern direction, consisting for the most part of a
fine-tableland, elevated about 3,000 feet above the sea, enjoying a
climate somewhat similar to what we then appreciated so much;
remarkable, also, for lovely scenery, which it is said no word-painting
can picture to the eye; with a populating barbarious to a degree, but
extremely interesting to the ethnologist, as well as to the
philanthropists; with many capabilities for improvement under a good
Government, but at the same time almost hopelessly degraded. A country
where it may be said--

"Every prospect pleases, but only man is vile,"

and known as Karennee, or the territory of the _Kayas_, or Red Karens.

The graphic and interesting accounts published by Mr. O'Riley, which
filled up the blank that existed in the geography and ethnography of
this part of the country before his visit, had made us well acquainted
with Karennee, and we had therefore a great desire to visit the country
in order to familiarize ourselves with the scenes so vividly described
by O'Riley, to cement, by personal communication the friendly relations
that existed between the chiefs and ourselves, and to promote, if
possible, by friendly advice and council, the true interests of the
people although, owing to the policy enjoined on us, we were not in a
position to listen to the prayer of the chief of Western Karennee,
beseeching us to take the management of the country into our own hands,
with a view of saving it from helpless anarchy.

We were also anxious to see, in their own homes, a people whom we had
hitherto known only as energetic traders, who yearly visited the Toungoo
district, bringing with them buffaloes, black cattle, ponies, sticlac,
and other produce in exchange for salt, fish-paste (_ngapee_), cotton
twist, beads, &c. or from a more objectionable notoriety they enjoyed as
caterers, who, when opportunity offered, made raids into British
territory in pursuit of plunder.

We were, however, unable to carry out our wishes, but as any notice of
the mountain Karens of Burmah would be incomplete without some account
of the Red Karens, who pay such an important part in the history of that
region, we have availed ourselves of the published accounts of Mr.
O'Riley, Doctor Mason and Richardson, as well as of a manuscript
favoured us by Mr. Bunker, to complement or to confirm our own inquires,
with the view of placing before our readers a short account of Karennee
and its people.


The same difficulty presents itself in tracing, with any degree of
correctness, the origin of the Kayas or Red Karens, as is the case with
other tribes of Karens, for neither have any written character, and we
must therefore content ourselves with legends handed down to successive
generations by oral agency alone.

From these traditions, it would appear that the Red Karen entered Upper
Burmah with the Chinese, whom they term their elder brothers, but as the
latter marched quicker than the Karens, they left them behind.

The Karens endeavoured, unsuccessful, to overtake the Chinese, and on
coming to place where the latter had left a bundle, containing, amongst
other things, a book written on metal and ivory plates, they came to the
conclusion that their elder brothers had determined not to wait of them
any longer, and had left them this book as their portion of the family

On receiving this token they made no more attempts to follow the
Chinese, but stopped and built cities and villages in the country where
this separation took place.

The city in which their king's place was situated they called _Hotalay_,
or the "Gold and Silver City," and we have elsewhere endeavoured to
identify it with the city of _Mien_, with its gold and silver towers
mentioned by Marco Polo, as the various Karen accounts, although
differing in some particulars, agree in indicating the site of _Hotalay_
as in the vicinity of the then capital of the Burman Empire, which we
have assumed to be Pagan.[244]

After the Karens had remained for a long time in the country round about
the "Gold and Silver City," they were driven away, they say, with the
Chinese and some western foreigners by the Burmese, who utterly
destroyed their palace, cities, and villages.

The Burmese annals place the abandonment of Pagan in 1284, which
possibly may be contemporaneous with the flight of the Karens, although
no information regarding the probable date of the occurrence can be
ascertained from them.

From what Mr. Cross learnt, it would appear that the Red Karens fled
immediately after their disasters to the country where they are now
found, and have occupied it ever since;[245] but, from the version
quoted by Mr. O'Riley, "it seems that they first sought an asylum in a
south-western direction, but had only time to plant and reap one crop of
rice when the Burmese attacked them again, and drove them from their
newly acquired settlements. The different nationalities that had
collected together accordingly separated."[246]

The western foreigners proceeded in a northward direction; the Chinese
returned to their own country, while the Karen went off to _Noungu_ in
the Shan territory, west of the Salwen river to be pushed farther south
into the western ranges of the Mobyay State, where they remained
unmolested for some years.

Further pressure on the part of the Burmese made them seek a refuge
still farther south, and driving out the Shans who occupied what is now
the northern portion of Karennee, they were at last able to secure for
themselves a territory, which, from the many natural advantages it
possesses, affords them a secure and a desirable resting-place, where
they have for centuries been, to all intents and purposes, entirely

Karennee or the country of the _Kayas_, was formerly under the dominion
of a single prince or chief, from who _Koontee_ and _Koonsha_, sons of
_Kephogyee_ the old chief, referred to by Mr. O'Riley, claim to be the
lineal descendants.

For all practical purposes it may now be divided into--western Karennee
ruled jointly by Koontee and Koonsha, and eastern Karennee rule by

There are two small districts to the north of the two large states,
ruled by _Pho-Bya_ and _Kephogu_, and also one to the south ruled by
_Pando_, the successor of _Bandakay_; and though more or less
independent of their stronger neighbours, have no political significance

Pando, in 1866 or 1867, endeavoured to recover his prestige by fighting
with _Saw-la-paw_, but was utterly discomfited, while the other lesser
chiefs seem content to "accept the situation."

A detailed genealogical history of the most prominent chiefs would be
somewhat difficult owing to the confusion that arises from the number of
aliases by which they, or their ancestors, have been known, and because
different writers in consequence have occasionally given different names
to one and the same person. We shall not, therefore, weary our readers
with attempting to unravel the difficulty, but content ourselves with
giving a _rsum_ of the most prominent points worthy of notice.

As far as we can learn _Nga-kay_ or _Nga-ray_, an ancestor of Koontee's,
is the last chief who had undivided sway over Karennee.

During his rule a Burman who had rebelled against his own Government,
took refuge with Nga-kay, who employed him as a writer and interpreter,
as well as in various political duties. Having won the confidence of
Nga-kay, he was placed in authority over southern Karennee, and assumed
the name of _Bandakay_ after the principal village assigned him. Mr.
Bunker refers to him as _Pha-bo-mengyee_, but most authorities assume
this title to belong exclusively to another Burman known as Moung
_Hpon_, a native of _Mo-tso-bo_, the capital of Burmah under Alompra
(the founder of the present dynasty) who took refuge with the Sgan
Karens soon afterwards.

Moung Hpon, who was a scion of the previous dynasty, in consequent of an
intrigue with the daughter of the heir apparent whom he married, was
obliged to fly from the vicinity of royalty to Toungoo, and afterwards
into the Karen hills to escape the vengeance of his wife's father.

He first resided near the head-waters of the _Khay-ma-pyoo_[247] or
_Mookee_ stream; and while there assuming to work miracles he persuaded
the credulous Karens that a great harvest of rice was owing to his
having exercised his supernatural powers in their behalf. His fame as a
great prophet was accordingly spread throughout Karennee, and he was
henceforward known as _Bupaw_ or "Rice bin."

An ancestor of Koontee named _Lolya_, who was then chief of the Red
Karens, hearing of his fame offered him an asylum; but as the Sgan
Karens with who he lived declined to apart with their prophet, he was
compelled to make his escape from them in company with the emissaries of
_Lolya_ who carried him on their shoulders to a village called
_Saw-kee-koo_, which was assigned him for a residence. Bupaw, after
living here about two years became a very arrogant, and demanded that
the Red Karens should salute him after the Burmese fashion. As they
refused to comply he left them and returned to his old friends at
_Mookee_, with whom he remained some time, but fearing the vengeance of
the Burmese who were jealous of his authority, he left Mookee and again
took refuge with the Karennees, who received him gladly, and made every
effort to retain him. After staying in his old village, Saw-kee-koo, for
a season he was given another village on the _Poong_ or _Nawpolo_
stream, chiefly because the areca nuts and betel leaves of which he was
passionately fond, and which were not procurable at Saw-kee-koo were
obtainable there.

Bupaw, owing to his alleged possessing of miraculous power, and his
connection with royalty, was looked upon by the simple Karens as a being
of superior race to themselves; they consequently flocked around him
till the number of his adherents greatly exceeded that of any other
chief in the country. He was styled the _Pha-bo-daw_ or
_Pha-bo-mengyee_, a name of local import merely, meaning "The Royal
Father, Grandfather Ruler."

Pha-bo-daw died in the ninetieth year of his age, about 1854 A.D., and,
for a short period, the chieftainship was exercised by his two sons
successively, but as they died childless the second was succeeded by
_Sawlaphaw_, a grandson of Pha-bo-daw's through his second wife, and has
been exercised by him ever since. He is decidedly the most powerful
chief in Karennee.

From all accounts, then, it would appear that the chiefs of western
Karennee are the lineal descendants of the ancient Karen dynasty, and
the chief of eastern Karennee is of Burmese origin.

Dr. Richardson was the first traveller who has written about Karennee.

He passed through the country in 1837, when deputed by the Commissioner
of the Tenasserim provinces to the Shan States, in connection with Ava,
and charged with the conduct of a caravan of traders from Moulmein. It
was then officially reported that, though the inhabitant were "rude,
they were very friendly." His report, after having been buried in a
Government record-room for more than thirty years, has been published by
order of Parliament.

Mr. O'Riley, when Deputy Commissioner of Toungoo and Show-gyen, visited
Karennee in 1856-57, and again in 1863-64, and has published valuable
and interesting accounts of his experiences. His successor, Captain
Lloyd, also visited the country, but we do not know whether his report
has been published. Both of these officers were received in the most
friendly spirit by the chiefs and their people. Dr. Mason, the first
missionary who made himself personally acquainted with the country,
arrived there in 1859, and was treated with much respect and attention.
He succeeded in establishing schools and teachers among the people, and
has always been held in high esteem by the chiefs. Other missionaries
have travelled in his footsteps since then, and have experienced the
same kind treatment.

Mr. O'Riley, by his conciliatory behavior, coupled with admirable tact,
succeeded not only in establishing a general feeling of respect and
good-will in his own favour, as well as towards the English Government,
but did much towards cementing a better understanding between the
different tribes. So great was the confidence reposed by the chiefs of
Western Karennee in the advantages of British rule that they, on more
than one occasion, stated their desire to Mr. O'Riley of placing the
entire control of the country in the hands of our government, or of Mr.
O'Riley himself, if he consented to remain with them; for they feared
that, in the event of his returning without bringing matters to the
satisfactory conclusion they suggested, the same anarchy and unhappiness
that had obtained for many years would follow, and the Burmese would
endeavour to possess themselves of the country--a proceeding they were
determined to resist to the last extremity, for owing to the atrocities
committed by the latter when they invaded the country some years before,
they could never consent to submit to their rule.

The same desire has since been frequently expressed to Mr. O'Riley's
successors, by _Kephogyee_, as well as by his sons on their father's
death. Our Government, while acknowledging with becoming courtesy the
confidence of the chiefs, has invariably informed them that it did not
feel itself in a position to incur such a responsibility.

A treaty of friendship between the two countries, as well as a
brotherhood of Mr. O'Riley and the chiefs, _Kephogyee_ and _Kephogu_,
was ratified according to the custom of the country, on the occasion of
Mr. O'Riley's visit.

The ceremony of interchange of fraternity entails on the performers the
necessity of sucking a portion of each other's blood from a puncture in
the arm, or by infusing a drop in water and drinking it. And Mr.
O'Riley, during previous tours among other tribes, found it necessary to
conform to this custom, as without it the tribe refused permission to
pass their lands, and he should have been necessitated to draw blood by
a sharper process, and so closed their chance of friendship for

Hitherto, in similar cases, Mr. O'Riley has been fortunate in being
allowed to nominate a substitute for this process, but on his proposing
to follow precedent on this occasion, by appointing his native
assistant, he was informed that, though such agency might be allowed in
the case of inferior chiefs, where such "great men" was concerned, the
interchange of each other's blood alone would suffice.

To Mr. O'Riley's great relief, "it was stated that the flesh of a
bullock killed and eaten by both parties, each receiving one of the
horns of the animal, was a rite considered by them of equal weight with
that of the blood-draught, and usually performed by them when a number
of persons became friends and brothers."[249] He therefore joyfully
consented to this ordeal, which implied that "like as they had partaken
of the bullock's flesh which had entered their bodies, so might their
friendship remain in each other's hearts and there steadfastly abide so
long as the horns continued crooked!"

These horns were afterwards mounted in silver, with a suitable
inscription, one being returned to the chief and the other retained by
Mr. O'Riley, _Kephogyee_, in giving over the one horn to Mr. O'Riley
said, that it should be a token of amity for ever between him and the
Western Karennee chiefs, and that its possession by any other individual
who might receive it from Mr. O'Riley would entitle him to the same
attention and consideration as were due to him. One horn is still
carefully kept and pointed to with pride by Kephogyee's sons, the other
is retained by Mr. O'Riley's representative, the Deputy-Commissioner of
Toungoo. It is due to the chiefs of Western Karennee to record that the
promises made by them on the occasion have been faithfully kept, for
they have ever done their best to meet the wishes, and otherwise evince
their respect for Mr. O'Riley's successors, as well as for the
Government they represent.

The Eastern and Western Karennees may be said to have been in a chronic
state of warfare for many years. It is true that a somewhat better
feeling predominated after Mr. O'Riley's visit, although he never was
able to secure the full confidence of the eastern chiefs, owing to
Burmese jealousy and intrigue, and to bad influence exercised on them by
the notorious _Menloung_, who gave us so much trouble at the time.

_Menloung_, meaning in Burmese embryo king or ruler, is a title which
many impostors adopt, who either think they have, or wish to persuade
others they have, "a mission" to subvert constituted authority.

This man, we learn from O'Riley, was originally a doctor, and being
gifted with a sagacity and intelligence far superior to the ignorant
Karens, he established an influence with the chiefs of Eastern Karennee
which was productive of much evil.

_Menloung_ waged war with the English soon after their occupancy of the
country, and proved for a time that he could well hold his own in the
intricate jungles of the _Yonselan_. After a time, however, he was
driven with his followers out of English territory, and remained with
_Sawlaphaw_ till his death, which occurred a few years ago.[250]

O'Riley's visits were nevertheless attended with good results, for the
Eastern Karennees were induced to open their country to the Shan traders
from the states lying to their north-east, along the course of the
Salwen on its west bank--a valuable concession, which promised to result
in great prosperity to the internal commerce with our territories.

Again, the bond of friendship and good faith which he effected with the
chiefs of Western Karennee secured protection to the Shan traders who
might venture from the north. And measures were also initiated, although
unfortunately never matured, for a large immigration of Shans into our
territory, by the establishment of a trading mart on the _Khay-ma-pyoo_
stream, which Mr. O'Riley hoped "would form a nucleus for a continuous
stream of immigrants, and open out a means of commercial adventure to
the more distant Shan States to the north, and the Chinese frontier
province of Yunan."

These anticipations might have been realised if the different chiefs
could have been brought to understand that it was in their own interest
and that of their people to work together; but, unfortunately, the
separation of interest that now and has ever obtained in the eastern and
western divisions under chiefs inimical to each other, precludes this
probability. The old animosities which had been temporarily allayed
through the influence of Mr. O'Riley and other officers, unfortunately
cropped up again owing to the frequent raids and other aggressions made
on both sides, thereby causing a very general feeling of insecurity in
the country, and consequently giving a serious blow to the trade.

_Sawlaphaw_, the chief of Eastern Karennee, who has sworn allegiance to
the King of Burmah, and who has been always covertly, if not openly,
supported by the Burmese Government did his best to work this interest
in his own favour by inducing the Court of Mandalay to believe that
_Kephogyee_ had espoused the interests of the _Myingon_ prince, a rebel
son of the King of Burmah, who had fled to him for refuge. Burmese
troops were accordingly posted on the frontier of Western Karennee, and
it was with some reason the chief was obliged to solicit our assistance
with a view of preventing the seizure of his country by the Burmese, who
were enraged at the chief's refusing to give up the Myingon prince.,
either to the English or Burmese Governments.

The chief Kephogyee and his sons were greatly embarrassed at the
position of affairs in consequence of the prince having fled to their
country, and the pressure put on them to give him up. And though they
acknowledged that it would give them much satisfaction if the prince
could be induced to leave them, they, greatly to their credit, insisted
on the right of asylum to political offenders, and refused at all
hazards to be guilty of such baseness as to surrender a person who,
under these circumstances, had thrown himself on their protection.

The British Government, although it did not perhaps consider that the
Burmese authorities would go so far as to annex the country, though fit
to impress upon his majesty its desire that the independence of Western
Karennee should be respected, a hibnt that was sufficiently suggestive
in preventing the ulterior measures anticipated by the Western

Many interesting particulars relating to the Red Karens since our
occupatoing of Pegu have been related by Mr. O'Riley and his successors,
but the foregoing crude outline of their history, it is hoped, will be
found sufficiently comprehensive to the general reader.


Karennee; Its Geographical Position with its Physical Aspect and

As a minute geographical description of this country, embracing its
physical aspect and features, would be out of place in this work, we
shall confine ourselves to the details most deserving attention.

_Karennee_, or the country inhabited by the _Kayas_, or Red Karens,
consists for the most part of an extensive plateau, elevated about 3,000
feet above the sea, and lying between the parallels of 18 to 20 N.
lat., and 97 to 99 E. long., with an area of about 7,200 square miles.

For the sake of convenience, the range of mountains running north and
south, and averaging in height 6,000 feet, which are known as the "Great
Watershed," may be assured as the boundary of the country to the west,
just as we assume it to be our eastern boundary; for, although there are
numerous quasi-independent tribes on both the eastern and western slopes
of this chain, they are nominally dependent on the Karennee or English
territories respectively.

On the south it is divided from the Show-gyen district of British
Burmah by the _Phakhyoung_,[251] an affluent of the Salwen.

On the north by the Shan states tributary to Burmah proper, and on the
east by the _Salwen_ and _Zimmay_ territory.

"From the southern extremity the Salwen river trends in a north easterly
direction, giving an irregular and wide-extended base to a cone-like
shape for the whole territory."[252]

In his topographical description of the country, Mr. O'Riley remarks,
"descending upon the central portion of _Karennee_ from the western
ranges, at a height of 6,200 feet, the lower formations present the
appearance of a country of widely arched undulation of low altitude,
enclosed between high ranges of mountains on its southern and eastern
faces, and extending in unbroken wave-like lines to the horizon
northward, while the prospect to the west is closed by the subordinate
ranges of mountain limestone, fractured on the sides and ridges into
fantastic shapes of high-walled and battlemented forests, with turrets
and gigantic buttresses in a state of ruin.

"Reaching the springing of the undulations it is then ascertained that
they have a higher altitude than was supposed when seen from above, and
that the converging lines form gently-sloping valleys of a quarter to
one and a half miles in breadth; the rounded hills occupy (in the
southern portion) about one -third of the whole latitudinal surface of
the country, and incline with graceful curvature to the northward, until
merged in a vast plain, which extends from that point far into the Shan

All who have visited _Karennee_ speak in high terms of the picturesque
beauty of its scenery, which presents a great contrast in some respects
to the more sparsely populated country to thee west of the "Great
Watershed," occupied by tribes of non-nomadic tendencies.

the surface of the country shows that it has been occupied for many
generations for not a vestige of the primeval forest remains, and as the
proportion of population to area is comparatively great, the people, for
their own sustenance, as well as for their numerous herds of cattle and
other live stock, have been forced to pay the greatest attention to the
land which is carefully laid out, the divisions being marked with stone
walls or hedges, as in more civilised countries.[253]

To quote Mr. O'Riley again, "The numerous villages marking the home of
the natives, the graceful foliage of the gigantic bamboo, associated
with the banyan and cotton tree, afford a rich variety of shade in
relief on the bright red colour of the soil, the more distant chain of
mountains to the eastward, with their tops enveloped in clouds, the
nearer limestone hills seen through a dim blue haze in rugged outline,
the vast plain beneath shining with all the golden hues of autumn, and
the park-like appearance of numerous enclosures, with herds of cattle
grazing near the watercourses, all combine to form a picture of
surpassing magnificence and home-like tranquil beauty."

_Geological Character_--As has already been described, the country is
enclosed by rugged limestone ranges, forming a considerable contrast to
the gernal feature of the country; but, as is common in this formation,
the "action of upheavement" is visible on the face of the plateau, in
the shape of undulations whose surface show that the body of the country
is of the same character. Mr. O'Riley says this limestone differs form
the usual character of mountain limestone, both in colour and density,
and that it is in general character a marble of great density, adapted
for all useful and ornamental purpose.

_Tin-producing_--In the southern part of the country there are tin mines
on the _Kh-ma-pyn_ stream, which have been worked for a long time with
indifferent success by the Karens. The process of working, as described
by Mr. O'Riley, is rude in the extreme, and so inefficient that at least
one-fifth of the metal remains in the scoria. He considered that if
these deposits were worked by Chinese or Shans, even with their
inefficient method, they would prove an inexhaustible source of wealth
to the undertakers.

_Populations_--From an estimate made by Mr. O'Riley based on inquiries
on the spot, and in which he allows five souls to each house, we have a
population for _Western Karennee_ of 36,800 souls, and _Eastern
Karennee_ of 180,000, making a total population for the whole country of
216,800, or about twenty-eight souls to the square mile.

From a return given by Dr. Mason based on the reports of his assistants,
the population of Eastern Karennee was estimated at 150,000 and Western
Karennee 50,000, giving a total population of 200,000 souls, or pretty
nearly the result arrived at by Mr. O'Riley.

_Climate_--All who have written about Karennee speak in raptures of its
climate. The narrators were there, it is true, in the best seasons of
the year, when the dandelion, violet, and forget-me-not, were in flower,
and when hoar-frost was occasionally seen; but there is every reason to
believe that the favourable accounts we have heard of the remaining
portion of the year are to be relied on.

Sheltered by high ranges of mountains, the force of the south-west
monsoon becomes spent before it reaches the country, and the rainy
season is more intermittent and less violent than on the western slopes
of the "Great Watershed."

The temperature of the hottest season is described as comparatively mild
with that which obtains in British territory, and is generally equable,
excepting in December and January, when it is considerably colder. Mr.
O'Riley, who was in Karennee for one month of the cold season,
considered that the mean average then of the uplands might be placed at
62, and that of the plains at 66. He says, "Of the exceeding salubrity
of the climate there can be no doubt; where neither fogs nor miasmatic
vapours prevail, and no dense jungle exists to taint the pure air with
its noxious exhalations from the decomposition of its humus, the
conclusion is easily made without the corroborative testimony of
statistical returns.

_Animal Kingdom_--Of domestic animals,--black cattle, buffaloes, ponies,
pigs, and goats, are numerous. The cattle are trained to carry panniers.

Of Carnivorous Animals,--leopards of different kinds are found but are
not numerous, owing to want of cover. The same may be said of the _Rusa
deer_ elk, the _barking_ deer, and the _wild goat_.

Of Game, the hare, brown-backed pheasant, and red-legged partridge, are
often met with.

_Its Products, Spontaneous and Agricultural_--Of spontaneous
products,--_teak_, _sticlac_, and _tin_, are the most valuable.

Moulmein owes not a little of its importance, as a timber-training port,
to the quantity of valuable teak exported thereto from Karennee.

It is chiefly worked by Moulmein forester, how pay a fee to the chief of
the locality where the timber is found, for the privilege of working it.
The timber trade was then estimated by Mr. O'Riley at not much less than
three lakhs of rupees (3,000 _l_) per annum.[254]

Owing, however, to deficient conservancy, and the improvident way
operations have been carried on, the forests are said to be becoming
less valuable. The chronic state of warfare that exists between East and
West Karennee, as well as the constant disputes amongst the foresters,
effectually serve as a bar to any systematic working of the forests so
much as to affect the Moulmein timber trade considerably.

Perhaps next in importance is the _sticlac_, which is collected in
September, or soon after the rains in the ravines and other parts of the
high country at the base of the ranges which cannot be cultivated, and
disposed of by barter on the spot to the Shans, or taken by the people
themselves to Toungoo through the _Tsawkoo_ country, by a route opened
by the writer in 1869, a description of which is given in another

Mr. O'Riley, in 1857, estimated that about 140 tons of _sticlac_ were
annually exported, with a relative value of 8,000 rupees (800 _l_.)
received by the native collector.

_Tin_, as before noticed, is worked by a rude process in the southern
portion of the country, where "it is found as an ore, the peroxide of
the metal plentifully distributed throughout the course of the stream,
which bears its name, _Kh-ma-pyn_."[255] The value of the yearly
out-turn Mr. O'Riley roughly estimated at 13,000 rupees, or 1,300 _l_.

No recent information has been obtained of the actual quantity or value
of the above products.

Among agricultural products may be mentioned red and white rice, millet,
and a kind of buckwheat, "the last two being used chiefly in the
manufacture of the fermented liquor called _Khoung_"[256] To these may
be added the usual variety of esculents found with other tribes in

_Manufactures_--The Kayas or Red Karens, although devoid of knowledge of
many of the useful arts, according to Dr. Mason, make their own knives,
axes, swords, spears, hoes, bangles, silver ornaments, earthenware, bits
and bridles, saddles and stirrups. They also weave coarse but durable
articles of clothing for themselves.[257] They are dependent on the
Shans and other traders for most of their other wants.

_Character of the Kayas, or Red Karens_--In the _Kayas_, or Red Karens,
we have a people in point of natural endowments perhaps superior to all
other tribes of Karens, and, in this respect, equalling the Burmese and
Shans; impulsive without reflection and for that reason less apathetic
than either, but at the same time distinguished for their savage and
intractable nature, and for their turbulent and undisciplined character.

Notorious for their unrelenting cruelty and ferocity, for their utter
disregard of life in the absence of any controlling power, and
characterised by such a want of good faith between members of the same
community as to nullify the proverb of "honour among thieves," the Red
Karens afford an instance of a society whose social relations are the
most degraded, and, with the exception of not being cannibals, not more
civilised than the most barbarous tribes of Africa.

Implacable to their enemies, they are equally relentless in the case of
their neighbours. In fact, Mr. Marshman's character of the _Bheels_, one
of the aboriginal tribes of India, which came under British rule in
1790, when we took Kandesh, might, _mutatis mutandis_, be applied to
them. He says,[258] "The Bheels were a race of unmitigated savages,
without any sense of natural religion, violating all law, defying all
authority, and habitually indulging in drink, licentiousness, and
murder. They eschewed all honest labour, and lived by the chase or by
plunder. From their mountain fastnesses they poured down upon the
plains, sacked the villages, drove off the cattle, and carried off the
chief men, whom they held to ransom."

The Red Karen has no scruple in selling friends or relations into
hopeless slavery, if they unhappily become indebted to him.

"Always armed to the teeth, and carrying all the holds dear in the
indispensable bag slung on his shoulder, he is prepared to guard his
property or add to it, as occasion may require, his sole object being
security to himself and plunder of his weaker neighbours."[259]

Following the custom of the tribes on the west of the Watershed, they
pay no attention to cleanliness, either of person or habitation, and
enjoy an existence surrounded by filth. Bathing is resorted to only as
an invigorating process after the fatigue of marching or carrying
burdens, and not apparently for cleansing purpose, as in the operation
of ablution the enamelling of oily dirt in which they are encased as
successfully resists the action of the water as the plumage of an
aquatic bird.

Like all the Karens who have not been converted to Christianity, the
_Kayas_ drink a fermented liquor called _Khoung_ to excess. Mr. O'Riley
remarks that they regard it "as a panacea for all the ills that flesh is
heir to;" moderation in the use of this beverage appears to be the
exception to the rule, and Dean Swift's fifth reason for drinking, the
prevailing excuse for intoxication, whenever an opportunity offers.

In common with all the tribes in this region, they may be said to be
omnivorous, as nothing that is not absolutely poisonous is excluded from
their bill of fare, on account of being common or unclean.

To this there is a notable exception in the case of the chiefs of
Western Karennee (if not of Eastern Karennee) who are strict
vegetarians, but do not eat rice, on the strength of a custom handed
down by their ancestors from ancient times.[260]

Their manners and customs are shaped by their gross superstition, fear
being the only governing principle in all their acts, consequently
divination by fowls' bones, and the use of charms to avert evil are
constantly resorted to.

It is not surprising, then, to find from one author that "chastity is
remarkably loose,[261] and from another that "female virtue is
unknown,"[262] among them.

In common with some of the tribes of_Singphos_ and Kakhyens, the
"commerce of the sexes among young people is defended as nothing wrong,
because it is our custom,"[263] the penalty for the seduction of an
unmarried woman being only ten rupees, or one pound, while in the case
of a wife, as the property is more valuable, the transgressor has to pay
ten times that amount.

With such objectionable traits of character, one gladly turns to a
pleasing feature recorded by Mr. O'Riley, viz., "the affection shown by
the husband to his wife and children, but especially to the latter."

"Where this exists," he continues, "there is ample room for hope that
the nature of the individual is not so debased as to be beyond the power
of amelioration, and that the inculcating the moral principles of
civilization, will have the same good effect of elevating him in the
social scale of the human race, which it has done with myriads still
more barbarous than the _Kayas_."


For a description of the physical characteristics of the Red Karens, we
cannot do better than quote Mr. O'Riley, who gave considerable attention
to the subject. He says, "surrounded as the Kayas are by tribes and
races of peoples whose physiognomical characters mark them as belonging
to the pure Mongolian type, it is somewhat remarkable that they should
preserve a distinctive difference in mould of form and feature, and
particularly in their carriage, which, to an eye accustomed to the
unvarying high cheek bones, square lower jaw, and low head of the
_Bws_[264] (wild Karens), and the elongated features of the Shans,
their more angular noses and oblique eyes, renders the disparity still
more striking. In size the skull of the _Kayas_ is smaller as a general
rule than that of the Karens[265] and Shans; in form it is intermediate
between the two; the anterior part is small and less developed than that
of the Karen, and the posterior part so uniform in its outline as to
present a semi-spherical appearance when viewed from the front.

"The size of the Kayas, as a general standard, may be considered as
exceeding that of the Karens, the ordinary height being assumed at five
feet seven inches, but many exceed that, though rarely reaching the
height of six feet. Where, in the nomadic races of the Karens, the body
is found square, low and thick set, with the pelvis broad and expanded,
these features in the Kayas are modified to a more upright frame, narrow
and sloping shoulders, longer neck and body, with limbs more in
proportion to the length of the vertebral column, giving to the _tout
ensemble_ a more active and pleasing outline than that of the sturdy
mountain tribes. The same difference is observable in the lower
extremities of the Kayas, the thigh and leg bones have a symmetry of
proportion, &c."

Colonel Yule,[266] apparently on the authority of Dr. Richardson, says,
"The Red Karens are a people of small stature, with spindle shanks and
projecting stomachs," and, however true this description may have been
as regards some of the Kayas met by Dr. Richardson, it certainly is not
applicable to them as a nation.[267] One remarkable feature noticed by
most travellers is that the women equal, and often exceed, the men in
height and bulk, and this is rationally accounted for from the fact of
the women doing most of the outdoor work, while the men are on the
war-path, or idly loitering about their villages.

Another peculiarity notice is the disproportionate size of the calf of
the female _Kaya_ compared with the male, which Mr. O'Riley attributes
to the custom of wearing masses of beads below the knee, and to their
habit of carrying children and heavy loads on their backs. He records
instances of young women, not more than 18 years of age, in whose case
"from the effect of the pressure of beads alone (of four or five lbs. on
each limb) the calf has exhibited a rotundity out of all proportion with
the rest of the body, and which would have extorted the envy of the
flower of London Jeameses."

The term _Red_ Karen was attributed by Dr. Richardson to the colour of
the race in comparison with other neighbouring tribes, but now with
sufficient reason, as the latter are, as a rule, fairer than the
_Kayas_, who are of a medium copper colour, which, as remarked by Mr.
O'Riley, is preserved in the Kayas from the circumstance of their
rarely, if ever, taking wives form other tribes.

The appellation of _Karennee_ or Red Karen was evidently given them by
the Burmese on account of the colour of their breeches and turbans.

On the authority of Dr. Mason we learn that in talking of themselves
they use the word _Kaya_, or _Pra-ka-ya_, which simply means man, they
are called _Bghai-muhta_ or _Eastern Bghai_ by the other _Bghai_ (Bw)
tribes, while _Yang-lang_ or Red Karen is their name among the Shans.

To the people of _Keangtung_ in the northern Shan states, again,
according to McLeod, they were known as _Niang_, to the Chinese as

_Religion_--In a chapter devoted to a brief consideration of the
religion of the Karens, we noticed that they are distinguished from all
other Indo-Chinese tribes apparently by the knowledge they have of the
existence of an eternal God, while they are, at the same time, the
victims of a degrading superstition, which teaches them to deprecate the
wrath of malignant demons by sacrifice of cattle, swine, fowls, and

Dr. Richardson, writing in 1837, and Mr. O'Riley twenty years
afterwards, exclude the Red Karens from participating in that extended
belief which admits of the existence of an Almighty Power, the Creator
of heaven and earth presiding over the world, and recognized head of all
subordinate spiritual agency. But from subsequent accounts recorded by
Dr. Mason, we find that the red Karen have traditions of Biblical facts
similar to those noticed in another chapter, as pertaining to the _Sgan_
Karens, "but they have a different name for God, whom they designate

"_Eapay_," they say, "created the heavens and the earth, and all things.
He associated with men at first, but, for their disobedience, he left
them, and is now in the seventh heavens.

"When sick, they often pray to God, saying, 'Oh, Lord _Eapay_, have
mercy upon me.'"[269]

Many of the Red Karen chiefs have sent cordial invitations to Christian
missionaries, entreating them to reside among them, and teach them a
better way.

Dr. Mason was held by Zephogyee, the late chief of Karennee, and by his
sons in affectionate reverence. Messrs. Vinton and Bunker ware also
hospitably welcomed when they visited Karennee, and encouraged to
persevere in their good work of reclaiming the heathen.

Let us hope that this feeling betokens the dawn of a better state of
things, and that their present impure faith may give way to a nobler
one, which shall emancipate them from chains of darkness, raise them in
the social scale, and allow them to take their place among the
enlightened of the earth.

_Social Customs_ _Births_--The Red Karen ceremonies at the birth of
child differ considerably from those performed by other tribes.

When the infant is three or four days old the parents inaugurate a feast
in its honour, and all who choose to come thereto are welcome. After the
guests have assembled "the mother takes the child in a wrapper, on her
back, and goes down out of the house. She is then supposed, by a legal
figment, to proceed to the paddy field, but, in fact, she goes out a few
yards, digs the ground, a little with a hoe or spade, pulls up a few
weeds, and returns to the house. These are symbolical acts, by which the
mother pledges herself to labour for the support of the child.[270]

"When the feast is over, the relations give presents to the child."

From another source we learn that the mother also puts the tiny hand of
the child on the hoe handle, pledging herself, as it were, that the
child will not grow up lazy or idle.

_Betrothals_--The Red Karens, it would appear, never betroth their
children during infancy, but leave the young people to make their own
engagements; in this they differ from many of the other tribes, among
whom it is a common practice to betroth their children while young,
going on the principle, says Dr. Mason, "that marriages are made in
heaven, and believing that parties who marry do so in accordance with an
engagement into which their spirits entered in the presence of God
before they were born."

_Marriages_--Their marriage ceremonies also differ materially from those
observed by other Karens, as noticed by Dr. Mason and Mr. Bunker, from
whom we learn that when the augury of the fowls' bones decided on the
auspicious time, a great feast is made at the bridegroom's house, at
which excessive licence as regards eating and drinking appear to be the

"In the midst of the feasting, and in the presence of the whole company,
the bridegroom offers a cup of spirits to his bride, who drinks it up;
and then he asks her 'is it agreeable?' to which she replies 'very
agreeable.' The next day the bride returns home and makes a similar
feast, to which the bridegroom and his friends go. It is now their turn
to offer the cup to him, and when he replies to her question 'is it
agreeable?' that 'it is very agreeable, ' the two are regarded as

From Mr. Bunker we learn that, during the carouse, the bridegroom gets
up, takes a hoe and leaves the house followed by the bride. He digs the
earth with his hoe for a little, and the bride standing behind him
follows his example, thereby acknowledging that she must work equally
with her husband, and be subject to his orders. After this the bride,
attended by the company, takes a small bamboo bucket to the spring, and
draws therefrom half a bucket full of water, the bridegroom filling the
bucket; the bride then returns to the house behind the bridegroom,
bearing the bucket of water. This last act signifies that she will be
subservient to her husband.

_Death_--The Red Karens are distinguished form Sgans and Pwos proper, by
burying their dead. Like all the Bw tribes their coffins are made form
a single log, with an aperture sufficiently large to permit of the
corpse being squeezed into a more roomy space below. The body lies in
state for three or four days, during which time music and dancing is
kept up, diversified by weeping and wailing. After this, in the case of
ordinary persons, the corpse is taken to its last resting-place,
accompanied by all the relatives and friends of the deceased, gongs and
other instruments sounding the funeral dirge, and is buried in a grave
some six or seven feet deep, over which a miniature house is erected to
indicate the spot.

When a chief dies, however, he is buried with a greater amount of
secrecy,[272] for the grave is dug at night time to the depth of twenty
feet or more, the corpse placed therein and the grave well filled up
with stones, care being taken that the burial place shall not be
distinguished,[273] for there is an ancient tradition among the Red
Karens, that if the Shans or Burmese succeed in procuring the head of a
deceased chief, they will be able to conquer the Karennee nation and
reduce it to slavery.

Apart from the natural sorrow that is felt at the demise of those near
and dear to them, death is regarded by the people as a very great
calamity, on account of the excessive expense attending on the
celebration of the funeral obsequies in what they consider a proper
manner, for custom requires that the friends of the deceased shall
thoroughly equip him for the next world, and as they believe that the
future status of the deceased, as regards material possessions, depends
upon what he takes with him from this world, it resolves itself into a
point of honour with the surviving relations to furnish him with a
liberal outfit, that he may have every comfort and be a person of
consideration in his new home; consequently, when the coffin is lowered
into the grave, several baskets of rice with earthen pots for cooking
it, clothes, guns, swords, knives, axes, hoes, &c., for the use of the
deceased, are thrown in with it. The grave is filled in without any
further ceremony, and a small hut is (as before notice) built over it,
and within or on it are placed rice and other food, as well as utensils
for the use of the deceased.[274]

Mr. O'Riley also learnt that on the interment of any influential person,
a slave and a pony were secured near the grave, but not sacrificed, and
although bound with the purpose of preventing escape, they invariably
released themselves form their bonds, the slave in such case regaining
freedom from all previous claims.

The ceremonies connected with the interment of the dead go far to
corroborate the traditions of the Kayas and other Karens, in regard to
their having come from the north, for they are identical with what Marco
Polo observed in the province of Tangut, south of the Great Desert. He
says, "When they are going to carry a body to the burning,[275] the
kinsfolk build a wooden house on the way to the spot, and drape it with
clothes of silk and gold. When the body is going past the building, they
call a halt, and set before it wine and meat and other eatables, and
this they do with the assurance that the defunct will be received with
the like attentions in the world to come. All the minstrelsy in the town
goes playing before the body, and when it reaches the burning place, the
kinsfolk are prepared with figures cut out of parchment and paper, in
the shape of men, and horses, and camels, and also with round pieces of
paper like gold coins, and all these they burn along with the corpse,
for they say that in the other world, the defunct will be provided with
slaves, and cattle, and money, just in proportion to the amount of such
pieces of paper that has been burnt along with him."[276]

There can be little doubt (as Colonel Yule says in a note to Marco
Polo's text) that these customs are symbols of the ancient sacrifices of
human beings and valuable property on such occasions.

Mr. O'Riley, in allusion to the customs now under notice, remarked, "It
may be presumed that a ceremony shrouded by a darkened and dread
superstition has passed through many generations without any material
alteration from the process of its normal institution; if so, it affords
an unerring data from which we may trace the origin of these mountain
races to the ancient Mongols, whose Tartar tribes, as far back as
history carries us, used similar forms of sepulture, accompanied,
however, by the sacrifice of life at the tomb.

_Slavery_--Any account of the Red Karens would be incomplete without
some reference to the subject of slavery, which may be considered a
normal institution among them; for independent as Karennee is from the
natural advantage of its position, a large portion of its inhabitants
are slaves.

Slaves are of two kinds--1st. Those who, without assets, or the
protection of an insolvent court, voluntarily submit to the condition of
slavery in liquidation of their debts.[277] 2ndly. Those who have been
kidnapped or made prisoners.

The state of debtor slavery, as remarked by Mr. O'Riley, "has become an
integral portion of their social system;"[278] the other and more
iniquitous system which has its existence in the kidnapping propensities
of the people, engendered partly by the existence of a system of
retaliation and intertribal blood feuds, and partly through love of
adventure will probably exist till (as was the case with other tribes in
British territory) their savage condition has been ameliorated by the
adoption of Christianity, or an organised system of government.

Slavery, however, as it exists among them, is of the mildest form, the
social condition of the slaves being little inferior to that of their
master. Still it is deplorable, for ruthless savages as the captive may
be, they are noticeable for their domestic affection, and it must be a
sore pang for the poor people to be torn from their homes, separated as
members of a family, "driven like cattle across the Salwen and sold by
the Yoons, to be by them resold to the Siamese, and eventually end their
career the slaves of a nation of slaves; no worse or more pitiable
condition than which can possibly be imagined."[279]

In the Red Karens we have a people, who, though they have long lost
their nomadic habits, and for many generations past, have been settled
residents in a country whose population has been estimated at
twenty-eight souls per square miles, have, as yet, no organised form of

Information under the head of "Statistics of Protection," one of the
leading features of annual reports of our administration, would
therefore be rather vague and negative.

"They have," however, "no police, no prisons, no penitentiaries, no
schools for the reformation of young thieves, and yet they have no locks
on their doors, no watch dogs in their yards, no man-traps or
spring-guns in their gardens, and still thefts are very uncommon."[280]

In our historical sketch we have noted that Karennee comprises five
districts or principalities, ruled by separate chiefs, but that for the
sake of convenience it might simply be divided into Eastern and Western
Karennee. These chiefs, by a combination of circumstances, have acquired
the position of ruler over the portions of country allotted to them, but
for all practical purposes have little or no authority over their
nominal subjects, unless under exceptional conditions for each village
has its chief, who, with the assistance of elders, carries on the "local
administration," and is generally independent of higher authority.

Karennee and its people might have a brilliant future before them if the
civilising influences that have done so much for peoples equally
barbarous, could be brought to bear upon them; but as this is out of the
question in its entirety, it seems reasonable to hope, in the interests
of humanity, that this desirable object may be furthered by every
legitimate means.


[1] See Dr. Anderson's "Report on the Expedition to Western Yeman." Sir
Arthur Phayre and Colonel Yule in "Ocean Highways" for October and
November, 1872.

[2] Whiston's "Josephus."

[3] Ezekiel, xxvii, 33.

[4] "Notes and Queries," 3rd series, viii, 25.

[5] "Notes and Queries," 3rd series, viii, 26.

[6] A small species of Erythrina, with reddish flowers, is famous in
Buddhist mythology as the tree around which the Devas dance till they
are intoxicated in Sudra's heaven.--Mason's "Burmah," p. 531.

[7] Whiston's "Josephus," 227.

[8] Caspar Varrerius, in his "Lib. de Ophira" is of the same opinion. He
says, "Ophir esse Pegusi regnum, et regiones vicines in India
Orientali, prtor alios probarunt."--"Notes and Queries," 2nd series,
viii, 26

[9] "Notes and Queries," 3rd series, viii, 26

[10] Dr. Mason points out that _Suvarna_ is nearly identical with
Sopheir, the Greek name of Ophir, if we drop the last syllable, and this
under certain circumstances can, he says, be done--Sophir was also the
ancient Egyptian name for India. "Burmah," p. 20. "Penny Cyclopdia,"
vol. vi, 447.

[11] "Trans. Eth. Soc., Lond.," v, 36.

[12] See Mr. Logan in "J. Ind. Arch.," vol. iii. p. 1, 157

[13] It is from these beings that the people called by Europeans
Burmans, Burmas, or Burmese, take their name. In the Burmese language
the name is written _Mran-ma_ or _Mram-ma_, and is generally pronounced
by themselves _Ba-m_.

[14] A modern _yoodzana_ equals about 13 English miles.

[15] Sk is still the name of a small hill tribe in Arakan. It is
similar in sound to the name of the tribe Gautama belonged to.

[16] See "J. A. O. S.," 4.

[17] Yule's "Mission to Ava," 291.

[18] Address as President of Geographical Section of the British
Association for the Advancement of Science. 1871

[19] "Annals of Rural Bengal," p. 136

[20] This paper originally appeared in the "Phnia," vol. iii, No. 28,
for July, 1872

[21] The _r_ in the Arkanese dialect is invariably _y_ with the Burmese

[22] Sangermano's "Burmese Empire," 34.

[23] Symes' "Embassy to Ava," 207 and 464.

[24] Cox's "Burmhan Empire," 430.

[25] Crawford's "Embassy to the Court of Ava," vol. i, 93 and 170.

[26] Yule's "Marco Polo," i, 42 and 43.

[27] Dr. Mason humorously remarks, "Admitting this word to designate the
Karens, we may say the Karens were known to the Greeks!" He might also
have added that Karian, the name of one of the Grecian barbarous tribes,
mentioned by Homer, is identical with the equivalent of Karen as given
by early writers.

[28] Dr. Mason, J. A. S. B.

[29] Mr. St. John, noticing that the root _Ka_ is met with in other
names, such as _Ka-h-kyen_, _Ka-koo_, _Ka-do_, all tribal distinctions,
thinks "it is plain that _ka_ is equal to the Chinese _man_, though it
has now lost its signification. _Ren_ or _yen_ is probably the Burmese
root meaning 'mild,' or 'civilized,' for the Karens are the mildest and
most civilized of the wild tribes." --"Phnia," vol. iii, No. 27.

[30] When referring to this sect of the Burmese he says that in
consequence of a great disturbance that took place in the Royal city
during the reign of Ahiedia, "all the citizens divided themselves into
three parties, who afterwards formed three different nations, the By,
the Charan (Kharan), and the Burmese."--Sangermano's "Burmese Empire,"

[31] Talaing "is probably derived from the word Telinga, and hence it
appears that the tribes of the Upper Irrawaddy, separated during long
ages from the kindred tribes to the south of them, only came to know the
Mon after these latter had settlements of Telingas on their coasts.
These people, no doubt, extended their commerce into the interior, and
hence the name easily changed into Talaing, came to be given to the
whole population. The same results of a partial knowledge of a leading
race may still be seen. Until comparatively late years, the Burmese
mixed up English and all other Europeans, with the natives of India, in
one common appellation of Kul or Western Foreigners; and it is only
since the war with British in 1825-26 that they have learnt to
distinguish between the most prominent of the nations, lying west of
them." --"Trans. Eth. Soc., London," vol. v, 37.

The Burmese Envoy now in England, quoting from the _Yazawon
Thadee-punee_ or "Comprehensive History of the Kings," has kindly
favoured us with the following note. "Talaing is a compound word derived
from _Tee_ 'man,' and _dalaing_ 'water.' The amphibious habits of the
people, and the heavy rain-fall on the seaboard, which was formerly held
by them exclusively, probably suggesting this cognomen."

[32] Mr. Logan, in his paper on the ethnographical position of the
Karens, says, "The attempts to apply several of the names in Marco
Polo's geography beginning with Kar or Kara to the Karens, appear to me
to have been unsuccessful. The names are Turkish, and the countries and
tribes to the north of the Himalayas. _Kara_, black, is a common
qualitative in Turkish geographical names--black river, black mountain,
&c." --"J. Ind. Arch.," No. 4, p. 382

[33] Judson's "Life," vol. i, p. 592.

[34] "Trans. Eth. Soc. Lond.," vol. iii, pp. 204, 205.

[35] Mason's "Burmah," p. 622.

[36] "J. A. S. B.," vol. xxxvii, part ii, p. 143.

[37] "Burmah," pp. 621, 622.

[38] O'Riley, "Journ. Ind. Arch." 1859

[39] "Journ, Ind. Arch.," vol. v, No. 6.

[40] "Rural Bengal," pp. 167, 168.

[41] See Mr. Logan, in "Journ, Ind. Arch." New series. Vol. iii, p. 1.

[42] Logan, "Journ. Ind. Arch." New series, Vol. iii, part i, p. 169

[43] Ibid.

[44] The Rev. J. Edkins, in his pamphlet on the _Miautsi_ (or
Miau-tsze), says, "The dialect of the _Miau_ tribes proper, the oldest
and most numerous, may be classed with the Annamese, Siamese, and
Cambodian, with some of the Karen tribes."

[45] Max Muller, "Sci. Of Lang.," second series, pp. 30, 31.

[46] Logan, "Journ. Ind. Arch.," vol. ii. No. 4.

[47] Max Muller, "Science of Language," second series, pp. 29 and 188.

[48] "Journ, Ind. Arch.," vol. ii, No. 4, of 1857

[49] See "Working Man's Life," p. 276.

[50] Dr. Binney. See "Working Man's Life," p. 299.

[51] "Trans. Eth. Soc. Lond.," v, p. 99.

[52] "J. A. S. B.," No. 34, pt. II, p. 129.

[53] One of these men, entirely taught by Dr. Mason, has passed a
successful examination in arithmetic, land measuring, and law, and has
been appointed an extra Assistant Commissioner.

[54] Dr. Macgowan, "Journ. Ind. Arch.," vol. v, No. 6.

[55] Ibid

[56] It was thus with our own ancestors, for Hume, talking of the
ancient Caledonians, says "the bands of government, which were naturally
loose among that rude and turbulent people, were happily corroborated by
the terrors of their superstition."

[57] "A village," says Dr. Mason, "without an elder would be like a
parish in England without a clergyman." "J. A. S. B.," vol. xxxvii, part
ii, p. 131.

[58] "J. A. S. B.," xxxvii, part ii

[59] "History of the Highlands and Highland Clans," p. 128.

[60] Dr. Mason remarks, "Bad as the Burmese government is, the Karens
that have been subjected to it, are more thrifty, more civilised in
every respect, and live more comfortably than those who have ever
maintained their independence, which goes to prove that a bad government
is better for a people than no government." "J. A. S. B.," vol. xxxvii,
part ii, p. 151.

[61] "Hist. Of the Highlands," p. 133.

[62] Logan, "Journ. Ind. Arch."

[63] The _Miau-tsze_ are found in the provinces of Kweichau, Yunan,
Sechuen, Hnn, Kwang-si, and the western part of Kwang-tung. "In the
imperial dictionary of Kanghi, the sign {window-like Chinese-character}
miau (a compound of the words 'flower' and 'meadow') signifies
'germinating seeds,' 'blades of grass springing from the seed vessels.'
The sign (chinese character), tsz, on the other hand, is that usually
employed to express son or descendant. In accordance with this
explanation, the Chinese also seem to consider the Miau-tsze as children
of the soil, or indigenous inhabitants of the country." "Voyage of the

[64] "Trans. Ethn. Soc. London," i, p. 182.

[65] Yule's "Marco Polo," i, 214.

[66] Yule's "Marco Polo," i, 224.

[67] Yule's "Marco Polo," i, 227, &c. Vambery's "Travels in Central
Asia," p. 151, n.

[68] Riley, "Journ, Ind. Arch.," vol. iii, part i.

[69] "Journ. Ind. Arch," vol. ii, No. 4.

[70] "Journ. Ind. Arch," vol. ii, No. 4.

[71] Ibid., vol. v, No. 6.

[72] "Working Man's Life," p. 277.

[73] "Journ. Ind. Arch," vol. v, No. 6.

[74] "Journ. Ind. Arch," vol. v, No. 6.

[75] "Journ. Ind. Arch," new series, vol. ii, No. 4.

[76] "Expedition to Western Yurinan," pp. 96, 97.

[77] Phayre's "History of the Burmah Race." "J. A. S. B."

[78] The north was also the seat of the solar and lunar races, the scene
of chivalrous adventures, and the abode of all those who were celebrated
in the legends, the mythology, and the philosophy of the Hindoos."
--Mowliman's 'Hist. Of Ind.," i, 3.

[79] Mason's "Burmah," p. 831.

[80] Pagan or Pagham.

[81] Yule's "Marco Polo," vol. i, p. 76, n.

[82] In the Gaykho tradition of the creation and the flood, both of
which events are somewhat confusedly mixed up in the narrative as we
received it, the inhabitants of the earth are divided into seven

Dr. Hunter, referring to the analogies that exist between the Mosaic and
the Sanscrit accounts of the creation, notices a coincidence that is to
be found in the number of children born to the first pair, and remarks
that "as the Santol legend immediately divides the human species into
seven families, so the Sanskrit tradition assigns the propagation of our
race after the flood to seven Rishis." --"Annals of Rural Bengal," 151.

[83] "Journ. Ind. Arch.," vol. iv, No. 8.

[84] Mason's "Burmah," p. 71.

[85] "Brit. Ass. Advan. Of Science," 181.

[86] "Trans. Eth. Soc., London.," vol. v, p. 32.

[87] _Beloogyoon_, or Ogre Island

[88] Marshman's "Hist. Of India," i, 3.

[89] "Journ. Oriental Americ. Society," W, pp. 296, 298.

[90] Dr. Mason's "Working Man's Life," p. 307.

[91] "Trans. Eth. Soc., London," v, p. 32.

[92] See remarks on the ethymology of the word Karen.

[93] "Burmah," pp. 71 and 72.

[94] The very remarkable expression "river of running sand" used in
Laidlay's "Fahian" does not occur in Beal's more recent translation of
the travels of this celebrated Chinese pilgrim, although in his "Mission
of Sung Yun" the "drifting sands" are referred to. In the Reg-Rewan or
"Flowing Sand," north of Kabul, we have another instance tending to
prove that under certain circumstances connected with the disturbance of
the sands in the trackless desert of Central Asia phenomena occur which
explains the apparent anomaly. Beal's "Travels of Buddhist Pilgrims," p.
176. Laidlay's "Fahian," p. 6, note. Yules' "Marco Polo," i, p. 183.

[95] Beal's "Travels of Buddhist Pilgrims," p. 3.

[96] The desert of the Great Gobi is "intersected from west to east by a
depressed valley, aptly named Shamo, or the 'Sea of Sand,' which is also
mixed with salt--west from it lies the Hau Hai, the 'Dry Sea,' a barren
plain of shifting sand blown into high ridges." --"Journ. Ind. Arch.,"
vol. iv, No. 8

[97] "Trans. Eth. Soc.," v. 33.

[98] "Journ. Ind. Arch.," vol. vii, part i.

[99] Rawlinson's "Herodotus," ii, 250.

[100] See Marshman's "Hist. Of India," voI. i, p. 6.

[101] The same original belief in one God may be observed in Greek
mythology; and this accordance of early traditions agrees with the
Indian notion that "truth was originally deposited with men, but
gradually slumbered and was forgotten, the knowledge of it however
returning like a recollection." --Rawlinson's Herodotus," ii, 249.

[102] Thus the Negroes in Africa, according to Park, believed that the
concerns of the world are committed by the Almighty to the
superintendence of subordinate spirits. --Brand's "Popular Mis.," i, p.

[103] Rawlinson's "Herodotus," ii, p. 250.

[104] Mason's "Burmah," p. 103.

[105] Yule's "Marco Polo," i, 182, n.

[106] See Bishop Bigandet's "Legend of the Burmese Buddha," pp. 17, 45,
71, and 72, notes.

[107] See note by Sir Arthur Phayre to Bigandet's "Life of Gaudama," p.

[108] Mason, "J. A. S. B."

[109] Colonel Ross King's "Aboriginal Tribes of the Nilgheri Hills," p.

[110] Dr. Mason, "J. A. S. B."

[111] Among the old Northmen there is a superstition which they call
_Lamfarir_, wherein the soul is supposed to leave the body of a sleeping
person occasionally, and to wander under other forms into distant places
and countries. We have also read an anecdote of a Lincolnshire man who
believed that the soul of his sleeping comrade had temporarily taken up
its abode in a bee. --"Notes and Queries," vol. ii, p. 506, and vol.
iii, p. 206

[112] This idea is paralleled by the mythological tales recorded in
classic literature, for we find that the Egyptians believed that every
man had three angels attending him; the Pythagoreans that every man had
two; the Romans that there was a good and evil genius.

[113] "Notes and Queries," 3rd series, pp. 88 and 235.

[114] "J. A. S. B.," Dr. Mason, xxxiv, part ii, p. 199.

[115] Mr. Cross, "J. A. O. S.," iv, p. 313.

[116] Anderson's "Expedition to Yunan."

[117] "J. A. S. B.," vol. iv, p. 313.

[118] Dr. Mason,"J. A. S. B.," vol. xxxiv, part ii, p. 203.

[119] "J. A. S. B.," vol. xxxiv, part ii, p. 205.

[120] See Brand's "Pop. Antiq.," ii, 477.

[121] "J. A. S. B.," vol. xxxiv, part ii, p. 216.

[122] "J. A. O. S.," iv.

[123] Divination by bones, skins, and excrements, so called by Gaule in
his "Magastromancers Posed and Puzzled." --Brand's "Popular
Antiquities," iii, p. 30. Most of this paper on augury has appeared in
the "Phnix."

[124] With the ancient Greeks and Romans the power of interpreting the
signs furnished by the gods was thought to depend on a peculiar talent
confused on the favoured mortal from his birth; but a certain discipline
was necessary to give to the talent its full development. With the
Karens, the elders are looked upon as the recognised interpreters of
their augury without such discipline.

[125] "The rite," says Dr. Mason, "is called 'The good to do,' but of
its origin, and object to the Karens, can give no account."

[126] Thiekeu, or Moklar, seems to be equivalent to Indra. "The Bws,"
says Dr. Mason, "regard the fowl as the bird of Indra, the king of the
Deva heavens."

[127] "Journ. Ind. Arch.," vol. iv, No. 8.

[128] "Trans. Eth. Soc. Lond.," vol. v, p. 166.

[129] The sacrifice alluded by Croker is mentioned in Jacobus Grace,
"Kilkenniensis Annales Hibernia," published for the Irish Archological
Society, 1842. _Red_ cocks are sacrificed by the Santals in honour of
their _Lares rurales_. Dr. Hunter's "Annals of Rural Bengal," p. 183.

"A.D. 1325. Ricardus Ledered, Episcopus Ossoriensis, citavit Aliciam
Ketil, ut se purgaret de heretica pravitate; qu Magi convicturet, nam
certo comprobatum est, quendam demonem incubam (nomine Robin Artesson)
concubisse cumea, cui ipsa obtulerat novem Gallos rubcos, apud quendam
pontem lapideum in quadrivia." --"Notes and Queries," 3rd series, ix,

See also "Proceedings against Dame Alice Kyteler," edited by Mr. Wright
for the Camden Society, 1843.

[130] To what date we may refer the cessation of the prejudice against
eating poultry is unknown, but they were favourite food in the seventh
century. In the course of a few centuries the merits of the cock lived
down the ill fame it brought to England with it, and it rose to the
popularity it has ever since maintained." --"Trans. Eth. Soc. London,"

[131] "South Sea Bubbles," by the Earl and the Doctor.

[132] Yule's "Marco Polo," i, 213.

[133] Yule's "Marco Polo," 214, n.

[134] Mr. Pennant gives an account of a species of divination used in
Scotland, called _Sleinanachd_ or reading the _Speal Bone_ or the
blade-bone of a shoulder of mutton.

Drayton, in his "Polybion," Song v, mentions,

"A divination strange the Dutch made English have, Appropriate to that
place (as tho' some power it gave), By the shoulder of a ram from off
the outside par'd, Which usually they boil, the blade-bone being bar'd,
Which when the wizard takes and gazing thereupon--Things long to come
foreshows, as things done long agone."

Dr. Brown tells us that the Highlanders having cleanly picked the flesh
off the shoulder of mutton, which was supposed to lose its virtue if
touched by iron, they turned towards the east, and with looks steadily
fixed on the transparent bone, they pretended to foretell death,
burials, &c." --"History of the Highlands, &c.," p. 116.

Camden in his "Ancient and Modern Manners of the Irish," says, "they
look through the blade-bone of a sheep, and if they see a spot in it
darker than ordinary, foretell that somebody will be buried out of the

Hanway says that they have a similar divination in Persia.

See Brand's "Popular Antiquities," iii, pp. 30, 179, 180, and 174.
Gough's "Camden," vol. iii, p. 659. Also Hanway's "Travels in Persia,"
vol. i, p. 177.

[135] The _Spectator_ thus notices this custom. "I have seen a man in
love turn pale and lose his appetite from the plucking of
merry-thought." --Brand's "Popular Antiq.," iii, 117.

[136] Dr. Anderson's "Expedition to Yunan," p. 126.

[137] See introduction to "Proceedings against Dame Alice Kyteler," by
Mr. Wright, Camden Society.

[138] Ibid., p. viii.

[139] Brand's "Pop. Antiquities," iii, p. 30.

[140] "The word witch (unrelated to wizard, _weissen_) comes from the
old saxon _wig_, an idol; and there is no doubt that the witches of old
times were at first practisers of some of the old Pagan rites."
--"Fraser's Magazine" for November, 1872, p. 597.

[141] "Journ. Amerc. Or. Soc.," iv, 314.

[142] This exemplifies what we have said above. The man being possessed
with a Na, his wife appeared to him as a rat, and he proposed to impale
her on a stick and roast her, as he would a rat, which Karen epicures
consider a dainty dish.

[143] This was, doubtless, the _La_ of the deceased, not the man
himself, for in some of the Karen representations of the future state it
will be noticed that the man is absorbed in the La which after the death
it protects, enters on a new state of existence.

[144] So in the Jewish law it was commanded that, "A man also, or woman,
that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to
death."--Leviticus xx, 27.

[145] "Fraser's Magazine" for November, 1872.

[146] We have a very remarkable instance in Scripture of witchcraft
being resorted to in view to holding communication with the dead, when
at the request of Saul the Witch of Endor caused the appearance of
Samuel by her incantations.

[147] "J. A. O. S.," iv, 305, 306.

[148] Ibid., 307, 308.

[149] "Official Narrative of Expedition to Western China," p.49.

[150] Anderson's "Expedition to Yunan," p. 126.

[151] Ibid.

[152] Bigandet's "Life of Gaudama," p. 86, n.

[153] Ibid., p. 21, n.

[154] Mrs. Wyllie's "Gospel in Burmah," p. 41.

[155] Mrs. Wyllies "Gospel in Burmah," p. 50.

[156] "The Karen Apostle," p. 39.

[157] "The Karen Apostle," p. 70.

[158] Dr. Mason's work entitled "The Karen Apostle, or Memoir of
Ko-tha-byn," published by the Religious Tract Society, was well
calculated to create a deep and lasting interest in the Karens.

As this admirable little book is out of print, and not easily
procurable, we need not, we think, apologise to our readers for
embodying therefrom such extracts as may illustrate our subject.

[159] "Gospel in Burmah," pp. 53, 54.

[160] "The Karen Apostle," p. 33.

[161] Ibid., p. 35.

[162] "The Karen Apostle," pp. 65, 66.

[163] "Gospel in Burmah," p. 106.

[164] "Gospel in Burmah," p. 49.

[165] "J. A. S. B.," vol. v, No. vi, 1851.

[166] For most of the information contained in our notice of San-Qua-la,
we are indebted to Mrs. Wyllie's interesting book, "The Gospel in

[167] Forsyth's "Central India," p. 9.

[168] "The Karen Apostle," p. 88.

[169] Mason's "Burmah," p. 74.

[170] Dr. Macgowan, "Journ. Ind. Arch.," vol. v, No. 6.

[171] Yule's "Marco Polo."

[172] Beal's "Fahian," pp. 34, 38. Introduction.

[173] Yule's "Marco Polo," p. 58, n.

[174] "Journ. Ind. Arch.," vol. ii, No. 4, of 1857.

[175] "Gospel in Burmah," p. 72.

[176] The site of an old city near Tavoy.

[177] Mrs. Simon's "Ten Tribes of Israel," p. 191.

[178] Mason's "Burmah," p. 77.

[179] Beal's "Fahian," notes, p. lxxii

[180] Ibid., p. xxi.

[181] A few years ago a _Nakhan_, or Extra Assistant Commissioner, while
out one dark night on the track of some Burmese dacoits, came
point-blank in front of a wild elephant, and before the poor man could
turn and run, the elephant threw his trunk around his neck and killed

[182] Dr. Macgowan, "Journ. Ind. Arch.," vol. iv, No. 6.

[183] Dr. Mason, "J. A. S. B."

[184] Dr. Mason tells us that, at _Yaythogyee_, a cairn on the spur of a
ridge is pointed out, which tradition says was the burial place of the
_Pwo Karens_, a tribe found now only in Pegu and Tenasserim, which tends
to prove that the Karens had moved from north to south.

[185] These little dogs are much prized by the Karens, for although not
swift, they are very keen and persevering in hunting animals by scent.

[186] When traps are set the Karens have to behave themselves demurely,
or the traps will catch nothing.

[187] This village, as well as _Owndaw-byay_, are particularly noticed
in our account of the Karen annual gathering.

[188] See chapter on "History of Toungoo."

[189] Mason's "Burmah," p. 495.

[190] "Burmah," p. 83.

[191] "Lepus quoque occurrens in via infortunatum iter prsagit et
ominosum." --"Alex. ab Alexandro," lib. v, c. 13.

See "Trans. Eth; Soc. London," vol. v, p. 164.

[192] See Dr. Browne's "Hist. Of the Highlands," p. 130.

[193] Ibid.

[194] Dr. Mason, "J. A. S. B.," vol. xxxiv, part ii, p. 205.

[195] Dr. Mason, "J. A. S. B.," vol. xxxvii, part ii, p. 128.

[196] O'Riley, "Journ. Ind. Arch.," vol. ii, No. 4, note 57.

[197] Dr. Mason, "J. A. S. B.," No. 37, part ii, p. 129.

[198] O' Riley, when in this part of the country, was honoured with a
cavalry escort. He says, "All the chief men of the surrounding villages
had assembled to do us honour, each one riding a pony of very small
pretensions to good looks or size, but whether owing to the
spirit-stirring sounds of the brass instruments, or more probably the
spirit which their riders had imbibed, they cursed with each other up
and down the slopes, running madly after each other and cutting such
cantrips as only drunken riders and drunken beasts can cut with
impunity, and they so continued their performance until my arrival at
the halting-place on a rising ground near the chief's residence."

[199] Our bodies appeared as if they had been whipped with nettles, and
the Prfet was diabled from writing by a rat-bite in the thumb.

[200] "J. A. S. B.," No. 37, p. 161.

[201] "Working Man's Life," p. 400.

[202] "Journ. Ind. Arch.," vol. ii, No. 6.

[203] "Sangermano," p. 91.

[204] "Man. Journ.," O'Riley.

[205] _Pudessa_ is also the name of a wonderful tree to be found in the
northern island of Burmese cosmography, "on which, instead of fruit, are
seen hanging precious garments of various colours, whereof the natives
take whatever pleases them best." --"Sangermano," p. 8.

[206] A Bw village (so called) consists of a single house, or perhaps
two, with numerous compartments.

[207] "J. A. S. B.," vol. xxxvii, part ii, p. 145.

[208] Dr. Mason, "J. A. S. B."

[209] Ibid.

[210] "Annals of Rural Bengal," p. 209.

[211] See subject of guardian spirits in chapter on Mythology.

[212] From Dr. Mason we learn that the Bws think marriages ought to be
contracted among relations. They consider the relation of first-cousin
undesirably near, and that of third-cousin too remote, while
second-cousins are deemed most suitable for marriage.--"J. A. S. B."

[213] Dr. Mason says, "If a young lady is rejected by her betrothed, she
is entitled to claim a kyee-zee for her head, another for her body, and
a gong to cover her face for shame."--Mason's "Burmah," p. 83.

[214] Dr. Mason, in "J. A. S. B."

[215] Ibid.

[216] Dr. Mason, "J. A. S. B."

[217] "Cursing," says Dr. Mason, "is with the Karens an organized mode
of punishment for crimes which cannot be reached in any other way. When
a man will curse another deliberately he goes on to the verandah of his
house, and curses him three evenings in succession. On the third evening
he takes an expiring faggot, an addled egg, and the last droppings of
the dishes, which are usually given to the pigs, and he says: 'May his
life expires like this expiring faggot; may he be destitute of posterity
like this addled egg; and may his end be like this refuse of the
dishes.' " --"J. A. S. B.," vol. xxxvii, part ii, p. 149.

[218] Mason, "J. A. S. B."

[219] Dr. Mason, "J. A. S. B."

[220] Psalm cxxvii, 5.

[221] "Working Man's Life," p. 265.

[222] Dr. Mason, "J. A. S. B."

[223] Dr. Mason, "J. A. S. B."

[224] Paper by Mr. Farrer, "Trans. Eth. Soc., London," vol. iii, p. 300.

[225] Dr. Mason, "J. A. S. B."

[226] "Journ. Ind. Arch.," vol. iv, of 1857.

[227] "Journ. Ind. Arch.," vol. ii, No. 4, of 1857, note.

[228] "J. A. S. B."

[229] Graham's "Sketches of Perthshire," p. 245.

[230] See "Photographs of Killarney."

[231] "Photographs of Killarney."

[232] Mason's "Burmah," p. 94.

[233] "Journ. Ind. Arch.," No. 4, 1857.

[234] Ibid.

[235] Captain Lewin, speaking of marriage ceremonies among the _Kyoung
Thas_, one of the wild tribes near Chittagong, says: "On the floor of
the house are placed water in jars, rice, and mango leaves. Round these
a new spun cotton thread is wound and carried again round the two
contracting parties, as they stand opposite to each other." --"Wild
Tribes of South Eastern India," p. 129.

The coincidence of using a cotton thread is singular, but we failed to
ascertain its significance.

[236] Our narrator evidently here made use of the Burmese idiom
expressive of "all the ills that flesh is heir to," instead of the
Toungthu equivalent.

[237] "Photographs of Killarney."

[238] Mason's "Burmah," p. 92.

[239] Life or legend of "Gaudama." By the Right Rev. P. Bigandet. p.
328. Note to second edition.

[240] Mason's "Burmah," p. 93.

[241] Some of the people located in the southern portion of the Gaykho
country have shown a decided interest in the teachings of Christianity,
encouraging schools and teachers, and endeavouring to lead a new life.
We have now in our possessions, as noted in our tour among the Gaykhos,
a spear, prized by one of their chiefs as a weapon with which he had
slain many men, but which, on becoming a reformed character, he gave to
the missionary who induced him to abandon his lawless life. We also have
a sword tendered by another _Gaykho_, as a subscription for missionary
purposes, in lieu of silver and gold, of which he had none. It was the
only valuable thing he possessed, and in giving it up practically
demonstrated the reality of his convictions.

[242] One of the Padoung girls who came to our camp had her hair dressed
_ la chignon_ on top of her head, with pine stuck through it. This
fashion we have not noticed elsewhere among the Karens.

[243] Mason's "Burmah," p. 523.

[244] Yule's "Marco Polo," chaps. lii and liv.

[245] Manuscript notes from Mr. Cross.

[246] "Journ. Ind. Arch."

[247] Khaymapyoo, Burmese tin-producing.

[248] O'Riley's "Tour to Karennee," note 3.

[249] O'Riley's "Karenne."

[250] "The Karens of the Yonselen have been remarkable for several
generations for the impostors that have successively risen up among
them, who with religous pretensions cover political projects. They begin
as Boo-khos, heads or leaders of worship, and exhort the people to meet
together for singing and prayer. The Boo-khoo teaches them to pray that
the long oppressed Karen natives, who have no books, no king, no
government, may speedily be delivered from their enemies. If he succeeds
in gathering together a sufficient number of followers, his next step is
to declare himself what the Burmese denominate a Menloung, an embryo
king, or ruler." --"Dr. Mason, "American Bapt. Miss. Mag.," March, 1862.

[251] O'Riley's notices of "Karennee."

[252] O'Riley's notices of "Karennee."

[253] So with the _Khoonds_ in Orissa, when _Goomsur_ was incorporated
with British territory. "Their fields were found to be in a high state
of cultivation, and their villages swarmed with bullocks, goats, swine,
and poultry." --Marshman's "History of India," vol. ii, p.452.

[254] "British Burmah Administration Report for 1869-70."

[255] O' Riley's "Karennee."

[256] Ibid.

[257] Dr. Richardson, writing twenty years before, says, "They have no
trades nor manufactures excepting of the clothes they wear, and of
gongs, and of a particular kind of brass drum, peculiar to themselves."

[258] Marshman's "History of India," vol. ii, p. 444.

[259] O'Riley.

[260] _Hwiu Seng_ and _Sung Yun_ Buddhist pilgrims from China to India
in 518 A.D., talking of _Ouchang_ (Udyana), north of Peshawur, say, "The
king of the country religiously observes a vegetable diet." --Beal's
"Travels of Buddhist Pilgrims," p. 188.

Marco Polo noticing the people of _Pashai_ or _Udyana_, they live on
flesh and rice. --Yule's "Marco Polo," i, p. 155.

[261] Dr.Mason.

[262] Rev. A. Bunker.

[263] Dr. Mason.

[264] It has been determined by Dr. Mason that the Red Karens belong to
the _Bghai_ or _Bw_ family.

[265] Meaning other tribes of Karens.

[266] Yule's "Ava," p. 297.

[267] Dr. Richardson, in his journal, while describing the Red Karens as
recorded in the text, admitted that they showed more agility in running
races than his own people, whom they challenged on every occasion.

[268] See Captain (now Major General) McLeod's "Journal."

[269] Mason's "Burmah." p. 73.

[270] Dr. Mason in "J. A. S. B."

[271] Dr. Mason, "J. A. S. B."

[272] So we find on the authority of _Hwiu Seng_ and _Sung Yun_, who
visited Central Asia in 518 A.D., that although it was customary in
Khoton (Cotan) to honour the ashes of the common dead by building towers
over them, "when a king died, they did not burn his body, but enclose it
in a coffin and carry it far off, and bury it in the desert." --Beal's
"Trav. Bud. Pilgrims," p. 179.

Roman histroy tells us that on the death of Alaric the Goth, his
followers "turned the stream of the Bisenzio, caused their slaves to dig
a grave in the bed of the river, and after burying him there with all
his treasures, they turned back the waters into their course, and slew
all the slaves that had been employed in the work." --"Landmarks of
Ancient History," p. 209.

[273] Mr. Bunker, to whom we are indebted for interesting notes on this
subject, heard that when the late chief Kephogyee died, his people had
great difficulty in finding a suitable place to bury his corpse, on
account of the rocky nature of the soil.

[274] Vide illustration.

[275] Some of the Karens burn their dead.

[276] Yule's "Marco Polo," pp. 184, 185, vol. i.

[277] The system of self-pawning, another of the ancient Asiatic
customs, has a similar development among most of the Himalaic and West
Indonesian tribes. --Logan, "Journ. Ind. Arch.," vol. ii, No. 4, 1857.

[278] O'Riley's notice of Karennee, ibid.

[279] O'Riley's notice of Karennee.

[280] "Burmah," p. 91.


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