Page images
PDF
EPUB

we believe the best and indeed only way of putting our readers in possession of the contents of the two volumes, will be to follow the author regularly through them, according to his own arrangement of the materials, which however is not the best, either for perspicuity or compression. The first volume treats of—the geography, geology, meteorology, zoology, and botany of Java--of the several natives and foreign settlers, the amount of the population, &c.—of the agriculture and condition of the peasantry—of the manufactures and commerce of the island of the character of its inhabitants, the nature of the native government, judicial institutions, laws, police regulations, military establishments, and revenue of the court ceremonies, rank and titles, festivals, amusements, dramas, bull-tights, and other customs—of the language, literature, and fine arts.

The second volume contains an account of the religion, antiquities, temples, sculpture, inscriptions, coins, ruins, &c. the history of Java from the earliest traditions to the establishment of Mahometanism, and from that period till the arrival of the British forces in 1811-with an Appendix of 260 pages, on many curious subjects—specimens of languages, vocabularies, alphabets, numerals, translations of inscriptions, &c.

Passing over the uncertain etymology of the Java of Europeans, or Jawa of the natives, we proceed to give a sketch of its actual state and condition. When it was determined,' says our author,

to introduce an entirely new system of internal management, by the abolition of the feudal service, and the establishment of a more permanent property in the soil, it was deemed essential that a detailed survey should be made of the different districts successively in which the new system was to be introduced.' This survey furnished the principal data for constructing a very excellent chart of Java, of which the least praise that can be bestowed on it is, ' that its superiority over those which

have previously appeared is such as to justify its publication. From this chart it appears, that the extreme length of the island is about 660 miles, the breadth from 130 in some places to 50 or 60 in others, and the area about 50,000 square miles. The island of Madura on the east, being separated only by a strait in some parts not more than a mile broad, is considered as one of the provinces of the Javan empire ; the strait itself forms the important harbour of Surabaya. Madura is about 90 miles in length by 30 in breadth. A part of Java is still known by its division into native provinces, being nominally divided between two native sovereigns—the Susuhunan, or Emperor of Java, who resides at Súra-kérta, on the Solo river; and the Sultan, who resides at Yugya-kérta, near the south coast, in the province of Matarem. The principal harbour, next to Surabaya, is that of Batavia,

which is a kind of roadsted sheltered by several islands. The best, perhaps, is that of Marák, on the north western point next the Strait of Sunda; but it is so unhealthy, that a party of men from one of our ships of war, who were sent to make a survey of it, after the capture of the island, almost all perished during the operation. Indeed the whole of the northern coast, from the smoothness of the sea, and the numerous islands with which it is studded, may be considered as a harbour. The most important river is that of Solo, which, at Súra-kérta, becomes a stream of considerable breadth and depth, and is navigable from that place to the sea at Grésik by vessels of a peculiar construction, very flat and long, and carrying from ten to two hundred tons: they take pepper, coffee, and other articles of produce, from the interior provinces to Gresik, and return with salt and foreign merchandize; they arrive at Gresik in eight days from Súra-kérta, but they make only a single voyage in a season, as they require nearly four months to work up the stream. The river of Surabáya is the second in point of magnitude; it is formed from numerous streams uniting in the interior, and discharges itself into the ocean by five outlets. Several other rivers fall into the sea along the northern coast; and countless rivulets, which, though not navigable, serve to irrigate the plains and valleys through which they flow. It would be vain to attempt, says our author, ' numbering those which are precious to the agriculturist; they are many hundreds, if not thousands. A few insignificant streams discharge their waters into the sea on the southern coast, which is for the most part precipitous, and very little known or frequented. Among the mountains of the interior are scattered several small but beautiful lakes, most of them supposed to be the craters of extinct volcanoes.

Java is almost wholly volcanic; and a series of mountains, evidently betraying their origin, and varying in their elevation from five to twelve thousand feet above the level of the sea, extends through the whole length of the island. The several large mountains in this series,' says Mr. Raffles, and which are in number thirty-eight, though different from each other in external figure, agree in the general attribute of volcanoes, having a broad base gradually verging towards the summit in the form of a cone;' but they exhibit indicatious less equivocal of their origin; craters completely extinct; others with small apertures which continually discharge sulphureous vapours or smoke, and some which have emitted flame within a recent period.

The ridges of smaller mountains or bills, extending in different directions, also exhibit traces of a volcanic origin, though in many of them a stratified structure and submarine origin may be discovered. They are said to be generally covered with large rocks

of

of basalt; and, in some instances, to consist of wacken and hornblende, which is found along their base in immense piles. Hills of calcareous constitution, with flat or tabular tops, and others of a mixed nature, partly calcareous and partly volcanic, are also found; the latter mostly on the southern coast: as they branch inward, and approach the central or higher districts, they gradually disappear, and give place to the volcanic series, or alternate with huge masses of basaltic hornblende, at whose base, or in the beds of rivers which proceed from them, are frequently found various kinds of siliceous stones, as common Aints, prase, hornstone, jasper, porphyry, agate, cornelian, &c.; no granite has hitherto been discovered.

Mr. Raffles says that the constitution of the island is unfavourable to metals; that the only notice of the existence of gold or silver is contained in the first volume of the Batavian Transactions, and that the attempts recently made held out no encouragement to reward the operations of the miner, and were, therefore, soon abaudoned. No diamonds are found, nor any other precious stones

but schist,' he says, ' quartz, potstone, feldspar, and trap are abundant, so that though there is no granite, the component parts of granite are not wanting; porphyry is also said to be found in Java.

The soil is for the most part rich and of remarkable depth; for rice it requires no manure, and will bear, without impoverishment, one heavy and one light crop in the year. The seasons, as in all countries situated within a certain distance from the equator, are distinguished not by hot and cold, but by wet and dry. The westerly winds, which bring rain, generally set in during the month of October, become more steady in November and December, and gradually subside, till, in March or April, they are succeeded by the easterly winds and fair weather, which continues for the remaining half year. The heaviest rains are in December and January, and the driest weather in July and August, when the nights are coldest and the days hottest. Thunder and lightning are very frequent. Occasional showers, even in the driest season, refresh the air, and the landscape is at all times of the year covered with the brightest verdure. The thermometer of Fahrenheit has been observed on the northern coast, and particularly in the large and low capitals of Batavia, Samárang, and Surabaya, above 90°; but by a series of observations published under the authority of the Dutch government, it has been found usually to range between 70° and 740 in the evenings and mornings, and to stand about 83° at noon. In the interior, among the hills, it seldom runs higher than from 67° to 70°, and on the summit of Sindoro it has been observed as low as 27o. On the whole, the climate of the island, with the exception of Batavia and some other low

swampy

swampy places on the northern coast, is considered by professional men as on a level, in point of salubrity, with the healthiest parts of British India, or of any tropical country in the world. But Batavia was the storehouse of disease and mortality. Mr. Raffles gives a Table (in the Appendix, No.2) discovered among the Dutch records, by which it would appear that the amount of deaths in this city, from the year 1730 to the year 1752, exceeded a million of souls, nearly 50,000 a year!

The vegetable productions of Java, which contribute to the food and sustenance of man, are of great richness and variety. Rice is here, as almost every where else in the east, the staff of life: --that there are ' upwards of a hundred varieties of this grain' is however about as correct as if we should say there are above a hundred varieties of wheat or barley in England. The mays, or Indian corn, is an important article in the agriculture of the island, as is the kachang (dolichos). The sugar cane, coffee shrub, pepper, indigo, tobacco; several tuberous roots of the convolvulus, dioscorea and arum; the dolichos bulbosus and ocymum tuberosum; the iatropha manihot; nutmegs, cloves, and cinnamon; most of the European plants, and great numbers that afford oils, all contribute abundantly to the necessities and luxuries of the inhabitants, and furnish valuable articles for commercial export, more especially those of coffee and pepper.

Of fruits they have the cocoa nut, the mangustan, the durian, the rambutan, the jack, the mango, the plaintain, the pine-apple, the guava, the custard-apple, the papaw, the pomegranate, and the tamarind, besides great variety of oranges, lemons, citrons and the shaddock; together with peaches, pears of China, and other fruits peculiar to that empire and the islands of Japan.

Plants for ornament, and plants famed for their medical qualities, are not wanting in Java: equally abundant are those whose fibres are convertible into rope, thread, and cloth. The teak grows in considerable forests; but it does not appear

that

many trees exist of a size sufficient for ship building. Like the oak, it requires the growth of a century before it arrives at perfection. The island produces besides, a great variety of other trees for house carpentry, furniture, &c., and some which yield resins and gums.

There is a fine breed of small horses on the island, strong, fleet, and well made, and a superior race from Sumbawa, said to resemble the Arab in every respect except size. They have buffalos, cows, sheep, (with hair,) goats, and hogs. Tigers and jackalls abound; the woods are infested with the rhinoceros, the wild buffalo, and the wild hog; and the aggregate number of mammalia, Mr. Raffles says, amounts to about fifty. Among the domestic fowls the turkey is the scarcest; the goose

the

the next; but the common fowl, the duck and pigeon are abundant. The peacock flies wild in the forests. The number of distinct species of birds is stated to be somewhat more than two hundred, of which one hundred and seventy have been described. The edible birds-nests, exported in large quantities to the Chinese market, have long been known as the production of a small swallow, (birundo esculenta,) but the process of forming them was not understood. The inference turns out to be true, as Mr. Raffles has observed, that the mucilaginous substance of which the nests are formed, is not, as has been generally supposed, obtained from the ocean;' and Dr. Horsfield is also right in conceiving it to be an animal elaboration. On the dissection of one of these birds by Sir E. Home, he discovered a set of secretory organs peculiar to itself, by which there is little doubt the mucilaginous matter of these nests is elaborated. This little animal, frequenting the rocks and caverns of Java, furnishes an article of commerce, the annual value of which exceeds half a million of Spanish dollars. The best nests are those which are found in the bottom of deep, damp caverns, where they imbibe a nitrous taste, well suited to the palate of the Chinese. The collectors of these birds-nests are at great pains to cleanse the rocks, and to fumigate the caverns by burning sulphur in them, when they are left undisturbed for two or three years. The most valuable nests are those newly built, and taken before the eggs are laid; but to collect them in this state would be at once to destroy the breed, and therefore the usual time of gathering them is just after the young ones are fledged. Slaves are generally employed in the European part of the island; they are lowered by ropes down yawning chasms of immense depth into which the sea gushes with the most tremendous roar beneath them; others cling to the narrow, ledges of rocks suspended between sea and air like one that gathers samphire;' and, with that occupation, bird-nesting in Java may truly be called a dreadful trade:' the poor slaves, however, think themselves well rewarded for their toil and danger with a buffalo, of which they make a feast, not a sacrifice, as it has been called, and at which no priests attend either to give a blessing or to charm away the danger.

• The crocodile of Egypt is found in the rivers, and that species of lizard usually, but erroneously, called the guana, but which, Mr. Raffles says, is the lacerta monitor. Turtles and tortoises, frogs, snakes, and insects, are numerous.

Of esculent fish there is great variety; Doctor Horsfield, it seems, has enumerated thirty-four species that frequent the rivers, seven the pools or stagnant waters, and sixteen that are caught in the sea. This hasty sketch is sufficient to shew how plentifully this island is stored with produc

« PreviousContinue »