Sejarah Sumatra (Marsden)/Bab 4

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From their domestic economy I am led to take a view of their labours in the field, their plantations and the state of agriculture amongst them, which an ingenious writer esteems the justest criterion of civilisation.


Bahan penanaman paling penting, tak hanya di Sumatra namun seluruh wilayah Timur, adalah beras. Beras adalah bahan pangan besar yang disantap oleh seratus juta penduduk di dunia, dan meskipun utamanya terpisah oleh alam pada wilayah yang meliputi antara dan berbatasan di daerah tropis, penanaman ini mungkin lebih besar ketimbang gandum, yang orang-orang Eropa anggap sebagai unsur kehidupan universal. Di benua Asia, seperti kamu berjalan ke wilayah utara, kamu datang ke perbatasan dimana penanaman beras tiada dan ladang gandum diperdagangkan; dingin dirasakan pada iklim tersebut, yang terjadi di bagian tinggi daratan tersebut, tak bersahabat untuk produksi beras.

Beras (Oryza sativa) ketika berada dalam kulit disebut padi oleh orang-orang Melayu (dari bahasanya, kata tersebut nampaknya diambil dari perjalanannya ke belahan maritim benua India), bras ketika dipisahkan dari kulit, dan nasi usai direbus; selain diberi nama lainnya di berbagai negara yang menumbuhkan dan menyiapkannya. Perbedaan sebutan tersebut juga terjadi pada bahan pemakaian umum lainnya, dan terhitung pada prinsipnya: that amongst people whose general objects of attention are limited, those which do of necessity occupy them are liable to be more the subject of thought and conversation than in more enlightened countries where the ideas of men have an extensive range. The kinds of rice also (whether technically of different species I cannot pronounce) are very numerous, but divided in the first place into the two comprehensive classes of padi ladang or upland, from its growing in high, dry grounds, and padi sawah (vulgarly pronounced sawur or sour) or lowland, from its being planted in marshes; each of which is said to contain ten or fifteen varieties, distinct in shape, size, and colour of the grain, modes of growth, and delicacy of flavour; it being observed that in general the larger-grained rice is not so much prized by the natives as that which is small, when at the same time white and in some degree transparent.* To M. Poivre, in his Travels of a Philosopher, we are indebted for first pointing out these two classes when speaking of the agriculture of Cochin-China. The qualities of the ladang, or upland rice, are held to be superior to those of the sawah, being whiter, more nourishing, better tasted and having the advantage in point of keeping. Its mode of culture too is free from the charge of unhealthiness attributed to the latter, which is of a watery substance, is attended with less increase in boiling, and is subject to a swifter decay; but of this the rate of produce from the seed is much greater, and the certainty of the crops more to be depended on. It is accordingly cheaper and in more common use. The seed of each sort is kept separate by the natives, who assert that they will not grow reciprocally.

(*Footnote. The following sorts of dry-ground padi have come under my notice but as the names vary in different districts it is possible that some of these may be repetitions, where there is no striking difference of character:

Padi Ebbas, large grain, very common;
Andalong, short round grain, grows in whorls or bunches round the stalk, common;
Galu, light-coloured, scarce;
Sini, small grain, deep coloured, scarce;
Iju, light ish colour, scarce;
Kuning, deep yellow, crooked and pointed, fine rice;
Kukur-ballum, small, much crooked and resembling a dove's claw, from whence the name; light-coloured, highly esteemed for its delicate flavour;
Pisang, outer coat light brown, inner red, longer, smaller, and less crooked than the preceding;
Bringin, long, flattish, ribbed, pointed, dead yellow;
Bujut, shaped like the preceding, but with a tinge of red in the colour;
Chariap, short, roundish, reddish yellow;
Janggut or bearded, small, narrow, pale brown;
Jambi, small, somewhat crooked and pointed, light brown;
Laye, gibbous, light-coloured;
Musang, long, small, crooked and pointed, deep purple;
Pandan, small, light-coloured;
Pau, long, crooked and pointed, light yellow;
Puyuh, small, delicate, crooked and pointed, bright ochre;
Rakkun, roundish grain, resembles the andalong, but larger and deeper colour;
Sihong, much resembles the laye in shape and colour;
Sutar, short, roundish, bright, reddish brown;
Pulut gading or ivory, long, nearly straight, light yellow;
Pulut kechil, small, crooked, reddish yellow;
Pulut bram, long and rather large grain, purple, when fresh more nearly red;
Pulut bram lematong, in shape like the preceding, but of a dead pale colour.
Beside these four there is also a black kind of pulut.
Samples of most of these have been in my possession for a number of years, and still continue perfectly sound. Of the sorts of rice growing in low grounds I have not specimens. The padi santong, which is small, straight, and light-coloured, is held to be the finest. In the Lampong country they make a distinction of padi krawang and padi jerru, of which I know nothing more than that the former is a month earlier in growth than the latter.)

UPLAND RICE[sunting]

For the cultivation of upland padi the site of woods is universally preferred, and the more ancient the woods the better, on account of the superior richness of the soil; the continual fall and rotting of the leaves forming there a bed of vegetable mould, which the open plains do not afford, being exhausted by the powerful operation of the sun's rays and the constant production of a rank grass called lalang. When this grass, common to all the eastern islands, is kept under by frequent mowing or the grazing of cattle (as is the case near the European settlements) its room is supplied by grass of a finer texture. Many suppose that the same identical species of vegetable undergoes this alteration, as no fresh seeds are sown and the substitution uniformly takes place. But this is an evident mistake as the generic characters of the two are essentially different; the one being the Gramen caricosum and the other the Gramen aciculatum described by Rumphius. The former, which grows to the height of five feet, is remarkable for the whiteness and softness of the down or blossom, and the other for the sharpness of its bearded seeds, which prove extremely troublesome to the legs of those who walk among it.*

(*Footnote. Gramen hoc (caricosum) totos occupat campos, nudosque colles tam dense et laete germinans, ut e longinquo haberetur campus oryza consitus, tam luxuriose ac fortiter crescit, ut neque hortos neque sylvas evitet, atque tam vehementer prorepit, ut areae vix depurari ac servari possint, licet quotidie deambulentur...Potissimum amat solum flavum arguillosum. (Gramen aciculatum) Usus ejus fere nullus est, sed hic detegendum est taediosum ludibrium, quod quis habet, si quis per campos vel in sylvis procedat, ubi hoc gramen ad vias publicas crescit, quum praetereuntium vestibus, hoc semen quam maxime inhaeret. Rumphius volume 6 book 10 chapters 8 and 13. M. Poivre describes the plains of Madagascar and Java as covered with a long grass which he calls fatak, and which, from the analogy of the countries in other respects, I should suppose to be the lalang; but he praises it as affording excellent pasturage; whereas in Sumatra it is reckoned the worst, and except when very young it is not edible by the largest cattle; for which reason the carters and drovers are in the practice of setting fire to that which grows on the plains by the roadside, that the young shoots which thereupon shoot up, may afterwards supply food to their buffaloes.)

If old woods are not at hand ground covered with that of younger growth, termed balukar, is resorted to; but not, if possible, under the age of four or five years. Vegetation is there so strong that spots which had been perfectly cleared for cultivation will, upon being neglected for a single season, afford shelter to the beasts of the forest; and the same being rarely occupied for two successive years, the face of the country continues to exhibit the same wild appearance, although very extensive tracts are annually covered with fresh plantations. From this it will be seen that, in consequence of the fertility to which it gives occasion, the abundance of wood in the country is not considered by the inhabitants as an inconvenience but the contrary. Indeed I have heard a native prince complain of a settlement made by some persons of a distant tribe in the inland part of his dominions, whom he should be obliged to expel from thence in order to prevent the waste of his old woods. This seemed a superfluous act of precaution in an island which strikes the eye as one general, impervious, and inexhaustible forest.


On the approach of the dry monsoon (April and May) or in the course of it, the husbandman makes choice of a spot for his ladang, or plantation of upland rice, for that season, and marks it out. Here it must be observed that property in land depends upon occupancy, unless where fruit-bearing trees have been planted, and, as there is seldom any determined boundary between the lands of neighbouring villages, such marks are rarely disturbed. Collecting his family and dependents, he next proceeds to clear the ground. This is an undertaking of immense labour, and would seem to require herculean force, but it is effected by skill and perseverance. The work divides itself into two parts. The first (called tebbas, menebbas) consists in cutting down the brushwood and rank vegetables, which are suffered to dry during an interval of a fortnight, or more or less, according to the fairness of the weather, before they proceed to the second operation (called tebbang, menebbang) of felling the large trees. Their tools, the prang and billiong (the former resembling a bill-hook, and the latter an imperfect adze) are seemingly inadequate to the task, and the saw is unknown in the country. Being regardless of the timber they do not fell the tree near the ground, where the stem is thick, but erect a stage and begin to hew, or chop rather, at the height of ten or twelve, to twenty or thirty feet, where the dimensions are smaller (and sometimes much higher, taking off little more than the head) until it is sufficiently weakened to admit of their pulling it down with rattans made fast to the branches instead of ropes.* And thus by slow degrees the whole is laid low.

(*Footnote. A similar mode of felling is described in the Maison rustique de Cayenne.)

In some places however a more summary process is attempted. It may be conceived that in the woods the cutting down trees singly is a matter of much difficulty on account of the twining plants which spread from one to the other and connect them strongly together. To surmount this it is not an uncommon practice to cut a number of trees half through, on the same side, and then fix upon one of great bulk at the extremity of the space marked out, which they cut nearly through, and, having disengaged it from these lianas (as they are termed in the western world) determine its fall in such a direction as may produce the effect of its bearing down by its prodigious weight all those trees which had been previously weakened for the purpose. By this much time and labour are saved, and, the object being to destroy and not to save the timber, the rending or otherwise spoiling the stems is of no moment. I could never behold this devastation without a strong sentiment of regret. Perhaps the prejudices of a classical education taught me to respect those aged trees as the habitation or material frame of an order of sylvan deities, who were now deprived of existence by the sacrilegious hand of a rude, undistinguishing savage. But without having recourse to superstition it is not difficult to account for such feelings on the sight of a venerable wood, old, to appearance, as the soil it stood on, and beautiful beyond what pencil can describe, annihilated for the temporary use of the space it occupied. It seemed a violation of nature in the too arbitrary exercise of power. The timber, from its abundance, the smallness of consumption, and its distance in most cases from the banks of navigable rivers, by which means alone it could be transported to any distance, is of no value; and trees whose bulk, height, straightness of stem, and extent of limbs excite the admiration of a traveller, perish indiscriminately. Some of the branches are lopped off, and when these, together with the underwood, are become sufficiently arid, they are set fire to, and the country, for the space of a month or two, is in a general blaze and smoke, until the whole is consumed and the ground effectually cleared. The expiring wood, beneficent to its ungrateful destroyer, fertilises for his use by its ashes and their salts the earth which it so long adorned.

Unseasonable wet weather at this period, which sometimes happens, and especially when the business is deferred till the close of the dry or south-east monsoon, whose termination is at best irregular, produces much inconvenience by the delay of burning till the vegetation has had time to renew itself; in which case the spot is commonly abandoned, or, if partially burned, it is not without considerable toil that it can be afterwards prepared for sowing. On such occasions there are imposters ready to make a profit of the credulity of the husbandman who, like all others whose employments expose them to risks, are prone to superstition, by pretending to a power of causing or retarding rain. One of these will receive, at the time of burning the ladangs, a dollar or more from each family in the neighbourhood, under the pretence of ensuring favourable weather for their undertaking. To accomplish this purpose he abstains, or pretends to abstain, for many days and nights from food and sleep, and performs various trifling ceremonies; continuing all the time in the open air. If he espies a cloud gathering he immediately begins to smoke tobacco with great vehemence, walking about with a quick pace and throwing the puffs towards it with all the force of his lungs. How far he is successful it is no difficult matter to judge. His skill, in fact, lies in choosing his time, when there is the greatest prospect of the continuance of fair weather in the ordinary course of nature: but should he fail there is an effectual salvo. He always promises to fulfil his agreement with a Deo volente clause, and so attributes his occasional disappointments to the particular interposition of the deity. The cunning men who, in this and many other instances of conjuration, impose on the simple country people, are always Malayan adventurers, and not unfrequently priests. The planter whose labour has been lost by such interruptions generally finds it too late in the season to begin on another ladang, and the ordinary resource for subsisting himself and family is to seek a spot of sawah ground, whose cultivation is less dependent upon accidental variations of weather. In some districts much confusion in regard to the period of sowing is said to have arisen from a very extraordinary cause. Anciently, say the natives, it was regulated by the stars, and particularly by the appearance (heliacal rising) of the bintang baniak or Pleiades; but after the introduction of the Mahometan religion they were induced to follow the returns of the puisa or great annual fast, and forgot their old rules. The consequence of this was obvious, for the lunar year of the hejrah being eleven days short of the sidereal or solar year the order of the seasons was soon inverted; and it is only astonishing that its inaptness to the purposes of agriculture should not have been immediately discovered.


When the periodical rains begin to fall, which takes place gradually about October, the planter assembles his neighbours (whom he assists in turn), and with the aid of his whole family proceeds to sow his ground, endeavouring to complete the task in the course of one day. In order to ensure success he fixes, by the priest's assistance, on a lucky day, and vows the sacrifice of a kid if his crop should prove favourable; the performance of which is sacredly observed, and is the occasion of a feast in every family after harvest. The manner of sowing (tugal-menugal) is this. Two or three men enter the plantation, as it is usual to call the padi-field, holding in each hand sticks about five feet long and two inches diameter, bluntly pointed, with which, striking them into the ground as they advance, they make small, shallow holes, at the distance of about five inches from each other. These are followed by the women and elder children with small baskets containing the seed-grain (saved with care from the choicest of the preceding crop) of which they drop four or five grains into every hole, and, passing on, are followed by the younger children who with their feet (in the use of which the natives are nearly as expert as with their hands) cover them lightly from the adjacent earth, that the seed may not be too much exposed to the birds, which, as might be expected, often prove destructive foes. The ground, it should be observed, has not been previously turned up by any instrument of the hoe or plough kind, nor would the stumps and roots of trees remaining in it admit of the latter being worked; although employed under other circumstances, as will hereafter appear. If rain succeeds the padi is above ground in four or five days; but by an unexpected run of dry weather it is sometimes lost, and the field sowed a second time. When it has attained a month or six weeks' growth it becomes necessary to clear it of weeds (siang-menyiang), which is repeated at the end of two months or ten weeks; after which the strength it has acquired is sufficient to preserve it from injury in that way. Huts are now raised in different parts of the plantation, from whence a communication is formed over the whole by means of rattans, to which are attached scarecrows, rattles, clappers, and other machines for frightening away the birds, in the contrivance of which they employ incredible pains and ingenuity; so disposing them that a child, placed in the hut, shall be able, with little exertion, to create a loud clattering noise to a great extent; and on the borders of the field are placed at intervals a species of windmill fixed on poles which, on the inexperienced traveller, have an effect as terrible as those encountered by the knight of La Mancha. Such precautions are indispensable for the protection of the corn, when in the ear, against the numerous flights of the pipi, a small bird with a light-brown body, white head, and bluish beak, rather less than the sparrow, which in its general appearance and habits it resembles. Several of these lighting at once upon a stalk of padi, and bearing it down, soon clear it of its produce, and thus if unmolested destroy whole crops.

At the time of sowing the padi it is a common practice to sow also, in the interstices, and in the same manner, jagong or maize, which, growing up faster and ripening before it (in little more than three months) is gathered without injury to the former. It is also customary to raise in the same ground a species of momordica, the fruit of which comes forward in the course of two months.


The nominal time allowed from the sowing to the reaping of the crop is five lunar months and ten days; but from this it must necessarily vary with the circumstances of the season. When it ripens, if all at the same time, the neighbours are again summoned to assist, and entertained for the day: if a part only ripens first the family begin to reap it, and proceed through the whole by degrees. In this operation, called tuwei-menuwei from the instrument used, they take off the head of corn (the term of ear not being applicable to the growth of this plant) about six inches below the grain, the remaining stalk or halm being left as of no value. The tuwei is a piece of wood about six inches long, usually of carved work and about two inches diameter, in which is fixed lengthwise a blade of four or five inches, secured at the extremes by points bent to a right angle and entering the wood. To this is added a piece of very small bamboo from two to three inches long, fixed at right angles across the back of the wood, with a notch for receiving it, and pinned through by a small peg. This bamboo rests in the hollow of the hand, one end of the piece of wood passing between the two middle fingers, with the blade outwards; the natives always cutting FROM them.* With this in the right hand and a small basket slung over the left shoulder, they very expeditiously crop the heads of padi one by one, bringing the stalk to the blade with their two middle fingers, and passing them, when cut, from the right hand to the left. As soon as the left hand is full the contents are placed in regular layers in the basket (sometimes tied up in a little sheaf), and from thence removed to larger baskets, in which the harvest is to be conveyed to the dusun or village, there to be lodged in the tangkian or barns, which are buildings detached from the dwelling-houses, raised like them from the ground, widening from the floor towards the roof, and well lined with boards or coolitcoy. In each removal care is taken to preserve the regularity of the layers, by which means it is stowed to advantage, and any portion of it readily taken out for use.

(*Footnote. The inhabitants of Menangkabau are said to reap with an instrument resembling a sickle.)


Sawahs are plantations of padi in low wet ground, which, during the growth of the crop, in the rainy season between the months of October and March,* are for the most part overflowed to the depth of six inches or a foot, beyond which latter the water becomes prejudicial. Level marshes, of firm bottom, under a moderate stratum of mud, and not liable to deep stagnant water, are the situations preferred; the narrower hollows, though very commonly used for small plantations, being more liable to accidents from torrents and too great depth of water, which the inhabitants have rarely industry enough to regulate to advantage by permanent embankments. They are not however ignorant of such expedients, and works are sometimes met with, constructed for the purpose chiefly of supplying the deficiency of rain to several adjoining sawahs by means of sluices, contrived with no small degree of skill and attention to levels.

(*Footnote. In the Transactions of the Batavian Society the following mention is made of the cultivation of rice in Java. The padi sawa is sown in low watered grounds in the month of March, transplanted in April, and reaped in August. The padi tipar is sown in high ploughed lands in November, and reaped in March (earlier in the season than I could have supposed.) when sown where woods have been recently cut down, or in the clefts of the hills (klooven van het gebergte) it is named padi gaga. Volume 1 page 27.)

In new ground, after clearing it from the brushwood, reeds, and aquatic vegetables with which the marshes, when neglected, are overrun, and burning them at the close of the dry season, the soil is, in the beginning of the wet, prepared for culture by different modes of working. In some places a number of buffaloes, whose greatest enjoyment consists in wading and rolling in mud, are turned in, and these by their motions contribute to give it a more uniform consistence as well as enrich it by their dung. In other parts less permanently moist the soil is turned up, either with a wooden instrument between a hoe and a pickaxe, or with the plough, of which they use two kinds; their own, drawn by one buffalo, extremely simple, and the wooden share of it doing little more than scratch the ground to the depth of six inches; and one they have borrowed from the Chinese, drawn either with one or two buffaloes, very light, and the share more nearly resembling ours, turning the soil over as it passes and making a narrow furrow. In sawahs however the surface has in general so little consistence that no furrow is perceptible, and the plough does little more than loosen the stiff mud to some depth, and cut the roots of the grass and weeds, from which it is afterwards cleared by means of a kind of harrow or rake, being a thick plank of heavy wood with strong wooden teeth and loaded with earth where necessary. This they contrive to drag along the surface for the purpose at the same time of depressing the rising spots and filling up the hollow ones. The whole being brought as nearly as possible to a level, that the water may lie equally upon it the sawah is, for the more effectual securing of this essential point, divided into portions nearly square or oblong (called piring, which signifies a dish) by narrow banks raised about eighteen inches and two feet wide. These drying become harder than the rest, confine the water, and serve the purpose of footways throughout the plantation. When there is more water in one division than another small passages are cut through the dams to produce an equality. Through these apertures water is also in some instances introduced from adjacent rivers or reservoirs, where such exist, and the season requires their aid. The innumerable springs and rivulets with which this country abounds render unnecessary the laborious processes by which water is raised and supplied to the rice grounds in the western part of India, where the soil is sandy: yet still the principal art of the planter consists, and is required, in the management of this article; to furnish it to the ground in proper and moderate quantities and to carry it off from time to time by drains; for if suffered to be long stagnant it would occasion the grain to rot.


Whilst the sawahs have been thus in preparation to receive the padi a small, adjacent, and convenient spot of good soil has been chosen, in which the seed-grain is sown as thick as it can well lie to the ground, and is then often covered with layers of lalang (long grass, instead of straw) to protect the grain from the birds, and perhaps assist the vegetation. When it has grown to the height of from five to eight inches, or generally at the end of forty days from the time of sowing, it is taken up in showery weather and transplanted to the sawah, where holes are made four or five inches asunder to receive the plants. If they appear too forward the tops are cropped off. A supply is at the same time reserved in the seed-plots to replace such as may chance to fail upon removal. These plantations, in the same manner as the ladangs, it is necessary to cleanse from weeds at least twice in the first two or three months; but no maize or other seed is sown among the crop. When the padi begins to form the ear or to blossom, as the natives express it, the water is finally drawn off, and at the expiration of four months from the time of transplanting it arrives at maturity. The manner of guarding against the birds is similar to what has been already described; but the low ground crop has a peculiar and very destructive enemy in the rats, which sometimes consume the whole of it, especially when the plantation has been made somewhat out of season; to obviate which evil the inhabitants of a district sow by agreement pretty nearly at the same time; whereby the damage is less perceptible. In the mode of reaping likewise there is nothing different. Upon the conclusion of the harvest it is an indispensable duty to summon the neighbouring priests to the first meal that is made of the new rice, when an entertainment is given according to the circumstances of the family. Should this ceremony be omitted the crop would be accursed (haram) nor could the whole household expect to outlive the season. This superstition has been by the Mahometans judiciously engrafted on the stock of credulity in the country people.

The same spot of low ground is for the most part used without regular intermission for several successive years, the degree of culture they bestow by turning up the soil and the overflowing water preserving its fertility. They are not however insensible to the advantage of occasional fallows. In consequence of this continued use the value of the sawah grounds differs from that of ladangs, the former being, in the neighbourhood of populous towns particularly, distinct property, and of regularly ascertained value. At Natal for example those consisting between one and two acres sell for sixteen to twenty Spanish dollars. In the interior country, where the temperature of the air is more favourable to agriculture, they are said to sow the same spot with ladang rice for three successive years; and there also it is common to sow onions as soon as the stubble is burned off. Millet (randa jawa) is sown at the same time with the padi. In the country of Manna, southward of Bencoolen, a progress in the art of cultivation is discovered, superior to what appears in almost any other part of the island; the Batta country perhaps alone excepted. Here may be seen pieces of land in size from five to fifteen acres, regularly ploughed and harrowed. The difference is thus accounted for. It is the most populous district in that southern part, with the smallest extent of sea-coast. The pepper plantations and ladangs together having in a great measure exhausted the old woods in the accessible parts of the country, and the inhabitants being therein deprived of a source of fertility which nature formerly supplied, they must either starve, remove to another district, or improve by cultivation the spot where they reside. The first is contrary to the inherent principle that teaches man to preserve life by every possible means: their attachment to their native soil, or rather their veneration for the sepulchres of their ancestors, is so strong that to remove would cost them a struggle almost equal to the pangs of death: necessity therefore, the parent of art and industry, compels them to cultivate the earth.


The produce of the grounds thus tilled is reckoned at thirty for one; from those in the ordinary mode about a hundred fold on the average, the ladangs yielding about eighty, and the sawahs a hundred and twenty. Under favourable circumstances I am assured the rate of produce is sometimes so high as a hundred and forty fold. The quantity sown by a family is usually from five to ten bamboo measures or gallons. These returns are very extraordinary compared with those of our wheat-fields in Europe, which I believe seldom exceed fifteen, and are often under ten. To what is this disproportion owing? to the difference of grain, as rice may be in its nature extremely prolific? to the more genial influence of a warmer climate? or to the earth's losing by degrees her fecundity from an excessive cultivation? Rather than to any of these causes I am inclined to attribute it to the different process followed in sowing. In England the saving of labour and promoting of expedition are the chief objects, and in order to effect these the grain is almost universally scattered in the furrows; excepting where the drill has been introduced. The Sumatrans, who do not calculate the value of their own labour or that of their domestics on such occasions, make holes in the ground, as has been described, and drop into each a few grains*; or, by a process still more tedious, raise the seed in beds and then plant it out. Mr. Charles Miller, in a paper published in the Philosophical Transactions, has shown us the wonderful effects of successive transplantation. How far it might be worth the English farmer's while to bestow more labour in the business of sowing the grain, with the view of a proportionate increase in the rate of produce, I am not competent, nor is it to my present purpose, to form a judgment. Possibly as the advantage might be found to lie rather in the quantity of grain saved in the sowing than gained in the reaping, it would not answer his purpose; for although half the quantity of seed-corn bears reciprocally the same proportion to the usual produce that double the latter does to the usual allowance of seed, yet in point of profit the scale is different. To augment this it is of much more importance to increase the produce from a given quantity of land than to diminish the quantity of grain necessary for sowing it.

(*Footnote. In an address from the Bath Agricultural Society dated 12th October 1795 it is strongly recommended to the cultivators of land (on account of the then existing scarcity of grain) to adopt the method of dibbling wheat. The holes to be made either by the common dibble, or with an implement having four or more points in a frame, at the distance of about four inches every way, and to the depth of an inch and a half; dropping TWO grains into every hole. The man who dibbles is to move backwards and to be followed by two or three women or children, who drop in the grains. A bush-hurdle, drawn across the furrows by a single horse, finishes the business. About six pecks of seed-wheat per acre are saved by this method. The expense of dibbling, dropping, and covering is reckoned in Norfolk at about six shillings per acre. Times Newspaper of 20th October 1795.)


Notwithstanding the received opinion of the fertility of what are called the Malay Islands, countenanced by the authority of M. Poivre and other celebrated writers, and still more by the extraordinary produce of grain, as above stated, I cannot help saying that I think the soil of the western coast of Sumatra is in general rather sterile than rich. It is for the most part a stiff red clay, burned nearly to the state of a brick where it is exposed to the influence of the sun. The small proportion of the whole that is cultivated is either ground from which old woods have been recently cleared, whose leaves had formed a bed of vegetable earth some inches deep, or else ravines into which the scanty mould of the adjoining hills has been washed by the annual torrents of rain. It is true that in many parts of the coast there are, between the cliffs and the sea-beach, plains varying in breadth and extent of a sandy soil, probably left by the sea and more or less mixed with earth in proportion to the time they have remained uncovered by the waters; and such are found to prove the most favourable spots for raising the productions of other parts of the world. But these are partial and insufficient proofs of fertility. Every person who has attempted to make a garden of any kind nor Fort Marlborough must well know how ineffectual a labour it would prove to turn up with the spade a piece of ground adopted at random. It becomes necessary for this purpose to form an artificial soil of dung, ashes, rubbish, and such other materials as can be procured. From these alone he can expect to raise the smallest supply of vegetables for the table. I have seen many extensive plantations of coconut, pinang, lime, and coffee-trees, laid out at a considerable expense by different gentlemen, and not one do I recollect to have succeeded; owing as it would seem to the barrenness of the soil, although covered with long grass. These disappointments have induced the Europeans almost entirely to neglect agriculture. The more industrious Chinese colonists, who work the ground with indefatigable pains, and lose no opportunity of saving and collecting manure, are rather more successful; yet have I heard one of the most able cultivators among this people, who, by the dint of labour and perseverance, had raised what then appeared to me a delightful garden, designed for profit as well as pleasure, declare that his heart was almost broken in struggling against nature; the soil being so ungrateful that, instead of obtaining an adequate return for his trouble and expense, the undertaking was likely to render him a bankrupt; and which he would inevitably have been but for assistance afforded him by the East India Company.*

(*Footnote. Some particular plants, especially the tea, Key Sun used to tell me he considered as his children: his first care in the morning and his last in the evening was to tend and cherish them. I heard with concern of his death soon after the first publication of this work, and could have wished the old man had lived to know that the above small tribute of attention had been paid to his merits as a gardener. In a letter received from the late ingenious Mr. Charles Campbell, belonging to the medical establishment of Fort Marlborough, whose communications I shall have future occasion to notice, he writes on the 29th of March 1802: "I must not omit to say a word about my attempts to cultivate the land. The result of all my labours in that way was disappointment almost as heartbreaking as that of the unlucky Chinaman, whose example however did not deter me. After many vexations I descended from the plains into the ravines, and there met with the success denied me on the elevated land. In one of these, through which runs a small rivulet emptying itself into the lake of Dusun Besar, I attempted a plantation of coffee, where there are now upwards of seven thousand plants firmly rooted and putting out new leaves." this cultivation has since been so much increased as to become an important article of commerce. It should at the same time be acknowledged that our acquaintance with the central and eastern parts of the island is very imperfect, and that much fertile land may be found beyond the range of mountains.)

The natives, it is true, without much or any cultivation raise several useful trees and plants; but they are in very small quantities, and immediately about their villages, where the ground is fertilised in spite of their indolence by the common sweepings of their houses and streets and the mere vicinity of their buildings. I have often had occasion to observe in young plantations that those few trees which surrounded the house of the owner or the hut of the keeper considerably over-topped their brethren of the same age. Every person at first sight, and on a superficial view of the Malayan countries, pronounces them the favourites of nature where she has lavished her bounties with a profusion unknown in other regions, and laments the infatuation of the people, who neglect to cultivate the finest soil in the world. But I have scarcely known one who, after a few years' residence, has not entirely altered his opinion. Certain it is that in point of external appearance they may challenge all others to comparison. In many parts of Sumatra, rarely trodden by human foot, scenes present themselves adapted to raise the sublimest sentiments in minds susceptible of the impression. But how rarely are they contemplated by minds of that temper! and yet it is alone:

For such the rivers dash their foaming tides,
The mountain swells, the vale subsides,
The stately wood detains the wandering sight,
And the rough barren rock grows pregnant with delight.

Even when there ARE inhabitants, to how little purpose as it respects them has she been profuse in ornament! In passing through places where my fancy was charmed with more luxuriant, wild, and truly picturesque views than I had ever before met with, I could not avoid regretting that a country so captivating to the eye should be allotted to a race of people who seem totally insensible of its beauties. But it is time to return from this excursion and pursue the progress of the husbandman through his remaining labours.


Different nations have adopted various methods of separating the grain from the ear. The most ancient we read of was that of driving cattle over the sheaves in order to trample it out. Large planks, blocks of marble, heavy carriages, have been employed in later times for this end. In most parts of Europe the flail is now in use, but in England begins to be superseded by the powerful and expeditious but complicated threshing machine. The Sumatrans have a mode differing from all these. The bunches of padi in the ear being spread on mats, they rub out the grain between and under their feet; supporting themselves in common for the more easy performance of this labour by holding with their hands a bamboo placed horizontally over their heads. Although, by going always unshod, their feet are extremely callous, and therefore adapted to the exercise, yet the workmen when closely tasked by their masters sometimes continue shuffling till the blood issues from their soles. This is the universal practice throughout the island.

After treading out or threshing the next process is to winnow the corn (mengirei), which is done precisely in the same manner as practised by us. Advantage being taken of a windy day, it is poured out from the sieve or fan; the chaff dispersing whilst the heavier grain falls to the ground. This simple mode seems to have been followed in all ages and countries, though now giving place, in countries where the saving of labour is a principal object, to mechanical contrivances.

In order to clear the grain from the husk, by which operation the padi acquires the name of rice (bras), and loses one half of its measured quantity, two bamboos of the former yielding only one of the latter, it is first spread out in the sunshine to dry (jumur), and then pounded in large wooden mortars (lesung) with heavy pestles (alu) made of a hard species of wood, until the outer coat is completely separated from it, when it is again fanned. This business falls principally to the lot of the females of the family, two of whom commonly work at the same mortar. In some places (but not frequently) it is facilitated by the use of a lever, to the end of which a short pestle or pounder is fixed; and in others by a machine which is a hollow cylinder or frustum of a cone, formed of heavy wood, placed upon a solid block of the same diameter, the contiguous surfaces of each being previously cut in notches or small grooves, and worked backwards and forwards horizontally by two handles or transverse arms; a spindle fixed in the centre of the lower cylinder serving as an axis to the upper or hollow one. Into this the grain is poured, and it is thus made to perform the office of the hopper at the same time with that of the upper, or movable stone, in our mills. In working it is pressed downwards to increase the friction, which is sufficient to deprive the padi of its outer coating.

The rice is now in a state for sale, exportation, or laying up. To render it perfectly clean for eating, a point to which they are particularly attentive, it is put a second time into a lesung of smaller size, and, being sufficiently pounded without breaking the grains, it is again winnowed by tossing it dexterously in a flat sieve until the pure and spotless corns are separated from every particle of bran. They next wash it in cold water and then proceed to boil it in the manner before described.


As an article of trade the Sumatran rice seems to be of a more perishable nature than that of some other countries, the upland rice not being expected to keep longer than twelve months, and the lowland showing signs of decay after six. At Natal there is a practice of putting a quantity of leaves of a shrub called lagundi (Vitex trifolia) amongst it in granaries, or the holds of vessels, on the supposition of its possessing the property of destroying or preventing the generation of weevils that usually breed in it. In Bengal it is said the rice intended for exportation is steeped in hot water whilst still in the husk, and afterwards dried by exposure to the sun; owing to which precaution it will continue sound for two or three years, and is on that account imported for garrison store at the European settlements. If retained in the state of padi it will keep very long without damaging.* The country people lay it up unthreshed from the stalk and beat it out (as we render their word tumbuk) from time to time as wanted for use or sale.

(*Footnote. I have in my possession specimens of a variety of species which were transmitted to me twelve years ago and are still perfectly sound.)

The price of this necessary of life differs considerably throughout the island, not only from the circumstances of the season but according to the general demand at the places where it is purchased, the degree of industry excited by such demand, and the aptitude of the country to supply it. The northern parts of the coast under the influence of the Achinese produce large quantities; particularly Susu and Tampat-tuan, where it is (or used to be) purchased at the rate of thirty bamboos (gallons) for the Spanish dollar, and exported either to Achin or to the settlement of Natal for the use of the Residency of Fort Marlborough. At Natal also, and for the same ultimate destination, is collected the produce of the small island of Nias, whose industrious inhabitants, living themselves upon the sweet-potato (Convolvulus batatas), cultivate rice for exportation only, encouraged by the demand from the English and (what were) the Dutch factories. Not any is exported from Natal of its actual produce; a little from Ayer Bungi; more from the extensive but neglected districts of Pasaman and Masang, and many cargoes from the country adjacent to Padang. Our pepper settlements to the northward of Fort Marlborough, from Moco-moco to Laye inclusive, export each a small quantity, but from thence southward to Kroi supplies are required for the subsistence of the inhabitants, the price varying from twelve to four bamboos according to the season. At our head settlement the consumption of the civil and military establishments, the company's LABOURERS, together with the Chinese and Malayan settlers, so much exceeds the produce of the adjoining districts (although exempted from any obligation to cultivate pepper) that there is a necessity for importing a quantity from the islands of Java and Bally, and from Bengal about three to six thousand bags annually.*

(*Footnote. This has reference to the period between 1770 and 1780 generally. So far as respects the natives there has been no material alteration.)

The rice called pulut or bras se-pulut (Oryza gelatinosa), of which mention has been made in the list above, is in its substance of a very peculiar nature, and not used as common food but with the addition of coconut-kernel in making a viscous preparation called lemang, which I have seen boiled in a green bamboo, and other juadahs or friandises. It is commonly distinguished into the white, red, and black sorts, among which the red appears to be the most esteemed. The black chiefly is employed by the Chinese colonists at Batavia and Fort Marlborough in the composition of a fermented liquor called bram or brum, of which the basis is the juice extracted from a species of palm.


The coconut-tree, kalapa, nior (Cocos nucifera), may be esteemed the next important object of cultivation from the uses to which its produce is applied; although by the natives of Sumatra it is not converted to such a variety of purposes as in the Maldives and those countries where nature has been less bountiful in other gifts. Its value consists principally in the kernel of the nut, the consumption of which is very great, being an essential ingredient in the generality of their dishes. From this also, but in a state of more maturity, is procured the oil in common use near the sea-coast, both for anointing the hair, in cookery, and for burning in lamps. In the interior country other vegetable oils are employed, and light is supplied by a kind of links made of dammar or resin. A liquor, commonly known in India by the name of toddy, is extracted from this as well as from other trees of the palm-kind. Whilst quite fresh it is sweet and pleasant to the taste, and is called nira. After four and twenty hours it acidulates, ferments, and becomes intoxicating, in which state it is called tuak. Being distilled with molasses and other ingredients it yields the spirit called arrack. In addition to these but of trifling importance are the cabbage or succulent pith at the head of the tree, which however can be obtained only when it is cut down, and the fibres of the leaves, of which the natives form their brooms. The stem is never used for building nor any carpenter's purposes in a country where fine timber so much abounds. The fibrous substance of the husk is not there manufactured into cordage, as in the west of India where it is known by the name of coir; rattans and eju (a substance to be hereafter described) being employed for that purpose. The shell of the nut is but little employed as a domestic utensil, the lower class of people preferring the bamboo and the labu (Cucurbita lagenaria) and the better sort being possessed of coarse chinaware. If the filaments surrounding the stem are anywhere manufactured into cloth, as has been asserted, it must be in countries that do not produce cotton, which is a material beyond all comparison preferable: besides that certain kind of trees, as before observed, afford in their soft and pliable inner bark what may be considered as a species of cloth ready woven to their hands.

This tree in all its species, stages, fructification, and appropriate uses has been so elaborately and justly described by many writers, especially the celebrated Rumphius in his Herbarium Amboinense, and Van Rheede in his Hortus Malabaricus, that to attempt it here would be an unnecessary repetition, and I shall only add a few local observations on its growth. Every dusun is surrounded with a number of fruit-bearing trees, and especially the coconut where the soil and temperature will allow them to grow, and, near the bazaars or sea-port towns, where the concourse of inhabitants is in general much greater than in the country, there are always large plantations of them to supply the extraordinary demand. The tree thrives best in a low, sandy soil, near the sea, where it will produce fruit in four or five years; whilst in the clayey ground it seldom bears in less than seven to ten years. As you recede from the coast the growth is proportionably slower, owing to the greater degree of cold among the hills; and it must attain there nearly its full height before it is productive, whereas in the plains a child can generally reach its first fruit from the ground. Here, said a countryman at Laye, if I plant a coconut or durian-tree I may expect to reap the fruit of it; but in Labun (an inland district) I should only plant for my great-grandchildren. In some parts where the land is particularly high, neither these, the betel-nut, nor pepper-vines, will produce fruit at all.

It has been remarked by some writer that the date-bearing palm-tree and the coconut are never found to flourish in the same country. However this may hold good as a general assertion it is a fact that not one tree of that species is known to grow in Sumatra, where the latter, and many others of the palm kind, so much abound. All the small low islands which lie off the western coast are skirted near the sea-beach so thickly with coconut-trees that their branches touch each other, whilst the interior parts, though not on a higher level, are entirely free from them. This beyond a doubt is occasioned by the accidental floating of the nuts to the shore, where they are planted by the hand of nature, shoot up, and bear fruit; which, falling when it arrives at maturity, causes a successive reproduction. Where uninhabited, as is the case with Pulo Mego, one of the southernmost, the nuts become a prey to the rats and squirrels unless when occasionally disturbed by the crews of vessels which go thither to collect cargoes for market on the mainland. In the same manner, as we are told by Flacourt,* they have been thrown upon a coast of Madagascar and are not there indigenous; as I have been also assured by a native. Yet it appears that the natives call it voaniou, which is precisely the name by which it is familiarly known in Sumatra, being buah-nior; and v being uniformly substituted for b, and f for p, in the numerous Malayan words occurring in the language of the former island. On the other hand the singular production to which the appellation of sea-coconut (kalapa laut) has been given, and which is known to be the fruit of a species of borassus growing in one of the Seychelles Islands,** not far from Madagascar, are sometimes floated as far as the Malayan coasts, where they are supposed to be natives of the ocean and were held in high veneration for their miraculous effects in medicine until, about the year 1772, a large cargo of them was brought to Bencoolen by a French vessel, when their character soon fell with their price.

(*Footnote. Histoire de l'isle Madagascar page 127.)

(*Footnote. See a particular description of the sea-coconut with plates in the Voyage a la Nouvelle Guinee par Sonnerat page 3.)


The pinang (Areca catechu L.) or betel-nut-tree (as it is usually, but improperly, called, the betel being a different plant) is in its mode of growth and appearance not unlike the coconut. It is however straighter in the stem, smaller in proportion to the height, and more graceful. The fruit, of which the varieties are numerous (such as pinang betul, pinang ambun, and pinang wangi), is in its outer coat about the size of a plum; the nut something less than that of the nutmeg but rounder. This is eaten with the leaf of the sirih or betel (Piper betel L.) a claiming plant whose leaf has a strong aromatic flavour and other stimulating additions; a practice that shall be hereafter described. Of both of these the natives make large plantations.


In respect to its numerous and valuable uses the bambu or bamboo-cane (Arundo bambos) holds a conspicuous rank amongst the vegetables of the island, though I am not aware that it is anywhere cultivated for domestic purposes, growing wild in most parts in great abundance. In the Batta country, and perhaps some other inland districts, they plant a particular species very thickly about their kampongs or fortified villages as a defence against the attacks of an enemy; the mass of hedge which they form being almost impenetrable. It grows in common to the thickness of a man's leg, and some sorts to that of the thigh. The joints are from fifteen to twenty inches asunder, and the length about twenty to forty feet. In all manner of building it is the chief material, both in its whole state, and split into laths and otherwise, as has already appeared in treating of the houses of the natives; and the various other modes of employing it will be noticed either directly or incidentally in the course of the work.


The sugar-cane (tubbu) is very generally cultivated, but not in large quantities, and more frequently for the sake of chewing the juicy reed, which they consider as a delicacy, than for the manufacture of sugar. Yet this is not unattended to for home consumption, especially in the northern districts. By the Europeans and Chinese large plantations have been set on foot near Bencoolen, and worked from time to time with more or less effect; but in no degree to rival those of the Dutch at Batavia, from whence in time of peace the exportation of sugar (gula), sugar-candy (gula batu) and arrack is very considerable. In the southern parts of the island, and particularly in the district of Manna, every village is provided with two or three machines of a peculiar construction for squeezing the cane; but the inhabitants are content with boiling the juice to a kind of syrup. In the Lampong country they manufacture from the liquor yielded by a species of palm-tree a moist, clammy, imperfect kind of sugar, called jaggri in most parts of India.*

(*Footnote. This word is evidently the shakar of the Persians, the Latin saccharum, and our sugar.)


This palm, named in Sumatra anau, and by the eastern Malays gomuto, is the Borassus gomutus of Loureiro, the Saguerus pinnatus of the Batavian Transactions, and the cleophora of Gaertner. Its leaves are long and narrow and, though naturally tending to a point, are scarcely ever found perfect, but always jagged at the end. The fruit grows in bunches of thirty or forty together, on strings three or four feet long, several of which hang from one shoot. In order to procure the nira or toddy (held in higher estimation than that from the coconut-tree), one of these shoots for fructification is cut off a few inches from the stem, the remaining part is tied up and beaten, and an incision is then made, from which the liquor distils into a vessel or bamboo closely fastened beneath. This is replaced every twenty-four hours. The anau palm produces also (beside a little sago) the remarkable substance called iju and gomuto, exactly resembling coarse black horse-hair, and used for making cordage of a very excellent kind, as well as for many other purposes, being nearly incorruptible. It encompasses the stem of the tree, and is seemingly bound to it by thicker fibres or twigs, of which the natives made pens for writing. Toddy is likewise procured from the lontar or Borassus flabellifer, the tala of the Hindus.


The rambiya, puhn sagu, or proper sago tree, is also of the palm kind. Its trunk contains a farinaceous and glutinous pith that, being soaked, dried, and granulated, becomes the sago of our shops, and has been too frequently and accurately described (by Rumphius in particular, Volume 1 chapters 17 and 18, and by M. Poivre) to need a repetition here.


The nibong (Caryota urens), another species of palm, grows wild in such abundance as not to need cultivation. The stem is tall, slender, and straight, and, being of a hard texture on the outer part, it is much used for posts in building the slight houses of the country, as well as for paling of a stronger kind than the bamboo usually employed. Withinside it is fibrous and soft and, when hollowed out, being of the nature of a pipe, is well adapted to the purpose of gutters or channels to convey water. The cabbage, as it is termed, or pith at the head of the tree (the germ of the foliage) is eaten as a delicacy, and preferred to that of the coconut.


The nipah (Cocos nypa, Lour.) a low species of palm, is chiefly valuable for its leaves, which are much used as thatch for the roofs of houses. The pulpy kernels of the fruit (called buah atap) are preserved as a sweetmeat, but are entirely without flavour.


The paku bindu (Cycas circinalis) has the general appearance of a young, or rather dwarf coconut-tree, and like that and the nibong produces a cabbage that is much esteemed as a culinary vegetable. The tender shoots are likewise eaten. The stem is short and knobby, the lower part of each branch (if branches they may be called) prickly, and the blossom yellow. The term paku, applied to it by the Malays, shows that they consider it as partaking of the nature of the fern (filix) and Rumphius, who names it Sayor calappa and Olus calappoides, describes it as an arborescent species of osmunda. It is well depicted in Volume 1 table 22.


The maize or turkey-corn (Zea mays), called jagong, though very generally sown, is not cultivated in quantities as an article of food, excepting in the Batta country. The ears are plucked whilst green, and, being slightly roasted on the embers, are eaten as a delicacy. Chili or cayenne pepper (capsicum), called improperly lada panjang or long pepper, and also lada merah, red pepper, which, in preference to the common or black pepper, is used in their curries and with almost every article of their food, always finds a place in their irregular and inartificial gardens. To these indeed their attention is very little directed, in consequence of the liberality with which nature, unsolicited, supplies their wants. Turmeric (curcuma) is a root of general use. Of this there are two kinds, the one called kunyit merah, an indispensable ingredient in their curries, pilaws, and sundry dishes; the other, kunyit tummu (a variety with coloured leaves and a black streak running along the midrib) is esteemed a good yellow dye, and is sometimes employed in medicine. Ginger (Amomum zinziber) is planted in small quantities. Of this also there are two kinds, alia jai (Zinziber majus) and alia padas (Zinziber minus), familiarly called se-pade or se-pudde, from a word signifying that pungent acrid taste in spices which we express by the vague term hot. The tummu (Costus arabicus) and lampuyang (Amomum zerumbet) are found both in the wild and cultivated state, being used medicinally; as is also the galangale (Kaempferia galanga). The coriander, called katumbar, and the cardamum, puah lako, grow in abundance. Of the puah (amomum) they reckon many species, the most common of which has very large leaves, resembling those of the plantain and possessing an aromatic flavour not unlike that of the bay tree. The jintan or cumin-seed (cuminum) is sometimes an ingredient in curries. Of the morunggei or kelor (Guilandina moringa L. Hyperanthera moringa Wilden.), a tall shrub with pinnated leaves, the root has the appearance, flavour, and pungency of the horse-radish, and the long pods are dressed as a culinary vegetable; as are also the young shoots of the pringgi (Cucurbita pepo) various sorts of the lapang or cucumber, and of the lobak or radish. The inei or henna of the Arabians (Lawsonia inermis) is a shrub with small light-green leaves, yielding an expressed juice with which the natives tinge the nails of their hands and feet. Ampalas (Delima sarmentosa and Ficus ampelos) is a shrub whose blossom resembles that of our hawthorn in appearance and smell. Its leaf has an extraordinary roughness, on which account it is employed to give the last fine polish to carvings in wood ivory, particularly the handles and sheaths of their krises, on which they bestow much labour. The leaf of the sipit also, a climbing species of fig, having the same quality, is put to the same use. Ganja or hemp (cannabis) is extensively cultivated, not for the purpose of making rope, to which they never apply it, but to make an intoxicating preparation called bang, which they smoke in pipes along with tobacco. In other parts of India a drink is prepared by bruising the blossoms, young leaves, and tender parts of the stalk. Small plantations of tobacco, which the natives call tambaku, are met with in every part of the country. The leaves are cut whilst green into fine shreds, and afterwards dried in the sun. The species is the same as the Virginian, and, were the quantity increased and people more expert in the method of curing it, a manufacture and trade of considerable importance might be established.

PULAS TWINE[sunting]

The kaluwi is a species of urtica or nettle of which excellent twine called pulas is made. It grows to the height of about four feet, has a stem imperfectly ligneous, without branches. When cut down, dried, and beaten, the rind is stripped off and then twisted as we do the hemp. It affords me great satisfaction to learn that the manufacture of rope from this useful plant has lately attracted the attention of the Company's Government, and that a considerable nursery of the kaluwi has been established in the Botanic Garden at Calcutta, under the zealous and active management of Dr. Roxburgh, who expresses his opinion that so soon as a method shall be discovered of removing a viscid matter found to adhere to the fibres the kaluwi hemp, or pulas, will supersede every other material. The bagu-tree (Gnetum gnemon, L.) abounds on the southern coast of the island, where its bark is beaten, like hemp, and the twine manufactured from it is employed in the construction of large fishing nets. The young leaves of the tree are dressed in curries. In the island of Nias they make a twine of the baru-tree (Hibiscus tiliaceus), which is afterwards woven into a coarse cloth for bags. From the pisang (musa) a kind of sewing-thread is procured by stripping filaments from the midribs of the leaves, as well as from the stem. In some places this thread is worked in the loom. The kratau, a dwarf species of mulberry (morus, foliis profunde incisis) is planted for the food of the silkworms, which they rear, but not to any great extent, and the raw silk produced from them seems of but an indifferent quality. The samples I have seen were white instead of yellow, in large, flat cakes, which would require much trouble to wind off, and the filaments appeared coarse; but this may be partly occasioned by the method of loosening them from the bags, which is by steeping them in hot water. Jarak (ricinus and Palma christi), from whence the castor oil is extracted, grows wild in abundance: especially near the sea-shore. Bijin (Sesamum indicum) is sown extensively in the interior districts for the oil it produces, which is there used for burning in place of the coconut-oil so common near the coast.

ELASTIC GUM[sunting]

In the description of the Urceola elastica, or caout-chouc-vine, of Sumatra and Pulo Pinang, by Dr. W. Roxburgh, in the Asiatic Researches Volume 5 page 167, he says, "For the discovery of this useful vine we are, I believe, indebted to Mr. Howison, late surgeon at Pulo Pinang; but it would appear he had no opportunity of determining its botanical character. To Dr. Charles Campbell of Fort Marlborough we owe the gratification arising from a knowledge thereof. About twelve months ago I received from that gentleman, by means of Mr. Fleming, very complete specimens, in full foliage, flower, and fruit. From these I was enabled to reduce it to its class and order in the Linnean system. It forms new genus immediately after tabernaemontana, and consequently belongs to the class called contortae. One of the qualities of the plants of this order is their yielding, on being cut, a juice which is generally milky, and for the most part deemed of a poisonous nature." Of another plant, producing a similar substance, I received the following information from Mr. Campbell, in a letter dated in November, 1803: "You may remember a trailing plant with a small yellowish flower and a seed vessel of an oblong form, containing one seed; the whole plant resembling much the caout-chouc. To this, finding it wholly nondescript, I have taken the liberty to attach your name. It has no relationship to a genus yielding a similar substance, of which I sent a specimen to Dr. Roxburgh at Bengal, who published an account of it under the name of urceola. It is called jintan by the Malays, and of its three species I have accurately ascertained two, the jintan itam and jintan burong, the latter very rare. Its leaves are of a deep glossy green, and the flowers lightly tinged with a pale yellow; it belongs to the tetrandria, and is a handsome plant--but more of this with the drawing." Unfortunately however neither this drawing nor any part of his valuable collection of materials for improving the natural history of that interesting country, which he bequeathed to me by his will, have yet reached my hands.


Mr. Charles Miller observed in the country near Bencoolen a gum exuding spontaneously from the paty tree, which appeared very much to resemble the gum-arabic; and, as they belong to the same genus of plants, he thought it not improbable that this gum might be used for the same purposes. In the list of new species by F. Norona (Batavian Transactions Volume 5) he gives to the pete of Java the name of Acacia gigantea; which I presume to be the same plant.


Kachang is a term applied to all sorts of pulse, of which a great variety is cultivated; as the kachang china (Dolichos sinensis), kachang putih (Dolichos katjang), k. ka-karah (D. lignosus), k. kechil (Phaseolus radiatus), k. ka-karah gatal (Dolichos pruriens) and many others. The kachang tanah (Arachis hypogaea) is of a different class, being the granulose roots (or, according to some, the self-buried pods) of a herb with a yellow, papilionaceous flower, the leaves of which have some resemblance to the clover, but double only, and, like it, affords rice pasture for cattle. The seeds are always eaten fried or parched, from whence they obtain their common appellation of kachang goring.


The variety of roots of the yam and potato kind, under the general name of ubi, is almost endless; the dioscorea being generally termed ubi kechil (small), and the convolvulus ubi gadang (large); some of which latter, of the sort called at Bencoolen the China-yam, weigh as much as forty pounds, and are distinguished into the white and the purple. The fruit of the trong (melongena), of which the egg-plant is one species, is much eaten by the natives, split and fried. They are commonly known by the name of brinjals, from the beringelhas of the Portuguese.


<a name="sumatra-08"></a><img alt="" src="images/sumatra-08.jpg"> PLATE 8. Marsdenia tinctoria, OR BROAD-LEAFED INDIGO.
E.W. Marsden delt. Swaine fct.
Published by W. Marsden, 1810.


Tarum or indigo (Indigofera tinctoria) being the principal dye-stuff they employ, the shrub is always found in their planted spots; but they do not manufacture it into a solid substance, as is the practice elsewhere. The stalks and branches having lain for some days in water to soak and macerate, they then boil it, and work among it with their hands a small quantity of chunam (quick lime, from shells), with leaves of the paku sabba (a species of fern) for fixing the colour. It is afterwards drained off, and made use of in the liquid state.

There is another kind of indigo, called in Sumatra tarum akar, which appears to be peculiar to that country, and was totally unknown to botanists to whom I showed the leaves upon my return to England in the beginning of the year 1780. The common kind is known to have small pinnated leaves growing on stalks imperfectly ligneous. This, on the contrary, is a vine, or climbing plant, with leaves from three to five inches in length, thin, of a dark green, and in the dried state discoloured with blue stains. It yields the same dye as the former sort; they are prepared also in the same manner, and used indiscriminately, no preference being given to the one above the other, as the natives informed me, excepting inasmuch as the tarum akar, by reason of the largeness of the foliage, yields a greater proportion of sediment. Conceiving it might prove a valuable plant in our colonies, and that it was of importance in the first instance that its identity and class should be accurately ascertained, I procured specimens of its fructification, and deposited them in the rich and extensively useful collection of my friend Sir Joseph Banks. In a paper on the Asclepiadeae, highly interesting to botanical science, communicated by Mr. Robert Brown (who has lately explored the vegetable productions of New Holland and other parts of the East) to the Wernerian Society of Edinburgh, and printed in their Transactions, he has done me the honour of naming the genus to which this plant belongs, MARSDENIA, and this particular species Marsdenia tinctoria.*

(*Footnote. 2. M. caule volubili, foliis cordatis ovato-oblongis acuminatis glabriusculis basi antice glandulosis, thyrsis lateralibus, fauce barbata. Tarram akkar Marsd. Sumat. page 78 edition 2 Hab. In insula Sumatra. (v.s. in Herb. Banks.)


Under the name of kasumba are included two plants yielding materials for dyeing, but very different from each other. The kasumba (simply) or kasumba jawa, as it is sometimes called, is the Carthamus tinctorius, of which the flowers are used to produce a saffron colour, as the name imports. The kasumba kling or galuga is the Bixa orellana, or arnotto of the West Indies. Of this the capsule, about an inch in length, is covered with soft prickles or hair, opens like a bivalve shell, and contains in its cavities a dozen or more seeds, the size of grape-stones, thickly covered with a reddish farina, which is the part that constitutes the dye.

Sapang, the Brazil-wood, (Caesalpinia sappan), whether indigenous or not, is common in the Malayan countries. The heart of this being cut into chips, steeped for a considerable time in water, and then boiled, is used for dying here, as in other countries. The cloth or thread is repeatedly dipped in this liquid, and hung to dry between each wetting till it is brought to the shade required. To fix the colour alum is added in the boiling.

Of the tree called bangkudu in some districts, and in others mangkudu (Morinda umbellata) the outward parts of the root, being dried, pounded, and boiled in water, afford a red dye, for fixing which the ashes procured from the stalks of the fruit and midribs of the leaves of the coconut are employed. Sometimes the bark or wood of the sapang tree is mixed with these roots. It is to be observed that another species of bangkudu, with broader leaves (Morinda citrifolia) does not yield any colouring matter, but is, as I apprehend, the tree commonly planted in the Malayan peninsula and in Pulo Pinang as a support to the pepper-vine.


Ubar is a red-wood resembling the logwood (haematoxylon) of Honduras, and might probably be employed for the same purpose. It is used by the natives in tanning twine for fishing nets, and appears to be the okir or Tanarius major of Rumphius, Volume 3 page 192, and Jambolifera rezinoso of Lour. Fl. C. C. page 231. Their black dye is commonly made from the coats of the mangostin-fruit and of the kataping (Terminalia catappa). With this the blue cloth from the west of India is changed to a black, as usually worn by the Malays of Menangkabau. It is said to be steeped in mud in order to fix the colour.

The roots of the chapada or champadak (Artocarpus integrifolia) cut into chips and boiled in water produce a yellow dye. To strengthen the tint a little turmeric (the kunyit tumma or variety of curcuma already spoken of) is mixed with it, and alum to fix it; but as the yellow does not hold well it is necessary that the operation of steeping and drying should be frequently repeated.