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THE LIBRARY

OF

THE UNIVERSITY

OF CALIFORNIA
LOS ANGELES



BURMA UNDER BRITISH RULE
-AND BEFORE




Ll.MKSlONfc: KOCK SUK.MOUNIED BV I'AGODA (^TENASSERl.M DIVISION".).
VOL. II.



BURMA UNDER BRITISH
RULE-AND BEFORE

BY JOHN NISBET D.CEC

LATE CONSERVATOR OF FORESTS, BURMA
AUTHOR OF "BRITISH FOREST TREES"
"STUDIES IN FORESTRY" "OUR
FORESTS AND WOOD-
LANDS" ETC



VOL n



WESTMINSTER
ARCHIBALD CONSTABLE & CO Ltd

2 WHITEHALL GARDENS
1 901



BUTLER & TANNER,

THE SELwooD Printing Works,
Frome, and London.






CONTENTS



CHAPTER I

BRITAIN AND FRANCE IN FURTHER INDIA AND

SOUTH-WESTERN CHINA I

CHAPTER II

RAILWAYS IN BURMA, AND THEIR PROPOSED EXTEN-
SION ACROSS YUNNAN 24

CHAPTER III

BURMA'S FOREST WEALTH AND THE MAINTENANCE

OF THE TEAK TIMBER SUPPLY 47

CHAPTER IV
BURMESE BUDDHISM 89

CHAPTER V

THE BUDDHIST PRIESTHOOD AND RELIGIOUS OB-
SERVANCES 123

CHAPTER VI
BURMESE BELIEFS AND SUPERSTITIONS. . . .155

CHAPTER VII

NATIONAL HABITS AND CUSTOMS 181

vii



13i;il67



CONTENTS

PAGE

CHAPTER VIII
TRAITS OF BURMESE CHARACTER 221

CHAPTER IX
THE SOCIAL SYSTEM 233

CHAPTER X
NATIONAL FESTIVALS AND AMUSEMENTS . . . 257

CHAPTER XI
SCIENCE AND ART AMONG THE BURMESE ... 280

CHAPTER XII
LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE 309

CHAPTER XIII

VVETHANDAYA: ONE OF THE TEN GREAT "BIRTH-
STORIES" 321

CHAPTER XIV
FOLKLORE 356

CHAPTER XV
ARCHAEOLOGY 375

CHAPTER XVI

THE HILL TRIBES 411

INDEX 443

viii



chapter I



BRITAIN AND FRANCE IN FURTHER INDIA AND
SOUTH-WESTERN CHINA

THERE can be no doubt that one of the greatest of
commercial problems in the near future concerns
itself with the opening up of China to trade. And no
country can possibly be more affected by this problem
than Great Britain, whose commercial interests in China
at the present moment bulk much larger than those of
any other foreign nation. Whilst the South African
troubles remain unsettled, progress must almost neces-
sarily be retarded in pushing British interests in south-
western China ; but certain aspects of the problem are
so intimately connected with Burma as to require careful
consideration, and particularly with regard to the much-
talked-of proposal to extend the north-eastern branch of
the Burma railway system across the mountains and val-
leys of Yunnan to some objective on the Yangtse river.
Apart from the purely commercial point of view, this
project is so closely concerned with political and stra-
tegic motives that it is hardly possible to consider and
criticise it adequately without first of all taking a pur-
view of the affairs of Britain and France in Indo-China,
and giving a summary of the chief events out of which
the existing positions of these two Powers have arisen.

While Britain was gradually, through force of circum-
stances, acquiring the Burmese territories after the first
(1826), second (1852), and third (1885) Burmese wars,
France has during the last generation and a half pos-
sessed herself of a still larger territory on the eastern
side of the Further Indian peninsula. The methods by
which Britain and France gradually acquired these pos-

VOL. II. I B



BURMA UNDER BRITISH RULE

sessions differ essentially according to the national cha-
racteristics. The three successive annexations, separated
by wide intervals of time, of the British in Burma were
absolutely forced on them by aggressions, insults, and
deliberate violations of treaties by the Court of Ava, and
were only unwillingly made when all diplomatic means
of improving matters had been tried and found useless ;
whereas the French Empire in Indo-China has been
built up by directly and frankly aggressive measures.

In 1858, Cochin China was invaded by the French,
and Saigon was taken in the following year, seven years
after we had permanently acquired Rangoon ; and in
1867, the whole of Cochin China came under French
rule. In 1863, a Protectorate was established over
Cambodia, proving the prelude to annexation in 1884.
Hanoi was taken in 1873, and a Protectorate asserted
over Tonquin, which was in turn followed by annexa-
tion. Annam became protected in 1874, and was
ceded entirely by the Franco-Chinese treaty of 1884.
Hostilities breaking out again, Tonquin was annexed in
1885.

These vast acquisitions, forming an empire larger than
France, were, however, merely a base upon which to
found schemes for further annexations towards the west
and south. Having despoiled China sufficiently for the
time being, French attention was next given to encroach-
ments on Siam as soon as military affairs in Tonquin
permitted of this.

On pretence of demanding rectification of the western
boundary of Annam, in accordance with conditions that
had anciently obtained, French troops, in April, 1893,
occupied Stung Treng and Kaung, on the lower
Mekong. This was a purely aggressive act, as was
also a subsequent advance made from Annam ; but
these were neither of them actions which Britain could
properly object to. When, however, French warships
approached the Menam river to threaten Paknam and
Bangkok, in July, 1893, Lord Rosebery found himself
compelled to protest, because there were no French
interests at Bangkok, and British commerce there
amounted to tenfold the combined trade of all other



FRENCH ACTION IN SIAM

foreign nations. In defiance of orders from his Govern-
ment, the French commander took his ships into Pak-
nam harbour ; and, unfortunately, the Siamese forts
unwisely opened fire on them. A French ultimatum
was the result ; a blockade was declared, and severe
penalties were exacted.

Later events, also arising from claims to ancient
Annamese possessions, permitted — as will be shortly
explained — the expansion of the French territories up
to the river Mekong, so that now, for about loo miles
between latitude 20° and 2i|-° N. the boundaries of
British India and French Indo-China march together.
This extension of French territory deprived Siam of
about 100,000 square miles, or one-third of its total
area, including the town of Luang Prabang, while Chan-
tabun was occupied " temporarily " till the differences
between the two Governments were settled. Although
this is somewhat anticipating the results of the gradual
development of events, it may here be noted that assur-
ances had previously been given in Paris that the inte-
grity of Siam would be respected, that French warships
would not enter the Menam, that French Indo-China
should not be extended up to the borders of British
India, and that Chantabun would be evacuated " within
a monthr Every one of these assurances has been deli-
berately violated. Chantabun is still occupied, and the
French assert it was not intended to be evacuated till all
differences, including those created subsequently to 1893,
and presumably also those which may still be created as
occasion offers, are at an end between the two countries.
Served by men of the stamp of the French Consular
Agents agitating in Mandalay in 1885, and in Bangkok
in 1893, there will never be X'as^oi'' incidents'' requiring
settlement, and hence apparently justifying the retention
of Chantabun indefinitely by France.

Previous to the French acts of aggression against
Siam in 1893, arrangements had been in progress for
the peaceful rectification, by diplomatic means, of the
extreme eastern boundary of the British possessions in
Burma, Britain being willing to give some small unim-
portant Shan States to China and Siam on the guarantee

3



BURMA UNDER BRITISH RULE

that they should not cede any portion of those to any
other country without the previous consent ot Britain.
By the Burma-China treaty of 1892 the Shan States of
Keng- Hung and Mong Lem were ceded to China on
this condition, and negotiations were in progress for
similarly handing over another small State (Keng-
cheng) to Siam. But French action rendered such a
course impossible. When France seized the great east-
ern bend of the Mekong in 1893, China, notwithstand-
ing her treaty engagements with Britain, gave over to
the French the trans- Mekong portion of what is known
as the Sibsaung Punna, a confederation of twelve States,
at the head of which was Keng Hung. On strong
representations being made by Britain about China's
perfidy, a set-off was made by the promise of opening
up the West or Canton river to trade and of delimiting
and permanently demarcating the Burma-China boun-
dary, a work which has now recently been completed.

Uneasiness being felt at the gradual contact of French
and British territory, a Commission was appointed in
1894-95 for the delimitation of a "buffer State" between
the British and the French possessions — M. Pavie,
French agent at Bangkok, acting for France, and Mr.
Scott, Superintendent of the Northern Shan States, for
Britain. The endeavour in this direction failed com-
pletely. The French flag had already been hoisted at
the town of Mong Sing, which was the starting point of
the work of the Commission ; and the British Commis-
sioner had to begin operations in displacing the French
by the British flag, and in garrisoning the town with a
few Gurkha troops under a British officer.

It soon became apparent that the French Indo-
Chinese party were bent on acquiring possession of
Mong Sing, the capital of the small Kengcheng State,
although this, as a tributary to the British Shan State of
Kengtung, was undoubtedly British territory. As M.
Pavie persisted in declining to acknowledge the exist-
ence of Kengcheng as a State, the affairs of the Com-
mission at once came to a deadlock. Diplomatic
negotiations were consequently transferred to Paris and
London, the outcome of which, after serious differences

4



ANGLO-FRENCH CONVENTION, 1896

almost verging on war, was the Anglo-French Conven-
tion of January, 1896. Under this, British claims to
territory east of the Mekong were abandoned, the river
being adopted as the boundary line between the French
and the British possessions in latitude 20° and 21° N. ;
while the integrity of the Menam valley, which consti-
tutes the richest, the most populous, and the most valu-
able portion of Siam, was mutually guaranteed against
armed intrusion. The small British garrison was with-
drawn from Mong Sing, and Kengtung, the capital of
the large State of that name, now forms our extreme
eastern frontier station, having a garrison of one Burma
regriment.

As regards the Franco-Siamese boundary, the results
of the French encroachments, in 1893, and of diplomacy
thereafter were that the French frontier has been pushed
forward so as to include all territory on the left bank of
the lower Mekong, and that France has obtained practical
control over a strip of land twenty-five kilometres wide
along the right bank of the Mekong, while Siam has
been prohibited from maintaining forts or troops on the
Mekong or in Angkor and Battambong, and from keeping
armed vessels on the Mekong or the Great Lake.
French consulates were established at Khorat, Muang
Nam, and elsewhere ; and Chantabun, occupied " tem-
porarily,'' was fortified. This, too, although in the
French treaty of 1867 with Siam the provinces to the
north-west of Cambodia had been formally acknowledged
to be Siamese.

The Anglo-French Convention of 1896 guaranteed the
integrity of the Menam valley, amounting to about 85,000
square miles in extent, and agreed that no exclusive
advantages should be gained by either nation in the
same. But it acknowledged, and thus virtually assigned
to France, as a sphere of independent action the north-
eastern portion of Siam, extending to about 80,000 square
miles ; while it proposed nothing with regard to the
termination of the ''temporary'" occupation of Chantabun
or to the twenty-five kilometre zone within which French
agents have authority in Siamese territory west of the
Mekong river.

5



BURMA UNDER BRITISH RULE

This eastern portion of Siam is of considerable value
from the fact that it includes Khorat, whence a rail-
way runs to Bangkok. Yet the French Indo-Chinese
party in Tonquin were loud in denouncing the Con-
vention, and in regretting that arrangements had been
come to short of annexation of the whole of Siam.

As matters stand there is always a danger that, under
one pretext or another, — and French agents are talented
in creating pretexts, — the French frontier may be
advanced so as to incorporate in her Indo-Chinese
empire the whole of the territory now recognized as
forming her sphere of influence. This much, however,
is certain, that without absolute and flagrant breach of
the Convention made with Britain, France can never
again send her warships up the Bangkok river to threaten
and coerce the capital of Siam in any of her future dealings
with the Siamese Government. But the past action of
French agents in Upper Burma, as well as in Siam,
during the last sixteen or eighteen years has very clearly
shown that if the French Indo-Chinese party can possibly
embroil Siam in any sort of entanglement affording a
pretext for interference and seizure of territory, written
guarantees and pledges (see vol. i., page 63) will be
thrown to the winds if the occasion be deemed opportune
for acquiring the sole or the preponderating political and
commercial influence at Bangkok, the heart of Siam.

Previous to 1900, about eighty per cent, of the shipping
of Bangkok w^as British, but since then a great deal of
it has passed under the German flag. The steamships
for local trade were built to negotiate the bar blocking
entrance to the river at low water; and, in 1900, the
Norddeutscher Lloyd bought the two chief lines from
the British firms concerned, in order to work them as
feeders for their main lines between China and Europe.
A Danish line of steamers also runs direct from Bangkok
to Europe. Amid this foreign enterprise British in-
terests are painfully remaining more or less stationary.

The French possessions in Indo-China aggregate
about 330,000 square miles, or one-third of the whole
peninsula, and contain a total population of about
23.000,000. They are thus about half as large again as

6



THE FRENCH IN INDO-CHINA

the British possessions, and they contain a population
amounting to more than twice that of Burma and the
Shan States. But, while the British province is pros-
perous and with a rapidly expanding trade, the Govern-
ment of French Indo-China is carried on at a heavy
annual loss. In place of developing considerably the
vast tracts already acquired, France's motives in Indo-
China seem rather to be political rivalry at any cost than
peaceful commerce and civilization. French Indo-China
is merely a base from which to carry out, whenever
convenient, political movements south-west towards the
Menam valley, and northwards into Yunnan and
Szechuan, so as, if possible, to raise up obstacles to the
development of British overland commerce between the
Irrawaddy and the Yangtse rivers. Wherever France can
do so, she invariably closes the door by heavy imposts in
order to prevent British trade competing on equal terms
with French commerce. But for the heavy import duty
levied against British goods, there can be no doubt that
British trade with south-eastern Yunnan would rapidly
expand along the Hanoi- Laokai route to Yunnan Sen.
Hence, although it is admitted that the approach from the
seaboard into the interior of China is incomparably the
more important from a purely trading point of view, yet
the complementary land route from Burma is a virtual
necessity if British commercial and political influence is
to be fully maintained and adequately extended, because
direct communication seems far more feasible with Burma
than with Assam, further to the north.

The financial condition of French Indo-China is
officially stated to be showing some improvement. The
total trade of 1898 was 166 million francs, an increase
of twenty-three millions over the estimate ; and for the
first half of 1899 the receipts amounted to twenty-six
million francs, or three millions more than estimated.
But these returns hardly bear comparison with the trade
and revenue statistics of Burma, previously detailed in
chapters ix. to xiv. of Vol. I.

It is not only by means of the convention with France
that Britain has evinced her friendship for and support of
Siam as a neighbouring power in Further India. She

7



BURMA UNDER BRITISH RULE

has also lent officers, mostly from Burma, for the improve-
ment of some of the chief branches of the administration
since the beginning of 1896. Reforms have thus been
effected in the Financial, Police, Forest, and Survey Depart-
ments, and in the collection of the land tax. But, while
the regeneration of Siam and the development of British
commercial interests at Bangkok are thus being assisted,
an element of latent danger has been introduced by the
recent appointment of a Russian Minister at the Court of
Bangkok, although Russia has absolutely no interests,
political or commercial, in Siam, nor any subjects resident
there. It is only too much to be feared that this new
feature in Siamese politics may hereafter prove a disturb-
ing factor ever ready to lend its aid to French diplomacy
in thwarting British influence for maintaining the status
guaranteed by the Convention of 1896.

From this point of view, the acquisition of the two
local steamship lines by the Norddeutscher Lloyd in 1900
may perhaps prove little short of a God-send to Siam ;
because Germany, with its vast army ever ready for war,
will certainly not submit to anything like the treatment
from France which Britain has so often put up with
complaisantly. And France and Russia will pause and
consider for a very long time before adopting a course
which must be opposed by the combined protests of
Germany and Britain.

Apart from the machinations of their agents on the
spot, ever ready to embroil their Government and to
force on action almost necessarily aggressive, what is the
French official view of the situation in Indo-China }
Speaking in the Chamber on November 24, 1899,
M. Delcasse, Minister for Foreign Affairs, said : —

Do you not think that our poHtical action should above all be
determined by the interest of France ? Now, what does this interest
command ? When Germany took possession of Kiao Chow and England
of Wei-hai-wei, it was asked, " And what about us ? Are we to remain
with empty hands ? " But people forgot that on the Chinese frontier we
were in possession of an entire empire, Indo-China, a region twice the
size of France. JV/ia would dare say that this Empire has now its
definitive boundaries ? But does not simple good sense say that its
possession should keep us from any temptation to conquests which
would add to our burdens, which are already so heavy ?

8



MINISTERIAL UTTERANCES

1 know the arguments by which this madness for territorial expan-
sion is justified. It is said, " If only the Powers would declare that they
are satisfied : but, just as in Africa they put forward the theory of the
Hinterland^ they are tracing zones of influence, so that the partition of
China will soon be accomplished." This is possible, and even easy —
on paper.

Let us admit, for a moment, the zone theory. What then would
France have to claim ? Evidently it is our Indo-Chinese Empire which
gives the answer to this question ; and this zone is the portion of China
bordering upon Tonquin, and including Yunnan, Kwangsi, and
Kwangtung. Unfortunately this zone is not intact. We are urged to
conquer Yunnan without knowing whether the ga?ne is worth the candle.
But it is forgotten that by Clause 4 of the Treaty of 1896 Fraiice and
Englafid have agreed fiot to seek in Yunnan any special advantages.
And this situation becofues clear Jrom the very position of Yunfian.^ For
us, as for England, Yunnan is the most direct route towards Szechuan.
It is settled, therefore, that this province should remain open to England
as to us. As for Kwangsi, it is the poorest region in China. It wants
resources, but abounds in pirates. Such is the region which might
constitute our zone. I do not think it is of a nature to justify the
feverish impatience of certain newspapers.

The important thing for the security of our possessions is that no
one should be able to settle on our frontiers. China has agreed to this,
and our role consists in watching that this engagement be kept and that
our interests be respected. This should be our concern, devoting our-
selves, at the same time, to the protection of the economic interests
established on other points of the Chinese Empire. These interests are
not slight, and I am happy to see our manufacturers and merchants
beginning to look across the seas ; for economic interests abroad will
become more and more the basis of political action.

The Chamber will learn, no doubt with pleasure, that in the
exploitation of Chinese territory we have not lagged behind other nations.
Out of 10,000 kilometres of railway concessions we have obtained
2,000, more than half of which are under construction. We have also
obtained for Frenchmen or French companies a great number of conces-
sions of lead, petroleum, mercury, argentiferous lead, and sulphur mines.

But it is to be desired that these Frenchmen and these French
companies, so eager to ask for concessions, should not let their zeal
cool when they have to be utilized ; for there is always somebody ready
to profit by such shortcomings. The majority of these enterprises are
developed in regions other than those which, if the policy of " zones of
influence " prevailed, might constitute the French zone. Is not this
enough to caution us against the onerous vagaries of which I spoke just
now, and to induce us, on the contrary, to keep China open to the free
conflict of the intelligence and capital of the whole world ?



^ By the declaration of January, 1896, Szechuan is likewise one of
the two provinces in which it was agreed that all privileges and advan-
tages secured by either England or France should be rendered common
to both Powers.

9



BURMA UNDER BRITISH RULE

The main objection to this enunciation of policy of
course is that whenever France can she dehberately
shuts the door against free trade and protects French
interests by heavy imposts on goods of other nations.

It is quite true that Kwangsi is thinly populated in
comparison with some other parts of China, though
perhaps less so than Kweichow and Yunnan ; while the
western part of Szechuan, abutting on Thibet, is moun-
tainous and also poorly peopled.

In April, 1898, assurance was given by China to
France with regard to the three provinces (Kwangtung,
Kwangsi, and Yunnan) marching with French Indo-China,
similar in terms to that given to Britain in January, 1896,
with reference to the Yangtse region, namely, that they
will not be ceded or leased to any other Power, permission
also being given for the construction of a railway from
the frontier of Tonquin to Yunnan Sen.

The Yangtse drainage comprises the rich provinces of
Kiangsu, Nganhui, Kiangsi, Hupeh, Hunan, Szechuan,
and the northern portions of Kweichow and Yunnan, the
trade to and from all of which must naturally proceed by
way of the Yangtse Kiang.

So far as British commerce in the main portion of
the Yangtse valley is concerned, the natural lines of
transport all converge towards Shanghai, and the
trade capable of development in that sphere could
never profitably find its way out through Burma ;
while the promise extended to France with regard to the
three southern provinces (Kwantung, Kwangsi, and Yun-
nan) marching with French Indo-China, is very far from
being equivalent to granting that empire the sole right of
trading there. At the same time we shall indeed be neg-
lecting the lessons learned during the past decade and a
half if we do not carefully watch the action of our French
neighbours, our political and commercial rivals in south-
western China ; for Consul Haas, the negotiator of the
secret Franco- Burmese treaty in 1885, and a typical
" stormy petrel " of French diplomacy, is now Consul of
France at Chungking in Szechuan. Hence, as history is
so apt to repeat itself, apprehension of similar attempts in
Yunnan and Szechuan seems justified. The simplest and

10



BRITISH CONSULAR POSTS

cheapest method of frustrating unfriendly intentions is ob-
viously to be beforehand in enterprise. The attainment
of this end would probably be assisted by the commercial
occupation of all essential points by means of increasing
the number of British Consuls. Between the present
Consular posts of Chunking, in Szechuan, and those of