Walter William Skeat.

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friction is the simplest method practised by both
Eastern and Western Semang. It usually takes the
form of rubbing together short blocks of wood,

' For rules as to eating the " soul-bird " (an alleged exception), v. vol. ii. pp. 4-6.


bamboo, or cane. A common method consists in
passing a rattan line round the portion of a dried
branch (that of certain kinds of trees can alone be
used), and holding the branch down by the foot, wliilst
the line is rapidly worked to and fro with the hands,
until the friction ignites the dust which falls from the

The Semang also not unfrequently supply them-
selves with fragments of flint and tool-iron, which they
carry about with them.

They use as tinder the down-like substance or
fluff which gathers about the leaf-bases of palms, and
which they also, as has been said, use as a wad in
shooting with the blowpipe.

This complete fire apparatus is generally carried
on the person, not unfrequently in a small bamboo

Perak Semang". — The same remarks apply to the
Semang of Perak, De Morgan adds that the bamboo
tube in which the fire apparatus is carried is often
beautifully decorated (by incised lines). He also
states that the Perak Semang obtain their tinder from
the sugar-palm^ ("kabong").-

Semang" and Pang-an. — The Semang hearth con-
sists of a few short logs or sticks, whose ends converge
to a common centre. They are laid upon a clear spot
of ground, and the fires are allowed to smoulder away
gradually, being only " made up " when a bigger fire
is required for cooking, though they are kept burning
night and day until the encampment changes its

Kedah Semang. — Of roots and fruits it is not only
the innocuous kinds that are employed ; even poison-

1 Arenga saccharifera. — Ridley. ^ Dg Morgan, vii. 414.


ous yams and roots are specially treated by the
Semang to render them fit for food. For this pur-
pose they are rasped against a prickly stick (a sort of
natural "nutmeg grater")/ the raspings being mixed
with a little lime (slaked with water in a coconut-shell)
and worked up with a small spatula of "bertam"^
palm. Finally they are kneaded by hand into a sort
of dough, which is wrapped up in a strip of fresh
banana -leaf, slipped into a cleft stick, and slowly
roasted over the fire. The yams thus treated
are called " kleb " by the Semang, and " ubi kapor "
by the Malays. The Semang informed me they
were highly poisonous, unless treated as here de-

I noticed a number of these yams (" ubi kapor ") in
the Semang shelter at Siong in Kedah, where they
were inserted between the slats of the roof. Other
kinds of yams employed by the tribe in question
were the "ubi takob," which is baked; the "ubi
tanjong," which is boiled; and " kense " or tapioca-
root, which was no doubt obtained by barter from
the Malays, as none was grown in the clearing at

Perak Semang-. — The Perak Semang render the
roots of the wild yam edible by means of prolonged
fermentation (in the earth ?) and by culinary treat-
ment extending over six days.

But the roots of the amorphophallus cannot, it
appears, be made edible by any sort of treatment, this
latter plant being regarded as furnishing, when mixed
with Ipoh, the most deadly kind of poison known to

* The prickly stem of a kind of (or "gadong"), ^that requires to be
rattan {Ca/amiis). - Eugeissona tfistis. prepared in this way. The other
^ \i'\son\y Dioscorca dainoiia,Ko\b. species are hannless. — Ridley.


the tribe, whilst even the contact of the sap with the
skin produces considerable irritation.^


Kedah Semang". — Among the Semang of Kedah the
women and girls, after cooking the food, were not
allowed to eat any of it until the men and boys of
the tribe had finished their repast. At Siong on
one occasion I photographed a number of Semang
in the middle of a meal. Their food, which they
eagerly devoured and obviously enjoyed, consisted
of a quantity of rice and some small fowls that
I had brought with me, — a sufficient reply to the
assertion which has often been made that these tribes
are afraid to eat the flesh of any domestic creature.
These materials, after cooking, were deposited in
separate heaps upon large banana- leaves, and were
partaken of first by all the males of the tribe sitting

The women could be seen inside the hut waiting
quite patiently when their work was done until their
lords and masters should have finished their repast.

\Sti7mdants and Narcotics.

Kedah Semang. — Betel -chewing appeared to be
very sparingly indulged in by all the Semang tribes
that I came across. Occasional instances certainly
occur, but the custom is certainly very much more
rarely found among the Semang than among the more
southern tribes, and their teeth were, as a rule, entirely

* De la Croix (quoting Sir H. Low), same as that of the Semang of Kedah,
p. 334. From Mr. L. Wray I learn that with the addition of gourds, pumpkins,,
in other respects their diet is much the chillies, maize, and sweet potatoes.

A. Semang of Kedah rasping yams with prickly
stem of young rattan.

B. Pouring lime upon the raspings preparatory to
mixing and cooking.

SEMANGS I'KKl'ARINC; I'oisuNors Vams for F'ooix


Skm\n<; of Kkdaii ii\\in<; a

I'oL I. f. 1 16.


free from the discoloration which necessarily accom-
panies the custom referred to.^

Semang- and Pangan — Perak Semang-. — On the other
hand, both Semang and Pangan (East Semang) are
(like all the wild tribes of the Peninsula) inordinately
fond of tobacco. They carry it in a small but beauti-
fully decorated bamboo tube, a specimen of which I
obtained in Ulu Kelantan. Some of the more civilised
tribes are said to grow their own tobacco. Almost
invariably, however, they obtain it by barter from the
Malays, as do also the Semang of Perak. ^

1 1. — Sakai.
Food and its Preparation.

Perak Sakai. — The wilder Sakai tribes (Sakai
Bukit), like the Semang, live upon wild tubers, roots,
and fruits, together with the llesh of animals and birds
that fall victims to the darts shot from their blowpipe.
They do not as a rule search for game until every-
thing else fails. ^ They will, however, eat almost
any sort of animal food, and the land tortoise is as
acceptable to them as to the Karens of Martaban.^

To both these classes of food must be added,
among the more settled tribes, the produce of their
gardens, which includes maize, sugar-cane, tapioca,
sweet potatoes, yams, rice, and many plants which can
be cultivated as catch crops. A curious fact recorded
of them is that they do not make use of salt.'' This

' Mr. L. Wray tells me that in ^ Hale, p. 295 ; see also De la Croix,

Upper Perak he saw some Semang- p. 340.
Sakai (from the Plus) burning fresh- ■* J. I. A. vol. iv. p. 430.

water shells to make lime for their betel. ' lb. vol. iv. p. 429. To this list

^ J. I. A. vol. iv. pp. 425, 426. of plants millet must be added.


has been contradicted by other writers,' though it is
quite possible that salt, owing to the difficulty of
obtaining it, may not be used by some of the wilder
tribes, who fear the risks attendant upon barter. The
young growing shoots of the giant bamboo (" buluh
betong ") are eaten both cooked and raw,'

According to M. Lias, the food of the Perak Sakai
consists mainly of tapioca-root, yams, sweet potatoes,
maize, bananas, poultry, eggs, fish, and game killed
by the blowpipe.

"They also," he continues, "eat rats, snakes,
monkeys . . .," a Malay said to me, laughing.

But To' Lela denies it.

" It is not we, the Sakai of Kerbu, who eat that,
it is the Ulu Burong people."*

De Morgan says that they eat the shoots of ferns,
palms, bamboos, p'rah-fruit, certain fungi that grow on
rotten trees, and yams of every description, together
with tapioca (which has been imported in recent times,
but the use of which has spread everywhere), sugar-
cane, maize, gourds, and water-melons, turmeric,
millet, and (half- wild) bananas which have big seeds
in them. Kulim leaves are used as seasoning,*

Both these accounts, curiously enough, omit to
mention the wild fruits which grow in great profusion
at certain seasons of the year in the forests of the
Peninsula. It would be interesting to know whether the
Sakai are less markedly frugivorous than the Semang

^ L. Wray, Cave-dwellers, p. 39. 2 j j^ 4^ ^'^ ^ ^\^ jjo. 21, p. 154.

Mr. Wray tells me that the food of ^ Brau de S. P. Lias, pp. 279, 280.

the Batang Padang Sakai (and those of * De Morgan, viii. 157 ; c/.

the Hills between Kinta and Pahang) VHoiiune, ii. 713. The Sakai are

agrees with that of the Perak Semang, also said to eat the tuberous roots

except that millet is substituted for of Smilax megaiarpa, De C. Its

rice. Frogs and snakes are also eaten, Malay names are " Akar banau,"

as well as some insects, e.g., the " Rabanu," " Rabana," " K'luna,"and

♦' Buprestes" beetles, which are roasted. " Lampau Bukit." — Ridley,


or Jakun. But there is no reason to think so, and most
probably, Hke the others, they will eat anything that is
not actually poisonous. Thus Mr. L. Wray writes that
once, in an evil moment, he was induced by assurances
and example of some of the Sakai to eat some pretty
apple-like fruit with which a tree growing by the side
of the river was laden. The fruit, though pleasant at
first, left a very disagreeable after - taste, and he
suffered for the remainder of the day with sore mouth
and lips. It was a species* of the genus Garcima, of
which the " gelugor " fruit - is a well-known and closely
allied example.

Mr. Wray first saw, on Gunong Chunam Prah,
at a height of 3350 feet (102 1 m.), a blackberry
which grows amongst the underwood (" blukar ") on
the old Sakai clearings (" ladang "). The berry was
red and long, and had something of the flavour of its
English ally. The leaf and method of growth were also
very similar. Raspberries^ were common in the same
situations, but the fruit was small and nearly tasteless.*

The methods employed by the Sakai for obtaining
fire are similar to those used by the Negritos. To
procure fire the hill Sakai (Orang Bukit) rub two dry
pieces of bamboo together.^

In Kinta, according to Hale, every Sakai carries a
tinder-box, which, however, he does not use more
than he is obliged to do, as the fire of each family is
always kept smouldering to prevent its extinction."

Hale's description of the Sakai hearth deserves
full quotation. Each family (he writes) and wife . . .
had a separate hearth. These hearths are very

* Probably Garcinia Castata, Hensl. ^ De la Croix, p. 340.

* Mai. "gelugor," i.e. Garcinia " Hale, p. 294. The Batang Padang
atroviridis. ' Rubiis rosafoliiis. Sakai are said to use the fire-drill. —

'' J.R.A.S., S.B., No. 21, p. 155. Fast: Mai. 41.


simple constructions ; a mat of leaves is spread
on the floor, and over this is spread about three
inches of earth, and a fire lighted, which once lighted
is not allowed to got out. For although every Sakai
carries a tinder-box, it is much easier to blow up
a smouldering log into a blaze than to rekindle it.
Three or four long logs of suitable wood, each about
nine inches in diameter, are arranged so that their
ends approach the middle of the hearth. A small fire
of sticks is lighted in the centre, and the logs keep the
fire up for weeks, and as they burn away are drawn
gradually into the fire. The burning ends serve to
support the saucepans, and the accumulated ashes
below to roast tapioca and sweet potatoes in. As
there are always several other logs lying about the
floor drying so as to be ready for use, it is not very
easy to get about without knocking one's shins. ^

The Sakai generally use earthen cooking vessels,
but prefer iron ones when they can get them. Like
the Negritos, they have many ingenious methods
for the preparation of their food. The wild yam
and the "kapayang" fruit ^ ("piyung") are cut into
small pieces, cooked, and laid in running water for
twenty-four hours to draw the poison out of them.^

A similar process is employed in the preparation of
the bitter cassava ^ [Maiiihot uiilissima).

A yet more curious process described by Hale is
to bury such poisonous tubers for days together in one
of the swamps in the jungle. After being steeped in
this way till they are sodden, they are dug up again
and rasped with a prickly shoot of rattan (alrccidy

^ Hale, p. 294. * Sic Vaughan - Stevens (/'/>.), but

- Pangitimedtile. Thehuskof thenut according to Mr. II. N. Ridley the

is used as a receptacle. — L'H. ii. 619. bitter cassava is not cultivated in the

3 Vaughan-Stevens, ii. 112. Peninsula!

2 S

<_ a

o ^

... : A*i


described). The raspings are put into a matwork
bag, and the foul -smelling, unwholesome moisture
squeezed out of them with a kind of primitive lever.
They are then dried over the fire in a green bamboo,
and put aside till required for food.^

This preparation is said by Hale to be called
" koyi " (" koyee "), and will keep good for a month.^

The seeds of some trees (such as the " p'rah ") ^ are
similarly treated ; they are put into a matwork bag
and buried in swamps sometimes for months together
before they are touched. Eventually, however, they
are lifted out of the swamp by means of a cord attached
to the bag, and are then pounded and squeezed into a
bamboo, when they are ready for use. The result is
a highly flavoured kind of preserve called by the
Malays "serum p'rah," or "p'rah paste," which in
spite of its strong odour is yet greatly prized.*

The Sakai use rude wooden spice-blocks (" seng-
kalan ") for grinding their spices. Not unfrequently
part of a bamboo internode is used for the purpose
when they are travelling in the jungle. In this way
they grind up their salt, chillies, and the other season-
ings ^ which they eat with their rice, the latter of which
is boiled in an internode of bamboo.^


Perak Sakai. — Hale says of the Sakai that they
have only two regular meals, an early morning break-
fast and a midnight supper, but that they were con-
tinually having slight snacks of some kind of vegetable

' Hale, p. 298. ^ De M. figures a woollen plate

- lb. p. 295. (probably used for this purpose) and a

3 Mezzcttia leptopoda, Oliver (Ano- bamboo water-vessel. — HH. ii. 619.

nacere). ■• Hale, p. 29S. '• L. Wray, Cave-ihvellers, y. 39.


food (sug^ar-cane, tapioca, or sweet potatoes) when
they happened to be indoors during the daytime.'

Stimulants and Narcotics.

Perak Sakai. — Of tobacco and betel the Sakai are
exceedingly fond, the leaf of a wild betel (" chambai ") ^
being freely taken when no other is obtainable. Both
of these habits are probably acquired from the Malays,
from whom a Sakai will also occasionally learn to
smoke or eat opium. ^

III. — Jakun.


Blandas. — There is nothing requiring special
comment about the diet of the Blandas, except that it
contains less animal food and a larger proportion of

1 Hale, p. 295.

\' slates that he had
often read that the aborigines (Orang
Hutan) relieve themselves from flatu-
lence in any way that they please,
without the least notice being taken of
it by any of those present, but that this
habit is condemned and regarded as
"vulgar." Vaughan - Stevens often
heard one Sakai reprove another wlien
such a breach of decorum was made,
although men only were present. On
one occasion an excuse was offered by
one of those present on behalf of
his comrade, the offender "looking
ashamed as he went out." Whenever
Vaughan - Stevens asked the Sakai
what was their opinion in such a case,
they always condemned it very strongly,
but suggested that it might have
occurred accidentally and unintention-
ally, by way of apology. The idea
that this habit might be regarded (as
among the Chinese) as a compliment

to the host cannot be entertained,
as among the aborigines it would be
an insult rather than a compliment.
Accidents of the kind may happen
from their greedy manner of eating, and
if the men appear to take no notice,
it is only because they do not wish to
attract attention to the mistake which
has been made ^Z. f. E. x.\ix. 184).

2 Mr. Ridley writes me that several
wild pepper leaves are used as substitutes
for the betel-leaf. lie has seen Selangor
Sakai near Kuala Lumpor cut off long
strips of bark from Piper argenteitm,
with the object of chewing them. A
portion only of the bark was taken in
each case, so that the plant might not
be killed.

^ L. Wray, Cave-dwellers, p. 39.
Mr. Wray tells me further that the
Batang Padang Sakai grow tobacco,
drying and cutting but not fermenting
the leaves, and wrapping the product
in young " palas " leaves.


rice than that of the Semang and Sakai, the Selan-
gor tribe being rather more advanced in matters of
cultivation. In Kuala Langat, I have myself fre-
quently seen the latter at their meals (which I have
also occasionally shared), when their only food consisted
of boiled rice, seasoned with acid fruits (" asam k'lubi "
= Zalacca conferta) obtained from the jungle.

Food and its Preparation.

Besisi. — A favourite kind of preserve not yet
mentioned consists of a paste obtained from the pulp
of the durian, which the Besisi bury in the ground for
months together until long after it has fermented.

A curious but firmly held belief of the Besisi is
that acid fruits must not be eaten with the game
killed by their poisoned darts, as to do so will, they
imagine, bring out the full symptoms of the poison in
those who partake of it.

When cooking such game they generally cut
out the part surrounding the puncture caused by the

In some of the songs improvised by the Besisi
the various processes employed in the preparation of
their game for food are described in detail. The
game (if an animal) first has its fur removed by
singeing, when the skin is "poked" off, and the
carcase quartered and cooked.

The seasonings used are " kulim " ^ leaves, tur-
meric, and (wild) ginger, leaves of the " kayu k'lat,'"'

^ Soiodocarpusborneensis((^\^(:\v\iix), * A name applied to many species of

a large tree, every part of which smells Eugenia of the section "syzygium,"
strongly of onions. — Ridley. and other trees somewhat resembling

them (Myrtaceas:). — Ridley.


"spices" (the precise kind is not mentioned), and
" kesom," ^

Different kinds of seasoning are mentioned in
other songs, especially various kinds of wild pepper,
" pedas chanchang " -^ and " pedas jintan."^ " Asam
k'lubi " ■* is excluded as a seasoning for animals
killed with the blowpipe, for the reasons stated above.

The most usual method of making fire among
all the branches of the Jakun race (including the
Besisi) is by means of flint and steel. Logan, how-
ever, mentions a case in which some Jakun produced
fire by circular friction, exactly as it is sometimes pro-
duced by civilised Malays.^ The steel consists of a
fragment of tool-iron, and is generally wrapped up
together with the flint in a piece of cloth and left in
the hut during short absences of the owner, or carried
on the person (in his " bujam " or matwork pouch)
together with the usual palm-fluff tinder.

The commonest type of hearth is the Malay box-
hearth, which consists of a shallow box filled with
earth, upon which are usually laid, in a triangle, the
Malayan firestones, between which a fire of sticks is
kindled. Fire-logs, such as are used by the inland
Sakai, are, however, often to be seen.


Besisi. — As in the case of all the wild tribes, the
Besisi men eat before the women. Morning and
evening are their special meal-times, but they con-

' Probably =" kasum," Polygonum ^ Cummin, also used by tlie Malays

Jlaccidum, ^leissn. (Polygonacece), a in making curries. — Ridley,

common weed, also called " kalima * The fruit of Zalacca conferta,

paya"or "swamp" kalima. — Ridley. Griff.

- Unidentified. ^ J. I. A. vol. i. jx 255.


stantly chew sugar-cane, etc., throughout the day, and
they do not hesitate to accept an extra meal whenever
the opportunity offers. They gorge, in fact, Hke
pythons whenever they get the chance, and are only
too willing to sleep it off afterwards. It is, however,
only fair to them to say that they do not often get the
opportunity of eating to excess, except in the fruit season
or at harvest-time. They eat monkeys, rats, snakes,
and even crocodiles.

One of their more elaborate banquets, at which I
was present, will be described in detail in a later

Betel-leaf and Tobacco.

Besisi. — The chewing of the betel-leaf is a favourite
occupation of the Besisi, who especially affects the
wild betel-leaf called " chambai " and the bark from the
stem of a creeper called " kalong," ' which is, I was told,
identical with the stem of the "chambai." I have
tasted both, and found that both possessed equally the
pungent aromatic Havour of the betel-leaf, and left
behind them a sort of roughness of the palate for at
least a few minutes after they had been chewed.
The Besisi are also extremely fond of tobacco, which
is generally smoked in the form of small cigarettes,
rolled up in thin coverings of palm-leaf after the Malay
fashion, but which is also occasionally chewed."

Food and iis Preparation.

Mantra. — Of the Mantra we are told that no kind
of food comes amiss, so long as it does not " intoxicate "
or poison them.^

• Piper i ait iti inn. -' Skeat m Sel. Journ. vol. v. p. 381.

' y. I. .-i. vol. i. p. 254.



According to Logan, the Mantra never eat the
flesh of the elephant.^ The same writer gives a Hst of
no fewer than forty different jungle fruits, all of which
the Mantra are in the habit of eating.^

Father Barbe has said that if the flesh of monkeys,
to which the Mantra are very partial, were not
prohibited by the Koran, there is no doubt that the
generality of them would have been converted to
I slam. ^

Meals and Tobacco.'^

The Mantra have three meals — morning, mid-day,
and evening.

The Mantra women were much addicted to to-
bacco, but they did not smoke it.

' Borie (tr. Bourien) says they •' eat
all that falls into their hands — bears,
monkeys, squirrels, rats, deer, birds, and
the roots and bulbs which the earth
produces in abundance, such as the
kaledek, or sweet potato (' kledek ') ;
fruits such as the banana, and the sugar-
cane, which serves to satisfy their thirst
as well as to nourish them. The maize
and rice which they cultivate can only
support them four months in the year.
To cultivate rice on the mountains it
is necessary to cut down the forest, to
burn it, and then to sow, which de-
mands more labour than is required for
hunting in the forest, where perhaps,
too, they may find roots or other vege-
table food. The hunting of monkeys
and squirrels pleases them more than
anything else, and they give themselves
up to it with ardour ; their labour and
fatigue they count as nothing if they
can but capture tlieir prey, which they
distribute part to their parents, part to
their relations, and part to their friends
who attend the feast. If they are
joined by no one, they first of all burn
off {i.e. singe) the hair, and then cut
up the carcase, and throw the portions

into a frying-pan to cook them, when
each person proceeds to devour his
share silently in the shade" (Borie,
pp. 76, 77). Later, M. Borie adds,
the Mantra "do not give themselves
the trouble of cutting out that part
of the flesh which has been pierced by
the arrow, and which has a slightly
bluish appearance " (p. 78). This is
contrary to the usual statements of
the Besisi, who maintain that the flesh
surrounding the wound ought always
to be cut out.

2 " The fruits used are the tampui,
takaro, lari, kandim, kimok, klcdang,
tampune, kleres, pulasan, rambutan,
ramnian, Icrang, prah, jireh, kingong,
kadumpal, kumpal, binnong, tangkoi,
redan, sikrang, ampadil, bangkong,
puteh, lonah, kamalun, didalin, mang-
kapas, jangkang, bom bong, luen, kamui,
sop, chitlong, sippam, lanjut, klissa,
lalam, kimoh, sirlang, rumang." — -J. I.
A. vol. i. p. 331*. For identifications,
V. Ridley's I'lant-List {I.e.), and other
parts of this book.

3 Barbe, /. /. A. vol. v. pp. 487,

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