Alexander Buxton MacMahon.

Far Cathay and Farther India online

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A"I\uxion Mac-Mahor

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" the ship

Fi-om Ceylon, Inde, or far Cathay, unloads."




All Rights Reserved.




K.P., G.C.B., G.C.S.I., G.C.M.G., G.C.I.E.,


A few years ago when the affairs of His Ma-
jesty of the Golden Foot arrived at a climax,
necessitating the annexation of Upper Burma and
its dependencies, the author contributed various
articles to Blackwood^ Asiatic Quarterly^ and other
periodicals, some extracts of which, through the
courtesy of the editors thereof, he has now used
to supplement other information compiled by him
at odd corners of his leisure during a residence of
more than twenty-five years in Farther India.


3, Whitehall Court, S.W.


Border Politics I

The Times Insists ou the Necessity of a Decided Frontier Policy
— Hysteric Desire to avoid Offending China — Lord Salisbury Influ-
enced thereby — Chinese Envoy demands that England shall Acknow-
ledge the Suzerainty of the Son of Heaven — Basis of Claim — Lord
Salisbury Fences the Question successfully — Lord Rosebery Admits
the Claim — His Lordship's Policy from Different Standpoints — China
no longer Hopelessly Exclusive — Proof of a Great Wave of Change
— Tso-Tsung-Tang's Curious Legacy — Soundness of the Conclusions
of the Timeft.


Former Intercourse between Far Cathay and

Farther India 15

Lord Dufferin's Proclamation — Dacoity, or Gang-robbery — An-
cient Intercourse with China — Embassies between India and China —
Marco Polo employed as Ambassador by Kublai Khan — Prestige of
China as a Maritime Power — Her Interest in Farther India — Friar
Oderic's Marvellous Tales — IMarco's Account of the Andamans —
The Selungs, or Sea-Karens — Visit of King Solomon and Hiram's
Navies to this Region — Kublai Khan's Craze for Universal Dominion
— Burmese ever Refused to Acknowledge Chinese Suzerainty — Pa-
thetic Death of Panthay King — Burma and China involved in Wars
with European States.


The Burmese 55

Distribution of Races — Various Degrees of Civilisation — Char-
acter of the Burman — Distinct Personality of the Burmese Woman —
Barbarous Custom attending Childbirth — Success of Lady Dufferin's
Scheme for Alleviating this Evil — Position of Woman according to
the Buddhist Code — Red- Letter Day in a Burmese Girl's Almanac
— Her Freedom — Simplicity of Marriage — Honeymoon Eccentricities
— \Vives fully Identify themselves with their Husbands — Women
fully Protected by Laws — Female Dress — Burmese Origin.



The Burmese (Continued) 94

The Burmese Possess two Religions — Phongyees or Monks —
Education, Religious and Secular — How utilised by Sir Arthur Phayre
— The Christian Missionary and the ' Heathen Chinee ' — Opium — In-
temperance — Drastic JNIethod for Checking it— English and Indigen-
ous Education Contrasted — Burmese and English Literature — Archi-
tecture — Burmese Contact with Europeans— Mr. Gladstone fell on
the Beer Question — King Theebaw fell on the Shoe Question — The
Latter Explained — Burmese Acceptance of Accomplished Facts —
Eastern and Western Civilisation Contrasted.


Burmese Embassy to the Queen of England . 127

Lord Dalhousie's Annexation — Burmese Embassy to England —
Audience of Her Majesty at Windsor — Its Reception by H.R.H. the
Prince of Wales — Assist at State Ball, Concert, and Garden Fetes
— Real Aim of Mission— Anarchy anticipated on King Mengdon's
Death — How averted Temporarily — No one could Name future King
till INlengdon was in extremis — Theebaw ' Out of the Running ' — His
Collegiate Career — Intrigue of the Queen of the South in Theebaw's
Favour — The Mengyee introduces Constitutional Government —
Origin of this Innovation — Theebaw's Unhappy Fate — Massacre.

The Talaings and Arakanese .... 149

The Mons and Talaings within Recent Times enjoyed a Distinct
Nationality — Now Practically the Same as the Burmese — Ancient
City of Thahtun — Arrival thereat of Buddhist Missionaries — Marco
Polo's reference to 'I'alaings — jMythical Origin of the Arakanese —
Nothing Notable in their Annals till the Twelfth Century — Beginning
of Close Connection of Arakan with Bengal — Archers of the King's
Body-Guard — Likened to the Pretorians — Sufferings of the Arakanese
at the Hands of the Portuguese — The Great JNIogul Determines to
Abate the Scandal.

The Shans 161

Shans very Widely Dispersed — Antiquity of their Civilisation —
Chequered Career — Origin of Name — Divided into Three Branches
— Shan Records found at Manipur — Chinese Emperor's Expedition to
India — Frustrated by Shans — Kingdom of Pong long Existed in great
Splendour — Broken up by King Anawrahta — The Koh-Shan-Pyi —
Their Inhabitants — Shan Politics plain in Mengdon's Time — Com-
plications under Theebaw's regime — British Sphere of Influence Un-
defined — Prospects of Shan States under a Strong and Friendly


The Karens 177

Karens Divided into Three Principal Tribes and Numerous Clans
—Information as to Origin, Based on Tradition, Nevertheless Reliable
— Migrated to Burma with the Chinese — Ancient Kingdom —Their
Habits and Customs denote Central Asian Origin — Language Re-
duced to Writing — Bghai Dress and Ornaments — Karen Talent for
Melody — Belief in a Supreme Being — Spiritualism — Fetish Stones
— Augury by Fowls' Bones — Sorcery Compared with \vhat used to
Prevail in England — Notions Regarding the Future Life — Origin of
Christian Mission.


Chino-Burmese Border Tribes . . . .211

Lord Dalhousie ignores the Teaching of an Aphorism — Result of
Lord Dufferin's annexation — The staUis of the Border Tribes — Hilly
regions between Burma and India successfully Negotiated by Bur-
mese and Shaus — Singpos badly treated by the English— Rule relat-
ing to Succession — Caterans with redeeming Characteristics — Tea
(Camraellia Thea) found in this Region— Zardandan or Gold Teeth
— Sorcery among Them — Dagroian Cannibalism — The Kaya or Red
Karen — Kaya as Manufacturers — Conspicuous loyalty of Hill Karens
— Marriages — Funerals of a Chief and Common Folk compared.


Chino-Burmese Border Tribes {Continued) . 240

Yindiline — Low Social Condition — Taru — Acute Sense of Shame
Turbulence of Gaykho and Tsaw-Koo Tribes — Treaties — Ordeals —
Gunpowder — Marriage — Crim. Con. — Sporting Proclivities — Khyen
or Chin — Girl's Faces Tattooed — Marriage — A Game of Forfeits —
Omniverous, barring Cannabalism — Oaths Pertaining to Border
Tribes — A Karen Curse — Rice-Beer — A Barrel always on 'lap —
Bamboo Buckets — Great Capacity — Karen and Santal Legend — Re-
demption of Captives — A Karen Robin Hood.


Indo-Burmese Border Tribes .... 261

General Summary — People considered Impracticable even by the
Imperial Dalhousie —Success of Sir Cecil Bendon's Departure —
Language of this Region of a Broken and Infirm Type — All the
Tribes understand a Common Language — Proverbial Philosophy —
Bachelors' and Spinsters' Clubs — Courtshii^ and Marriage — Women
Valued in Ratio to Physical Capacity — High Prices demanded for
Marriageable Girls — ' Girls of the Period ' — Clothing, from Fig-
leaves to Elaborate Toilettes — Naga Delicacy — Toungya or.Tum Cul-
tivation — Manipur — Game of Polo— Origin of Name.



A Field for Commercial Enterprise . . 290

Ancient Fascination of Far Cathay — Vasco da Gama and his Suc-
ces?ors — Mineral VV^ealth of Yunnan Proverbial — Ssu-ch'-uan Popu-
lation Congested — Eastern Yunnan Trade Dominated by French —
Persistence of Commercial Chambers for Construction of Railways to
China — Railways in Burma Successful — Chinese Emigration should
be Encouraged — Purchas and other Mediaeval Travellers — Power of
King of Pegu — Commissariat in Burmese Armies — M'Leod's Journey
in 18S9 — Burmese Rubies in the Sixteenth Century — Statistics of
Burmese Trade — The Great Drawback to Commerce — Want of Roads
— Burmese and Chinese Customers — A well-known Fable Quoted.


Letter from the King of Burma to the Queen of England.

Her Majesty's Reply,

Letter from the King of Burma to the Prince of Wales.


A Burmese Band

Burmese Ladies

The Showe Dagon Pagoda ....

A Shan Family ...

A Karen Market Boat ....

Kachin Women

Chin Group ......

Burmese Commander-in-Chief


To face

page 77


„ 127


„ 161


„ 177


„ 220


„ 248


„ 323




The Timen Insists on the Necessity of a Decided Frontier Policy —
Hysteric Desire to avoid Offending China — Lord Salisbury In-
fluenced thereby — Chinese Envoy demands that England shall
Acknowledge the Suzerainty of the Son of Heaven — Basis of
Claim — Lord Salisbuiy Fences the Question successfully — Lord
Rosebery Admits the Claim — His Lordship's Policy from
Different Standpoints — China no longer Hopelessly Exclusive —
Proof of a Great Wave of Change — Tso-Tsung-Tang's Curious
Legacy — Soundness of the Conclusions of the Times.

Referring to our Indo-Chinese frontiers, the Times ^
last spring, declared that Burma had become the
most interestmg province in India, and indulged
in the following remarks : ' The serious Kakhyen
disturbances, telegraphed by our correspondent,
are exactly what might have been expected to
happen, and what, in one form or another, will
continue to recur until the frontier policy is set-
tled and the question of the border tribes is taken
up with a firm hand. They form a striking justi-
fication of the necessity for the conference recently



held ill Calcutta to determine that policy. As we
have already noted, the Chief Commissioner of
Burma, who is the officer directly responsible to
the Viceroy and to the nation for the peace of his
frontier, has spoken with no ambiguous voice. He
has declared against the cruel procrastination of
half measures — that alternation of plunder and
punishment which was long tried with the corre-
sponding hill races of Eastern Bengal. Such a
system was unsuccessful enough in itself; but in
these days of telegraphs and special correspondents
it has become impossible, for it outrages the con-
science of the nation. When we annexed Upper
Burma, in January, 1886, the necessity of a fron-
tier delimitation was clearly foreseen. During
six years it has been, perhaps unavoidably, post-
poned ; but further delay is a wrong, alike to the
frontier tribes who have been left without an ac-
knowledged master, and to the brave troops who
are kept continually exposed to the casualties
arising out of such a state of things.'

The frontier question is comprised under three
heads. The most simple, of course, is where the
boundary resolves itself into a matter of adminis-
trative convenience between our territories of
Assam and Burma. The next in order of diffi-
culty is where it actually marches with those of
China and Siam. The most embarrassino; strana-e
to say, is where we are positively left to our own
devices in regard to an unexplored zone of con-
siderable dimensions lying between what is prac-
tically known as Burma and the confines of Tibet


and China, which, with a light heart, cartographers
have assigned to us in accordance with their notion
of the fitness of things. So far as can be judged
by the result of recent explorations in the vicinity
of our frontier posts, disclosing the extremely
turbulent character of its inhabitants, the proba-
bility of our taking possession of this te7Ta incog-
nita must be relegated to a very distant future ;
we shall, therefore, very likely, content ourselves
with annexing only so much of it as may be
necessary for the effective discharge of our duties
as suzerain. When we succeed in making the
Kakhyen, and other cognate tribes, more amen-
able to discipline than they are now, and are
prepared to repeat this very troublesome process
with other clans beyond them, we can move our
real boundary farther north, and realise posses-
sion of that portion of our dominions Avhich now
only exists in the imagination.

We must take the inhabitants ' in hand and
civilise them thoroughly, or leave them alone,'
suggests a frontier officer ; ' a savage with a
veneer of civilisation being a most difficult indi-
vidual to deal with.' And, being a sportsman as
well as a diplomatist, he characteristically clinches
his argument with the pungent and undeniable
truth that ' it is of no use firing at a tiger with a

We may here appropriately make a passing
allusion to a friendly passage of arms between
the Chinese envoy at the Court of St. James and
our Prime Minister some twelve years ago. When

B 2


our relations with the Court of Ava were so
strained that annexation was inevitable, there was
such a hysteric desire to do anything rather
than incur Chinese hostility, that the Celestials,
had they been so minded, might have put con-
siderable pressure upon us. Even a strong man,
like Lord Salisbury, was evidently influenced by
this quasi panic ; for, at the Guildhall banquet
in 1885, he informed his hearers that, in dealing
with Upper Burma, we should act in the most
complete recognition of the rights of China, who,
convinced of the fact that she might have worse
neighbours than the English, was looking, con-
trary to nature, to a sun in the west. This touch-
ing confidence in China's friendliness must have
been rudely shaken when, shortly afterwards,
the representative of the Flowery Land essayed to
keep his lordship to the strict letter of his after-
dinner speech, by demanding that England should
acknowledge her vassalage to China by the pay-
ment of decennial tribute as — he alleged — did
Burma, in w^hose relative position she now stands.
It may here be explained that the Chinese base
their tribute claim on a convention made at the
close of the war of 1769, whereby — they declare —
the Burmese agreed to send them decennial pre-
sents, and they argue that, in taking possession
of Burma, we became responsible for her obliga-
tions. The Burmese, on the other hand, indig-
nantly repudiate this idea, and retort that there
was a reciprocal arrangement, by which both sides
bound themselves to despatch presents in token


of amity. With a happy instinct, Lord Salisbury
accepted the situation, agreeing to send presents
from Burma every ten years and receive return
gifts — a solution worthy of Columbus, the pro-
pounder of the egg problem. His successor Lord
Rosebery, however, was cajoled into consenting
to the desj^atch of presents from the Burmese side
only, and, thereby unequivocally admitting China's
claims to suzerainty, gratuitously tendered a most
abject submission to the Son of Heaven, without
obtaining apj)arently any tangible quid jiro quo.

' Cymbeline. Well,

My peace we will begin ; and, Caius Lucius,
Although the victor, we submit to Cjesar,
And to the Roman empire ; promising
To pay our wonted tribute.'

The envoy afterwards modified this demand by
condescending to allow us to purchase exemption
from the suggested indignity by territorial in-
demnity, in the shape of a huge slice of our terri-
tory, making the Showelee River, considerably
south of Bhamo, its southern boundary.

This not a little exercised the British Govern-
ment, as it meant the complete cession to China
not only of a broad band of debatable territory, said
to be inhabited by ' savage tribes,' but also several
hundred square miles of what is, and always has
been, Burmese territory. It was felt at the time
that if we could have reconciled to our conscience
the propriety of handing over any of our new
fellow- subjects to the tender mercies of the
Chinese, it was open to grave doubt whether the


result would be satisfactory. It was plausibly
argued that the turbulent tribes dominating the
trade routes, having Chinese affinities, would be
more easily managed by Chinamen than by us.
It so hajjpens, however, that it is almost certain
that the Shans, who are the only people in this
region to which this description can apply, would
prefer our rule. The hitherto impracticable Kak-
hyens are as alien to the Chinese as to the English.
Indeed, if the theory of affinity were pushed to its
logical conclusion, these representatives of the
archaic Mongoloid family ought to be readily
amenable to the more civilised people of the same
stock ; whereas experience of Burmese rule proves
the contrary. Hitherto, the Chinese have been as
unfortunate in dealing with turbulent border
tribes as the English have been successful, — a
fact that materially tends to demolish the argu-
ments of those who favour the former. The
people most affected, again, might reasonably
object to be bandied from pillar to j^ost, from
ruler to ruler, ^vithout reference to their feelings ;
while the notion of surrendering an important
entrepot of trade and a strategical position like
Bhamo, which not only controls the whole of the
Upper Irawadi valley, but is also the natural
centre for railway and telegraph lines between
India, Burma, and China, seems absolutely

Even the most complaisant were of opinion
that the demand was a very high price to pay for
the goodwill of China, but comforted themselves


with the reflection that our representative Avould
insist on receiving adequate value for his conces-
sion. An elucidation of the mystery and con-
firmation of this theory were recently afforded by
the publication, quasi simultaneously, of two in-
teresting papers, one by an apparently inspired
writer in the N'ortJi China Herald^ and another in
the Manchester Guardian by an eminent authority
in the person of Sir Charles Crossthwaite, Chief
Commissioner of Burma in those troublous times.
According to the former, ' Lord Rosebery dealt
with the demand in a manner which, under
other circumstances, we should say was very
Chinese. He continued talking with the Marquis
Tseng in London, and meantime telegraphed to
Mr. O'Conor, then Charge d' Affaires in Pekin, to
ascertain how far the Marquis represented his
Government in making this demand, and on what
terms the Chinese were willing to adjourn the
discussion of the subject. Mr. O'Conor found
that the Yamen had never heard of the Showelee
River nor anything of the Marquis's demand, and
apparently were serenely indifferent about it. He
found, however, they were profoundly concerned
in two matters : one was the demand then before
them to give passports to Mr. Colman Macaulay
and his mission to go into Tibet, and the other
was the quinquennial * complimentary mission
from the Kino's of Burma to Pekin. The Yamen
wanted to know what provision Great Britain
proposed to make for this " tributary " mission.

*" Decennial.


The Ministers eared little mikI knew less about
the frontier : the Showelee River and the Ira-
Avadi were terms of no meaning, but the tribu-
tary mission was a topic of the last importance.
With this information in his possession, Lord
Rosebery, still simulating great interest in his
negotiations with the Marquis Tseng, instructed
Mr. O'Conor to do the best he could, but to secure
the postponement of any question relating to the
frontier ; and Mr. O'Conor played his hand re-
markably well. He concluded the convention of
1886 with a celerity which must have astonished
the Yamen. He agreed to postpone for the present
the awkward question about the Tibet passports ;
he agreed that some Burmese ecclesiastics, led by
the Buddhist Archbishop of Mandalay or Ran-
goon, should go every tive years to Pekin (we
believe that the appointment of a Buddhist Arch-
bishop was explained by the alleged fact that the
Emperor of China was the head of the Buddhist
Church in China !) ; and on their side the Chinese
decided to defer the discussion of any question
connected mth the frontier for the present. It
was understood at the time, and is, we believe, in
formal documents, though not in the text of the
convention, that no British official Avas to form
any part of this quinquennial mission, and that
the Archbishop was to arrange for himself who
the members of his suite were to be. But the
strangest part of this extraordinary transaction
was that, if the Marquis Tseng never informed
his Government of what he was doing, his Govern-


ineiit kept him in the dark as to what they were
doing. The Yamen knew nothing of the Showelee,
and the Marquis knew nothing of the Tibet pass-
ports or the quinquennial mission. We are in-
formed that absolutely the first information the
Chinese Minister in London received of any
negotiations in Pekin was an ofiicial communique
in the London Times from the Foreign Office con-
taining: the text of the convention.'

The delimitation of the frontier was according-
ly postponed at the urgent solicitation of Lord
Rosebery. It was not lost sight of, however, for
only a few years ago the demands of the Chinese
became so pressing that the late Mr. Baber was
sent post-haste to Bhamo to stave off" the question.
' When Mr. O'Conor made his slapdash arrange-
ment,' says the same authority, ' his chief in
Downing Street felt very much like the criminal
who was sentenced to death by a Sultan, and who
secured a temporary resj^ite by undertaking with-
in a given period to teach the Sultan's favourite
ass to speak. He defended his undertaking the
hopeless task on the ground that in the meantime
the Sultan might die, or the ass might die, or he
himself might die, and in the interval he had his
life. Lord Rosebery wanted the frontier matter
put off, and trusted to the chapter of accidents.
He drew bills on futurity in the hope that they
might not have to be met, and with the certainty
that, even if they had, the price would be less
than that he was then called upon to pay. It
Avas hoped, no doubt, that in five years the


Chiiie'sc would see how absurd was tlie arrange-
ment of a Buddhist Archbishop going to Pckin ;
but now the bills have reached maturity, and the
Chinese want to know how they are to be met.
Here we must do the Chinese the justice to say,
we are given to nnderstand they are quite in-
different whether the Archl^ishop ever goes to
Pekin or not, but they know the distaste the
British authorities wdll have for this mission, and
they hope to employ it as a screAv to extract better
terms in reo:ard to the delimitation of the frontier.'

Last spring, accordingly, it appears they
urgently called attention to the boundary ques-
tion on the ground that the country had 1)cen at
peace for some years and that there was no
longer any reason why this important matter
should be postponed.

Now that Lord Rosebery is again at the Foreign
Office, ' John Chinaman ' is sure to present his
little bill. It will be interesting to Avatch how
his lordship will tackle the difficulty.

Up to the year 18Gfi, says Sir Charles Cross-
thwaite, who thoroughly endorses Lord Rosebery's
former policy, ' it w^as hardly necessary, so far as
the peace of the Lidian Empire was concerned, to
consider the feelings of China or manage her sus-
ceptibilities. Now, however, circumstances are
distinctly changed. Burma has become an im-
portant factor in the problem of our political re-
lations with China. Whether Ave like it or not,
w^e cannot afford entirely to disregard either the
feelings of the Chinese in Burma or the disposi-


tion of the Chinese Government. Fortunately,
the statesmen who were directing our policy re-

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Online LibraryAlexander Buxton MacMahonFar Cathay and Farther India → online text (page 1 of 22)