W. H. Davenport (William Henry Davenport) Adams.

The Eastern archipelago. A description of the scenery, animal and vegetable life, people, and physical wonders of the islands of the eastern seas online

. (page 4 of 34)
Online LibraryW. H. Davenport (William Henry Davenport) AdamsThe Eastern archipelago. A description of the scenery, animal and vegetable life, people, and physical wonders of the islands of the eastern seas → online text (page 4 of 34)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

isles, the cocoa-nut tree rises, with its foot in the
emerald wave, and its crest lightly rocking in the full
fresh breeze.

The palm is here of little value. Above its bam-
boos and resinous trees Java wears a magnificent girdle,
or zone, of forest ; a forest wholly composed of teak.
the oak of oaks, the finest wood in the world,

1637) 5


indestructible teak.* It boasts also of a gigantic
plane, the superb liquidambar.^-

Here every kind of food, and all the provisions of
the five worlds, superabound. The rice, maize, figs,
and bananas of Hindostan the pears of China the
apples of Japan, flourish in company with the peach,
pine-apple, and orange of Europe ; ay, and even with
the strawberry, which extends its growth along the
banks of the streams.

All this is the innocence of Nature. But side by
side with it prevails another and more formidable
world : that of the higher vegetable energies, the
plants of temptation, seductive yet fatal, which double
the pleasures, while shortening the duration, of life.

At present they reign throughout the earth from
pole to pole. They make and they unmake nations.
The least of these terrible spirits has wrought a greater
change in the globe than any war. They have im-
planted in man the volcanic fires ; and a soul, a vio-
lent spirit, which is indefinable, which seems less a
human thing than a creature of the planet. They
have effected a revolution which, above all, has changed
our idea of Time. Tobacco kills the hours, and renders
them insensible. Coffee shortens them by the stimulus
it affords the brain ; it converts them into minutes.

Foremost among the sources of intoxication to which
care unhappily resorts, we must name alcohol. Eight
species of the sugar-cane which thrive in Java, abun-
dantly supply this agent of delirium and of forcible
feebleness. No less abundantly flourishes tobacco, the

* Teak-wood is obtained from a tree which is known to botanists as the Tectona

t The liquidambar belongs to a genus of trees called AUingiacece, with alternate
leaves, flowers in catkins, and the fruit forming a kind of fir-cone.


herb of dreams, which has enshrouded the world in its
misty vapours. Fortunately Java also produces im-
mense supplies of its antidote, coffee. It is this which
contends against tobacco, and supplies the place of
alcohol. The island of Java alone furnishes a fourth
of all the coffee drunk by man ; and a coffee, too, of
fine quality, when it has been dried sufficiently with-
out any fear of reducing its weight.

Formerly Java and its neighbouring lands were
known as spice islands only, and as producing freely
violent drugs and medicinal poisons. Frightful stories
were circulated of its deadly plants, the juice of which
was a mortal venom ; of the Gueva-upas, which but to
touch was death !

Michelet concludes : He who would see the East
in all the fulness of its magical, voluptuous, and sinis-
ter forces, should explore the great bazaars of Java.
There the curious jewels wrought by the cunning
Indian hand are exposed to the desires of woman,
temptation, and the cost of pleasure. There, too, may
be seen another seductive agency : the vegetable fury
of the burning and scorching plains which is so eagerly
sought after ; the perfumes of terrible herbs and flowers
as yet unnamed. Marvellous and profound the night
in its sweet repose, after the violent heats of the day !
But be cautious in your enjoyment of it ; a,s it grows
old, you breathe death !

Take note of this : the peculiarity that gives to
these brilliant bazaars so curious an effect is, that all
the thronging crowds are dusky, with dark com-
plexions, and all the animals are black. The contrast
is singular in this land of glowing light. The heat
seems to have burned up everything, and tinted each


object with shadow. The little horses, as they gallop
past you, seem but so many flashes of darkness. The
buffaloes, slowly arriving, loaded with fruit and flowers,
with the most radiant gifts of life, all wear a livery of

Beware at this time of night not to wander too far,
or to ramble in the higher grounds, lest you should
encounter the black panther, whose green eyes illu-
mine the obscurity with a terrific glare ! And
who knows ? the splendid tyrant of the forest, the
black tiger, may have begun his midnight prowl ;
that formidable phantom which the Malays of Java
believe to be the Spirit of Death.


From these glowing passages of description the
reader cannot fail to have gathered up such details as
will assist him in realizing to himself this dazzling,
fertile, beautiful, and yet terrible Java, its blaz-
ing volcanoes, its rich mountain-valleys, its immense
forests, and its terraced gardens, with all their exube-
rant abundance of fruit and blossom.

Of its native inhabitants, and their manners and
customs, we shall speak in a future chapter ; our
object here being simply to put before the reader a
lively picture of the physical aspects of the island,
painted, as it were, with a few bold touches. They
belong, however, to the great Malayan family, and in
religion are Mohammedans, the creed of the Prophet
having been introduced by the Arabs in the fourteenth
century, and having superseded both Hinduism and
Buddhism. They are an industrious, skilful, sober,
patient, and obedient people ; addicted to revenge ;


superstitious ; and possessed with a great veneration
for the laws and usages of antiquity. Most of them
are engaged in agriculture ; but many pursue the arts
of dyeing, weaving, and metallurgy with considerable

The principal exports are rice, coffee, sugar, nut-
megs, mace, cloves, tin, indigo, cinnamon, cochineal,
pepper, pimento, tobacco, and cocoa-nut soap. They
exceed 5,500,000 in yearly value.


We cannot complete our description of this interest-
ing island, which offers so much that is attractive both
in its scenery and its inhabitants, in its physical aspects
and social life, without paying a visit to the Dieng,
which is not only one of the most elevated situations
in Java where Buddhist ruins may still be found, but
is remarkable for the numerous volcanic lakes and hot
springs comprised in its limited area.

Starting from Wonosobo, the first object of interest
we meet with is the Lake of Mendjer ; a small sheet
of water situated at the foot of the Gunong Sorodjo.
It measures about two miles in circumference, and in
all probability occupies an extinct crater. Its waters
are occasionally impregnated with sulphur.

The path now rises rapidly, and the traveller sees
before him the lofty mountain-chain of Brambanan,
with its summits enveloped in mist. The rocks and
crags on either side are incrusted with sulphur, and
perforated with holes and crevices, from many of which
swift jets of steam or smoke escape, filling the air with
odours that are not exactly those of " Araby the blest;"
while a strange rumbling sound, like the distant echoes


of chariot wheels, now rises and now sinks upon the

We reach the summit of the Prau mountain, and
thence descend, about one hundred feet, into the dreary
valley of the Dieng; a valley measuring about a mile
in circumference, and shut in by a semicircle of black,
jagged, irregular hills.

Here, on its marshy area, among scattered blocks of
stone, lie the ruins of five small temples, built with
hewn slabs of stone, and sparsely ornamented with
rude carvings. A broken causeway, in the rear of
these shattered memorials of an ancient creed, leads to
a larger temple on the brow of a hill ; and thence we
proceed to the shallow milky basin of the Tologo Lin,
a small caldron of water, which is eternally seething
and bubbling under the influence of volcanic heat, and
emitting dense clouds of steam.

Just beyond, at the extremity of a deep hollow,
called Pekareman, the earth throws off a considerable
amount of carbonic acid gas, or some equally noxious
vapour. It is customary for the native guide to prove
its deleterious qualities at the cost of a poor chicken
or two. When thrown into the fatal chasm, the
head and neck of the victim are suddenly convulsed, and,
flapping iis wings in agony, it rolls over and expires.

It is said that the Javanese, under the influence of
despair, ati bingoong, resort hither to decide their fate.
They lie down near the lake to pass the night ; and if
they live until morning, they feel confident of secur-
ing an auspicious change of fortune. If the credulous
creature expire before the dawn of day, his death is
attributed, not to the gas, but to the vengeance of a
Pangooroo, or evil spirit.


Another of these volcanic lakes is called Chondero di
Mocko. It covers a space of not more than twenty feet ;
is, in fact, a small pool of boiling water, with an efflux
into a narrow rill, that winds onwards like a line of
vapour. In the centre the water rises in three or four
jets to the height of about five feet, and flings around
a shower of scalding spray. The banks consist of a
soft, hot mud, sulphureous deposits, and small blocks
of limestone which have been ejected, in course of time,
by the restless waters of the little pool.

About a mile in an opposite direction, beyond the
Dieng, lies the Talogo Warno, a many-coloured, reed-
fringed lake, at the base of the Brambanan mountains,
and about three hundred yards in length. Here the
waters gleam with all the colours of the rainbow. A
bright yellow at one part, and an emerald green at
another ; here a beautiful azure, and there a delicate
rose ; then orange and milky white, all these hues
blending and merging into one another as softly and
gradually as the tints of a humming-bird's plumage.
The cause of this extraordinary diversity is not stated
by travellers, but it must be due either to the presence
of different species of algae in the bed of the lake, or,
more probably, to some peculiarities of soil. It does
not appear to be due to atmospheric influence, as the
same condition of things prevails during both the dry
and wet monsoons.

Between the Brambanan and Modrodo lies a hot
muddy valley, called the Kawa Kiwung. Here may
be seen another hot -water basin, with a constantly
ebullient spring in its centre, which ejects into the air
tall columns of boiling water.

But we may not tarry longer in this remarkable and


interesting district, which presents a scene of volcanic
phenomena scarcely equalled in any part of the world.
Everywhere the ground seems impregnated with sul-
phur: sulphureous odours fill the air; boiling springs
seethe and hiss in every hollow ; under the surface
may be heard a continuous reverberation, as if the
earth were in the throes of some great agony ; the
traveller feels as if he were treading on the light crust
of a sea of molten minerals and liquid lava ; and every-
where he cannot refuse to recognize the " signs and
wonders " that justify the significant title which has
been bestowed upon this luxuriant, fertile, romantic,
and restless Java : it is, in very truth, a " land of



IN our general description of Java we have
cursorily alluded to the remarkable antiqui-
ties which are found in the interior of the
island. These are frequently of a character
to interest and astonish the traveller, as a visit to the
ruins of Singha Sari, on the road to Passarouan, will
at once convince the reader.

We start from Malang, and proceed in a northerly
direction ; traversing a countryside that is well culti-
vated and carefully irrigated. The plough and harrow
used by the Javanese agriculturists deserve notice for
their simplicity. First: the plough. The coulter is
simply a long knife, attached to the end of a long bent
handle, which forms the tail ; while from the junction
of the two a long piece of wood projects forward, and
carries the cross-piece or yoke for the oxen to pull it
along. Next: the harrow. This is nothing more
than a Brobdingnagian rake, drawn by oxen, with the
driver sitting in the cross-pieces.

The oxen are small and brown, not unlike the
Brahman bull in shape ; and better able to endure the
heat, it is said, than the great buffalo or musk-ox,
with its hairless mouse-coloured skin and huge spread-


ing horns. They are handsome cattle, and delicately
and elegantly formed.

Turning off from the main road, a narrow grassy
lane brings us to the famous ruins of Singha Sari,
situated on the threshold of a venerable wood. They
include six principal structures of hewn stone, besides
the base of a circular tower ; while numerous large
and small figures, and various fragments of sculpture
and statuary, are scattered in all directions. Three of
these structures are quadrangular temples, rising by
successive stages to a topmost shrine, which contains
several large statues, more or less defaced. The ground-
plan of the largest temple measures 93 feet by 36 feet.
They are all without friezes, but along the sides are
carved ornamental markings, and niches and pedestals
for statues, and some figures in alto-relievo.

Two of the other buildings are vaguely described
as tombs. They resemble the temples in style, but
are of inferior dimensions ; square at the base, rapidly
diminishing towards the summit in successive stories,
and then " bulging out " again in overhanging steps
or ledges. One of them we observe to be crowned
with the base of a ruined dome or cupola. This is
called Chunkoop Wyang ; the others are known as
Chunkoop Putri. The sixth building, consisting
merely of two solid blocks of half-ruined masonry,
may have been part of the gateway opening into the
sacred enclosure. On each side of it stands a colossal
figure one male, the other female of bulky propor-
tions and savage aspect, scantily attired, and each
wreathed around by a huge serpent. They kneel
these weird corruptions of the Hindu fancy, for, un-
doubtedly, the ruins are of Hindu origin on one


knee, with breast and body leaning on the other,
while one hand rests on a huge square-headed club,
elaborately carved. The right hand of the male
colossus is lifted and turned outwards, with two or
three fingers erect, as if to forbid an intruder's
approach, or command silence. Each wears a kind of
crown ; the eyeballs are protruded as if in anger ; deep
frowns carve the vast brow with sunken lines ; and
from each side of the mouth inclines downwards a
large tusk.

The dimensions of the male figure are thus given by
Mr. Jukes :

Height from the ground to the crown of the head.... 12 feet.
Circumference round the waist, including the knee,

which is pressed against it 25 feet.

Length of the face 3 feet.

Length of the nose 1 foot.

Width across the back of the shoulders 8 J feet.

Width of left hand across the knuckles 2 feet 1 inch.

Length of the right hand to tip of middle finger 2 feet 9 inches.

Each is sculptured out of a solid block of stone,
hard but rather brittle a close-grained, gray, porphy-
ritic trachyte. The workmanship is admirable, every
line being cleanly and smoothly cut ; while all the
folds of the skin are carefully represented. Round
about lie many fragments of sculpture and statuary,
not less skilfully executed : including a beautiful
Brahman bull, about four feet long ; human -figures
with elephant's heads ; an admirably wrought frag-
ment of a chariot drawn by several horses abreast ;
and figures of Hindu deities, each three-headed or
four-headed, and with several pairs of arms. It is
noticeable that not only are all these strange memo-
rials of a past which has left no other record executed


with much carefulness and refinement, but they are
wholly free from the extravagances and indelicacies of
design which so commonly disfigure the antiquities of
India. We are thus led to believe in the truth of Mr.
Crawfurd's conjecture, that the Hinduism of Java was
a purified religion ; " a reformation of the bloody and
indecent worship of Siva, brought about by sages or
philosophers, by persons, in short, of more kindly
affections than the rest of their countrymen, and
perhaps to keep pace with some start in civilization in
the country where it had its origin."

Certainly, the ruling minds which selected the site
of the ruined temples now before us must have been
inspired by lofty sympathies, and have possessed as
keen a sense of the beauties of Nature as any Hellenic
philosopher or priest. The antiquities are remarkable,
and so is the scenery by which they are surrounded.
They occupy the summit of a knoll which overlooks
the broad undulating valley-plain of Malang. On the
right hand, towards the south-west, rises the pictur-
esque group of the Kawi hills, whence a grassy but
broken and jagged ridge extends northwards to the
mighty mass of Mount Arjuno, which, with its peaked
summit and wooded declivities, occupies all the north-
western quarter of the horizon. Through a low gap
in the north access is obtained to the surf-beaten line
of the northern coast, with its populous towns and
ample harbours. Towards the east we see the gigantic
ridge of the Teng'ger, with all its spires and pinnacles
and pyramids, gradually increasing in elevation until
it reaches its loftiest points in the noble colossal forms
of the Bromo and the Ider-Ider, from which it curves
gracefully towards the south-east, and the beautiful


cone of the Semiru. The chord of this magnificent
amphitheatre, or the distance from the Semiru to the
Kawi, cannot be less than forty miles in length, and
is formed by low undulating ridges, which shine in the
full glory of the southern sun.

Rich and luxuriant is the loveliness of this glorious
valley, which as yet no artist has painted and no poet
sung ; and even the most savage-featured of its en-
circling mountains are clothed with the leafy shadows
of forests in almost boundless profusion ; all except
the two cones of the Semiru and the Arjuno, where
the volcanic forces still linger, latent, but destructive
and rebellious.

When we turn from these glories of Nature to the
hoar memorials of the Past, which are mouldei'ing
here in the solitude and the silence, a spell falls upon
the imagination. We seem to see them frequented
by crowds of worshippers, and their altars tended by
Hindu priests; while all the country round is studded
with busy cities, adorned with palaces, and echoing
with the hum of men. The dream rises upon the
mind, of a Hindu kingdom, once powerful and opulent
and civilized, which nourished, it may be for centuries,
in this beautiful and fertile Java.

That such a kingdom once existed, cannot be
doubted; we recognize its traces in the ruins scattered
over the surface of the Malang valley, in the huge
piles of bricks now half-concealed among the forests,
in the ancient causeways still used as the principal
roads of the country, and in the remains of the massive
walls which stretch from the southern side of Mount
Kawi to the sea, fortifying the valley of Kediri, and
thus protecting the chief access to the plain of Malang


from the west. Any one of these structures, as Mr.
Jukes remarks, is far beyond the capabilities of the
present inhabitants of Java at least, without European
assistance ; and points to the existence of a people
among whom the arts and sciences had made no incon-
siderable progress. Yet the history of this people is
absolutely unknown, and is but slightly recorded even
in tradition. It is true that a few dates have been
discovered on ruins in other parts of the island, which,
from their style and character, seem contemporaneous
with those of Singha Sari; and these dates range from
A.D. 1195 to A.D. 1296. Some names of kingdoms
and princes linger, moreover, in the old Javanese
histories or romances ; but neither the research of a
Raffles nor the laborious industry of a Crawfurd has
brought to light any authentic facts.

Mr. Crawfurd describes the ruins of Java as con-
sisting of temples, images, and inscriptions ; and the
first-named he divides into four classes : 1st, Large
groups of small temples, of hewn stone, each occupied
by a statue ; 2nd, Single temples of great size, of hewn
stone, consisting of a series of enclosures, the whole
occupying the summit of a hill, and without any con-
cavity or excavation ; 3rd, Single temples, constructed
of brick and mortar, with an excavation similar to the
individual temples of the first class ; and 4th, Rude
temples, of hewn stone, of more recent construction
than any of the rest.*

To the particulars already given we can add only
a brief notice of the ruins of Brambanan, which are
situated almost in the centre of the island, between
the native capitals of Djokokerta and Surakerta.

Crawfurd, " History of the Indian Archipelago," ii. 195, 196.


Here are found the temples of Loro-Jongran and
Chandi-Sewa. The former comprise six large and
fourteen small temples. They are now a mass of
broken ruins, but it is supposed that the largest
temples were ninety feet in height. All were built of
solid stone, profusely decorated with carvings and bas-
reliefs, and adorned with numerous statues, many of
which remain entire.

The group at Chandi-Sewa, or the " Thousand
Temples," occupies an oblong square area measuring
600 feet in length and 550 feet in breadth. This
area is covered with five rows of temples : in the
outer row, 84 ; in the second row, 76 ; in the third,
64 ; in the fourth, 44 ; while the fifth forms an
inner parallelogram of 28 temples. Each temple is
pyramidal in structure, and consists of large blocks of
hewn stone. Each of the smaller ones contained a
figure of Buddha, and the chief and central building
figures of the principal objects of Hindu worship, all
of colossal size and admirable execution.

In reference to the sculptures and decorations, we
shall content ourselves with quoting Mr. Crawfurd's
remarks :

" First, the scenery, the figures, the faces, and
costume are not native, but those of Western India.
Of the human figures, the faces are characterized by
the strongest features of the Hindu countenance.
Many of these are even seen with bushy beards, an
ornament of the face denied by Nature to all the
Indian islanders. The loins are seen girt after the
manner now practised in India, a custom unknown to
the Javanese, or any other people of the Archipelago.
The armour worn is not less characteristic. The


spear, the kris, and the blow-pipe for discharging the
poisoned arrow, in all ages the weapons of the Indian
islanders, are nowhere delineated in the temples ; but,
instead of them, we have the straight sword and
shield, the bow and arrow, and the club. The com-
batants, when mounted, are conveyed in cars or on
elephants both of these modes of conveyance of
foreign custom ; for the elephant is not a native of
Java, and the nature of the country pi-ecluded the use
of wheeled carriages. Second, there is not a gross,
indecent, or licentious representation throughout, and
very little, indeed, of what is even grotesque or
absurd ; and third, we discover no very pointed nor
very distinct allusion in the sculptures to the more
characteristic and unequivocal features of Hinduism."


From these curious memorials of the ancient life
of Java, we turn to the consideration of some few
aspects of its modern life, of the manners and customs
of its present inhabitants ; and if we accompany a
recent traveller in a visit to the native Sultan of
Bankalang, we shall become witnesses of a scene every
feature of which is both novel and interesting to
European eyes.

To do us honour, and impress us with a sense of the
power of our princely host, the road to his "palace"
is lined on either side by spearmen, at intervals of
about three yards ; each assuming a theatrical and
studied but impressive attitude, and holding aloft his
long quivering lance. Ushered by the sounds of a
native band, or gamelang, we arrive at the gateway
of the sultan's residence, and by a wooden bridge


cross the broad ditch or moat in front of it. Here
the place of the spearmen is taken by Javanese
infantry, clothed in a Dutch uniform of blue and
yellow, and armed with musket and bayonet. After
passing through two similar gateways, we find our-

Online LibraryW. H. Davenport (William Henry Davenport) AdamsThe Eastern archipelago. A description of the scenery, animal and vegetable life, people, and physical wonders of the islands of the eastern seas → online text (page 4 of 34)