William Wilson Hunter.

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years ago. The high rate of wages is still maintained. All the immi-
grants find employment, and the demand for outside labour is as great
as ever.

Unskilled labour is worth from is. to is. 6d. a day, and shipping
coolies during the season earn up to 3s. It has been calculated that it
takes as much money to construct 1 mile of road, or 100 cubic feet of
masonry, in British Burma as it does to make 2 miles, or 800 cubic
feet, in'lndia. The large exportation of the food staple, and in< r
demands, have caused prices to rise very rapidly of late years. Previous
to the annexation of the Province, the usual cost of paddy was Rs. 20 or



R s - 2 5 {£ 2 or £> 2 -> IOS -) P er IO ° bushels; in 1878 (owing to the
demand for grain during the famine in Southern India), it rose to £,\\
per 100 bushels, the highest price realized ; after that year it fell steadily,
and in 1882 the price was ^5, 2s. per 100 bushels. The average
prices of produce ruling in the Province at the end of 1881-82, per
maund of 80 lbs., were — for rice, 6s. ; for uncleaned cotton, 20s. ■ for
sugar, 17s.; for tobacco, 30s. 6d. ; for oil-seeds, 10s. ojd. Uncleaned
cotton at the time of the annexation was obtainable at £\ per 100
viss (365 lbs.) ; it now fetches more than four times that sum. The
average price of a bullock has increased from Rs. 10 G£i) to Rs. 60
(£6). Bamboos which used to be sold at Rs. 2 J (5s.) per 1000, now
fetch about £2, or Rs. 20.

Means of Communication. — Next to labour, the most urgent want of
the country is land communication. There are thousands of villages
which are shut off from trade for at least eight months of the year
by reason of the lack of roads. The needs of the Delta and the
river tracts are in some measure supplied by the steamers and boats
which ply on the rivers and tidal creeks, while the railways supply cheap
means of transit to the plains which they traverse. But for want of a
network of roads connecting the remoter towns and villages with the
main lines of communication, the extension of cultivation and the pro-
sperity of the country are retarded. During only four months of the
year can the surplus produce of the country immediately adjoining the
river tracts or plains be conveyed to the river or railway in carts ;
during the remainder of the year even this portion is quite shut off
from the means of communication. No fewer than 8 of the 18
Districts of the Province are destitute of roads ; they do not possess
a single mile of metalled or bridged road outside the headquarter
town. Road -making in Burma is slow work, owing to the want
of labour and metal. No road-metal is available in many Districts
except broken brick; and in a country with a heavy rainfall, a road of
this material requires constant care and repairs after it is made par-
ticularly if the traffic is at all heavy. There are only 1310 miles of
made road in the whole Province, portions of which are impassable
during the rains. There is abundance of waterway throughout the
Irawadi delta all the year round. The Sittaung valley, however, has no
such advantages.

There are now (1884) two lines of railway in the Province. One
following the valley of the Irawadi, called the 'Irawadi Valley State
Railway,' 163 miles in length, connects the capital Rangoon with Prome
This line was opened in 1877, and the results have been most satis-
factory The other line, called the 'Rangoon and Sittaung Valley
btate Railway, also 163 miles in length, connects the capital with the
military station of Toung-gu. This line, now approaching completion,


will, it is expected, attract the whole of the trade with Karengni and
the Shan States, and not only open up fertile districts as yet without
means of communication, but also secure the frontier of Toung-gu,
which in its present isolation is exposed to some peril. A navigable
canal, about 40 miles in length, with locks, between the Sittaung and
Irawadi rivers, has been, after some years in construction, now com-
pleted ; it is intended to avoid the dangers of the bore in the Sittaung
estuary. It carried 80,000 tons of boat traffic in 1881, besides timber
rafts, and its completion has caused great extensions of cultivation
in the tract through which it passes — a tract previously water-logged
and without means of communication. A similar canal has now been
undertaken from Rangoon, through the rich township of Twantay, into
Thongwa (Thun-khwa) District, between the Rangoon and Irawadi
rivers. Proposals for the clearing of several old channels, the real
highways of Burmese traffic, in order to make them again navigable,
are also receiving attention. During 1881, two extra services of coasting
steamers were, by the help of Government subsidies, established for the
purpose of affording weekly communication, inwards and outwards,
with the Districts of Kyauk-hpyu, Tavoy, and Mergui, and fortnightly
with Sandoway.

Commerce, Manufactures, etc. — For centuries the seaboard of Burma
has been visited by ships from many countries. Bassein, under its
classic name of Kusimanagara, corrupted by the Talaings into Kutheim
or Kusein, and by the Europeans who visited it into Cosmin, was a
flourishing port in the 12th century. At a later period we find Arabs
and other Asiatic races in constant communication with Arakan, Pegu,
and Tenasserim. Towards the beginning of the second half of the
14th century, Muhammadan merchants carried on a brisk trade
between Pegu and the countries east and west. The Arabs brought to
Burma goods of European manufacture as well as the produce of their
own country; and large sea -going boats from Mrohaung, the capital
of the Arakan kingdom, visited the ports of Bengal.

The principal exports from Bassein and Pegu were gold, silver,
rubies, sapphires (all jewels were excessively cheap, or as Frederick
has it, sold 'at most vile and base prices'), long-pepper, lead, tin, lac,
rice, and some sugar. The imports from Arabia and the Persian Gulf
to Syriam (an ancient emporium of Burma, 3 miles from the mouth of
the Pegu river), were woollen cloths, scarlet velvets, and opium ; and
from Madras and Bengal, ' painted cloth of Masulipatam and white
cloth of Bengala, which is spent there (Pegu) in great quantity.' The
trade of Malacca and places to the eastward was with Martaban, then a
flourishing port of Tenasserim ; the imports being porcelain from China,
camphor from Borneo, and pepper from Achin. From Arakan, ri<
the principal export, the imports being muslins, woollens, cutlery, piece-


goods, and glass and crockery ware. Tenasserim exported tin largely
The continual wars between the Burmese and Siamese ruined the trade
of the south ; and on the conquest of Arakan by the former in 1784,
commerce was so hampered by vexatious restrictions and prohibitions
that it almost ceased.

After the cession of the country to the British, Akyab rapidly rose
in importance, and the inland trade with Upper Burma across the
mountains increased to such an extent that it competed seriously with
the sea-borne trade at Bassein and Rangoon. Owing to the facilities
for inland communication by the creeks, Akyab is and will remain the
real port of Arakan. The trade of Tenasserim also, when the British
came into possession, was at a very low ebb. The country, however,
had extensive teak forests, which led to the foundation of the town of
Maulmain, where ship-building could be extensively carried on. The
favourable situation of this town at the mouth of the Salwin, where it
is joined by two other tributaries, all three rivers tapping countries
exceedingly rich in teak, has enormously developed the timber trade.
In 1836-37, the exports from Maulmain consisted almost entirely
of teak timber, which realized a revenue of ,£2080 ; five years later
it was .£5418. In 1851-52 it had risen to ,£7163. In 1860-61, the
total value of the imports at Maulmain was ,£530,234, and of the
exports ,£446,371, the total duty realized being ,£10,048, and the
aggregate tonnage of vessels calling at and leaving the port in the same
year being 155,113 tons. Ship-building, which during the period of its
greatest activity, from 1837 to 1858, was principally for European
owners, has since almost entirely ceased, in consequence of the rise in
price of materials and labour. In 1840, the price of teak was Rs. 25
(£2, 10s.) a ton, in 1881-82 it was Rs. 63 (£6, 6s.); unskilled labour
rose from 14s. to 30s. a month, and skilled labour from 30s. to ,£5.

The commercial prosperity of British Burma has more than kept
pace with its rapidly increasing population. Since 1855, the external
trade of the Province has risen from ,£5,000,000 to ^£21,000,000 in
1881-82, as the following figures show. Value of sea-borne trade
in 1881-82, imports ,£8,077,000, exports ,£9,288,000 ; value of land-
frontier trade, imports ^2,018,000, exports ,£1,765,000; total value,
imports ^£10,095,000, exports ,£11,053,000, aggregating a total of
^,21,148,000. Rangoon absorbs about 90 per cent, of the whole of the
foreign import trade, and about 60 per cent, of the foreign export trade,
ine trade, especially the rice traffic to Europe, is employing steamers
more largely every year. The Indian craft and junks, which used to
do much of the trade along the coast, to India on the one side and to
the Straits Settlements on the other, are decreasing before the com-
petition of the coasting steamers, of which there are now three or four
lines, besides the mail steamers of the British India Company. The


service done for the Province by these steamers is very great. The sea-
borne trade at the eight different ports of the Province during 1 88 1-82 v.
carried on in 918 steamers and 850 sailing vessels, 'entered' and
'cleared,' with a registered tonnage of 1,492,584 tons.

The chief items of the export trade are rice, timber, cutch (a resinous
gum used for dyeing and other purposes in Europe and America), hi<:
petroleum, and precious stones. It is the rice produce and the rice-
exports that have made and that maintain the prosperity of British
Burma. In 1880-81, the Province sent away no fewer than 892,262
tons of rice, of which Upper Burmah took 6924 tons. The declared
values of three items of export alone for the same year, were —
rice, ^5,655,000 ; teak timber, ;£ 1,020,000 ; and cutch, ,£468,000.
In 1881-82, the value of the rice exported was ;£5>379>55 6 - Thc chlct
imports are piece-goods, silk, cotton, and wool, cotton twist, gunny-bags,
betel-nuts, liquors, tobacco, iron, mill machinery, and sugar. Among
the imports the value of cotton yarn, cotton goods, silk and woollen
goods, and apparel, in 1880-81 reached ,£3>33 > 000 -

The most important industry in British Burma is carried on by
the rice-mills, which free the rice from the husk and prepare it for
the European, American, and Chinese markets. It is the enterprise
and the skill of the mill-owners that have increased the rice trade of
Burma. At the present time, Burmese rice is sent direct from the mills
to England, Italy, Austria, Germany, Holland, France, Brazil, the
Straits, China, and the Mauritius. It seems to be making its way into
new fields. A recent report mentioned that Burmese rice had reached
Iceland ; and a merchant just returned from Europe reported that
in Northern Germany the Burmese grain is coming into use as an
article of food among the poorer classes. The rice-mills ensure a ready
market and a full price for all the surplus paddy (rice in husk) which
any farmer can send by boat or rail to a rice port, and they provide
cargoes for the steamers and sailing vessels which flock to Burmese ports.
There are now 49 rice-mills at work in Burma, of which 28 are at
Rangoon, and seven at each of the other rice ports, namely, Maulmam,
Akyab, and Bassein. Twenty of the Rangoon mills can prepare white rice
fit for European consumption ; the remainder prepare cargo rice, winch
has again to be passed through cleaning mills in London, Liverpool,
Hamburgh, or Bremen. White rice cannot stand the long voyage
round the Cape, but it bears the shorter journey through the Suez Canal
to Europe well. There are about 20 steam timber saw-mills at ^ngoon,
Maulmain, Tavoy, and Shwe-gym. Of the total number of mills m the
country, 41 rice-mills and 10 timber saw-mills are owned by European
merchants, 3 rice-mills and 4 saw-mills by Chinese two of each by
Burmese, one rice-mill by Parsis, one saw-mill by the King of Ava, ana
two of each by natives of India.


Next to occupations connected with the preparation of rice for the
market, the most important industry is weaving. At Prome, Shwe-daung,
Yandiin, and other towns in the Irawadi valley, there used to be a
large production of silkpatsoes, tameins, and gaungbaungs (garment pieces
worn by Burmese men and women). But the power-looms of Europe
are now sending large supplies of these fabrics woven on Burmese
models. These undersell the local fabrics, and the latter are now
produced in smaller quantity. The native cloths are 30 per cent,
dearer, but stronger and more durable, both in texture and in colour,
than the imported fabrics. Almost every Burmese man and woman
has one or more of these silk garment pieces to be worn on festivals,
or oftener if the owner can afford it. Efforts are being made to
popularize improved forms of looms and shuttles brought from England
in 1880, and their use is being taught in several Karen schools.

The manufacture of earthenware is carried on in most parts of the
Province, and considerable artistic success has been attained in the
potteries at Shwe-gyin and Bassein. Drinking vessels, boxes and other
articles of lacquer ware are largely made everywhere, and every Burmese
monk has two or three large lacquer vessels for collecting daily
contributions of food from his disciples. The groundwork of these
articles consists of very fine bamboo wickerwork, on which are overlaid
coats of lacquer, the chief ingredient in which is the oil or resin from
the thitsi tree. Little or no real lac is used in the Burmese ware.
The Burmese exhibit proficiency in the art of wood-carving ; their
temples, monasteries, and sometimes their dwelling-houses are orna-
mented with a profusion of quaint and delicate designs, and skilful
master-carvers in wood are much esteemed. Formerly the carvers
devoted their labours almost entirely to the ornamentation of religious
edifices, but of late years they have shown themselves ready to comply
with the demand which has sprung up among Europeans for specimens
of their handiwork.

Boat-building, cart-making, mat-weaving, torch-making, the manu-
facture of paper, umbrella-making, ivory-carving, and stone-cutting are
also branches of industry among the Burmese. Ironsmiths are found in
almost every village, but their skill is limited. In iron the manufacture
of tees for pagodas, and in brass the casting of bells and of images
of Gautama, may be mentioned. Quaint, beautiful gold and silver work
is everywhere made. Repousse silver bowls are to be found in every
monastery and in every respectable Burman's house. Enamelling on
silver, or the manufacture of what is known as viello work, is also
practised in Shwe-gyin and Thayet-myo Districts. As a rule, Burmans
of all classes invest their savings in gold and silver ornaments. The
refining and preparation of cutch for the home market in Prome and
Thayet-myo Districts afford employment to a large number of people.


The manufacture of paper from bamboos is also to be tried, and if
successful an important new industry will soon grow up.

The condiment known as nga-pi (from nga, 'fish/ and pt Ho be
pressed '), made from fish, is universally used by Burmans and lalamgs
houghout Brit,sh and Upper Burma. It is of three kmds-
nga-pi-gaung, or whole fish salted; taungtha nga-pt, 'fish paste and
sdnsa nga-pl or 'raw eaten,' because it is eaten uncooked; in Arakan
this last is known as ngo-pi nyin, and in Tavoy and Mergu, as gm ; by
Europeans it is called bolochong, the name given to it in the Straits of
Malacca Salt is manufactured all round the coast, but the importa-
lion of cheap salt from England has seriously affected *e manufacture
The western provinces of China, and the Kakhyen and Shan States
between China and Ava, are to a considerable extent dependent on
British Burma for salt, and large quantities are sent to Bhamo In
,881-82 489,776 mounds of salt were sold at Rangoon for Upper
Burma, of which 33>,"6 mounds, valued at £, 4 ,9", were exported

°%VZT frontier trade is conducted mainly by the Irawadi route,
and nearly all the traffic is carried by the steamers of the Irawadi
flotilla This Company began business in 1868 by taking over two
or three old Government steamers and flats. They now possess 30
steamers and 44 flats, and send two or more steamers with 1 flats to
Mandalay twice a week, and a steamer once a fortnight, or oftene f
need be, to Bhamo, which place is within 4 days' journey of the south-
west frontier of China. Their steamers and flats also ply on the creek
and rivers of the Pegu delta. The Company receives subsidies
aggregating in all ^12,000 a year. The serv.ce they do to the Pro-
vlnce is immense, as they carry yearly between British and ^dependen
Burma goods to the value of about 3 i millions sterling, besides about
50,000 passengers-over and above the large traffic they do ,n purely
British waters. Although they have practically a monopoly of the
Irawadi traffic, their charges are not excessive ; for instance, they carry
salt cargoes from Rangoon to Bhamo, a distance of over 75° miles
up stream, for Rs. 11 (£1, «.) per ton. Three or four steamers
belonging to the King of Burma also ply on the river, but get little
freight, although the trade to Mandalay is entirely in the hands of
Chinese and Musalmdn merchants. The only other steamers plying on
the rivers in Burma are small craft belonging to Chinese and Burmese
merchants, which run from Rangoon rather irregularly to Yandun and
Pecu Negotiations have been completed with a Maulmain firm to
run small steamers for a subsidy on the Salwin and Damdam. rivers to
important trading towns outside Maulmain.

The value of the inland trade of British Burma, by 3 river and 1 7 land
routes, aggregated in 1881-82, ,£3,783,375 i the im P orts amounting to


^2,018,529, and the exports to .£1,764,846. In 1880-81, the
aggregate value of the imports and exports was £4,182,525
A considerable quantity of teak timber from Upper Burma 'and
the semi-independent States between Siam and Ava enters British
territory between the Sittaung and Salwin rivers. Very little other
merchandise enters or leaves British Burma by either of these rivers
which are hardly navigable beyond the frontier. The trade on the
Salwin consists entirely of timber floated down from the forests bordering
that river and the Thoungyin, which joins it on the British frontier A
certain proport.on of the inland trade is carried on pack-bullocks on
elephants, and on men's backs, across the borders of Thayet-myo
Kyauk-hpyu, Tavoy, Amherst, and Toung-gu Districts, and by a few cf
these Districts cattle and ponies are imported. Three-fourths of the
whole inland trade is registered on the Irawadi route. The Mandalav
trade, as the traffic with and through Upper Burma is called, is entirely
in the hands of Chinese, Muhammadan, and Burmese merchants. With
the exception of one English firm, who have taken the cntch monopoly

X ir^Vr l c r raCt0rS ' Eur °P eans h *ve no direct dealing
Urth Mandalay, though they sell to and buy from the Chinese and

CL o?b fh\ deaI with that pIace ' The tode — £ ™

frontier of British Burma is, according to the latest published reports
nearly one half of the whole traffic that crosses the land fron fer of
continental India, from Karachi on the west to Chittagong on the Jt
But the Mandalay trade would expand indefinitely, ifonfy a safe road
exis ed between Bhamo and the confines of Western China. The

mi ins of'rv reaCl> v am ° fr ° m Rang ° 0n iD * 0r 2 ° da >- Tor the
millions of Chinese m Yunan and Southern Szechuen, the Irawadi and

Bhamo route would perhaps be the best trade route with Europe

Mr. Colquhoun, an engineer officer of Burma, made in i88r a

I s e o n T Sm f g J T 6y fr0m Cant0 " thTOU S h the Chinese P ro
vinces of kwantung, Kwangsi, and Southern Yunan to Esmau on the

Cambodia river Thence he had intended to make his way through he

ma n Butat°E "t' *" *** *** * a *** ™ te *^

Xof th P r 71 VaS COmpe " ed t0 retUra «°«hwards up the
Yunl ll u a " Ver f ° r ab ° Ut 22 ° miles to ™*« - Western

dalay ' T t c C a e mtH Came n ^'^ by ^ ° f Bha ™ and Man-
wd Lrtrt^ Camb ° dla valle >> north °f Esmau, was found to be rich

b Europtans 1 £Z * f* *** * ^ n0t bee " ^^ ***
point on the S»l ^ 4 '° mil6S fr ° m the hi S h «t navigable

^he Later l a f n I' Ver ; and ab ° Ut 48 ° miles from Mautaain. For
peopl d con" " If 3 d T?J he r ° Ute PaSS6S ° Ver M »'' s ^ l y-
thepeaks bet^n K^r h^ ? "* haS har ^ been see " > **
*£ wh„e "^R^^"- *£


rival route by the Irawadi valley to Talifu has the advantage of steamer
carriage (1800 miles) to Bhamo, which is about 220 miles from 1 alifil ;
to this place the route from Bhamo is mountainous, and two pas
one of which is 3700 feet high, have to be crossed. If Talifu is to be
the object of the two trade routes, the Zimmeh route is shorter by
320 miles than the route by the Irawadi valley, and perhaps safer, as
the road beyond Bhamo is infested by Kakhyen tribes who levy black-
mail on caravans and often close the road entirely. Between Esmau
and the British frontier near Maulmain lie a number of petty Shan
States, which are supposed to owe allegiance, some to China, some to
Bankok, and some to Ava.

Mines and Quarries.- -The geological structure of Burma comprises
three sections— western, middle, and eastern, nearly corresponding to
the divisions of Arakan, Pegu, and Tenasserim. The rocks of Arakan
belong to the secondary series, Pegu is tertiary, while Tenassenm is
primary The economic products of the western Division are mineral
oil (petroleum), limestone, and coal. The middle or Pegu Division
produces laterite. Iron-ore and manganese have also been found in
small quantities. The eastern division has not been much explored ;
coal, limestone, tin, lead, gold, antimony, and graphite have been found
in various quantities at different places. Mineral oil or petroleum is found
principally in Kyauk-hpyu, the Boronga islands, andThayet-myo It differs
from the oil found in Upper Burma in containing little solid paraffin,
and in being more volatile. It is also found at various places on the
eastern slopes of the Arakan Hills. The oil seems to be drawn from a
stratum of carbonaceous shale and coal which crops up in the spurs of
the Arakan Yoma Hills. Prospecting for oil has been actively carried
on by the Boronga Oil-refining Company on the Boronga islands oil
Akyab, and on the Ramri island of Kyauk-hpyu District. A licence
has been granted to the Company; and then operations promise to be
on the whole successful, as a large sum of money has i been laid out
on plant and machinery-, and experts have been brought from Euo.
and America to work the enterprise. The yield of oil from the uj
on the Borongas is not so plentiful as was expected, but the yield in
the Mimbyin field in Ramri is increasing. , ,

Coal is found in the Arakan Yoma, both in Bntish Burma and e>ond
the frontier. The deposits in British Burma are B«^*^g
broken; but a seam 6 feet thick, with another 2 feet thick jmto
lying it occurs on a tributary of the Okepo nvcr, 35 - ""»
Henzada. The area of this tract has not yet been as^ u «n . A
Insein at a depth of 200 feet, a thin seam, about 9 inches thick,
Hgn te has been found. The Myawoung localities ^e '.so >cc
explored, with encouraging results, the ^^ m "°^Z
quality. Operations to ascertain the coal-bearing Strata ol Henzada


District are in progress. Limestone occurs in isolated patches along

the Arakan Hills from Thayet-myo to Bassein, and in Tenasserim

it forms a range of hills. The best lime is brought from a place called

Kyauktalone (monolith) near Maulmain. Tin is found at Maliwun

where it is picked from the beds of streams by Chinese. An English

firm made an exploration of this locality some years ago, but discovered

Online LibraryWilliam Wilson HunterThe imperial gazetteer of India (Volume 3) → online text (page 24 of 56)