Account of the Journey of certain Chinese from Siam to China by Land; extracted from their own Memoirs.
TO travel from the Kingdom of Siam to China, according to some Chinese Memoirs, it is necessary to cross the Kingdom of Labos ; the principal and best peopled Cities through which they pass, are Kiang haii, Kiang seng, Kemeret mabang seng, the Cipital of Labos mohang lee, Mobang long, the Capital of another Principality or Province, and Mobang Vinan, which borders upon China, or which is Part of China itself.
From Kiang haii, or All these pretended Cities are dignified with the Title 9, Mohang, which shall afterwards signify try the Letter M. to avoid Repetition. Mobang kiai, to M. kiang seng, is reckoned seven Days Journey. from M. Kiang Seng to M. Keinaral, seven other Days Journey ; from M. Keinaral to M. Leng, eight Days Journey ; from M. Leng to M. Lee, seven Days Journey ; from M. Lee to M. Meng, eleven Days Journey ; from M. Meng going towards the North, we came to M. Vinan, from whence in a little time we come into China.
From the Confines of the Kingdom of Siam to M. Leng, the Capital of Labos , there are a great many Woods and Rivers, and numerous Plantations; They met with neither wild beasts nor Robbers in all their Journey, the greatest Part of the Roads and impassable with Carts.
M. Leng, the Capital, hath neither Walls nor Fortresses, but is incompassed with Palisades, its Circuit is about 400 Senes, cf every Sene is twenty Siamese Fathoms;
On the West of this Capital is M. Co sangpii, and still further Westward is the great Forest of Pahima pan. M. Co fang pii was heretofore inhabited by a certain People called Tai yai, and the Country which they were Matters of was a very large Kingdom, it took up three Months to travel round it, but at present it is no more than a Vast Forest, which joins to that of Pahima pan.
The Siamese have often been heard to say, that on the North of the Kingdom of Siam there were a People who had the same Religion, the same Customs, and the same Language with themselves, and that it was whom this People they had borrowed all these things, even to the very Name of their Kingdom: And this Nation, according to the Siamese themselves, is the same that the Chinese in their Memoirs call Taiyai.
But because the Siamese affirm that in this Nation the Priests are the principal Rulers, it is very likely that the Country which the Chinese call Tartar, is the same the Tartars call Lassa, which is the Dominion of the Sovereign Pontif of the Lamas, and the city of Co fang pii is the same as Barantola, where the Great Lama keeps his Court, and governs all his Subjects with an absolute Authority.
This appears the more likely, not to say certain, because the Religion of the Lamas greatly resembles the Siamese; they have both the same Idols, the same Shape, and Garments of the same Colour. Besides the Situation of Lassa exactly quadrates with what the Chinese call Taiyai, and with the Kingdom to which , Siamese declare their Religion and Language are owing. They are both situated on the North of Siam, in a cold Climate, where Snow falls in December, January and February. All the Difference is, that the Talapoins of Siam are strict and constant in the Observation of their Laws, whereas the Lamas are more loose and unconstant: But this Diversity is rather a sign of the Difference of their Manners, than want of Conformity in their Religion.
Mobang leng, Capital of Labos, is situated on the bank of Menan tai, or Meman lai, which is the Name of the River that runs through it, which River is full of Rocks, and hath its Rise in the North in a Mountain, called Pang yeng, then taking its Course towards M. Camorel, it falls into the River Menang Kon towards Bem kiop. The River of Siam has its Source in a Mountain called King daun, and that of Kiang hai discharge it self into the principal River of the Kingdom of Siam, commonly called Menan.
In the Capital of the Kingdom of Labos there is a great Plenty of Rice, and so very cheap, that for a Foua, which is a few Halfpence of our Money, one may buy fifty or sixty Pound.
There are few Fish, but to make amends for that, there is the Flesh of Buffaloes, Deer, &c. in great Plenty. The Months of May, June and July, are the Seasons for Fruit , which are the same Sort that we meet with in the Kingdom of Siam, except the Thourean, or Doarion, and Mangeuiton.
Five Days Journey from Mobang leng towards the North there are Mines of Gold, Silver, Copper, and a kind of Red Sulphur of a very strong Smell; 200 Senes from the same City, and the same Side, there is a Pit or Mine of Precious Stones full 100 Senes deep from whence they get Rubies, some of which are as large as a Walnut. There are also in the same Place a kind of Green Stones, or Emeralds, and it is said that the King of Labos hath one as large as an Orange ; there are also Stones of several other Colours. There is a Brook which runs thro' this Mine, and carries several along With its Stream, of which they sometimes gather an Ounce weight at a time. As for the Silver Mine, the King receives from it 560 Catis yearly, they are Chinese who work in the Mines, and refine the Silver :The Mountains in which it is dug are 300 Senes in height, they are quite covered with Grass, which the Dew preserves continually fresh and green.
There is also found here a Physical Root, which the Chinese call tong covei, and a kind of a Tree called Vende jang, which bears Flowers as thick as one's Finger, yielding a very delicious Smell; when these Flowers open they are of several Colours, as red, yellow, White, and black, and when the Fruit comes to Perfection it is of the Shape of a Duck. There are in this Country a great Number of these Trees, especially where the Dew falls most.
The inhabitants of Mobang leng trade with their Neighbours, without giving themselves the Trouble of going amongst them. Their Commodities are chiefly Precious Stones, Gold, Silver, Tin, Lead, Sulphur, Cotton, and Skeins of Cotton, Tea, Lac, Brasil Wood, the Physical Root Tong koui.
The Merchants of Mobang lee bring Elephants to trade with, the Chinese raw and manufactured Silk, Musk, white Hair as fine as Silk, which they get from a certain Animal ; of this Hair they make the large Tufts that adorn the Ears of the Elephants, which the King of Siam rides upon, and which hangs down to the Ground, as well as the red Tufts wore by the Chinese in their ordinary Caps or Hats.
The Merchants which come from Tai yai, which lyes Westward, import Iron, red and yellow Sandal Wood, Linen Cloth, printed Callicoes, Venison, a kind of red Physical paste, and other Merchandises from Indoustan.
Those of M. Kemaral and M. Kiang go to M. Leng to fell their Cows and Buffaloes for Silver, Tin and Sulphur, M. Leng is tributary to Havau, and an Ambassador is sent every Year to pay their Tribute ; this does not hinder the Labos from appointing a Successor when the King dies, but they are obliged to inform the King of Havau thereof.
The King of Lahos has but one Minister, who takes Cognisance of the Affairs of State. There are reckoned eight Cities or Places in this Kingdom, which have each of them a Garrison of l000 Men; besides the 360 Catis, which he has yearly from the Mine at the North of M. Leng, he raises 860 more in the rest of the Kingdom.
Mobang Meng, the Capital of a particular Province, hath on the West M. Pan and M. Kaa, on the South M. Ssee, on the East M. Tcheong and M. Kou, all which depend on Moang Vinan ; this whole Country is on this side the Tropick, so that the Sun is never directly over their Heads.
The Province of M. Heng is seventeen Days journey from North to South, and about seven from East to West ; there are seven Cities which depend of the Capital ; a great River runs cross it, which rises in a Mountain of the North, and loses it self in Menang cong.
Menang cong having run by M. Lee, M. Kiang, and M. Lantchung, it enters the Kingdom of Camboye, crosses it, and falls into the Sea at the Bar of Basach , this River carries large Barks from M. Kiang kang and M. Kiang Seng as far as the Sea.
The Soil of M. Meng produces all sorts of Fruits which are found in Siam, except the Dourion and Mangouston ; towards the West it hath Mines of Tin, on the North are Mines of Silver, Copper and Iron, and on the South there is one of Salt.
The Chinese traffick with M. Heng, and import their Merchandises upon Horses ; they take in this District the Animals that produce Musk; there are also many of them in the District of M. Tai yai ; the Animal that produces Musk is as large as a little Goat, its Body yields a very agreeable Perfume ; it has under its Belly a Purse three or four times as thick as one's Thumb ; when they cut it off it seems like a Piece of Grease or Bacon; they dry it till it is of a Consistence that may be powdered, and then fell it in the Country for the same Weight in Silver; the Powder is yellowish, and of a most delicate Scent. The Natives are forbid to sell the true Bags to Strangers, for which reason they make a counterfeit Sort of the Skin of the Animal, which they fill with its Blood and other Humours, to which they add rotten Woods, and tye it up, and dry it. The Peasants bring great Quantities to M. Meng, which they exchange for things of little Value, and those of M. Meng sell it for a great Price to Strangers. Bookmark
Mohang Kemaral is a kind of Capital of a District of the same Name, it is about 400 Senes in compass, and eight Days Journey in length, and is tributary to Havou at the time when the Chinese passed tbro' the Country, their King was called Pra tchiao olang, they send Ambassadors yearly to the King of Havou to carry their Tribute, which consists of two small Shrubs, one having its Leaves and Flowers of Gold, and the other of Silver.
There are eleven Cities or Colonies in the District of Kamarett, they are acquainted in those Parts With the Use of Fire-Arms, and have great and small Cannon, Muskets, Darts, and Crossbows.
When the Tartars attempted to make themselves masters of China, a great Number of Chinese Fugitives from the Province of Yun nan dispossessed their Neighbours of their Land, and settled there themselves, and the Inhabitants of Kamarret were forced to abandon their City.
Before the Chinese had driven them away, they came regularly every Year to trade with this people, and imported from China Velvets, Silks, Camlets, Carpets, Hair, blew and black Cotton Cloths, Musk, Quicksilver, Chinese Hats or Caps, Kettles and other Utensils of Copper, green Jewels, Gold, Silver and China Ware, instead of which they carried away Cotton-Thread, Ivory, Salt of Earth, Physical Paste called Judam, another sort of Physical Wood, called Ingo by the Portuguese and Maba ing by the Siamese, Opium, a kind of Medicinal Root called Cot so : All these Merchandise were brought from Havau, and the Chinese came fetch them in the Months January, February and March, with a Design to return to China in the Month of April.
M. Tchai or M. Vinan is a Province of China, and probably the Province of Yun nan; for the Chinese Memoirs speak of four Rivers which take their Rise in it, whereof the first takes its Course into the Province of Quang Dong, the second pass'd by M. Tchiang long and M. Lun tchang, the third by M. Motima, and is call'd Menang keng, the fourth runs by M. Hava, and is called Menan kiou, and all four leaving the province of Yun nan at length discharge themselves into the Sea.