Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/342

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330
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

latter case, the Kacheen believe that the dead are changed into evil spirits, and for that reason young women have an indescribable horror of such a death.

It is evident from these facts that the religion of the Kacheen has nothing in common with Buddhism. Their religion includes the belief in a Supreme Being who has created everything, in a heaven and a hell, and a future state of rewards and punishments; but the views of individuals do not give the slightest clew to a clear definition of their faith. The mountaineers, however, all agree in a cultus, which consists in giving honors to the so-called Nats, or tutelary genii. They also believe that the spirits of murdered persons, under the name of Munda, make the mountains unsafe, and that they take possession of those persons over whom a similar fate is pending. The Kacheen have an unwritten language, and a very primitive method of computing time. Their year begins on the day when they begin to eat the newly harvested rice, and ends on the day that a dish of fresh rice is again gathered.

Slavery has existed among them from a considerable antiquity. Boys and girls are stolen in Assam and sold to wealthy Kacheenese. A young slave is worth about twenty dollars, a full-grown man only about ten dollars. The lot of the slaves is not very hard, and their children are regarded as more or less members of the family.

The food of the people consists of rice, beans, pork, and dried fish imported from Burmah. The men eat separately from the women.

Their towns are composed of from three to ten houses, each of which is surrounded by a stone-wall about six feet high. We were always required to dismount before passing the wall, for the mountaineers have religious scruples against allowing persons to ride on horseback into their courts. The houses are light bamboo structures, without iron or stone work. A north-and-south passage leads into the interior, which strangers are allowed to enter only from the south. First we passed a stable, whose fence was adorned with the horned skulls of buffaloes, and the marshy floor of which yielded at every step. A few steps led to the dwelling-house proper, which appeared to be divided into a western and an eastern half. The western part consisted of a series of closed rooms, the eastern half of three apartments open toward the long passage, in the middle and largest of which was built the hearth, where a fire was constantly kept up.

The head of the house and his family live in the inclosed rooms, the domestics and slaves in the opposite rooms. The floors are of plank, and kept clean, and the ceiling is identical with the smoke-blackened roof. The whole house is built on piles. The few other domestic buildings are grouped around the inclosure-walls, and are commonly situated on the edge of the thick and gloomy forest.

The Kacheen call all their chiefs, who rule each over a small territory, Tsobwa. The Tsobwa receives yearly from his subjects as tithes