Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/794

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
776
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
INCIDENTS OF CAMBODIAN LIFE.

By ADHÉMARD LECLÈRE.

THE Cambodian woman carries her child a-straddle of her left hip, with her arm passed round its little body. She rarely leaves it, except to attend to something in the house or the yard; and this custom of carrying the child thus is followed up so constantly that one shoulder of the woman finally becomes higher than the other. When the mother goes to the rice fields, or to the village, or so far that this method of carrying it becomes fatiguing, she puts the child into a shawl and carries it on her back. In the house, the baby sleeps on a mat, on which the mother has thrown an old sampot (cloth), so as to raise its head a little higher than the body, or in a shawl hung as a hammock, or in a hammock made of a quartered bamboo, the ends of which are whole. The child is naked, but when it is cold in the morning it is given a shawl or a piece of sampot for a covering, and is carefully covered at night. Boys go naked till they are six, seven, or eight years old, but after that age they put on a sampot; girls are dressed when they are four years old. In some parts of the country the children, otherwise nude, wear a small plate of ornamented silver in front. It is also a general custom to hang pieces of money, ancient or modern, from the neck, and rings of silver or gold on their arms and ankles. Mothers too poor to give them jewels tie a piece of cord that has been blessed by a wizard around their necks. The ears of girls are bored very early, sometimes even before they can walk, and cotton threads are inserted, to be replaced in time by gold or silver earrings. The heads of children are shaved often — to harden them, the Cambodians say — but at the age of three or four years a circular tuft is permitted to grow on the top of the head, and when the hair in this spot has reached a certain length it is bound and fastened with a pin of gold, silver, copper, or wood.

Cambodian children, it seems to me, are not as precocious as European children, favorable as the climate is to them. Thus we do not find in Cambodia (or in Annam, Tonquin, or Cochin China) babies beginning to walk in their tenth or ninth month, and I have never seen any who could speak correctly in their third year, although in France we have little gentlemen and young dames who are in their second year already very talkative and very important personages. The children of the Cambodians are generally pretty till they are about twelve years old, with more regular features than they will have afterward; and it is pleasant to find in them some of the resemblance to their Indian ancestors, which has been absorbed with the features of a more numer-