Page:EB1911 - Volume 05.djvu/95

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rivers and innumerable torrents, and at flood-time serves as a reservoir for the Mekong, with which it is connected by a channel some 70 m. long, known as the Bras du Lac and joining the river at Pnom-Penh. In June the waters of the Mekong, swollen by the rains and the melting of the Tibetan snows, rise to a height of 40 to 4 5 ft. and flow through the Bras du Lac towards the lake, which then covers an area of 770 sq. m., and like the river inundates the marshes and forests on its borders. During the dry season the current reverses and the depression empties so that the lake shrinks to an area of 100 sq. m., and its depth falls from 45-48 ft. to a maximum of 5 ft. Tonlé-Sap probably represents the chief wealth of Cambodia. It supports a fishing population of over 30,000, most of whom are Annamese; the fish, which are taken by means of large nets at the end of the inundation, are either dried or fermented for the production of the sauce known as nuoc-mam. The northern and western provinces of Cambodia which fall outside the densely populated zone of inundation are thinly peopled; they consist of plateaus, in many places thickly wooded and intersected by mountains, the highest of which does not exceed 5000 ft. The region to the east of the Mekong is traversed by spurs of the mountains of Annam and by affluents of the. Mekong, the most important of these being the Se-khong and the Tonle-srepok, which unite to flow into the Mekong at Stung-treng. Small islands, inhabited by a fishing population, fringe the west coast.

  Climate, Fauna and Flora.—The climate of Cambodia, like that of Cochin China, which it closely resembles, varies with the monsoons. During the north-east monsoon, from the middle of October to the middle of April, dry weather prevails and the thermometer averages from 77° to 80° F. During the south-west monsoon, from the middle of April to the middle of October, rain falls daily and the temperature varies between 85° and 95°. The wild animals of Cambodia include the elephant, which is also domesticated, the rhinoceros, buffalo and some species of wild ox; also the tiger, panther, leopard and honey-bear. Wild boars, monkeys and rats abound and are the chief enemies of the cultivator. The crocodile is found in the Mekong, and there are many varieties of reptiles, some of them venomous. The horse of Cambodia is only from 11 to 12 hands in height, but is strong and capable of great endurance; the buffalo is the chief draught animal. Swine are reared in large numbers. Nux vomica, gamboge, caoutchouc, cardamoms, teak and other valuable woods and gums are among the natural products.

  People.—The Cambodians have a far more marked affinity with their Siamese than with their Annamese neighbours. The race is probably the result of a fusion of the Malay aborigines of Indo-China with the Aryan and Mongolian invaders of the country. The men are taller and more muscular than the Siamese and Annamese, while the women are small and inclined to stoutness. The face is flat and wide, the nose short, the mouth large and the eyes only slightly oblique. The skin is dark brown, the hair black and, while in childhood the head is shaved with the exception of a small tuft at the top, in later life it is dressed so as to resemble a brush. Both sexes wear the langouti or loincloth, which the men supplement with a short jacket, the women with a long scarf draped round the figure or with a long clinging robe. Morose, superstitious, and given to drinking and gambling, the Cambodians are at the same time clean, fairly intelligent, proud and courageous. The wife enjoys a respected position and divorce may be demanded by either party. Polygamy is almost confined to the richer classes. Though disinclined to work, the Cambodians make good hunters and woodsmen. Many of them live on the borders of the Mekong and the great lake, in huts built upon piles or floating rafts. The religion of Cambodia is Buddhism, and involves great respect towards the dead; the worship of spirits or local genii is also wide-spread, and Brahmanism is still maintained at the court. Monks or bonzes are very numerous; they live by alms and in return they teach the young to read, and superintend coronations, marriages, funerals and the other ceremonials which play a large part in the lives of the Cambodians. As in the rest of Indo-China, there is no hereditary nobility, but there exist castes founded on blood-relationship—the members of the royal family within the fifth degree (the Brah-Vansa) those beyond the fifth degree (Brah-Van), and the Bakou, who, as descendants of the ancient Brahmans, exercise certain official functions at the court. These castes, as well as the mandarins, who form a class by themselves, are exempt from tax or forced service. The mandarins are nominated by the king and their children have a position at court, and are generally chosen to fill the vacant posts in the administration. Under the native regime the common people attached themselves to one or other of the mandarins, who in return granted them the protection of his influence. Under French rule, which has modified the old usages in many respects, local government of the Annamese type tends to supplant this feudal system. Slavery was abolished by a royal ordinance of 1897.
  Cambodian idiom bears a likeness to some of the aboriginal dialects of south Indo-China; it is agglutinate in character and rich in vowel-sounds. The king'language and the royal writing, and also religious words are, however, apparently of Aryan origin and akin to Pali. Cambodian writing is syllabic and complicated. The books (manuscripts) are generally formed of palm leaves upon which the characters are traced by means of a style.

  Industry and Commerce.—Iron, worked by the tribe of the Kouis, is found in the mountainous region. The Cambodians show skill in working gold and silver; earthenware, bricks, mats, fans and silk and cotton fabrics, are also produced to some small extent, but fishing and the cultivation of rice and in a minor degree of tobacco, coffee, cotton, pepper, indigo, maize, tea and sugar are the only industries worthy of the name. Factories exist near Pnom-Penh for the shelling of cotton-seeds. The Cambodian is his own artificer and self-sufficing so far as his own needs are concerned. Rice, dried fish, beans, pepper and oxen are the chief elements in the export trade of the country, which is in the hands of Chinese. The native plays little or no part in commerce.

  Trade is carried on chiefly through Saigon in Cochin-China, Kampot, the only port of Cambodia, being accessible solely to coasting vessels. With the exception of the highway from Pnom-Penh (q.'v.) the capital, to Kampot, the roads of Cambodia are not suited for vehicles. Pnom-Penh communicates regularly by the steamers of the “ Messageries Fluviales ” by way of the Mekong with Saigon.

  Administration.—At the head of the government is the king (rāj). His successor is either nominated by himself, in which case he sometimes abdicates in his favour, or else elected by the five chief mandarins from among the Brah Vansa. The upayuvrāj (obbaioureach) or king who has abdicated, the heir-presumptive (uparāj, obbareach) and the first princess of the blood are high dignitaries with their own retinues. The king is advised by a council of five ministers, the superior members of the class of mandarins; and the kingdom is divided into about fifty provinces administered by members of that body. France is represented by a resident superior, who presides over the ministerial council and is the real ruler of the country, and by residents exercising supervision in the districts into which the country is split up for the purposes of the French administration. In each residential district there is a council, composed of natives and presided over by the resident, which deliberates on questions affecting the district. The resident superior is assisted by the protectorate council, consisting of heads of French administrative departments (chief of the judicial service, of public works, &c.) and one native “ notable, ” and the royal orders must receive its sanction before they can be executed. The control of foreign policy, public works, the customs and the exchequer are in French hands, while the management of police, the collection of the direct taxes and the administration of justice between natives remain with the native government. A French tribunal alone is competent to settle disputes Where one of the parties is not a native.

The following is a. summary of the local budget of Cambodia
for 1899 and 1904:—   Receipts.     Expenditure.

              1899    .     .     £235,329        £188,654

              1904    .     .       250,753           229,880