Friday, October 2, 2009

A NEW HISTORICAL RELATION OF THE KINGDOM OF SIAM

Simone de La Loubère (1642-1729) was born in Toulouse of a distinguished family and educated there, before going to Paris where he took part in salon and literary life. He became Secretary to the French Ambassador to Switzerland in 1676, and this led to his appointment by Louis XIV in 1687 as Envoy Extraordinary to King Narai of Siam, in tandem with Claude Céberet, a director of the French Indies Company, who was to cover the commercial aspects of the embassy.


Chaumont (envoy of the first embassy, previous to La Loubère's) presenting a letter from King Louis XIV to King Narai on 18th October 1685. Chaumont commissioned this painting himself. It shows how he held the letter just out of reach of King Narai, forcing him to lean down to take it. Phaulkon is on the floor gesturing to Chaumont to raise it higher. (Drawn by Jean-Baptiste Nolin).

The mission was more an expedition, accompanied by numerous troops, led by General Desfarges, who was to fortify and, if necessary, take by force Bangkok and the outpost of Mergui. The embassy was not a diplomatic success, largely on account of the machinations of the Jesuit Father Tachard, who maintained close links with Phaulkon, Narai’s chief minister, and Father de la Chaize, Louis XIV’s confessor. Because of Tachard, La Loubère was inevitably brought into conflict with Phaulkon, and his return journey with a paranoid Tachard in the next cabin accusing La Loubère of poking holes in the wall to read his papers was not pleasant. La Loubère consoled himself by passing money and books to the young musician in Tachard’s company, Andre Cardinal-Destouches, and writing notes for his magisterial survey of Siam, one of the best accounts ever written of the country, which first appeared in French in 1691 and in English two years later. (Michael Smithies).

The Occasion and Design of this Work.

At my return from the Voyage I made to Siam, in quality of his Most Christian Majesties Envoy Extraordinary, they whose right it is to command, requir'd me to render them an exact account of the things, which I had seen or learnt in that Country; which will be the whole matter of this work. Others have sufficiently informed the Public of the Circumstances of this long Voyage: But as to what concerns the Description of a Country, we cannot have too many relations, if we would perfectly know it: the last always illustrating the former. But that it may be known from what time I write, I shall declare only that we set Sail from Brest on the First of March, Anno 1687. That we cast Anchor in the Road of Siam the 27th of September, in the same Year. That we departed thence for our return the 3d of January, 1688. And that we landed at Brest the 27th of July following.

My design is therefore to treat first of the Country of Siam, its Extent, Fertility, and the qualities of its Soil and Climate: Secondly, I will explain the manners of the Siameses in general, and then their particular Customs according to their various Qualities. Their Government and Religion shall be comprehended in the last part; and I flatter my self that the farther the Reader shall advance in the perusal of this work, the more he will find it worthy of Curiosity; by reason that the Nature and Genius of the Siameses, which I have every where endeavoured to penetrate into, will be discovered more and more. In fine, not to stay on things, which would not please every one, or which would interrupt my Narrative too much, I will at the end insert several Memoirs which I brought from this Country, and which I cannot suppress without injuring the Curiosity of the Public. But notwithstanding this precaution, I do yet enlarge on certain matters beyond the relish of some, I intreat them to consider that general expressions do never afford just Idea's; and that this is to proceed no farther than the superficial Knowledge of things. 'Tis out of this desire of making the Siameses perfectly known, that I give several notices of the other Kingdoms of the Indies and of China: For though rigorously taken, all this may appear foreign to my Subject, yet to me it seems that the Comparison of the things of Neighbouring Countries with each other, does greatly illustrate them. I hope also that a pardon will be granted me for the Siamese names, which I relate and explain. These remarks will make other relations intelligible as well as mine, which without these Illustrations might sometimes cause a doubt concerning what I assert.

In a word, those with whom I am acquainted do know that I love the Truth; but it is not sufficient to give a sincere relation to make it appear true: 'Tis requisite to add clearness to sincerity, and to be thoroughly inform'd of that wherein we undertake to instruct others. I have therefore considered, interrogated, and penetrated, as far as it was possible; and to render my self more capable of doing it, I carefully read over, before my arrival at Siam, several Antient and Modern Relations of divers Countreys of the East. So that in my opinion this preparation has supplied the defect of a longer residence, and has me to remark and understand in the three Months I was at Siam, what I could not perhaps have understood or remark'd in three Years, without the assistance and perusal of those Discourses.

I. Its Geographical Description.

How much the Kingdom is unknown; Its Frontier Northward; The City of Chiamai and its Lake; The Country of Siam is only a Valley; Cities seated on the River; The Gardens of Bancok; Other Cities on the Menam; Another River likewise called Menam; Cities of Wood; The superstition of the Siameses at Meuang-fang; Another Superstition at Prabrat; What it is; The Original of this Superstition.

Navigation has sufficiently made known the Sea Coasts of the Kingdom of Siam, and many Authors have described them; but they know almost nothing of the Inland Country, because the Siameses have not made a Map of their Country, or at least know how to keep it secret. That which I here present is the work of an European, who went up the Menam, the principal River of the Country, to the Frontiers of the Kingdom; but was not skilful enough to give all the Positions with an entire exactness. Besides he has not seen all; and therefore I thought it necessary to give his Map to Mr. Cassini, Director of the Observatory at Paris, to correct it by some Memorials which were given me at Siam. Nevertheless I know it to be still defective; but yet it fails not to give some notices of this Kingdom which were never heard of, and of being more exact in those we already have.

Its Frontiers extend Northward to the 22d. Degree, or thereabouts; and the Road which terminates the Gulf of Siam, being almost at the Latitude of 13 degrees and a half, it follows, that this whole extent, of which we hardly have any knowledge, runs about 170 Leagues in a direct Line, reckoning 20 Leagues to a degree of Latitude, after the manner of our Seamen.

The Siameses do say that the City of Chiamai is fifteen days journey more to the North, than the Frontiers of their Kingdom, that is to say at most, between sixty and seventy Leagues; for they are Journeys by water, and against the Stream. ‘Tis about thirty years since their King, as they report, took this City, and abandon’d it, after having carried away all the People; and it has been since repeopled by the King of Ava, to whom Pegu does at present render Obedience. But the Siameses which were at that expedition, do not know that famous Lake, from whence our Geographers make the River Menam arise, and to which, according to them, this City gives its Names: which makes me to think either that it is more distant than our Geographers have conceived, or that there is no such Lake. It may also happen that this City adjoyning to several Kingdoms, and being more subject than another to be ruined by War, has not always been rebuilt in the same place: And this is not difficult to imagine of the Cities which in their destruction leave not any Ruines nor Foundations. However it may be doubted, whether the Menam springs from a Lake, by reason it is so small at its entrance into the Kingdom of Siam, that for about fifty Leagues, it carries only little Boats capable of holding no more than four or five Persons at most.

The Kingdom of Siam is bounded from the East to the North by high Mountains, which separate it from the Kingdom of Laos, and on the North and West by others, which divide it from the Kingdoms of Pegu and Ava. This double Chain of Mountains (inhabited by a few, savage, and poor, but yet free People, whose Life is innocent) leaves between them a great Valley, containing in some places between fourscore and an hundred Leagues in bredth, and is watered from the City of Chiamai to the Sea, that is to say from the North to the South, with an excellent River which the Siameses call Menam, or Mother-water, to signify, a great water, which being increased by the Brooks and Rivers it receives on every side, from the Mountains I have mentioned, discharges it self at last into the Gulph of Siam by three mouths, the most navigable of which is that toward the East.

On this River, and about seven Miles from the Sea, is seated the City of Bancok: and I shall transiently declare, that the Siameses have very few habitations on their Coasts, which are not far distant from thence; but are almost all seated on Rivers navigable enough to afford them the Commerce of the Sea. As to the names of most of these places, which for this reason may be called Martitime, they are disguised by Foreigners. Thus the City of Bancok is called Fon in Siamese, it not being known from whence the name Bancok is derived, altho there be several Siamese Names, that begin with the word Ban, which signifies a Village.

The Gardens which are in the Territory of Bancok, for the space of four Leagues, in ascending towards the City of Siam to a place named Talacoan, do supply this City with the Nourishment which the Natives of the Country love best, I mean a great quantity of Fruit.

The other principal places which the Menam waters, are, Me-Tac the first City of the Kingdom to the North, North-West, and then successively Tian-Tong, Campeng-pet or Campeng simple, which some do pronounce Campingue, Laconcevan, Tchainat, Siam, Talacoan, Talaqueou, and Bancok: Between the two Cities of Tchainat and Siam, and at a distance, which the Mæanders of the River do render almost equal from each other, the River leaves the City of Louvo a little to the East, at the 14d. 42 m. 32 S. of Latitude, according to observations which the Jesuits have published. The King of Siam does there spend the greatest part of the year, the more commodiously to enjoy the diversion of Hunting: but Louvo would not be habitable, were it not for a channel cut from the River to water it. The City of Me-Tac renders obedience to an Hereditary Lord, who, they say, is a Vassal to the King of Siam, whom some call Paya-Tac, or Prince of Tac. Tian-Tong is ruin’d, doubtless by the Ancient Wars of Pegu. Campeng is known by the Mines of excellent Steel.

At the City of Laconcevan the Menam receives another considerableRiver which comes also from the North, and is likewise called Menam, a name common to all great Rivers. Our Geographers make it to spring from the Lake of Chiamai: but it is certain that its source in the Mountains, which lye not so much to the North as this City. It runs first to Meuang-fang, then to Pitchiai, Pitsanoulouc, and Pitchit, and at last to Laconcevan, where it mixes, as I have said with the other River.

Pitsanoulouc, which the Portuguese do corruptly call Porselouc has formerly had hereditary Lords, like the City of Me-Tac: and Justice is at present executed in the Palace of Ancient Princes. ‘Tis a City of great commerce, fortified with fourteen Bastions, and is at 19 degrees and some minutes Latitude.

Laconcevan stands about the mid-way from Pitsanoulouc or Porselouc to Siam, a distance computed to be Twenty five days Journey, for those that go up the River in a Boat or Balon; but this voyage may be performed in twelve days when they have a great many Rowers, and they ascend the River with speed.

These Cities, like all the rest in the Kingdom of Siam, are only a great number of Cabbins frequently environ’d with an enclosure of Wood, and sometimes with a Brick, or Stone Wall, but very rarely of Stone. Nevertheless as the Eastern people have ever had as much magnificence and pride in the figures of their Language, as simplicity and poverty in whatever appertains to Life, the names of these Cities do signify great things; Tian-Tong, for instance, signifies True Gold; Campeng-pet, Walls of Diamond; and ‘tis said that its Walls are of Stone: and Laconcevan signifies the Mountain of Heaven.

But as for what concerns Meuang-fang, the word Fang being the name of a Tree famous for dying, and which the Portuguese have called Sapan; some interpret it the City of Wood Sapan. And because that there is kept a Tooth, which is pretended to be a Relick of Sommona-Codom, to whose Memory the Siameses do erect all their Temples; there are some who call not this City Meuang-fang, but Meuang-fan, or the City of the Tooth. The superstition of these people continually draws thither a great number of Pilgrims, not Siameses only, but from Pegu, and Laos.

Such another Superstition prevails at a place named Pra-bat, about five or six leagues to the East-North-East of the City of Louvo; the superstition is this; In the Balie Language, which is the learned tongue of the Siamese, or the Tongue of their Religion, Bat signifies a Foot, and the word Pra, of which it is not possible exactly to render signification, signifies in the same tongue whatever may be conceived worthy of veneration and respect. The Siameses do give this title to the Sun and Moon, but they do also give it to Sommona-Codom, to their Kings, and some considerable Officers.

Rhinoceros horn was one of the exotic products of the forest of Siam much prized by foreign traders. The killing of a rhinoceros was a slow and cruel business. (Ayutthaya Venice of the East by Derick Garnier.)

The Prabat is therefore the print of a mans foot, cut by an ill Graver upon a Rock; but this impression containing about 13 or 14 inches in depth, is five or six times as long as a man’s Foot, and proportionally is broad. The Siameses adore it, and are perswaded that the Elephants, especially the white ones, the Rhinoceros, and all the other Beasts of their Woods, do likewise go to worship it when no person is there; And the King of Siam himself goes to adore it once a year with a great deal of Pomp and Ceremony. It is covered with a Plate of Gold, and inclosed in a Chappel which is there built. They report that this Rock which is now very flat and like a new mown Field, was formerly a very high Mountain, which shrunk and waxed level on a sudden under the Foot of Sommona-Codom, in memory of whom they believe that the Impression of the Foot does there remain. Nevertheless it is certain by the Testimony of ancient men, that the Antiquity of this Tradition exceeds 90 years. A Talapoin, or Religious Siamese, of that time, having doubtless made this Impression himself, or procured it to be made, and then feigned to have miraculously discovered it; and without any other appearance of Truth, gave Reputation and Credit to this Fable of the levell’d Mountain.

Now in all this the Siameses are only gross Imitators. In the Histories of India it is related, with what respect a King of the Island of Ceylon kept an Apes Tooth, which the Indians averred to be a Relique, and with what Sums he endeavoured to purchase and ransom it from Constantine of Brigantium, then Viceroy of the Indies, who had found it amongst the Spoils taken from the Indians. But Constantine chose rather to burn it, and afterwards throw the Ashes into a River. ‘Tis known likewise that in the same Island of Ceylon, which the Indians do call Lanca, and on a real Mountain which is not levelled, there is a pretended print of a Man’s foot, which has for a long time been in great Veneration there. It doubtless represents the Left foot: For the Siameses report that Sommona-Codom set his right foot on their Prabat, and his left on Lanca; altho the whole Gulph of Bengala runs between them.

The Portuguese have called the Print at Ceylon Adam’s Foot, and believe that Ceylon was the Terrestrial Paradise, from the Faith of the Indians at Ceylon, who declare that the Impression which they reverence, is the Print of the first Man inhabited in their Country. Thus the Chinese do call the first man Puoncuò, and believe that he inhabited China. I say nothing of some other Impressions of this nature, which are rever’d in several places of the Indies; nor of the pretended print of Hercules foot, mentioned by Herodotus. I return to my subject.

II. A Continuation of the Geographical Description of the Kingdom of Siam, with an Account of its Metropolis.

Other Cities of the Kingdom of Siam; A Country intersected with Channels; The City of Siam described; Its Names; The true Name of the Siameses signifies Frances; Two of the People are Siameses; Other Mountains, Other Frontiers; The Coast of Siam; Isles of Siam in the Bay of Bengal; The City of Merguy.

On the Frontiers of Pegu is seated the City of Cambory, and on the borders of Laos the Town of Corazema, which some do call Carissima, both very Famous. And in the Lands which lie between the Rivers above the City of Laconcevan, and on the Channels which have a Communication from one River to the other, there are two other considerable Cities, Socotai, almost in the same Latitude with Pitchit, and Sanquelouc more to the North.

The Country being so hot that it is inhabitable only near Rivers, the Siameses have cut a great many Channels; and without having better Memoirs or Notes, ‘tis impossible to reckon up all the Cities seated thereon.

‘Tis by the means of these Channels, called by the Siameses Cloum, that the City of Siam is not only become an island, but is placed in the middle of several Islands, which renders the situation thereof very singular. The Isle wherein it is situated, is at present all inclosed within its walls, which certainly was not in the time of Ferdinand Mendez-Pinto; if notwithstanding the continual mistakes of this Author, who seems to rely too much on his memory, we may believe what he says, that the Elephants of the King of Pegu, who then besieged the City of Siam, did so nearly approach the Walls, as with their Trunks to beat down the Palisado’s which the Siameses had there placed to cover themselves.

Its Latitude, according to Father Thomas the Jesuit, is 14 d. 20 m. 40 S. and its Longitude 120 d. 30 m. It has almost the figure of a Purse, the mouth of which is to the East, and the bottom to the West. The River meets it at the North by several Channels, which run into that which environs it; and leaves it on the South, by separating itself again into several streams. The King’s Palace stands to the North on the Canal which embraces the City; and by turning to the East, there is a Causey, by which alone, as by an Isthmus, People may go out of the City without crossing the water.

The City is spacious, considering the Circuit of its Walls, which, as I have said, incloses the whole Isle; but scarce the sixth part thereof is inhabited, and that to the South-East only. The rest lies desart, where the Temples only stand. ‘Tis true that the Suburbs, which are possessed by strangers, do considerably increase the number of People. The streets thereof are large and strait, and in some places planted with Trees, and paved with Bricks laid edgewise. The Houses are low, and built with Wood; at least those belonging to the Natives, who, for these Reasons, are exposed to all the Inconveniences of the excessive heat. Most of the streets are watered with strait Canals, which have made Siam to be compar’d to Venice, and on which are a great many small Bridges of Hurdles, and some of Brick very high and ugly.

The Name of Siam is unknown to the Siamese. ‘Tis one of those words which the Portuguese of the Indies do use, and of which it is very difficult to discover the Original. They use it as the Name of the Nation, and not of the Kingdom: And the Names of Pegu, Lao, Mogul, and most of the Names which we give to the Indian Kingdoms, are likewise National Names; so that to speak rightly, we must say, the King of the Peguins, Loas, Mogus, Siams, as our Ancestors said, the King of the Franc’s. In a word, those that understand Portuguese, do well know that according to their Orthography, Siam and Siaom are the same thing; and that by the Similitude of our Language to theirs; we ought to say the Sions, and not the Siams: so when they write in Latin, they call them Siones.

The Siameses give to themselves the Name of Tai, or Free, as the word now signifies in their Language: And thus they flatter themselves with bearing the Name of Francs, which our Ancestors assum’d when they resolved to deliver the Gauls from the Roman power. And those that understand the Language of Pegu, affirm that Siam in that Tongue signifies Free. ‘Tis from thence perhaps that the Portuguese have derived this word, having probably known the Siameses by the Peguins. Nevertheless Navarete in his Historical Treatises of the Kingdom of China, chap. 1, art. 5. relates that the Name of Siam, which he writes Sian, comes from these two words Sien lo, without adding their signification, or of what Language they are; altho’ it may be presumed he gives them for Chinese, Meuang Tai is therefore the Siamese Name of the Kingdom of Siam (for Meuang signifies Kingdom) and this word wrote simply Muantay, is found in Vincent le Blanc, and is several Geographical Maps, as the Name of the Kingdom adjoining Pegu: But Vincent le Blanc apprehended not that this was the Kingdom of Siam, not imagining perhaps that Siam and Tai were two different Names of the same People.

As for the City of Siam, the Siameses do call it Si-yo-thi-ya, the o of the Syllable yo being closer than our Dipthong au. Sometimes also they call it Crung-the-papra maha nacon: But most of these words are difficult to understand, because they are taken from this Baly Language which I have already declared to be the learned Language of the Siameses, and which they themselves do not always perfectly understand. I have already remarked what I know concerning the word Pra, that of Maha signifies Great. Thus in speaking of their King, they stile him Pra Maha Crassat; and the word Crassat, according to their report signifies living; and because the Portuguese have thought that Pra signifies God, they imagin that the Siameses called their King, The great living God. From Si-yo thi ya, the Siamese Name of the City of Siam, Foreigners have made Judia, and Odiaa, by which it appears that Vincent le Blanc, and some other Authors, do very ill distinguish Odiaa from Siam:

In a word, the Siameses, of whom I treat, do call themselves Tai Noi, little Siams. There are others, as I was informed, altogether savage, which are called Tai yai, great Siams, and which do live in the Northern Mountains. It several Relations of these Countries, I find a Kingdom of Siammon, or Siami: but all do not agree that the People thereof are savage.

In fine, the Mountains which lie on the common Frontiers of Ava, Pegu and Siam, gradually decreasing as they extend to the South, do form the Peninsula of India extra Gangem, which terminating at the City of Sincapura, separates the Gulphs of Siam and Begala, and which with the Island of Sincapura, separates the Gulphs of Siam and Bengala, and which with the Island of Sumatra forms the famous Strait of Malaca, or Sincapura. Several Rivers do fall from every part of the Mountains into the Gulphs of Siam and Bengala, and render these Coasts habitable. The other Mountains which rise between the Kingdom of Siam and Laos, and extend themselves also towards the South, do run gradually decreasing, till they terminate at the Cape of Camboya, the most Eastern of all those in the Continent of Asia toward the South. ‘Tis about the Latitude of this Cape, that the Gulph of Siam begins; and the Kingdom of this Name extends a great way towards the South in form on an Horseshoe on either side of the Gulph, viz. along the Eastern Coast to the River Chantebon, where the Kingdom of Camboya begins; and opposite thereunto, viz. in the Peninsula extra Gangem, which lies on the West of the Gulp;h of Siam, it extends to Queda and Patana, the Territories of the Malayans, of which Malaca was formerly the Metropolis.

After this manner it runs about 200 Leagues on the side toward the Gulph of Siam, and 180, or thereabouts, on the Gulph of Bengal, an advantageous situation which opens unto the Natives of the Countrey the Navigation on all these vast Eastern Seas. Add that as Nature has refus'd all manner of Ports and Roads to the Coast of Coromandel, which forms the Gulph of Bengal to the West, it has therewith enrich'd that of Siam which is opposite to it, and which is on the East of the same Gulph.

A great number of Isles do cover it, and render it almost everywhere a Harbor for Shis; besides, that most of these Isles have very excellent Ports and abundance of fresh water and wood, an invitation for new Colonies. The King of Siam affects to be called Lord thereof, altho’ his People, who are very thin in the firm Land, have never inhabited them; and he has not strength enough at Sea to prohibit or hinder the entrance thereof to strangers.

The City of Merguy lies on the North-West Point of a great and populous Island, which at the extremity of its course forms a very excellent River, which the Europeans have called Tenasserim, from the Name of a City seated on its Banks about 15 Leagues from the Sea. This River comes from the North, and after having passed through the Kingdoms of Ava and Pegu, and enter’d into the Lands under the King of Siam’s Jurisdiction, it discharges itself by three Channels into the Gulph of Bengal, and forms the Island I have mention’d. The Ports of Merguy, which some report to be the best in all India, is between this Isle and another that is inhabited, and lies opposite, and to the West of this, wherein Merguy is situated.

III. Concerning the History and Origine of the Siameses.

The Siamese little curious of their History; The Epocha of the Siameses; Their Kings; The Race of the present King; Another example of the Revolutions of Siam; A Doubt as to the Origine of the Siameses; Two Languages at Siam; What the Siameses report concerning the Origine of their Laws and Religion; Of the Balie Language; The Siamese resemble thier Neighbours; The King of Siam loves Children till 7 or 8 years old; Strangers that have come to Siam; The people the Kingdom of Siam not very numerous.

The Siamese History is full of Fables. The Books thereof are very scarce, by reason the Siameses have not the use of Printing; for upon other Accounts I doubt of the report, that they affect to conceal their History, seeing that the Chineses, whom in many things they imitate, are not so jealous of theirs. However that matter is, notwithstanding this pretended Jealousy of the Siameses, they who have attain'd to read any thing of the History of Siam, after that it ascends not very high with any character of truth.

Behold a very dry and insipid Chronological Abridgement which the Siameses have given thereof: But before we proceed, it is necessary to tell you, that the current year 1689, beginning in the month of December 1688, is the 2233 of their Æra, from which they date the Epocha, or beginning (as they say) from Sommona-Codom's death. But I am persuaded that this Epocha has quite another foundation, which I shall afterwards explain.

Their first King was named Pra Poat honne sourittep-pennaratui sonanne bopitra. The chief place where he kept his Court was called Tchai pappe Mahanacon, the situation of which I ignore; and he began to reign An. 1300. computing after their Epocha. Ten other Kings succeeded him, the last of which, named Ipoja sanne Thora Thesma Teperat, remov'd his Royal Seat to the City of Tasoo Nacora Louang, which he had built, the situation of which is also unknwon to me. The twelfth King after him, whose Name was Pra Poa Noome Thele seri, obliged all his People in 1731, to follow him to Locintai, a City seated on a River, which descends from the Mountains of Laos, and runs into the Menam a little above Porselouc, from which Lacontai is between 40 and 50 Leagues distant. But this Prince resided not always at Lacontai; for he came and built, and inhabited the City of Pipeli on a River, the mouth of which is about two Leagues to the West of the most occidental mouth of the Menam. Four other Kings succeeded him, of which Rhamatilondi, the last of the four, began to build the City of Siam in 1894, and there established his Court. By which it appears, that they allow to the City of Siam the Antiquity of 338 years. The King Regent is the twenty fifth from Rhamatilondi, and this year 1689, is the 56th or 57th of his age. Thus do they reckon 52 Kings in the space of 934 years, but not all of the same Blood.

Mr. Gervaise in his Natural and Political History of the Kingdom of Siam, gives us the History of the now Regent King's Father; and Van Vliet gives us much more circumstanciated, in his Historical Relation of the Kingdom of Siam, printed at the end of Sir Thomas Herbert's Travels into Persia. I refer the Reader thither to see an Example of Revolutions, which are common at Siam: for this King who was not of the Royal Race, tho' Vliet asserts the contrary, took away the Scepter and Life of his Natural Lords, and put to death all the Princes of their Blood except two, which were alive when Vliet writ, but of whom I could not learn any News. Without all doubt this Usurper put them to death like the rest. And in truth, John Struys, in the First Tome of his Voyages, asserts that this was the Fate of the last of these two Princes, who was alive in the year 1650, and was then 20 years old; the Tyrant put him to death that very year, with one of his Sisters, upon an Accusation notoriously false: But a remarkable Circumstance of the History of his Usurpations, was, that entering by force of Arms into the Palace, he forced the King to quit it, and flie into a Temple for refuge; and having drag'd this unfortunate Prince out of this Temple, and carry'd him back a Prisoner to the Palace, he caus'd him to be declared unworthy of the Crown and Government, for having deserted the Palace. To this Usurper who died in 1657, after a Reign of 30 years, succeeded his Brother; because his Son could not, or durst not then to dispute the Crown with him. On the contracry, to secure his Life, he sought a Sanctuary in a Cloyster, and cloath'd himself with the inviolable Habit of a Talapoin. But he afterwards so politickly took his measures, that he disposess'd his Uncle, who flying from the Palace on his Elephant, was slain by a Portuguese with a Musquet.

Ferdinand Mendes Pinto relates that the King of Siam, who reigned in 1547, and to whom he gives great Praises, was poyson'd by the Queen his Wife at his return from a military Expedition. This Princess deliberated thus to prevent the vengeance of her Husband, by reason that during his absence she had maintain'd an amorous Commerce, by which she prov'd with Child. And this Author adds, that she soon after destroy'd the King her own Son in the same manner, and had the Credit to get the Crown set upon her Lover's Head the 11th of November 1548. But in January 1549, they were both assassinated in a Temple, and a Bastard Prince, the Brother and Uncle of the two last Kings, was taken out of a Cloyster to be advanced to the Throne. The Crowns of Asia are always instable, and those of India, China and Japan, much more than the others.

As for what concerns the Origine of the Siameses, it would be difficult to judge whether they are only a single People, directly descended from the first Men that inhabited the Countrey of Siam, or whether in process of time some other Nation has not also settled there, notwithstanding the first Inhabitants.

The principal Reason of this Doubt proceeds from the Siameses understanding two Languages, viz. the Vulgar, which is a simple Tongue, consisting almost wholly of Monosyllables, without Conjugation or Declension; and another Language which I have alreadyt spoken of, which to them is a dead Tongue, known only by the Learned, which is called the Balie Tongue, and which is enricht with the inflexions of words, like the Languages we have in Europe. The terms of Religion and Justice, the names of Offices, and all the Ornaments of the Vulgar Tongue are borrow'd from the Balie. In this Language they compose their best Songs; so that it seems at least that some Foreign Colony had formerly inhabited the Countrey of Siam, and had carry' thither a second Language. But this is a Dispute that might be raised concerning all the Countries of India; for, like Siam, they all have two Languages, one of which is still remaining only in their Books.

The Siameses assert that their Laws are Foreign, and came to them fom the Countrey of Laos, which has, perhaps, no other Foundation than the Conformity of the Laws of Laos with those of Siam, even as there is a Conformity between the Religions of these two Nations, and with that of the Peguins. Now this does not strictly prove that any of these three Kingdoms hath given its Laws and its Religion to the rest, seeing that it may happen that all the three may have deriv'd thier Religion and their Laws from another common Source. However it be, as the Traditions is at Siam, that their Laws and Kings came from Laos, the same Tradition runs at Laos, that their Kings and most of their Laws came from Siam.

The Siameses speak not of any Country where the Balie Language, which is that of thier Laws and their Religion, is now in use. They suspect indeed, according to the report of some amongst them, which have been at the Coast of Coromandel, that the Balie Language has some similitude with some one of the Dialects of that Country: but they agree at the same time that the Letters of the Balie Language are known only amongst them. The secular Missionaries established at Siam, are of opinion that this Language is not entirely extinct: by reason they saw in their Hospital a man come from about the Cape of Comorin, who interspers'd several Balie words in his discourse, affirming that they were used in his Country, and that he had never studied, and knew only his Mother Tongue. They moreover averr for truth, that the Religion of the Siameses came from those Quarters, because they have read in a Balie Book, that Sommona-Codom whom the Siameses adore, was the son of a King of the Island of Ceylon.

But setting aside all these uncertainties, the vulgar Language of the Siameses, like in its Simplicity to those of China, Tonquin, Cochinchina, and the other States of the East, sufficiently evinces that those who speak it, are near of the same Genius with their Neighbours. Add hereunto their Indian Figure, the colour of their Complexion mixt with red and brown, (which corresponds neither to the North of Asia, Europe, nor Africk,) Add likewise their short Nose rounded at the end, as their Neighbours generally have it; the upper Bone of their Cheeks high and raised, their Eyes slit a little upwards, their Ears larger than ours, in a word all the Lineaments of the Indian and Chinese Physiognomy; their Countenance naturally squeez'd and bent like that of Apes, and a great many other things which they have in common with these Animals, as well as a marvellous passion for Children. Nothing is equal to the Tenderness which the great Apes expressed to their Cubs, except the Love which the Siameses have for all Children, whether for their own, or those of another.

The King of Siam himself is incompass'd with them, and delights to educate them till seven or eight years old: after which, they lose the childish Air, they do also lose his Favour. One alone, say some, was there kept till between twenty and thirty years of Age, and is still his favourite. Some do call him adopted Son, others suspect him to be his Bastard; He is at least Foster Brother to his Lawful Daughter.

But if you consider the extremely Low Lands of Siam, that they seem to escape the Sea as it were by miracle, and that they lye annually under rain water for several Months, the almost infinite number of very incommodious Insects which they endanger, and the effective Heat of the Climate under which they are seated; it is difficult to comprehend that others could resolve to inhabit them, excepting such as came thither by little and little from places adjacent. And it may be thought that they have been inhabited not many Ages, if a Judgment may be made thereof by the few Woods that are stubbed as yet. Moveover it would be necessary to travel more to the North of Siam, to find out the warlike People which could yield those innumerable swarms of men, which departed out of their own Country to go and possess others. And how is it possible that they should not be stopp'd on the Road, among some of those soft and effeminate People, which lye between the Country of the Scythians, and the Woods and impassable Rivers of the Siameses? 'Tis not therefore probable that the Lesser Siameses, which we have spoken of, are descended from the Greater, and that the Greater withdrew into the Mountains which they inhabit, to free themselves from the Tyranny of the neighbouring Princes, under which they were born.

Nevertheless it is certain that the Siamese blood is very much mixed with foreign. Not to reckon the Peguins, and the Inhabitants of Laos, which are at Siam, and whom I consider almost the same Nation with the Siameses; 'tis not to be doubted that there formerly fled to Siam a great number of Strangers from different Countries, upon the account of a free Liberty of Trade, and by reason of the Wars of the true India, China, Japan, Tonquin, Cochinchina, and other States in the South part of Asia. They report likewise that in the City of Siam, there are forty different Nations: but inasmuch as Vincent le Blanc speaks in these very terms concerning the City of Martaban, this affected Number of Forty Nations appears unto me an Indian Vanity. The entire annihilation of the Commerce of Siam, having in these last years forc'd most of the Foreigners, that fled thither, to seek out new Retreats, three or four Canoniters which are of Bengal, do now compose a Nation; three Cochinchinese Families do make another; the Moors alone which ought to be reckon'd only for one, do make more than ten, as well for that they came to Siam from different Nations, as for their being of various conditions, as Merchants, Soldiers, and Labourers. (I call Moors after the Spanish manner, not the Negro's, but those Mohametans of Arabian Extraction, which our Ancestors have called Saracens, and whose race is spread almost through our whole Hemisphere.) And notwithstanding all this, when the Ambassadors of the Foreigners, which at Siam are called the Forty Nations, came to salute the King's Envoys, there were reckoned no more than one and twenty Nations, computing as the Siameses would have us.

They inhabit different quarters in the City or Suburbs of Siam; and yet this City is very little inhabited in respect to its Bigness, and the Country much less in Proportion. It must be imagined that they desire not a greater People, for the count them every year; and do well know, what no person ignores, that the only secret to encrease them, would be to ease them in the Taxes and Impositions. The Siameses do therefore keep an exact account of the Men, Women, and Children; and in this vast extent of Land, according to their own Confession, they reckon'd up the last time but Nineteen Hundred Thousand Souls. From which I question not that some retrenchment is to be made for Vanity and Lyes, Characters essential to the Eastern people; but on the other hand, thereunto must be added the Fugitives, which do seek a Sanctuary in the Woods against the Government.

IV. Of the Productions of Siam, and first of the Woods or Trees.

The Bambou; The Arvore de Raiz; The Cotton Tree and Capoquier; Trees which produce Oyls or Gums; Trees whose Bark serves to make Paper; Wood for other uses; Trees for Balons; They have none of our Wood; The Cinnamon and Fir Tree; Wood Aquila.

The Country of Siam lies almost wholly incultivated and cover'd with Woods. One of their most eminent Trees is a kind of Reed, called in Indian, Mambou, in Portuguese, Bambou, in Siamese, Mai pai. The Indians apply it to an infinite number of uses, Ælian lib. 4. cap. 34. mentions it as their most ancient nourishment. At present they use it little; and that in only some of their dishes, when it is tender; and to preserve it, they Pickle it up in Vinegar, as we do Cucumbers and Samphire. This Tree resembles the Poplar, it is strait and tall, and the Leaves thereof few, pale, and longish. It is hollow, and grows in shoots like our Reeds, and its shoots are separated from one another by knots: but it has Branche and Thorns, which our Reeds have not. It grows very close, and the same Roots do shoot forth several items, so that nothing is thicker or more difficult to pass than a Forest of Bambou; and so much the more because the wood thereof is hard and difficult to cut, although it be ease to cleave. The Siameses do set it on fire by Friction, which is a token of its hardness. They have two pieces of Bambou cleft, which are like two pieces of Lath, in the edge of the one they make a notch, and do forcibly rub in this hole with the edge of the other, as with a Saw; and some dry leaves, or other combustible matter, which is put in the notch, fails not to catch fire without firing the Bambou. There is no Reed but has naturally somewhat either or or less of a Sugary juice. That of the Bambou is famous in some places of India, as an excellent Remedy for several Maladies. It escaped my curiosity to ask whether the Sugar of the Bambou of Siam is as much sought after upon this account, as that of the Bambou of Malaca, which is not far distant.

The Siameses likewise report that they have that Tree, which the Portuguese have called Arvore de Raiz, and they Co-pai, but that they have no plenty: and they add that its wood hath this property (doubtless by its smell) that when any person hath a little of it near him in his Bed, it drives away the Gnats. 'Tis from the Branches of this Tree, so frequently described in the Relations of India, that several Fibers do hang down to the ground, which there take root, and become as so many new Trunks: so that by little and little this Tree gains a considerable plot of ground, on which it forms a kind of Labyrinth by its stems, which continually multiply, and which adhere to one another by the branches, from which these items are fall'n. We have seen the Siameses seek out othe Remedies against the Gnats than that of this wood: and this perswades me either that it is very rare, or that this vertue which is attributed thereunto, is not well attended.

But the Siameses have other Trees more useful, and in great plenty. From the one they do gather Cotton: another yields themn Capoc, a kind of Cottonwool extremely fine, and so short that 'tis impossible to spin it, to them it serves instead of Down.

From certain Trees they extract several Oyls which they mix in Ciments, to render them more binding. A wall that is plaister'd therewith, is whiter, and bears as good a Polish as Marble; and a Bason made of one of these Ciments preserves water better than glazed Earth. They do likewise make better Mortar than our's: by reason that in the water which they use, they do boyl a certain bark, the skins of Oxen, or Buffalo's, and Sugar. A kind of Trees very common in their Woods yields that Gum, which composes the body of that excellent Varnish, which we see on several works of Japan, and China. The Portuguese do call this Gum Cheyram, a word perhaps derived from Cheyra, which signifiesa Perfume, although this Gum has not any Odor of it self. The Siameses do not well know how to put it in use: At Siam I saw a Tunquinese of this Trade, but he wrought nothing well for want perhaps of a certain Oil which was necessary to mix with the Cheyram, and which he supplied, as he could, by a much worse. I would have brought him to France, had he not been afraid to pass the Sea, as he had promised me at first. In a word, some say that the best way to render the Varnish more curious, is to lay on the more coverings, but this is to make it much dearer. The Relations of China do also declare, that there are two different Materials for the Varnish, and that the one is much better than the other. The Cheyram is proved by a drop thereof pour'd into Water; and if this drop sinks to the bottom without separating, the Cheyram is good.

The Siameses make Paper of old Cotton rags, and likewise of the bark of a Tree named Toi coi, which they pound as they do the old rags: but these Papers have a great deal less Equality, Body and Whiteness than ours. The Siameses cease not to write thereon with China Ink. Yet most frequently they black them, which renders them smoother, and gives them a greater body; and then they write thereon with a kind of Crayon, which is made only of a clayish Earth dry'd in the Sun. Their Books are not bound, and consist only in a very long Leaf, which they roll not up as our Ancestors did theirs, but which they fold in and out like a Fan: and the way which the Lines are wrote, is according to the length of the folds, and not according to their breadth. Besides this they write with a Styletto and the Leaves of a Tree resembling the Palm: This tree they call Tan, and these Leaves Bailan; they cut them in a very long and narrow Square, and on these Tables are writ the Tables and Prayers, which the Talapoins do sing in their Temples.

The Siameses have also Timber proper for the building of Ships, and furnishing them with Masts: But they having no hemp, their Cordages are made of the Brou of Coco, and their Sails are Mats of great Rushes.: Their Equipments do not countervail ours by much; but their Sails have this advantage, that spontaneously supporting themselves, they do better receive the Wind, when it is near it; that is to say when it blows as much against us as possibly it can, without being contrary to the Course.

In fine, the Siameses have Timber proper for building of Houses, for Wainscotting and Carving; they have both light and very heavy Wood, some easie to cleave, others which cleaveth not, what Wedges soever it receives. This last is called by the Europeans, Wood-Mary, and is better than any to make the Ribs of Ships. That which is heavy and tough is called Iron-wood, very well known in our Islands of America, and it is affirmed in process of time it eats the Iron. They have a Wood which for its Lightness and Colour some conceive to be Fur, but it takes the Carver's Chisel in so many different ways without splitting that I question whether we have any like it in Europe.

But above all, the Siameses have Trees so high and so strait, that one alone is sufficient to make a Boat or Balon, as the Portuguese speak, between 16 and 20 Fathom long. They hollow the Tree, and then by the heat of the Fire enlarge the Capacity thereof; which done, they raise the sides with an edge, that is to say with a Board of the same length: And in fine, at both the ends they fasten a Prow and a Poop very high, and a little bending out, frequently adorn'd with sculpture and gilding, and with some pieces of Mother of Pearl.

Nevertheless amongst so many different sorts of Wood, they have none of those which we know in Europe.

They have not been able to raise any Mulberry Trees, and for this reason they have no Silk-worms. No Flax also grows amongst them, nor in any other place of India, or at least it is not in any esteem. The Cotton which they have in abundance is, they say, more agreeable and more healthful to them; by reason that Cotton-cloth grows not cold by being wet with sweat, and consequently occasions not the catching cold, as Linnen does.

They have the Cinnamon Tree, inferior indeed to that of the Island of Ceylon, but better than any other; they have the Sapan, and other Woods proper for Dying.

They have also the Wood Aquila or Aloes, not so good indeed as the Calamba of Cochinchina, but better than the Wood Aquila of any other Country. This Wood is found only in pieces, by reason that they are only certain rotten places in Trees of a certain kind. And every Tree of this same Species has it not, and those which have, have them not all in the same place; so that it requires a tedious search in the Wood. 'Twas formerly very dear at Paris, but is at present to be had at a reasonable rate.

V. Concerning the Mines of Siam.

The Reputation of the Mines of Siam; The State of the Mines at present; Tambac; Mr Vincent the Physitian retained by the King of Siam to work in his Mines; What he relates concerning the Mines of Siam; Tin and Lead; Mines of Loadstone; Precious Stones; Steel; Iron; Salt-Petre and Power.

No Country has a greater Reputation of being rich in Mines than the Country of Siam, and the great quantity of Idols and other cast works which are there seen, evinces that they have been better cultivated there in former times, than now they are. 'Tis believed likewise that they thence extracted that great quantity of Gold, wherewith their Superstition has adorned not only their almost innumerable Idols, but the Wainscot and Roofs of their Temples. They do likewise daily discover Pits anciently dug, and the remains of a great many Furnaces, which are thought to have been abandon'd during the ancient Wars of Pegu.

Nevertheless the King that now reigns has not been able to find any Vein of Gold or Silver, that is worth the pains that he has therein employed; although he hath applied unto this work from Europeans, and amongst the rest a Spaniard that came from Mexico, who found, if not a great fortune, at least his Subsistence for twenty years, even to his Death, by flattering the Avarice of this Prince, with the imaginary promises of infinite Treasures. After having dug and min'd in several places, they light only on some very mean Copper Mines, tho intermixt with a little Gold and Silver: Five hundred weight of Ore scarce yielding an Ounce of Metal; neither understood they how to make the separation of Metals.

But the King of Siam, to render his mixture more precious, caus'd some Gold to be added thereunto: and this is what they call Tambac. 'Tis said that the Mines of the Isle of Borneo do naturally produce it very Rich: and the scarceness augments the price thereof, as it formerly increased that of the famous Corinthian Brass; but certainly that which makes the true value thereof amongst the Siameses, is the quantity of Gold wherewith it is thought to be mixed. When their Avarice creates desires it is for the Gold, and not for the Tambac; and we have seen that when the King of Siam has ordered Crucifixes to be made to present to the Christians, the most noble and smallest part, which is the Christ, has been of Gold, the Cross alone of Tambac. Vincent le Blanc relates, that the Peguins have a mixture of Lead and Copper, which he calls sometimes Ganze, and sometimes Ganza, and of which he reports that they make Statues, and a small Money which is not stampt with the Kings Coin, but which every one has a right to make.

From Siam we brought back Mr. Vincent the Physitian. He departed from France, to go into Persia, with the Bishop of Babylon, and the report of the arrival of the Kings first Ships at Siam, made him to go thither as well out of a desire to travel, as in hopes of procuring his return into France. He understood Mathematics and Chymistry, and the King of Siam retained for him some time at the work in his Mines.

He informed me that he rectified the labours of the Siamese in some things, so that they obtain a little more profit than they did. He show'd them a Mine of very good Steel at the top of a Mountain, which had been already discovered, and which they perceived not. He discovered to them one of Crystal, one of Antimony, one of Emeril, and some others, with a Quarry of white Marble. Besides this, he found out a Gold Mine, which to him appear'd very rich, as far as he was able to judge without trying it; but he has not showed it them. Several Siameses, most Talapoins, came secretly to consult him about the Art of purifying and separating Metals, and brought him divers specimens of very rich Ore. From some he extracted a very good quantity of fine Silver, and from others, the mixture of several Metals.

As for Tin and Lead, the Siameses have long since improved it from very plentiful Mines, and though not very skilful, yet they cease not to get a considerable revenue by it. This Tin, or Calin, as the Portuguese report, is sold through all India; 'Tis soft and basely purified, and a specimen thereof is seen in the common Tea Boxes or Cannisters, which come from this Country. But to render it harder and whiter, like that of the finest Tea Boxes, they mix it with Cadmia, a sort of Mineral easily reducible to powder, which being melted with the Copper, makes it yellow: but it renders both these Metals more brittle: And 'tis this white Tin which they call Tontinague. This is what Mr. Vincent relates on the subject of the Mines of Siam.

In the Neighbourhood of the City of Louvo they have a Mountain of Loadstone. They have another also near Jonsalam, a City seated in an Island of the Gulph of Bengal, which is not above the distance of a Mans voice from the Coast of Siam: but the Loadstone which is dug at Jonsalam loses its vertue in three or four Months; I know not whether it is not the same in that of Louvo.

In their Mountains they find very curious Agate, and Mr. Vincent inform'd me that he has seen, in the hands of the Talapoins, who secretly busie themselves in these researches, some samples or pieces of Saphire and Diamonds that came out of the Mine. He assured me also that some particular Persons having found some Diamonds, and given them to the King's Officers, were retired to Pegu by reason they had not received any recompence.

I have already said that the City of Campeng-pet is famous for Mines of excellent Steel. The Inhabitants of the Country do forge Arms thereof after their fashion, as Sabres, Poniards, and Knives. The Knife which they call Pen is used by all, and is not look'd upon as Arms, although it may serve upon occasion: The Blade thereof is three or four Fingers broad, and about a Foot long. The King gives the Sabre and the Poniard. They wear the Poniard on the left side, hanging a little before. The Portuguese call it Chrise, a word corrupted from Crid, which the Siameses use. This word is borrow'd from the Malayan Language, which is famous throughout the East, and the Crids which are made at Achim in the Isle of Sumatra, do pass for the best of all. As for the Sabre, a Slave always carries it before his Master on his right shoulder, as we carry the Musquet on the left.

They have Iron Mines which they know how to melt, and some have inform'd me that they have but little thereof; besides, they are bad Forge-men. For their Gallies they have only wooden Anchors, and to the end that these Anchors may sink to the bottom, they fasten stones unto them. They have neither Pins, or Needles, nor Nails, or Chisels, nor Saws. They use not a Nail in building their Houses, altho' they be all of Wood. Every one makes Pins of Bamboo, even as our Ancestors us'd Thorns for this purpose. To them there comes Padlocks from Japan, some of Iron, which are good; and others of Copper, which are very naught.

They do make very bad Gunpowder. The defect, they say, proceeds from the Salt-Petre which they gather from their Rocks, where it is made of the dung of Batts, Animals which are exceedingly large and very plentiful throughout India. But whether this Salt-Petre be good or bad, the King of Siam sells a great deal of it to Strangers.

Having described the natural Riches of the Mountains and Forests of Siam, 'twould be proper in this place to speak of the Elephants, Rhinoceros, Tygers, and all other savage Beasts wherewith they are stored: yet seeing this matter has been sufficiently explicated by a great many others, I shall omit it, to pass on to the inhabited and cultivated Lands.

VI. Of the Cultivated Lands, and their Fertility.

The Country of Siam is Clayie; The annual Inundation fattens the Lands of Siam; It destroys the Insects; White Ants at Siam; The Maringouins; The Millepede; The Ignorance of the Siameses in things Natural; Shining Flyes.

They are not Stony, it being very difficult to find a Flint; and this makes me to believe of the Country of Siam, what some have reported of Egypt, that it has been gradually formed of the clayish Earth which the Rain-waters have carry'd down from the Mountains. Before the mouth of the Menam, there is a Bank of Owse, which, in the Sea-phrase, is call'd the Bar, and which prohibits entrance to great Ships. 'Tis probable that it will increase itself by little and little, and will in time make a new Shore to the firm Land.

'Tis therefore this Mud descending from the Mountains, that is the real cause of the Fertility of Siam, where-ever the Inundation extends itself. In other, and especially on the highest places, all is dry'd and burnt with the Sun, in a little time after the Rains. Under the Torrid Zone, and likewise in Spain, whose Climate is more temperate, if the Lands are naturally fertile, (as for Example, between Marcia and Carthagena, where the Seed yields sometimes an hundred fold) they are nevertheless so subject to Drought, Insects, and other Inconveniences, that it frequently happens that they are deprived of the whole Harvest several years together: And 'tis this which betides all the Countries of India which are not subject to be overflowed, and which besides the barrenness of the Soil, do suffer the ravages of contagious and pestilential Distempers which succeed it. But the annual Inundation gives to Siam the assurance and plenty of the Rice Harvest, and renders this Kingdom the Nourisher of several others.

Besides the Inundations fatning the Land, it destroys the Insects; altho' it always leaves a great many, which extremely incommode. Nature instructs all the Animals of Siam to avoid the Inundation. The Birds which perch not in our Countries, as Partridges and Pigeons, do all perch in that. The Pismires doubly prudent, do here make their Nests and Magazines on Trees.

There are white Ants, which, amongst other ravages which they make, do pierce Books through and through. The Missionaries are oblig'd to preserve theirs, by varnishing them over the cover and edges with a little Cheyram, which hinders them from opening. After this precaution, the Ants have no more power to bite, and the Books are more agreeable, by reason that this Gum being mixt with nothing that colours it, has the same lustre as the Glasses wherewith we cover Pictures in Miniature. This would be no dear nor difficult Experiment, to try whether the Cheyram would not defend the wood of our Beds against Buggs. 'Tis this same Cheyram, which being spread upon Canvas, makes it appear like Horn. Therewith they us'd to environ the great Cresser-lights, which some reported to be of Horn, and all of a piece. Sometimes also those little Cups varnish'd with red, which come to us from Japan, and whose lightness astonishes us, do consist only of a double Cloth put into the form of a Cup, and cover'd over with this Gum mixt with a colour, which we call Lacca, or Chinese Varnish, as I have already declar'd: these Cups last not long, when too hot Liquors are put therein.

To return to the Insects, which we have begun occasionally to speak of, the Marin-gouins are of the same Nature as our Gnats; but the heat of the Climat gives them so much strength, that shamois Stockings defend not our Legs against their Stings. Nevertheless it seems possible to know how to deal with them; for the Natives of the Country, and the Europeans that have inhabited there for several years, were not so marked with them as we were.

The Millepede or Palmer is known at Siam, as in the Isles of America. This little Reptile is so called, because it has a great number of feet along its body, all very short in proportion to its length, which is about five or six Inches. What it has most singular (besides the scales in form of rings, which cover its body, and which insert themselves one into the other in its motions) is, that it pinches equally with its head and tail, but it Stings, tho' painful, are not mortal. A French Man of that Crew which went to Siam with us, and whom we left there in perfect health, suffer'd himself to be stung in his Bed above a quarter of an hour, without daring to lay hold on the Worm to relieve himself. The Siamese report, that the Millepede has two heads at the extremities of its body, and that it guides itself six months in the year with the one, and six months with the other.

But their History of Animals must not easily be credited, they understand not Bodies better than Souls; and in all matters their inclination is to imagine Wonders, and persuade themselves so much the more easily to believe them, as they are more incredible. What they report of a sort of Lizard named Tocquay, proceeds from an Ignorance and Credulity very singular. They imagine that this Animal feeling his Liver grow too big, makes the cry which has impos'd on him the name Toc-quay, to call another Insect to its succor; and that this other Insect entering into his Body at his mouth, eats the overplus of the Liver, and after this repast retires out of the Toc-quay's body, by the same way that he enter'd therein.

The shining Flyes, like Locusts, have four wings, which do all appear when the Fly takes a flight; but the two thinnest of them are concealed under the strongest when the Fly is at repose. We hardly saw these little Animals, by reason that the rainy time was past when we landed. The North-winds, which begin when the Rains cease, either kill them, or drive them away. They have some light in their Eyes, but their greatest splendor proceeds from their wings, and glitters only in the Air, when the wings are display'd. What some report therefore is not true, that they might be us'd in the Night instead of Candles; for tho' they had light enough, what method could be contriv'd to make them always flie, and keep them at a due distance to illuminate? But this much may sufffice to be spoken concerning the Insects of Siam; they would afford matter for large Volumes to know them all.

I shall say only that there are not fewer in the River and Gulph, than on the Land; and that in the River there are some very dangerous, which is the reason that the rich Men do bathe themselves only in houses of Bambou.

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