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of a few straggling bairs. The and patience under laborious occuforehead, though broad in the la- pations, than for brightness of teral direction, is in general nar- imagination or mental capacity. row, the hairy scalp descending Others of them are equally re
The head is peculiar. markable for indolence and averThe diameter from the front back- sion to labour. wards is uncommonly short ; and hence the general form is somewhat MANNERS AND CUSTOMS OF THE cylindrical. The occipital foramen in a great number of instances is Treatment of the Dead. The placed so far back, that from the treatment of the dead is not crown to the nape of the neck is amongst the least singular of the nearly a straight line. The top of customs peculiar to the Siamese. the head is often unusually flat. It is more or less expensive accordThe hair is thick, coarse, and lank, ing to the rank which the indiviin some shewing a disposition to dual held in the community, or curl on the forehead, but this is the ability of his relations. The more peculiar to the Malays. The poorest amongst them are neglia colour is always black.
gently and without ceremony The limbs are thick, short, and thrown into the river. Those a stout, and the arms rather dispro- little higher in the scale of society portionate in length to the body. are burnt; often very imperfectly,
The arms, particularly in Ma- and their partially-consumed bones lays, are uncommonly long. The are left to bleach on the plain, or foot is, in general, small, but the to be devoured by ravenous beasts, hand is much larger than in the Children, before the age of denti. natives of Bengal.
tion, are interred in a superficial The trunk is rather square, being grave, to one end of which an upnearly as broad at the loins as over right board is attached. Women the pectoral muscles. There is in who have died pregnant are inthis respect the greatest difference terred in a similar manner. After between them and the inhabitants the lapse of a few months, however, of either India, who are in gene their remains are taken up for the ral remarkable for small waists. purpose of being burnt, The diameter of the pelvis is par- With the exceptions mentioned, ticularly large, and the dimensions the practice of burning the dead of the cavity would appear to be extends to all ranks. The ceresomewhat greater than in the other mony may be witnessed almost races.
daily in the environs, and within From this account of their form, the precincts of the temples. The they would appear to be admirably latter are generally provided with calculated to execute and to undergo a lofty shed, of a pyramidal form, the more toilsome and laborious, open on all sides, and supported on but mechanical, operations which tall wooden posts, of sufficient are the usual lot of the labouring height to admit of the combustion classes of mankind. They have of the body without injury to the the frame, without the energy roof. Nor is even this simple shed of London porters. The greater common to all. The avarice of the number of them are indeed more priesthood, taking advantage of the distinguished for mechanical skill, weaker feelings of the human
mind, has even here established destined to be consumed by fire, is distinctions at which death mocks. as unaccountable as the other is The poorer sort, therefore, raise barbarous and unfeeling. The the pile at a humble distance from custom I allude to is that of emthe roof of pride.
balming the dead. But what seems A singular custom takes place most singular in this custom is, in many instances previous to the that the body has no sooner underceremony of combustion. It is that gone that degree of preparation of cutting the muscular and soft which renders it capable of being parts of the body into innumerable preserved for a longer period, than small pieces, until nothing is left it is destined to be totally consumof the corpse but the bare bones. ed. Were it not for this apparent The flesh thus cut up is thrown to inconsistency, we should have little dogs, vultures and other carnivorous hesitation in attributing the origin birds, which on this account resort of this practice to that warmth of to such places in great numbers. filial affection, and the well-known We found one of those pyramids devotion to their ancestors, for covered with vultures, and the which the Chinese are so remarkenclosure much frequented by dogs. able. The scene was loathsome and dis- The art of embalming, as known gusting in the extreme, and suffi- to the Siamese, is extremely imperciently attested the prevalence of fect, notwithstanding that it has this custom. The practice is looked been practised from very ancient upon as charitable and laudable, times. Its actual state is characand the Siamese arrogate to them- teristic of that general ignorance selves no small share of merit in of the ornamental, as well as of the thus disposing of the body as food, useful arts of civilized life, which the material of life, to the beasts of I have already hinted at on several the field, and to the birds of the occasions. air. It seems probable that this The process is for the most part singular practice is connected with left to the relations of the deceased, their notions of a future existence, who call in the assistance of the and may have derived its origin in more experienced. some way from the ancient doctrine After washing the body with of Metempsychosis, so strongly in- water, the first step is to pour a cnlcated by their religion.*
large quantity of crude mercury A different custom prevails into the mouth. Persons of the among the higher orders of Siamese, highest rank alone, however, can which, considering that the body is have recourse to a material so ex
pensive. The others substitute A custom somewhat similar is not honey in its stead, but it is said unknown to the Bauddhists of Ceylon. with a less favourable result. The During the late war in that country, a body is now placed in a kneeling dergo the punishment of death by de- posture, and the hands are brought capitation. It was intimated to him together before the face, in the atthat government would not prevent liis titude of devotion. Narrow strips relations from rendering to his body the of cloth are then bound tightly funeral rights of his country. He replied that it was his desire that his body
round the extremities, and the body might be left to be devoured by the is compressed in a similar manner. jackals and other wild beasts.
The object of the ligatures is to squeeze the moisture out of the of the deceased; having received body. They act also in preserving robes of yellow cloth, and been the required posture, and with this feasted, they repeat prayers in the object the more flexile tendons of Pali language, after which the the extremities are divided. In body is carried forth to be burned. this posture the body is next placed The priests receive the body as it in an air-tight vessel of wood, brass, approaches the temple, and consilver, or gold, according to the ducting it towards the pile, repeat rank of the deceased. A tube, a verse in the Pali language, which or hollow bamboo, inserted into has been thus interpreted to me: the mouth of the deceased, passes
Eheu! mortale corpus. through the upper part of the box, Ut fumus hic nunc ascendit, sic et and is conducted through the roof
Animus tuus ascendat in coelum. of the house to a considerable After the body has been destroyed, height. A similar bamboo is placed the ashes, or rather the small fragin the bottom, and terminates in a
ments of bone which remain, are vessel placed under it to receive the carefully collected, and the use draining off from the body. If the that is made of them is somewhat deceased is of the rank of a prince, singular. The priests are again the sordes thus collected is conveys called in ; prayers are again reed with great formality and state, peated in the Pali language, and in a royal barge, highly ornamenta
various requisite ceremonies are ed, to be deposited at a particular performed, after which the ashes part of the river below the city. which had been collected after That collected from the body of the combustion, are reduced to a paste king is put into a vessel, and boiled with water, and formed into a until an oil separates, which oil is small figure of Buddha, which becarefully collected, and with this ing gilded, and finished by the they, on certain occasions (as when priests, is either placed in the temhis descendants, and those of his ple, or preserved by the friends of family go to pay their devotions to
the deceased. his departed spirit), anoint the
This last ceremony is attended singular image called Sema, usually with considerable expense, and, placed in the temple after his therefore, the poorer orders, when death.
unable to engage priests for its Notwithstanding the precaution performance, keep the ashes of of using the tubes and the tight their relations by them, until they - box, the odour, it is said, is often
are in a condition to have it carmost offensive. In a few weeks, ried into effect in a becoming manhowever, it begins to diminish, and the body becomes shriveled and It must be confessed, that in quite dry.
matters of this sort, the Siamese The body thus prepared by this shew the greatest regard to the rude process is, at the proper pe- memory of their relations and anriod, brought forth to be burnt, cestors. Where Death and its dread the relations having in the mean apparatus are thus brought daily timemade every necessary arrange
home to the feelings—where the ment for the solemn occasion.
• Ah! mortal is the body. As now Early in the morning a number of
ascends this smoke, priests are assembled at the house
So may thy soul ascend to heayen,
mind is accustomed to view the most distant regions of the globe, disgusting and humiliating pheno- without other effort than that of mena that attend the last scene of the will to do so.
The prospect mortality, it might be thought that of seeing neighbouring kingdoms a stupid insensibility, if not scorn- in all their nakedness was irreful indifference, would be the ge- sistible, and the terms were easy, neral result. We have no reason and attended with so little labour, to believe that such is the case as to be quite inviting even to the with the Siamese. The care and phlegmatic imagination of the Praattention they have bestowed upon klang, whose fat, ponderous, and the remains of their relations, seem unwieldy corporation was but to endear their memory the than enough to have excited doubts more to them. The fear of death of success. A quantity of the is, besides, of that nature, that metal was procured. The most neither the most deliberate reason, expert magicians, alchymists, and nor the most obtuse feeling, can astrologers were assembled on the lay it altogether aside. On the occasion, but their united skill minds of the multitude more es- failed to produce the much-desired pecially, this fear operates strongly, effeet. They boiled, and they and produces effects in proportion roasted, and they tortured in every to their degree of intelligence. possible way the stubborn slippery Where there is already a strong metal, but all to no purpose. The tendency towards superstition, this poor Pra-klang, ashamed and disbias is still more heightened, and appointed, instead of flying through there are perhaps few nations more the air, saw himself reduced to the strongly imbued with this senti- sad necessity of carrying his une ment than the Siamese ; and, in wieldy bulk about the streets of general, all the tribes of Mongol Siam for the rest of his life. origin. With them judicial astro- Further proofs of the superstilogy still holds the rank of the tious nature of this people were most important of sciences, and is easily furnished. The belief in the cultivated with the most scrupulous agency of evil spirits is universal, attention. Its pretended results and though disclaimed by the reare required on all important occa- ligion of Buddha, they are more sions, either of a public or a private frequently worshipped than the nature. Nor are the most gross latter. Nor will the darker periods and revolting superstitions confined of German necromancy and preto the vulgar, as the following tended divination be found to exanecdote respecting the present ceed, in point of the incredible and Pra-klang, Suree-wong Montree, the horrible, what is to be observed will shew :
amongst the Siamese of the present This gentleman hearing of the day. wonderful effects said to be produced It is usual to inter women that by mercury, became extremely de- have died pregnant; the popular sirous to make proof of the popular belief is, that the necromancers belief, that this metal when re- have the power of performing the duced to a solid state, confers on most extraordinary things when its fortunate possessor the most possessed of the infant which had extraordinary power, and amongst been thus interred in the womb of others that of travelling into the the mother : it is customary to watch the grave of such persons, been bestowed upon the arrangein order to prevent the infant from ment even of the most trivial matbeing carried off. The Siamese ters. A train is laid from the pile tell the tale of horror in the most to the place where the king stands, solemn manner. All the hobgob- others to those occupied by the lins, wild and ferocious animals, princes of the family, with this all the infernal spirits are said to distinction in their distribution, oppose the unhallowed deed; the that the train laid to the king's perpetrator, well charged with station is the only one that directly cabalistic terms, which he must reaches the pile. That of the recite in a certain fixed order, and next person in rank joins this at with nerves well braced to the a little distance, and so of the daring task, proceeds to the grave, others, in the order of rank. which he lays open. In proportion These trains are fired all at the as he adyances in his work the samé moment. opposing sprites become more dar- The outer circle of all is allotted ing; he cuts off the head, hands, to the performance of plays, gymand feet of the infant, with which nastic exercises, and feats of dexhe returns home. A body of clay terity, and sleight of hand. The is adapted to these, and this new plays are divided into Siamese, compound is placed in a sort of Burman, Pegu, Laos, and Chinese; temple; the matter is now accom- and they are so called more from plished, the possessor has become the performers being of these semaster of the past, present, and veral countries, than from any future.
essential difference in the drama. The funeral ceremonies observed The external forms of reverence on the death of a king are some- for the deceased king are impreswhat different from those mention- sive and unbounded; and the ed above, but the principle is the image formed from his ashes, being same. All the people go into placed upon the altar, claims scarce mourning All ranks and both less devotion than that of Buddha sexes shave the head, and this himself. That during life, while ceremony is repeated a third time. he yet grasped the sceptre, and An immense concourse is assem- made his subjects tremble, he bled to witness the combustion of should impiously assume the atthe body. The ceremony is said tributes of divinity, and claim from to constitute the most imposing the unwilling mind the adoration spectacle which the country at any due only to the Deity, seems even time can boast.
less strange, and less revolting, Within the first inclosure a line than this shameful, because volunof priests are seated, reciting prayers tary prostitution of human infrom the sacred books, in a loud tellect. voice. Behind them the new king Laws. Where the government has taken his station. In the suc- is perfectly despotic, it will readily ceeding enclosures the princes of be conceived that law and right the royal family and other persons are but empty names, at least, as of distinction have taken their far as regards the king, and his places. It will be seen by the under-despots; that, in fact, power manner in which the funeral-pile is law, and right, and justice. is lighted, how much attention has Yet where the interests of these