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mode of conducting traffic which is here described is so similar to that...
mentioned in the Sequel, that there cannot be a doubt, I think, that the Seres and Sesatae are identical. Justice, which is mentioned by Pomponius Mela as a characteristic of the Seres, means here, honesty in carrying on traffic, and a strict regard for truth—virtues which all the hill
tribes on the eastern frontier of Bengal have the character of possessing
in an eminent degree. The desert is the jungle or forest (aruni) at the foot of the hills, where the hill people barter their goods to the merchants
of the plains.
Pliny gives a similar description of the Seres. He states that they *...- . - - - - ... * *are a quiet, and inoffensive people, but that they resemble wild beasts in *
one respect, namely, that they flee from the sight of men, or rather that or they shun intercourse or personal communication with other people, though they are at the same time desirous of carrying on traffic with them.* This, no doubt, refers to the caution and reserve which the hill tribes have always exhibited in their traffic with the people of the * plains. Pliny also mentions the Seres as celebrated for silk which their woods produced. In speaking of the embassy from Ceylon to the emperor Claudius, he represents the chief ambassador as stating that they (the people of Ceylon) knew the Seres through the medium or channel of trade, and that his (the ambassador's) father, by name Rachia, had often visited them. He informed the emperor that if strangers approached the country of the Seres, they incurred the risk of being assailed by wild beasts—a remark, which seems to imply, that there
was a dense jungle infested with beasts of prey on the frontier of Serica,
and that it was dangerous for persons unacquainted with the paths or
roads through it to travel to Serica.
The Seres are described by the
ambassador as giants or people exceeding the ordinary stature of men, as having red hair, and blue eyes, and as speaking an unintelligible language, which rendered it difficult to carry on trade with them.t Pliny mentions that the first river in the country of the Seres was called Psitaras (the Tistha in Rungpore?), and that in carrying on traffic with them, the merchants placed their merchandize on the farther side of the river. If the Seres wished to barter, they took the goods which were there deposited, and left the commodities which the foreign mer. chants wanted in exchange. The people referred to by the ambassador
* Pliny. Lib. VI. C. XVII.
+ Ibid. Lib. VI. C. XXII.
appear to be the Bhotiyas, who are a tall race of men, and who probably dyed their hair of a red colour. According to Klaproth,” the ancient Tibe. lans called Khiang, who were of the Bhotiyah race, painted their faces of a red colour. The Bhotiyas repair to the great fair held annually in the Rungpore district, and it was probably here that Rachia, the ambassador's father, saw them. Pliny himself, in describing the Seres, seems to allude to the aboriginal tribes of Rungpore bordering on Assam. The forests of their country produced silk (tassar) which was bartered on the banks of a river described as the first in their territory, and which was perhaps the frontier between Bengal and Assam. The barter was carried on in the manner mentioned by Arrian and Pomponius Mela. Pausanias mentions two nations of the Seres. Holwell in his Dictionary extracted from “Bryant's Analysis of Ancient Mythology” states: “Pausanias (L. 6. p. 519.) describes two nations of the Seres who were of an Ethiopic, Indic and Sythic family. The first was upon the Ganges, the other region of the Seres is the same with China, and lies opposite to the island of Japan, called by Pausanias Abasa and Saraia.” The Ethiopic and Indic Seres here mentioned are the hill tribes and the people of the valley of Assam. The term Ethiopic was applied to the former from the similarity of some of their features to those of the Negro race. Megasthenes compares the inhabitants of India with the Ethiopians. Sir William Jones also remarks, “ that the mountainters of Bengal and Behar can hardly be distinguished in some of their features, particularly in their lips and noses, from the modern Abyssinians;”—a fact which he adduces in confirmation of the opinion that Ethiopia and Hindoostan were peopled or colonized by negroes.t. The Indic Seres, on the other hand, were a people who occupied the lower or western part of the valley next to the Ganges, and who consisted of the descendants of the early Hindoo invaders of the country and of the aboriginal inhabitants of the plains. The Scythic Seres may be regarded as the Thinae or Sinae who occupied Upper Assam and the region extending to the gulf of Siam, opposite to which was the island of Abasa or Sacaia, which is apparently Java. The “a Báeflapa snow of Dionysiust are the Sesatae of Arrian, or *me kindred uncivilized hill tribe bordering on Assam. He describes * Nouv. Journal Asiatique, Tom. 4, p. 104. * As. Res. Vol. I. p. 427. : Orb. Descript, V. 752.
them as possessing neither flocks nor herds, but as employed in gathere ing from the flowers of the desert, a substance that was carded and woverinto precious or costly fabrics, which surpassed in the variety and rich – ness of their colors the mingled beauties of the enameled mead, ancowhich rivalled in their delicate texture, even the fineness of the spider's web. The material here referred to, is tassar or moonga silk, which abounds in the forests or jungles of Assam (the desert aruni mentioned. in the text), and the rich and varied colours that are mentioned, were no. doubt, imparted to it by the indigenous dyes of Assam, namely, lac, room, manjit, and mismee-tita, which give the beautiful red and blue,
colours with which the silks of that country are prepared in the present o *
day. * * The Schiratae or Siratae of Elian are evidently the Ethiopic Seres of. | Pausanius, or the Sesatae of the Sequel. They are mentioned as a peo- o o ple with flat noses, situated in India ultra Gangem—in whose country there were serpents of an enormous size (Boa or python tigris) that de- so a voured cattle. Sir. W. Jones regards the country of the Sirate of Elian *
as identical with Sylhet, Siret or Srihaut, a place, which he states, was "---.
celebrated among the ancients for the fragrant essence extracted from **, - - *
Malabathrum.* The Seres mentioned by Horace, '' -,
“Doctus sagittas tendere Sericas
Arcu paterno 2–’” * * ..
Hor. Lib. i. 29. *
- - - *
are the mountain tribes bordering on Assam, all of whom are expert at .
the use of the bow and arrow.
The Seres are mentioned by ancient writers as a people who are re. A markable for their longevity. They were said to live to the age of two hundred years. Ctesias and Elian state that the fruit of a tree called Siptachora, from which amber exuded, and upon which there was found * a small insect yielding a purple dye, possessed the virtue of prolonging so life to the same number of years. It would seem from this circum- * * stance that the Seres inhabited the country in which the Siptachora grew, s ** and as there can be no doubt that the insect alluded to is the lac insect, \, it may be concluded that Lower Assam is the region which is here re- o ferred to. This is rendered the more probable from the account which s
* Works of Sir W. Jones, Vol. VI, p. 384. “so
ing to a passage in the Bibliotheca of Photius) gives the name of HyParcho to the river which proceeded from the country whence the Siptachora was brought. “The mountains abound with trees hanging wer the numerous streams which flow through them. Once a year during thirty days tears flow plentifully from them, which falling into the waters beneath coagulate into Amber. These trees, the Hindoos all Spa-chora. In the country about the sources of this river there is *iower of a purple color which gives a dye, not inferior to the Grecian, but even much brighter. There is also an insect living upon these amber-bearing trees the fruit of which they eat, and with these insects bruised, they dye stuffs, for close vestures, and long gowns of a purple *ur superior to the Persian. These mountaineers having collected the amber and the prepared materials of the purple dye, carry the **on board of boats with the dried fruit of the tree, which is good to * and then convey their goods by water to different parts of India. A great quantity they carry to the emperor (the king of Magadha) ** amount of about one thousand talents. In return they take oad, meal, and coarse cloth. They sell also their swords, bows and *Tows.” Assam appears to be the country which is here referred to * Clesias. Lower Assam abounds in lac, while munjit, mishmi-tita and room, which are found in Upper Assam, are apparently the dyes that are mentioned, as produced about the sources of the river Hyparcho. Room is a species of Ruellia, of the family of Acanthacea. Dr. Griffiths states, that with it the deep blue cloths of the Kamptis and Singphos are dyed; he calls it “a valuable dye and highly worthy of *ntion."t According to Ctesias the term orapxos “Hyparcho,” the name that was given to the river proceeding from the country in which the airTaxápa grew, means pēpwv rávra rā āyabâ, i.e. “ producing all good *ings”? This must have reference to the valuable merchandize consisting of silk, lac, and other dyes, lign aloe, musk, ivory, gold, silver, and steel, which were exported to India, via the Brahmaputra.S Strabo mentions that the Seres formed a republic or commonwealth;
* Wilford's Essay on Anugangam. As. Res. Vol. IX. p. 65. t Journal of Asiatic Society.
! Heeren's As. Nations, vol. II. Appendix, IV. p. 380.
5 Amber is still found in the north-eastern parts of Assam in considerable *ntities, or rather between Assam and Burmah.
and that it was governed by a council of five thousand persons, ever, one of whom found or provided an elephant for the use of the State “Nam Serestam longae dicuntur vitae ut ducentesimum annum exce dant. Ferunt etiam quendam optimatum ordinem rempublicam guber nare ex quinque millibus consiliorum constantem, quorum quisque -elephantem reipublicae praebeat.” (Strabo, Latin text, p. 702.) This seems to have reference to the Raj corporations of Assam. Major Fisher remarks: “the most ancient form of tenure by which land was held in Assam was under a grant from the prince addressed to a body.... . of proprietors, who were erected into a corporation called a Raj, and who possessed the land on terms by which they were bound each fors. the other and for the whole estate. The proprietors of land in every Raj were classified according as they paid revenue to the prince direct, , , or to some one in whose favour an assignment was made. The Raj was entrusted with the local administration of affairs and transacted, . -business in periodical meetings.”* It is probable that the council of five thousand, which Strabo mentions, consisted of the heads or chiefs o of these corporations, and that each Raj was bound to provide an elephant for the service of the State. The circumstance of the country of the Seres furnishing the number of elephants here specified is, of it- * self, sufficient to identify Serica with Assam. There is no other coun-, - . try in the situation assigned to Serica, namely, on the north of India -
extra Gangem and of Sina or Siam, than Assam, that abounds in ele- phants, and it may, therefore, be inferred from this fact, coupled with the accounts of other ancient writers, who describe Serica as an extensive and fertile valley watered by large rivers, and abounding in silk, * . that Assam is the country that is here referred to. It is estimated that upwards of 700 elephants are exported annually from Assam ; many also are killed for the sake of their tusks. *Ptolemy describes the Seres and Sinae as contiguous nations. India *. extra Gangem, which comprised Arracan, Pegu, and Ava,-constitut- * o | ing the Argentea regio and Aurea Chersonesus of Ptolemy—is mentioned by him, as being divided from the country of the Sinae by a line commencing at the extremity of Serica, and extending through the *.
middle of the great bay (Sinus Magnus) on the south. o The country of the Sinae therefore was adjacent on the west to India o | * Journal of Asiatic Society, No. 104. o *