I SPENT three months and a half in Java, from July 18th to October 31st, 1861, and shall briefly describe my own movements, and my observations of the people and the natural history of the country. To all those who wish to understand how the Dutch now govern Java, and how it is that they are enabled to derive a large annual revenue from it, while the population increases, and the inhabitants are contented, I recommend the study of Mr. Money’s excellent and interesting work, “How to Manage a Colony.” The main facts and conclusions of that work I most heartily concur in, and I believe that the Dutch system is the very best that can be adopted, when a European nation conquers or otherwise acquires possession of a country inhabited by an industrious but semi-barbarous people. In my account of Northern Celebes, I shall show how successfully the same system has been applied to a people in a very different state of civilization from the Javanese; and in the meanwhile will state in the fewest words possible what that system is.
The mode of government now adopted in Java is to retain the whole series of native rulers, from the village chief up to princes, who, under the name of Regents, are the heads of districts about the size of a small English county. With each Regent is placed a Dutch Resident, or Assistant Resident, who is considered to be his “elder brother,” and whose “orders” take the form of “recommendations,” which are, however, implicitly obeyed. Along with each Assistant Resident is a Controller, a kind of inspector of all the lower native rulers, who periodically visits every village in the district, examines the proceedings of the native courts, hears complaints against the head-men or other native chiefs, and superintends the Government plantations. This brings us to the “culture system,” which is the source of all the wealth the Dutch derive from Java, and is the subject of much abuse in this country because it is the reverse of “free trade.” To understand its uses and beneficial effects, it is necessary first to sketch the common results of free European trade with uncivilized peoples.
Natives of tropical climates have few wants, and, when these are supplied, are disinclined to work for superfluities without some strong incitement. With such a people the introduction of any new or systematic cultivation is almost impossible, except by the despotic orders of chiefs whom they have been accustomed to obey, as children obey their parents. The free competition of European traders, however introduces two powerful inducements to exertion. Spirits or opium is a temptation too strong for most savages to resist, and to obtain these he will sell whatever he has, and will work to get more. Another temptation he cannot resist, is goods on credit. The trader offers him bay cloths, knives, gongs, guns, and gunpowder, to be paid for by some crop perhaps not yet planted, or some product yet in the forest. He has not sufficient forethought to take only a moderate quantity, and not enough energy to work early and late in order to get out of debt; and the consequence is that he accumulates debt upon debt, and often remains for years, or for life, a debtor and almost a slave. This is a state of things which occurs very largely in every part of the world in which men of a superior race freely trade with men of a lower race. It extends trade no doubt for a time, but it demoralizes the native, checks true civilization — and does not lead to any permanent increase in the wealth of the country; so that the European government of such a country must be carried on at a loss.
The system introduced by the Dutch was to induce the people, through their chiefs, to give a portion of their till, to the cultivation of coffee, sugar, and other valuable products. A fixed rate of wages — low indeed, but, about equal to that of all places where European competition has not artificially raised it — was paid to the labourers engaged in clearing the ground and forming the plantations under Government superintendence. The produce is sold to the Government at a low, fixed price. Out of the net profit a percentage goes to the chiefs, and the remainder is divided among the workmen. This surplus in good years is something considerable. On the whole, the people are well fed and decently clothed, and have acquired habits of steady industry and the art of scientific cultivation, which must be of service to them in the future. It must be remembered, that the Government expended capital for years before any return was obtained; and if they now derive a large revenue, it is in a way which is far less burthensome, and far more beneficial to the people, than any tax that could be levied.
But although the system may be a good one, and as well adapted to the development of arts and industry in a half civilized people as it is to the material advantage of the governing country, it is not pretended that in practice it is perfectly carried out. The oppressive and servile relations between chiefs and people, which have continued for perhaps a thousand years, cannot be at once abolished; and some evil must result from those relations, until the spread of education and the gradual infusion of European blood causes it naturally and insensibly to disappear. It is said that the Residents, desirous of showing a large increase in the products of their districts, have sometimes pressed the people to such continued labour on the plantations that their rice crops have been materially diminished, and famine has been the result. If this has happened, it is certainly not a common thing, and is to be set down to the abuse of the system, by the want of judgment, or want of humanity in the Resident.
A tale has lately been written in Holland, and translated into English, entitled “Max Havelaar; or, the “Coffee Auctions of the Dutch Trading Company,” and with our usual one-sidedness in all relating to the Dutch Colonial System, this work has been excessively praised, both for its own merits, and for its supposed crushing exposure of the iniquities of the Dutch government of Java. Greatly to my surprise, I found it a very tedious and long-winded story, full of rambling digressions; and whose only point is to show that the Dutch Residents and Assistant Residents wink at the extortions of the native princes; and that in some districts the natives have to do work without payment, and have their goods taken away from them without compensation. Every statement of this kind is thickly interspersed with italics and capital letters; but as the names are all fictitious, and neither dates, figures, nor details are ever given, it is impossible to verify or answer them. Even if not exaggerated, the facts stated are not nearly so bad as those of the oppression by free-trade indigo-planters, and torturing by native tax-gatherers under British rule in India, with which the readers of English newspapers were familiar a few years ago. Such oppression, however, is not fairly to be imputed in either case to the particular form of government, but is rather due to the infirmity of human nature, and to the impossibility of at once destroying all trace of ages of despotism on the one side, and of slavish obedience to their chiefs on the other.
It must be remembered, that the complete establishment of the Dutch power in Java is much more recent than that of our rule in India, and that there have been several changes of government, and in the mode of raising revenue. The inhabitants have been so recently under the rule of their native princes, that it is not easy at once to destroy the excessive reverence they feel for their old masters, or to diminish the oppressive exactions which the latter have always been accustomed to make. There is, however, one grand test of the prosperity, and even of the happiness, of a community, which we can apply here — the rate of increase of the population.
It is universally admitted that when a country increases rapidly in population, the people cannot be very greatly oppressed or very badly governed. The present system of raising a revenue by the cultivation of coffee and sugar, sold to Government at a fixed price, began in 1832. Just before this, in 1826, the population by census was 5,500,000, while at the beginning of the century it was estimated at 3,500,000. In 1850, when the cultivation system had been in operation eighteen years, the population by census was over 9,500,000, or an increase of 73 per cent in twenty-four years. At the last census, in 1865, it amounted to 14,168,416, an increase of very nearly 50 per cent in fifteen years — a rate which would double the population in about twenty-six years. As Java (with Madura) contains about 38,500 geographical square miles, this will give an average of 368 persons to the square mile, just double that of the populous and fertile Bengal Presidency as given in Thornton’s Gazetteer of India, and fully one-third more than that of Great Britain and Ireland at the last Census. If, as I believe, this vast population is on the whole contented and happy, the Dutch Government should consider well before abruptly changing a system which has led to such great results.
Taking it as a whole, and surveying it front every point of view, Java is probably the very finest and most interesting tropical island in the world. It is not first in size, but it is more than 600 miles long, and from 60 to 120 miles wide, and in area is nearly equal to England; and it is undoubtedly the most fertile, the most productive, and the most populous island within the tropics. Its whole surface is magnificently varied with mountain and forest scenery. It possesses thirty-eight volcanic mountains, several of which rise to ten or twelve thousand feet high. Some of these are in constant activity, and one or other of them displays almost every phenomenon produced by the action of subterranean fires, except regular lava streams, which never occur in Java. The abundant moisture and tropical heat of the climate causes these mountains to be clothed with luxuriant vegetation, often to their very summits, while forests and plantations cover their lower slopes. The animal productions, especially the birds and insects, are beautiful and varied, and present many peculiar forms found nowhere else upon the globe.
The soil throughout the island is exceedingly fertile, and all the productions of the tropics, together with many of the temperate zones, can be easily cultivated. Java too possesses a civilization, a history and antiquities of its own, of great interest. The Brahminical religion flourished in it from an epoch of unknown antiquity until about the year 1478, when that of Mahomet superseded it. The former religion was accompanied by a civilization which has not been equalled by the conquerors; for, scattered through the country, especially in the eastern part of it, are found buried in lofty forests, temples, tombs, and statues of great beauty and grandeur; and the remains of extensive cities, where the tiger, the rhinoceros, and the wild bull now roam undisturbed. A modern civilization of another type is now spreading over the land. Good roads run through the country from end to end; European and native rulers work harmoniously together; and life and property are as well secured as in the best governed states of Europe. I believe, therefore, that Java may fairly claim to be the finest tropical island in the world, and equally interesting to the tourist seeking after new and beautiful scenes; to the naturalist who desires to examine the variety and beauty of tropical nature; or to the moralist and the politician who want to solve the problem of how man may be best governed under new and varied conditions.
The Dutch mail steamer brought me from Ternate to Sourabaya, the chief town and port in the eastern part of Java, and after a fortnight spent in packing up and sending off my last collections, I started on a short journey into the interior. Travelling in Java is very luxurious but very expensive, the only way being to hire or borrow a carriage, and then pay half a crown a mile for post-horses, which are changed at regular posts every six miles, and will carry you at the rate of ten miles an hour from one end of the island to the other. Bullock carts or coolies are required to carry all extra baggage. As this kind of travelling world not suit my means, I determined on making only a short journey to the district at the foot of Mount Arjuna, where I was told there were extensive forests, and where I hoped to be able to make some good collections. The country for many miles behind Sourabaya is perfectly flat and everywhere cultivated; being a delta or alluvial plain, watered by many branching streams. Immediately around the town the evident signs of wealth and of an industrious population were very pleasing; but as we went on, the constant succession of open fields skirted by rows of bamboos, with here and there the white buildings and a tall chimney of a sugar-mill, became monotonous. The roads run in straight lines for several miles at a stretch, and are bordered by rows of dusty tamarind-trees. At each mile there are little guardhouses, where a policeman is stationed; and there is a wooden gong, which by means of concerted signals may be made to convey information over the country with great rapidity. About every six or seven miles is the post-house, where the horses are changed as quickly as were those of the mail in the old coaching days in England.
I stopped at Modjokerto, a small town about forty miles south of Sourabaya, and the nearest point on the high road to the district I wished to visit. I had a letter of introduction to Mr. Ball, an Englishman, long resident in Java and married to a Dutch lady; and he kindly invited me to stay with him until I could fix on a place to suit me. A Dutch Assistant Resident as well as a Regent or native Javanese prince lived here. The town was neat, and had a nice open grassy space like a village green, on which stood a magnificent fig-tree (allied to the Banyan of India, but more lofty), under whose shade a kind of market is continually held, and where the inhabitants meet together to lounge and chat. The day after my arrival, Mr. Ball drove me over to the village of Modjo-agong, where he was building a house and premises for the tobacco trade, which is carried on here by a system of native cultivation and advance purchase, somewhat similar to the indigo trade in British India. On our way we stayed to look at a fragment of the ruins of the ancient city of Modjo-pahit, consisting of two lofty brick masses, apparently the sides of a gateway. The extreme perfection and beauty of the brickwork astonished me. The bricks are exceedingly fine and hard, with sharp angles and true surfaces. They are laid with great exactness, without visible mortar or cement, yet somehow fastened together so that the joints are hardly perceptible, and sometimes the two surfaces coalesce in a most incomprehensible manner.
Such admirable brickwork I have never seen before or since. There was no sculpture here, but an abundance of bold projections and finely-worked mouldings. Traces of buildings exist for many miles in every direction, and almost every road and pathway shows a foundation of brickwork beneath it — the paved roads of the old city. In the house of the Waidono or district chief at Modjo-agong, I saw a beautiful figure carved in high relief out of a block of lava, and which had been found buried in the ground near the village. On my expressing a wish to obtain some such specimen, Mr. B. asked the chief for it, and much to my surprise he immediately gave it me. It represented the Hindu goddess Durga, called in Java, Lora Jonggrang (the exalted virgin). She has eight arms, and stands on the back of a kneeling bull. Her lower right hand holds the tail of the bull, while the corresponding left hand grasps the hair of a captive, Dewth Mahikusor, the personification of vice, who has attempted to slay her bull. He has a cord round his waist, and crouches at her feet in an attitude of supplication. The other hands of the goddess hold, on her right side, a double hook or small anchor, a broad straight sword, and a noose of thick cord; on her left, a girdle or armlet of large beads or shells, an unstrung bow, and a standard or war flag. This deity was a special favourite among the old Javanese, and her image is often found in the ruined temples which abound in the eastern part of the island.
The specimen I had obtained was a small one, about two feet high, weighing perhaps a hundredweight; and the next day we had it conveyed to Modjo–Kerto to await my return to Sourabaya. Having decided to stay some time at Wonosalem, on the lower slopes of the Arjuna Mountain, where I was informed I should find forest and plenty of game, I had first to obtain a recommendation from the Assistant Resident to the Regent, and then an order from the Regent to the Waidono; and when after a week’s delay I arrived with my baggage and men at Modjo-agong, I found them all in the midst of a five days’ feast, to celebrate the circumcision of the Waidono’s younger brother and cousin, and had a small room in an on outhouse given me to stay in. The courtyard and the great open reception-shed were full of natives coming and going and making preparations for a feast which was to take place at midnight, to which I was invited, but preferred going to bed. A native band, or Gamelang, was playing almost all the evening, and I had a good opportunity of seeing the instruments and musicians. The former are chiefly gongs of various sizes, arranged in sets of from eight to twelve, on low wooden frames. Each set is played by one performer with one or two drumsticks. There are also some very large gongs, played singly or in pairs, and taking the place of our drums and kettledrums. Other instruments are formed by broad metallic bars, supported on strings stretched across frames; and others again of strips of bamboo similarly placed and producing the highest notes. Besides these there were a flute and a curious two-stringed violin, requiring in all twenty-four performers. There was a conductor, who led off and regulated the time, and each performer took his part, coming in occasionally with a few bars so as to form a harmonious combination. The pieces played were long and complicated, and some of the players were mere boys, who took their parts with great precision. The general effect was very pleasing, but, owing to the similarity of most of the instruments, more like a gigantic musical box than one of our bands; and in order to enjoy it thoroughly it is necessary to watch the large number of performers who are engaged in it. The next morning, while I was waiting for the men and horses who were to take me and my baggage to my destination, the two lads, who were about fourteen years old, were brought out, clothed in a sarong from the waist downwards, and having the whole body covered with yellow powder, and profusely decked with white blossom in wreaths, necklaces, and armlets, looking at first sight very like savage brides. They were conducted by two priests to a bench placed in front of the house in the open air, and the ceremony of circumcision was then performed before the assembled crowd.
The road to Wonosalem led through a magnificent forest in the depths of which we passed a fine ruin of what appeared to have been a royal tomb or mausoleum. It is formed entirely of stone, and elaborately carved. Near the base is a course of boldly projecting blocks, sculptured in high relief, with a series of scenes which are probably incidents in the life of the defunct. These are all beautifully executed, some of the figures of animals in particular, being easily recognisable and very accurate. The general design, as far as the ruined state of the upper part will permit of its being seen, is very good, effect being given by an immense number and variety of projecting or retreating courses of squared stones in place of mouldings. The size of this structure is about thirty feet square by twenty high, and as the traveller comes suddenly upon it on a small elevation by the roadside, overshadowed by gigantic trees, overrun with plants and creepers, and closely backed by the gloomy forest, he is struck by the solemnity and picturesque beauty of the scene, and is led to ponder on the strange law of progress, which looks so like retrogression, and which in so many distant parts of the world has exterminated or driven out a highly artistic and constructive race, to make room for one which, as far as we can judge, is very far its inferior.
Few Englishmen are aware of the number and beauty of the architectural remains in Java. They have never been popularly illustrated or described, and it will therefore take most persons by surprise to learn that they far surpass those of Central America, perhaps even those of India. To give some idea of these ruins, and perchance to excite wealthy amateurs to explore them thoroughly and obtain by photography an accurate record of their beautiful sculptures before it is too late, I will enumerate the most important, as briefly described in Sir Stamford Raffles’ “History of Java.”
BRAMBANAM. — Near the centre of Java, between the native capitals of Djoko-kerta and Surakerta, is the village of Brambanam, near which are abundance of ruins, the most important being the temples of Loro–Jongran and Chandi Sewa. At Loro–Jongran there were twenty separate buildings, six large and fourteen small temples. They are now a mass of ruins, but the largest temples are supposed to have been ninety feet high. They were all constructed of solid stone, everywhere decorated with carvings and bas-reliefs, and adorned with numbers of statues, many of which still remain entire. At Chandi Sewa, or the “Thousand Temples,” are many fine colossal figures. Captain Baker, who surveyed these ruins, said he had never in his life seen “such stupendous and finished specimens of human labour, and of the science and taste of ages long since forgot, crowded together in so small a compass as in this spot.” They cover a space of nearly six hundred feet square, and consist of an outer row of eighty-four small temples, a second row of seventy-six, a third of sixty-four, a fourth of forty-four, and the fifth forming an inner parallelogram of twenty-eight, in all two hundred and ninety-six small temples; disposed in five regular parallelograms. In the centre is a large cruciform temple surrounded by lofty flights of steps richly ornamented with sculpture, and containing many apartments. The tropical vegetation has ruined most of the smaller temples, but some remain tolerably perfect, from which the effect of the whole may be imagined.
About half a mile off is another temple, called Chandi Kali Bening, seventy-two feet square and sixty feet high, in very fine preservation, and covered with sculptures of Hindu mythology surpassing any that exist in India, other ruins of palaces, halls, and temples, with abundance of sculptured deities, are found in the same neighbourhood.
BOROBODO. — About eighty miles westward, in the province of Kedu, is the great temple of Borobodo. It is built upon a small hill, and consists of a central dome and seven ranges of terraced walls covering the slope of the hill and forming open galleries each below the other, and communicating by steps and gateways. The central dome is fifty feet in diameter; around it is a triple circle of seventy-two towers, and the whole building is six hundred and twenty feet square, and about one hundred feet high. In the terrace walls are niches containing cross-legged figures larger than life to the number of about four hundred, and both sides of all the terrace walls are covered with bas-reliefs crowded with figures, and carved in hard stone and which must therefore occupy an extent of nearly three miles in length! The amount of human labour and skill expended on the Great Pyramid of Egypt sinks into insignificance when compared with that required to complete this sculptured hill-temple in the interior of Java.
GUNONG PRAU. — About forty miles southwest of Samarang, on a mountain called Gunong Prau, an extensive plateau is covered with ruins. To reach these temples, four flights of stone steps were made up the mountain from opposite directions, each flight consisting of more than a thousand steps. Traces of nearly four hundred temples have been found here, and many (perhaps all) were decorated with rich and delicate sculptures. The whole country between this and Brambanam, a distance of sixty miles, abounds with ruins, so that fine sculptured images may be seen lying in the ditches, or built into the walls of enclosures.
In the eastern part of Java, at Kediri and in Malang, there are equally abundant traces of antiquity, but the buildings themselves have been mostly destroyed. Sculptured figures, however, abound; and the ruins of forts, palaces, baths, aqueducts, and temples, can be everywhere traced. It is altogether contrary to the plan of this book to describe what I have not myself seen; but, having been led to mention them, I felt bound to do something to call attention to these marvellous works of art. One is overwhelmed by the contemplation of these innumerable sculptures, worked with delicacy and artistic feeling in a hard, intractable, trachytic rock, and all found in one tropical island. What could have been the state of society, what the amount of population, what the means of subsistence which rendered such gigantic works possible, will, perhaps, ever remain a mystery; and it is a wonderful example of the power of religious ideas in social life, that in the very country where, five hundred years ago, these grand works were being yearly executed, the inhabitants now only build rude houses of bamboo and thatch, and look upon these relics of their forefathers with ignorant amazement, as the undoubted productions of giants or of demons. It is much to be regretted that the Dutch Government does not take vigorous steps for the preservation of these ruins from the destroying agency of tropical vegetation; and for the collection of the fine sculptures which are everywhere scattered over the land.
Wonosalem is situated about a thousand feet above the sea, but unfortunately it is at a distance from the forest, and is surrounded by coffee plantations, thickets of bamboo, and coarse grasses. It was too far to walk back daily to the forest, and in other directions I could find no collecting ground for insects. The place was, however, famous for peacocks, and my boy soon shot several of these magnificent birds, whose flesh we found to be tender, white, and delicate, and similar to that of a turkey. The Java peacock is a different species from that of India, the neck being covered with scale-like green feathers, and the crest of a different form; but the eyed train is equally large and equally beautiful. It is a singular fact in geographical distribution that the peacock should not be found in Sumatra or Borneo, while the superb Argus, Fire-backed and Ocellated pheasants of those islands are equally unknown in Java. Exactly parallel is the fact that in Ceylon and Southern India, where the peacock abounds, there are none of the splendid Lophophori and other gorgeous pheasants which inhabit Northern India. It would seem as if the peacock can admit of no rivals in its domain. Were these birds rare in their native country, and unknown alive in Europe, they would assuredly be considered as the true princes of the feathered tribes, and altogether unrivalled for stateliness and beauty. As it is, I suppose scarcely anyone if asked to fix upon the most beautiful bird in the world would name the peacock, any more than the Papuan savage or the Bugis trader would fix upon the bird of paradise for the same honour.
Three days after my arrival at Wonosalem, my friend Mr. Ball came to pay me a visit. He told me that two evenings before, a boy had been killed and eaten by a tiger close to Modjo-agong. He was riding on a cart drawn by bullocks, and was coming home about dusk on the main road; and when not half a mile from the village a tiger sprang upon him, carried him off into the jungle close by, and devoured him. Next morning his remains were discovered, consisting only of a few mangled bones. The Waidono had got together about seven hundred men, and were in chase of the animal, which, I afterwards heard, they found and killed. They only use spears when in pursuit of a tiger in this way. They surround a large tract of country, and draw gradually together until the animal is enclosed in a compact ring of armed men. When he sees there is no escape he generally makes a spring, and is received on a dozen spears, and almost instantly stabbed to death. The skin of an animal thus killed is, of course, worthless, and in this case the skull, which I had begged Mr. Ball to secure for me, was hacked to pieces to divide the teeth, which are worn as charms.
After a week at Wonosalem, I returned to the foot of the mountain, to a village named Djapannan, which was surrounded by several patches of forest, and seemed altogether pretty well spited to my pursuits. The chief of the village had prepared two small bamboo rooms on one side of his own courtyard to accommodate me, and seemed inclined to assist me as much as he could. The weather was exceedingly hot and dry, no rain having fallen for several months, and there was, in consequence, a great scarcity of insects, and especially of beetles. I therefore devoted myself chiefly to obtaining a good set of the birds, and succeeded in making a tolerable collection. All the peacocks we had hitherto shot had had short or imperfect tails, but I now obtained two magnificent specimens more than seven feet long, one of which I preserved entire, while I kept the train only attached to the tail of two or three others. When this bird is seen feeding on the ground, it appears wonderful how it can rise into the air with such a long and cumbersome train of feathers. It does so however with great ease, by running quickly for a short distance, and then rising obliquely; and will fly over trees of a considerable height. I also obtained here a specimen of the rare green jungle-fowl (Gallus furcatus), whose back and neck are beautifully scaled with bronzy feathers, and whose smooth-edged oval comb is of a violet purple colour, changing to green at the base. It is also remarkable in possessing a single large wattle beneath its throat, brightly coloured in three patches of red, yellow, and blue. The common jungle-cock (Gallus bankiva) was also obtained here. It is almost exactly like a common game-cock, but the voice is different, being much shorter and more abrupt; hence its native name is Bekeko. Six different kinds of woodpeckers and four kingfishers were found here, the fine hornbill, Buceros lunatus, more than four feet long, and the pretty little lorikeet, Loriculus pusillus, scarcely more than as many inches.
One morning, as I was preparing and arranging specimens, I was told there was to be a trial; and presently four or five men came in and squatted down on a mat under the audience-shed in the court. The chief then came in with his clerk, and sat down opposite them. Each spoke in turn, telling his own tale, and then I found that those who first entered were the prisoner, accuser, policemen, and witness, and that the prisoner was indicated solely by having a loose piece of cord twilled around his wrists, but not tied. It was a case of robbery, and after the evidence was given, and a few questions had been asked by the chief, the accused said a few words, and then sentence was pronounced, which was a fine. The parties then got up and walked away together, seeming quite friendly; and throughout there was nothing in the manner of any one present indicating passion or ill-feeling — a very good illustration of the Malayan type of character.
In a month’s collecting at Wonosaleni and Djapannan I accumulated ninety-eight species of birds, but a most miserable lot of insects. I then determined to leave East Java and try the more moist and luxuriant districts at the western extremity of the island. I returned to Sourabaya by water, in a roomy boat which brought myself, servants, and baggage at one-fifth the expense it had cost me to come to Modjo-kerto. The river has been rendered navigable by being carefully banked up, but with the usual effect of rendering the adjacent country liable occasionally to severe floods. An immense traffic passes down this river; and at a lock we passed through, a mile of laden boats were waiting two or three deep, which pass through in their turn six at a time.
A few days afterwards I went by steamer to Batavia, where I stayed about a week at the chief hotel, while I made arrangements for a trip into the interior. The business part of the city is near the harbour, but the hotels and all the residences of the officials and European merchants are in a suburb two miles off, laid out in wide streets and squares so as to cover a great extent of ground. This is very inconvenient for visitors, as the only public conveyances are handsome two-horse carriages, whose lowest charge is five guilders (8s. 4d.) for half a day, so that an hour’s business in the morning and a visit in the evening costs 16s. 8d. a day for carriage hire alone.
Batavia agrees very well with Mr. Money’s graphic account of it, except that his “clear canals” were all muddy, and his “smooth gravel drives” up to the houses were one and all formed of coarse pebbles, very painful to walk upon, and hardly explained by the fact that in Batavia everybody drives, as it can hardly be supposed that people never walk in their gardens. The Hôtel des Indes was very comfortable, each visitor having a sitting-room and bedroom opening on a verandah, where he can take his morning coffee and afternoon tea. In the centre of the quadrangle is a building containing a number of marble baths always ready for use; and there is an excellent table d’hôte breakfast at ten, and dinner at six, for all which there is a moderate charge per day.
I went by coach to Buitenzorg, forty miles inland and about a thousand feet above the sea, celebrated for its delicious climate and its Botanical Gardens. With the latter I was somewhat disappointed. The walks were all of loose pebbles, making any lengthened wanderings about them very tiring and painful under a tropical sun. The gardens are no doubt wonderfully rich in tropical and especially in Malayan plants, but there is a great absence of skillful laying-out; there are not enough men to keep the place thoroughly in order, and the plants themselves are seldom to be compared for luxuriance and beauty to the same species grown in our hothouses. This can easily be explained. The plants can rarely be placed in natural or very favourable conditions. The climate is either too hot or too cool, too moist or too dry, for a large proportion of them, and they seldom get the exact quantity of shade or the right quality of soil to suit them. In our stoves these varied conditions can be supplied to each individual plant far better than in a large garden, where the fact that the plants are most of them growing in or near their native country is supposed to preclude, the necessity of giving them much individual attention. Still, however, there is much to admire here. There are avenues of stately palms, and clumps of bamboos of perhaps fifty different kinds; and an endless variety of tropical shrubs and trees with strange and beautiful foliage. As a change from the excessive heat of Batavia, Buitenzorg is a delightful abode. It is just elevated enough to have deliciously cool evenings and nights, but not so much as to require any change of clothing; and to a person long resident in the hotter climate of the plains, the air is always fresh and pleasant, and admits of walking at almost any hour of the day. The vicinity is most picturesque and luxuriant, and the great volcano of Gunung Salak, with its truncated and jagged summit, forms a characteristic background to many of the landscapes. A great mud eruption took place in 1699, since which date the mountain has been entirely inactive.
On leaving Buitenzorg, I had coolies to carry my baggage and a horse for myself, both to be changed every six or seven miles. The road rose gradually, and after the first stage the hills closed in a little on each side, forming a broad valley; and the temperature was so cool and agreeable, and the country so interesting, that I preferred walking. Native villages imbedded in fruit trees, and pretty villas inhabited by planters or retired Dutch officials, gave this district a very pleasing and civilized aspect; but what most attracted my attention was the system of terrace-cultivation, which is here universally adopted, and which is, I should think, hardly equalled in the world. The slopes of the main valley, and of its branches, were everywhere cut in terraces up to a considerable height, and when they wound round the recesses of the hills produced all the effect of magnificent amphitheatres. Hundreds of square miles of country are thus terraced, and convey a striking idea of the industry of the people and the antiquity of their civilization. These terraces are extended year by year as the population increases, by the inhabitants of each village working in concert under the direction of their chiefs; and it is perhaps by this system of village culture alone, that such extensive terracing and irrigation has been rendered possible. It was probably introduced by the Brahmins from India, since in those Malay countries where there is no trace of a previous occupation by a civilized people, the terrace system is unknown. I first saw this mode of cultivation in Bali and Lombock, and, as I shall have to describe it in some detail there (see Chapter X.), I need say no more about it in this place, except that, owing to the finer outlines and greater luxuriance of the country in West Java, it produces there the most striking and picturesque effect. The lower slopes of the mountains in Java possess such a delightful climate and luxuriant soil; living is so cheap and life and property are so secure, that a considerable number of Europeans who have been engaged in Government service, settle permanently in the country instead of returning to Europe. They are scattered everywhere throughout the more accessible parts of the island, and tend greatly to the gradual improvement of the native population, and to the continued peace and prosperity of the whole country.
Twenty miles beyond Buitenzorg the post road passes over the Megamendong Mountain, at an elevation of about 4,500 feet. The country is finely mountainous, and there is much virgin forest still left upon the hills, together with some of the oldest coffee-plantations in Java, where the plants have attained almost the dimensions of forest trees. About 500 feet below the summit level of the pass there is a road-keeper’s hut, half of which I hired for a fortnight, as the country looked promising for making collections. I almost immediately found that the productions of West Java were remarkably different from those of the eastern part of the island; and that all the more remarkable and characteristic Javanese birds and insects were to be found here. On the very first day, my hunters obtained for me the elegant yellow and green trogon (Harpactes Reinwardti), the gorgeous little minivet flycatcher (Pericrocotus miniatus), which looks like a flame of fire as it flutters among the bushes, and the rare and curious black and crimson oriole (Analcipus sanguinolentus), all of these species which are found only in Java, and even seem to be confined to its western portion.
In a week I obtained no less than twenty-four species of birds, which I had not found in the east of the island, and in a fortnight this number increased to forty species, almost all of which are peculiar to the Javanese fauna. Large and handsome butterflies were also tolerably abundant. In dark ravines, and occasionally on the roadside, I captured the superb Papilio arjuna, whose wings seem powdered with grains of golden green, condensed into bands and moon-shaped spots; while the elegantly-formed Papilio coon was sometimes to be found fluttering slowly along the shady pathways (see figure at page 201). One day a boy brought me a butterfly between his fingers, perfectly unhurt. He had caught it as it was sitting with wings erect, sucking up the liquid from a muddy spot by the roadside. Many of the finest tropical butterflies have this habit, and they are generally so intent upon their meal that they can be easily be reached and captured. It proved to be the rare and curious Charaxes kadenii, remarkable for having on each hind wing two curved tails like a pair of callipers. It was the only specimen I ever saw, and is still the only representative of its kind in English collections.
In the east of Java I had suffered from the intense heat and drought of the dry season, which had been very inimical to insect life. Here I had got into the other extreme of damp, wet, and cloudy weather, which was equally unfavourable. During the month which I spent in the interior of West Java, I never had a really hot fine, day throughout. It rained almost every afternoon, or dense mists came down from the mountains, which equally stopped collecting, and rendered it most difficult to dry my specimens, so that I really had no chance of getting a fair sample of Javanese entomology.
By far the most interesting incident in my visit to Java was a trip to the summit of the Pangerango and Gedeh mountains; the former an extinct volcanic cone about 10,000 feet high, the latter an active crater on a lower portion of the same mountain range. Tchipanas, about four miles over the Megamendong Pass, is at the foot of the mountain. A small country house for the Governor–General and a branch of the Botanic Gardens are situated here, the keeper of which accommodated me with a bed for a night. There are many beautiful trees and shrubs planted here, and large quantities of European vegetables are grown for the Governor–General’s table. By the side of a little torrent that bordered the garden, quantities of orchids were cultivated, attached to the trunks of trees, or suspended from the branches, forming an interesting open air orchid-house. As I intended to stay two or three nights on the mountain, I engaged two coolies to carry my baggage, and with my two hunters we started early the next morning.
The first mile was over open country, which brought us to the forest that covers the whole mountain from a height of about 5,000 feet. The next mile or two was a tolerably steep ascent through a grand virgin forest, the trees being of great size, and the undergrowth consisting of fine herbaceous plants, tree-ferns, and shrubby vegetation. I was struck by the immense number of ferns that grew by the side of the road. Their variety seemed endless, and I was continually stopping to admire some new and interesting forms. I could now well understand what I had been told by the gardener, that 300 species had been found on this one mountain. A little before noon we reached the small plateau of Tjiburong, at the foot of the steeper part of the mountain, where there is a plank-house for the accommodation of travellers. Close by is a picturesque waterfall and a curious cavern, which I had not time to explore. Continuing our ascent the road became narrow, rugged and steep, winding zigzag up the cone, which is covered with irregular masses of rock, and overgrown with a dense luxuriant but less lofty vegetation. We passed a torrent of water which is not much lower than the boiling point, and has a most singular appearance as it foams over its rugged bed, sending up clouds of steam, and often concealed by the overhanging herbage of ferns and lycopodia, which here thrive with more luxuriance than elsewhere.
At about 7,500 feet we came to another hut of open bamboos, at a place called Kandang Badak, or “Rhinoceros-field,” which we were going to make our temporary abode. Here was a small clearing, with abundance of tree-ferns and some young plantations of Cinchona. As there was now a thick mist and drizzling rain, I did not attempt to go on to the summit that evening, but made two visits to it during my stay, as well as one to the active crater of Gedeh. This is a vast semicircular chasm, bounded by black perpendicular walls of rock, and surrounded by miles of rugged scoria-covered slopes. The crater itself is not very deep. It exhibits patches of sulphur and variously-coloured volcanic products, and emits from several vents continual streams of smoke and vapour. The extinct cone of Pangerango was to me more interesting. The summit is an irregular undulating plain with a low bordering ridge, and one deep lateral chasm. Unfortunately, there was perpetual mist and rain either above or below us all the time I was on the mountain; so that I never once saw the plain below, or had a glimpse of the magnificent view which in fine weather is to be obtained from its summit. Notwithstanding this drawback I enjoyed the excursion exceedingly, for it was the first time I had been high enough on a mountain near the Equator to watch the change from a tropical to a temperate flora. I will now briefly sketch these changes as I observed them in Java.
On ascending the mountain, we first meet with temperate forms of herbaceous plants, so low as 3,000 feet, where strawberries and violets begin to grow, but the former are tasteless, and the latter have very small and pale flowers. Weedy composites also begin to give a European aspect to the wayside herbage. It is between 2,000 and 5,000 feet that the forests and ravines exhibit the utmost development of tropical luxuriance and beauty. The abundance of noble Tree-ferns, sometimes fifty feet high, contributes greatly to the general effect, since of all the forms of tropical vegetation they are certainly the most striking and beautiful. Some of the deep ravines which have been cleared of large timber are full of them from top to bottom; and where the road crosses one of these valleys, the view of their feathery crowns, in varied positions above and below the eye, offers a spectacle of picturesque beauty never to be forgotten. The splendid foliage of the broad-leaved Musceae and Zingiberaceae, with their curious and brilliant flowers; and the elegant and varied forms of plants allied to Begonia and Melastoma, continually attract the attention in this region. Filling in the spaces between the trees and larger plants, on every trunk and stump and branch, are hosts of Orchids, Ferns and Lycopods, which wave and hang and intertwine in ever-varying complexity. At about 5,000 feet I first saw horsetails (Equisetum), very like our own species. At 6,000 feet, raspberries abound, and thence to the summit of the mountain there are three species of eatable Rubus. At 7,000 feet Cypresses appear, and the forest trees become reduced in size, and more covered with mosses and lichens. From this point upward these rapidly increase, so that the blocks of rock and scoria that form the mountain slope are completely hidden in a mossy vegetation. At about 5,000 feet European forms of plants become abundant. Several species of Honeysuckle, St. John’s-wort, and Guelder-rose abound, and at about 9,000 feet we first meet with the rare and beautiful Royal Cowslip (Primula imperialis), which is said to be found nowhere else in the world but on this solitary mountain summit. It has a tall, stout stem, sometimes more than three feet high, the root leaves are eighteen inches long, and it bears several whorls of cowslip-like flowers, instead of a terminal cluster only. The forest trees, gnarled and dwarfed to the dimensions of bushes, reach up to the very rim of the old crater, but do not extend over the hollow on its summit. Here we find a good deal of open ground, with thickets of shrubby Artemisias and Gnaphaliums, like our southernwood and cudweed, but six or eight feet high; while Buttercups, Violets, Whortleberries, Sow-thistles, Chickweed, white and yellow Cruciferae Plantain, and annual grasses everywhere abound. Where there are bushes and shrubs, the St. John’s-wort and Honeysuckle grow abundantly, while the Imperial Cowslip only exhibits its elegant blossoms under the damp shade of the thickets.
Mr. Motley, who visited the mountain in the dry season, and paid much attention to botany, gives the following list of genera of European plants found on or near the summit: Two species of Violet, three of Ranunculus, three of Impatiens, eight or ten of Rubus, and species of Primula, Hypericum, Swertia, Convallaria (Lily of the Valley), Vaccinium (Cranberry), Rhododendron, Gnaphalium, Polygonum, Digitalis (Foxglove), Lonicera (Honey-suckle), Plantago (Rib-grass), Artemisia (Wormwood), Lobelia, Oxalis (Wood-sorrel), Quercus (Oak), and Taxus (Yew). A few of the smaller plants (Plantago major and lanceolata, Sonchus oleraceus, and Artemisia vulgaris) are identical with European species.
The fact of a vegetation so closely allied to that of Europe occurring on isolated mountain peaks, in an island south of the Equator, while all the lowlands for thousands of miles around are occupied by a flora of a totally different character, is very extraordinary; and has only recently received an intelligible explanation. The Peak of Teneriffe, which rises to a greater height and is much nearer to Europe, contains no such Alpine flora; neither do the mountains of Bourbon and Mauritius. The case of the volcanic peaks of Java is therefore somewhat exceptional, but there are several analogous, if not exactly parallel cases, that will enable us better to understand in what way the phenomena may possibly have been brought about.
The higher peaks of the Alps, and even of the Pyrenees, contain a number of plants absolutely identical with those of Lapland, but nowhere found in the intervening plains. On the summit of the White Mountains, in the United States, every plant is identical with species growing in Labrador. In these cases all ordinary means of transport fail. Most of the plants have heavy seeds, which could not possibly be carried such immense distances by the wind; and the agency of birds in so effectually stocking these Alpine heights is equally out of the question. The difficulty was so great, that some naturalists were driven to believe that these species were all separately created twice over on these distant peaks. The determination of a recent glacial epoch, however, soon offered a much more satisfactory solution, and one that is now universally accepted by men of science. At this period, when the mountains of Wales were full of glaciers, and the mountainous parts of Central Europe, and much of America north of the great lakes, were covered with snow and ice, and had a climate resembling that of Labrador and Greenland at the present day, an Arctic flora covered all these regions. As this epoch of cold passed away, and the snowy mantle of the country, with the glaciers that descended from every mountain summit, receded up their slopes and towards the north pole, the plants receded also, always clinging as now to the margins of the perpetual snow line. Thus it is that the same species are now found on the summits of the mountains of temperate Europe and America, and in the barren north-polar regions.
But there is another set of facts, which help us on another step towards the case of the Javanese mountain flora. On the higher slopes of the Himalayas, on the tops of the mountains of Central India and of Abyssinia, a number of plants occur which, though not identical with those of European mountains, belong to the same genera, and are said by botanists to represent them; and most of these could not exist in the warm intervening plains. Mr. Darwin believes that this class of facts can be explained in the same way; for, during the greatest severity of the glacial epoch, temperate forms of plants will have extended to the confines of the tropics, and on its departure, will have retreated up these southern mountains, as well as northward to the plains and hills of Europe. But in this case, the time elapsed, and the great change of conditions, have allowed many of these plants to become so modified that we now consider them to be distinct species. A variety of other facts of a similar nature have led him to believe that the depression of temperature was at one time sufficient to allow a few north-temperate plants to cross the Equator (by the most elevated routes) and to reach the Antarctic regions, where they are now found. The evidence on which this belief rests will be found in the latter part of Chapter II. of the “Origin of Species”; and, accepting it for the present as an hypothesis, it enables us to account for the presence of a flora of European type on the volcanoes of Java.
It will, however, naturally be objected that there is a wide expanse of sea between Java and the continent, which would have effectually prevented the immigration of temperate fortes of plants during the glacial epoch. This would undoubtedly be a fatal objection, were there not abundant evidence to show that Java has been formerly connected with Asia, and that the union must have occurred at about the epoch required. The most striking proof of such a junction is, that the great Mammalia of Java, the rhinoceros, the tiger, and the Banteng or wild ox, occur also in Siam and Burmah, and these would certainly not have been introduced by man. The Javanese peacock and several other birds are also common to these two countries; but, in the majority of cases, the species are distinct, though closely allied, indicating that a considerable time (required for such modification) has elapsed since the separation, while it has not been so long as to cause an entire change. Now this exactly corresponds with the time we should require since the temperate forms of plants entered Java. These are now almost distinct species, but the changed conditions under which they are now forced to exist, and the probability of some of them having since died out on the continent of India, sufficiently accounts for the Javanese species being different.
In my more special pursuits, I had very little success upon the mountain — owing, perhaps, to the excessively unpropitious weather and the shortness of my stay. At from 7,000 to 8,000 feet elevation, I obtained one of almost lovely of the small Fruit pigeons (Ptilonopus roseicollis), whose entire head and neck are of an exquisite rosy pink colour, contrasting finely with its otherwise blue plumage; and on the very summit, feeding on the ground among the strawberries that have been planted there, I obtained a dull-coloured thrush, with the form and habits of a starling (Turdus fumidus). Insects were almost entirely absent, owing no doubt to the extreme dampness, and I did not get a single butterfly the whole trip; yet I feel sure that, during the dry season, a week’s residence on this mountain would well repay the collector in every department of natural history.
After my return to Toego, I endeavoured to find another locality to collect in, and removed to a coffee-plantation some miles to the north, and tried in succession higher and lower stations on the mountain; but, I never succeeded in obtaining insects in any abundance and birds were far less plentiful than on the Megamendong Mountan. The weather now became more rainy than ever, and as the wet season seemed to have set in in earnest, I returned to Batavia, packed up and sent off my collections, and left by steamer on November 1st for Banca and Sumatra.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:14