The Natives Of Java
( Originally Published 1904 )
LEAVING Buitenzorg we cross Java by railroad, stop-ping in the various provinces, visiting the cities, and taking long drives from place to place throughout the country. The roads are excellent, there are good hotels in the towns, and we have no trouble in making our way.
Now we are entertained at one of the large plantations owned by the Dutch, and now we stop at a native village and study the people as they live in their homes.
The country is much like the Philippines, and the people are in some respects the same. They live in villages shaded with palms and other great trees. They have gardens and flowers, and many own small tracts of cultivated land. They labor in gangs and walk long distances to their work. . We see them marching out in single and double file in the morning and back in the evening. They are sometimes paid a share of the crop.
The native houses are huts often made of woven bamboo thatched with palm leaves. The walls are just like basket work, made in great sheets which are so thin that they can be bent like the cover of a wagon. They are thus carried from one place to another, and we some-times see a wall of this kind apparently moving along upon legs, the man carrying it being almost concealed within. The walls are tied to a framework of poles, and the floor is often made of bamboo.
The people sleep on low beds or upon the floor. They cook on little stoves of clay so small that they can be easily moved from place to place.
Almost every farmer's house has its rice granary beside it, and its rice mortar, where the women pound the rice out of the hulls as it is needed by the family. Many huts have pigeon cotes on poles beside them, and pigeons are to be seen everywhere.
The richer natives and the nobles have larger houses, some living in buildings of stone or brick like the Dutch. The masses, however, are exceedingly poor. They are content with an amount equal to a few of our cents a day, and live from hand to mouth.
How queerly they dress ! A very little cloth makes a costume for a man or woman. The ordinary dress is the sarong, a long strip of bright-colored cotton, which is bound tightly about the waist, and in the case of the woman falls to the feet. Above this is another piece of cotton wrapped tightly around the body under the arms, leaving the shoulders bare; and sometimes also a jacket. The sarong is often so long that it forms the only article of dress, being wound around the body under the arms and falling to the feet. Very few of the native women wear shoes and many of them go bareheaded.
The Javanese man has a waistcloth much like the woman's, al-though he tucks it under his legs and into the belt at the back. He frequently wears a jacket, and on his head a turban not unlike those of our Moros.
How small the people are ! The men are not much over five feet high, and the women still smaller. They are Malays, having yellow or light brown skins, high cheek bones, and eyes a trifle aslant. Their lips are thicker than ours, but not so thick as those of the negro. They are plump and well formed, having slender limbs, small wrists and ankles, and long, slender fingers.
They are a kind people, full of good nature and laughter, although jealous, revengeful, and apt to be treacherous. They are very polite and gladly tell us all about themselves and their customs.
We learn that the natives are divided into three great races, according to the parts of Java from which they come. In western Java are the Sudanese, in middle Java and in a large part of the east the Javanese proper, and in eastern Java the Madurese, who also inhabit the island of Madura. Each of these peoples has its own language, although they are all similar.
The natives are mostly Mohammedans. They are not very strict in the observance of their religion, although every town has its priests, and there are large mosques in some of the cities.
In the distant past. Java had many Hindus. The people worshiped the same gods that are now worshiped in Hindustan. They built great temples as did also the Buddhists, another religious sect which was once strong in Java. One of the greatest ruins of the world is that of Borobodor, situated in the central part of the island. It is a vast monument, rising to a height of a tall church steeple in terraces which are decorated with statues and wonderful carvings. It has more than three miles of carved figures, some no larger than one's finger, and some several feet in height. It has about five hundred statues of Buddha, and in the country about it there are other statues and wonderful ruins.
We stop often to visit the markets. They are found in all the cities and villages, and are most interesting places. They are made up of hundreds of little stores or bazaars under one roof. In some of the towns they are held in vast sheds, roofed with thin brick tiles, green with the moss of old age.
We spend some time in the markets of Jokjokarta (jok-yo-kar'ta), wandering about through the many acres of little stores of all kinds. Each storeroom is a platform upon which the merchant, usually a woman, sits surrounded by goods. One part of the market is devoted to fruits and vegetables, and another to chickens and eggs; other parts have only dry goods and notions, while others sell hardware and jewelry, and, in short, everything used by the natives.
At the fowl market we see hundreds of pigeons of all colors, selling for an amount equal to about two of our cents apiece. The women dealers have little wooden whistles on hand, so made that they can be tied to the tail feathers of the birds. When so adjusted the whistle makes a shrill noise as the pigeon flies through the air, and thus scares off the hawks.
We visit the butcher shops where the women are selling meats, drug stores where they offer us roots and leaves for all sorts of ailments, including pills which they say will cure love-sickness, and make those who eat them fall in love with the giver. We stop at the tailor shops where men and women sit on the floor, working away on little hand sewing machines. Here is a girl making a silk jacket. She sits crosslegged on the floor, holding her machine between her bare toes as she works.
Let us move on to the fruit stands and have a lunch of some of the things for which Java is noted. Do you like pineapples ? Here is a girl selling some, fresh from the field. They are twice as big as our pineapples, and so ripe that their odor fills the air. We buy one for a coin worth two of our cents, and eat it while we chat through the interpreter with the women merchants about us. They see we are strangers, and bring up one fruit after another and ask us to taste it. We sample all sorts of bananas and oranges, eat a slice of the papaya, a large fruit like a ripe yellow muskmelon which grows on a tree, and rejoice in the mangosteens which look like dark red apples, but which are white as snow on the inside, and taste some-what like a mixture of strawberries and ice cream. We are eating mangosteens when a maiden puts under our noses a durian as big round as a football. It smells like a mixture of onions and very old cheese, and we draw back in disgust. Nevertheless, this fruit is much prized by the natives, and by such foreigners as can overcome their dislike for its disagreeable odor. The flesh is yellow, looking somewhat like custard.
Upon leaving we ask what all the fruit we have eaten has cost, and find it only a very few cents. We have no small coins, and are directed to the money changers or women bankers outside. Each sits on a platform with piles of pennies, half pennies, and other copper and silver coins before her, changing money for a slight percentage on every transaction. All the business done in the market is in a small way, and many purchases amount to less than a cent each. One does not need much to pay for a meal, and the natives require but little to live.
And still the better classes of natives spend a great deal. The sultan of Jokjokarta has a whole city surrounded by walls just opposite this market. In this inclosure he has his palaces and the homes of the people of his court, the stables of his many fine horses, a menagerie of tigers, lions, and other wild animals, as well as the state elephants which march in his royal processions.
The nobles wear a curious dress, consisting chiefly of a tall cap and costly sarong. When they come into the presence of the sultan, they must wear nothing above the waist and must leave their swords and other arms outside. When his Majesty walks out, a great golden umbrella is carried over him to shield him from the sun, and his nobles come behind bearing other umbrellas, forming all together a gorgeous procession. At such times the common people squat down and hold up their hands, for no one can stand before the sultan or be on the same level with him. This sultan has a large estate of his own, but he must govern it as he is told to do by the Dutch resident appointed from Holland.
It is the same with the sultan of Surakarta (soo-rakar'ta), another province of Java. In these two provinces the people live much as they did when the Dutch first took possession of the island, but in the other provinces they have been awarded more rights and are more directly ruled by the Dutch.