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the valley and the background there appeared to be a perfect labyrinth of minor ranges of hills and rolling ground, and a huge rock reared itself up from the plain like an island in some vast sea. On closer inspection it appears without doubt that, centuries ago, this valley was an immense lake, and probably before that a volcanic crater; this will account for the curious bones of animals which the natives find in their excavations after precious stones.
The ruby-bearing district, of which we had now reached the center, may be described as lying in a few compact valley basins, the principal of which are Mogok, Yebu, Kathe and Kiapien. To the north is the mountain ridge over which our expedition had come. This range, known as the Shwee Doung, or Golden Mountains, runs east and west from the main chain that forms the backbone of Burma, dividing the Irrawaddi and Salween rivers, and its highest peak culminates at a point behind Mogok, at an elevation of 9000 feet, known as Toun-Mee or the Dark Mountain. These valley basins are really subordinate parts of one large basin intersected by numerous streams which finally unite; on the eastern side they enter a deep gorge running south toward Mainloung, while the waters on the western side find their way into the Maddea valley. The principal features of these valleys are the ridges and isolated peaks of gneiss rocks that surround them, blackened by the hand of time, but where broken, showing a clear white fracture almost like pure marble. Through these rocks and fissures water conduits have been constructed, and the rav
ines are bridged over by aqueducts built with solid timber.
At first one would think that the southern slopes of the hills had been worked to the larger extent for rubies; for the red and white scars on the hill-sides are much more numerous there than on the northern slopes. But it appears that just the reverse is the case, for the landslips on the former are natural, while those on the latter are mostly artificial and caused by a primitive system of hydraulic mining. It is related that nearly all these slips occurred in January of 1886, the month in which King Theebaw was dethroned, and the natives believe that nature thus showed its grief at the fall of the Alompra dynasty.
The town of Mogok itself is the center, both politically and commercially, within this area; from it, good mule tracks lead to Momeit, Mainloung and other Shan States, and a bazaar is held in its market on every fifth day, and is attended by the people of the villages for fifty miles round. The population of the town is more dense than in any other part of the region, and there has been a large display of wealth by some of the few rich headmen, in the great number of pagodas erected in various groups about the valley as well as in monasteries and wellbuilt rest-houses or zyats for traders and travelers to stay in.
These monasteries, the home of the Buddhist priests, contain some most beautiful and curious carvings; but their possessors seem to treasure more, various articles of European manufacture. In these Kyoungs you meet with an old-fashioned champagne glass or an American
clock, or a gold Godama (image of Buddha) will be seen reclining by an English brass candlestick. The priests exercise great ingenuity in hiding their so-called curios. Much amusement was caused at one monastery when its former occupier returned, by his going to a small outhouse, the use of which need not be specified, disappearing through a hole in the floor and returning with several cushions, rugs, and glass decanters. It appeared that these, valuables had been hidden in an underground gallery, running at right angles to the foundation of the house, while the images of Buddha and the sacred books had been left to take their chance above ground. Besides these monasteries, little spirit or nat-houses are dotted over the side of the hills, at which the inhabitants and miners continually deposit offerings of fruit and flowers; in fact, the people seem to hold these spirits of the woods in great awe, from their reputed power of doing good or evil.
Mogok in former days appears to have had a large trade in dry tea and other products; its inhabitants are mostly Shans, but the language of business is Burmese. The entire district, however, contains a wonderful diversity of races: the Kiapien people are pure Burmese; Kathé is inhabited by the descendants of a tribe of the same name who live in Mannipur, some of whom were taken prisoners in one of the wars between Burma and Assam, and sent up to the ruby mines in slave-gangs by the then reigning king; but they have been settled so long, and have so frequently intermarried with the Burmese, that they have changed from Hinduism to Budhism, and
have entirely forgotten their original language. In many of the smaller villages are Paloungs, a tribe of hill people who cultivate tea in the mountains between China and Burma, and, strange to say, the costume of their women bears a marked resemblance to the ordinary dress of the Italian peasant. There are, besides, to be met everywhere innumerable Meinthas, dressed in a curious blue serge of native manufacture; these are the laboring class of the district, and turn their hand to anything. They come from a state about ten marches east of Momeit, and their ancestors are believed to be the elephant-drivers and camp-followers of à mighty army taken by an old King of Pagan some hundreds of years ago to conquer Yunnan: they either deserted, or were left behind and settled in the country, marrying Chinese wives; and they certainly might be proud of their descendants, for the Meinthas of to-day are a hard-working and thrifty Pure Chinese are also to be met with; while Panthés or Mohammedan Chinese are the principal traders of the district, continually moving about with their caravans of packmules loaded with European cotton goods, and eager for peace and a settled government.
The mines which have attracted all these races into comparatively so small an area are of three distinct kinds. The metamorphic or gneiss rock furnishes the first, and probably in the near future the most important of these. Huge fissures traverse its mass in all directions, caused by shrinkage in long past ages, and these fissures have been filled, probably at an early stage of transformation, with a soft reddish
and blackish clayey earth, generally containing rubies. These have escaped much of the water-wearing process to which the stones in the lower valley appear to have been subjected, and it is reported that some of the best gems have been found in such fissures. These crevices are called by the Burmese "Loos" or caves; they work them in a most superficial manner, simply following the veins of soft earth be
tween the walls of rock as far as practicable, or until they are stopped by poisonous gas. The earth is extracted and washed by hand in small round flat trays of bamboo basket-work. The most remarkable example of this system of mining is found on the Pingoo-Doung, or Pagoda Hill near Kiapien, a huge black mass of rock rising high above the valley, and carrying ruby-bearing earth both in its fissures and flanks. On its summit a gilt pagoda has been erected which forms a landmark for miles round, sparkling in the sun above its less favored neighbors. The workings on it are of a dangerous character, and fifteen miners were killed a little while ago by a landslip.
The second variety of mines is found on the sides of these rocky hills, where diversified strata of a red and white clayey consistency have been upheaved. The earth contains masses of harder material, undergoing rapid disintegration wherever exposed to the action of the air; some of it is almost as light as pumice stone and other portions nearly as hard as granite. The original material from which this red and white clayey stuff has proceeded is believed to be the matrix of the corundum which furnishes the ruby
and sapphire in their now existing state. But repeated transformations must have been undergone since the formation of the original rock, during which selections and distributions of the valuable stone have occurred; for although the natives say that such stones may be found throughout almost the entire mass of this reddish earth, yet only certain places have been systematically worked for them. This is done by a simple system of hydraulic mining. on a small scale. Water is brought in an open conduit from the side of the hill in channels, never more than eighteen inches square, and delivered with very little pressure. This water is employed to wash the earth, generally along a natural channel, to the lowest part of the working, and at night is diverted into bamboo pipes which throw a spray on to different sides of the excavation. The earth thus softened, is dug out in the morning by hand, usually with tools like gardeners' spuds, and then washed in the stream. Thus the whole of a hillside is slowly eaten away and its rubies extracted.
The third and last system of mining employed, is by sinking pits in the lower or plain parts of the vallevs. The ruby strata here are of a different character, and a final process of discrimination appears to have distributed pockets of rubybearing earth under the entire area of the flat land in the different valleys. This earth is called by the natives "Byun," and is generally found at two different depths, the first layer at about four feet, and the second, and richer one, at twenty to thirty feet below the surface. It is generally extracted by a company of
miners, ten or twelve in number. | Pits are dug about eight feet square, lined with rough timber, and stayed with four cross-pieces at intervals. Water enters the pit on sinking a short distance below the surface, and the principal work and source of expense is keeping the mine free from water. Upright posts are let into the ground at a short distance from the mouth, and a fork is cut in the upper end of each. In this fork is balanced a lever, the longer arm of which hangs over the pit, while the shorter arm carries a bucket weighed with stones to counterbalance the contents of the basket which is connected with the longer arm by a bamboo which reaches to the bottom of the pit. This contrivance forms a most efficient though simple means of raising both water and earth by manual labor. Generally six or eight of these levers overhang each pit in actual working, and probably the proportion of water buckets in constant use to earth baskets is two to one. Three men at least are below, occupied in filling both baskets and buckets; they rise and fall incessantly during the working hours, which rarely exceed six daily. The ruby earth thus extracted is placed in a heap at the side of the pit, and on first exposure, while wet, sparkles in the sun with myriads of small stones, brilliant in color but not large enough, unfortunately, to be of any value.
When a sufficient quantity has been obtained it is washed in bamboo trays and handed over to the sorters, who, after carefully examining it, and taking out any stones of value, pass it on again to a small colony of women and children who generally surround every pit, and
who again sort it slowly over in the hope of finding some smaller stones that may have been missed by the men. It is a ludicrous sight to see two or three little children who, perhaps, can scarcely walk, sitting down before a heap of this washed earth and sorting away with most serious faces, as if they realized that their existence depended upon their exertions. No machinery is apparent in the whole district, though it is stated that a pump was brought up a few years ago from Mandalay, but it soon got choked, and was thrown away as useless, probably because no one understood how to work it. These gangs of miners are presided. over by a "Gyoung" or head-man, and they appear to work on a cooperative system, the results of their labor being divided according to merit. Some curious superstitions exist among them, and they are great believers in dreams. No miner will dare mention or talk about an elephant, tiger, or monkey while at work; and lately they greatly feared that a few elephants, belonging to the commissariat department, which came down near the mines to feed, would frighten away all the rubies in the district. in the district. It is also thought, that if a man secretes a stone found while working at the diggings, he will sooner or later meet with some great misfortune, and probably die some horrible death. This, however, does not prevent smuggling being carried on to a great extent, though the Burmese kings have resorted to many expedients in order to stop it.
One Lord of the White Elephant" had all the ruby earth brought down to his palace and washed and sorted there by his
numerous wives under a guard. In the late King Min-dohn-Min's reign, any smuggler or illicit dealer in rubies was publicly flogged at the street corners of the town, and all his property confiscated. The expedients for passing rubies through the King's guards that were stationed at different places on the road between the mines and Mandalay were surprising in their variety. Some of the miners or traders would make flesh wounds in their arms and legs, and place rubies in the different cuts. These would heal over and completely hide the gem beneath, which might be extracted when occasion served. Others would place packets of stones in the top knots of their hair, or would carry them in small hollow bamboos with false bottoms. These devices must have been often successful, for numerous valuable stones reached Rangoon yearly, from unknown
A legitimate trade in rubies, however, was carried on by a few Mandalay merchants, who used to come to the mines and return under a guard. These traders obtained their stones from the "Gyoungs, who were permitted to sell them for the benefit of their chiefs and subordinates. When the merchants returned to Mandalay, they were escorted to the King's Ruby Hall. There they had to pay the royal tax levied on these geins, which varied in amount according to whether the stones were intended for home use or for exportation. Rubies of a certain size and quality were considered to be the property of the King, who occa sionally would reward the lucky finder; but in Theebaw's reign the miners seem to have troubled them
selves very little about this excellent rule.
Strangers and foreigners have always been rigorously excluded from the Ruby district, and few Burmese ever cared to come up from the plains, for the climate was considered most deadly, and it was believed that only natives could live in it for long. That there is some truth in these reports is undoubted. The forest roads round the base of the hills are full of malaria, which proved most fatal to our troops, both European and native. The valleys also round Mogok are at sunrise covered with a thick white mist to a height of over 100 feet from the plain, which seems to be productive both of fever and ague, and as the mining villages are almost always built in the valleys, their inhabitants receive the full benefit of this wet blanket. Again, the extremes of temperature are excessive, the thermometer often registering 26° Fahr. at six in the morning, and 90° Fahr. in the shade at noon. On the side of the hills above the belt of fog the climate at present is charming, though proper houses are needed to guard against the cold by night and the heat by day: what the weather will be in the rains it is impossible to say, though the natives shake their heads in an ominous manner whenever the subject is mentioned.
The whole neighborhood gives promises of great fertility if properly cultivated. Tea is grown on hills close by, while further west immense tracts of country are devoted to its cultivation, by the Paloungs. Apple, pear, and peach trees are to be seen in all the village monasteries, but the fruit is greatly deteriorated, by the absence of the pruning-knife,