Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/341

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
329
A CURIOUS BURMESE TRIBE.

are a small, delicate people, whose brightly-beaming eyes contrast strongly with their reserved behavior. The faces of the men as well as of the women can not be called unhandsome. The head is oval and well-shaped, the eyes are horizontal, the nose is strong and straight, the ruddy lips are finely cut, and the teeth are blackened with betel juice.

All the hard work among the Kacheen is done by the women and girls, who are up in the morning at their household duties while the men are still in bed.

The woman does not venture to raise her eyes when she speaks with her husband or her employer. She has no concern about the business or enterprises that he is engaged in, but considers everything good and unquestionable that he orders; and the subjection of the women goes to the extent that the death of one is lamented as a pecuniary loss, because the laboring force is diminished by it; and a family that has several daughters is for that reason considered rich. The women are all the time at work, cutting down trees, splitting wood and bringing it to the house, cutting roads through the thickets, driving the cattle to pasture, cleaning the house, getting the meals, and weaving cloth. The men perform no manual labor, or, at most, will once in a while go out into the field and show the women in a rough way how the tillage ought to be done. Their principal business is to visit their neighbors, to drink sheru (a sweet drink made from rice), and smoke opium. Only in case of pressing need will they take their mules and their women and go to Bhamo and get loads of goods to take to China. Marriages among the lower classes are mere business affairs, in which the dowry and physical strength of the bride are the first considerations. Among the higher classes weddings are regarded as important events, and are distinguished by particular usages and ceremonies.

When a death occurs, the relatives make the sad event known to their neighbors by firing guns. When the friends are gathered together, a part of the number go into the woods to prepare the coffin, while the others sacrifice to the household gods. The coffin is hewed out, after sacrificing a hen, at the place where the tree is cut, and the part where the head is to lie is blackened with coal. The corpse is washed, dressed in new clothes and laid in the coffin, with a piece of silver in its mouth to pay its ferriage over the river. The old clothes of the deceased are laid, with a dish of rice, upon the grave, and rice is scattered along the road on the way home. The mourners afterward assemble and celebrate the event with singing, dancing, and drinking, as long as the sheru lasts.

Persons who die by the sword are wrapped in a straw mat and buried as soon as possible, and the friends build a hut for the wandering spirit of the slain. A similar custom prevails with regard to those who die of small-pox, and to women who die in childbirth. In the