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particularly that called the sea of Aral, reported to have been once united with the Caspian.
ASIATIC ISLANDS.-Parallel to the eastern shores of Asia is a chain of extensive islands, the most southern of which form the empire of Japan. Of these the largest, Nipon, stretches from south-west to north-east, for about 750 English miles, but of very unequal breadth, being in some places 160, and in others not 30 miles across. Near the south-west end of this great island are two others much smaller, and on the north lies another of great extent called Jesso, subject to Japan, but inhabited by a rude, uncivilized race.
The population of Japan is unknown, but by the most accurate accounts of travellers the country swarms with inhabitants. The capital of the empire is Jedo situated on the east side of the great island, a town reported to occupy a space not less than 60 miles in circuit. Miaco another principal city in the interior of the same island is reckoned to contain upwards of 400,000 inhabitants. The only port in this empire to which foreigners are suffered to resort is Nagasaki in the south-west corner, near the island on which the Dutch have been allowed to establish a factory, and who with the Chinese are the only strangers with whom the Japanese carry on any trade.
The climate of this extensive empire, is subject to great variations from heat to cold, and the face of the country is in general mountainous. The soil is not of the best quality, but the industry and skill of the people have carried agriculture to high perfection.
Neither sheep nor goats, it is said, are reared in Japan, the silk and cotton abundantly supplying the place of wool. Horses, cattle, and swine, are also extremely rare, the Japanese living almost entirely on vegetables, fish, and fowl.
Gold and silver are found in great abundance, copper also is very common, but iron is scarce.
The Japanese worship a number of divinities subordinate to a supreme being; but their temples admit no image or idol. The government has this singularity, that there are in some sense two sovereigns, the one at the head of all spiritual, the other at the head of all temporal affairs.
Opposite to the countries situated between China and the Bay of Bengal, are a number of islands of various sizes, the most northerly are those belonging to Spain, called the Philippines, of which the largest, Luzon, about 500 miles in length by 100 in breadth, contains Manilla, a handsome fortified town, the station of the cominerce carried on from Acapulco, in Spanish America.
Mindanao.--A large and beautiful island, also belonging to Spain, lies to the southward of Luzon.
Borneo. This island, long considered the largest in the world, is cut into two nearly equal parts by the equator, and is about 660 geographic miles in extent from north to south, and about 540 from west to east. The interior of this great country is but little known: the far greater part of the shores, especially in the northern parts, consists of swamps, covered with forests extending many miles back. These flats are intersected by rivers dividing into numberless branches, which are the only passages into the country. The interior contains many lofty mountains, some of which are volcanic. Gold, diamonds, iron, tin, magnets, are some of the valuable productions of Borneo; abounding also in oxen, buffaloes, deer, goats, elephants, tigers, monkies, particularly that sort called orang-outang, the man of the woods ; pepper, cloves, nutmegs, camphor, and other medicinal guns, rice, salt, sugar, are likewise the produce of this island.
The towns and villages along the sea-coast are usually bailt
upon posts, to raise them above the annual inundations of the rains and rivers : and many are constructed on
rafts which rise and fall with the tide, and can be moved from place to place, for the conveniency of the inhabitants, Attempts have been made at different times by the Portuguese and the Dutch on the southern parts of Borneo, and by the English on the northern, to form establishments, but hitherto without success.
Celebes.-At no great distance eastward from Borneo, lies Celebes, an extensive island, deeply indented by several bays : its length from north to south is about 450 geographic miles, but the breadth varies from 300 to 60 : the interior is covered with mountains, many of them volcanic, presenting scenery the most sublime and romantic, The chief productions are rice, cocoa, ebony, sanderswood, pepper, sugar, cotton, opium. The natives of this island are commonly called Macassars, from the name of a Dutch settlement near the south point. This race are noted all over the Asiatic seas, being fond of adventures and emigration, and capable of undertaking the most hazardous exploits : they are also named Buggesses, a term become equivalent to soldier in the European settlements in the east of India, as Seapoy is in the west.
Molucca, or Spice Islands. Still farther eastward are situated a number of islands, some of them of small extent, known by the above naines; these are, Ternate, Tidore, Gilolo, Ceram, Bouro, Amboyna, the Banda isles, &c. These last are very small but of great value, as the only country where the nutmeg grows in perfection. The nutmeg tree grows to the size of a pear tree, the leaves resem, bling those of the laurel, and it bears fruit from the age of ten to that of a hundred years. When ripe on the tree, the nutmeg has both a curious and a beautiful appearance : : it is about the size of an apricot, and nearly of the same colour, with the same kind of hollow mark all round it, in shape it resembles a pear, and when perfectly ripe, the rind over the mark opens and discovers the mace, of a deep red, growing over and in part covering the thin shell containing the nutmeg, which is black.
Amboyna is about 60 miles in length but narrow, being cut nearly into two parts by a deep bay. The face of the island is beautifully varied with woody mountains and cultivated vales. The great treasure of Amboyna is the clove tree, which grows to the height of tu.ty or fifty feet, with spreading brar hes and long pointed leaves. In proper sheltered situations a tree will produce about thirty pounds weight of fruit ever year, the crop being collected between November and February. This tree produces many branches, having at the extremities clusters ot flowers, at first white, then green, lastly reddish and hard : when in this state they are what we call cloves, a name given from their resemblance to a thick short nail, in latin clavus. As they dry they become of a dark yellow, and when gathered of a deep brown. The flowers left on the tree grow to the thickness of an inch, and then dropping off produce new plants, which in eight or nine years begin to bear flowers.
To secure the sole possession of this precious tree, the Dutch, while masters of these islands, were in the practice of rooting out all clove trees but what grew in Amboyna, and even when the harvest was plentiful in that island, a part of the produce was destroyed.
Sumatra. Opposite to the southernmost point of Asia, the
promontory of Malacca, begins a long chain of islands bending in an arch to the eastward, and inclosing the islands already described. Of these, that at the western extremity is Sumatra, extending in length about 9.50 geogra. phic miles, and at its greatest breadth about 180.
The island is divided in its whole length by ranges of lofty mountains, one of which, called Mount Ophir, rises nearly 14,000 feet above the sea. The principle article of trade with this country is pepper, on which account the English settlement at Bencoolen, on the southern side of the island, was established. This pepper is produced from a creeping plant resembling the vine; the white pepper is procured by stripping the ripe seeds of their outer husk. Camphor, cassia, cotton, are common: of the latter, one sort, called the silk cotton, is in its natural state peculiarly beautiful ; but it is too short and brittle to be made into cloth. Gold, copper, iron, tin, rock chrystal, are found in Sumatra; as are the elephant, rhinoceros, buffaloe, tiger, porcupine, civetcat, monkey; and the pheasant is there of singular beauty.
Banca.-On the east side of Sumatra, lies Banca, famous for its tin mincs, discovered about a hundred years ago ; the metal being of such a quality as to be preferred in China, where tin is much wanted, to that sent from England.
Java.—This is a very considerable island, extending in length about 650 miles; the breadth, however, varies from 60 to 100 miles; it is traversed from the one end to the other by a chain of mountains, but from its narrowness contains no river of importance: the sea coast is generally swampy, and extremely unhealthy. The products are pepper, indigo, sugar, tobacco, rice, coffee, and various fruits, the growth of a hot climate: gold has also been found here, but not in great quantities. The capital of the Dutch possessions in Java, and off all their Indian territories and colonies, is Batavia, situated on a bay at the west end of the island. The town is built in a marshy plain, on a river, which soon after falls into the bay; it is laid out in the manner of the towns of Holland, with canals in the middle of the streets, bordered with trees. It is fortified, and with the large suburbs and neighbouring district, is computed to contain about 120,000 inhabitants of all descriptions. The low marshy situation of this place, the stagnating waters of the river and the canals, joined to the uninterrupted sultry heats of the climate, render Batavia singularly unhealthy, particularly to Europeans. From another town, called