THE MALAY PENINSULA, EAST INDIES, AND THE PHILIPPINES 703. Bounds and character.—Between Asia and Australia lies a world of water dotted with thousands of wet islands, calm, silent, and almost black with forest. Many of them undisturbed except for the low buzz of insects, the voices of birds, and the mur mur of waves upon the shore. Some of these islands are no bigger than a hat, others are larger than Texas, with rivers larger than any on our Atlantic slope. Heavy rain falls throughout most of the year; so nature everywhere covers these islands with rank growing forests, so tangled that one often has to chop paths to get through. Along these coasts are many hidden rivers creeping out through swampy forests. On the hidden rivers are hidden villages, and men whom we may call "wild". There are whole tribes here who never saw a white man.
In this region the hot, damp climate makes the forests grow so quickly. and so thick that man has used but little of the land. In all Borneo, an island five times as large as New England, there is not as much land under cultivation as in two counties of Illinois, although in some other parts of the East Indies an intensive agriculture has been developed.
704. People and history.—A long while ago this was a region of the black man, but the ancestors of the brown Malays sailed out from Asia and took possession of most of the coasts west of New Guinea. In some of the islands, tribes of black men still live in the interior. In New Guinea, the people are very black, and have kinky hair like the natives of Australia and central Africa. This island is larger than Borneo, but we know little about it, partly because it is densely forested and unhealthful for white men, and partly because of an unpleasant habit of the natives, who sometimes eat explorers who come to their country. The Malays have never settled in New Guinea.
While Japan, China, India, and Europe were building great cities with beautiful temples, the Malays were satisfied to live in villages along the river banks. Their houses
are grass huts erected on poles so as to be away from mosquitoes and wet earth. They live by fishing, hunting, and tending small gardens. The chief recreations are boating, swimming, and fierce tribal wars. The vic torious warriors often carry home the heads of the defeated and offer them as sacrifices to their gods, or hang them up in the house as ornaments.
What European nations now control parts of this wide region? (Figs. 10, 471.) 705. The Dutch East Indies.—For over a hundred years the Dutch government has ruled or claimed more than half of the East Indian Islands; but most of their attention has been given to Java, where the European rulers have kept peace among the different Malay tribes and have really ruled the country. Each tribe still has its own native sultan, who is clothed in gorgeous raiment and lives in much pomp and style; but there is a Dutch "adviser," who wears a white duck suit and lives very quietly, but who really rules through the sultan. With the Dutch keeping order, the population of Java has increased almost as fast as that of the United States, and this island, but little larger than New York State, has three times as many people.
Nearly all the Javanese are farmers. They cultivate small patches of land almost as carefully as the Chinese do. The chief export of the island is sugar. The govern ment compels the people to raise rice for two years and sugar for one year, so that there may be plenty of food as well as some thing to sell. (Secs. 672, 383.) The next great export is tobacco. The other products of Java, like the products of Japan and China, are the result of much labor. Tea and rubber are grown, and rat tans and varnish gums are gathered in the dense forests. Two other important prod ucts are pepper, the hot seed of a climbing vine, and cinchona, the bark of a small tree that is grown on hillside plantations.