The Kha Tong Lu'ang. พิมพ์
เขียนโดย Major E. Seidenpaden, m. b. a. s.   

SEIDENFADEN, ERIK, COMPILED. THE KHA TONG LU'ANG. JSS. VOL.20 (pt.2) 1926. p.41-48.

  

                                                   ( 41 )

 

                                   THE KHA TONG LU'ANG.

                                               ________

 

                Compiled by Major E. Seidenpaden, m. b. a. s.

About these shy evasive savages, two small  papers  have
already appeared in "The Journal of theSiam Society ", namely one
written by the writer of these lines (Vol. XIII,  part III,  pp. 49-51)  and,
quite recently, another from  the  hand  of  Dr.  Kerr  (Vol.  XVIII,  part
II, pp. 142-144). Readers having perused both of  these  notes  will
perhaps remember that the habitat of the  Khā  therein  mentioned
was  given as  the  slopes  of  the  extensive  mountain  range  that
separates the circles of Nakon Rajasima and Udon from the Nām
Pāsak Valley, also that in neither cases had the writers personally
met these people, but had obtained all their information  from  Lāo
villagers who, at rare occasions, did some bartering with them.

The following  information, obtained  from  Mr. T.  Wergeni
of   The   East   Asiatic   Company's   forest   staff  in   Mu'ang  Prae
during   a   recent  visit   to  Bangkok, will  therefore,  no  doubt,  be
read   with   interest.   Mr.  Wergeni,  who   probably    is    the   first
and   only   European  to  meet  these  people,  saw  them   for  the
first    time   during  last   summer  (i. e. 1924) at  Ban  Nām   Pu, a
hamlet  lying  on   the   road    that   leads   from   Mu'ang   Prae   to
Nakon Nan, about fifty kilometres to the north east  of   the  former
town. Mr. Wergeni, who succeeded in  gaining  the  confidence  of
these extremely shy and timid people, describes them in the follow-
ing terma :

Physically   the  Khā  Tong  Lu'ang  or, as   they   are   called
in the Prae-Nān region, Phi Tong Lu'ang, are characterized  by  their
strongly developed and muscular legs while the upper parts of their
bodies are proportionally less well developed ( as  a  result  of their
hill climbing life). Their facial  expression recalls  that  of  the Lapps
in Northern Sweden, their   fronts  sloping  strongly  backwards and
their faces being long and oval shaped. The nose is depressed at the
root   but   has   a   distinct   tip,  with  the  nostrils  rather  broad. The
mouth  is  big, but  with  thin  lips, the upper  lip  being  rather  short.
The chin is weak. There is no  abnormal  hair  growth  on  the  body ;

 

 

 

 

 

        ( 42 )

 

the hair of the head is lank and straight, the so-called Mongolian
hair,  the   colour  a  deep  black,  but, by  reason  of   exposure to
all kinds of weather, often bleached. Grey hair  is  common even
among the younger members of the tribe. Their  hair looks dusty
and bristling, the tips of the individual hairs  often  being  split  in
two, caused by the influence of rain and sun. The men wear their
hair down to the  shoulder, the  women  theirs  to  the  waist.  (Mr.
Wergeni has, so far, only met male members of the tribe).

Their eyes are small and brown of colour, the white being of
a yellowish tint. The axial line is horizontal, the eye  sight  is   extra-
ordinarily sharp as befitting a typical race of hunters ; on the  other
hand, the expression of their eyes is somewhat dull and unintelligent
like that of a dreamer or rather as that of an opium smoker.  Their
skin is of quite a fair complexion, even fairer than that of  the   Lāo
people, being yellow in colour by reason of their life in the   shady
depths of the jungle. These people do not practice artificial  defor-
mation of any kind whatever, unless  the  piercing  and  expanding  of
the ear lobes, in  which  they  often  wear large wooden or  bamboo
plugs  be  so-called. The  wearing  of this plug tends to  widen   the
hole  which  little  by  little becomes quite  big,  while  the   ear  lobe,
becoming more and more elongated,droops towards the shoulder.
Tattooing is practised only a little by some members in imitation of
the Lāo people, and is then but clumsily done, consisting  of  a few
horizontal streaks or dotted lines  on  the  front, running  along   the
rim of the hair, and some other lines running along the edge of the
jaws and chin. In former  times  tattooing  was  quite unknown. The
piercing of the ear lobes as well as the tattooing is done purely  for
ornamental reasons, these people being very fond of "dressing up,"
and no superstition or ceremonies are attached to it. A certain  Lāo
monk living in a wat in  Bān Sa i Bao, Amphoe  Rong  Kwang (N. E.
of Prae) is said to have taught them the tattooing.

The teeth of the Phi Tong Lu'ang are strong and somewhat
long, even old people keep  their  teeth  intact ; the  jaws  are  heavy
and strongly developed.

The habitat of these people is the hilly plateau lying to the
north east of Prae, between the Mē Yom and the  Mē  Nān  Valleys,

 

 

 

 

 

                                      ( 43 )

 

as well as the Mē Tā district, lying to   the  north  west  of  Prae, also
round the sources of Nām Wā on the border of Nān and  the French
protected  Lâo  state  of  Luang  Phrabang, (Nām  Wā  is  a  tributary
to  Më  Nân  and  falls in same a little below Amphoe Punyu'n). They
prefer to live on the very tops  of  the  hills  in  places  where  springs
are   found.  Not  far  from  Bân  Wang  Phûng (S. S. E.  of  Ban  Nam
Pu) lies a certain hill called Phu Sâm Sao, i. e. "the  hill  of  the  three
columns", which is considered by all the clans of the tribe, as a kind
of national meeting place  where  they  gather  for  the  annual  spirit
offerings. (So  at  least, was   Mr.  Wergeni  told  by  the  chief   of  the
clan he met at Ban Nam Pu).

Mentally these people are weakly developed and only some
very few individuals may be said to rank above  a  general  low  level
of  intelligence. As  already  mentioned  they  are  called   Phi    Tong
Lu'ang  by  the  surrounding  Lāo, the  name  literally  signifying  "the
spirits   of    the   withered   leaves"   alluding   to   their  very  manner
of living and their  more  than  primitive  leaf  shelters. To  this  name,
however, they strongly  object ;  the  name  by  which  they  call  them-
selves in still unknown, when asked they reply  in  a  mixture  of  Lâo
and   Khamu   that   they   are " Khon  Pā ", i.e.  people  of  the  jungle.
They are very shy and timid and easily  frightened, having   in  former
times been much maltreated by   the  Lāo  who  used  to  hunt  them
down and kill them like wild animals.

They are extremely  credulous  but  simple  and  honest  folk,
real Natures children, and, as might be imagined, very superstitious ;
to them the whole world is  peopled  with  evil  spirits, every  hill, rock
and   stream,  even   the   trees, being  inhabited  by  spirits  of  all  of
whom they are mortally afraid.

The tribe is split up in several clans, groups or hordes, none
of whom have any fixed  abode, these  people  being  typical  hunting
forest nomads. They camp in one place only for just so  long  a  time
as the food supply  suffices,  their  life  in  fact  being  one  incessant
struggle  against  starvation. When  camping  they  do  not  construct
any structures resembling houses or huts, but  only  very  rough  leaf-
shelters, one   for   each   family. This   kind   of   shelter  consists  of
a sort of wind screen seldom more then one  meter  in  height ;  it  is

 

 

 

 

 

           ( 44 )

 

made of a square-formed screen plaited of broad leaved  boughs
resting with one edge on the ground, the other one being propped up
with a stick which keeps it in an angle of about 45  degrees. (This
type of shelter is well known by the   Shan  and  Lāo  traders  who
often use them when camping out during their journeys and is by
them  called  "kadub"). When  their  leaf  shelters  wither   the  Phi
Tong Lu'ang break up for "pastures new". Hence their name !

They possess no furniture  nor any  utensils  for  cooking
purposes ; when they, as rarely happens, get hold of a little rice, they
cook it in bamboo tubes which they  cut  in  the  forest. Water  and
honey, the latter for their babies, they also keep in bamboo  tubes.
Both sexes go generally stark naked, the women always  so. The
men, however, sometimes wear a loin cloth of the scantiest descript-
ion, as when they visit the Khamu villages for purposes  of  barter.

Their food consists of everything eatable, from the  biggest
game down to rats, snakes, maggots and worms ; the sprouts and
tender roots of bamboos are one of the chief items  of  their " menu."
They do not chew betel but they sometimes  smoke  tobacco  when
they can get hold of it ; they do not know the use of opium.

These people eat their food in a most primitive and revolting
manner, not knowing such luxuries as forks, spoons, plates or even
chop sticks. When a  piece  of  game  has  been  killed, they  usually
put it straight on the  fire  without  first  having  skinned, quartered  or
cleansed it, even the entrails are left unremoved. By  and  by, as   the
meat becomes more or less roasted, they tear off  pieces  with  their
fingers and start feeding.

Their chief means of livelihood is of course hunting and the
collection of edible roots and sometimes honey.

When hunting they rarely use dogs ; their  only  weapon
is  a  long  lance  provided  with  an  iron  head  at  one  end,  the
steel   obtained   from   the   Lāo  or  the  Khamu, but  fashioned
by themselves, a few  of  them  understanding  a  little  smithing.
The shaft is  made of  a  kind  of  pliable  and  very  strong  palm
stem obtained from a wild palm growing on the top  of  the  hills.
These lances or spears often attain a length of 11 feet. (Mr. Wer-
geni was good enough to present me with one of these  spears

 

 

 

 

 

          ( 45 )

 

the length of which is 9 feet 7½  inches  or  2.93 m. The  spear  head
is 11 inches or 0,28 m long).

The spear head is fastened to the shaft by driving its pointed
lower  end  into   the  shaft,  afterwards  fastening  it  solidly  with  a
circular band of iron and a lashing of string. The  lances  are  often
poisoned, the poison being a vegetable one obtained from a bush
with leathery leaves growing on certain hill tops.

The Phi Tong Lu'ang  do  not  know  the  use of  bows  and
arrows and possess only a few old knives they have  got  by  barter
from the Khamu. The  poison  used  is  very  strong  and  of  deadly
nature, even a slight scratch  inflicted  by  such  a  poisoned  spear
will   kill   a   giant   like  an  elephant  or  the  armoured   rhinoceros
in a very short time. The poison spreads rapidly  to  all   the  organs
of the wounded animal and lames it so quickly that  it  seldom  can
get away from the hunters. When an  animal  has  been  killed,  the
hunters cut out the flesh nearest the wound as this is uneatable by
reason of the  poison, if  this  is  not  done  quickly  the  poison  will
spread and spoil the whole of the game and the  hunters  will  then
have hunted in vain. Poison is therefore only used when absolutely
necessary, i. e. when the larder of the clan is quite empty.

These children of the hills and the forest are very courageous
hunters and attack all kinds  of  animals  with  the  exception  of  the
tiger   which   they   fear.  Their   speciality   is   the   hunting   of    the
rhinoceros still to be found in these northern regions in reasonable
numbers, though now far from numerous. These Khā do  not  know
the use of snares or pitfalls, fishing is also unknown, as they seldom
descend  into  the  valleys. They  are, of  course, born  trackers  and
can follow a spoor for miles without losing the scent. As mentioned
above, they do not often use dogs   when  hunting  but  use  beaters
instead. They possess no domesticated animals (with exception of
said dogs given them by the Khamu), and  do  not  know  any  other
means of transport than their  own  feet ; canoes  or  rafts  are  also
unknown.  They   do  not  cultivate  the  ground,  even  gardening   is
unknown, they say that  they  desist  from  doing  so  for  fear  of  the
spirits who else would be offended. Their  only  kind   of  commerce
consists in barter ; money is unknown and they do  not  understand

 

 

 

 

 

           ( 46 )

 

the length of which is 9 feet inches or 2.93 m. The spear head
is 11 inches or 0,28 m long).

The spear head is fastened to the shaft by driving its pointed
lower  end   into   the  shaft, afterwards  fastening  it  solidly  with  a
circular band of iron and a lashing of string. The  lances  are  often
poisoned, the poison being a vegetable one obtained from a bush
with leathery leaves growing on certain hill tops.

The Phi Tong Lu'ang do  not  know  the  use  of  bows  and
arrows and possess only a few old knives they have  got  by  barter
from the Khamu. The  poison  used  is  very  strong  and  of  deadly
nature, even a slight  scratch  inflicted  by  such  a  poisoned  spear
will   kill   a   giant   like   an  elephant  or  the  armoured  rhinoceros
in a very short time. The  poison spreads rapidly  to  all  the  organs
of the wounded animal and lames it so quickly that  it  seldom  can
get away from the hunters. When  an  animal  has  been  killed, the
hunters cut out the flesh nearest the wound as this is uneatable by
reason of  the  poison, if  this  is  not  done  quickly  the  poison  will
spread and spoil the whole of the game and the  hunters  will  then
have hunted in vain. Poison is therefore only used when absolutely
necessary, i. e. when the larder of the clan is quite empty.

These children of the hills and the forest are very courageous
hunters and attack  all  kinds  of  animals  with  the  exception  of  the
tiger    which    they    fear. Their   speciality  is   the   hunting   of    the
rhinoceros still to be found in these northern regions  in  reasonable
numbers, though now far from  numerous.These  Khā  do  not  know
the use of snares or pitfalls, fishing is also unknown,as they seldom
descend  into   the   valleys. They  are, of  course, born  trackers  and
can follow a spoor for miles without losing the  scent. As  mentioned
above, they do not  often  use  dogs  when  hunting  but  use beaters
instead. They possess no domesticated animals (with  exception of
said dogs given them by the Khamu),  and  do  not  know  any   other
means of transport than  their  own  feet ; canoes  or   rafts  are  also
unknown.  They  do   not   cultivate   the   ground, even   gardening  is
unknown, they say  that  they  desist  from  doing  so  for  fear  of   the
spirits who else  would  be  offended. Their  only  kind  of  commerce
consists in barter ; money is unknown and  they  do  not  understand

 

 

 

 

 

            ( 47 )

 

Semang Negritos in Malaya on their women's "magic combs". (See
Skeat and Blagden "Pagan races of the Malay  Peninsula",  Vol. I., p.
420 and onwards).

They have a kind of song, a simple monotonous ditty some-
what resembling the Khamu songs. Musical instruments are  quite
unknown.  It   may  be  added  that  during  the  rainy  season  these
people rarely leave their mountain fastnesses.

No kind of medicine is known : to cure illness, recourse is had
to offerings to  the  spirits  and  exorcisms, such  as  the " khao  phi "
well known among the Lāo people.

Very little  is  known  with  regard  to   the  religious  ideas  of
these people, they are, by all accounts, animists believing in  a  host
of   malign   spirits   peopling  the   forest,   hill  and    vale,  the  rocks,
the streams and even the trees. Sacrifices are made to these spirits,
the grandest  offering  being  that  of  a  pig ; when  making  offerings
they sing special spirit songs.

When a member of the clan dies, he or  she  is  buried  in  a
deep grave to protect the corpse from  being  dug  up  and  eaten  by
the tigers. Should this nevertheless happen, it   is  believed  that  the
unlucky spirit, the owner of  the  corpse, becomes  an  evil  one  who,
at once, begins to haunt the camps and torment the living.

Magic is, as far as is known, non-existent ; officiating priests
or sorcerers are also unknown. Whether these people  believe  in  a
supreme being has not yet been ascertained, but at least they believe
in a soul and a future existence.

With regard to language no records are, so far, available, the
Kha Tong Lu'ang use a  mixture  of  Lāo  and  Khamu  for  bartering
purposes ; their own language seems to consist of a  collection  of
strange guttural and staccato-like sounds, in which the letter R does
not  occur.  To   the   observant  ear  their  language  sounds  like  a
piping and unmanly sort of gibberish.

So far Mr. Wergeni's account of this strange people, perhaps
the   only  existing  tribe on  the   earth (or  at  least  in  Asia)  whose
members really go entirely naked. As Mr. Wergeni  intends  to  take
up the study of this people, a task for which he  is  singularly  gifted
and for which the conditions seem as ideal as they can be,we may

 

 

 

 

 

 

          ( 48 )

 

soon get additional information, of which a fuller description of their
social organisation and religious ideas as well as a vocabulary will
be especially welcome to science.

From the information, so far gained, it seems  probable that
the Phi Tong Lu'ang belong to a most   primitive  branch of  the  Mon-
Khmer race, and it may also seem reasonable to suppose that they are
identical with the Khā Tong Lu'ang who, according to Dr. Kerr's  and
my reports,are said to roam the forest-clad slopes of the long moun-
tain range  that  separates  the  Nām  Pāsak  Valley  from  the  Udon-
Nakon   Rajasima  circles. The  latter  point  can, of  course, only  be
proved   by   actual   contact   with, and   study   of, the  latter. May  we
soon be able to find somebody to do this because, as far as informa-
tion goes, these   interesting  links  with  the  childhood  of  man  are
quickly dying out.

Bangkok 11-1-1925.

 

 

 

 

 


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