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they are admirably adapted for this important service. The chiefs have regularly formed square tents made of them. In these, the leaves are sewed together, and laid over a light framework: the whole is light, and can be packed in a small compass. When used instead of paper, they are cut in strips, soaked in boiling water for a short time, rubbed backward and forward over a smooth piece of wood to make them pliable, and then carefully dried. The Cingalese write or engrave their letters with a pointed piece of iron, and then rub them over with a dark-coloured substance, which makes them more
The colouring matter is reduced to liquid by being mixed with coco-nut oil, and when dry is not easily effaced. On common occasions they write on the leaf of the coco-nut tree; but the Talipot is used in all government despatches, important documents, such as title-deeds to estates, and for their books. A Cingalese book is a bundle of these strips tied together. As even the lawyers and the learned in this country are very deficient in chronological knowledge, great confusion occurs as to dates; and it is very common to see a Cingalese judge endeavouring to
easy to read.
ascertain the antiquity of a document produced in court by smelling and cutting it. The oil employed in the writing imparts a strong odour, which preserves it from insects, but this odour is changed by age. The Talipot, however, appears to have of itself a natural quality which deters the attack of insects, and preserves it from the decay of age, even without the oil.
The Cingalese, who engrave the most solemn of their deeds, such as the foundation of, or the donations to, a temple, on plates of fine copper, which are generally edged with silver, always make these plates of precisely the same shape as the Talipot strips used for writing. Besides all the uses described, the Cingalese employ the Talipot leaf in thatching their houses. They also manufacture hats from it; these hats are made with brims as broad as an outstretched umbrella, and are chiefly worn by women nursing, to defend themselves and their infants from the heat.
The Talipot at present is not a very common tree, and is rarely seen growing by those who only visit the coasts, and do not penetrate into the interior. It seems to grow scattered among other trees in the forests. The smell of the flower is very fætid ; and to this, when several trees are in flower at the same time, the natives attribute whatever sickness may happen to prevail at the time. A full-sized leaf of the Talipot, gilt and highly ornamented, is held above the heads of the sovereign and of the priests of Buddha,
THE VARNISH TREE.
This tree is a native of Sumatra and the Eastern Isles, and grows to a considerable size The leaves are smooth and shining, about eight inches long ; the flowers white, having rather a narcotic smell. The berry is as large as a fresh walnut, of a spongy texture, and, when cut, exudes an acrid juice ; it contains a single seed, abounding with a corrosive gum or resin.
The wood of this tree is of a fine dark colour towards the centre, and lighter-coloured near the edge. The bark exudes a resin, which is extremely acrid, and applied to the skin causes blisters. The people consider it dangerous to handle any part of the tree, and even to sit or sleep under its shade. This resin on exposure to the air soon assumes a black colour, and becomes hard; it is