Ceylon; an Account of the Island Physical, Historical, and eBook

James Emerson Tennent
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 892 pages of information about Ceylon; an Account of the Island Physical, Historical, and.

[Footnote 1:  See ante, Vol.  I. Part I. ch. i. p. 29. n.  Both quicksilver and vermilion are mentioned in the Rajaratnacari, p. 51, as being in use in the year 20 B.C.  Vermilion is also spoken of B.C. 307 in the Mahawanso, ch. xxvii. p. 162, c.  The two passages in which vermilion is spoken of in the Old Testament, Jerem. xxii. 14, and Ezek. xxiii. 14, both refer to the painting of walls and woodwork, a purpose to which it would be scarcely suitable, were not the article alluded to the opaque bisulphuret of mercury; and the same remark applies to the vermilion used by the Singhalese.  The bright red obtained from the insect coccus (the vermiculus, whence the original term “vermilion” is said to be derived) would be too transparent to be so applied.]

There is likewise sufficient evidence in these and a number of other preparations, as well in the notices of perfumes, camphor, and essential oils, to show that the Singhalese, like the Hindus, had a very early acquaintance with chemical processes and with the practice of distillation, which they retain to the present day.[1] The knowledge of the latter they probably acquired from the Arabs or Chinese.

[Footnote 1:  “I was frequently visited by one old man, a priest, who had travelled through Bengal, Burmah, Siam, and many other countries, and who prided himself on being able to make calomel much better than the European doctors, as his preparation did not cause the falling out of the teeth, soreness of the mouth, or salivation.  He learnt the secret from an ancient sage whom he met with in a forest on the continent of India; and often when listening to him I was reminded of the mysteries and crudities of the alchemists.”—­HARDY’S Eastern Monachism, Lond. 1850, ch. xxiii. p. 312.]



METALS. Iron.—­Working in metals was early understood in Ceylon.  Abundance of iron ore can be extracted from the mountains round Adam’s Peak; the black oxide is found on the eastern shore in the state of iron-sand; and both are smelted with comparative ease by the natives.  Iron tools were in use for the dressing of stones; and in the third century before Christ, the enclosed city of Wijittapoora was secured by an “iron gate.” [1]

[Footnote 1:  Mahawanso, ch. xxv. p. 152.]

Steel.—­The manufacture of arms involved the use of steel, the method of tempering which was derived from the Hindus, by whom the wootz was prepared, of which, the genuine blades of Damascus are shown to have been made, the beauty of their figuring being dependent on its peculiar crystallisation.  Ezekiel enumerates amongst the Indian imports of Tyre “bright iron, calamus and cassia."[1]

[Footnote 1:  ROYLE on the Antiquity of Hindoo Medicine, p. 98.  EZEKIEL, ch. xxvii. 19.]

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