Wednesday, February 1, 2012


A good deal of interest has been ex- cited by the importation of Chinese la- bourers, by the Philip Laing, lately arrived at Geelong, The following par- ticulars respecting them, have been furnished us by an intelligent resident of that neighbourhood.

It appears that the Settlers on this side of the country, apprehensive of an increasing scarcity of labour for the present season, and in the absence of authentic information upon the prospect of an extensive government emigration, raised by subscription, amongst themselves, the amount necessary to import the batch per Philip Laing, and commissioned Mr. Johnston to proceed to Singapore to engage them —each settler putting down his name for the number of men he would receive. The number imported is 219 ; comprising 123 Chinamen, 81 Klings, (one female) 8 Malays, and the remainder natives of different parts of India.

I believe that Klings is the term in the Malay tongue, applied to the natives of the Malabar coast of India.

The men were all engaged for four years, at £14 a year with rations. The cost of their pas- sages which was estimated at £8, is to be paid from the wages of the first and second years. If they wish to leave the country at the expiration of their engagement, the same sum is to be reserved to defray the return voyage.

The cost of their passage here, has proved to be only £7 each, they are therefore to benefit by the difference. Only one Kling died on the passage. It appears that the natives of India and China resort to Singapore in vast numbers as to a sort of central labour market, and generally arrive in a state of extreme poverty. In such numbers were they, and so desirous to meet with engagements—that upon Mr. Johnston advertis- ing for 150, his residence was besieged by an assemblage of the unemployed, amounting to pro- bably a thousand men.

Those he engaged showed much shrewdness in their inquiries respecting their destination and intended employment, seemed quite able to judge for themselves, and understood the terms of their contract.

Many of them understand brickmaking, lime-burning, and other out of door employments. Some are miners, and have pronounced their opinions upon the relative values of some speci- mens of copper ore, shown to them here. But these men made it an express condition, that they were not to be employed in the mines, an employment which they seem to regard with particular aversion, and in truth, from their diminutive appearance and physical inferiority to Europeans,they do not appear calculated for so laborious n occupation.

The Klings are considered to be superior in intelligence to the Chinamen.

The Malay dialect is universally spoken at Singapore,and being understood by most of them is the one used among them. I was on the wharf when above one hundred of them were landed from the steamer, and a most novel and interesting sight it was. The Chinamen attracted attention the most; with their full moon, sallow faces and
flattened noses. Their heads were shaved with the exception of a path on the crown, about 6 inches in diameter, from which depended a tail 2 feet long—but nearly all of them disposed their tails round their heads, as a young lady would place a wreath, or the Queen her tiara. A very few of them had the large hats which we are acquainted with, capital substitutes for umbrellas, being nearly 3 feet in diameter. Their dress appeared invariably black, of coarse cotton, wide drawers, and an upper dress like a sailor's duck frock, but wide in the sleeves and rather longer. Square toed shoes, ornamented with silk on the uppers, and with soles an inch and a quarter thick, of a substance I could not make out. Their contenances indicated a stolid good
nature. Their vests or upper garments were closed with round brass buttons, and they had some little knicknackery dangling beneath it, probably a purse. The contrast was very great etween these men and the natives of India who were dressed in white, with very smart turbans of party colors. Many of them had trousers of coloured cotton, full above and close round the ankle, but the upper garments of all appeared to be something like a dressing gown, (without a collar,) closing tightly round the body from the breast to the hips—exposing the neck and only partially closed down the breast. I must except one old fellow, (there were several aged men amongst them) who had wound a yard or two of calico round his loins, and seemed to think he had done all that could be expected of him in the way of dress. The party comprised all shades of colour, some of them being as dark as Australian natives.

They presented a very gay appearance with their spotless white dress, and gaudy coloured turbans. They seemed very little impressed with the novelty of their position—but rather shewed the self possession of experienced travellers, elbowed us out of their way, wrangled with each other, and took especial care of their luggage. I after- wards saw many of them leaving town upon the drays, and they seemed to be in a high state of delight and excitement.

The whole party looked very puny in stature, and many of them ridiculously small. I was not fortunate enough to see the she Kling. A considerable quantity of rice and curry arrived in the vessel—of the latter it is intended to allow them a bottle a month, in lieu of tea and sugar. The morning they landed was providentially warm and sunny, and their airy costume was not inappropriate; as a protection against the weather it was of no more use than mtuta, would be.

It is understood that the Philip Laing, will return to India, being unable to obtain a cargo of wool. The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. Tuesday 26 December 1848

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