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The Bornean jungles are immense tracts of country covered by gigantic trees, in the midst of which are mountains clothed in evergreen foliage, their barren cliffs buried beneath a network of creepers and ferns. The striking features are the size of the enormous forest trees and the closeness of their growth, rather than their loveliness or brilliancy of colour. In the tropical forests few bright-coloured flowers relieve the monotony of dark green leaves and dark brown trunks and branches of trees. The prevailing hue of tropical plants is a sombre green. The greater and lesser trees are often loaded with trailers and ferns, among which huge masses of the elk-horn fern are often conspicuous. But there is little colour to relieve the monotony of all these sombre hues. Here and there may be seen some creeper with red berries, and many bright-coloured orchids hang high overhead. But it is impossible for the observer to gain a favourable position for beholding the richest blooms, which often climb far above him, turning their faces towards the sunlight above the roof of foliage.
These regions are still inhabited by half-clad men and women, living quaint lives in their strange houses, observing weird ceremonies, and cherishing strange superstitions and curious customs, delighting in games and feasts, and repeating ancient legends of their gods and heroes. But in a few years all these things will be forgotten; for in Borneo, as elsewhere, civilization is comingcoming quicklyand all the distinctive Dyak customs will soon be things of the past. Already the Dyak is mixing with other races in the towns, and is changing his picturesque dress for Western costume. He is fast forgetting his old practices and his old modes of thought.
The tropical forests of Sarawak were much the same years ago as they are to-day. But the life of the Dyak is already greatly changed, and his lot improved by the introduction of just rule, law and order, and respect for human life. For a moment let us go back to the past, and try to picture the life of the Sea Dyak as it was some sixty years ago.
In those days there was constant warfare between the different tribes, and the Dyaks lived together in large numbers in their long houses, which had stockades around them, so that they had some defence against any sudden attack. Very often the young braves would make an expedition against some neighbouring tribe, simply because they wanted to bring home, each man of them, the ghastly trophy of a human head, and thus gain favour in the eyes of the Dyak girls. In these expeditions many were killed and many taken captive, to be the slaves of the conquerors.
A Sea Dyak with Shield
He is dressed in the usual waist-cloth the Dyaks wear. On his head is a headkerchief decorated with a fringe. He wears a necklace of large silver buttons. On his arms are sea-shell bracelets, and on his calves a large number of palm fibre rings. His right hand is holding the handle of his sword, the sheath of which is fastened to his belt, and his left hand is on his shield. The shield is made out of one piece of wood and coloured with a fanciful design. It is decorated with human hair from the head of dead enemies.