Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Customs of Cambodia (By Chou Ta-Kuan)

21) Popular Imported Chinese Products

Many Chinese products are highly sought after in Cambodia. Among these are: gold and silver products, colorful clothes, lead from Cheng Pui, tea tray from Oujiv, floral decorated vases from Jujiv, henna, paper, bronze, umbrellas, combs, needles, pots, ginseng roots, and deer glands, etc. In addition, people also like large decorative mats made in Meng Jiv, which are rare, for it is difficult to transport them from China to Cambodia.

22) Trees and Vegetations
Cambodia and China have many plants in common such as pomegranates, sugarcane, lotuses, bananas, and parsley, etc. Lychees and tangerines are similar to those found in China except that they taste a bit sour. Other than that, there are a lot of trees which are unique to Cambodia. Beside trees, Cambodia also has a variety of exotic flowers. Some flowers, whose names I did not know, even grow in water. As for some trees such as Thau-li, Hengbouy, Songbek, Samkway, Leychow, Eangliv, Kuylang, and Keklouy, they are not found in Cambodia. In this country, lotus flowers could be found even in the first month of the year.

23) Birds
There are birds such as peacocks, kingfishers, and doves, which are not commonly sighted in China. In addition, there are also a lot of kites, ravens, vultures, parrots, sparrows, pelicans, egrets, waterfowls, and weaverbirds, etc. Some other birds which are commonly sighted in China, but I have not seen in this country, are Hingtov (canaries?), Hong Eang (wild geese), Eung Eng (yellow hawks), and Tov Ou (swallows).

24) Quadruped Animals
Cambodia has a variety of wild animals such as rhinoceros, elephants, and wild oxen (ko prey), which are not found in China. Other than that, tigers, janets, bears, boars, deers, and foxes are found in abundant. However, Cambodia does not have camels and sing-sing lions (giant pandas?). As for chickens, ducks, pigs, horses, oxen, and goats, they could be found everywhere. But the Cambodian horses and oxen are very short and small. The Cambodians hold oxen and cows in high regard. When a cow or an ox dies, people do not take its meat or skin for consumption. They would rather leave it to rot away out of respect for its services to mankind.
Before, there were no swans in Cambodia. But, nowadays, people have brought them from China, and one would occasionally see swans commingle with flocks of other domestic animals. The Cambodian rats are as large as cats. There is a kind of rats which have wide large heads looking somewhat like puppies.

25) Vegetable Produces
Cambodia has a variety of vegetables such as ong choy, cabbages, chives, egg plants, water melons, winter melons, squashes, and cucumbers, etc. However, other produces such as daika, green spinach, khov cheng, and po-leng are not found in Cambodia. Egg plants, water melons, cucumbers, and winter melons, etc., are plentiful. Some egg plant’s plants are left to grow for many, many years. Some kapok trees are left to grow taller than houses. Many of these trees are more than 10 years old, and nobody has cut them down. There are many other vegetables whose names I do not know. Some vegetables grow in water.

26) Fish and Reptiles
Cambodia has numerous species of fish, turtles, and other amphibians. Among the most abundant are snakeheads and catfishes. As for small fishes, they could be found in great numbers. Most of these fishes are from the freshwater sea (Tonle Sap Lake). As for ocean fishes, they are also found in abundant. Some of them look like fresh water eels and mud fish. The Cambodians do not eat frogs; hence, they are found everywhere, even in the streets. Turtles and soft-shell tortoises are as big as umbrellas. People eat both turtles and tortoises no matter how old they are.
Lobsters from Che-nam (Kompong Chhnang) province could weigh as heavy as 3 pounds. Some turtle’s legs could reach as high as 2 feet. As for some crocodiles, they are as big as a boat. There is also a kind of four-legged dragon which has no horns. Bivalves and mollusks in the freshwater sea (Tonle Sap Lake) are so abundant that one could just use bare hands to catch them from the shallow bottom of the lake. However, I have not seen any crab. Perhaps there are some, but people don’t catch them for consumption.

27) Alcohol Production
There are four major kinds of alcoholic beverages. The best one is made from fermented honey mixed with water and some medicinal herbs. Another one is called Pheng ke-shih which is made by fermenting and extracting flavor from the leaves of Pheng ke-shih trees. The third kind of alcohol is called Pavleng-kak which made from left over rice. The fourth kind is a sugar-based alcohol which is made by mixing sugar and water for fermentation. If one went to the villages along the rivers, one would find another kind of alcoholic beverage which is made by extracting flavor from a plant called kro-chab.
(Excerpt from the Cambodian Royal Chronicle; To be Continued)

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