FIJI (Viti), a British colony consisting of an archipelago in the Pacific Ocean, the most important in Polynesia, between 15° and 20° S., and on and about the meridian of 180°. The islands number about 250, of which some 80 are inhabited. The total land area is 7435 sq. m. (thus roughly equalling that of Wales), and the population is about 121,000. The principal island is Viti Levu, 98 m. in length (E. to W.) and 67 in extreme breadth, with an area of 4112 sq. m. Forty miles N.E. lies Vanua Levu, measuring 117 m. by 30, with an area of 2432 sq. m. Close off the south-eastern shore of Vanua Levu is Taviuni, 26 m. in length by 10 in breadth; Kandavu or Kadavu, 36 m. long and very narrow, is 41 m. S. of Viti Levu, and the three other main islands, lying east of Viti Levu in the Koro Sea, are Koro, Ngau or Gau, and Ovalau. South-east from Vanua Levu a loop of islets extends nearly to 20° S., enclosing the Koro Sea. North-west of Viti Levu lies another chain, the Yasawa or western group; and, finally, the colony includes the island of Rotumah (q.v.), 300 m. N.W. by N. of Vanua Levu.
The formation of the larger islands is volcanic, their surface rugged, their vegetation luxuriant, and their appearance very beautiful; their hills rise often above 3000, and, in the case of a few summits, above 4000 ft., and they contrast strongly with the low coral formation of the smaller members of the group. There is not much level country, except in the coral islets, and certain rich tracts along the coasts of the two large islands, especially near the mouths of the rivers. The large islands have a considerable extent of undulating country, dry and open on their lee sides. Streams and rivers are abundant, the latter very large in proportion to the size of the islands, affording a waterway to the rich districts along their banks. These and the extensive mud flats and deltas at their mouths are often flooded, by which their fertility is increased, though at a heavy cost to the cultivator. The Rewa, debouching through a wide delta at the south-east of Viti Levu, is navigable for small vessels for 40 m. There are also in this island the Navua and Sigatoka (flowing S.), the Nandi (W.), and the Ba (N.W.). The Dreketi, flowing W., is the chief stream of Vanua Levu. It breaches the mountains in a fine valley; for this island consists practically of one long range, whereas the main valleys and ranges separating them in Viti Levu radiate for the most part from a common centre. With few exceptions the islands are surrounded by barriers of coral, broken by openings opposite the mouths of streams. Viti Levu is the most important island not only from its size, but from its fertility, variety of surface, and population, which is over one-third of that of the whole group. The town of Suva lies on an excellent harbour at the south-east of the island, and has been the capital of the colony since 1882, containing the government buildings and other offices. Vanua Levu is less fertile than Viti Levu; it has good anchorages along its entire southern coast. Of the other islands, Taviuni, remarkable for a lake (presumably a crater-lake) at the top of its lofty central ridge, is fertile, but exceptionally devoid of harbours; whereas the well-timbered island of Kandavu has an excellent one. On the eastern shore of Ovalau, an island which contains in a small area a remarkable series of gorge-like valleys between commanding hills, is the town of Levuka, the capital until 1882. It stands partly upon the narrow shore, and partly climbs the rocky slope behind. The chief islands on the west of the chain enclosing the Koro Sea are Koro, Ngau, Moala and Totoya, all productive, affording good anchorage, elevated and picturesque. The eastern islands of the chain are smaller and more numerous, Vanua Batevu (one of the Exploring Group) being a centre of trade. Among others, Mago is remarkable for a subterranean outlet of the waters of the fertile valley in its midst.
The land is of recent geological formation, the principal ranges being composed of igneous rock, and showing traces of much volcanic disturbance. There are boiling springs in Vanua Levu and Ngau, and slight shocks of earthquake are occasionally felt. The tops of many of the mountains, from Kandavu in the S.W., through Nairai and Koro, to the Ringgold group in the N.E., have distinct craters, but their activity has long ceased. The various decomposing volcanic rocks - tufas, conglomerates and basalts - mingled with decayed vegetable matter, and abundantly watered, form a very fertile soil. Most of the high peaks on the larger islands are basaltic, and the rocks generally are igneous, with occasional upheaved coral found sometimes over 1000 ft. above the sea; but certain sedimentary rocks observed on Viti Levu seem to imply a nucleus of land of considerable age. Volcanic activity in the neighbourhood is further shown by the quantities of pumice-stone drifted on to the south coasts of Kandavu and Viti Levu; malachite, antimony and graphite, gold in small quantities, and specular iron-sand occur.
Climate. - The colony is beyond the limits of the perpetual S.E. trades, while not within the range of the N.W. monsoons. From April to November the winds are steady between S.E. and E.N.E., and the climate is cool and dry, after which the weather becomes uncertain and the winds often northerly, this being the wet warm season. In February and March heavy gales are frequent, and hurricanes sometimes occur, causing scarcity by destroying the crops. The rainfall is much greater on the windward than on the lee sides of the islands (about 110 in. at Suva), but the mean temperature is much the same, viz., about 80° F. In the hills the temperature sometimes falls below 50°. The climate, especially from November to April, is somewhat enervating to the Englishman, but not unhealthy. Fevers are hardly known. Dysentery, which is common, and the most serious disease in the islands, is said to have been unknown before the advent of Europeans.
Fauna. - Besides the dog and the pig, which (with the domestic fowl) must have been introduced in early times, the only land mammals are certain species of rats and bats. Insects are numerous, but the species few. Bees have been introduced. The avifauna is not remarkable. Birds of prey are few; the parrot and pigeon tribes are better represented. Fishes, of an Indo-Malay type, are numerous and varied; Mollusca, especially marine, and Crustaceae are also very numerous. These three form an important element in the food supply.
Flora. - The vegetation is mostly of a tropical Indo-Malayan character - thick jungle with great trees covered with creepers and epiphytes. The lee sides of the larger islands, however, have grassy plains suitable for grazing, with scattered trees, chiefly Pandanus, and ferns. The flora has also some Australian and New Zealand affinities (resembling in this respect the New Caledonia and New Hebrides groups), shown especially in these western districts by the Pandanus, by certain acacias and others. At an elevation of about 2000 ft. the vegetation assumes a more mountainous type. Among the many valuable timber trees are the vesi (Afzelia bijuga); the dilo (Calophyllum Inophyllum), the oil from its seeds being much used in the islands, as in India, in the treatment of rheumatism; the dakua (Dammara Vitiensis), allied to the New Zealand kauri, and others. The dakua or Fiji pine, however, has become scarce. Most of the fruit trees are also valuable as timber. The native cloth (masi) is beaten out from the bark of the paper mulberry cultivated for the purpose. Of the palms the cocoanut is by far the most important. The yasi or sandal-wood was formerly a valuable product, but is now rarely found. There are various useful drugs, spices and perfumes; and many plants are cultivated for their beauty, to which the natives are keenly alive. Among the plants used as pot-herbs are several ferns, and two or three Solanums, one of which, S. anthropophagorum, was one of certain plants always cooked with human flesh, which was said to be otherwise difficult of digestion. The use of the kava root, here called yanggona, from which the well-known national beverage is made, is said to have been introduced from Tonga. Of fruit trees, besides the cocoanut, there may be mentioned the many varieties of the bread-fruit, of bananas and plantains, of sugar-cane and of lemon; the wi (Spondias dulcis), the kavika (Eugenia malaccensis), the ivi or Tahitian chestnut (Inocarpus edulis), the pine-apple and others introduced in modern times. Edible roots are especially abundant. The chief staple of life is the yam, the names of several months in the calendar having reference to its cultivation and ripening. The natives use no grain or pulse, but make a kind of bread (mandrai) from this, the taro, and other roots, as well as from the banana (which is the best), the bread-fruit, the ivi, the kavika, the arrowroot, and in times of scarcity the mangrove. This bread is made by burying the materials for months, till the mass is thoroughly fermented and homogeneous, when it is dug up and cooked by baking or steaming. This simple process, applicable to such a variety of substances, is a valuable security against famine.
People. - The Fijians are a people of Melanesian (Papuan) stock much crossed with Polynesians (Tongans and Samoans). They occupy the extreme east limits of Papuan territory and are usually classified as Melanesians; but they are physically superior to the pure examples of that race, combining their dark colour, harsh hirsute skin, crisp hair, which is bleached with lime and worn in an elaborately trained mop, and muscular limbs, with the handsome features and well proportioned bodies of the Polynesians. They are tall and well built. The features are strongly marked, but not unpleasant, the eyes deep set, the beard thick and bushy. The chiefs are fairer, much better-looking, and of a less negroid type of face than the people. This negroid type is especially marked on the west coasts, and still more in the interior of Viti Levu. The Fijians have other characteristics of both Pacific races, e.g. the quick intellect of the fairer, and the savagery and suspicion of the dark. They wear a minimum of covering, but, unlike the Melanesians, are strictly decent, while they are more moral than the Polynesians. They are cleanly and particular about their personal appearance, though, unlike other Melanesians, they care little for ornament, and only the women are tattooed. A partial circumcision is practised, which is exceptional with the Melanesians, nor have these usually an elaborate political and social system like that of Fiji. The status of the women is also somewhat better, those of the upper class having considerable freedom and influence. If less readily amenable to civilizing influences than their neighbours to the eastward, the Fijians show greater force of character and ingenuity. Possessing the arts of both races they practise them with greater skill than either. They understand the principle of division of labour and production, and thus of commerce. They are skilful cultivators and good boat-builders, the carpenters being an hereditary caste; there are also tribes of fishermen and sailors; their mats, baskets, nets, cordage and other fabrics are substantial and tasteful; their pottery, made, like many of the above articles, by women, is far superior to any other in the South Seas; but many native manufactures have been supplanted by European goods.
The Fijians were formerly notorious for cannibalism, which may have had its origin in religion, but long before the first contact with Europeans had degenerated into gluttony. The Fijian's chief table luxury was human flesh, euphemistically called by him "long pig," and to satisfy his appetite he would sacrifice even friends and relatives. The Fijians combined with this greediness a savage and merciless nature. Human sacrifices were of daily occurrence. On a chief's death wives and slaves were buried alive with him. When building a chief's house a slave was buried alive in the hole dug for each foundation post. At the launching of a war-canoe living men were tied hand and foot between two plantain stems making a human ladder over which the vessel was pushed down into the water. The people acquiesced in these brutal customs, and willingly met their deaths. Affection and a firm belief in a future state, in which the exact condition of the dying is continued, are the Fijians' own explanations of the custom, once universal, of killing sick or aged relatives. Yet in spite of this savagery the Fijians have always been remarkable for their hospitality, open-handedness and courtesy. They are a sensitive, proud, if vindictive, and boastful people, with good conversational and reasoning powers, much sense of humour, tact and perception of character. Their code of social etiquette is minute and elaborate, and the graduations of rank well marked. These are (1) chiefs, greater and lesser; (2) priests; (3) Mata ni Vanua (lit., eyes of the land), employés, messengers or counsellors; (4) distinguished warriors of low birth; (5) common people; (6) slaves.
The family is the unit of political society. The families are grouped in townships or otherwise (qali) under the lesser chiefs, who again owe allegiance to the supreme chief of the matanitu or tribe. The chiefs are a real aristocracy, excelling the people in physique, skill, intellect and acquirements of all sorts; and the reverence felt for them, now gradually diminishing, was very great, and had something of a religious character. All that a man had belonged to his chief. On the other hand, the chief's property practically belonged to his people, and they were as ready to give as to take. In a time of famine, a chief would declare the contents of the plantations to be common property. A system of feudal service-tenures (lala) is the institution on which their social and political fabric mainly depended. It allowed the chief to call for the labour of any district, and to employ it in planting, house or canoe-building, supplying food on the occasion of another chief's visit, etc. This power was often used with much discernment; thus an unpopular chief would redeem his character by calling for some customary service and rewarding it liberally, or a district would be called on to supply labour or produce as a punishment. The privilege might, of course, be abused by needy or unscrupulous chiefs, though they generally deferred somewhat to public opinion; it has now, with similar customary exactions of cloth, mats, salt, pottery, etc. been reduced within definite limits. An allied custom, solevu, enabled a district in want of any particular article to call on its neighbours to supply it, giving labour or something else in exchange. Although, then, the chief is lord of the soil, the inferior chiefs and individual families have equally distinct rights in it, subject to payment of certain dues; and the idea of permanent alienation of land by purchase was never perhaps clearly realized. Another curious custom was that of vasu (lit. nephew). The son of a chief by a woman of rank had almost unlimited rights over the property of his mother's family, or of her people. In time of war the chief claimed absolute control over life and property. Warfare was carried on with many courteous formalities, and considerable skill was shown in the fortifications. There were well-defined degrees of dependence among the different tribes or districts: the first of these, bati, is an alliance between two nearly equal tribes, but implying a sort of inferiority on one side, acknowledged by military service; the second, qali, implies greater subjection, and payment of tribute. Thus A, being bati to B, might hold C in qali, in which case C was also reckoned subject to B, or might be protected by B for political purposes.
The former religion of the Fijians was a sort of ancestor-worship, had much in common with the creeds of Polynesia, and included a belief in a future existence. There were two classes of gods - the first immortal, of whom Ndengei is the greatest, said to exist eternally in the form of a serpent, but troubling himself little with human or other affairs, and the others had usually only a local recognition. The second rank (who, though far above mortals, are subject to their passions, and even to death) comprised the spirits of chiefs, heroes and other ancestors. The gods entered and spoke through their priests, who thus pronounced on the issue of every enterprise, but they were not represented by idols; certain groves and trees were held sacred, and stones which suggest phallic associations. The priesthood usually was hereditary, and their influence great, and they had generally a good understanding with the chief. The institution of Taboo existed in full force. The mburé or temple was also the council chamber and place of assemblage for various purposes.
The weapons of the Fijians are spears, slings, throwing clubs and bows and arrows. Their houses, of which the framework is timber and the rest lattice and thatch, are ingeniously constructed, with great taste in ornamentation, and are well furnished with mats, mosquito-curtains, baskets, fans, nets and cooking and other utensils. Their canoes, sometimes more than 100 ft. long, are well built. Ever excellent agriculturists, their implements were formerly digging sticks and hoes of turtlebone or flat oyster-shells. In irrigation they showed skill, draining their fields with built watercourses and bamboo pipes. Tobacco, maize, sweet potatoes, yams, kava, taro, beans and pumpkins, are the principal crops.
Fijians are fond of amusements. They have various games, and dancing, story-telling and songs are especially popular. Their poetry has well-defined metres, and a sort of rhyme. Their music is rude, and is said to be always in the major key. They are clever cooks, and for their feasts preparations are sometimes made months in advance, and enormous waste results from them. Mourning is expressed by fasting, by shaving the head and face, or by cutting off the little finger. This last is sometimes done at the death of a rich man in the hope that his family will reward the compliment; sometimes it is done vicariously, as when one chief cuts off the little finger of his dependent in regret or in atonement for the death of another.
A steady, if not a very rapid, decrease in the native population set in after 1875. A terrible epidemic of measles in that year swept away 40,000, or about one-third of the Fijians. Subsequent epidemics have not been attended by anything like this mortality, but there has, however, been a steady decrease, principally among young children, owing to whooping-cough, tuberculosis and croup. Every Fijian child seems to contract yaws at some time in its life, a mistaken notion existing on the part of the parents that it strengthens the child's physique. Elephantiasis, influenza; rheumatism, and a skin disease, thoko, also occur. One per cent of the natives are lepers. A commission appointed in 1891 to inquire into the causes of the native decrease collected much interesting anthropological information regarding native customs, and provincial inspectors and medical officers were specially appointed to compel the natives to carry out the sanitary reforms recommended by the commission. A considerable sum was also spent in laying on good water to the native villages. The Fijians show no disposition to intermarry with the Indian coolies. The European half-castes are not prolific inter se, and they are subject to a scrofulous taint. The most robust cross in the islands is the offspring of the African negro and the Fijian. Miscegenation with the Micronesians, the only race in the Pacific which is rapidly increasing, is regarded as the most hopeful manner of preserving the native Fijian population. There is a large Indian immigrant population.
Trade, Administration, etc. - The principal industries are the cultivation of sugar and fruits and the manufacture of sugar and copra, and these three are the chief articles of export trade, which is carried on almost entirely with Australia and New Zealand. The fruits chiefly exported are bananas and pineapples. There are also exported maize, vanilla and a variety of fruits in small quantities; pearl and other shells and bêche-de-mer. There is a manufacture of soap from coconut oil; a fair quantity of tobacco is grown, and among other industries may be included boat-building and saw-milling. Regular steamship communications are maintained with Sydney, Auckland and Vancouver. Good bridle-tracks exist in all the larger islands, and there are some macadamized roads, principally in Viti Levu. There is an overland mail service by native runners. The export trade is valued at nearly £600,000 annually, and the imports at £500,000. The annual revenue of the colony is about £140,000 and the expenditure about £125,000. The currency and weights and measures are British. Besides the customs and stamp duties, some £18,000 of the annual revenue is raised from native taxation. The seventeen provinces of the colony (at the head of which is either a European or a roko tui or native official) are assessed annually by the legislative council for a fixed tax in kind. The tax on each province is distributed among districts under officials called bulis, and further among villages within these districts. Any surplus of produce over the assessment is sold to contractors, and the money received is returned to the natives.
Under a reconstruction made in 1904 there is an executive council consisting of the governor and four official members. The legislative council consists of the governor, ten official, six elected and two native members. The native chiefs and provincial representatives meet annually under the presidency of the governor, and their recommendations are submitted for sanction to the legislative council. Suva and Levuka have each a municipal government, and there are native district and village councils. There is an armed native constabulary; and a volunteer and cadet corps in Suva and Levuka.
The majority of the natives are Wesleyan Methodists. The Roman Catholic missionaries have about 3000 adherents; the Church of England is confined to the Europeans and kanakas in the towns; the Indian coolies are divided between Mahommedans and Hindus. There are public schools for Europeans and half-castes in the towns, but there is no provision for the education of the children of settlers in the out-districts. By an ordinance of 1890 provision was made for the constitution of school boards, and the principle was first applied in Suva and Levuka. The missions have established schools in every native village, and most natives are able to read and write their own language. The government has established a native technical school for the teaching of useful handicrafts. The natives show themselves very slow in adopting European habits in food, clothing and house-building.
History. - A few islands in the north-east of the group were first seen by Abel Tasman in 1643. The southernmost of the group, Turtle Island, was discovered by Cook in 1773. Lieutenant Bligh, approaching them in the launch of the "Bounty," 1789, had a hostile encounter with natives. In 1827 Dumont d'Urville in the "Astrolabe" surveyed them much more accurately, but the first thorough survey was that of the United States exploring expedition in 1840. Up to this time, owing to the evil reputation of the islanders, European intercourse was very limited. The labours of the Wesleyan missionaries, however, must always have a prominent place in any history of Fiji. They came from Tonga in 1835 and naturally settled first in the eastern islands, where the Tongan element, already familiar to them, preponderated. They perhaps identified themselves too closely with their Tongan friends, whose dissolute, lawless, tyrannical conduct led to much mischief; but it should not be forgotten that their position was difficult, and it was mainly through their efforts that many terrible heathen practices were stamped out.
About 1804 some escaped convicts from Australia and runaway sailors established themselves around the east part of Viti Levu, and by lending their services to the neighbouring chiefs probably led to their preponderance over the rest of the group. Na Ulivau, chief of the small island of Mbau, established before his death in 1829 a sort of supremacy, which was extended by his brother Tanoa, and by Tanoa's son Thakombau, a ruler of considerable capacity. In his time, however, difficulties thickened. The Tongans, who had long frequented Fiji (especially for canoe-building, their own islands being deficient in timber), now came in larger numbers, led by an able and ambitious chief, Maafu, who, by adroitly taking part in Fijian quarrels, made himself chief in the Windward group, threatening Thakombau's supremacy. He was harassed, too, by an arbitrary demand for £9000 from the American government, for alleged injuries to their consul. Several chiefs who disputed his authority were crushed by the aid of King George of Tonga, who (1855) had opportunely arrived on a visit; but he afterwards, taking some offence, demanded £12,000 for his services. At last Thakombau, disappointed in the hope that his acceptance of Christianity (1854) would improve his position, offered the sovereignty to Great Britain (1859) with the fee simple of 100,000 acres, on condition of her paying the American claims. Colonel Smythe, R.A., was sent out to report on the question, and decided against annexation, but advised that the British consul should be invested with full magisterial powers over his countrymen, a step which would have averted much subsequent difficulty.
Meanwhile Dr B. Seemann's favourable report on the capabilities of the islands, followed by a time of depression in Australia and New Zealand, led to a rapid increase of settlers - from 200 in 1860 to 1800 in 1869. This produced fresh complications, and an increasing desire among the respectable settlers for a competent civil and criminal jurisdiction. Attempts were made at self-government, and the sovereignty was again offered, conditionally, to England, and to the United States. Finally, in 1871, a "constitutional government" was formed by certain Englishmen under King Thakombau; but this, after incurring heavy debt, and promoting the welfare of neither whites nor natives, came after three years to a deadlock, and the British government felt obliged, in the interest of all parties, to accept the unconditional cession now offered (1874). It had besides long been thought desirable to possess a station on the route between Australia and Panama; it was also felt that the Polynesian labour traffic, the abuses in which had caused much indignation, could only be effectually regulated from a point contiguous to the recruiting field, and the locality where that labour was extensively employed. To this end the governor of Fiji was also created "high commissioner for the western Pacific." Rotumah (q.v.) was annexed in 1881.
At the time of the British annexation the islands were suffering from commercial depression, following a fall in the price of cotton after the American Civil War. coffee, tea, cinchona and sugar were tried in turn, with limited success. The coffee was attacked by the leaf disease; the tea could not compete with that grown by the cheap labour of the East; the sugar machinery was too antiquated to withstand the fall in prices consequent on the European sugar bounties. In 1878 the first coolies were imported from India and the cultivation of sugar began to pass into the hands of large companies working with modern machinery. With the introduction of coolies the Fijians began to fall behind in the development of their country. Many of the coolies chose to remain in the colony after the termination of their indentures, and began to displace the European country traders. With a regular and plentiful supply of Indian coolies, the recruiting of kanaka labourers practically ceased. The settlement of European land claims, and the measures taken for the protection of native institutions, caused lively dissatisfaction among the colonists, who laid the blame of the commercial depression at the door of the government; but with returning prosperity this feeling began to disappear. In 1900 the government of New Zealand made overtures to absorb Fiji. The Aborigines Society protested to the colonial office, and the imperial government refused to sanction the proposal.
See Smyth, Ten Months in the Fiji Islands (London, 1864); B. Seemann, Flora Vitiensis (London, 1865); and Viti: Account of a Government Mission in the Vitian or Fijian Islands (1860-1861); W.T. Pritchard, Polynesian Reminiscences (London, 1866); H. Forbes, Two Years in Fiji (London, 1875); Commodore Goodenough, Journal (London, 1876); H.N. Moseley, Notes of a Naturalist in the "Challenger" (London, 1879); Sir A.H. Gordon, Story of a Little War (Edinburgh, privately printed, 1879); J.W. Anderson, Fiji and New Caledonia (London, 1880); C.F. Gordon-Cumming, At Home in Fiji (Edinburgh, 1881); John Horne, A Year in Fiji (London, 1881); H.S. Cooper, Our New Colony, Fiji (London, 1882); S.E. Scholes, Fiji and the Friendly Islands (London, 1882); Princes Albert Victor and George of Wales, Cruise of H. M. S. "Bacchante" (London, 1886); A. Agassiz, The Islands and Coral Reefs of Fiji (Cambridge, Mass., U.S., 1899); H.B. Guppy, Observations of a Naturalist in the Pacific (1896-1899), vol. i.; Vanua Levu, Fiji (Phys. Geog. and Geology) (London, 1903); Lorimer Fison, Tales from Old Fiji (folk-lore, etc.) (London, 1904); B. Thomson, The Fijians (London, 1908).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)