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中国的远航舰队

[日期:2008-01-24]   [字体: ]


600年前的明朝,有一位叫做郑和的杰出宦官。他率领了一支庞大的商船舰队,踏上了航行范围远达非洲大陆的伟大征程。


Viewed from the rocky outcropping of Dondra Head at the southernnmost tip of Sri Lanka, the first sighting of the Ming fleet is a massive shadow on the horizon. As the shadow rises, it breaks into a cloud of tautly ribbed sail, aflame in the tropical sun. With relentless determination, the cloud draws ever closer, and in its fiery embrace an enormous city appears. A floating city, like nothing the world has ever seen before. No warning could have prepared officials, soldiers, or the thunderstruck peasants who stand atop Dondra Head for the scene that unfolds below them. Stretched across miles of the Indian Ocean in terrifying majesty is the armada of Zheng He, admiral of the imperial Ming navy.

从斯里兰卡最南端“栋德勒角(Dondra Head)”上的岩石露头望去,初入眼帘的大明舰队,只是地平线上的庞大阴影。随着阴影渐升,却化为众帆如云,肋纹毕现,在热带的阳光下映出闪闪红光。彤云徐徐掩至,耀眼光芒中逐渐浮现出一座巨大的城市。这是一座世所未有的漂浮之城。对于立在岩石顶端的官员、士兵或惊呆的农民而言,这番景象若非亲见,如何也无法想象。这是明帝国海军统帅郑和率领的船队,展现慑人威仪,在印度洋中绵延数里。

Exactly 600 years ago this month the GREat Ming armada weighed anchor in Nanjing, on the first of seven epic voyages as far west as Africa—almost a century before Christopher Columbus's arrival in the Americas and Vasco da Gama's in India. Even then the European expeditions would seem paltry by comparison: All the ships of Columbus and da Gama combined could have been stored on a single deck of a single vessel in the fleet that set sail under Zheng He.

就在600年前的这个月(明永乐三年(1405)六月十五日),这支雄壮的明朝船队在江苏太仓刘家港起锚首航,七次历史性航行由此展开,最远最西曾抵达非洲,而且比哥伦布到达美洲以及达.伽马到达印度早了将近一个世纪。且这些欧洲船队与他相较仍是小巫见大巫:光是郑和旗下其中一艘船的一面甲板,就容纳得下哥伦布与达.伽马所有的船只。

Zheng was not even Chinese—he was by origin a Central Asian Muslim. Born Ma He, the son of a rural official in the Mongol province of Yunnan, he had been taken captive as an invading Chinese army overthrew the Mongols in 1382. Ritually castrated, he was trained as an imperial eunuch and assigned to the court of Zhu Di, the bellicose Prince of Yan.

郑和不是汉人——就血源来说,他是中亚的回族。原名马和,父亲是元朝云南省的一个乡村官员。1382年,汉人军队赶走蒙古人时将他俘掳,依例阉割之后,训练他成为一名太监,指派到好战的燕王朱棣宫廷中。


Hewing to a long but dying tradition, workmen in Beihai, China, craft the wood skeleton of a junk for the prolific South China Sea fishing industry. The ship's design has probably changed little since Chinese admiral Zheng He commanded a massive fleet of junks during seven epic voyages—the first of which was launched 600 years ago this month. In service to Ming emperor Zhu Di, Zheng's Treasure Fleet conducted widespread trade and diplomacy throughout the Indian Ocean. His mandate was to enrich the imperial treasury by exacting tribute from leaders of other countries bordering the Indian Ocean, and to solidify their allegiance to China.

在中国的北海,工人延续着一个历史悠久但渐趋没落的传统,为富饶的南海渔业打造中国帆船的木制骨架。自从郑和于600年前率领庞大船队展开七趟西洋之行以来,这种中国船的设计八成没什么改变。郑和效忠明成祖朱棣,率领“宝船”船队在整个印度洋地区进行贸易与外交。他的任务就是向印度洋沿岸的其它国家索求贡品、充实国库,并巩固他们对中国的忠诚。


The fins of a hammerhead shark hauled out of the Red Sea at Al Hudaydah, Yemen, may end up on dinner tables in China, where shark-fin soup is highly prized. Seafaring traders from Yemen and other Arabian Peninsula countries did brisk business throughout the Indian Ocean during the Ming period, which lasted from the 14th to the mid-17th centuries. When Zheng set sail in 1405, his fleet was the mightiest of its age. With vessels numbering in the hundreds and crewmen in the tens of thousands, Zheng took to the seas nearly a century before the European age of exploration began in earnest.

这只锤头鲨是在也门荷台达附近的红海捕获,它身上的鳍可能会跑到中国人的餐桌上──鱼翅羹在中国被视为珍馐佳肴。在明代(公元14世纪至17世纪中期),也门与阿拉伯半岛上其它国家的航海商人确实在整个印度洋地区带动了蓬勃的商业。当郑和于1405年出航时,他的船队是当代最强大、最威震八方的。在欧洲人开始认真展开海洋探险之前将近一个世纪,郑和就已经率领着数以百计的船只与数以万计的船员航向大海。


At the bottom end of a soaring market, an ethnic Chinese worker squats in a sluice to gather tin ore at a mine on Bangka Island off the Sumatran coast. Zheng's crewmen found a Chinese community already settled on this Indonesian island when their ships called at Bangka to trade for tin and other goods. Prices for the metal rose substantially in 2004, and abandoned mines are being reworked as demand grows, particularly within China's vigorous economy.

在苏门答腊外海邦加岛的一处矿场,一名华裔工人蹲在一个洗矿槽内采集着锡矿砂。当郑和的船员来到邦加岛进行锡矿与其它商品的贸易时,已经有一个中国人社群定居在这个印尼的岛屿上。锡的价格在2004年上涨了不少,而随着需求增加──特别是在中国蓬勃的经济发展之下──废弃的矿场也重新启用。


On Pate Island along the Swahili coast of Kenya, the Mohame family pounds corn to make cornbread, a staple of their diet. The Mohameds are one of three families of the Famao clan who claim Chinese lineage. According to local legend, shipwrecked sailors from Zheng's fleet made it to shore and married local women, a belief that has become a central part of the Famao's personal mythology. Hints of past Chinese presence still exist on the island: Local tombs and lion statues have designs that some believe closely resemble those of the Ming era, and bits of Chinese ceramics that have washed ashore decorate the facades of some houses.

在肯尼亚斯瓦希里(Swahili)海岸上的培迪岛,默哈姆一家人打磨玉米制作他们的日常食物──玉米面包。默哈姆家族是宣称拥有中国血统的“法茂”氏族中的三个家族之一。根据当地传说,遇上船难的郑和船队水手游上了岸、跟当地妇女通婚,这样的想法已然成为法茂氏族个人神话中很重要的一部分。至今岛上依然可以瞥见中国人曾经到此一游的痕迹:有些人认为,当地坟墓与石狮子的样式跟明代中国的设计非常相似,而某些房屋的门面上则装饰着被海浪冲上岸的中国陶器碎片。


Dhows lie beached near Ra's al Hadd in Oman, their hulls sealed with a coating of cement and animal fat. For Arab countries the dhow has been the workhorse of the Indian Ocean, just as the junk has been for the Chinese in Southeast Asia. Zheng's fleet stopped here to trade porcelain for frankincense, myrrh, and aloe.

在阿曼的拉斯哈德附近,一艘艘三角帆船躺在沙滩上,船壳上涂着胶合剂与动物脂肪的混合物。三角帆船一直是阿拉伯人在印度洋的主力交通工具,一如中国人仰赖木帆船往返东南亚。郑和的船队曾经停靠在此,以瓷器交换乳香、没药与芦荟。


Incense perfumes the air at Tay Kak Sie, a Chinese Buddhist temple in Semarang, Indonesia—one of several in Southeast Asia where Zheng He's memory is revered. Its sister temple, Sampokong, was built to honor Zheng's reported appearance in Semarang to visit Wang Jinghong, his vice commander, who was laid up in a cave to recuperate from illness. A Central Asian Muslim by birth who was sympathetic to other religions, Zheng is thought to have been buried at sea after dying on the fleet's seventh and last voyage. A tomb—purportedly empty—stands outside Nanjing, China. It bears an Arabic inscription: "Allahu Akbar" ("God is GREat").

在印尼三宝的一座中国佛寺,空气中弥漫着薰香的气味──这是东南亚几处敬拜郑和的地点之一。由于传说郑和曾到三宝来探视他氅下的副指挥官(当时正在此地的一座山洞里养病),人们还建了一座姊妹庙来纪念这个事件。血统上属于中亚回人的郑和能够宽容接纳其它信仰,据信他是死于最后一趟航程上,最后举行了海葬。中国南京城外有一座他的坟墓,据说是空坟。坟上刻着一句阿拉伯文:“Allahu Akbar”(伟哉神也)。
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