Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Flashes at the End of the Sky (3)

My Personal Khotan on the Silk Road

The Desert

To many people who have never been there or who have only tasted it a little, the desert can be romantic. To most people who live next to it, it can be annoying or dangerous. But if you truly understand it, and therefore deeply love it, it is beautiful and sublime. Classical Chinese poems about the western frontier always describe the desert as vast, barren, harsh and lonely, a place where Chinese soldiers fought against “barbarians,” a place to which good guys were exiled. Only when heroism, loyalty, life and death were involved with the vastness, extreme hardships and loneliness did the poems raise the desert to the level of a tragic beauty and a manifestation of the sublime. I am sometimes disappointed to find so few poems about the desert that express something other than sad feelings or violent death. It is a pity we have not found poems written by people who lived in the desert all their lives or by caravan travelers who walked through the desert countless times.
I have traveled along the rim of the desert several times by bus, once – that first time - by truck, from Khotan to Urumqi, and then by train, from Urumqi to Xi’an to visit my grandparents. It took eight and a half days, one-way, by bus, and four days by train. I do not know if I was fortunate or not in never having traveled by riding a camel; that seems so romantic. So, I had passed through most portions of the Silk Road east of the Pamir mountain range. On these trips, perhaps because I had lived in the desert for too long, I was not really sensitive to it or inspired by it. When jolted in the bus with your stomach turning upside down for eight days, you cannot and do not enjoy the scenery. After all, there is only one scene – the endless, dull-colored sand, sand, and more sand. However, the desert’s infinite space, the blurring of the sky and earth, and the mysterious mirages that follow one after the other on the horizon, did leave strong impressions on me that remain till today.
My real understanding of the desert only occurred when I had my “re-education” years on a farm deep in the desert. Although it is as far away from metropolitan areas as it is, Khotan did not escape the “Great Cultural Revolution.” Upon high school graduation, the government sent us all deeper into the countryside to be re-educated by farm workers. The idea was to let young people learn and share the feelings of poor farm workers by living and working with them, and, at the same time, help them to improve their fieldwork and living conditions, and ultimately to realize the Communist Ideal. The idea was noble. And it was the call from Chairman Mao and Party. Although no one knew it then, we were the last ones who had to go into the countryside. The Cultural Revolution was near its end. I did not have to go because my brother went down to a farm two years earlier and was still there, and by then there was a new policy that each family could keep one child in town. However, I felt it would be shameful if I did not go. I was so naïve and idealistic. In a public speech I gave at the farewell meeting in the town I vowed that I would “take root” in the countryside and do what farm workers do for the rest of my life. I declared that from bottom of my heart. So there we were, about thirty graduates from high school and middle school, sent to a small farm west of Khotan.
The place we settled in was called Happiness Farm within Happiness Commune in Pishan County, one of the seven counties in the Khotan District. The farm was located beside a little seasonal stream twenty kilometers from the headquarters of the commune. There were about twenty or so families of Han Chinese who some years earlier had fled from the big famine in Gansu Province and managed to settle here. We were given an adobe building with one single row of rooms. Six girls shared one room, with a single adobe bed that stretched from one end of the room to the other. It was just big enough for the six of us to lay down our bedding next to each other (each space was no more than a twin size). Each of us had a wooden chest for clothes and other belongings, and two basins for washing. Water was a thirty-minute walk away in the stream.
The first room on one end of the building was the kitchen. We took turns cooking for the whole group. Because of the scarcity of water, we did not grow vegetables and therefore did not have vegetables to eat. The meals were always the same: plain corn gruel and steamed corn bread for breakfast; steamed or pan baked corn bread for lunch; and thick, salty corn porridge and corn bread for supper. No meat, no vegetables, no main dishes at all. After a few days of eating that kind of food, most of us got a seriously sour stomach and stomachache. We could not complain because the farm workers were no better off than we were. Once every a couple of months, one or two of our parents would manage to come for a visit, and bring salted veggies (something like pickles) bottled in jars. The bottled vegetables had to be very salty to preserve them. There were no paved roads and no public transportation to the farm, so it was very difficult for us to get out, and for our parents to get in. We had to budget the salty veggies so they could last until the next time some parents came.
For the first six months there, we only had wheat flour buns two or three times and boiled carrots once. Never having been in such a situation, you cannot imagine how delicious boiled carrots can be. It was the best dish I had ever had, and I could not believe it of myself who had been so particular about food and never liked cooked carrots at all. I was, indeed, reeducated in that sense. We also had a rare chance to have meat to eat. That was when the boys had caught a wild hog and slaughtered it. With such irresistibly delicious meat, nobody could ever be picky about food anymore. It was a big feast. We celebrated it joyfully.
Our daily work on the farm was to hoe up weeds, loosen the soil, carry the manure to the cornfields, and open up the new fields, etc. In the spring we plowed and planted; in the autumn we harvested ears of corn, shelled the kernels, cut the corn stalks, and so forth. To our disappointment, all work was done in the most primitive way. We used sacks to carry everything on our backs: manure, cornstalks, and anything else that needed to be moved. To plow a field, which was the hardest work, we used a kind of pickaxe (which looks like a hoe but much bigger and heavier). I could not figure out why we, as Chinese, who had been farmers for five thousand years, still used the same methods our great, great, …grandfathers had used. Some of us students did try to improve things by using a carrying stick with baskets on the two ends, and even a one-wheel cart to carry things.
Winter work on the farm was either gathering grass and shrubs from the desert to make compost, or cleaning and repairing irrigation canals. Once we went to Sangzhu, a small village at the foot of the Kunlun Mountains near the upper reaches of our water source to work on the construction of a major canal and dam. Sangzhu (Sanju) village was on a short cut to Kashmir and India, near a pass in the mountains. The trail to the pass was dangerously steep and narrow. Caravan travelers commonly lost their camels and even their own lives falling off the trail on the cliffs. In the March 1996 issue of National Geographic, there is an old photo Owen Lattimore took in 1926 showing his group on the pass. But back then none of us knew much about the place. For almost ten years, schools had been paralyzed by the Cultural Revolution so that we had not had history or geography classes. There were no regional maps either; actually, no concept of regional maps existed in our mind. You can imagine how surprised I was ten years later in the U.S. when I saw satellite photos of Pishan County shot by NASA and published in the February 1996 Scientific American, clearly showing the mountains, villages, and even the streets in town.
We had been assigned to work there for two weeks, but instead, we stayed for only two days because the farm workers really pitied us and sent us back. At the construction site, there were mountains on one side and desert on the other. There was no house or any kind of shelter for us to stay in. We built a circle with rocks for cooking. At night, we slept on the open ground. The experienced people taught us how to find a good spot out of the wind for sleeping at night. This was usually behind sand dunes where the roots of a Red Willow bush were buried. There was always wind at night; it was just a matter of whether it would be big or small. But even the least wind could be very annoying, and the wind was sometimes dangerous. We soon learned that we had to cover our faces completely with wool scarves, or sand would fill our noses, mouths, eyes and ears, and even choke us. Even covered, we still felt we were chewing sand all the time. At first it was such an exciting experience to sleep in the open desert. I thought I would look at the sky counting the stars or dreaming about romance all night. Oh! There was no way you could lie on your back with your face up. All your open orifices would fill up with sand. Reluctantly, I covered myself completely under the thick quilt, as it was very cold too. In the morning, we all laughed at each other, because we still looked like people made out of sand, no matter how well we had covered ourselves, but there was no water to wash ourselves with.
In the desert, any degree of a wind could make a sand twister. It was fun to look at the twisters dancing around. Sometimes I suspected that Wang Wei’s famous line of poetry about desert might refer to a twister, although it is usually interpreted as a signal fire:

In the vast desert, there’s a lone smoke straight up;
Above the long river, the setting sun appears so round.

Gathering shrubs for compost was another normal winter task. One cold winter day, very early in the morning, we got up, packed a little corn bread and water, and went into the desert. Our job that day was to cut, gather, and bring back shrubs for making compost. The air was chilly and fresh. The sky was dark blue and full of bright stars. I saw the entire sky like a huge upside down bowl resting on the earth. It was beautiful and awesome. I wondered if there could be any better scene in the world. Nobody talked. We were simply quieted by the overwhelming cosmic silence.
There are only a few kinds of plants that grow in the area. Among them are the Red Willow (a kind of five-stamen tamarisk), a shrub tree whose thick, deep roots we commonly dug up for firewood, and Camel Thorn (Alhagi maurorum), a shrub with needle-sized thorns which had no use except to rot for compost to fertilize soil. I always felt sorry to cut them down. In the dull desert, they were the only colorful things that could cheer you up. Red Willows have small red-purple blossoms stuck along the branches, and Camel Thorns grow tiny purple flowers the size of your smallest fingernail. But Camel Thorns were the ones we wanted for this particular job.
The shrubs grew so widely scattered that we had to spread far apart in the desert. We reminded each other to keep close enough so that we would not get lost. Quite soon, we could only hear but not see each other. At one point I helped two girls put their bound loads on their backs ready to go. When the sun rose high, I saw the last one off. She actually insisted that we two go back together. But I did not feel I had enough. So I told her to go ahead, and I went further into the desert to gather more shrubs. I did not notice how much time passed before I had gotten a big hill of thorns gathered in front of me. I pressed and tightened it with my whole body. I tramped and jumped on it so it could be bound into a bundle. I did my best to tighten and tie it. (Many years later, in the States, I could still feel one or two thorns poking out here and there from the sheep’s wool trousers I had knit myself and had on that day). But the bundle was still bigger than me, and it was so heavy that I had very hard time loading it up on my back.
From behind me, one would have been unable to see a person, only a hill of bushes moving slowly. It took several minutes before I suddenly realized that I should check the direction to make sure I was heading home. There were no roads, no trails, but only endless sand. I was afraid that I might not be able to put the bundle back on my back again by myself, so at first I hesitated whether I should drop the load and go up to a hill looking for some signs. But my instinct told me I should do it right away. So I dropped the load and climbed to the highest sand dune nearby.
When I got to the top of the hill and looked around, I was shocked. All directions looked exactly the same. There was not a single sign showing the way home. The farm with the little village was totally beyond the horizon. Instantly I collapsed, my heart beating wildly and my legs shaking. A great panic fell over me. At first my mind went blank and then I could not think rationally. I do not know how long I kneeled there before I realized I should do something. I managed to stand up and call out loudly, hoping somebody was still around. “Is there anybody here?” “Can somebody hear me?” But to my horror, no sooner had I begun to shout, than I realized that my voice was completely gone. I could not get a sound out. I had lost my strength. I pulled up myself and tried again. “Hello! Is anybody there?” This time the sounds came out of my throat but were immediately swallowed by the vast empty space. The power of the desert overwhelmed me. I looked up. It was cloudy. I could tell the sun was directly overhead; there is no way to use the sun to determine directions when it is noon. And I knew that since we came to the farm I had not paid attention to the directions anyway. I was totally lost. Desperate, I began to think about death.
Taklamakan, the name of the desert in Turkic language, simply means “a place one can go into, but will not come out of.” All the stories about the desert poured into my memory. Some told how people lost their way in the desert and were only found mummified years later. Some described how the wind moved sand dunes from one side of the road to the other overnight but kept them in the same shape, so after a storm travelers did not notice the change and therefore went the wrong direction and got lost forever. There were even reports of well-prepared explorers vanishing in the desert. Furthermore, everybody knew that cargo truck drivers always went in a group carrying more than enough water and food in case there were unexpected situations.
Now, kneeling in the sand, alone, shaking all over, I found the stories became real. But I was only nineteen, too young to die. “I cannot die like this.” I had to find a way out. The sun above me reminded me that it was noon, and I had several hours to try to find a way out before it got dark. I struggled to stand up. Still, every direction looked the same, all reached to the end of the earth. I slid down the hill, leaving the food bag behind as a sign, and looked around. Something caught my eyes. Goat droppings. And then, donkey droppings. My heart almost jumped out of my throat. I knew I might have a chance. Soon I found the animals’ tracks. I crawled on the ground to study them. But, the more tracks I found, the less confidence I had. There were too many of them, and they pointed in all directions. I did not want to give up. I decided that I would go to the direction I felt right by instinct, and if I did not see any sign of a village within one or two hours of walking, I would come back and go in the opposite direction, but staying always within range of the animals’ tracks. Having made this decision, I felt relieved a little, and went up the hilltop to eat my corn bread. The bread was already frozen, too hard to bite. I put it under my arms to warm up. I still had some water in the canteen, partially frozen. Luckily it was not summer, or I could have been fatally dehydrated already.
While eating, I began to think whether or not I should carry the big load – my whole purpose in life by this time. “Maybe it won’t be too late to drop it if the plan goes really wrong,” I persuaded myself. So again, I knelt down and leaned my back against the load, put my arms into the rope loops, straightened myself up, bent a little bit forward, crawled a few steps on my hands and knees, and then lifted the weight and stood up. Before I started to walk, I dug out a Red Willow stick from the sand hill, and dragged it on the ground while I walked in order to draw a line as a sign, in case I had to come back to the opposite direction. I actually changed directions several times. I did not know how long it took me to get out of the desert. I did not have a watch. When I suddenly saw the trees in the distance, I staggered and almost cried. I said to myself, “Don’t fall. Hold up. Don’t fall. You’ve survived.” Several years later, when I sat in the university library reading Jack London, I felt like saying to him, “Hey, buddy, I’ve been there.”
When I arrived at the village it was late afternoon. I was too exhausted to step up even the three inches off the ground to the scales, to record how heavy a load I had carried. Two guys had to pull me up. I had carried a load of about 130 pounds, 20 pounds heavier than myself. At supper that evening, one of my roommates said to me, “You stupid girl. Why are you so serious? Look at our Boss! He brought only 20 pounds. Do you want to die?” I only smiled wearily. I did not explain to anybody why I came back so late. I did not want to talk about my experience of life and death casually to those who had not had a similar experience or who would not understand such things. I needed time to myself to think and digest the meaning of it. It was like a sudden enlightenment that made me begin to think both philosophically and realistically about my life.
Before graduation, the school authorities and the Communist League had organized us to study Chairman Mao’s theories and discuss the significance of the strategy of letting students go “up the mountains and down the countryside.” At those meetings, we studied a case of “Regional Realization of Communism” – the Da Zhai Commune in Shanxi Province. There the farm workers had reached the goal of supplying enough food to the Commune members and even achieved a surplus to contribute to the government as well. They could afford to send all the children to school and were able to provide medical care to all the members of the commune. All the villagers had become better off equally. The example was exciting and tangible. In the past, Communism had looked so vague and abstract to me, but now it became concrete and something that could be accomplished. If people of Da Zhai could make it happen, we could too. So when I got to the farm, I calculated how much income I could possibly make, and then the total needed for all villagers to have sufficient food and other supplies. To my disappointment, I realized that at my best, by the end of each year I would be earning a share of 330-440 pounds of grain plus 100-200 yuan cash (about $10-20 dollars). This meant I would be able to have about one pound of grain for food and 0.40 yuan (or 4 cents) cash to spend per day. But I thought that was good enough.
Now, suddenly, I felt how ridiculous the Communist ideal was and how foolish we were to believe in such nonsense. How could I have been so naïve and so stupid and so blind? How could we change people’s life and change the world by using the most primitive production methods and by sacrificing young people’s lives in the desert? How could such minimum basic survival conditions be the Communist Ideal?! What is Communism anyway?
The Taklamakan desert transformed me. Not because I was scared by the desert, but because I experienced the overwhelming power of nature so closely and truly. If I had ever had a religious feeling, it was then, when I was overwhelmed in the desert, kneeling to pray to it to have pity on me. Even when I overcame it, it was with great awe and respect, and I saw my limits.

New Jersey July 5, 2007

The above is my persoanl narrative written for an analogy on Teaching the Silk Road by SUNY Publication.

Flashes at the End of the Sky (2)

My Personal Khotan on the Silk Road

The Bounty of Khotan

Khotan has been famous for a variety of beautiful things since ancient times, especially jade and silk. In the Shang dynasties (16th-11th century BCE), Khotan jade found its way to the royal courts in central China. According to Shanhaijing, a book from the second century BCE, in the tenth century BCE, a Zhou dynasty emperor Mu Wang traveled to the Kunlun Mountains to find white jade. Khotan jade has been the privileged royal and national jewel for China ever since.
Jade caught my attention in an unlikely manner. On a street corner a small, deformed Uyghur man had a little vendor’s stand. On Sundays, my father often took me to the bazaar (Uyghur people use the word for market) to buy our vegetables and fruits. The bazaar was a little down from the town center at the only intersection of two dusty roads. Uyghur vendors and farmers from far away sold vegetables, fruits, herbs, spices, meat, live chicken, eggs, crafts, firewood, and local food like kaoyangrou, roasted mutton kabob; zhuafan, rice polo; nang, baked flatbread; and lamian, hand-pulled long noodles. At one corner of the intersection next to the bazaar, a man, shortened by polio, always kneeled or curled up beside a shawl about two feet square laid on the ground. On it were some pieces of jade: wine cups, tobacco pipes, rings, bracelets, cubes for seals, and raw pebbles. The beautiful shining colors of the jade – pale green, dark green, cream white and orange etc. made a dramatic contrast against his always-blackened all-weather chiapan (a kind of long robe) and his sheepskin hat. Very often, he was pushed and even buried in the Sunday crowds. Few people paid attention to him. As if never noticing anything around him, the little man always faced his “jewels,” never calling out to sell them, never moving. He sat like a black statue. My father and I were constant visitors to his two-foot stand. I remember over the years father bought a few cubes of jade for carving seals to stamp on his paintings. I liked to hold the cups or play with the bracelets, but father never bought any for me. We simply could not afford such luxury. I always felt, and still feel, guilty for not buying more jade from the poor man. He disappeared during the Cultural Revolution.
It was at this little jade stand that my father enthusiastically talked to his only audience, me, about Khotan jade. The Kunlun Mountains to the south of Khotan are home to the largest deposit of the best quality jade in the world. The two kinds of jade are both produced here: nephrite and jadeite. Jadeite is a hard stone, mostly in green colors, which exists in many places all over the world. Nephrite is softer and occurs mostly in white colors. There are only three or four places in the world where nephrite deposits are known, and Khotan happens to produce a very rare type, called “sheep-grease,” which is creamy white and partially translucent. In the spring, when the snow in the mountains melts, the flood pours down with rocks, and jade pebbles appear on the riverbed. Interestingly, the two different jades are always found separately in two separate rivers, the two main rivers running through Khotan, one on the east side, the other the west. So it is not a surprise to find that one river is named yurung kash in Uyghur language, meaning white jade, the other is kara kash, black jade.
Since ancient times, people have made a living picking up the stones in the river. But almost every person living in Khotan has had the experience of looking for jade. Each winter the town government would organize people to go to the rivers to repair the banks and dams. School kids from the fourth grade up always went. We often heard that someone we knew had found a piece of jade while digging the riverbed. Or a farm worker heading to market had randomly picked up a stone from the river to put on one side of the load on his little donkey to balance the weight, and the rock only later was recognized by prospectors in the market to be a valuable chunk of jade. Everybody in Khotan can tell you one or two stories like that.
The two jade rivers, like two living dragons, yield their most precious treasures, water and jade to Khotan’s people. But sadly, for the last ten years, under the greed of the new commercial wave, the rivers have been turned upside-down as deep as several meters. The businessmen from developed areas brought in the most powerful modern machinery to dig, screen, and to destroy the riverbed for money.
Another famous product of the region is silk. Nobody is really sure exactly when sericulture reached Khotan. It seems it has been there all along. In the Tang Dynasty, Xuanzang visited the town and recorded their legend of the Silk Princess who had first brought silk to Khotan. The Princess from the East Kingdom married the prince of Khotan. Before leaving for her new home, she was advised to bring some silkworm eggs and to raise the worms and make silk of her own so she would not feel homesick. However, there were strict rules forbidding anyone to take the secret of silk making out of her home kingdom. So the princess hid the eggs in her fancy hairdo and carried out the eggs to Khotan. From then on, Khotan had its own silk. More than a thousand years after Xuanzang’s visit, Aurel Stein excavated a wooden board from the Tang period with a painting identified as the Silk Princess.
The kids in Khotan were all completely familiar with silk and silk production. We almost all raised silkworms as pets. We normally started with some nearly invisible tiny black dots fixed on a slip of bark paper – one egg is smaller than a dot from a ballpoint pen. The kids would tear the piece of paper into even smaller pieces to share among themselves. When the weather gets warmer in the spring, the worms come out of their shells, as tiny as the tiniest ants in a brownish color. They have to be put on white paper for the first few days so people can see them, or they could be easily wiped off without being noticed at all. As they grow they become white and fat, and two inches long. It was fun to go out of town after school to pick mulberry tree leaves for the worms. It usually took us thirty minutes to an hour one way to get to the outskirts where poplar, sand-date, and mulberry trees lined the road on both sides. Imagine how happy we were to walk under the trees with friends after a long school day, not just picking the leaves but also eating the berries! The mulberries were always so irresistibly sweet and juicy, like all the other fruits grown there, that we could not resist eating and eating until we had no more room in our stomachs. We were experts on picking the right leaves and processing them. The leaves have to be young and tender and must be washed and dried before you feed the worms. The chewing noise of the creatures is pleasant like music, but could be annoying as well, especially when you tried to sleep at night. Some of us were also good at forcing the worms to spin their silk into cocoons of whatever shape we desired, either normal or into a neat flat sheet. Many of us used the flat sheets that came as stuffing in the containers for calligraphy ink. You could fold one into a small square and fit it back into the little brass box. Sometimes, we could get special worms that would produce colored silk. I once had silkworms that produced bright yellow and pale green silk. I never figured out how they could make colors out of their bodies.
There was a silk reeling factory in town. The local farm workers bred silk worms and grew mulberry trees on their own, and then sold silk cocoons to the factory to be processed. The master workers in the factory had come from “the capitals of silk,” Suzhou and Hangzhou, near Shanghai. The factory recruited many Uyghur girls and sent them to Suzhou for training. The local factory helped revive the fame of the old silk town on the Silk Road, and the parents of many of my classmates worked in the factory. Once, a story came to my mother’s attention at the Khotan Daily. A young man on a farm in Yutian County was looking for a Uyghur girl who his mother had nursed almost fifteen years before in Suzhou while her mother was in training there. He hoped that newspaper reporters could help him find her. He had no address or names, but my mother asked a reporter friend to work with her to find the whole story. After going to many places and interviewing many people, they found out that the girl’s mother had moved to Kashgar and left the daughter with a grandmother. It took my mother and her colleague more than a year to finally locate the girl. To my mother’s surprise and delight, the girl happened to be my classmate sitting right next to me. Her name is Bahargul in Uyghur, meaning Spring Flower. My mother drew a picture book about the story and published it. From then on, we thought of Bahargul as a modern silk princess.

The above is my persoanl narrative written for an analogy on Teaching the Silk Road by SUNY Publication.

Flashes at the End of the Sky (1)

My Personal Khotan on the Silk Road

Coming to Khotan

Khotan is a far, far away little town on the edge of the world’s second largest desert – the Taklamakan - in northwestern China. It is as far away as “the end of the sky” according to a Chinese expression, set in the Kunlun Mountains between the Tarim Basin and Tibetan plateau, in one of the fertile oases where there are water resources to grow grains and raise sheep and cows. The earliest traceable residents were probably Sakas, an Iranian-language-speaking people, who later mixed with Qiang-Tibetans and Turkic peoples. In about 9th century CE, a Turkic people called the Uyghur became the dominant population. They converted to the Muslim religion, and thus there is a strong Muslim presence in the region today. The Han Chinese people have founded small communities there since the Han Dynasty. Geographically and historically, Khotan has been an important trade center for caravans, pilgrims, explorers, and even diplomats: a place to stop for a rest, to reload supplies, and to conduct trade. Early travelers who stayed in Khotan and left their remarks about the place include Zhang Qian, the envoy to the West Region during the Han Dynasty; Xuanzang, the Tang dynasty Buddhist monk who traveled to India; and Marco Polo, the merchant of medieval Venice and ambassador of the Pope to Cathay, to name the best known. And, of course, there was Aurel Stein, the Hungarian-British archaeologist, who made Khotan even better known to the world at the turn of the 19th and 20th century with his famous rediscovery of ancient Khotan.
My parents, who were assigned to work for a local newspaper, the Khotan Daily, brought me to Khotan in the early 1960s, when I was five years old. Both of them had been artists and editors-in-fine-arts, my father for a publishing house and my mother for the only women’s magazine in Xinjiang Autonomous Region. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) had secretly labeled my father as “having Right Opportunist opinions,” and supposedly sent him to Khotan to help with frontier development. Mother had to go with him. However, since there were so many things going on in the country at that time, my parents did not know the true reason they were chosen until some twenty years later. The Party had called on educated people to go to the remote and poor areas to work. The District of Khotan sent delegations to the big cities to recruit people with up-to-date knowledge and skills; and the government tried to relocate people from big-famine-affected provinces to Xinjiang. My parents, young and idealistic (naïve, too), simply believed they had responded to the Party’s call for the noble cause of constructing a Communist new China. Only a few years earlier, the CCP had called on them to help build the new Xinjiang and sent them from Xi’an, the ancient capital city in central China, to Urumqi, the largest city and the capital of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Now they were on the road again from Urumqi to Khotan.
We traveled on a military truck that had a grass-green colored heavy canvas cover. We sat on our suitcases and luggage rolls and were tossed up and down on a poorly paved road along the edge of the desert. Three other families and a few young retired soldiers were packed in with us. All of them, including my parents, were so optimistic and enthusiastic that they ignored the length and boredom of the journey. As my mother recalls, the journey was not really so bad. It was early spring. Within a day or two of driving in the dull barren desert there were occasional areas with fruit trees full of blossoms and green fields, and these always caused great excitement. All I can remember is that when we stayed in Kashgar (another large oasis town) for two days, my father took me with him to a bazaar to look around, and I became obsessed with a small colorful doll the size of my hand carved out of rough wood. It took us twelve days to get to Khotan.
Khotan welcomed us with its cheerful blossoms. For new settlers, as for travelers throughout time, its abundance of fruits, grains, and lamb meat, make strong impressions. Thanks to the ever-lasting snowmelt of water in the Kunlun Mountains, the crops of the oasis are secure. Actually, at the time we got there, it had such surplus that the Khotan District was responsible for shipping its grain to Tianjin, the third largest city in China, to relieve the devastating famine there.
In the town, people who were Han Chinese like my family made up only two percent of the population. But to my surprise, I gradually learned that Han Chinese had lived there all along. These included the families of merchants from the central provinces, descendents of Qing dynasty’s officials, and those who had helped the Russians to build railways in Siberia and fought for them during the first World War, but became stuck in Khotan on their way back home. Many of these people had married local Uyghurs, Russians, and in a few cases, Jews. We called these Han Chinese “Old Khotanese.”
Growing up in Khotan, I was happy, although to many people it was such a miserable and unlivable place. Sand was everywhere – in the air, on the ground, in and out of your houses, all the time. No matter if you sat in an outdoor movie theatre (there was no indoor one) with rough wood benches for two hours, or went out for a short time to shop for groceries, you needed to whisk off the dust and sand from your head, shoulders, and feet before you could go into your one or two-room apartment. Every year in the spring there were sandstorms. Sometimes they could be so thick that the entire sky became dark like nighttime. One storm could last for an hour or two. When it passed, you would find sand at least an inch thick on everything in the room, no matter how well you had shut or even sealed the doors and windows. We called these storms a “black wind” if they were very bad, or a “yellow wind” if they were not so bad.
Water, obviously, was precious here. Each government agency or residential compound had a man-made reservoir called a laoba to store water for daily use. There was one laoba in the Khotan Daily compound. It was the size of a standard American swimming pool and held water for about one hundred residents (employees and their families). Twice a year canals would bring in water to refill the reservoir. Most of the time the water was brownish and opaque. And of course, we were not the only ones who needed water. There were other creatures: birds, toads, bugs, water-worms, and so forth that also shared the same water. It was my mother’s strict rule that we must boil the water before drinking it. Even then, it would still take a couple of minutes for the dust particles to fall to the bottom of a cup before you could drink it. My father, and later on my brother, was responsible for fetching water for the family, with our two aluminum buckets. Occasionally there were bad years when we were very short of water. When that happened, the entire family would use one bowl of water to wash all our faces in the morning, and we saved it to wash our feet in the evening.
Because of the moisture around the laoba, willow trees and fruit trees grew nearby. They were the famous native fruit trees: apricots, peaches, pears, and plums. A man who was publicly denounced as a “Counter-Revolutionary” and therefore not given any other job but janitorial work was in charge of taking care of the laoba area. He seemed to put all his time and energy into planting many kinds of flowers, which turned the field into a beautiful garden. It was this garden which we called the “circle of the laoba” that became our kids’ Eden. We children spent most our off-school time playing there. Still today we remember this place fondly.
The grape trellises all the way to the roofs in front of our apartments and office buildings created another pleasant and common scene in the compound. We could reach the grapes right outside the apartment door. But of course, we were not allowed to pick the grapes on our own until the autumn time when the grapes were ripe and shared by all members of the agency. All the fruits grown in Khotan were extraordinarily sweet.
There were never any extra material goods other than the most basic. I remember I had only one doll all my childhood. Four of us lived in a two-room apartment without any appliances but some make-shift furniture including three beds made of plain wooden boards, a small cabinet for clothes, a wooden shipping case used for storing the kitchen utensils, a desk and a chair, a very small eating table with four little stools, and a large bookshelf. There was neither kitchen nor bathroom in the apartment. In the summer we cooked outside on an adobe stove on the ground, and in the winter we had an iron stove set in one room for both heating and cooking. The birthday treat was two boiled eggs for the birthday-child, and the other could have only one egg. I did not receive any birthday present until my twelfth birthday when my parents spent more than a half of their monthly salary to buy me a violin – the greatest luxury in all their lives and mine until then. It was heyday of the “Cultural Revolution.” My parents were criticized as “black” (meaning bad) artists with bourgeoisie and revisionist ideas. They had to burn or hide pictures of any Western art except for the Russian socialist realistic art. They did not want us to follow in their footsteps to become artists anymore, although they had dreamed of training me to be a painter and my brother a sculptor. But Western musical instruments were all right if we played revolutionary music on them. So there they were, my parents, with this beautiful violin, wishing I would grow up artistic and elegant.
Some years later I brought my violin with me to Grandma’s in Shanxi Province, just to kill time there. I had played only some folk and revolutionary songs. One day my first uncle asked me to follow him to his room. He moved pillows from an old broken couch that had a strong steel frame. He crawled down looking for something under the couch. Surprisingly, he tore the seat from underneath and took out some old records, and then a record player. It was like magic. He said he had had to hide these things when the Red Guards had come looking for anything feudal or bourgeois. I helped him carry the player and records to the grandma’s room where my third uncle helped set up the record player. They played famous classical music for me, which I had never heard before. All western music had been banned during the Cultural Revolution. It was the first time in my twenty-year old life that I heard Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin, and many others. I was electrified the moment Beethoven’s No. 5 Symphony started. I stood like wood by the record player for about an hour or so without noticing my uncles’ gesture telling me to sit down. How could there be such beautiful music ever in the world! And why was it not allowed to be played? The world I had known became suddenly so small and so ridiculous. A hunger for more knowledge burst out inside me. I realized there was another much larger world out there. It was the darkest moment before dawn, to use a Chinese expression. My uncles and I played the music everyday after that; but we played it with low volume and with all doors and windows closed, so nobody on the street could hear us. While I tried to suck in every note of the music, my uncles fell into their remote memories and dreams. I felt very sorry for them.
I am grateful to my parents for passing on to us their optimistic attitude toward hardships. Bad as our circumstances were, their artistic eyes always sought out beauty from this sandy, barren, harsh, difficult, and forgotten corner of the world. Father’s landscape paintings were of the lofty Kunlun Mountains, of peaceful pastures with grazing horses and cows, of yellow diversiform-leaved poplar trees and Red Willow shrubs stubbornly growing in the desert, of farm workers riding on little donkeys going to markets. Mother’s fine-line paintings of Uyghur girls with many little hair braids and beautiful dresses dancing on Khotan-style carpets under the grape trellis, or of Tajik children caring for their baby sheep, all made us love the place and feel fortunate to live here.

The above is my persoanl narrative written for an analogy on Teaching the Silk Road by SUNY Publication.

Saturday, November 7, 2009


后来,作为六朝都城,这里云集了不少名门望族官宦商贾;再后来,朝代的兴兴衰衰、起起落落又招来了无数文人骚客的缅怀凭吊。明清时,十里秦淮进入鼎盛期。金粉楼台,画舫灯船,歌女艺妓 ...... 设在北岸的江南贡院更是年年招来大批科举考生,给秦淮增添了浓厚的文化气息,也因此产生了无数动人的故事。钱谦益和柳如是,侯方域和李香君,唐伯虎,郑板桥,还有陈圆圆、苏小小,等等,等等。
对我,秦淮河是只敢去看,不敢去写。历代文人写它已经太多;赞美的,怀念的,感叹的...... 在此抄下前人的名句。
唐 刘禹锡:“朱雀桥边野草花,乌衣巷口夕阳斜,旧时王谢堂前燕,飞入寻常百姓家。”
唐 杜牧:“烟笼寒水月笼沙,夜泊秦淮近酒家。商女不知亡国恨,隔江犹唱后庭花。”
清 孔尚任:“梨花似雪草如烟,春在秦淮两岸边,一带妆楼临水盖,家家粉影照婵娟”。

Friday, October 9, 2009







那我怎么办?飞机就要起飞了!他拿起了电话。先是跟危地马拉城机场联系,没人接;又跟危地马 拉驻纽约领事馆联系,下班了。我都快急死了。第三世界国家的工作效率想都能想象得出来。请把你的经理找来,我要跟他或她说。经理来了,一个白人。先听工作人员的解释,再看电脑,又听我的解释,然后对我说:我们会尽快与对方机场取得联系,联系上后,你可以乘坐最近一次班机。

倒霉!怎么偏偏碰到个外国人。越是外国人工作越叫真儿。没准还是来自哪个伊斯兰国家的侨裔。这“911” 事件刚过不久,美国各大机场增加了中东、中亚和南亚国家出身的工作人员。他们当然会百倍认真地履行他们的职责的。不知怎么,我觉得那个工作人员很有点幸灾乐祸的样子。我心里明白,如果一开始就遇上个地道的美国人,也就过去了。美国人总是大大咧咧的。

也不能全怪人家。我的中国护照也的确在中南美洲不能畅行无阻。有几个国家至今还没有和中华人民共和国建立外交关系,危地马拉就是其中之一。对中国公民尤其不利的是,信奉“毛主义”的游击队在危地马拉还闹得很凶,当局政府有足够理由不欢迎中国人去。后来老公调侃说:他们怕你是中共派去的女间谍。嗨,你不妨去给游击队讲讲毛泽东的《论持久战》,那多浪漫。说实话,我还真的很同情那里的“毛主义” 的追随者。


就这样,我被撂在纽约机场,坐在特意设计的不让人躺下的候机大厅的座椅上,守着行李,等了整整一个下午、 一个晚上。腰酸背疼。第二天早上,电话终于打通。那边机场说:领事签署的签证就可以了,不需要我们再次确认。



到达危地马拉城时天色已经很黑,我乘车径直去了四十公里外的小城安提瓜 (Antigua) 。


领队已在宾馆等候。双方急急忙忙地相互介绍、登记、搬行李。还没有完全安定下来就听领队开始通知各位团员:一星期后要去的玛雅遗址提卡尔 (Tikal) 行程取消了。一问,原来最近去那里的路上发生了游击队劫持美国游客人质事件。虽然没有一人受伤,游击队也一再表示他们只是以此做法对政府施加压力而不会对人质作任何伤害,游客仍然很害怕。怪不得呢,回想我在机场的待遇,这游击队还真的很厉害。我的同行们也很紧张,对取消那段行程表示赞成。遗憾。我倒巴不得见识见识呢。再说,提卡尔是一处非常重要的玛雅古城,不仅历史最长,而且曾经是玛雅世界里几大强国之一。我盼了很多年要去,却被一个小小的的游击队吓住了。能不遗憾吗? 后来又知道,这些人其实连正式的游击队也不是,只是当地老百姓自发的行为。

夜里到达,什么也没看清。第二天早上一出房门,清新的空气、动听的鸟鸣、美丽的奇花异草、五彩夺目的 MACAW 鸟(鹦鹉属),石板条铺的干净的小街道,远处峰峦起伏的群山,一切都是那么的新鲜可爱、赏心悦目,我立刻喜欢上了这个小城。









我从架上抽下衣裙、头巾,披挂在身,夹在几位玛雅妇女之间,跟她们居然有点真假难辨,只是我的个头稍高些。 同伴们戏称我“高个儿玛雅”。

在危地马拉,有一个玛雅味很浓的小山城,叫作齐齐卡斯特南沟(Chichicastenango) ,距离危地马拉城西面一百五十公里。这里是玛雅凯齐族(Queche)的文化中心。凯齐人在西班牙人到来之际是玛雅各族中最强大、人数也最多的一支。他们曾在山脚下建有一个行政文化都市,随着殖民者的到来而被放弃。后来人们逐渐迁移到山里偏僻的地方,又慢慢集中到这个山中小镇来。

作为文化中心,山城每年七月举行一次大集市,为时两天,象中国的庙会,方圆几百里的乡民都要来这里赶集。我们也去赶集 - 赶在集市前一天到达。集市设在一个大教堂前的小广场上。这里是山上唯一一片平整开阔的地面。教堂建在一座前哥伦布时期的玛雅金字塔遗址上,只保留了原先的十八级大台阶。玛雅人过去把一年三百六十五天分为十八个月,每月二十天,再加五天的禁忌日。这十八层台阶就代表玛雅日历中的十八个月。这让我联想到中国彝族地区过去曾实行过的一种十八月历法,它也是把每年三百六十五天分为十八个月,每月二十天,外加五天的祭祀日。两地历法是否有什么历史渊源关系?这里三言两语无法说清楚。但有一点敢肯定,两者都有很长的历史,它们之间的相似并非近代的互相影响和交流。










Tuesday, September 29, 2009

高个玛雅人 Tall Mayan



图画似的古埃及文字诱惑了西方学者千百年,最终由法国学者张伯里昂 (Jean-Francois Champollion)在1822至1824两年间成功地破译,成为世界文化史上一个重大事件。可惜这位语言文字学天才英年早逝,没有赶上对玛雅文字的研究。就在他逝世后十多年,一位年轻的美国律师司蒂汶斯(John Stephens) 因卷入一桩案件而逃离美国、邀了一个英国画家朋友踏上去中美州的探险之旅。两年后,他们不仅从热带丛林中带出已经销声匿迹几百年的玛雅文明信息,而且掀起了欧美两大陆的玛雅研究热。在他著名的探险游记中,司蒂汶斯描绘和叙述了他所见到的玛雅纪念碑刻上的“象形文字”,认定它们象埃及文字一样书写和记录着玛雅历史,并呼唤第二个张伯里昂的出现。

呼唤张伯里昂有情可原。当时人们对他和埃及文字的破译历史仍记忆犹新。自公元四世纪起,一位希腊人就对已经衰亡的埃及文字表现出极大的兴趣。他把埃及文字定义为“象形文字”,认为它是图画表意文字,可以直接看图取意。文艺复兴时期,德国耶稣会教士、语言文字学家科切(Kircher)继承了这一象形文字的说法,按照自己的想象,也建立了一套“看图说话” 的解释方法和理论。此后,所有的研究者也都把这一文字当作纯粹的象形图画文字,认为它是用来直接表达意思的,不具备任何语音语言价值。我们现在知道,世界上并没有一种文字系统是单纯用图画直接表达意义的。大部分图画都是作为语音符号和其他符号来使用的。比如埃及文中一个跪坐的人像并不表示一个人在下跪,它只是一个休止符或句号。即使中文中有少量的字可以叫作象形字,如日、月、水、火等,但这类象形不过是汉字成形“六书” 中之一书而已,绝大多数文字并不象形。不难想象,用象形文字的理论进行研究和破译最终走入死胡同。1798年,一个偶然的事件使这一现状出现了转机。这年,欧洲霸主拿破仑征战到达埃及,发现并带回一块并列刻有希腊文和埃及文的纪念碑,即著名的“罗赛塔石” (Rosetta Stone) 。学者们借助石碑上明确的两种文字的对比,重新开始了破译埃及文的竞赛。张伯里昂的成功在于他彻底抛弃了传统的解释。他假定埃及文字同时由表意和表音符号组成,并且书写的是一种古埃及语言Coptic。当时这一古语还在尼罗河上游地区使用,而张伯里昂本人早已对这一古语进行了深入研究而且了如指掌。他首先从几个人名入手,发现了多个辅音和几个元音符号,然后推广到人名以外的文字,很快便找出了几乎所有的表音符号。自此,开启了埃及文字破译的大门。

玛雅文字的破译也经历了曲折漫长的过程。虽然没有上千年,但也确实让几代学者绞尽了脑汁。由於玛雅文化在十三世纪时的自行衰落,到十六世纪初西班牙人到来之际,仅有个别祭司还能认读那些古文字。而在殖民主义统治下,玛雅人被迫放弃自己的语言,学习和使用西班牙语,当十九世纪中叶人们再次发现玛雅古文明、想要了解它时,才发现它的文明历史的精髓--文字,已经 没有人能够认读了。於是,学者们就开始了一个艰辛而又充满戏剧性的破译历程。

第一个对玛雅文字发生兴趣并下决心学习和研究它的西方人是十六世纪时被派往尤卡坦半岛传教的西班牙天主教教士朗达(Diego de Landa)。朗达是个充满宗教热情又颇有文化素养的人。 当他第一次见到玛雅古迹和当时仍在普遍使用的手抄本历书时,就毫不怀疑地断定他所面对的人种和文化决非野蛮人和野蛮文化,而是一个有着深厚悠久历史的高度文明。为了了解这些“异教徒” 并为他们传播上帝的“福音”,朗达通过手势、图画等方式跟几个玛雅祭司学习当地的语言和文字,记录了他所认为的29个玛雅字母,将它们按照西班牙字母的顺序对照排列下来。但是由於他把玛雅文字完全当作拼音文字来对待,始终不知道世界上还有其它形式的文字存在,所以最终也没有弄清楚这些奇奇怪怪的符号是如何运作的。对后人来说,幸亏他完全不知道同时代人科切的象形表意文字理论,所以才一意孤行地记下来这些所谓的字母,否则我们将永远无法破译玛雅文字。实际上,他所记录的是29个单音节,每个音节都包含一个辅音和一个元音,而不是单音字母。

朗达既对被征服者抱有同情心、愿意了解他们的文化历史,但又出於宗教狂热试图对玛雅人实行宗教“洗脑” 。他做了两件具有历史意义的事情:一件好事,一件坏事。好的是他详细记录了对尤卡坦玛雅人生活习惯、宗教仪式、历史古迹等等的观察和了解,并留下了著名的玛雅“字母表”。坏的是他于1562年在玛尼Mani教区强行没收并焚烧了5000多件玛雅偶像和27本图文并茂手抄本文书,并且对当地村民施行残酷的逼、供、信,让他们承认自己的“巫术” 行为。要知道现在幸存下来的玛雅手抄本总共只有四本,而他一次就烧掉了二十七本!正是他对村民们的酷刑引起教会内其他教士的不满,把他告到上一级教会。在被召回国内为自己出庭辩护准备答辩之际,朗达把自己的笔记整理成一本书,题为 “关系(Relation) ”。就是这本笔记为后人留下了珍贵的 材料。公正地说,我们现在对殖民初期的尤卡坦玛雅人状况的了解有百分之九十以上来自他的笔记。而笔记中论述到的历法的用法、节日的庆祝典礼、新年的祭祀禁忌,成为后人了解古代玛雅文化最重要来源。特别是那些他至死没有搞懂的、他称为“魔鬼的手笔”的文字符号,更成为日后破译玛雅文字的“罗赛塔石”。


相比之下,朗达在尤卡坦的记录至少说明:一、玛雅手抄本上的文字代表当时还存活的一 种语言,因为人们尚还使用这些历书,可能就是当地的尤卡台克语言。二、玛雅-西班牙字母 对照表已具有语音对比性质,至少有29个语音音节可供分析。这两个事实已使玛雅文字具备了破译的基本条件。遗憾的是,朗达的笔记被遗忘在西班牙皇家历史学院图书馆的角落里长达三个多世纪之久。当玛雅文明的再发现者司蒂文斯呼唤第二个张伯里昂时,时间已到了十九世纪中期。

从十九世纪初开始,先是美国自然科学家拉非内斯库(C. Rafinesque) 从三本藏于欧洲的手抄本中释读了用点和短线表示的数字,接着法国传教士 Brasseur 于1862年在西班牙皇家历史学院图书馆发现了朗达的笔记,从中辨认出礼历(一种以260天为周期的历法)中的日名和数字的用法,很快又有人发现文字的书写是从左向右,从上往下,两行两行地进行。至二十世纪初时,已有以下几样文字辨认出来:数字零和二十,方向,颜色,金星,日历十八个月份的名称以及长数历(一种以360天为基本周期的历法)。二十世纪三十年代时又有人解读了月历。但是,所有这些都没有从根本上涉及到语音和真正语言的释读。大家虽然都对朗达的字母下过功夫,但没有任何结果。而且,在其后的三十年中,虽然又经过一代杰出的学者们的努力,仍然没有任何新的突破。

这段时期内,美国卡内基研究院的玛雅学权威汤姆森 Eric Thompson 可以说是这一研究领域的领袖。汤姆森有长期丰富的玛雅考古和民俗学方面的知识和经验,出版过非常有影响的著作,包括《玛雅象形文字介绍》,《玛雅象形文字目录》,《玛雅文明的兴衰》,《玛雅历史和宗教》等等。其中《目录》一书,直到今天仍然是玛雅文字学家们人手不离的参考书。但奇怪的是,汤姆森对大家仍然都记忆犹新的张伯里昂视而不见,却从一开始就接受科切(Kircher)的“象形图画文字说” 的理论,而且至死都认为玛雅文字是用象征图画表达意义的文字,与语音没有任何关系。 70年代初时他还下结论说玛雅文字充其量是一种表意文字,只能用来表达简单的概念和事物,而不能表达复杂的语言系统;而且大多数文字都是书写者们为满足想象而臆造出的毫无意义的图画。对於如此博学和有威望的学者来说,他的结论可以说是他学术生命中的一大悲剧。去世前几个月,汤姆森因在玛雅学研究方面的成就和贡献,被英国女王伊利莎白二世授予骑士称号。而与此同时,已有人撰文说明、而且后来由事实证明:汤姆森的研究方法和结论完全错了。

早在1952年,一位年青的研究古文字的苏联研究生诺罗索夫 (Yuri Knorosov) 就已对汤姆森提出了挑战。诺罗索夫的出现对美国人可以说有些不可思议,因为当时苏联的学术环境和研究条件几乎完全不具备对中美洲玛雅文字的调查和研究。而他完全是单枪匹马闯入这一领域的。对他本人来说,这似乎又是命中注定的。诺罗索夫十七岁时考入莫斯科大学,入学不久二战即开始。他和同胞们一起加入红军,参加了卫国战争,并随军一直打到柏林,参加了最后的攻克柏林的战斗。在攻克柏林时,他经过中弹燃烧的柏林国家图书馆,从火堆中顺手抢救出一本书。这本书恰巧是 1933年德国出版的三本藏于欧洲的玛雅文书手抄本的复印件。他把它带回了莫斯科。而这本书从此决定了他的未来。战后,诺罗索夫回到莫斯科大学完成学业,并进入研究院,专修古埃及文字学,同时做世界古文字古文化的比较研究。他对古埃及文,苏美尔文,中文,和印度河流域古文字都具很深的造诣。他的一位语言文字学导师认为他如在埃及文字学方面发展将前途无量,但他却接受了另一位研究西伯利亚民族学及太平洋和美洲文化导师的挑战。这位导师说:如果你相信任何一个人类创造的书写系统应该用来让人类阅读,那你为什么不去破译玛雅文字呢?


现在我们知道,玛雅文字中有140多个有发音价值的音符(正好是诺罗索夫预测的287的一 半!) ,常用的文字总数在1200左右,其中一半以上可以音读,百分之八十五以上的文字结合音读和意读可以翻译。

诺罗索夫这一实质性的突破为以后更多玛雅文字和文法以及文书内容的破译铺平了道路。然而由於当时美苏冷战关系,再加上诺罗索夫的编辑声称他的破译是运用了马克思列宁主义的唯物辩证法的结果,美国的权威学者们本能地对他的研究持怀疑和反对态度。特别是汤姆森,连续发表文章反击这个布尔什维克的 “骗术家” 。 倒是当时几个涉足玛雅学领域不久的年轻学者如寇 Michael Coe和克利David Kelly 意识到了这位苏联同行的价值。1958年,寇和他的俄裔妻子共同翻译 介绍了诺罗索夫的研究。与此同时,克利发现了一些表意符号的规律;而他在哥本哈根国际美洲学学会期间同与会的诺罗索夫的交谈则使他接受了语音学派的方法,促成他进一步把此方法运用到纪念碑刻文中,并于后来发表了卓有影响的著作:《破译玛雅文字》,成为诺罗索夫在美国的主要代言人。

也是1958 年,柏林(Heinrich Berlin),一位出生于德国、在墨西哥市经营杂货批发的业余玛雅学家,从文字结构入手,发现了一些代表地方和城邦的特定文字。六十年代一开始,卡内基研究院的俄裔女学者Tatiana Proskouriakoff 又注意到:有些纪念碑文中记载的时间在文章结构中以六十年左右的间断规律出现,恰好与人的平均生命长度相吻合。继而雄辩地指出:碑文的内容记载的是真人真事,很可能是当地王朝历史的记录。虽然她的发现和柏林的发现一样在方法上都属於结构方法论,并不具有语言文字学的意义,但这一突破却很有文化学和历史学的意义。因为在此之前,另一位玛雅学权威Sylvanus Morley 也迎合汤姆森下结论说玛雅文字只是用于记载历法和 天文怪象以及一些祭祀活动的,而与历史毫无关系。

真正逐字逐句地用语音读出,并整段整篇的翻译出碑文的历史内容,则发生在七十年代初。其时,美国新一代的学者已严肃认真地把诺罗索夫的语音方法用于研究。1973年,两个名不见经传的年轻学者,美国得克萨斯大学美术及美术史教授琳达席勒Linda Schele 和来自澳大利亚的研究生马特Peter Matthew,在墨西哥帕朗开 (Palenque) 的学术研讨会上公布了他们对帕朗开城邦自公元465年至九世纪的王朝编年史。其中包括十二代国王和他们的家室的姓名,头衔,出生及死亡年月,朝代的替换,庆典活动,以及同邻邦的关系等等。至此,玛雅文字的破译基本成功。


席勒采用的方法是结构+语音。她把能拆开的文字元素都拆开,寻找它们的共同结构特点, 同时把拆开来的元素同朗达的字母表对应拼读,然后把拼读出来的音拿去和不同的几种现代玛雅语言以及五、六种17、18世纪时编纂的玛雅-西班牙语词典相对应,找出解释,再把它们放回句子里去。虽然大部分单音单字只能在多种不同的玛雅语言里找到对应,而且很少有一句完整的句子可以用同一种玛雅语言念通,但当把从不同语言中得到的解释放回句子后,大部分句子都显出逻辑性,并且明确表达出意思。(它们之所以只能如此来拼凑,是因为玛雅文字所代表的语言是一种已经分化和消失的古玛雅语。)席勒的方法现在已被学术界普遍接受,而且随着越来越多的玛雅人的介入,更多的、字典上找不见的字词及概念也由他们介绍进来,促进了对玛雅文字的破译。到目前为止,已有85%以上的文字可以音读和意读了。席勒教授不仅致力于玛雅文字文化的研究,而且年年在危地马拉的玛雅人中办学习班教授玛雅文字,希望把它还给玛雅人,致使已经死亡的玛雅古文字又在玛雅后代中复活了。很多玛雅人现在不仅把自己的西班牙名子改回了真正的玛雅名子,而且堂而皇之地用玛雅文字来书写自己的姓名。

玛雅文字和中国文字相象,都是方块字。但方块中所含成份和内容却大不相 同。中国字一个方块就是一个单音节的字,包括表音和(或)表意符号。而玛雅文字的一个方块中有时只包含一个字符,有时会有两个以上的字或音符,有时则会多到七八个符号。它们既有表音符号又有表意符号。书写时可以横向排列,也可纵向摞起来。一个字符可以根据需要或爱好压扁,拉长,立起,躺下,颠倒,一个套在另一个里,或两个重叠起来。根据字符的不同排列,读法可以是从左往右,或自上而下。当多个音符出现在一个方块里时,它们往往是一个词组或短句。一个句子中的字词可分开放在几个方块里,也可全部挤在一个方块里。长文是由多个方块字整齐排列组成。读法是纵向每两行两行地读。也就是说,先从左往右读两个方块字,再从上往下读下两个方块字。在只有一纵排的情况下,自上而下读。只有一横排的时候,一般是从左往右,偶而也有从右往左读的。



Thursday, August 13, 2009


CP三句话不离本行 – 经济模式,而我恰恰对此是外行,不敢妄加评论。我是个非常感性的人(这从我的文章可以看出),只能从感性出发谈感受。新疆问题涉及到政治、经济、国防、军事、民族、宗教、文化、语言、现代化、全球化、反恐等诸多错综复杂的关系,可以说是一团乱麻。CP条分缕析,不仅提供详细数据和理论框架,而且提出具体的解决办法,值得琢磨。下面我按照CP的顺序倒着来说。

一、 剩余劳力的出路。

二、 小省制,自治县、乡、村等。

三、 治安问题分级管理,独立决定。

四、 通过通婚达到民族融合

一、 人口和经济政策。

二、 语言。





Monday, August 3, 2009




再回去,自然是探望父母兄长。父母五四年进疆至今,在那里渡过了半个多世纪的风风雨雨。母亲去,是因为当时的自治区妇联主任玛依奴尔 (新疆三区革命领袖阿合买提江遗孀)在北京开会时遇到母亲,认定要让她去办新疆妇女杂志,便一次又一次地跟西北妇联交涉,硬是把母亲从西北局挖到了新疆。玛依奴尔性格热情开朗,见人不是握着手不放,就是张开双臂拥抱,汉话也说得非常流利,我妈妈很喜欢她。母亲的工作主要是编辑杂志,但也要下乡做妇女卫生保健宣传工作;小到画简图教妇女如何用烧过的沙子做卫生带,大到宣传说服村民们杜绝近亲结婚生育。五十年代新疆农村贫穷落后,没有任何卫生条件可言,老乡们用的手纸就是土坷垃。有个回族乡由于宗教原因,不允许本族人和外族通婚,结果造成人口很大比例的畸形及智障。可以想象当时干部的工作环境和任务。













七月一日,中国共产党成立纪念日 -- 党的生日;
七月四日,美国独立日 -- 美国的国庆节;
七月十四日,巴士底狱革命日 -- 法国国庆节。



老公曾是中国国家某首脑机关的一名小干部。虽小,却可以随便出入中南海,甚至夏天的午休时间都是在中南海的游泳池游泳渡过。他申请留学美国时,他的上司勃然大怒:共产党员,XXX机关的干部,怎么可以出国?不行! 所以,后来在他几经周折终于出来后,七月一日离开那天就象是埋下了某种象征性伏笔。



















不过很奇怪,我曾经被新疆的汉族网友告诫过不可在网上随便谈论突厥语大辞典。我一直想不明白为什么,但让我联想起新疆双语教育问题。记得有两三次回国时和老同学谈起借鉴美国双语教育及双语管理的经验在新疆实施维汉语教育问题,一位来自新疆、现任国内某名牌大学教授的汉族同学和我有同感,却同样告诫我:这事不可提。原来他曾经正儿八经地撰文论双语教育的必要性,不但文章被枪毙,还招惹来很多批评。另一位跟我关系更近的汉族同学,多年来就是国家民族问题专家和智囊人物,却对我说了相反的话。她认为,全国少数民族的比例不到5%(近些年有所提高),新疆的维吾尔族不到全国的1%,这样小的比例完全没有必要考虑双语教育、双语行政。她认定:他们要想发展、要想就业,就必须学汉语!我曾经反问过:那你有没有考虑文化传承问题?有没有考虑在新疆,维族是多数民族,而汉族是少数民族?为什么在新疆多数民族语言不能成为官方语言、甚至连双语都不予考虑?为什么维族人找工作必须要会汉语,而汉族人就业就可以完全不懂维语?她的回答是:如果给维族双语机会,那势必其他所有少数民族都会提出同样的要求,全国五十五个民族都这样,那不就乱套了?她觉得我太天真,太理想主义了。“新疆的问题没那么简单!” 她告诫我。


民族问题的确比较复杂,但是政府的民族政策是否问题更大?七·五事件以来的三个多星期,很多人都在谈论中央对新疆的倾斜政策,但大多都是指对少数民族的优惠政策,大多都认为是这些优惠政策助长了维族的骄横。可我看到的却正好相反。改革开放以来的二十多年,汉人大量涌入新疆,虽然经济有所提高,但是政府却没有给这些新移民最起码的民族文化、民族政策教育。新移民完全不懂民族关系,很多人打心眼儿里就认为少数民族愚昧、落后、野蛮,根本没有要尊重人家的意识。新疆有石油、天然气,但是完全由中央控制,自治区没有任何权利过问;甚至本末倒置 – 西气东输的两端,新疆和上海,上海的天然气居然比新疆还要便宜。民族干部,虽然在每一级的岗位都配备一名,但他们很少有自主权,几乎都是虚设。

去年回疆(也是在七月),我的一位同行、老朋友,某大学某学院的院长、教授,维族哈萨克族血统兼半,宴请从北京来的十几位领导及学者,顺便也请了我和另一位从美国回国探亲的朋友。作为东道主,在大家吃饱喝足后,这位朋友发表一通讲话。也许由于在座的大多数是研究文化的同行,有些早就是老相识,朋友说话便涉及到一些新疆的问题。这位朋友,论汉语口才,我们在座的汉族人全都自比不如;论知识,他是留德博士、并有多本研究专著;论能力,他领导大学里最大的一个学院兼一个研究所,搞的不仅有声有色而且硕果累累。他要说起来,那就不是简单地抱怨,而是有水平的分析和批评。但他每每提到民族政策或者敏感事件,另外三位维族教授就会跳起来阻止他说,而且赶紧关门关窗户,阻止不了时就要把他架出去。朋友们是怕他惹祸。他那些批评的话弄不好会让他丢了乌纱帽,而且招来更多的麻烦。这就是新疆所有民族干部都会遇到的窘境 – 有话不敢说。


那天的结局是,这位朋友突然冲到我的面前,两手扳着我的肩头,说:你出生在新疆,了解新疆,你说句公道话,我说的对不对?平心而论,我知道他说的都是实情,所以不加思索地点了一下头。没想到他把我扳的更紧,用标准的英语对我说:“Kiss me!”再不懂英语的人也能听懂这句话。大家伙众目睽睽,我们双方在僵持。我没有碰到过这种情况,显然他的要求不在我们个人之间。我尽量向他解释我理解他的心情,也知道中间的一些不公正,请他放开我,但是他坚决不肯。为了摆脱尴尬,我快速在他的额头吻了一下。他立刻放开了手,连说几声谢谢,掉下了眼泪。






而我对新疆 – 我的故乡,仍然是:剪不断、理还乱。

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


























Tuesday, June 9, 2009







桑株名字很好听,象是藏语。我怀疑它就是藏语,因为这里是从新疆通往藏西北的交通要道,自古以来就常有藏人和其他外族人来往。唐代时的吐蕃王朝还曾占据过整个塔里木盆地,甚至延伸到敦煌。桑株坐落在昆仑山脚下,是任何一个商旅、马队和骆驼队上山的必经之路和最后的给养地。翻过山既是西藏的阿里地区。大半个世纪前,这里是一个小乡镇,五十年代后成了皮山县桑 株公社所在地,八十年代又改成了桑株乡。


那会儿我对当地的历史地理知识少得可怜,完全不知道桑株千百年来就是连贯中西的丝绸之路上的一个重镇。后来在北京读研究生时看过斯坦因写的《古和田》及《中亚探险记》,才知道他就是从山那边的印度、巴基斯坦、克什米尔、西藏阿里一路过来,通过桑株山口进入新疆的。后来又知道美国学者XXXX五十年代初时还最后一次翻越了桑株山口,留下珍贵照片。再后来我到了国外,一位美国朋友记着我曾给她讲过的故事,特意寄来两页从哪个科学杂志上剪贴下来的文章和照片:美国最新卫星拍摄的地图 - 皮山县和桑株乡的地貌图。我看了大吃一惊;其清晰度和准确度到了连县城里大街小巷几乎都能辨认出来的程度。我在皮山时,不要说县城的地图,就是全新疆地图都没见过,只有中国和世界地图。我当时第一个反应就是中国完了!美国有如此的高科技,而且对这样一个小小的、连绝大部分多数中国人都不知道的地方给予了注意,那还不是想炸哪就炸哪,你能往哪逃?全在人眼底下。





刚开始好象是哥哥拉着风筝跑,没有起来。爸爸又接着拉它跑,起来不久,却又头朝下栽下来。一琢磨,是头重脚轻。哥哥这会儿不知突然从哪里冒出来的灵感,建议往风筝下部加坠石头。几个男孩子一听,不待接到指令就箭也似地飞奔出去。一转眼回来时,每人手里都拿着小卵石和砖头块儿。试验了好几次,一直到加上了一块大半块平整的砖头,风筝才终于平衡起来。我惊讶它竟然能载起如此的重量。看着风筝稳稳当当地飞向天空,孩子们欢呼起来,认识的,不认识的。我们跟着风筝跑呀跳呀,开心极了。爸爸让每个孩子都试着拽一次绳子,别提有多激动了。我试的时候,爸爸把整个线轴交给我。我立刻就被拖着踉跄地跑起来,而且完全收不住脚,几乎就要飞起来。吓得我大声叫喊 - 完全被风的威力慑服了。







涝坝圈好像有两棵大梨树,还有果子树、桑树、酸梅树,外加一、两棵老柳树。有一棵梨树分杈分得很平稳结实,喜欢爬树的男孩子们总会在那里歇歇脚,或干脆坐在上面不下来。记得哥哥经常会带上一本书爬上树去,然后坐在那个天然的躺椅上惬意地读着《宝葫芦的秘密》、《森林报》之类的书。而我总是羡慕有余,就是不敢爬。偶尔一、两次在哥哥的帮助下爬上去,坐在树杈上,就有一种战胜自我的喜悦和陶醉。大多数时候都是调皮的男孩子们爬在上面玩儿打仗或“偷” 梨子吃。幸亏这棵树上的梨子是肉质粗糙干硬的木头梨,没人爱吃。否则整棵树都会遭殃。


Thursday, May 7, 2009


图一:圣玛丽大学教堂 University Church
图二:基督教会学院 Christ Church College
图三:雪莱的大学学院 University College
图四:圣玛丽大学教堂 University Church
图五:基督教会学院教堂 Christ Church College Church



他的名字叫约翰-罗斯金(John Ruskin)。

罗斯金 - 牛津基督教会学院毕业。
罗斯金 - 牛津及英国第一位专职艺术史论教授。
罗斯金 - “一石激起千层浪” ,用一部“石头”论著掀起半个地球的哥特热。
罗斯金 - 单枪匹马扭转乾坤,让全世界重新审视哥特建筑、重新评价中世纪艺术。



然而,在欧洲文艺复兴的浪潮中,意大利人文主义学者却因热爱和推崇古希腊古罗马艺术而贬低中世纪艺术,使用了“哥特的”(Gothic)一词来表示蔑视。追根寻源,“罪魁祸首”居然是瓦萨里,西方美术史第一人。他误认为中世纪的建筑是由野蛮民族“哥特人”(Goths) 建造的,是一种缺乏理性及高贵品质的野蛮粗糙的大杂烩,不足为取。在他们看来,这些建筑不讲究比例规则和对称原则,过于堆积装饰雕刻,人物雕刻和绘画也粗糙、不准确、不优美。事实上,中世纪的建筑师们并不是原始的哥特人,也从没有给自己的艺术形式起过名称。他们表达的艺术自有其存在价值。不幸的是,对哥特艺术的误解和偏见却延续了以后好几个世纪。




三十三岁那年,罗斯金完成了具有丰碑性质的著作:《威尼斯之石》(The Stones of Venice)。在这部著作里,罗金斯以自己对威尼斯城建筑的实地考察,分析研究了威尼斯圣马克大教堂及其广场周围的建筑群,对诸多建筑物做了历史分期、特征描述和概括,并做了伦理和美学等方面的评价,详实而雄辩地论证和肯定了哥特时期艺术高超和伟大的地方。这部著作影响巨大,它改变了整个欧洲、整个西方艺术史对哥特艺术及中世纪艺术的态度和认识,掀起了全英国及涵盖半个地球的英联邦、英属殖民地的哥特建筑热潮,也成为(直至今日)分析评价中世纪艺术必不可少的理论标准。









他在给父亲的一封信中写到:“我有一种无法分析的强烈的本能,迫使我去描绘或叙述我所热爱的东西 -- 不是为了出名,不是为了讨好别人,也不是为了自己的利益,就象需要吃喝的本能一样。我要把整个的圣马可大教堂、整个的维隆纳,一块石头一块石头地画下来,一笔一笔地全都吃到我的心里去。”(注:参考迟柯的翻译)










图一:俯瞰牛津 (View of Oxford)
图二:基督教会学院的钟楼和四方院 (Christ Church College: Bell Tower "Big Tom" and Quardrangle


站在高处放眼望去,牛津城高塔林立、院池济济。有几处尤为醒目:基督教会学院的圆顶钟楼和尖塔教堂,圣玛德琳学院的四方塔楼的尖椎塔,瑞德克里夫阅览室的穹窿顶,圣玛丽大学教堂的锥形大尖塔,万灵学院和新学院大小尖塔及锯齿状锥形装饰物 ......


在诸多学院中,基督教会学院 (Christ Church College) 是故事最多的一处,非去不可。讲历史,它是牛津最大最权威的学院,由英王亨利八世亲自命名和资助建立,同时也是牛津官方教会所在地;它也是牛津出产英国首相最多的一所学院 - 十三位。论建筑,它既有典型的哥特式尖塔,又有哥特晚期的贝壳型拱顶结构,还有改良式哥特圆筒圆顶大钟楼,更有后来伯恩-琼斯加画的大型彩色玻璃窗。谈文学,这里是《爱丽丝梦境历险记》的发源地;作者路易斯-卡罗(Lewis Carroll)在这里获得灵感,故事也在这里写成;大草场,小河边,餐厅,门把、捅火棍,都是爱丽丝历险的景物来源。电影《哈利伯特》的很多镜头也都是在这里拍摄的;球赛的草坪,校园的四合院,尤其那个超级神奇的大餐厅,一眼望不到头;... 。嫌不够的话,再加上学院的艺术画廊;虽然在地下室,这里却收藏有达芬奇、米凯朗基罗、拉菲尔、鲁本斯、凡爱克、哈尔斯等大师的素描手稿,菲力普-利裴、维荣尼兹、卡拉奇的绘画名作;等等,等等,数不胜数。毋庸置疑,仅第一第二个故事就可以讲它个几天几夜。



这样一个好去处,却是英王亨利八世夺别人所好,攫为己有的结果。这位以娶过六个王后、并下令砍过其中两个王后的头而臭名昭著的国王,为了达到和第一任王后离婚的目地而和罗马教皇分庭抗礼,建立了独立的英国教会。也是为了达到离婚的目的,这位国王免去了他身边最为得宠的、一人之下万人之上的大法官、上议院议长、坎特伯利教会大主教乌尔塞(Thomas Wolsey)的职务,同时没收他资助建立的“大主教学院”;全部原因就是这位大法官对国王这桩离婚案犹豫不决。可怜的大法官大主教,不久又被亨利下令逮捕,死于赴刑的路途中。亨利八世把学院改名为“亨利八世学院”,后来又改为“基督教会学院”。在这里,亨利的是非功过自然也处处可见。



在这座教堂里,发生了一件英国历史上著名的事件,人称“牛津三烈士”事件:三位带头实行英国宗教改革的主教、大主教,被反宗教改革的女王玛丽一世,绰号“血腥玛丽”的女王,在这里残酷地判处火刑。其中的一位,英国最大教会坎特伯利大教堂的克莱姆大主教(Thomas Cranmer),曾经竭尽全力协助先王亨利八世脱离罗马教会,建立独立的英国国家教会,修改制定新的教会法和教义教规;当然,也正是他帮助亨利成功地休弃了第一任王后 - 玛丽的母亲。宗教原因也罢,政治原因也罢,个人私仇也罢,玛丽登基当了女王后,对克莱姆大主教毫不心慈手软。尽管写了几次悔过书,拖延了一、两年时间,克莱姆仍然被判死刑。赴刑场之前,他在圣玛丽大学教堂里作最后一次悔过演讲,临近结束,他话锋突转,大声说,他写过的所有悔过书都将不算数,受火刑时,他将先伸出右手,让它首先遭受惩罚,因为它曾经因软弱而签写了悔过书。目睹者声称:在熊熊烈火包围他时,他果真把右手首先伸向烈火,高喊:“主耶稣,接受我的灵魂吧!...... 我看见天堂的门开了,耶稣正站在上帝的右手边。”






大学学院(University College) 是牛津第一所学院,建于1249年。它的校园建筑几经重建扩建,没有保留最初的建筑物,也没有其它突出的特点。我是偶然两次从它门口经过才注意到它。从建院开始到其后几个世纪,大学学院基本是一所神学院,以研究神学和培养神职人员为主。就是这样一所以神学为牛津这个世界一流大学奠定基础的学院,十九世纪时竟在学生中出现了公开反对宗教神学的小册子,不仅在学生中流传,而且还一个不落地被送至各校长、院长及系主任办公室。小册子旗帜鲜明地打出标题:《论无神论的必要性》。写这篇论文的作者毫不隐瞒自己的姓名,他就是后来人们熟知的浪漫主义诗人雪莱。他的满怀激情和理想的长诗《西风颂》,特别是其中那句充满希望、鼓舞人心的诗句“假如冬天来了,春天还会远吗?”永远地留在了世界文学史和人们的记忆中。当时因书写印发这篇文章而被学院开除的雪莱,后来却成了最最有名的校友。学院为他建了纪念碑。

有雪莱宗教自由的呼吁,王尔德的人性解放也就不足为奇了。奥斯卡-王尔德读书的学院是那个有着四方高塔的圣玛德琳 (St.Magdalen) 学院。这座看上去壁垒森严的碉堡式的塔楼,很难让人把它同一位追求人性自由和唯美主义的剧作家联系到一起。兴许是物极必反的原理吧,王尔德不顾重重藩篱层层羁绊,我行我素;不只是对宗教道德观念置之不理,就是被法庭制罪啷当入狱也在所不顾。他在争取同性恋的自由及合法性的思想行为方面,可以说超前了整整一个世纪,尽管付出了几乎是生命的代价。我们现在记住他的当然更多地是他提出的那个著名的 “为艺术而艺术” 的文艺理论 -- 一个自由意志的产物。

在这同一所古堡式学院里,C.S. 路易斯写下了七卷本的《纳尼亚传奇》。那个神秘的大衣柜给小主人公们开启了一个通往神奇世界的大门。在牛津生活大半辈子的作者本人,也像是从想象到现实都生活在浪漫传奇的中世纪里,顽固地争论英国只有中世纪和中世纪晚期,而未有过文艺复兴阶段。