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中国人的来世_外国人眼中的清明节

(2011-03-28 20:17:48)
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ng

国家地理

清明节

来世

活人祭

分类: 《国家地理》摘译

中国人的来世

海豆芽译自《国家地理》http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2010/01/chinese-afterlife/hessler-text

中国人的来世_外国人眼中的清明节
  不朽的灵魂

在中国,古老的活人祭已经被现代墓葬仪式所取代,但是,先人仍有所求。

泉沟村,人们很少谈到先人,并且他们不喜欢缅怀往事。当我问及过去的事时,村民们说:“这地方总是这样穷。”然后就沉默不语了。他们很少有老照片,仅有少量文字记载。长城就耸立在附近,但是即便这种宏伟的遗迹也激发不了多少兴趣。2001年,我开始在这个村租房子安家,部份原因是我对这个地区的历史好奇,但是不久我明白了过去的传统正在飞逝。就象当代中国大多数地方一样,这个村关注的是如今的发展机会:当地农作物价格的上涨、建筑业的繁荣,这里北京找新工作不足二小时的路程。
每年只有一天,他们才会回忆过去,那就是四月份的清明节。这个汉语名词的意思是“清澈明亮的一天”,它一千多年来在中国各地以不同形式举行。祭祖可追朔的历史甚至更加久远。5000多年前,中国北方的传统就以非常系统的仪式来祭奠祖先。这些传统风俗至今仍然保留,我住在村里的第一年期间,当节日来临时,我就和邻居们一起前往墓地扫墓。

扫墓只允许男人参加。他们都姓魏,这一大家族的十几个成员在黎明前出发,爬上村子后面陡峭的山坡。他们穿着简单的工作服,提着扁平柳条框,肩上扛着铁锹。他们一言不发,也一步未歇。他们形成了一个工作团队的气氛——工具准备停当,跋涉着路过杏树林,树上新发的嫩芽在晨曦中熠熠生辉。20分钟后,我们来到了村子的墓地。这里位于山坡的高处,简单的土堆整整齐齐的排列着。每一排坟墓属于同一代人,人们从最前面一排开始干活,一直到最近去世人的坟墓——那是他们的父亲,母亲,叔伯和婶娘。他们铲除坟上的杂草,再将在坟顶堆上新鲜的土。他们留下专门的祭品,比如几瓶酒或几包烟。他们把冥币烧给死去的亲人,供他们在那个世界里享用,这些冥币上具有“天堂银行有限公司”的标记。

每一个村民对自己的至亲特别关心,按父亲、祖父到曾祖父顺序祭扫。几乎没有一个坟墓有标记,而当男人们按时回来扫墓时,从一排到一排,越来越搞不清楚坟墓的主人。最后一项工作是集体行动,每一个人都向每一个坟堆跪拜,没人知道下面埋的是谁。最后一个坟独自矗立,是第四代的唯一一个。一个村民说:“老祖,我们的祖宗。”这位家族成员的共同祖先没有别的名字,他的详细资料已经失传多年。

到扫墓结束时,旭日的光芒从东边山头后照射出来。一位叫魏明河的男子解释说,每一座坟墓代表一个亡人的家,当地的传统要求他们在天亮前完成清明节的仪式。“在太阳出来前把土铲到坟上,就意味着死者在阴间有了一个瓦屋顶,”他说,“如果没有及时完成,他们得到的是茅草房了。”

魏明河年近七旬,仍然有农民瘦削的身板,但是现在他已经住进怀柔城附近一家老年公寓里,不过他每年清明节都如期回来扫墓。那天稍后我就搭他回城里。当我问他是否想念泉沟村时,他说,“在来这公寓之前,我从来没有住过这么暖和的地方。”他的进步的观点作出了完美的判断,恰如祖先们的期望一样——瓦屋顶还是茅草房。

中国人来世的观点在大多数西方人看来,常常是一种世俗的特性的标志。在远古时期,另一个世界的观念注重的是实际的、唯物的、甚至是官僚政治的价值,这在当代考古发现中明显体现。当皇家墓葬被打开的时候,通常具有布局严谨且富丽堂皇的特色。以珍宝来陪葬的传统至少可以追溯到公元前5000年,那时的一些坟墓里有玉器和陶器。

这种风俗从商代开始流行,商代大约于公元前1600年至1045年在中国北部崛起。我们有关于看待来世的书面证据。最早的中文著述似乎是商代的甲骨文——这是一种写在牛肩胛骨和龟背上的文字,是一种宫廷占卜用的工具。这些破碎的甲骨经过翻译之后,是一种与未知世界沟通的工具,包括向皇家祖先传达信息。“我们以占卜向祖父丁报告国王的眼病”。“当羌方(敌人)来犯时,我们以占卜向父亲丁报告”。

死者被认为对日常生活具有重要的影响力。祖先不满意可能会在活人中引起疾病或灾难,而许多甲骨文片上提及的活人祭是为了抚慰他们的亡灵。在河南省一个墓葬群中,发掘出了1200多个祭祀坑,其中大多数都埋有人牲。一位考古学家曾经告诉我,他统计过商朝祭祀期间要处死一个人可能有60种方式。但他同时告诉我这是祭祀仪式,不算谋杀和故意伤害。以商朝的看法,活人祭只不过是非常好的制度的一部分。商朝遵守一套严格的历法,包含了向某些祖先献祭的某几个祭祀日。他们的严谨几近科学调查的程度。举一个例子,占卜师为了弄清楚究竟是哪位祖先使得在世的国王牙疼,会不厌其烦地在甲骨上一个个地烤出70条裂痕来。

死去的人在庞大的官僚体系中占有一席之地。王朝的名号在死后被更改,标志着权力交接。敬奉祖先的目的并非纪念他们生前的事迹,而是对逝者的讨好,赋予他们不寻常的责任。许多甲骨上的刻辞要求一个先祖将他拥有的权力移交给一个恰当的更强大的人。

加利福尼亚大学伯克力分校的历史学家大卫·N·凯特利告诉我,甲骨刻辞传达了那么多的等级观念和规矩,这给他的印象尤为深刻。“死得越晚的人,影响力越小;死了比较久的人决定更大的事情,”他说,“这就是一种社会组织形式。”

在公元前1045年商朝崩溃灭亡之后,以甲骨占卜继续被周朝采用,这个王朝统治中国北方的部分地区,直至公元前三世纪。但是活人祭逐渐取消,皇室墓地开始以冥器为特征,就是精神器物,作为真实物品的替代品。陶俑取代了人。秦始皇的兵马俑是最著名的例子,他是中国的第一个皇帝,于公元前221年统一全国。这支军队约有8000尊与真人大小一致的陶俑,从此以后为这位皇帝服役。

汉,是下一个王朝,留下的陪葬品没有那么浓厚的军事色彩。汉景帝于公元前157年至141年在位,他的墓室出土了令人惊异的精神物品,那是反映日常生活必需品:猪、羊、狗、战车、铁锹、铁锯、斧子、凿子、炉子、测量工具等等的复制品,甚至还有官员的官印,即图章,以便在阴间的官府使用。

象中国一样古老而丰富的文明,从古到今的发展路线不可能平平坦坦,中国人的来世观念受到无数因素的影响而发生了各式各样的改变。有的道家先哲不相信人死之后有来生,不过到公元2世纪,佛教传入了死后会重生的观念,开始影响中国人的思想。佛教和基督教的因果报应观念也渗透进来。

然而,象商朝和周朝时期一样的早期文化的许多元素,纵贯几千年仍然可辨。中国人依然在祭拜祖先,仍旧想象着死后的物质生活和官僚待遇。濒死的经验使一个传说广为流传,有些阴间的低级职员在生死簿上写错一个名字,在这个错误被发现之前的一会儿,差点儿令其阳寿嘎然而止。

大卫·凯特利告诉我,中国人传统的死亡观给他印象深刻的是乐观。他们没有原罪的概念,所以进入来世不需要根本的改变。这世界并非糟糕透顶,它为下一阶段提供了一个完全恰当的模式。“在西方,重生,赎罪,拯救是所有的一切,”他说,“在中国人的传统中,你死了,但是你依然存在。”

凯特利认为这些观念为中国社会的稳定做出了贡献。“祭祖文化注定是保守的文化,”他说, “你不会打算寻求有魅力的新事物,因为那会对不起祖先。”

除守旧的人外,中国目前方方面面都在发生变革,守旧的人扫墓也很困难。墓地常常因建筑项目而摧毁,并且许多乡下人已经进城,不可能因清明节回乡扫墓。有的人尝试标新立异的扫墓形式——有些网站让人去“虚拟墓地”扫墓。但是在这个快速变革的国度里,回想当年和过去确实困难,许多传统就这么消失了。

泉沟村每年清明似乎回乡扫墓的人越来越少。不过这个节日还是保留下来了,有些事情也依然呼唤古老的礼节。村里的祖坟按照族规排列,每一辈人都在同一排。物质上的祭品一直很重要:香烟、白酒和纸钱。也许某一天即使这些传统会被抛弃,不过目前为止这些祭品仍旧联系着过去与现在。

我的第一次清明之行过去三年了,如今仅仅只有七个村民在这个时候上山扫墓。在第一排坟墓中出现了一座新坟,坟前点着一支腊烛,上面还有一句话:“永垂不朽”。我问这是谁的墓地。

“魏明河,”这人说。“几年前他搭你的摩托回家。他去年死的,我不记得是几月了。”

另一个男子大声说:“这是我们第一次看到他的墓。”

 “去年他把新土堆在别人的坟墓上,”另一个人说,“今年我们把新土堆在他的坟墓上。”

我拿起铁锹为他添土。有人点燃一根红梅牌香烟并插在他的坟前。魏明河会喜欢我们的礼物,他会感激这样的及时。我们于天亮前离开——这些前人至少在接下来的一年里能享用瓦屋顶。

 

Chinese Afterlife

Restless Spirits

In China, ancient human sacrifice has given way to modern tomb-tending ceremonies, but the dead still make demands.

By Peter Hessler

Photograph by Ira Block

In the village of Spring Valley, people rarely spoke of the dead, and they didn't like to reminisce. "This place was always so poor," villagers said if I asked about the old days, and then they fell silent. They had few old photographs and only a handful of written records. The Great Wall stood nearby, but even those impressive ruins didn't inspire much interest. In 2001, I began renting a home in the village, partly because I was curious about the region's history, but soon I realized that glimpses of the past were fleeting. Like most Chinese of the current generation, the villagers focused on today's opportunities: the rising prices for local crops, the construction boom that was bringing new jobs to Beijing, less than two hours away.

There was only one day each year when they looked backward, in April, during the festival of Qingming. The Chinese name translates as "day of clear brightness," and for more than a millennium it's been celebrated in various regional forms across China. Ancestor worship goes back even further. More than 5,000 years ago, the cultures of northern China were venerating the dead through highly systemized ceremonies. Echoes of these traditions still survive today, and during my first year in the village, when the holiday came around, I accompanied my neighbors on their ritual journey to the cemetery.

Only men were allowed to participate. All of them were named Wei, and a dozen members of this extended clan left before dawn, hiking up the steep mountain behind the village. They wore simple work clothes and carried flat wicker baskets and shovels on their shoulders. They didn't make small talk, and they didn't stop to rest. They had the determined air of a work crew—tools at the ready, trudging past apricot trees whose fresh buds glowed like stars in the morning half-light. After 20 minutes we reached the village cemetery. It was located high on the mountain, where simple piles of dirt had been arranged in neat rows. Each row represented a distinct generation, and the men began their work on the front line, tending the graves of the most recently dead—the fathers and mothers, uncles and aunts. They weeded the mounds and piled fresh dirt atop. They left special gifts, such as bottles of alcohol or packs of cigarettes. And they burned paper grave money for use in the afterlife, the bills bearing a watermark that said, "The Bank of Heaven Co., Ltd."

Each villager paid special attention to his own close relatives, working through the rows from father to grandfather to great-grandfather. Almost none of the graves had markers, and as the men moved back in time, from row to row, they became less certain of identities. At last the work was communal, everybody pitching in for every mound, and nobody knowing who was buried beneath. The final grave stood alone, the sole representative of the fourth generation. "Lao zu," one villager said. "The ancestor." There was no other name for the original clan member, whose details had been lost over the years.

By the time they finished, morning light glowed behind eastern peaks. A man named Wei Minghe explained that each mound represented a house for the dead, and local tradition called for them to complete the Qingming ritual before dawn. "If you pour dirt on the grave before the sun comes up, it means that in the afterlife they get a tile roof," he said. "If you don't make it in time, they get a thatched roof."

Wei Minghe was in his late 60s. He still had the rawboned build of a farmer, but now he lived in a retirement apartment in the nearby city of Huairou, although he returned faithfully each year for Qingming. Later that day, I gave him a ride back to the city. When I asked him if he missed Spring Valley, he said, "Before this apartment, I never lived in a place with good heat." His view of progress made perfect sense, just like the wishes of the ancestors—tile roofs versus thatched.

The Chinese view of the afterlife has always been marked by qualities many Westerners would perceive as earthly. In ancient times the vision of the next world tended to be pragmatic, materialistic, even bureaucratic—values that are apparent in today's archaeological discoveries. When royal tombs are opened, they're usually characterized by meticulous organization and impressive wealth. The tradition of burying bodies with precious goods goes back at least as far as the fifth millennium B.C., when some tombs contained jade and pottery.

It's not until the Shang, a culture that flourished in northern China from roughly 1600 to 1045 B.C., that we have written evidence of how people viewed the afterlife. The earliest known Chinese writing appears on Shang oracle bones­—ox scapulae and turtle shells used in rituals at the royal court. Cracked and interpreted, the bones were a means of communicating with the unseen world, including passing messages to ancestors of the royal family. "We ritually report the king's sick eyes to Grandfather Ding." "As to the coming of the Shaofang [an enemy], we make ritual-report to Father Ding."

The dead were believed to have great power over daily events. Unhappy ancestors could cause illness or disaster among the living, and many oracle bones refer to human sacrifices meant to appease these spirits. At one complex of tombs in Henan Province, excavations have uncovered more than 1,200 sacrificial pits, most of which contain human victims. An archaeologist once told me that he had counted 60 different ways a person could be killed during a Shang ceremony. But he also reminded me that these were rituals, not murder and mayhem. From the Shang perspective, human sacrifice was simply part of a remarkably well organized system. The Shang kept a strict calendar, with certain sacrificial days devoted to certain ancestors. They were meticulous almost to the point of scientific inquiry. In one instance, a diviner patiently made 70 individual oracle-bone cracks in order to determine which ancestor was responsible for a living king's toothache.

As for the dead, they functioned in an extensive bureaucracy. Royal names were changed after death to mark the transition to new roles. The purpose of ancestor worship was not to remember the way people had been in life. Instead, it was about currying favor with the departed, who'd been given distinct responsibilities. Many oracle-bone inscriptions request that an ancestor make an offering of his own to an even higher power.

David N. Keightley, a historian at the University of California, Berkeley, told me that he's particularly struck by how oracle-bone inscriptions convey a sense of hierarchy and order. "The more recently dead deal with the small things; the ones who have been dead for longer deal with the bigger things," he said. "This is a way to organize the world."

After the Shang collapsed in 1045 B.C., divination using oracle bones was continued by the Zhou, a dynasty that ruled parts of northern China until the third century B.C. But the practice of human sacrifice gradually became less common, and royal tombs began to feature mingqi, or spirit objects, as substitutes for real goods. Ceramic figurines took the place of people. The terra-cotta soldiers commissioned by China's first emperor, Qin Shi Huang Di, who united the country under one dynasty in 221 B.C., are the most famous example. This army of an estimated 8,000 life-size statues was intended to serve the emperor in the hereafter.

 

The next dynasty, the Han, left a collection of funeral goods that is less military in character. The tomb of Han Jing Di, who ruled from 157 to 141 B.C., has yielded an amazing array of spirit goods designed to reflect the needs of everyday life: reproductions of pigs, sheep, dogs, chariots, spades, saws, adzes, chisels, stoves, measuring devices. There are even official chops, or ink stamps, to be used by netherworld bureaucrats.

In a culture as rich and ancient as China's, the line from past to present is never perfectly straight, and countless influences have shaped and shifted the Chinese view of the afterlife. Some Taoist philosophers didn't believe in life after death, but Buddhism, which began to influence Chinese thought in the second century A.D., introduced concepts of rebirth after death. Ideas of eternal reward and punishment also filtered in from Buddhism and Christianity.

Yet many elements of early cultures such as the Shang and the Zhou remained recognizable across the millennia. The Chinese continued to worship their ancestors, and they continued to imagine the afterlife in material and bureaucratic terms. Near-death experiences gave rise to popular legends about how some low-level clerk in the netherworld miswrote a name on a ledger of the dead, nearly cutting a life short before the mistake was discovered.

David Keightley told me that the traditional Chinese view of death impressed him as optimistic. There's no concept of original sin, so entering the afterlife doesn't require a radical change. The world isn't fatally flawed; it provides a perfectly adequate model for the next stage. "In the West, it's all about rebirth, redemption, salvation," he said. "In the Chinese tradition, you die, but you remain what you are."

Keightley believes that such ideas contributed to the stability of Chinese society. "Cultures that engage in ancestor worship are going to be conservative cultures," he said. "You're not going to find new things attractive, because that will be a challenge to the ancestors."

China's current changes are anything but conservative, and they are hard on the dead. Cemeteries are often destroyed by building projects, and many rural Chinese have migrated to cities, making it impossible to return home for Qingming. Some try alternative forms of grave care—there are websites that allow descendants to tend "virtual tombs." But it's difficult to think about the past in a fast-changing country, and many traditions simply fade away.

Each year in Spring Valley it seems that fewer people turn out to celebrate Qingming. Yet the holiday survives, and some elements still recall ancient rituals. Village graves are organized with bureaucratic precision, each generation in its own row. Material concerns remain important: cigarettes, alcohol, and grave money for the dead. Perhaps someday even these traditions will be abandoned, but for now they still provide a link between past and present.

Three years after my first Qingming, only seven villagers made the journey up the mountain to the cemetery. At the top, a new grave stood in the first row, decorated with a candle that said, "Eternally young." I asked my neighbor who was buried there.

"Wei Minghe," he said. "You gave him a ride home a few years ago. He died last year. I don't remember which month."

Another man spoke up. "This is the first time we're marking his grave."

"Last year he poured dirt on other people's graves," somebody else said. "This year we pour dirt on his."

I picked up a shovel and contributed to the mound. Somebody lit a Red Plum Blossom cigarette and stuck it upright in the dirt. Wei Minghe would have liked that touch, and he would have appreciated the timing. We were gone before dawn—the ancestors, at least for another year, could enjoy their roofs of  tile.

Peter Hessler’s forthcoming book is Country Driving: A Journey Through China From Farm to Factory. Ira Block has photographed more than 30 stories for NG.

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