Erenlai - Displaying items by tag: 四川
Wednesday, 28 December 2011 17:45

Shiqu, the birthplace of King Gesar

 

The district of Shiqu (Serxu in Tibetan) is located on the border of the Ganze Tibetan Prefecture (Sichuan) where it belongs, the region of Tibet proper and Qinghai province. More than a thousand kilometers away from Chengdu, at an average altitude of 4.526 meters, and twenty-five thousand square kilometers large, the district harbors a population of seventy thousand people, almost all farmers, surviving a severe climate (an average of 1.6 degrees below zero, and record cold dropping to 46 degrees below zero). The miracle is that this area is the one where began to be composed the epic of King Gesar, considered the longest poem in the world. The district also claims to be the birthplace of this legendary Tibetan king. It also keeps the longest wall of Mani stones, and a "city" dedicated to the souls of dead heroes.

 

The photographs gathered here gives testimony to a world with no equivalent. The Barge wall, 53 kilometers away from the district township, is located between a mountain and the sacred waters from which emerges the Yalong River. Started in 1640, repeatedly repaired and expanded since then, the wall now extends over a length of 1.7 kilometer, and its height ranges between two and three meters. The majority of stones that adorn the building are Mani stones (or simply "manis"), which are so called because they are carved with the famous mantra “om ma ni padme hum” ("the mantra of the six syllables" or “drug yi ge pa” in Tibetan). But the Barge wall also comprises more than three thousand stones decorated with representations of Buddhist deities, and about seven thousand stones inlaid with various sutras.

As to the "funeral city" of Songge, it is composed of a wall nine feet high surrounding an accumulation of stupas, through which the visitor circulates as in a maze after having entered through a back door. Its wall (which extends 73 meters from west to east and 47 meters from north to south) is also composed of Mani stones, sutras carved in stone and a sacred iconography, among which the few scholars who have been able to come there are able to identify representations of King Gesar and thirty-General of the State of Ling of which he was the overlord. At the very center of this construction stands a well, the depth of which has not been probed. The construction of this "city" began around the eleventh or twelfth century. It is probably a kind of memorial for the heroes fallen during the wars fought by King Gesar. The epic sings the repentance finally shown by the uncle of King Gesar, his hardened opponent, after he had killed several heroes. The funeral city would then have been built as a sign of atonement.

Nomadic tribes still live in the area. They bring along with them sacred vessels and erect a “portable temple” in a tent wherever they have decided to camp. The whole region is marked by such extremes of hardship, poetry and faith…

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Tuesday, 27 December 2011 00:00

The Festival of the Birth of the Prophet in Pi county, Sichuan

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The Festival of the Birth of the Prophet is one of the three most important Islamic festivals, it commemorates the birth and the death of the founder of Islam, Muhammad. On the 5th November 2006, the Festival of the Birth of the Prophet was held at the Pitong township mosque in Pi County, Sichuan. Before the festival, after the mosque's imam, Ma Rugang and the director of the management committee of the mosque, Ma Junru, have carried out prepatory arrangements for the festival, Muslims come to donate grains, oil, meat and money, and arrange for a groups of people to take responsibility for grinding the flour, buying certain items, frying flour-and-salt sesame oil cakes, cooking the meat and other dishes, the other odd jobs that the festival entails are all carried out by Muslim volunteers.
 

The Hui people see the different tasks surrounding the festival as good works, therefore, they often strive to outdo each other. Everyone takes part to decorate the gate, the main hall and the surroundings of the mosque with lanterns and streamers, and banners, the banners commemorate the calligraphy of Muhammad with Arabic writing, as well as incorporating slogans celebrating the festival. The festival normally lasts for two days, on the first day people come to the mosque in the evening to recite scriptures in praise of the Prophet, after the worship ceremony a symposium is held, the second day is a more formal commemoration. At the appointed time, the Muslims bathe and change their clothes, dressing up and congregating at the mosque to recite scripture, praise the Prophet and worship. The imam pronounces the main events in the life of Muhammad, his achievements and his moral character, as well as exciting historical tales about the hardships undergone in missionary work, of wisdom and bravery, of skill at debating and of war, instructing the Hui people not to forget the teachings of the Prophet, and to be good Muslims.

On this day Muslims also have to "taw/ba" (توبة rendered in Chinese as 討白 tǎobái), which means to repent. The Hui people believe: "Men are not sages or saints, how are they not to sin? To know thy sin and to correct it, that is the greatest of acts." (Chunqiu Zuozhuan: Xuangong Ernian). "Taw ba" consists of making up for their former misdeeds, asking God's forgiveness, promising not to continue in sin, and commiting oneself to this new course in life through good works. After the ritual, they dine together. Dozens of table laden with dishes are spread, everybody makes merry, in a feast together. As to those who had contributed to the meal by donating in the spirit of Niyyah (نیّة rendered 乜貼 niètiē in Chinese: the intention one evokes in his heart to do an act for the sake of Allah) but are unable to come themselves have to rely on friends, relatives and neighbours to bring a flour-and-salt cake for them to try1.

What makes the feast of the Prophet so special is that the people come together to praise the Prophet, the people donate things for a common goal and that the people eat together, which shows how united the Hui people are, and how they celebrate the festival imbued with the spirit of friendship. The Hui people of Pi County invite Muslims from the surroundings of Chengdu and even Aba Prefecture to celebrate the feast of the Prophet with them. As well as its ritual significance, this day is an opportunity for Muslims to interact with each other, the imams discuss theological issues and preaching methods with each other, and the Hui people wish one another well, and talk about all kinds of things, in an atmosphere of great joy. A group of students who, off their own backs, set up a Muslim student society at Sichuan University and Southwest University for Nationalities, volunteered to serve as stewards for the festival.

Translated from the Chinese by Conor Stuart, photos by Liang Zhun

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1. Interestingly Chinese sources ascribe the origin of this flour and salt cake as what Abu Ayyub al-Ansari prepared for Muhammad when his house was chosen to host the Prophet on his arrival in Medina, and was even purportedly named by the Prophet as 油香 yóuxiāng , although this cake does not appear in English language versions of the life of the Prophet. For Chinese version of the origin of this cake see here.

 

 

 


Wednesday, 25 June 2008 01:07

去年夏天,我曾到過汶川

五月十二日下午兩點半左右,四川發生大地震,霎時,在成都樓層室內感覺搖搖欲墜,酒瓶落地摔得粉碎,書櫥應聲倒塌,廚房乒乒作響,小區內人心惶惶,處處傳來淒厲叫聲,聚集相互詢問,個個驚慌失措,一臉狼狽。校園裏、街道上群眾奔馳,集聚走避,馬路上交通幾乎癱瘓,而通訊又一時中斷,尤增詭異恐懼氣氛。
到了晚上,通訊傳遞,才知道震央位置在距離成都市北區近一百公里處的汶川縣發生八級強烈地震,天崩地裂,樓層倒塌,或震為平地,瓦礫殘骸,一片哀號,瞬間數千名無辜老百姓傷亡;隨著時間推移,死亡與失蹤人數節節上升,令人不忍卒睹!

去年夏天,我校學院與香港城市大學師生曾經組織捐書活動到汶川草坡中心小學。記得那一天學校剛結束期末考試不久,我們共同坐了兩部大型巴士由校園出發。一早七點多集合完畢,約八點鐘開車。當經過都江堰後,巴士開始爬坡往汶川方向行進,進入藏區阿壩州,則沿途崇山峻嶺,林木森森,順著羊腸小徑蜿蜒曲折而行,到處可見峽谷斷崖,司機小心翼翼放慢車速,不敢加速超車,因為有任何的閃失,都可能墜落翻覆,魂斷命喪。
山坡路很狹窄,曲折多彎,在最逼仄處,僅能容一車身行駛,因此,遇有前方來車相錯而過,還必得緩緩調整挪移,才能順暢通行。
我們幾位師生在車座後排聊天唱歌,真是愉快。一路上又談到抵達藏區小學要怎麽樣鼓勵那些小朋友等等,心情無限的好!
不久,車子突然停住不走了。原來前方不遠處有巨石坍方,路面正在搶修中。不確定何時才能夠恢復暢通,於是大家紛紛下車伸伸懶腰,透透空氣。折騰了近兩個小時左右,才又繼續往目的地行進。
到了中午十二點鐘過後,總算才到達草坡中心小學。這是一所人數只有一百多人的小學校,校長特別介紹啟用不久的新教學大樓,還有一棟正在建築中,預計幾個月後也能使用了。
車子開到校門,把一捆又一捆的新書搬下車,運往校園升旗臺上,早已有小朋友激動地列隊歡迎我們。他們手舞足蹈,開心極了,個個眼神靈活,看著這批批打包完好的新書。我特別注意到他們的眼睛緊緊盯住很久,流露出喜悅、羡慕的目光。當我們要把書籍搬進辦公室時,有幾個小朋友還爭先恐後自動說要幫忙。但他們的個子太小了,根本不可能幫上忙,而為了他們有參與感,還是讓他們一起來吧。
後來,校長與多位老師說,這些小朋友有的在早上七、八點就來學校等候了。到了九點多、十點左右,還不停地問怎麼還沒有來呢。可見,這些小孩多麼喜歡我們去看他們!
一直到午後一點多,把整個贈書儀式完成,大家才想到該吃午餐了。
起先這些學生有點靦腆,要他們來拍照合影,還互讓半推一番,竊竊私語。
有個三年級的小女孩長得很漂亮,我會注意到她,是因為她的裝扮比較特別:留著一頭烏黑亮髮,頭上別著二朵小花,兩耳掛著一對銀白色耳環,在七月豔陽照耀下,尤顯得奪目亮麗!我當時還半開玩笑說,所有同學都沒有戴耳環,為什麼你這麼愛漂亮戴耳環。她反應很快,立刻說她是少數民族,全村的女孩從小就人人戴耳環,如果不戴才奇怪呢。我打從心裏暗暗稱許,她的回答真好,得體又合乎實情。與他們合照了幾張相,帶著依依不捨的心情告別。

沒想到,這竟是一次永遠的訣別!

一位參加那次捐書活動的同仁給我回復短信:“我在哭不能再跟我講香港的同學也在問”,沒有任何標點符號,我能夠感受其心情。一位參與的大三學生說:“只知道那所小學已經不在了”,另一位學生說:“那個據辛老師說草坡中心小學已經坍塌了……確實如此…… 不過天地不仁……這也是沒辦法的事情……”,沒說完,掩面而哭。

摩挲著相片,天真無邪的笑容掛在臉上,尤增悲愴,使人不忍多看。生命如紙薄,何其脆弱也!

九年前臺灣九二一半夜大地震,我幸運地逃過一次劫難:在玻璃櫥櫃倒塌前,我被地震搖醒,本能反射用手臂去擋,玻璃碎片劃破前臂,左手血流如注,急送醫院縫了二十一針,留下一道長長的弧形傷疤,迄今回憶,猶有餘悸!

今年在成都經歷大地震,往後幾天,餘震連連,天天在半夜驚醒,果是真實狀況。這樣的日子還要持續多久,誰也不知道。

昨天下午上課,在黑板上寫上李白〈劍閣賦〉:“咸陽之南,直望五千里,見雲峰之崔嵬。前有劍閣橫斷,倚青天而中開。上則松風蕭颯瑟蔚,有巴猿兮相哀。旁則飛湍走豁,灑石噴閣,洶湧而驚雷。送佳人兮此去,復何時兮歸來。望夫君兮安極,我沉吟兮歎息。……”,也抄上〈蜀道難〉部分文字:“邇來四萬八千歲,不與秦塞通人煙。西當太白有鳥道,可以橫絕峨眉顛,地崩山摧壯士死,然後天梯石棧相勾連”,“蜀道之難,難於上青天,使人聽此凋朱顏。連峰去天不盈尺,枯松倒掛倚絕壁,飛湍瀑流爭喧虺,砰崖轉石萬豁雷,其險也若此,嗟爾遠道之人胡為乎來哉!劍閣崢嶸而崔嵬,一夫當關,萬夫莫開”,我跟學生講這兩首詩的意思,並以今日汶川的地形為例,說明為何地震無法立即有效搶救,必須要動用直升機空投與傘兵跳傘救援的原因。去年我到過汶川,李白這種描述是毫不誇張的。

我看到學生邊抄寫邊聽課,眼眶紅紅的,我不忍講太久……。

我只恨,我只恨,我只恨,我太愚鈍了,要犧牲這麼多人的生命,才能完全讀懂李白的詩歌,而這個代價,未免太大了!


謹以此文敬悼五月十二日大地震喪生的同胞
二零零八年五月二十日晚於成都

附加的多媒體:
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