Friday, October 26, 2012

Stamford Raffles and Borobudur婆罗浮屠

My NMS (National Museum of Singapore) mentor Loy Siang Teng (黎上增) shared his thought of Borobudur after a recent visit to the ancient site. In his words, "想想一千多年前,爪哇先祖就已经有这个能耐建造如此辉煌的神殿,感叹。"

In 1811, after the invasion and annexation of the Kingdom of Holland by France during Napoleon's war, Raffles mounted a military expedition against the Dutch and French in Java. During his governorship as the Lieutenant-Governor, Raffles introduced partial self-government, stopped the slave trade, became an early opponent of the Opium trade by placing strict import control, much to the dismay of East India Co. in Calcutta. One of his legacy at that time was the discovery of Borobudur although this was only briefly mentioned in "History of Java" which Raffles completed in 1817. The book describes the history of the Java island since ancient days. Raffles is credited for the discovery of Borobudur.

(Outline drawing of Borobudur during Raffles time)

(Portrait of Stamford Raffles kept in National Portrait Gallery, London. A duplicated copy is shown in the National Museum of Singapore. Do note the Buddha artefacts on his table.)

In 1815, Raffles received order to leave for England after Java was returned to the Netherlands under the terms of the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1814. He sailed to England in early 1816 and en route St. Helena, visited Napoleon who was in exile on the island. 

Raffles was appointed as the Governor-General of Bencoolen (now Bengkulu) on 15 October 1817. This staged his return to South East Asia and his subsequent venture into establishing Singapore as a trading port in 1819.

Raffles' discovery of Borobudur convinced him of the existence of a great Hindu-Buddhist religion and civilisation in Java prior to the advent of Islam. Raffles’ emphasis on the Hindu-Buddhist legacy led on to extensive researches in appreciating the Malay Archipelago and later became a hit in Dutch academic circles. Raffles described, "The antiquities of Java have not, till lately, excited much notice; nor have they yet been sufficiently explored. The pursuits of commerce have been too exclusive to allow there being much interest in the subject."

(Raffles, "The antiquities of Java have not, till lately, excited much notice; nor have they yet been sufficiently explored. The pursuits of commerce have been too exclusive to allow there being much interest in the subject." Loy Siang Teng, 2012)

In many ways, Borobudur is a wonder of architectural design, of spiritual experience, and of the long-lost Buddhist culture in Java. Borobudur deserves to be a monument of mankind. Raffles wrote, "In the whole course of my life I have never met with such a stupendous and finished specimen of human labour, and of the science and taste of ages long since forgot."

The great discovery began with native Indonesians who told Raffles about rumours of ancient sculptures in the hills around Megelang. According to the description at the monument site, Raffles first discovered the Borobudur temple in 1812 where the temple was covered with bushes in a very bad condition. However, many other records stated otherwise that it was in 1814, Raffles sent one of his army engineers, H.C. Cornelius to search if the legends were real. The search party found a large hill which in fact was the Borobudur monument covered in lava. In order to arrest the decay that was threatening the monument, Raffles started the first European conservation project in Java. Cornelius worked laboriously for six weeks with the support of two hundred men and managed to clear most of the fallen trees, trash and soil from the Buddhist monuments. The British and after them the Dutch colonists (from 1816) did not have the experience to restore the monument so it was left uncovered for around 70 years. However, the clearing effort by Cornelius was so extensive that it eased the work of subsequent Dutch archaeologists 70 years later.

(Effort from all wards contributed to the restoration of Borobudur. Loy Siang Teng, 2012)

In 1885, J. W. Ijzerman, a Dutch architect involved in a restoration project, walked along the high processional path that surrounded the base of Borobudur. He noticed that the molding of the wall continued underneath a crack that he saw in the floor. This meant that all these stones must have been added at a time when part of the building was already finished.

Ijzerman called for a section of the path to be removed. When sixteen layers of stone had been pulled away, Ijzerman discovered another tier of panels quite unlike those of the upper galleries. These were portrayals of hellish tortures mixed with scenes of sweet pleasure. In all, one hundred sixty panels are uncovered. A few scenes had been left unfinished, with instructions to the stone carver inscribed in Sanskrit, and the style of lettering was so distinctive that it could be dated specifically to the middle of the 9th century. Experts concluded that Borobudur must have been built by the Sailendra kings (夏连特拉王国, 信奉金刚乘佛教who ruled in Central Java at that time.

Many of the stones were removed by local villagers to build their houses, and statues were removed to decorate gardens. Even the Dutch removed some of the items as souvenirs and even presenting them to foreign governments as gifts, including to the king of Siam in 1896. Many of these items were never returned and are still displayed in museums around the world.

Restoration was continued by a Dutch engineer, Theodor Van Erp between 1907 and 1911. He managed to restore the lower levels and the upper terraces and the very top stupa though the base was unstable and at further risk from earthquakes.

(Stupas at the top of Borobudur. Loy Siang Teng, 2012 )

In 1960 the United Nations declared Borobudur the eighth wonder. In 1968, the Indonesian government and the United Nations, working through UNESCO, launch the "Save Borobudur" campaign. Over the next fifteen years, twenty million dollars are raised to support the complete dismantling and reconstruction of the lower terraces of the monument – stone by stone. Professionals from twenty-seven countries join their Indonesian counterparts to carry out the restoration project.

IBM Indonesia documented over 1,300,000 stones. Each stone was removed, restored, tagged and returned to it's original position. Many of the broken stones around the monument were analysed and a computer program assisted them with placing them in the right location. Even sculptured heads of the Buddha statues were matched with the correct statues. From the work completed to restore the monument, experts estimated that the monument originally took around 30,000 stone cutters, 15,000 people assisting in carrying the stones and 80 years to complete the task.

Looking back, it was articulated that in year 1006, a massive earthquake struck western Java which caused the volcano Merapi to erupt, covering everything for a few km radius of the volcano with lava and volcanic ash, including Borobudur. The discovery of Borobudur started with the curiosity of Raffles after listening to the locals. Western civilisation somewhat broadened humans mind and led on to many 'wow' discoveries. I tend to believe that if Raffles did not order the search, someone would. Also legends come with a cause. They provide us with border-less imagination to venture into the unknown. 

In the words of Professor Soekmono, the Indonesian archaeologist who directed the Borobudur restoration project: "Borobudur has resumed its old historical role as a place of learning, dedication and training. We might even conclude that the builders of the monument hoped and planned for such continuity. An excellent training program, either for the pilgrim-devotee or for the field technician, is always based on a wish, a fervent wish, that the trainee will achieve what is projected. For the ardent Buddhist it is the Highest Wisdom that leads to the Ultimate salvation, and for the technician the highest degree of expertise that leads to the appropriate fulfillment of his duty. In both cases, Borobudur is the embodiment of such a deeply felt wish. It is a prayer in stone."

Friday, October 19, 2012




-- 李煜,《破阵子》









(动感《清明上河图》的昼与夜,Singapore Expo. 2012














1982年,新加坡的福康宁山挖出的宋朝的瓷器和钱币,是一个“大宋”远洋贸易的明证。2003年4月,在东马沙巴离岸400米外12米深的海域发现北宋古船,虽然船上珍贵的瓷器大部分已被当地的渔夫打捞去,但跟马来西亚政府合作的南海海事考古公司(Nanhai Marine Archaeology)还是打捞到三百余件宋朝瓷器,两百多公斤的陶瓷碎片和六十一个铜锣。这艘古船被命名为Tanjong Simbang,沉船年代于960-1127年间。









Friday, October 12, 2012

翁山淑枝与小缅甸Colleagues from Myanmar (2 of 2)


1945年在仰光出生的翁山淑枝,两岁时父亲翁山将军与英国谈判,争取缅甸独立,不幸被政敌暗杀。后来15岁的翁山淑枝跟随出任印度大使的母亲前往印度,19岁进入英国牛津大学圣休学院(St Hugh's College),主修经济、哲学与政治,并认识了她的丈夫Michael Aris,婚后在伦敦大学的亚非学院修毕博士课程。在国外生活经年,塑造了她的世界宏观。

翁山淑枝与未来丈夫Michael Aris。c.1970


1988826日,翁山淑枝第一次在仰光面对百万群众发表演说。演讲前夕,政府散播有关要刺杀她的谣言,但她对任何威胁都处变不惊。在集会上,她一身雪白的长裙,巾帼不让须眉的神态、慷慨激昂的言词,令在场的民众想起了她的父亲翁山,父女两人如同一个模子塑造出来的。其实,翁山淑枝并不喜欢政治,她更想读书写作,但从那一刻起,翁山淑枝不再是一名旁观者。 “我参加了,就不能半途而废。”从此,翁山淑枝这个外表柔弱、身材单薄的女子,成了军政府最头疼的人物。



20101113日,缅甸军政府释放了被软禁20余年的翁山淑枝12月初,她与到访缅甸的美国国务卿希拉莉初次会面。希拉莉把奥巴马的亲笔信交给了翁山淑枝,奥巴马在信中感谢她的斗争激励了全世界的人,美国会永远支持她;希拉莉也赞赏翁山淑枝的民主斗争,两人一致同意继续共同推进缅甸的民主进程。201241日,缅甸举行国会补选, 翁山淑枝所领导的民盟获得压倒性胜利,拿下45席中的43个席位(缅甸国会席次共664席)。


2012年6月,翁山淑枝重新踏上24年前离开的英国,她的母校牛津大学Oxford University为她补颁名誉博士,以鲜少人听得懂的拉丁语赞扬她以静态与沉默感动了全世界。 翁山淑枝笑容灿烂仪态翩翩的模样,让人仿佛看见当年那个风华正茂的缅甸姑娘。物是人非事事休,当年的幸福少妇已是为祖国牺牲掉家庭生活的民主斗士。

在历史悠久的西敏寺Westminster Hall里,翁山淑枝成了英女王以外首个受邀对英国上下议院发表讲话的女性。站在十一世纪的古老大厅里, 翁山淑枝的身躯显得格外娇小。在她演讲完毕后全场起立给予她的热烈掌声却响彻大厅的每一个角落。新闻照片里每一个来听翁山淑枝演讲的人,脸上都挂着发自真心的笑容。现任英国首相卡梅伦(David Cameron)、前任首相布朗夫妇(Gordon Brown)、前首相布莱尔的妻子切丽(Cherie Blair)和反对党领袖米利班德(Ed Miliband),更是难得地站在一块与翁山淑枝握手寒暄。英国执政党与反对党此刻好像化解了彼此种种不同的政治立场,取得了和谐的共识。

翁山淑枝在历史悠久的西敏寺Westminster Hall里。Reuter June 2012

翁山淑枝在历史悠久的西敏寺Westminster Hall里。Guardian June 2012

美国大使馆就在翁山淑枝的家旁边,茵雅湖(Inya Lake)旁。Yar Tun对美国的解读是,缅甸再茵绿清雅,美国也不会有兴趣欣赏,他们的真正目的也不是什么民主民权。缅甸的石油、电讯、交通、农业等都都几乎被中国垄断了,缅甸的国防军备则几乎被俄罗斯垄断,美国的目的是进入缅甸,与两大巨头抗衡,同时重新与缅甸建立经济关系,分一杯羹。没有经济利益作后盾,才不会赞赏翁山淑枝的民主斗争。

(美国大使馆:Washington Park;翁山淑枝住所:A;Yar Tun住在Hledan Market对面,走约20分钟便可抵达翁山淑枝住所


Yar Tun 透露,当年参与民运被扣押的“政治犯”有将近一万人,被囚禁逾二十年被释放的只有六百余人,被长期扣留的民运分子还有好多好多。


翁山淑枝为了人民,牺牲个人自由,甚至和家人在英国团聚的日子。她以柔和克制暴力,以一辈子争取走向民主。Yar Tun回家短住时,曾经跟朋友拜访过翁山淑枝。翁山淑枝问他们的职业,在哪儿工作等,也问他们为这个国家贡献了什么?为什么不留下来,为这个国家的民主进程献上一份力量?她都已经为这个国家的前途被软禁20年了,他们在犹豫什么?

(回国24年后,翁山淑枝第一次踏出国门,2012年5月29日晚上抵达曼谷,参与在曼谷举行的世界经济论坛。Straits Times 30 May 2012)

翁山淑枝问他们为什么来探望她?Yar Tun回答说她是他们的精神支柱,就像他们的妈妈。 “既然这样,你们的妈妈希望你们能够留在妈妈的身边,你们能够答应妈妈的祈求吗?” 翁山淑枝语气慈祥但句句入心,Yar Tun回忆起眼眶润湿,流下男儿泪那一幕,情绪还很激动。不过最终他还是在认同翁山淑枝的政治理念下选择离开:

 “我们需要一个更好的民主政治,一个有着同情心和爱心的民主政治,我们不应羞于在政治上谈论同情和爱心,同情和爱的价值应成为政治的一部分,因为正义需要宽恕来缓和。一位记者问我,‘你和别人交谈时总是对宗教谈论得很多,为什么?’我回答:‘因为政治是关于人,我不能将人和他的精神价值分开’。” (翁山淑枝)


问Yar Tun英国给缅甸带来什么好处?现代化、机械化、教育体系、石油工业...还有,1940年代仰光是全世界最清洁的城市。


新加坡的缅甸寺庙:玉佛寺Maha Sasana Ramsi Burmese Buddhist Temple
小缅甸Colleagues from Myanmar (1 of 2)
翁山淑枝与小缅甸Colleagues from Myanmar (2 of 2)
柏龄大厦-新加坡的缅甸城Peninsula Plaza: Burmese in Singapore
翁山淑枝心灵鸡汤 Aung San Suu Kyi

Friday, October 05, 2012

小缅甸Colleagues from Myanmar (1 of 2)




虽然Burma改为Myanmar,由于Burmese是全国最大的族群(三分之二),我那几位当工程师,勤劳优秀的缅甸同事还是称他们自己为Burmese而非Myanmese,他们甚至称根本没有Myanmese 这个字眼。至于他们的的名字(严格说起来缅甸人是有名无姓)如Swar TunMin TunAung TunYar Tun等,都以Tun相称。Tun是成功的意思。

(Burma 易名 Myanmar,是一个佛教国家

在新加坡本岛,由花拉公园(Farrer Park)、汤申路(Thomson Road)与马里士他路(Balastier Road)组成的社区,有许多以缅甸地方命名的街道,彷佛是一个“小缅甸”。最著名的主要公路摩绵路/摩绵坡(Moulmein RoadMoulmein Rise)出自毛淡棉(Mawlamyine),是缅甸南部大港,英殖民地时代的首都;因不卖前港督曾荫权的账而驰名的黄亚细肉骨茶位于Rangoon Road (仰光路,和平之城),仰光是缅甸的前首都(1948-20052005年首都迁至内比都Nay Pyi Taw),也是全国最大的经济与文化中心(YangonRangoon)。


其他道路包括Akyab Road(城市,重要稻米产地),Ava Road(首都, 1364-1841,缅甸中部四面环水的古城),Bassein Road(城市,大米交易中心),Bhamo Road(城市),Burmah Road(最大族群),Martaban Road(城市,元朝打败蒲甘国后,蒙古人在此建都),Mergui Road(丹老群岛的港口城市),Minbu Road (城市),Pegu Road(城市,缅甸孟族勃固王朝的都),Prome Road(市镇,缅甸骠人文明的发源地),Shan Road(族群,缅甸14个省、邦中最大的一个邦区),Irrawaddy Road(伊洛瓦底江,2700公里,源自青藏高原),Mandalay Road(首都, 1860-1885,也瓦城,古文化中心、佛教圣)。

根据官方统计,目前在新加坡读书工作的缅甸人大约有五六万人,但是本地的缅甸族群说有将近十万人,约占外国人的10%Mar 9, 2008, The Straits Times)。他们离乡背井的原因就如我们熟悉的早期中国移民史一样,为了找寻出路,走出来就有路。在国内,一般月薪不超过新币$200,在本地签证当工程师,收入十倍以上,即使比本地员工少,但已足以衣锦还乡。
Min Tun来说,乘机到仰光后,还得坐上八个小时的车程才回到老家,探望妻儿,回家的路很长;离家的路,听着孩子的嚎哭声,更长。




(1852年英国印刷的仰光大金寺图Shwedagon pagoda,第一次英缅战争时期,英国入侵缅甸)

和其他族群一样,缅甸人也有他们流连团聚的地方。周末到来,多数人都知道该怎样“瓜分地盘”,好让大家都有一片属于自己的天空。本地的泰国客工聚集在Beach Road的黄金大厦,菲律宾人Orchard Road Lucky Plaza,印度人Serangoon Road Little India,缅甸人则是Coleman StreetPeninsula Plaza(柏龄大厦),节庆如卫塞节、泼水节(新年)则到大人路(Tai Jin Road)晚晴园旁的玉佛寺颂经祈福。


跟缅甸同事谈起他们最崇拜的人物,在国外生活久了,深切感受到生命诚可贵,自由价更高的道理。经验过两地不同的生活,更深深体会到“建立一个公正平等的民主社会,并为实现国家之幸福”是一个多么高贵,又似乎遥不可及的信念。与千千万万人一样,翁山淑枝(Aung San Suu Kyi)是英雄,是他们心目中的精神领袖。


Yar Tun的老家走到翁山淑枝的家(University Avenue)只需20分钟,这条路却有时可以永远走不到。示威的群众与荷枪的军警不留空间,碰到戒严的时候,必须关在屋子里,只要踏出屋子一步,就有被扫射的危险。最长的一次戒严约两周,间中还制电制水。2007年回家,还被带去警局,大字型摊开双手双脚,两把来福枪指着拷问,原因是没在这个地方见过他,是不是来这儿捣乱。与白色恐惧的生活相比,新加坡是天堂。Yar Tun紧接着澄清,2010是个分水岭,政治气候改变,2007年上台的登盛政府(Thein Sein)走改革路线,翁山淑枝获得解禁,情况好多了。

新加坡的缅甸寺庙:玉佛寺Maha Sasana Ramsi Burmese Buddhist Temple
小缅甸Colleagues from Myanmar (1 of 2)
翁山淑枝与小缅甸Colleagues from Myanmar (2 of 2)
柏龄大厦-新加坡的缅甸城Peninsula Plaza: Burmese in Singapore
翁山淑枝心灵鸡汤 Aung San Suu Kyi