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The Opium War and the Humiliation of China

来源:纽约时报    2018-07-04 11:28

The Opium War and the End of China’s Last Golden Age
By Stephen R. Platt
Illustrated. 556 pp. Alfred A. Knopf. $35.
        《帝国的黄昏:鸦片战争及中国最后的黄金时代的终结》The Opium War and the End of China’s Last Golden Age
裴士锋(Stephen R. Platt)著
有插图。556页。阿尔弗雷德·A·克诺夫(Alfred A. Knopf)出版。售价35美元。
        A century before its finest hour, the British Empire went through what may have been its darkest. After China declared a war on drugs in 1839, confiscating well over 1,000 tons of opium from dealers — mostly British — in Canton (modern Guangzhou), the cartels pressured their government back in London into demanding that Beijing repay them the full street value of their narcotics. When the emperor refused, a squadron of Britain’s most up-to-date warships arrived in 1840 to brush aside the Celestial Empire’s junks and blast its coastal towns into ruins. British troops slaughtered civilians up and down China’s coast. “Many most barbarous things occurred disgraceful to our men,” one officer confessed. Critics compared the opium trade to the recently banned slave trade. The London government almost fell. In China, the Opium War gradually came to be seen as the beginning of a century of humiliations at Western hands.        在最鼎盛时期前的一个世纪,大英帝国经历了可能是该国历史上最黑暗的一个阶段。1839年,中国对鸦片宣战,在广州从大多数来自英国的交易商那里收缴超过1000吨鸦片后,卡特尔向伦敦的政府施压,要求北京以黑市价格全额对毒品作出赔偿。当中国皇帝拒绝后,英国一批最为先进的战舰在1840年击溃天朝的帆船,将海边城镇炸为废墟。英国部队在中国海岸线沿岸屠杀平民。“我们的人做出了许多最为野蛮、可耻的行径,”一名军官坦诚。批评人士将鸦片战争比作当时新被禁止的奴隶贸易。伦敦政府几乎崩溃。在中国,鸦片战争渐渐被人们视为在西方列强手中一个世纪屈辱的开端。
        As the West’s entanglement with China has deepened since the 1990s, so too has fascination with the Opium War, and every China-watcher will want to read Stephen R. Platt’s fascinating and beautifully constructed new book. It is a worthy prequel to “Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom,” his fine account of the Taiping Rebellion, which claimed an estimated 20 million Chinese lives between 1850 and 1864.        随着西方与中国自1990年代以来的纠葛加深,外界对鸦片战争也愈发痴迷,每个中国观察家都会想阅读裴士锋引人入胜、文笔优美的新书。这本书是他对太平天国运动的出色陈述——《天国之秋》(Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom)值得一读的前传。太平天国运动在1850年至1864年之间,夺取了约2000万中国人的生命。
        Unlike most accounts of the Opium War, “Imperial Twilight” focuses not on the conflict itself but on its background, going back to the Chinese decision in the 1750s to restrict Western trade to the single port of Canton. The usual highlights, like Lord Macartney’s trade embassy of 1793, are all here, but so too is a parade of less well-known but equally important episodes and a procession of gloriously eccentric characters. At one end, we have obsessive adventurers like Thomas Manning, who sneaked across the border from India into Tibet in 1811 armed with little more than a waist-length, jet-black beard and a dyspeptic Chinese interpreter — and yet managed to engineer an audience with the 6-year-old Dalai Lama. Manning was overwhelmed: “His beautiful mouth” was “perpetually unbending into a graceful smile. … I could have wept through strangeness of sensation. … I was absorbed in reflections when I got home.” At the other end are the red-in-tooth-and-claw British and American merchants in Canton who, forbidden to bring Western women with them, reverted to childhood, playing leapfrog at all hours of day and night.        与大多数对鸦片战争的描述不同,《帝国的黄昏》关注的不是这场冲突本身,还聚焦在背景上,将故事拉回了中国在1750年代将西方贸易限制在广州一个港口的决定。例如马戛尔尼勋爵(Lord Macartney)1793年的贸易使团这样常见的重要事件都在书中可以找到,但其中也展示了一些较为不为人知,但同样重要的事件,以及一批享有盛名的古怪人物。一方面,书里有一些令人着迷的冒险家,像是托马斯·曼宁(Thomas Manning),他在1811年偷偷从印度边境进入西藏,身上的装备只有长及腰间的黑色胡须,以及一位坏脾气的中国翻译——然而却设法谒见了年仅6岁的达赖喇嘛。曼宁彻底被折服了:“他那美丽的嘴唇”是“永远都弯成了优雅微笑。……我能因为奇异感而哭泣。……我回到家里后深深沉浸在了自我反省中。”另一方面,书中还写到了广州“红牙血爪”的英国和美国商人,他们被禁止携带西方女性随行,于是回到了孩童时的状态,日日夜夜、无时无刻不在玩耍跳蛙游戏。
        Some of Platt’s villains, like the Scottish drug lords William Jardine and James Matheson, are worthy of soap opera. Others, Britain’s Prime Minister Lord Melbourne, for example, take the banality of evil to new depths. Worlds apart from Rufus Sewell’s urbane, ironic portrayal of Melbourne in the PBS television series “Victoria,” Platt’s Lord M unleashes the Opium War on China apparently with scarcely a second thought. There is pathos aplenty as Charles Elliot, the British superintendent of trade in Canton, falls apart under Chinese pressure in 1839, eventually beginning to doubt his own sanity. Good men do bad things, roads to hell are paved with good intentions and golden opportunities are missed. In short, “Imperial Twilight” is a ripping yarn.        裴士锋书中的反派角色,例如苏格兰毒枭威廉·渣甸(William Jardine)和马地臣(James Matheson)的故事堪称肥皂剧。其他人,例如英国首相墨尔本勋爵(Lord Melbourne)让平庸之恶达到了新的深度。裴士锋的M勋爵与卢夫斯·塞维尔(Rufus Sewell)在PBS电视剧集《维多利亚》(Victoria)中对墨尔本勋爵温文尔雅、充满讽刺性的呈现存在天壤之别,在书中,M勋爵显然是不假思索地对中国发动了鸦片战争。书中还有英国时任驻广州商务监督查理·义律(Charles Elliot)这样的悲情人物,1839年,他在中国的施压下崩溃,最终开始对自己的神志产生怀疑。好人做坏事,通往地狱的道路由好意铺就,人们却错失了黄金机会。简而言之,《帝国的黄昏》是一个绝妙的故事。
        And yet Platt’s story also has a thesis, even if he makes it explicit only in his final few pages. “It is important to remember just how arbitrary and unexpected the outcome of this era really was,” he says. The war was “not part of some long-term British imperial plan. … Neither did it result from some inevitable clash of civilizations.” Rather, “Imperial Twilight” is overflowing with individuals precisely because it is the individuals who drove everything. In the age-old debate over the historical roles of Very Important Persons and Vast Impersonal Forces, Platt comes down firmly on the side of the people.        然而,裴士锋的故事也有论点,尽管到了最后几页才明确阐明。“这个时代的结果是有多么随意和出人意料,记住这一点是很重要的,”他说。鸦片战争“不是大英帝国的某种长期计划。……也不是某些文化冲突不可避免的结果。”相反,《帝国的黄昏》里面充满了各个人物的详细故事,是因为就是这些人推动了一切。在就“重要人物”和“巨大的超个人力量”的历史作用所展开的古老辩论中,裴士锋坚决地站在了人的这一边。
        “If Charles Elliot had not let his panic get the best of him when he so dramatically overreacted to Lin Zexu’s threats,” Platt speculates. “Or if Lin Zexu himself had been more open to working with, rather than against, Elliot; if they had cooperated on their shared interest in bringing the British opium smugglers under control. Or if just five members of the House of Commons had voted differently in the early hours of April 10, 1840 — we might be looking back on very different lessons from this era.” And just in case we misunderstand, Platt closes with a coda on the business relationship between the Chinese merchant Houqua and the American John Murray Forbes, which “had always been informal, based on trust and affection.” Everything could have been different — and better.        “如果义律没有被恐慌打败,在面对林则徐的威胁时做出如此之大的过激反应,”裴士锋推测道。“或者,如果林则徐本人更愿意与义律合作,而不是反对他;如果他们基于共同利益展开合作,控制英国鸦片走私者。或者如果只有五位下议院议员在1840年4月10日早晨投了不同的票——如今我们回顾那个时代的时候,便有可能得到非常不同的教训。”为了避免我们产生误解,裴士锋用中国商人伍浩官和美国人约翰·默里·福布斯(John Murray Forbes)之间的商业关系作为总结,“一直是非正式的,基于信任和感情。”一切本可能有所不同——而且本可能更好。
        “Imperial Twilight” is a masterpiece of the “If Only” school of history, which holds out the tantalizing prospect of a world that, with the right choices, could be made perfect. Edmund Morgan’s magnificent “American Slavery, American Freedom” is a classic of this kind, insistently hinting that if a few people in 17th-century Virginia had chosen differently, the cancers of slavery and racism would not have entered America’s bloodstream. So too, in a different way, is Niall Ferguson’s “The Pity of War,” arguing that Britain could have avoided entering World War I — in which case there would have been a European war but not a global one, the British Empire would have survived, and fascism and Communism would never have taken off.        《帝国的黄昏》是“要是……就好了”(If Only)历史学派的杰作,这个学派带来了一个诱人的世界景象:如果做出正确的选择,就可以做到完美。埃德蒙·摩根(Edmund Morgan)的巨著《美国的奴隶制,美国的自由》(American Slavery,American Freedom)是这类作品中的经典,它坚定地表示,如果17世纪弗吉尼亚州的一些人做出了不同的选择,奴隶制与种族主义的癌症就不会进入美国的血液。奈尔·弗格森(Niall Ferguson)的《战争的怜悯》(The Pity of War)有异曲同工之妙,它认为英国本可以避免参加第一次世界大战——在这种情况下,会发生一场欧洲战争,但不是全球战争,大英帝国可以幸存,法西斯主义和共产主义永远不会兴起。
        In the right hands, like Platt’s, this produces superb history, explaining why the actors acted as they did while also showing that they did not have to do so — and could in fact have made a better world. And yet too often one ends up feeling that the authors’ own narratives do not quite bear out their theory, and that the Very Important Persons’ choices are always constrained by Vast Impersonal Forces that they rarely understand, let alone control.        裴士锋这样出色的作者可以运用这种方法写出极好的史书,解释为什么历史舞台上的演员会有那样的表现,同时也证明他们其实不是必须这样做——事实上,他们本可以创造一个更美好的世界。然而,人们常常会觉得,作者的叙述并没有完全证实他们的理论,而且关键历史人物的选择总是受到巨大客观力量的限制,他们几乎无法理解这种力量,更不用说去控制它了。
        In this case, Britain’s industrial revolution was transforming the balance of global power in the early 19th century. It was not inevitable that Britons would use violence to exploit this, but the revolution constantly threw up situations where violence was an option. We might think of each crisis as a roll of the dice. In 1802, war between Britain and France almost spilled over into China. In 1808, British marines seized Macao, but withdrew peacefully. Tempers flared again in 1814, and in 1816 the H.M.S. Alceste fired on a Chinese fort, killing a reported 47 soldiers. None of these incidents had anything to do with opium, but in 1831 the drug dealers tried to provoke a war when Chinese officials trampled their shrub garden and insulted a portrait of King George IV.        在鸦片战争的例子中,当时,英国工业革命正在改变19世纪初全球力量的平衡。英国人动用暴力从中获利,这种事并非不可避免,但革命会不断制造令暴力成为可选手段的情况。我们可以把每次危机都看做是在掷骰子。1802年,英法之间的战争几乎蔓延到中国。1808年,英国海军夺取了澳门,但又和平撤出。1814年,紧张局势再度升温,1816年,英国船只亚嘑士地号(H.M.S.Alceste)向中国的一座要塞开火,据称导致47名士兵丧生。这些事件都与鸦片没有任何关系,但是在1831年,中国官员踩踏英国毒贩的灌木花园并侮辱乔治四世国王(George IV)的肖像后,毒贩们试图挑起战争。
        It was not written in stone that Britain and China would get the particular war they did. Cooler heads could have prevailed in 1839, although by the same token, hotter heads could have prevailed at any time since 1802. And even if 1839 had passed off peacefully, crises would have just kept coming. British merchants would have kept pushing to open China (in the late 1850s, they did bring on a second war). Compromises would not have satisfied the Jardines and Mathesons, and the likelihood that no British government would ever have decided that violence was its least bad option seems vanishingly small.        中英两国的开战不是必然的。1839年,本可能是冷静的头脑占上风;尽管基于同样的道理,自1802年以来,任何时候都可能有更狂热的头脑占上风。即使1839年在和平中度过,此后危机也会不断发生。英国商人一直在推动中国的开放(在1850年代后期,他们确实引发了第二次战争)。妥协不会让渣甸和马地臣们心满意足,并且英国难免总会出现一个政府认为,暴力是糟糕的选择中最好的一个。
        Stephen Platt has written an enthralling account of the run-up to war between Britain and China during a century in which wealth and power were shifting inexorably from East to West. But if this history holds a lesson today — as wealth and power shift equally inexorably back from West to East — it is surely the same one that Karl Marx identified just a decade after the Opium War, that men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please.        在一个财富和权力不可阻挡地从东方转向西方的世纪里,英中两国走向了战争,裴士锋对此做了动人的描述。但是,如果在这个财富和权力同样不可避免地从西方转向东方的时代,这段历史还能给人们提供什么教训,那肯定是卡尔·马克思(Karl Marx)在鸦片战争十年后做出的结论——历史是人类自己创造的,但他们并不能随心所欲地创造历史。

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