幻獸

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1989 / 3月

文‧莊伯和 圖‧莊伯和提供



如果說古代中國是一個幻想動物的王國,一點也不為過。從山海經、神話、畫象石之中所描述的,無不是佈滿幻獸的世界,連遠古的祖先、帝王或具有造物性格的神明,也往往被塑造成半人半獸的形象。也許自人類文明進步之後,幻想動物才逐漸減少,類似這種代表聖性的想像怪獸,如今依然出現在我們生活中的每一角落。

其實現代人對幻想動物仍念念不忘。就電影而言,恐怕有電影歷史開始,幻想動物就不斷出現,從大金剛至原始恐龍,及至現代的機器、電腦怪獸,無論代表以善抑惡,無論是接近現實(例如誇大體積的猩猩、熊、牛等)或想像的怪獸,無不反映對於幻想動物的好奇,也是人類想像力的發揮。

也即是說,儘管文明多麼發達,理性多麼成長,人類對於怪獸依然存有幻想。

像在今天,兒童玩具以怪獸為題材的,佔了很大的部分,而且隨著人類對太空知識的擴展,創造了無數的宇宙幻獸。

但在古代的世界堙A我們敢說沒有一個國度是像中國那樣,擁有那麼豐富那麼奇妙的幻想動物。

古代的幻獸,並非玩具,卻也是中國人的世界觀及文化思想的象徵。

雖然獸性與人性常被理智地視為對立的觀念,即如把「性」分為三層次,則由下至上依次為獸、人、神(聖)三性了。居於中間的人,努力想把自己提昇到神性層次,另一方面極力排斥獸性。

但是禽獸偏偏擁有人所未具、所羨慕的能力,例如飛禽可以上天,魚族可以下水;陸上的動物,更有特殊的能力,諸如跑、跳、負重、兇猛過人的,連某些小動物也有鑽地爬壁的能力。所以人一方面畏懼(甚至是仇恨);一方面又敬仰這種「獸性」,於是將之提昇至神性地位,這便是許多屬於守護神地位的幻獸的由來。

談到這堙A我想到前些時候,高雄壽山動物園堛漯e馬,慘遭惡客修理受傷,園方從池中撈出丟擲河馬的石塊達百餘之多,其中有的重達十來公斤。見了這些鏡頭,我腦中浮出「人不如禽獸」幾個大字,而且高雄是我的故鄉,所以特別感到羞恥。

在今天,現實世界上的許多珍禽奇獸已迅速走向絕滅的命運,如果人類對動物的壓迫,還不能節制的話,人可真會活在一個只有幻想動物存在的地球上了。

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近期文章

EN

Imaginary Animals

Chuang Po-ho /photos courtesy of Chuang Po-ho /tr. by Peter Eberly


To style ancient China a veritable kingdom of fantastic animals would hardly be going too far. From their depictions in myths, stone drawings, and the Shan-haiching, or The Classic of Mountains and Seas, the world at one time would seem to have been filled with imaginary creatures, and the rulers and sages of far antiquity are often portrayed in half-human, half-animal forms. With the advance of human civilization, the prominence of imaginary animals has gradually declined, but fantastic creatures such as the dragon, a symbol of the numinous, still appear in every corner of our daily life.

Imaginary animals have in no way been forgotten by modern man. In films, they have appeared constantly throughout the history of the medium, from King Kong to Godzilla to the latest robot and computer monsters. No matter whether they represent good or evil, no matter whether they are close to reality (such as animals or insects of exaggerated size) or completely fictitious fabrications of the mind, all reflect our curiosity about the unknown, and all are expressions of the power of the imagination.

Which is simply to say that, despite the advances of civilization and the growth of reason, mankind still fantasizes about monsters.

A major proportion of children's toys, for example, have monsters as a theme, and along with the expansion of our knowledge of the universe we have created countless fantastic creatures to populate it.

But in the world of ancient times, it is safe to say that no other country created such strange and such varied animals of the imagination as China.

And the imaginary animals of ancient times were not playthings but were symbols of the culture and world view of the Chinese people.

Man and beast are often viewed as opposing concepts, as though the nature of personality were divided into the levels of bestial, human, and divine, and as though man, in the middle, strove to raise himself to the level of the gods while spurning that of the beasts.

But animals happen to have many abilities that man lacks or envies, such as the flight of birds in the air, the swimming of fish in the sea, and the superior running, jumping, carrying, or fierceness of various animals on land, as well as the ability even of some of the smaller ones to dig holes or to climb walls better than he, so that man both fears (or hates) and reveres the nature of beasts and may raise them to the level of gods. This is the origin of many imaginary animals that serve in the role of guardian deities.

This point reminds me of a recent news report on television that said a hippo in the Kaohsiung zoo had been injured by malicious visitors who had thrown more than a hundred stones at it, some of them over 10 1bs. in weight. The phrase 'a person no better than an animal' came to mind, and since Kaohsiung is my hometown, I felt particularly ashamed.

Today, as many rare and precious animals are rapidly approaching extinction, if mankind cannot control his oppression of other living species, we may indeed come to live in a world in which the only animals that exist are imaginary ones.

 

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