Monday, June 14, 2004

A footnote to Martin Edmond's Zheng He ficcione

His body was taken back to China and interred along with his testicles, kept, as was customary, in a sealed pouch carried since castration always on a belt at his waist.
Martin Edmond: Zheng He: A True Ficcione

All else you say is true,
though few know about the
voyage to Luca Antara. Most
thought we stopped at Java;
but he & I went further south,
in a small boat, with a
trusted crew. The same
who later kept the secret
of his burial. What history
records as happening
is a fiction. Certainly
there is an inland tomb, with
Allahu Akbar inscribed
upon it. & a nearby stela
gives details of the seven
voyages. But remember
Zheng He was both a
Muslim & a sailor: Islam
decrees a speedy burial
& the tradition of the sea
demands interment in the
ocean. We wrapped him
in silk once we'd reattached
his young boy’s balls to
their proper place with
gum arabic. & one day
out from Calicut, during the
first watch, accompanied only
by our murmured prayers
& the creak of wood being
pressured by the sea, we
did commend his body
to the waters. Entire again.

1 comment:

Martin Edmond said...

We have heard it said that Zheng He’s body, restored, wrapped in silk, was interred in the sea off Calicut; but we do not believe it. Or rather, we believe it in the same way that we believe the story that, on his first fleet’s voyage from China to Malacca, Zheng He’s own ship almost sank when its keel was holed. Miraculously, the hole was plugged by a fish swimming into it. Only upon reaching Malacca did the Admiral discover this strange event; and, even more strangely, when he removed the fish, his fingerprints appeared on its side. To us, this is known as the Sam Po fish and it is found in abundance in the South China Sea and the Straits of Malacca, with the shadow of Admiral Zheng He's fingerprints still visible upon it.