Looking at the world at the place where we go to the world
Portugal may not be a typical big country, but it pioneered the earliest model of “globalization” in the 15th century. The Portuguese were fond of sailing, and their early nautical explorations initially connected the isolated continents into a whole. It is precisely because of this that Portugal’s world cultural heritage also has a strong integration of Europe, Asia and Africa. The author used the opportunity of a study tour in Europe to visit 11 cultural heritage sites located in various parts of Portugal in half a month, and personally experienced the early collision of Eastern and Western civilizations under the influence of the “Maritime Silk Road”.
Lisbon: From here to the world, here to have a glimpse of the world Fly westward for 3 hours
from Frankfurt, the “European aviation hub”, across the Iberian Peninsula, and you will arrive at Lisbon, the capital of Portugal on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. When I came to Lisbon, my first stop was the “Belem Tower”, which is regarded as the birthplace of globalization, and a large number of tourists from all over the world come here for pilgrimage. Since the 15th century, Portuguese navigators have changed the geographical cognition of Europeans through voyage several times. As the world’s first maritime colonial empire, Portugal established strongholds such as “overseas offices” or “trade agencies” or “investment promotion agencies” around the world to maintain its trade network. The “Belem Tower” on the outskirts of Lisbon is the place where Portuguese navigators such as Dias, Da Gama, and Columbus set sail to explore the world. Later generations built this tower in memory of these navigators. It can be regarded as the European The starting point of the journey to discover the New World of America. The “Belem Egg Tart”, which is famous all over the world because of the Belém Tower, also attracted a large number of diners to line up, but this egg tart tastes a little different from the “Portuguese Egg Tart” we often eat in China. The filling of the traditional belem egg tart is mainly made of egg yolk, and the surface is covered with church, which tastes very sweet. The “Portuguese Egg Tart” filling, which was improved by a Cantonese chef in Macau, is mainly a mixture of egg white and egg yolk. The egg white has more ingredients and less sugar, and cream is added. The taste is fresh and smooth, which is more in line with Chinese tastes. .
Driving into the city from Belém Tower, you will find the ups and downs in the ancient city of Lisbon, the roads are not wide, the buildings are dense, colorful and of different styles. At the highest point of the ancient city of Lisbon, there is a castle built by the Moors (North African Muslims in the Middle Ages) on the hillside. Later, a large number of houses on the hillside were built around the castle. This is different from the old towns of most European capitals. Its model is more like a combination of Arab cities and traditional medieval cities. If you go to more Latin American cities (such as Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo in Brazil) and North African cities (such as Casablanca in Morocco and Praia in Cape Verde), you will find that they have more or less borrowed from this urban model of Lisbon. During the period when the Iberian Peninsula was ruled by the Arab Caliphate, the Arabs taught the Europeans the technique of building castles. After the “Recovery of Lost Lands Movement” in 1492, most of these castles in today’s Portugal and Spain were preserved, and later residents built a large number of houses and shops around the castles, gradually forming today’s Portuguese urban model.
This multicultural “color contrast” is most vividly reflected in Sintra, a western suburb of Lisbon. The Portuguese royal palace in Sintra can be regarded as a model of integration of Asia, Europe and Africa: there are fortifications built when the African Moors (that is, the Moroccans today) occupied Portugal, and the Moorish castle in the 11th century looks like a Chinese one from a distance. Great Wall. There is the Gothic-style Regaleira Manor, which was popular in the late Middle Ages in Europe, and the Royal Palace is full of gorgeous colors and gorgeous decorations. With the fusion of Asian elements, the decoration of the Royal Palace of Sintra uses a large number of porcelain and blue and white porcelain wall decorations from China, as well as Arabic-style arches and Persian tapestries. The Pena Palace and the Monserrat Palace combine the architectural styles of Arabia, India and Europe, and the Monserrat Garden has plants from all over the world. This kind of “introducing plants from all continents and planting them in a garden” was an important way for scientists in the early colonial empire to study and explore natural history. The Montserrat Garden inspired the British royal family to build Kew Gardens outside London. The Portuguese pioneered the primary model of “globalization”, and “rising stars” such as Spain, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and France have continued to iteratively upgrade this model.
Although Lisbon is not a large capital, people of all colors from all continents of the world live here. During our stay in Lisbon, we gradually felt the existence of the “Portuguese-speaking cultural circle”. The Jerome Monastery on the outskirts of Lisbon was built at the end of the 15th century to the beginning of the 16th century when Portugal was at its peak. This monastery by the Atlantic port is a testimony to the Age of Discovery. A part of the monastery was opened up as an archaeological museum, and the content of the introduction was the “Portuguese-speaking cultural circle”, from which we can see that Portugal’s footprints are all over North Africa (now Morocco), West Africa (now Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, etc.), Southwest Africa ( Today’s Angola), Southeast Africa (now Mozambique), South America (Brazil), South Asia (Goa, India), Southeast Asia (Malacca, East Timor) and China (Macao), etc. Behind the 12 million people in Portugal is the “Portuguese-speaking cultural circle” composed of 230 million people around the world. This cultural circle can also be regarded as the legacy left to today by the age of discovery 500 years ago. When I came here, I couldn’t help but think that China’s Macao Museum has borrowed from this museum’s exhibition ideas to a certain extent.
”Cape Roca” in the northwest of Lisbon is the westernmost point of the European continent (38.47 degrees north latitude, 9.30 degrees west longitude), which is known as “the ends of the earth” by Europeans. The sea water in the Atlantic Ocean presents a layered blue spectrum. The waves beat against the rocks and cliffs. The tops of the cliffs are covered with succulents, and the leaves reflect the sunlight. From a distance, it looks like a sea of colorful flowers. Standing on the top of the rocky mountain, seeing the blue Atlantic sea water under my feet, I can’t help but think of Cao Mengde’s “Guan Canghai” more than 2,000 years ago-the “water is so pale, and the mountains and islands are straight” he saw, probably this is the scene in front of him!
Blue and White Porcelain City: Witness of the Age of Discovery
If Lisbon witnessed the integration of Europe and the Arab world and the beginning of European exploration of the Americas, then Porto witnessed the encounter between Europe and East Asia in the era of the Maritime Silk Road. Porto is located in the north-central part of Portugal. It takes two hours to walk around the old city. This city is not big, but blue and white porcelain is ubiquitous. The blue-and-white porcelain of the Ming Dynasty in China has been a popular decorative style in Porto for centuries, and is widely used in churches, building facades, train station murals, and residential decorations. There are murals on the entire wall in Porto Railway Station, which are decorative patterns covered with blue and white tiles, which record the story of the 16th century era of great navigation. The facades of a large number of commercial buildings on the roadside are decorated with blue and white tiles, and the patterns from Jingdezhen, China are perfectly integrated with the local European style. And what can best reflect the integration of cultures is that these blue and white porcelain decoration techniques are mastered by Portuguese craftsmen and used to create murals that reflect Catholic stories in monasteries. These blue and white porcelain silently convey the cultural integration of China, Arab countries and Portugal, a traditional Catholic country.
Why did blue and white porcelain decoration appear in Portugal, and why is it so popular here? During the 13th to 14th centuries of the Crusades, Portugal was accumulating technological and cultural power in a peaceful corner. Catholicism, Islam, and Judaism coexist harmoniously here, and Eastern crafts and Arab world navigation technology have been introduced to the Iberian Peninsula, forming a cultural fusion of Portugal’s “medieval version”. Portugal, a small country in the 15th century, was able to open the prelude to the Age of Discovery and become the first major country in world history with global influence and global operational capabilities.
It takes less than an hour to drive from Porto to the ancient city of Guimaraes in northern Portugal. There are a large number of medieval buildings here, which have witnessed the changes and changes of Portugal’s 1,000-year history. It is worth mentioning the 18th-century decoration and display preserved by the castle. There are not only blue and white porcelain, but also Chinese porcelain and furniture purchased at a high price by the Portuguese duke, as well as giant tapestries purchased from the Arab world.
The “Chinoiserie” (Chinoiserie) was prevalent in Europe at that time, and the value of Chinese goods and artworks was also extremely high. For example, Chinese cloisonné vases became a must-have decoration for Portuguese aristocratic family restaurants. The mahogany furniture of the Ming Dynasty was carefully crafted by skilled Chinese craftsmen living in Southeast Asia, and the whole set was shipped to distant Europe. Some nobles put porcelain plates from China, India, and Persia in display cabinets, and compared the subtle differences in patterns while looking closely. I remember such a classic metaphor: the value of Jingdezhen porcelain exported from China to Europe during the reign of Emperor Kangxi in the 18th century was as high as that of Boeing aircraft exported from the United States today. The European royal family used a large amount of gold and silver to purchase furniture in the Ming and Qing Dynasties, and its scale is no less than that of modern countries using large amounts of foreign exchange to purchase sophisticated chips and complete sets of electromechanical equipment.
Back to the Middle Ages: Discover the historical treasures hidden in the town
The more traditional Portuguese cities hide even more historical treasures. If we temporarily forget the cars, mobile phones and computers that symbolize modernity, we will find that many small towns in Europe still retain their medieval appearance, especially in southern European countries. The world cultural heritage “Christian Order” in the ancient city of Tomar, a small town in northern Portugal, is a testimony of the Middle Ages. Originally built in the 12th century by the elite “Knights Templar” in the Crusades, the internal structure of the church inherited the Jerusalem style brought by the Crusaders from the East. Later, the Knights Templar evolved into the Knights of Christ in Portugal, and launched the “Recovery of Lost Lands Movement” to regain the domination of the Iberian Peninsula from the Arabs, and expanded its armed forces from land to sea, and expeditions to the world for the Portuguese sailing fleet Escort.
Like Italy and Spain, Portugal has many Gothic monasteries intact. “Gothic style” is synonymous with mystery and wonder in the Middle Ages, and this style is most vividly reflected in ancient monasteries. If you come to the University of Coimbra on the top of the medieval city of Coimbra, you will find that there are more treasures from the medieval period. Traveling back in time to 800 years ago, it was the only university in Portugal for a long time, and it has trained many theologians, scientists, jurists and medical scientists for the country over the centuries. The library and student prison of the University of Coimbra once became the source of inspiration for the British writer Rowling to create “Harry Potter”.
Not far from here, the Alcobaça Monastery was built by Portugal’s first king Alfonso I in 1153. It is the first Gothic church in Portugal, and it is also a symbol of the victory of Portugal’s early “Recovery of Lost Lands Movement” and the establishment of an independent kingdom after defeating the Moors. European kings are keen to build churches/monasteries, which is similar to the reason why some emperors in Chinese history were keen to build pagodas/grottoes/temples. They are all to thank the gods, pray for blessings, and at the same time use religion to cultivate talents. The Batalha Monastery is another example. It was built in 1385 by King John I of Portugal to celebrate the Portuguese nation’s victory over foreign aggression. The interior of the main church is extremely majestic, and milky white to yellow stone is mostly used to make its color brighter than traditional Gothic buildings. Among them, the “unfinished church” in the monastery is even more exquisitely carved. One can imagine what it would look like if multiple such facades formed a polygonal church!
We also experienced what it was like to live inside a monastery. Evora, a small town in eastern Portugal, is also a world cultural heritage, and its history is even older—there is a building relic from the Roman period before the 4th century AD, and there are countless buildings from the 15th century. The hotel “Hawthorn Abbey” we stayed in itself was converted from a medieval monastery outside the city. It was night when I arrived here, and it was an unprecedented experience to explore the dimly lit chapels in the monastery after the sun went down. Several large and small churches in the ancient city were built between the 14th and 17th centuries. Among them, the small church attached to St. Francis Church has wall decorations made of the bones of tens of thousands of Evora residents. Here, waiting for your reunion.” It is not uncommon in Europe to directly use skeletons as architectural decoration materials. The famous “Kuna Hora Ossuary Church” in the Czech Republic is an example. For thousands of years, people have come to the “Skeleton Church” to entrust their souls to the gods during their lifetime and donate their bodies to the church after death. It has to be said that this concept has a great impact on the soul.
Standing at the highest point in the city center, overlooking the whole city, from the perspective of the landscape itself, perhaps nothing has changed since the time when Columbus explored the world and Cervantes wrote “Don Quixote”. Traveling through time and space through being on the scene may be the charm of exploring history through world cultural heritage!