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Translation - Chinese If one asks what Lingao City is most famous for in our spacetime, the answer should be Lingao Cape.
On the evening of April 26th, 1950, more than 18700 soldiers of the 118th and 119th Division of the Communist Fourth Field Army 15th Corp 40th Army sailed 318 motor junks and 32 motorboats from Cape Lighthouse in Xuwen County, Leizhou Peninsula at the command of Vice Commander-in-Chief and 40th Army Commander Han Xianchu, Vice 40th Army Commander Xiefang, through the Qiongzhou Strait and headed toward the Lingao Cape Lighthouse. Their landing at the Lingao Cape bay at 3 o’clock the next day morning marked the beginning of the Hainan Island Campaign.
The Lingao Cape in the other spacetime has not witnessed this historical event, but it is always a military and naval strategic point of the Hainan Island. During the intelligence briefing before departure, Yu E’shui specially pointed out that the beacons in Lingao Cape were built since Yuan dynasty, and in Ming dynasty there was a Bopu on-site inspection agency established which is “equal to a provincial military commander being in charge of interrogation”. It is recorded that there were thirty archers and three patrol boats stationed during the Zhengde period, and even at the end of Wanli period, there were still twelve archers and possibly one boat. Also, this place is a haven for Lingao fishermen, so it is very likely to meet local fishing boats.
Bei Wei stands on the prow and cautiously observes the terrain at the front. Three months before the D-day, some members of the military section took a staff trip to Hainan in the twenty-first century spacetime and did a reconnaissance on the typography of the expected landing location Lingao - Bopu Port and other backup locations such as Maniao Bay, Redcard Bay and Backwater Bay.
Bei Wei as the lead of the reconnaissance team not only inspected the topography but also went over all the information several times just to make sure there is no error.
The dawn breaks in the east, and everything on shore in the telescope is very clear. Now the motorship has entered a wide bay called Longhao Bay which is at the southwest of the Lingao Cape according to the nautical chart. It is one of the most important fisheries in Lingao because there is little wind, and fish migrate here to dwell.
Bei Wei searches through the telescope, and soon discovers the familiar one-mile triangular cape that stretches from northwest to southeast — the Lingao Cape.
The Lingao Cape forms a natural seawall with a length of 1.5 miles and a width of 500 meters. The quartz sand washed ashore paves a shining road on the bank. At the Lingao Cape in twenty-first century there are stone forts, observatories and a lighthouse built in 1893; although the shore in this spacetime is nearly empty, there is little difference in terms of overall topography.
“Slow down, be careful of what’s underwater!” Bei Wei warns. Beside the land part above the water, there is a large part of Lingao Cape hidden under the sea, and although the draft of a motorship is negligible, a scrape against the rock at the bottom can cost quite a lot.
The seawater is transparent; even the fine sand between stones can be clearly seen. After the ship crosses the Changgong Bay, all the people on the ship can see the Bopu Cape stretching to the southeast with the naked eye. The Changgong Bay is embraced by two capes; the two-mile seabed is flat like a mat; the sand is shimmering, the water is quiet, only thin white waves roll on to shore.
“I want to swim,” someone says.
“Let’s build a retirement center here later!”
Everyone laughs. It sounds ridiculous to talk about it at this time, as if a bunch of beggars dream about how life will be when they become rich.
Bei Wei reminds the steersman not to go deep inside the bay. It is not funny to be shot by an arrow out of nowhere.
“Captain, what’s the name of this hill?” Li Jun points at an oval hulk stuck among the green bushes on the Bopu Cape at a distance.
“It is not a hill, it is a beacon.”
“A beacon can be this big?” People on the ship are surprised — In their memory, beacons are the antiquated mud towers eroded by sand and wind and time on the Silk Road. However, even after four hundred years, this beacon is still sixteen meters. Wei Bei estimates its height is at least twenty meters and its slope is 45 degree, and at the first sight, it looks like a common hill on a hilly terrain indeed. The outer part of the tower is built with stone slates, and inside is rammed earth. It is hard to relate this tower with the barren hillock of the 21st century.
“Attention, everybody! There are Ming troops stationed here, drop down your mask!”
Following the order, all personnel drop down the masks of the riot control helmets. The motorship swiftly goes around the Bopu Cape and enters the southeastern waters.
“It’s the Bopu Harbor!”
Here is the estuary of the longest river in Lingao County, the Wenlan River. The river’s full length is less than ninety miles, but it creates a broad harbor open to the north in this place. The indistinct black shadow in the distance is the Ruby Island — the east edge of the Bopu Harbor.
“Slow down! Enter the harbor. Alert!”
On the mud beach across from the Ruby Island grows the luxuriant mangrove forest; some of the trees have been cut or burnt. An undulating tableland of a medium height is behind the mangrove forest. The south of the harbor which is opposite to the mangrove forest exhibits a completely different environment; weeds grow wild, and there are houses in ruins.
The withered seaweeds and uprooted trees on the beach are the proof of typhoon’s recent visit. One of the reasons why they chose to land in lunar September was to avoid the typhoon and storm that usually arrive around mid-August.
It is quite open inside the harbor; large mangrove forests grow near the sea; all kinds of aquatic birds fly up and down, or hover over the mud flats crisscrossed on the land. The water is not clean, and the mud bottom can be seen; the coast is flat but not very flat. Unexpectedly, no one can find a fishing boat through the telescope, which has something wrong.
“The damn place!” Someone starts to complain.
“Is this what the committee called a developed county? So the underdeveloped places are virgin forests?”
Bei Wei gives him a cold stare — the veteran forgets what is called a soldier’s most basic discipline.
Although Bopu is called as the strategic point of Hainan, it is also considered as pirates’ shortcut to plunder this island, which is the reason why it is still desolated until Kangxi period; only a few Tanka fishermen stay here for work. When the Lingao magistrate Fan Shu went here for a tour of inspection, he wrote a poem to depict the harsh environment:
“One horse comes to the shore many times,
The old fortification deep in the desolate mist;
White waves at the border fill the eyes,
Tanka people under the yellow straw hats;
Three-inch shallow eaves defend the storm,
A fist of stone the sacrifice to the dragon god”
“Shut the steering engine off! Measure the water depth.”
They have the full hydrological information at hand, and according to it, the water depth in the harbor varies from two meters to ten meters, but since it is the seventeenth century, the sludge accumulated during the four hundred years can cause a high error.
They slowly paddle the ship; Li Jun stands a riot shield to cover the hydrological researchers dropping the plumb bob.
Bei Wei knows at this moment the motorship is a vulnerable target fully exposed on the surface. He is not afraid of arrows because the crude iron arrowheads can’t penetrate stab-resistant fabrics and helmets anyway, but if the other side has a cannon hidden in the grass, steel sands and lead bullets shot from fifty meters away will inevitably cause casualties.
All personnel in the military section have loaded their guns and are vigilantly monitoring around every corner.
In the meanwhile, a person is also looking at the ship in the beacon.
He wears a heavily rusted bowl-shaped helmet and a mildew-stained leather mail which were dispensed in the tenth year of Jiajing period. The broadsword in his hand is as old as his clothing, and the wooden sheath even falls apart, barely bound together by a piece of rattan.
A soldier stands behind him, also with a rusty iron helmet on his head; he has no leather mail but a mandarin-duck warrior jacket. He carries a set of arrows and bow behind his back and also has an honorable broadsword on his waist.
Fu Baiwen was born in Qiongshan county; he has studied the martial arts since he was young and earned a title as a martial scholar, but since then he hasn’t had a chance to get elevated. In his forties, he finally got a job as an inspection official of the ninth ranking and leads twelve archers to guard this “Qiong Sea Strategic Point”. Although this place is called a “point”, it is hard to see many passengers, and on most days, there are at most some Tanka fishermen or small merchants from Leizhou for them to inspect. No gravy, cold and desolate, and the most frequent visitors are pirates.
Located at the intersection point of several important maritime arteries, Hainan has long suffered from rampant piracy. Throughout history, pirates have looted Lingao many times and besieged the county; in the eleventh year of Shunzhi period, pirates even captured the magistrate once. The courts of Ming and Qing dynasty have no solution for it but building more beacons and lighting fire when there is a situation on the sea.
Sometimes pirates anchor their ships and get water from the harbor, and the troop just pretends nothing happens, but if the pirates go deep in the harbor and land on the coast, the only thing Official Fu can do is to light the manure fire on the beacon and find a place to hide with his soldiers. If the beacon fire is lit, people living within the ten-mile radius from the riverside to Lingao city can all see the smoke, so they can shut city gates and close doors.
Every year after lunar August fifteenth when the typhoon gradually ceases, pirates come to harass the harbor more frequently. Fishing boats which usually rest here disappear in these days. Inspection archers stop being idle at work — even though this job doesn’t pay very well, it is their livings.
An archer noticed the motorship as it entered the Changgong Bay. Usually they don’t bother Official Fu for such a small ship, but the speed of it amazed him, and when the ship entered the mouth of the river, he saw the people on board with strong figures and wearing helmets and armors; he realizes it is an urgent situation, so he immediately reports to Official Fu.
“Sir, what are these people?” the archer whispers behind, “Should we stop them and interrogate?”
“I have no idea, either.” He says. Although Hainan is just a province located on the southern frontier, locals often have the opportunity to see things and people from overseas. Fu Baiwen has met Wajin, Franji and redheads, but these people on the ship are far beyond his knowledge. The only thing he can tell is they are not the people to be trifled with.
“Are they measuring the water depth?”
Fu Baiwen nods. As the ship slowly moves on, he can see someone is dropping a plumb bob behind the shields. Measuring water depth means later there will be a larger ship coming in.
“Should we light the fire?”
Fu hesitates for a moment and then makes up his mind. These comers are heavily armed, so it is not likely that they come for a good intention. Now it is daybreak, and soon local people will leave home for work, and if the pirates enter the towns at that time, Lingao people will suffer a lot!
“Light the fire!”
Master's degree - University of Iowa
Years of translation experience: 4. Registered at ProZ.com: Oct 2019.