Many friends have watched that video, and I am not lying. In the video, the collapsed pyramid lies in ruins at Chichen Itza. Apart from the pyramid, apart from the vague path leading to the top of the pyramid, and the wild vegetation among the stones and mounds of earth, there is only commentary implanted like a voice-over.
The man spoke English at the time, and he said he would come several times every year to bring friends with him to take a look. I asked him: “What is a destined person?” He said: “For example, you.”
There were two sentences in the video that were said very suddenly and loudly. I asked a friend in Mexico to identify it, and he said that it was a Mayan dialect, a little older than the local dialect, and the general meaning was: What I saw was at a very high place, and what I imagined was far away. I reposted the article, which is: What I see is ten thousand ren high, and what I think of is at the end of the world. He was leaning against a half-polished stone and suddenly opened his arms like a host. After hugging what I couldn’t see, he lowered his arms and continued to lead me higher along the deserted path filled with gravel. I followed him, staying three to four meters away from him. This distance allows the focus to be adjusted at any time, allowing the ruin-like pyramid to be displayed in its entirety and in part, while also ensuring that he is always framed in the lens.
But now, if you look at that video again, the pyramids and the sounds of people, wind, and birdsong are all there, but the people are gone.
His name is Juan. There are hundreds of thousands of people with this name in Mexico. Juan is a mask maker. He makes masks purely by hand, carves them out one by one, and then carries them jinglingly to the pyramid scenic area to sell them.
A friend said: “You must bring a pair of Mexican masks back.” This is a must. I am the son of a carpenter. I get greedy when I see good carpentry work. This is hereditary. My father is the best carpenter in the town, and my grandfather is also a carpenter. It is said that my grandfather’s father is also a carpenter.
A good carpenter never just makes furniture, he must have “artistic” ambitions while doing it. For example, my grandfather, in addition to making furniture, is best at making facial masks. When my grandfather was a good carpenter, we were still very poor. We couldn’t afford oil paints for the troupe’s makeup, so he asked my grandfather to make masks of Zhang Fei, Guan Yu, and Bao Gong. Damage the skin. The masks, large and small, used by theater troupes and art propaganda teams across the county were all made by my grandfather. As for my dad, his artistic ambition was in wood carving. My dad doesn’t make masks because there is no market, but there are dozens of masks hanging on the east gable wall of my main hall, which contain my grandfather’s craftsmanship, and more of them were collected from all over the world. I feel obligated to add another exhibit to that wall.
My eyes lit up when I saw Juan’s handmade mask. These masks are unique in shape, with imaginative decorations on the face and top of the mask. Juan was wearing the Mayan national costume, with long hair and a mustache hanging down his chin, sitting cross-legged on the floor mat behind a pile of masks. The carving knife advances steadily on the surface of the wood, and the wood pieces are slightly rolled up. When the knife stops, the wood pieces fall down. A ponytail swayed behind his head. The knife raised pieces of wood and fell. After a few movements, he began to open the mask’s eyes. Those masks with unified regulations have two walnut-shaped holes for the eyes; the eyes under his knife are also two frames dug out, but you feel that the eyes are spiritual, as if there are really two rotating and capable eyes in the frame. Focused eyes. The mask changed positions in his hands, and I clearly felt that a pair of eyes were staring at me from different angles. I was shocked, it didn’t seem that hot anymore. I knelt down and picked out a mask with the Sun God and the Snake God facing each other, with mountains and jungles underneath.
The mask’s empty eye sockets are also focusable. I asked in broken Spanish: “How much?”
Juan didn’t even raise his head. He put the knife on the mask he was making on his knees. He spread the five fingers of his right hand and waved it in front of my eyes. Then he picked up the knife again. , continue carving. Five hundred pesos, equivalent to about two hundred yuan, is quite a bargain. My friend reminded me in English: “It’s a bit expensive, you can get it for three hundred pesos.”
I replied to him: “It’s not expensive, it’s worth it.”
Juan raised his head, and here comes what really shocked me: he looked more Chinese than many Chinese, with yellow skin, black hair, black eyes, a neck longer than other Mayans, and a taller body than other Mayans. Other Mayans were tall and thin. Seeing his “Chinese face”, I determined that he should be around forty years old.
I have heard a little bit about the theory that the Mayans are descendants of the Chinese, and have read some scattered information. For example, some scholars say that during the Shang and Zhou dynasties, the Shang Dynasty was defeated by the Zhou Dynasty. A quarter of a million Shang Dynasty people collectively traveled eastward, and some of them arrived on the Mexican plateau, thus creating the great Mayan civilization. The Chinese and the Mayans do have similar appearances and very close cultures. Some scientists have even discovered that the ancient Mayans and the Chinese have “37 identical genes in their mitochondrial DNA.”
Juan raised his head and said to me in English: “Thank you!”
”It’s worth it.” I said again.
”The second mask,” Juan said, picking up another mask, “three hundred pesos. This one has a pyramid on it, which is different from the others. It usually sells for eight hundred pesos.” He did not carve the
pyramid into an upper and lower structure. , but let the top of the tower point straight ahead, and the entire pyramid is like a pyramid-shaped horn growing out of the forehead of the mask. The mask has a raised nose, with the horns of the pyramid higher than the tip of the nose. As the saying goes, before the nose arrives, the horns arrive first. I like this look.
”Sir, do you like our pyramid?” Juan asked.
”I knew you were a fan of the Mayan pyramids.”
”How did you see it?”
”Intuition.” Juan smiled, so much like a Chinese, “There is a pyramid you have never seen before.” ”
Where is it?” My friend answered. He boasted that there was no pyramid in Mexico that he had visited less than five times.
Juanbi drew a spot. My friend was obviously confused about that place. To make it clear, Juan explained to him in Spanish.
”It’s worth going.” My friend said to me. The two of them agreed on the itinerary and price in Spanish, and Juan drove me in my friend’s car.
Juan packed up his mask, stored it in a small shop nearby, and sat in the driver’s seat of my friend’s Mercedes-Benz. Before the car started, he stretched out his hand to me and said: “My name is Juan. Nice to meet you.”
Chichen Itza is not big, three kilometers long from north to south and two kilometers wide from east to west. The city at “Jingkou” is flat and there are no pyramids that even the locals rarely see, so I made plans to take a long trip. Less than twenty minutes after leaving the city, we drove through a gravel road with shrubs and woods on both sides like a barrier. The road became narrower and narrower. In front of a square boulder covered with moss, Juan stopped the car and turned off the engine. I followed him through a tropical rain forest, completely disoriented, like walking through the hot appendix of some prehistoric giant animal. Five minutes later, the sky dawned, and it suddenly became clear that a deserted and scattered high platform stood in an open forest clearing.
There is no doubt that this collapsed high platform was once a pyramid used for ancient sacrifices. Shrubs, grass, moss and gravel cannot obscure its inner order. Desolation and disorder have their own direction, and the vegetation is either distributed in patches or spreads along the lines, each following a secret logic. I suddenly had a strong feeling: it stood quietly on this flat land and had been waiting for me for many years. History and the present never meet face to face for no reason. I decided to film it. Turning on the camera function of my phone, I asked Juan to explain and lead me up a staggering climb along a path that I couldn’t see but that Juan was extremely familiar with. Juan was considerate and explained in English so that I could understand clearly, repeating the key points tirelessly.
A strong wind fell from the sky, and the surrounding rainforest and vegetation on the high platform began to surge. I rarely go to tropical rainforests. I have no experience of long winds and strong winds, and I lack even more experience of shooting in strong winds. I asked loudly, and Juan answered loudly. I heard it. I thought the phone also heard it. Unexpectedly, what was left in the camera lens was only a limited amount of vague sound that was not squeezed out by the strong wind. You could just tell it was a human voice, nothing more. Until Juan leaned against a boulder and expressed what he saw and thought like a sermon.
We climbed to the top of the high platform among large and small rocks, soil and shrubs. The pyramid is not much higher than the surrounding rainforest. We only see a vast ocean composed of tropical rainforest treetops; strong winds pass through the vast water surface, and green waves roar in front and back.
Back in Mexico City, I did a few book promotion events, and the date for my return home was coming. When I got home and packed up, I took photos of the two masks and sent them to my dad along with the video taken when Juan led me to the pyramid ruins.
The first thing that came back was his opinion on the mask: “Well done, Master!”
Ten minutes later, another WeChat message came back: “Who is talking in the video?”
I replied: “Huan! That one in the camera Mayan. He made the mask.”
”Where is the Mayan?”
Just as I was about to reply to WeChat, my dad made a voice call on WeChat.
”I didn’t even see a person,” my dad said. “Are you sure he is some kind of Mayan?”
”Of course it’s the Mayans. What did you say? There’s no one there?”
”There’s just no one.”
I checked the video I sent to my dad, and sure enough there was no one. I dragged the progress bar back and forth and looked at it three times, and there was really no one. There was a layer of sweat on my back, like hair suddenly growing on my body. In the conscience of heaven and earth, my camera was completely chasing Juan, taking pictures of either his front or his back. His voice is there, but the person is gone. The place where his figure should be was now as transparent as air; in other words, Juan’s transparent body did not cover any scenery, and the pyramid was as numerous as its rocks and trees. I fast-forwarded to Juan’s impassioned lyricism. My dad asked on the phone: “What is he talking about?”
”I don’t know, I don’t understand.”
”Listen, it sounds a bit… familiar.” My dad stuttered.
Both of our WeChat voice calls were open, and neither of us made a sound. What went wrong?
”Come back when you have time,” my dad said first, “put on the mask.” Then he hung up the WeChat voice call without saying hello.
Regardless of the time difference, I called my publisher friend. After he woke up from his sleep, he first swore to me that we had indeed met Juan, and he had a good impression of Juan. I asked him to listen to Juan’s lyrical words on the phone. After listening to it several times, he tried to explain the general meaning to me in English. He asked me to email him the video. Half an hour later, I received an email reply. He said that he carefully compared my shooting angle and the source of the sound, and he concluded that there should be someone in the shot, but he did not even see a figure. At the end of the email, he wrote that he would return to Merida in the near future, and if time allowed, he would go to Chichen Itza again.
If it hadn’t been for my mother’s call, I would have postponed my return for a few days. My mother said: “Your father is not right.” I bought a plane ticket to go back to my hometown that night. My dad has always been serious about words. If you are not careful, you can’t tell that his face has become harder, like the soil has become hardened over the years. He turned the two masks over and looked at them, and finally his eyes fell on the empty eye sockets. He rubbed the four empty eye sockets inch by inch with the pads of his fingers.
”The technique is similar.” My dad said.
”Whose technique is it like?”
I looked at my mother. My mother whispered: “Your second uncle.”
”Didn’t he die long ago?”
”He disappeared.” My dad corrected him, “If you don’t come back, you will be dead outside.”
I was a bit confused, I was actually deceived. Forty years.
My dad plopped down on an old-fashioned wicker chair and asked me to give him a cigarette. “When the second brother got angry, he yelled exactly like the voice in the video.”
The second uncle is the son of my second grandfather. He and my father learned carpentry from my grandfather when they were young. He is extremely talented. He can become whatever he learns and achieve whatever he does. My dad said: “His best skill is masks, which are passed down from your grandfather. What do you say about your literary style? Yes, the skill is better than the skill. The eyes are the best.” At the age of eighteen, my second uncle was just like Juan. , can dig out the empty eye sockets.
My dad is also a good carpenter, and his other jobs are no worse than my second uncle’s, but Mask’s eyes are not as good. Their master is my grandfather, my father’s biological father. My father is two years older than my second uncle, so he has always had a hard time getting along with his face, and he feels uncomfortable in his heart. He and his second uncle have been at odds with each other for many years. It will bring some discomfort to my second uncle. He made a lot of trouble for his second uncle and caused a lot of mischief. The last one was tampering with a mask.
Those were props made by my second uncle on behalf of my grandfather for the county Huaihai Troupe. One morning, my dad arrived at the workshop first and saw the mask made by my second uncle the day before placed on the case. Although it was not completely finished, the look in the empty eyes was already tempting. My father said that his jealousy suddenly rose from the ground. That look was so exquisite and subtle. Because of its exquisiteness and subtlety, it cannot withstand the slightest mistake. One or two more cuts at the key points will definitely make the eyes lose focus. My dad closed the door of the workshop and picked up the carving knife. As soon as the blade of the knife cut into the wood, my second uncle pushed the door open and came in. With a roar, he knocked my dad over onto a pile of sawdust and shavings. My dad said it was the first time he smelled such a sour smell from sawdust and shavings. My second uncle picked up the mask and knocked it hard on his right knee, causing the thin mask to split into five pieces. Then he continued to yell.
”Dad, are you sure that the second uncle yelled the same as what Juan said?”
”It’s been too long, and it’s not like human speech, so I can’t remember it clearly.” My father’s voice weakened, “When I heard the voice of Juan the Maya, I seemed to remember it again. Even if it’s not exactly the same, it’s still close. That smell is unmistakable.”
”Your second uncle didn’t come to work on the second day, and he didn’t come on the third day. From then on, he disappeared.” My dad’s wooden face had wrinkles Start swimming very carefully. My father had me when he was thirty-three years old. In the ten years before that, he had been a traveling carpenter on the streets. The work went from Jiangsu to Shandong, Anhui, Zhejiang and Henan, and as far as Jiangxi and Hubei, but I didn’t get any news about my second uncle.
The only remaining relics of the second uncle are two pairs of facial masks hanging on the highest part of the gable, one is that of Zhang Fei, and the other is that of Yan Hui, which was broken into five petals and then spliced together. That’s right, Zhang Fei’s eyes were round and bright; Yan Hui’s right eye was gouged by my father fifty years ago, and it became a squint. I haven’t noticed any of this in the past. My dad asked me to hang two Mayan masks on the wall, among nearly a hundred masks. My dad stared at the two hung masks and asked me, behind his back, “Who is that Juan?”
Half a month later, a Mexican publisher sent me an email. , said he went to Chichen Itza. But unfortunately, I couldn’t find Juan even after digging three feet, and I couldn’t find the pyramid in the rainforest that Juan took me to. The owner of the grocery store where Juan had deposited the mask said he had no recollection of a tall, lanky man named Juan with a ponytail. There are too many people named Juan, and there are also many people who make masks. People from all over the world come in and out of his shop. You come and I come and go. Who has such a big head to remember them all. According to my description, the publisher hired a local guide and drove to the end of the gravel road. He saw the big stone, but after turning left into the tropical rainforest and walking for two and a half hours, he found no clearing in the forest, let alone the pyramid in the video.
“It’s all trees, one tree after another,” he told me in sincere words.