Sheepskin rafts, thousand-year-old ferry tools

The sheepskin raft, the oldest ferry tool along the Yellow River in Northwest China, boasts a history of nearly 2,000 years. The airbag of the raft is made of a whole sheepskin and undergoes meticulous processes that include heating to remove hair, soaking in salty oil, sewing, drying and blowing. Subsequently, the airbags are fastened to a rectangular wooden stand, enabling its use for transporting people and goods across the water.

羊皮筏子是中国西北地区黄河沿岸最古老的渡河工具,已有近2000年的历史。羊皮筏子的安全气囊由整张羊皮制成,并经过加热脱毛、盐水浸泡、缝合、干燥和吹气等精细工序。随后,安全气囊被固定在一个长方形的木制支架上,使其能够用于在水面上运送人员和货物。

It is said that the largest sheepskin raft in old times consisted of more than 600 sheepskin airbags, with an impressive length of 22 meters and a width of 7 meters. It was capable of carrying around 30 tons of goods and drifting over 200 kilometers in one day, making it as formidable as a steamship. No wonder that there was a local saying: "A sheepskin raft can rival a warship."

据说,古代最大的羊皮筏子由600余个羊皮气囊组成,长22米,宽7米。它能够在一天之内运载30吨左右的货物,漂流200余公里,使它成为一艘强大的蒸汽船。难怪当地有这样一句话:“羊皮筏子赛军舰。”  

In the early 20th century, before the 1950s, when railways were not yet in operation and road traffic was inconvenient, the sheepskin raft served as the most important means of transportation for residents inhabiting along the Yellow River.

在20世纪50年代以前,铁路尚未开通,道路交通不便,羊皮筏子是居住在黄河沿岸的居民最重要的交通工具。

However, with the rapid development of society, the sheepskin raft has largely fulfilled its historical role in transporting people and goods. Nowadays, it can only be found along the banks of the Yellow River in cities such as Lanzhou and Baiyin in Gansu province, Zhongwei in Ningxia Hui autonomous region. It has become a tool for people to ferry on the Yellow River for sightseeing and leisure.

然而,随着社会的快速发展,羊皮筏子在很大程度上完成了它运送人和货物的历史作用。如今,它只能在甘肃省的兰州和白银,宁夏回族自治区的中卫等城市的黄河岸边找到。它已成为人们在黄河上摆渡观光休闲的工具。

Today only some of the older generation of rafters still operate the traditional sheepskin rafts, who are inheritors and are helping to preserve the ancient craft. The younger generations are not willing to continue the operation and choosing to pursue other business opportunities on the riverbank.

今天,只有一些老一辈的筏子客还在操作传统的羊皮筏子,他们是继承者,传承保护着古老的工艺。年轻的一代人不愿意继续经营,而选择在河岸上寻找其他商业机会。

来源:China Daily(版权归原作者所有,如有侵权请联系删除)

翻译:汪霺

编辑:汪霺