The Cultural Institute of Macau decided, by associating itself with the VIth International Seminar of Indo-Portuguese History, that in addition to supporting the event itself, it would publish a special issue devoted to "The Asian Seas (1500-1800)".

Within the extensive scope of these geographical, temporal and material limitations, a range of outstanding international specialists have written articles on a series of issues arising from the impact and consequences of the successive waves of European expansion on the local societies stretching from the western coasts of the Indian ocean to the far eastern shores of the Seas of China and Japan.

Maeterlink once said of the sixteenth century Portuguese that they set off into the world like cannon balls. It would be more correct to apply this image to the spread of the Portuguese to the most remote regions of the Asian Seas.

Protagonists in the first wave of European expansion in the Far East, the Portuguese -- adventurers, foot-loose wanderers, explorers of rivers, seas and continents -- appear everywhere, even when they are not to be in the least bit expected. This explains our sub-title: "local societies, European expansion and the Portuguese."

The Cultural Institute of Macau takes great pride in presenting this valuable selection of studies, the result of the research work and cultural goals of the most outstanding researchers in this field over the last ten years. We trust that this issue shall prove to be an invaluable study aid as well as a modest contribution to better mutual understanding, exchange of ideas and closer cooperation between the two halves of the world which met and later interacted on the basis of unequal strength.

If we regard Politics as the consequence of Culture, and if we think about the recent converging explorations made by historians from both sides of the Meridian, it is natural to forecast that once the Age of Partnership (the first wave of Portuguese expansion) and the Age of Confrontation (the second wave of European capitalist powers) have passed, a new Age of Cooperation should emerge between East and West. These two halves of the world are still unfamiliar to each other but the Macau--Lisbon axis has a definite role to play in connecting the Far East to Europe.

Almost entirely throughout its history, Macau's vocation has lain in its role as one of the most active trading ports in the commercial network woven by the peoples who inhabit the Asian Seas and tightened and strengthened by the Europeans. We are certain of Macau's future loyalty to its early-established vocation by continuing to serve as a go-between and commercial and cultural entrepôt.

On a more practical note, an issue of this size must be numbered as a double issue. The fact that it is presented in two languages can be justified with several reasons: firstly, our contributors requested that their work be presented in the language in which it was written; secondly, because there is an increasing trend to do this in similar kinds of cultural publications. We have thus chosen this issue to promote the Review of Culture (and consequently Macau) on an international level.

I would like to finish by expressing my gratitude to all those who have worked on this issue, particularly to our contributors and Jorge Flores who was responsible for organizing the material.

My deepest thanks go also to His Excellency, the President of Portugal for having honoured us by writing a special message of support for our cultural work.

Carlos Alberto dos Santos Marreiros

President of the Cultural Institute

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