Poetry and Literature / China and Macao


Wang Chun*


For four-hundred years Chinese as well as Westerners have resided in Macao side by side. Macao's history is composed of both Eastern and Western elements, enabling Macao to function as a bridge whereupon China came into contact with Portugal and other Latin speaking countries. The unique value of Macao's multicultural heritage is vividly displayed in its Chinese and Western architectural forms, in the many languages spoken, its unique cultural traditions, and the myriad religions practised. Amongst its many crosscultural characteristics, the most immediately recognisable and perhaps the most representative is Macao's mix-blood people born of two races and cultures — the Macanese.

The Macanese, as a product of Macao's special historical process, are Eurasians who are Portuguese culturally and Catholic spiritually. The majority of them have mixed Chinese and Portuguese blood. In their primarily Western and Catholic collective psyche, there are also Chinese cultural genes blended in.

As Leonel Alves in his poem Filho de Macau (lit: Son of Macao) describes:

"Cabelos que se tornam sempre escuros,

Olhos chineses e nariz ariano,

Costas orientais, peito lusitano,


Coração chinês e alma portuguesa.

Casa com a chinesa por instinto,

[...]. "1

("Dark is forever the colour of the hair,

Chinese eyes, Aryan nose,

Asian spine, Portuguese chest,


Heart Chinese, soul Portuguese.

Following one's inner nature's call, a Chinese maiden's wed,


Leonel Alves' portrait of himself is shared as a common identity by many Macanese today.

On the one hand, Macanese people are as they so assert themselves, genuinely 'filhos da terra' ('sons and daughters of the soil') and 'one-hundred percent Macao's people'. Yet their link-age with China cannot be severed; not only are they related in blood to the Chinese, they are also attached to China emotionally and intellectually. As the former Portuguese Cultural Attaché in China, Jorge Morbey noted, they are: "[...] the common legacy of China and Portugal [...]"2 bequeathed by Macao history from the past four-hundred years.

However, for a long time this "common legacy" has lain neglected by the people in Macao, not receiving any of the attention and care it deserves. Research on this particular racial group has been scanty. From a literary point of view, there are quite a few outstanding writers and works amongst the Macanese, some of them profoundly provocative. Owing to various reasons, mostly linguistic obstacles, we have yet to set foot into this literary pasture which has lain right next to us. For many many years now we have ignored this lovely flower which blooms among us. If we were to comprehend Macao as a totality when we speak of literature in Macao, this neglect is indeed a grave omission.

The following article is meant to address this neglect, and to explore this virgin land which has not been tilled up to now. It expresses my views on major Macanese authors, works, and tries to define the cultural importance of Macanese literature. Hopefully, the existence and significance of Macanese literature can be recognised within the context of literature in Macao as a whole.



The 'Portugueses Macaenses' ('Portuguese from Macanese descent' — plural) are known in Guangdongnese as 'to-sang' and in Portuguese as 'Macaense'('Macanese') or 'filhos da terra'. Official documents refer to them as "Habitantes da Ascendência Portuguesa"("Residents of Portuguese Descent"). Definition of Macaense is ambiguous. By general consensus — it means:

1. Macao born Portuguese which parents are both Portuguese;

2. Macao born people with mixed Chinese-Portuguese blood; and

3. Portuguese who, though not Macao born, came to Macao to settle and became assimilated with the locals.

Some people include those Portuguese-speaking Chinese who have no Portuguese ancestry but have grown up in a Portuguese cultural milieu and maintain close ties with Portuguese. Some [Portuguese] academic treatises currently in circulation also define "Macaense" as Eurasian people who are born in Macao and who identify themselves with Portuguese culture and Catholicism. 3 The Macanese legislator and lawyer Leonel Alves, expressed his personal opinion on the uncertainty of the definition of the term 'Macaense':"[...] a typical Macanese has to be Macao born or a Eurasian with partial Portuguese blood", mostly the mix of Portuguese and Chinese blood. In addition to the typical Macanese, Leonel Alves also classified several other types according to custom into the ‘Macaense’category and listed them as follows: "[...] racially Portuguese Macao residents who were born in Macao; [...] Portuguese Macao residents who were not born in Macao but have assimilated into the local culture; [... and] Portuguese speaking Chinese people who had received a Portuguese education since childhood and have blended well into local Portuguese society."

I think Leonel Alves classification gives a clearer picture and the Macanese mentioned in the following discourse would be Leonel Alves’ "Macaense típico"("typical Macanese"). Macanese literature, by extension, would refer to the works produced by this particular group of people.


As stated above, Macanese are a special ethnic group formed in the historical process of Macao. Their origins reach far back, and they are quintessential examples of East blending with West. No systematic research, however, has been conducted on any aspect of this particular group. Literature is no exception. Before the present article, the works written by Macanese authors have never been treated as literature, neither is there any record which may suggest that someone has attempted to gather together literary materials systematically. The few essays which deal with writings produced by Macanese authors mostly concentrated on their linguistic aspect, i. e., "The Macao Portuguese — a language based on sixteenth and seventeenth century Portuguese with a few Guandongnese elements blended in [...]"4 — used in their works. The most noteworthy of these articles is Poesia tradicional de Macau (lit.: Traditional Poetry from Macao) by Graciete Nogueira Batalha in the journal "Macau". Batalha's article discusses the writing of traditional poetry within the Portuguese speaking groups in Macao. Its major emphasis is still on the classification of the multi-faceted linguistic influences on "o Português de Macau" ("the Portuguese [dialect] of Macao") but the article does touch upon some issues concerning Macanese literature. Graciete Batalha raised the question, for instance, as to why have only a few Macanese works survived in the last four-hundred years. She also mentioned two personages from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries who, out of respect and enthusiasm, gathered and published some Macanese verses. Graciete Batalha's essay is the only one which regards Macanese literature as an independent entity to be explored on its own. 5 If we ask why there has been such neglect, the answer lies mainly, as far as Macao Chinese are concerned, on linguistic difficulties; but the fact that the Chinese rarely communicated with the Macanese, had neither cared nor understood their situation, also has contributed to this general oversight. As to the Portuguese, one scholar is of the opinion that since Macanese literature is comprised of not many works and authors, it has not enough weight to merit attention. Also, it has become a habit on the part of the Portuguese to treat Macanese literature as part of Portuguese literature since the language used is Portuguese. It is only recently that Macanese people began to be recognised as a separate ethnic group.

In the past six months I have carefully studied materials on Macanese literature, read and translated some original works, also interviewed some authors, their families, and other people concerned. Based on the information gathered and subsequent research I thought that it is now time to establish an independent literary image for Macanese literature.

Both in Portuguese as in Chinese the expressions 'Português Macaense' ('Portuguese from Macanese descent') and ‘filho da terra’ are not only different in their structure but have a different meaning from the plain Portuguese word: 'Português' ('Portuguese'). The Portuguese word 'Macaense' ('Macanese') is translated in Chinese as ‘tusheng ’ which, reconverted again in Portuguese is equivalent to saying 'nascido na terra' ('born in the land' ). Regarding the expression 'filhos da terra' ('sons and daughters of the soil'), the translator of the Chinese edition of Ana Maria Amaro's Filhos da Terra explains it the following manner: "Regarding the way of translating the expression 'filhos da terra', I think it is necessary to add a short explanation: Both in Chinese language and culture the most common expression is 'born in the land', an expression with negative connotations." However in Portuguese this concept is not valid.

In Chinese the word 'Macanese' or 'tusheng' (or 'to-sang') is a southern regionalism which means 'indigenous' or 'native', which are words more popularly used in the northern regions of China. Because the definition of 'filhos da terra' is far from flatering I feel that the expression 'natural of Macao' may be an adequate [Chinese] translation.

I would like to emphasise that in Portuguese there is a diference between 'Macaense' and 'filho da terra', respectivelly corresponding to 'natural de Macau' ('natural of Macao') and 'Português' ('Portuguese'). In reality, this diferentiation reveals the particular and unique characteristics of the referenced group. In fact, because neither in Portuguese nor in Chinese the appellation 'Macanese' unambiguously implies a Portuguese or a Chinese person, despite such person being 'natural of Macao', then at a literary level it would be logical to conclude that the literature produced by the 'Macanese' can only be called 'Macanese literature'.

Filhos da Terra states that geneticaly, the Macanese are an extremely rich racial group; and that on the cultural level they represent the crossing between diferent cultures. The literary works produced by this community, despite using Portuguese as their basic writen language in both the intellectual and affective realms as well as in its thinking methodology, behavioural symbolism, moral values and in their aesthetical preferences, expose the testimonies of its hierarchical strata, of its particular social environment and of its historical context's influence. These special characteristics which are the artistic merits of Macanese literature differ from the Chinese authors as well as from the Portuguese from metropolitan Portugal.

Although Macanese literature is not vast, it has a respectable history. The periodical "Ta-Ssi-Yang-Kuo" published Macanese poems more than one hundred years old. In a collection entitled « Folk-lore» macaista: adivinhas (literally: Macanese «Folk-lore»: riddles), 6 it is hypothesised that these sing-songs might be even older.

I feel that, further research on Macanese literature might unravel more works thus enriching this area of study. Besides, the themes, language and the style of the Macanese literary works have a particular stature which sharply and distinctively manifest the status of their authors as 'Macanese' or 'sons and daughters of the soil'. This original literary corpus from the general writing production of Macao can be classified as an independant phenomena.


Because lack of material regarding the history of Macanese literature makes impossible at present to establish a comprehensive vision of this independant phenomena with the so far collected information, in order to determine a logical development of the researched topic as a connecting device of the studied and analysed works, it will be first summarily commented a chronological listing of the afterwards discussed Macanese literature.

By the end of the nineteenth century [1899-1900] the Portuguese from Macanese descent, João Feliciano Marques Pereira, published in the periodical "Ta-Ssi-Yang-Kuo" a compilation of twenty-one poems under the generic title of «Folk-lore» macaista: adivinhas. 7

Early this century, the Portuguese Leopoldo Barreiros republished in the periodical "Renascimento"8 most of these poems, and added a few others. It has not been possible so far to determine neither the epoch nor the authorship of such poems which, at present, are considered the oldest samples of Macanese literature.

The "Ta-Ssi-Yang-Kuo" also published a number of other poems writen by poetas "macaístas" ('Macanese' or 'native of Macao') from the early nineteenth century, such as Ajuste de casamento de Nhi Pancha cô Nhum Vicente (lit.: The wedding agreement between maiden [lit.: little girl] Pancha with master Vicente)9 by José Baptista Miranda de Lima; Em 23 de Dezembro (lit.: On the 23rd of December), 10and Dizia o nosso poeta Francisco de Sá, a senhora bem o sabe (lit.: So it said our poet Francisco de Sá, you know it my lady) by A. J. Ruas. Under the title Uma poesia macaísta (lit.: A Macanese Poetry)12 it was published in this same periodical a letter by the famous Portuguese philologist José Leite de Vasconcelos addressed to João Francisco Marques Pereira drawing attention to another poem by Miranda de Lima entitled Dealogo entre 2 Pacatos Na Rua Direita Na Noite de 13 de Mayo de 1824 (lit.: Dialogue between to Peaceful Men in the Direita Street on the Night of the 13th of May 1824).

Besides these Ana Maria Amaro also published in her book Filhos da Terra, the poem of a Macanese song, entitled Amor de Macau (lit.: Love of Macao), as well as some posthumous manuscripts of João Francisco Marques Pereira. 13

Graciete Batalha in her book Poesia tradicional de Macau (lit.: Traditional Poetry of Macao) remarks that the Macanese poems and songs of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries contain references to archaic influences from similar Malay, Goan and Indian texts.

The 1940 see the beginning of the first Macanese literature works. Among the most representatives of these last fifty years are Leonel Alves' Por Caminhos Solitários, 14 Deolinda da Conceição's collection of stories Cheong-san: a Cabaia (lit.: Cheong-san: the cabaya), 15 Jose dos Santos Ferreira's compilation of poems Macau, Jardim Abençoado (lit.: Macau, Blessed Garden) and a novel História de Maria e alferes João (lit.: Story of Maria and Soldier João), 16 Henrique de Senna Fernandes' novel Amor e dedinhos de pé (lit.: Love and Little Toes) an anthology of short stories Nanvan: contos de Macau (lit.: Nanvan. "Tales from Macao) and another novel A trança feiticeira (lit.: The Bewitching Plat), 17 and Maria Edith de Jorge Martini's The Wind Amongst the ruins. 18

Some of these works had been previously published in sections in a number of local Portuguese language periodicals, namely the "Notícias de Macau".




Macanese authors have two cultural backgrounds. Most of them were born of Portuguese and Chinese blood. As someone whose existence bridges the gap between the Chinese and the Portuguese ethnic groups, and who in their daily life mingles both with the Chinese and the Portuguese cultured élite, they were able to experience life, and scrutinise their own existence from an unique perspective. Subject matter in Macanese literature is full of vivid local colour in which we read exclusively of Macao people and things. It is not hard to detect the Macao identity of their creators. In these writings the authors describe exhaustively Macao's natural scenery, its cityscape, its customs and beliefs; they also tell beautiful, poignant stories fabricated jointly by the Chinese, Portuguese, and Macanese people who live in this land.

Macao is lovelier than a picture in A-Chan, a tancareira (lit.: Azhang, the Tanka Woman), a story in Henrique de Senna Fernandes' Nanvan: contos de Macau: "[...] sunset at Penha, [...] pine waves at Guia, [... the...] viewing point named Dona Maria II, [...] shrubberies and trees in the Jardim de Camoes (Camoes Garden)", "[...] the Bom Parto bend near the firshermen's hut where laid silvery mugile and mullets, [...] Estrada de Cacilhas (Cacilhas Road), [...] Montanha Russa (Russian Mountain), [...] Ilha Verde (Green Island) [...]" — all of them enchanting. But, there are still more alluring places to visit when "[...] one beholds Penha Hill with its lovely houses shimmering in the blue dark night [...]"19 or watches with a different kind of delight newlycaught fish jumping in the boats' nets by the green sea, their backs arched, their bodies gleaming like silver in the sun. In almost all Macaense writers' works one can find imprints of this deep love towards the land they describe.

In A esmola (lit.: Alms-giving), a story in Deolinda da Conceição's Cheong-sam: a cabaia, even the old, scarred Macao pier embodied this unforgettable love. It testifies to the Macaense authors' profound attachment to Macao as their root and support. Chinese, Portuguese, and Macanese are Macao's three main ethnic groups.20 They have co-existed on this land for the past five hundred years. These three groups also inhabit Macanese writers' written worlds.

Descriptions of events which occurred around these three groups inevitably touch upon crosscultural conflicts and contacts, infiltration and assimilation, distinct life styles, varying national character traits, inter-racial dynamics, as well as contrasts between East and West. Macanese writers explore these topics and exhibit a rich cultural milieu in their works. For instance, in A esmola we witness the cultural conflict between East and West in daily life routines when the illegitimate child's mother ate with chopsticks while his father insisted on using a knife and fork. When the child fell ill, the father wanted to fetch a Western doctor while the mother had more faith in a traditional Chinese physician. There were, however, phenomena which were direct results of the blending of two cultures as when the child learned to speak Portuguese and Chinese naturally. Such details exemplify the unique environment from which the Macanese, a product of two cultures, sprang. The stories also reflect the Macanese's historical background which is often fraught with cultural collisions but also blessed with mutual resolution. 21

O refúgio da saudade (lit.: The Shelter of Nostalgia), another story in Deolinda da Conceição's Cheong-sam: a cabaia, tells a tragic story which resulted from unresolved cultural conflicts between East and West. A Chinese girl and a young Portuguese architect fell in love, the girl's family objected, and the girl paid with her young life for her forbidden love.22 In this story the love between the couple can be seen as an initial attraction between two alien cultures upon first meeting. The death of the girl, on the other hand, is the unfortunate result of the subsequent clash between the two different cultures. The story then becomes an allegory of the historical development of Chinese and Portuguese cultures in Macao. It speaks of the mutual attraction and repulsion of the two cultures, it also alludes to the dear price paid before Chinese and Portuguese cultures finally became merged in Macao.

It is because its authors' particular birth as a mixed-blood children with two cultural backgrounds that the subject matter in Macanese literature carries distinct cultural traits. Because they live and breathe in two cultural spheres, the Macanese authors are unusually sensitive to the varying cultural forms and ambience surrounding themselves. As they speak from their own experiences, the cultural elements in their works are spontaneous outflows of their inner voices.


Literature is an art form which refers to the nature of society. As a Macao literary phenomenon Macanese literature reflects Macao's complex social structure and its living realities in many ways: The ambiguous relationship of mutual condemnation and approbation that existed between the Portuguese and the Chinese are often mirrored in marriages linking members of the two groups.

The chapter My Father in Maria Edith Jorge Martini's The Wind Amongst the Ruins focus on this aspect of marriage in early Macao society. As noted by the Portuguese scholar Beatriz Basto Bosco da Silva: "Whether it be based on the eighteenth century Portuguese style or the Eastern imperial style of marriage as political alliance, to breach the ethnic, social, and psychological gap in a marriage of different cultures is a most difficult, nay, nearly impossible, task. Even though inter-racial marriages between Portuguese and Chinese are common nowadays, as we can well imagine, it may not have always been so, especially not from the beginning. Owing to the fear that we might settle in Southern China, princes from the 'Heavenly dynasty' neither trusted nor treated us well. At first, Chinese-Portuguese marriages were strictly forbidden; later on, it became permitted but at no time was it ever encouraged."23

The heroine in O refúgio da saudade came from a prominent ancient Chinese family that had the awesome responsibility of save-guarding traditional Chinese culture in Macao society. Foreigners, to this family, were alien barbarians. Naturally, when the daughter of the family falls in love with a Portuguese young man, the affair could only have a tragic ending. Their failed love bespeaks the early historical fact that a Portuguese man can not openly marry a Chinese woman. The portrayal of the Portuguese father with his 'clandestine' Chinese mistress in My Father and the cohabitation of a Portuguese man with a poor Chinese girl in A esmola are but two fictional cases representative of many such not quite so "[...] properly done [...]"24 alliances between the Portuguese and the Chinese.

The bastard son in A esmola, in Deolinda da Conceição's Cheong-sam: A Cabaia, and the bastard girl Muiloi· in A-Chan, a tancareira, 25 in Henrique de Senna Fernandes' Nanvan: contos de Macau represent how such relationships wrought the fate and circumstances of a particular group of people's existence in society. Through the portrayal of each social class the real interactions within Macao society is revealed. Since Macanese writers are proficient in two languages, and their world extends into both the Portuguese and the Chinese daily life spheres, they not only comprehend the rhythms of living, the ethos, and the daily functioning of things of these two societies well, but experience them directly themselves. As progenies of the ruling class, they occupy a political and economical niche that is far superior to most Chinese. Moreover, they have access to prominent, old families — many of them come from such families — as well as maintaining direct, or not so direct, links with Chinese people from Macao's lower social classes. Consequently, they can grasp fairly accurately the material circumstances and mental attitudes of all levels of society, thereby adding depth to their portrayal of Macao's various social strata.

Through their portrayal, life in Macao's native-born Portuguese upper class society as well as its lower class Chinese society came into full display. Life in that big, extended family as depicted in The wind amongst the ruins, shows how leisurely and extravagantly the upper class lived: countless servants, elaborately prepared abundant food, Chinese silk gowns and soft embroidered dresses, Spanish lace shawls (which had to be ironed occasionally), elegant water-lily like women, pleasure-seeking, sports and travel, engaging a mistresses keeping men, the elaborate afternoon teas with scores of delicacies and drinks which take place against the background of the setting sun, exclusive clubs formed for the upper class to while away their time, social events that were organised from time to time for the upper class people to mingle — a wedding reception, a charity function, or perhaps a cultural gathering. 26

On the other hand, Henrique de Senna Fernandes' A-Chan, a tancareira and Deolinda da Conceição's A esmola acquaint us with the deep pain suffered by the poor. The mother in A esmola, owing to her poor and lowly birth, has no wife's right in the house and is treated like a servant. Her own son is not willing to recognise her as his mother but regards her as a disgrace. Azhang from the A-Chan, a tancareira was sold by her parents "[...] when she was not yet six years old." She used to be ill-treated by the old tanka, often beaten all-over till her body was covered with wounds and scars. Yet the early ill-treatment still proved to be far more merciful when compared with what she had to go through in the hands of ruthless, wealthy men. The hero in Henrique de Senna Fernandes' Amor e dedinhos de pé (lit.: Love and Little Toes), having encountered misfortune and frustration in upper class Portuguese society, deserted by his kin, found a place for himself in lower class Chinese society. His experience from riches to rags told us much about contemporary Macao society. The superiority of the colonial masters, the loneliness of the Chinese, the wealthy display of the prominent old families, the variety of the society's practices, and the trade relationship between the Portuguese, Macanese and the Chinese were all faithfully depicted in the story and provide readers with a sense of vivid sketches of daily life as it existed in the Macao society of that time.

Macanese literature also informed us what life was like in Macao during the Second World War. A-Chan, a tancareira shows the suffering of the defenseless city under the "[...] roncos sinistros dos aviões de guerra [...]" ("[...] whirring of aircraft [...]"). People lived from day to day in nervous suspension; lovers feel sorrow in each others embrace as the 'angel of death' circles above their heads. War destroyed their security. And what a vivid contrast there was amongst "[...] the poverty of Chinese refugees who fled from the ravages of war to Macao and the opportunists who had suddenly accumulated fortunes in the dark corners of this land marked by a flag of neutrality and of the Japanese." These depictions show the hatred for war and the longing for peace in the heart of the Macao people and presented us with a faithful portrayal of Macao's social reality as a neutral territory. 27.

On the 13th of April 1987 the Portuguese and the Chinese Governments signed a Joint Declaration concerning Macao's future. In the accord it is stipulated that Macao's sovereignty will be returned to China on the 20th of December 1999. Macao shall then become a Special Administrative Region which will be governed by 'one country, two systems' principle. It is written in the accord that no changes will occur in Macao after 1999 for fifty years. To the Macanese who have occupied a privileged position politically and economically in Macao for a long period the Joint Declaration shook and threatened to shatter their world. José dos Santos Ferreira expressed the Macanese sense of loss, puzzlement and anxiety in several of his poems, most representative of which are the poems Futuro (lit.: Future), História duma mãe corn muitos filhos (lit.: Story of a Mother with Many Children), and Macao do nosso coração (lit: Our Beloved Macao). 28

China's reforms and open policies since the late 1970s galvanised Macao's economic growth. It also stimulated various interchanges between China and Macao. The young poet, Carlos Marreiros, propelled by this historical tide, set foot in China to have an intimate encounter with this big Oriental country whose civilisation reaches back five thousand years in history. His historical pilgrimage in some unpublished poems, including: Dragão da língua preta (lit.: The Black-Tongued Dragon) and Os liláses da dinastia Ming (lit.: Purple Lilacs from the Ming Dynasty). The history of early Macao's colonisation, the continuation of Macanese generations, the Pacific War, China's reform and open policy, the Joint Declaration between China and Portugal in 1987, the external manifestations of the internal struggle at the core of Macao's social structure — these occurrences have left deep imprints on the corpus of Macanese literature.


Chinese culture, as an ancient civilisation, has shone upon the civilisation of humankind with its brightness. It was once the origin of mankind's history. Thousands of years have passed and Chinese civilisation still dazzles with its bright torch. However, in recent times, Western civilisation has tried to rule the universe as its conqueror. Except for a discerning few who are crème de la crème in their native Western culture, Chinese civilisation has been treated at most as an Oriental curiosity valued for its exotic flavour. Not so with the Macanese as they have an inseparable attachment to China and things Chinese. Most of them are the product of a blend of Chinese culture with that of the Occident. As a result, their emotional attachment to China and Chinese culture does not bear any resemblance to the the ordinary Western 'outsiders'. Like the Chinese people who live in Macao, many Macanese worship Gonggong· (Guandongnese: Guang Gong — the god of war), take Chinese medicine, on the first day of the lunar new year they would make a trip to temples for a blessing then accompany their parents at home or to a meal in a Guangdongnese-style restaurant. In their daily practice and observation of Chinese customs they demonstrate a total immersion in Chinese with mind and body which is very different from a Westerner's appreciation of Chinese culture which can be likened to that of a bystander "[...] looking on from the other bank across the river". Macanese literature shares this same quality.

A good example which expresses this most vividly is Leonel Alves' Sabem quem sou? (lit.: Do you know who I am?):

"Meu pai era transmontano,

Minha mãe china taoista


Meu peito é luso-chinês,

Meu génio sino-lusitano


Tenho um pouco de Camões

E defeitos lusitanos

E nalgumas ocasiões

Pensamentos confuncianos.


É verdade que me exalto

À maneira portuguesa

Mas também sei fazer alto

Com toda a calma chinesa.


("My father came from Portugal's northernmost province,

My mother descended from Daoist China


My heart is Luso-Chinese

My talent Sino-Portuguese


I have some of Camões in me

And the flaws of the common lusitans

And at times

Also have Confucian thoughts.


Sometimes my temper explodes

Like a true Portuguese

But it is able to check itself

with true Chinese calm.


This native poet speaks of his inner emotions with disguise. He is proud of being Macanese, honoured to possess Chinese and Western culture. In his heart, Confucianism and Daoism are as important as Camões, the most revered cultural symbol the date of whose death has been made into a national holiday. He is immensely delighted and gratified that his character and nature have been subjected to Chinese culture — represented by the Daoist influences. This kind of feeling is not easily found in other Western writers.

Carlos Marreiros was enamoured with Chinese culture as a young child. He read Han Suyin's· novels when he was fifteen. The ancient poet Li Bai and the contemporary poet Ai Qing are his idols. When one reads these lines in his poem Espelho da minha avó (lit.: My Grandmother's Mirror):


espelho biselado

com moldura de pau preto

e requinte ornamental chinês.


Chamfered mirror

With a blackwood frame

And Chinese ornamental refinement.")

One can sense his intimate affection towards his Chinese grandmother in the emotional line delineated by the Chinese "mirror". Chinese "grandmother" and Chinese "mirror" serve as a diagram for decoding the blood relationship between Carlos Marreiros and Chinese culture. Naturally, the Chinese "mirror" has a symbolic meaning; it symbolises the Chinese culture which he adores. In Dragão de língua preta he uses four consecutive images: "ink", "ivory", "camphor", and "emeralds" to express his love and longing towards these representative Chinese cultural objects. It is a true portrayal of his mind and soul.

The fact that Henrique de Senna Fernandes is well versed in Chinese culture can be discerned from his A-Chan, a tancareira. For instance, when he wrote about the old Tanka woman dying at sea:"[A Cheung] asked monks to chant sutras for her so that her soul may travel safely to paradise. [She also hired] professional wailers to cry at the old woman's funeral".30 The following sentences also attest to Henrique de Senna Fernandes's understanding: "For hundreds and thousands of years Chinese women have tolerated without so much as a murmur their husbands' philanderings".31 And later explaining the fact why Azhang was not jealous of other women who were seduced by her man: "[their] education since childhood teaches that a man can marry a wife and have a concubine as he pleases".32 Henrique de Senna Fernandes created two heroines in his writings — Azhang the Tanka boat woman and A Luen the water-carrying girl — who are typical Chinese paragons. Neither of these girls came from the upper crust of society. They are manual labourers, artless, uncultivated, and ignorant. They are not even good looking. The author nonetheless showed the greatest respect for the beauty of their souls and revered them as 'priceless treasures'. His intellectual and emotional identification with China is concretely personified.

As Macanese are fundamentally steeped in Portuguese culture and Catholicism and deeply influenced by Western values, it is certainly not possible to expect no contention from them towards the compassion (ren·) centred Confucian moralethical concepts which have become the main representation of Chinese culture. The tyrannical patriarchal system of Chinese families where children have no independent identity, where parental wishes rule all along with its claustrophobic, 'feudalistic' marriage codes form a strong contrast to Western concepts and attitudes as represented by the Portuguese family in Deolinda da Conceição's O refúgio da saudade. This contrast then expresses itself in conflicts between the Orient and the Occident. Henrique de Senna Fernandes in his Amore Dedinhos de Pé exposes the backward aspects of traditional Chinese culture. He also extends his profound sympathies towards its victims. Amongst the Portuguese there are a number of people who have written about Macao and their feelings towards Chinese culture. Most of these writers have lived in Macao for a long, long time and acquired a certain amount of knowledge and attachment towards Macao's Chinese culture. However, if their works are displayed alongside the Macanese authors' works, it can be surmised from the works' emotional tones as to which one is closer to the Chinese as 'one of our own'.



Filhos da Terra is a book devoted to the story of the origin of the Macanese. Ana Maria de Sousa Marques da Silva Amaro notes that because of the scarcity of historical documents and the lack of ethnological data, there has always been controversy about the origins of the Macanese. In her book she lists several different points of view: "Bento da França (1897) considers the Macanese mainly as possessing "[...] added genetic characteristics, simultaneously exhibiting European, Malay, and Canarin [Goan] people's features, [...] being a product of multi-racial and crisscross matches." [... and the author concludes:] Judging from its present characteristics, most Macanese are children from Portuguese and Malay marriages, only a few came from marriages with Indians. A significant number of Macanese show obvious Chinese racial characteristics.";33 Monsignor Manuel Teixeira (1965), based on research results of Arquivos Paroquiais de Macau (Macao Parish Archives) and consulting other credible opinions, came to the conclusion that Macanese are children born of Portuguese men and Chinese women.

Ana Maria Amaro herself proposed, after studying a large quantity of records, that: "The majority who are Macanese children from prominent families, who had settled in Macao early in the period, may have Eurasian mothers". From her cautious use of "may" we can see the form of condition of conjugal union between Portuguese men and Asian women could also be very complicated. Apart from the legal marriages based on wealth and social position, there were a vast number of matches outside of wedlock including cohabitation, concubine-keeping and slave-girl purchasing. Ana Maria further points out: "[...] until now no scholar has paid any attention to the fact that the female descendants of these illegitimate unions chose to hide their true identity. What was the fate of these Eurasians?"34 This question probes further the complexity of the origin of the Macanese.

Owing to their sensitive nature, their ability to empathise with life and their penetrative perception into the true nature of things, the Macanese writers are keenly aware of the influences this particular historical background bestowed on their own passage through life.

As a result, no matter from which angle they approach life or express their own feelings and emotions, their inner soul's self-questioning: "Who am I?" is always refracted through the various artistic mediums; and these are always a genre of introspective examination upon one's own history, which goes through all their works.

Leonel Alves' poem Filho de Macau is a self-portrait completed in a state of contemplation. In other words he expressed a state of his experiential knowledge of his identity, and boasts of his possession of the blood and character of two outstanding races — the Chinese and the Portuguese. 35

The creation of the two female images, A-Chan, a tancareira and A trança feiticeira by Henrique de Senna Fernandes apparently can be linked with his tracing back to the early period of Macao's history. The distant native Chinese grandmothers may have come from the bottom of society, but the goodness and the beauty in their hearts inspire their descendants with a sense of pride.

On the other hand, the illicit union between the Portuguese man and the poor Chinese girl in A esmola condemns the historical reality of that period from another perspective. The reality of the problem of the bastardo (illegitimate children) born of this kind of union exposed by this story provides a response for the question raised in Filhos da Terra; it also brings to form the tragic fate suffered by these children. Through the art of these, these historical realities and contemplation of the soul imbued the works with a grave sense of history. This sense of history is also reflected in the writers' information toward the land of Macao.

A strong emotional tone expressing a passionate love and attachment towards Macao pervades Macanese writers' work. The profound love deeply ingrained in their hearts, forever overflowing, is paramount in any Macanese writing. They praise this piece of land, sing of its "beauty", "purity", "sweetness", and "tranquillity", they murmur about the fondness and devotion toward the land to which they are bonded in blood and bone. This loyalty to Macao originated far back in time.

The inception of the history of the Macanese is linked with Macao. For the past four hundred years, they flourished here, generation after generation, and Macao is their homeland. It is here where their ancestors are buried, where traces of their growth are imprinted, their roots are found here, so is their culture. This land constitutes an inseparable whole with their self-identity as an ethnic group, with their history. It is precisely out of the pious devotion toward this land that they call themselves 'filhos da terra'.

This unmitigated love towards Macao in Macanese literature inevitably has a stronghold on the reader, causing him or her to be moved, reverberating his own heart everlastingly. As a matter of fact when Macanese authors express this emotion towards Macao, they are simultaneously experiencing their own historical identity. Let us take a look at José dos Santos Ferreira's poem Macau pequenina (lit.: Tiny Macao):

"Minha terra,

Meu berço,

Amor ardente do meu coração;

Macau Pequenina,

Filha duma Pátria grande!"36

("My homeland,

My cradle,

My flaming love,

Tiny land,

Daugther of a great Fatherland!").

or Leonel Alves' poem Canção da fé macaense (lit.: Song of the Macanese Faith):

"É Macau terra pequena,

Mas com alma grande e leal


Porque deste infértil chão

Nasceu com toda a beleza

Uma planta de afeição

Com raiz luso-chinesa.


("Macao is just a small piece of land,

But it has a majestic and loyal soul


Because from this sterile soil

Grew with peerless beautiful

A cherished tree of love

With a root binding Portugal and China.


We can detect the authors' realisation of their different historical identities.

This feeling is even more obviously expressed in The Wind Amongst the Ruins. It is a book of memory, in which the author from a faraway country expresses her yearning towards her native land. It is also a journey back to ones own history, an account of the soul's recognition of that history. As the author said in the Foreword of the book:

"Strange and frightening! [...] recollections so vivid that it seems I am travelling backwards forty-five years through a time tunnel towards my childhood, towards my birthplace."38

"She [the author's grandmother], so far from her roots, from that fascinating island where she was born, lived, and built her family. And I am still farther away in a country where there is no knowledge of that exotic place where I belonged, [...] so that maybe, in her last moments, she held out her hand and took the small child that exists in me, and we both crossed this great length of time separating the present from the past and she made me learn to reach out for my roots, to know myself better."39

The process of getting to "know oneself" as described in the book is not only the author's personal reminiscence upon her childhood and her family, it is also both a recounting of the intertwining history of Macao and the Macanese, as well as a response to the question: "Who am I?"

History, however, does not stand still. Acording to the Sino-Portuguese Joint Declaration, in 1999 Macao will be returned to the sovereignty of China; Portuguese administration of Macao is drawing to an end. This historical change of Macao's status has brought the life of the Macanese to a new turning point, where the future seems uncertain and confused. In some of the Macaense writings a longing for the times past becomes a psychological affliction.

Past and future, retrospection and forward looking, feeling loss and confusion, all intermingle to coalesce into a sense of history, giving Macanese literature its unique ambience. It leads readers to daydream and meditate upon life, society and the individual's fate. Therefore, one could say that it possesses an epic quality, and it is profoundly meaningful.


Collective psyche is the fundamental structural core of human culture; it is also the innermost, the deepest basis upon which different cultures can be differentiated. As the physical, social, and historical conditions, which support human life are not uniform, the cultural psychology of people also exhibit great differences.

A literary work is not only the crystallisation of its author's spiritual being, it also bears witness to a people's deeper spiritual and psychic structure.

The Macanese have lived for a long time on a piece of Chinese land governed by the Portuguese. They have inherited European and Asian blood in their veins. Complicated historical circumstances have left complicated imprints on the quotidian lives forming a collective psyche which is full of contradictions. This particular psyche, reflected in Macanese life becomes one of its most remarkable traits. This contradiction is manifested most prominently in their feelings towards Macao.

Macanese people share a deep love toward their land which has nurtured them. Yet, because of specific status, Macao is a place "[...] full of uncertainties [...] "for them. João Pina Cabral, a Portuguese anthropologist, has pointed out that: "In the study of Macanese recent history, a recurring theme has been that the Macanese as a group is facing imminent disintegration [...]. This 'morte anunciada' ('foretold death') is related to the imagery of abandoning it all, in other words, the well known 'diáspora macaense' ('exile phenomenon') amongst the Macanese. And the author continues quoting the 1921 Relatório da alfândega da Lapa (Report of the Customs of Lapa) — which classifies as "tendencious" — from Carlos Augusto Montalto de Jesus' Macau histórico (Historic Macao) [Hong Kong, Oxford University Press — lst ed.: 1902; 2nd ed.: 1926; 3rd ed.: 1984]...] Each time the governor of Macao changes, rumoured or otherwise, some people would emigrate with the sole purpose of leaving wherever one is at the moment."40

No matter what concrete circumstances might have caused this emigration, it is in the end because of the ambiguity of their identity, the Macanese [...] typically exhibits an inner lack of security.

There is always a strain of anxiety in their feelings towards Macao. In Maria Edith de Martini The Wind Amongst the Ruins there are several passages hinting at this complicated psychological contradiction.

In the Prologue, the section entitled Yesterday, the authoress describes herself as a five-year-old facing the storm raging outside her window: "The Pearl River on the far horizon is turning dark brown, with wisps of white foam. The whole island is rocked back and forth by the force of the winds and rains, and I think, Will this force blow away the pains, the fears, the dark memories that lately have troubled my sleep? Will it blow away the old imposing house that I have just left for good, [...]? Will it crack its walls, bring down the roof, and transform this place into another ruin amongst so many others in this old city?"41

From the above passage, we see the rocking of the island but also the heart. Since the little girl cannot foresee what disaster the typhoon may bring, she hoped that it "[...] would blow away the pains, the fears, the dark memories that lately have troubled my sleep." At the same time she also fears that the winds would blow away the "old house", rendering it as "another ruin ".

The "storm" signifies 'insecurity', the "old [...] house" has the connotation of 'the past' or 'ancestral roots.' The author's affection towards the old home is mixed. On the one hand she did not wish to live there any longer (because it is not suitable); on the other hand, she dreaded losing it. She worried whether it was going to withstand the storm, whether it was going to become a pile of lifeless rubble. In the section entitled Today, Maria Jorge de Martini experienced another stormy night in a far away country many years later. Faced with the raging winds and rain outside, her heart once again rocks in agitation. However: "[...] this time [...] in my own warm home, my own small family tucked safely away in sleep [...]."42 Normally one should feel safe and contented in a warm safe home, but Jorge de Martini's mind is far from tranquil. Suddenly she saw, "[...] reflected in the wet glass the face of a five-year-old girl staring back at me with the eyes of my past [...]." Memories' shadow seized her heart and took her to the "old [...] house" which in her present life has become a pile of ruins. This passage makes the reader realise that even though she had left the "old [...] house" and her heart acquired had security, her heart cannot truly find repose. She could never free herself from her own "Yesterday", nor could she ever forget the birthland which had nurtured her. Just like her old self had told her: "The ruins are still standing, your roots are still deep in your birthland, no wind will be able to tear them away [...]".43 This conflicting state of mind may not have been what Jorge de Martini intended to express, when we examine her writing against the specific historical background of the Macanese it is not hard to detect how much they suffer in contradictory feelings.

José dos Santos Ferreira in his poem História duma mãe com muitos filhos (lit.: Story of a Lady with Many Children) illustrates this complicated state of mind even more poignantly. In this poem, the poet speaks to "mother" Portugal about the puzzlement and anxiety of her "little son", Macao:


"Mãe querida, meu doce amor,

Eu não te quero deixar,

Não desejo conhecer outra mãe.



"Darling Mother, my sweet love,

I leave you not,

Nor will I recognise another.


"Mother", however, instructed him to accept reality as it is.


O filho pequenino, habituado a obedecer,

De rosto entristecido,

Joelhos postos no chão,

Ergue a cabeça, olhos lacrimejando,



The little son used to obey,

With sadness and sorrow in his face,

And kneeling on the ground,

Lifts his head, teary eyed,


And he asks the angel who appears in the sky if he must, without any other choice, accept reality as it is. Will he not die of sorrow from parting from his "Mother" forever? The angel, however, was not able to give him any answer. In the end, this "little son" could only pray "[...] com fervor [...]" ("fervently"), for God's grace. 44

Macao is at a turning point in her historical development. The Macanese are faced with the task of making new choices for their future. The poem by José dos Santos Ferreira reflects the emotional difficulty of this choice. This psychological struggle and conflict find deep, passionate expression in this poem.

This complicated emotion, painful contradiction, conflicting pain, constitute part of the Macaneses' being and left a deep imprint in their literature. This state of mind of the Macaneses is not only expressed in their feelings towards Macao. As Yang Yunzhong, a Chinese scholar lecturing at the University of Macao, pointed out: "In the several hundred-years of Portuguese rule in Macao, the Macanese occupied a special key social position. Because of their familiarity with the local scene and their bilingual ability, they became the social foundation upon which Portuguese officials governed Macao. They also served as a bridge between the upper echelon of Government bureaucrats and the general citizenry of Macao. Consequently, they are in a superior position to most ordinary Chinese in terms of their economic, political and psychological position."

In the bygone days, the Macaneses' air of superiority appeared very strong to the eyes of the Chinese in Macao. However, as the Portuguese scholar Beatriz Bosco Basto da Silva pointed out: "From the very beginning the very first filhos da terra realised that the reinóis (Portuguese people from metropolitain Portugal) who had come in naus (boats) were the ones who gave orders; there were many of their own kind around, but the freedom they proclaimed was none." For this authoress, the Macanese people felt deeply that "[...] the bamboo which was commonly seen could bend without breaking, and took that as a symbol of themselves [... because...] when a young bamboo became bent, it is hard for it to ever straighten out. To avoid further pain, they accept this imperfection. Because of their Asian blood, the Macanese lived and became accustomed to this pain."45

According to the above passage, the Macanese differs in position from the Portuguese "[...] who had come in boats [... The latter...] were the ones who gave orders [... the former do not possess any freedom they sought. Furthermore...] because of their Asian blood [....]," they have to accept the painful habit of living their lives "bent [like a] bamboo". Here we recognise their private pain, the inferiority which is hidden beneath their air. This mix of superiority and inferiority complexes became another characteristic, conflicting psychological trait which occurs in Macanese writings.

The bastard in A esmola appears to be cold and indifferent on the surface, yet inside himself he suffers the greatest: "Ever since he was young he had felt this anger, an anger which came from his injured male self-respect when he realised he was different from his companions. He dreamed of the day when he could be rid of this shameful position. He gave up what naturally should be within every child's right, and devoted all his time in an effort to make his dream come true. [The...] bastard's shame [... came from his illigitimate birth, his parents'...] illicit union [... it came from his poor...] bare-footed, ignorant, utterly uneducated [...]"46 Chinese mother, his forehead which marked his mixed-blood parentage. In his heart he always felt inferior.

The feeling of inferiority is a dark undercurrent laying hidden for long periods in a person's life, settling at the very bottom of his mental activity, forming the individual's particular behaviour. The bastard in A esmola sacrificed his childhood happiness, used all his time on "[...] studying hard, burrowing his head in books [...]" striving to raise himself one day to a prominent position whereby he could possess dignity, enjoying equality and compensate the feeling of inferiority. When he developed along this line to extreme, he destroyed eventually his own humanity, finally renouncing his own mother.

From a different angle we also read in Deolinda da Conceição's book about his repulsion towards his mother's various "[...] ugly, contorted [... manners, her...] clapped hands, her chest thrust forward [...] wiping away tears with the sleeves of her cabaya [... and...] yelling loudly with that exuberant manifestations of nostalgia so characteristic of ber behaviour." Though he "[...] loved his mother in his heart [... he...] was ashamed to admit in front of others their kinship."47 The contempt towards lower-class Chinese is also reflected here.

In A-Chan, a tancareira the Portuguese sailor, Manuel was able to see the inner exquisiteness beneath the Azhang's uncouth exterior. He respected her and showed her that respect. Still, he left her in the end. This seems to imply that his high estimation of her had its limits. Also her virtues, as extolled by the author, all fall into one category: her character is "[...] gentle like a female slave [...]," she obeys her man totally and accepts calmly whatever misfortune oames her way without ever uttering a complaint. This character, which has been moulded by traditional Chinese culture, is not completely good. Demands of total submission on the part of the woman also reflect the social inequality between the story's hero and its heroine.

José dos Santos Ferreira in his poem História duma mãe com muitos filhos, showed his sense of superiority in the following line: "A son of Portugal is a son of God."48 Many Macanese works are coloured with a certain colonial mentality.

The cultural attitude of a group of people cannot be a simple structure. It is the sediment of generations of mental activity. The complicated cultural attitudes found in Macanese literature are the artistic expression of this cultural content.


A Lisbon newspaper review of the anthology of Macanese short stories, Cheongsam: A Cabaia, states that the simplicity of their narrative style — a great many of them very short, involving no dialogues, no background descriptions, no altercations — is rarely seen in Portuguese literary works. This comment succinctly summarises the different artistic techniques employed in Cheong-sam when compared with Portuguese literary works. As a matter of fact this is an artistic characteristic shared by many works in Macanese literature. It is not dissimilar to the way Chinese stories are traditionally written.

Traditional Chinese novels, especially the huaben,· after the Song dynasty, is heavily influenced by story-tellers. When the story-teller tells a story he does not usually emphasise dialogues, nor does he go to any length to describe the scenery. Before Chinese novels received Western influence all Chinese novels exhibit that feature. Western novels, in contrast, emphasise delineation of characters, have more scenic and psychological description, more dialogue, sometimes they even include lengthy passages of commentaries. Consequently, this characteristic particular to Macanese literature would appear to a Western critic's eyes as "rarely seen", while to us it looks familiar.

When we look at paragons of Chinese women such as Azhang and the water-carrying girl, created by Macanese authors, we discover that the author's aesthetic and value judgments have Chinese elements in them. Azhang comes from the bottom of society. She is not pretty, yet the author probes into her being and finds inner moral beauty. Here we detect the author's attraction to, and approbation of, Chinese ethical beauty. This inner beauty can also be found in A Luen, the water-carrying girl. At the end of the story she receives her father-in law, who had rejected her previously, with warmth and respect; thus showing the characteristic virtues of traditional Chinese women-love and forgiveness.

These two heroines are very different from women in western novels. In western novels the emphasis is on the expression of the woman, the individual, her humanity and her values; and praise is given for the strength of her individual character. In Western books we often find women struggling to change their lot. The courage and spirit they show towards fighting for their freedom in love and marriage is especially frequently portrayed. The Western heroine's inner beauty radiates mainly from the strength of her individual character, her seeking and longing for personal liberation as well as for the acceptance and approbation of her own individual values in life. Through Azhang and the water-carrying girl, however, the author expressed aesthetics which are mainly ethical, and obviously Chinese.

The happy endings in the two long novels, Amor e dedinhos de pé and A trança feiticeira, especially show a tendency towards a Chinese style of art appreciation. The profligate hero, Francisco, in Amor e dedinhos de pé after the trail of hardship, finally renounced evil and returned to the fold to become a good father and husband. In A trança feiticeira the stubborn father in lonely solitude recognised his own selfishness and went to his son's door where he was warmly received by his Chinese daughter-in-law. She forgave him all his previous wrongs and put a felicitous ending to the story. The happiness in these stories — one that is based on familial union and domestic harmony — is exactly the favoured ending of typical Chinese novels. It stands in sharp contrast to Western novels' customary tragic endings. Because of the influence of traditional Chinese aesthetics, traditional Chinese narratives have always placed particular emphasis on this felicitous familial union. Also owing to Chinese audiences' habitual expectations, a happy ending wherein the good is rewarded and the bad punished can function both as moral admonition and psychological compensation.

Traditionally the Chinese valued poetry and slighted drama and the novel. Moreover, under the confinement of Confucian thought, both novels and drama are considered 'petty skills' not to be allowed into the great hall of orthodoxy. Though rich in entertainment value, their deficiency in reflective philosophical thinking relegates them to the category of popular literature. When Chinese go to the theatre, or read novels, their main objective is to have fun and diversion. Often it is for celebrating felicitous events that Chinese would go to listen to a story-teller or see a play and a tragic ending does not bode well on these occasions.

On the other hand, Chinese culture emphasises harmonious co-existence between nature and mankind, mankind and mankind, as well as between mankind and society. Ethics and moral teaching are considered very important; moderation — the middle way — is the perfect path. Generally speaking, Chinese culture manifests what Wang Guowei· called an "optimistic, sanguine spirit" which stresses the pursuit of this life's happiness and pleasure in the real world. Wang Guowei also characterised Chinese novels through this 'sanguine' cultural spirit.

Most Macanese authors cannot read Chinese books in the original, but they can come into contact with Chinese literature through translations reliving its influence. Henrique de Senna Fernandes has read Hongloumeng· (Dream of the Red Chamber) in English. Carlos Marreiros also read the poets Li Bai and Ai Qing in translation. In addition, we must not underestimate the transformation Chinese culture has made on them. Since Macanese authors bring into their work influences from Chinese literature and the spirit of traditional Chinese culture, it should not come as a surprise when characteristics of the Chinese narrative appear in their works.

Nevertheless, Macanese authors received mainly a Western education and Western upbringing. There are more characteristics of Western literature in their works than Chinese. In A-Chan, a tancareira the scenery description cut lively and concretely into the reader's minds like a still frame in movies. "[...] the grey village hidden in the delta [...]. A lovely temple standing on the ridge of a hill, shaven monks sat reciting lugubrious sutras."49 The story O refúgio da saudade begins with a scenery description: "On the slope, perched high, overlooks the ocean, [...] that beautiful house, surrounded by a flower garden [...] and makes a peerlessly elegant mark on the horizon."50 In A esmola there are many detailed psychological portrayals. The ending of this story also resembles the surprise ending of Western short stories such as: La parure (The Jewellery) by Guy de Maupassant or by the American woman writer Kate Chopin's The Story of an Hour or even the Telefonema das oito (lit.: The Eight O'clock Telephone Call) by the Portuguese writer, José Rodrigues Miguéis. In these stories the totally unexpected ending accentuated the tragic emotions of the novels.

Maria Edith Jorge de Martini employs a lot of imagery and innuendoes familiar to Western symbolism in The Wind Amongst the Ruins. For example, her memory of the past is not told in the usual way of reminiscing. Instead, she created a five-year old "I" to engage in conversation with the presentday "I". Her memory began when the five-year-old "I" took the other "I" back to the old house of her birthplace. As an artistic imagery symbolising the past, this five-year-old is neither present nor absent, neither concrete nor ethereal in the story. The old house also has this symbolic meaning. It has the connotation of Jorge de Martini family's ancestral roots.

Linguistically, the "a lingua de Macau" (lit.: "the language of Macau", or: Macao Portuguese) used in Macanese writing has attracted linguists' attention much earlier on. In a letter written by the famous Portuguese linguist Leite de Vasconcelos addressed to João Feliciano Marques Pereira, and published in 1824 in the "Ta-Ssi-Yang-Kuo" [sic], Vasconcelos mentioned his research and analysis on the "lingua de Macau" in a traditional Macanese poem. In recent years there were also Portuguese scholars who showed interest in the special linguistic phenomenon present in Macao Portuguese. However, in the past this interest has focused purely on the linguistic aspect. Today, from a literary perspective, this language should divulge new meanings. Not only is it special linguistically as a particular characteristic of Macanese writing but also shares identical cultural tones with the style of Macanese literature as a whole.

To summarise, Macanese literature shows characteristics of the blending of two cultures. Yet it is different from both Portuguese and Chinese literature, having distinct aesthetic forms and artistic characteristics of its own.


As stated above, the Macanese people, as descendants of Portuguese, are native inheritors of Portuguese culture. However, because of geographical and blood ties they cannot sever themselves from the Chinese, nor fail to receive influence from Chinese culture. Consequently, their psychological structure, mode of thinking, aesthetic tendencies and value systems are all plural. The works produced by these Macanese writers are the crystallisation of the dual cultural impacts they have received. The joy, pain, anxiety and loss in their works are all linked to their particular mentality and emotion formed by their special historical circumstances, cultural background, and living environment. Their particular mentality is neither Portuguese nor Chinese, but in it we find the genes from both. The form and techniques in these works also share this characteristic.

These constitute the uniqueness of Macanese literature, in which we find the imprint and meaning of cultural blending between China and the Occident. To study Macanese literature, it is of particular significance to examine the cultural patterns coalesced and the cultural psyche reflected by the works.

Literature is one part of a society's cultural complex. It is closely linked to the culture as a whole, as well as to other components of their culture. The development of Macanese literature has been deeply influenced by cultural elements other than literature. Like Chinese literature in Macao, it is an organic part of Macao's cultural complex. As a cosmopolitan city with five hundred years of cultural interchange between the Orient and the Occident, Macao reflects its multi-faceted cultural structure in numerous aspects. The discovery and recognition of Macanese literature is not only an attempt to establish its value, it is also a contribution to Macao's literature and the totality of Macao's culture. As can be seen, the root of Macanese literature lies in Macao, not in continental Portugal. It was only on this piece of land, from the history of this peninsula, that Macanese literature was born.

It is the fruit borne out of Macao's soil and as such should have its place in Macao's literary garden. When one talks about the study of Macao's literature, undoubtedly Macanese literature ought to be included. It will become a component part of Macao's literature, enriching the concept of Macanese literature, lending it more colour. To explore further, in addition to Chinese literature and Macanese literature, there are in Macao also the poems and verses, novels and essays left by those Portuguese writers who had come to Macao either to reside or to visit. These three literary phenomena constitute a precious cultural treasure in Macao society. It would be very meaningful if the three could be combined organically to form one whole body of works which, through its rich humanitarian value, could establish a clear image of Macanese literature. This image would not only fully embody this city's cultural characteristics, it would also display its vivid colour in the garden of world literature.

We could also enhance our understanding of the different cultural mentalities formed through different historical backgrounds of the three ethnic groups in Macao through a comparison of these three branches of literature. The understanding of national characteristics of ethnic groups in general can thereby be deepened. Locally, a new topic in comparative literature in Macao could also be established. The study of Macanese literature provides the necessary conditions and possibility for further research into these areas. This study is only at an initial stage. Our comprehension of it is very limited. In order to understand the whole subject better, a great deal of difficult and detailed work is yet to be done.

Translated from the Chinese by: Mali Edmonds


1ALVES, Leonel, Filho de Macau, in "Por caminhos solitários", Edição do Autor [Author's Edition], n. d. [1983-?], part.1, p.34.

2MORBEY, Jorge, Macau 1999-0 Desafio da Transição, Lisboa, Edição do Autor [Author's Edition], 1990.

3CABRAL, João de Pina - LOURENÇO, Nelson, O Macau Bambu: um estudo sobre a identidade étnica macaense e a sucessão das gerações, in "Administração: Revista da Administração Pública de Macau", Macau, 6(21) Set. [September] 1993, pp.523-557, p.524.

4MORBEY, Jorge, op. cit.

5BATALHA, Graciete Nogueira, Poesia tradicional de Macau, Edição do Autor [Author's Edition], 1988.

6PEREIRA, João Feliciano Marques, « FOLK-LORE» macaísta: I adivinhas, in: "Ta-Ssi-Yang-Kuo: Arquivos e Anais do Extremo-Oriente Português", Lisboa, 1899-1903, ser. 1, vol. 1, pp.319-321; «FOLK-LORE» macaísta: II adivinhas, in "Ta-Ssi-Yang-Kuo: Arquivos e Anais do Extremo-Oriente Português", Lisboa, 1899-1900, ser. 1, vol.2, pp.515-516 [reprint: facsimile ed., Macau, Direcção dos Serviços de Educação e Juventude, 1995].


8BARREIROS, Leopoldo Danilo, ed., Dialecto Português de Macau: Primeira Parte / Antologia / Composições em Prosa, in "Renascimento", Macau, 1(4) Abr. [April] 1943, pp.348-360 (pp.349,355,359);1(5) Maio [May] 1943, pp.468-484 (pp.473-475,477-480,484); 1(6)Jun. [June] 1943, pp.571-575 (pp.573-575); BARREIROS, Leopoldo Danilo, ed., Dialecto Português de Macau: Primeira Parte /Antologia /Composições em Verso, in "Renascimento", Macau, 2(1) Jul. [July] 1943, pp.21-28 (pp.22-28); 2(2) Ag. [August] 1943, pp.154-162; 2(3) Set. [September] 1943, pp.241-244; 2(4) Out. [October] 1943, pp.338-341; 2(5) Nov. [November] 1943, pp451-455 (p.452-455); 3(1) Jan. [January] 1944, pp.88-93; 3(2) Fev. [February] 1944, pp.202-203; 3(3)Mar. [March] 1944, pp.320-321; 3(4) Abr. 1944, pp.424-425; 3(5) Maio 1944, pp.508-509, 3(6) Jun. 1944, pp.611-613; 4(1) Jan. 1944, pp.86-87.

9LIMA, José Baptista Miranda de, Ajuste de casamento de Nhi Pancha cô Nhum Vicente, in "Subsídios para o estudo dos dialectos crioulos do Extremo Oriente: Textos e notas sobre o dialecto de Macau - I", in: "Ta-Ssi-Yang-Kuo: Arquivos e Anais do Extremo-Oriente Português", Lisboa, 1899-1900, ser. 1, vol.1, pp.53-66, pp.57-60.

10RUAS, A. J., Dizia o nosso poeta Francisco de Sá, a senhora bem o sabe, in "Subsídios para o estudo dos dialectos crioulos do Extremo Oriente: Textos e notas sobre o dialecto de Macau - III", in: "Ta-Ssi-Yang-Kuo: Arquivos e Anais do Extremo-Oriente Português", Lisboa, 1899-1900, ser.1, vol.1, pp. 189-196, pp. 191 -192.

12VASCONCELOS, José Leite de, Uma poesia macaísta, in "Subsídios para o estudo dos dialectos crioulos do Extremo Oriente: Textos e notas sobre o dialecto de Macau - VIII", in: "Ta-Ssi-Yang-Kuo: Arquivos e Anais do Extremo-Oriente Português", Lisboa, 1899-1900, ser. 1, vol.2, pp.777-786., p.779.

13 AMARO, Ana Maria, Filhos da Terra, Macau, Instituto Cultural de Macau, 1988, p.91.

14 ALVES, Leonel, "Por caminhos solitários", Edição do Autor [Author's Edition], n. d. [1983-?].

15CONCEIÇÃO, Deolinda da, Cheong-sam: A Cabaia, Macau, Instituto Cultural de Macau, 1995 list edition: Cheong-sam: "A Cabaia": Contos Chineses, Lisboa, p. n. n., 1956].

16FERREIRA, Jose dos Santos, Macau, Jardim Abençoado, Macau, Instituto Cultural de Macau, 1988; FERREIRA, Jose dos Santos, História de Maria e alferes João (Versão Portuguesa de "Estória di Maria co Alféris Juám"), Macau, Instituto Cultural de Macau, 1987.

17FERNANDES, Henrique de Senna, Nanvan: contos de Macau, Macau, Edição do Autor [Author's Edition], n. d. [1978-?]; FERNANDES, Henrique de Senna, Amor e dedinhos de pé, Macau, Instituto Cultural de Macau, 1986; FERNANDES, Henrique de Senna, A trança feiticeira, Macau, Fundação Oriente, 1993.

18MARTINI, Maria Edith Jorge de, The Wind Amongst the Ruins, New York, Vantage Press, 1993.

19FERNANDES, Henrique de Senna, 1978, A-Chan, a tancareira, in "Nanvan: contos de Macau", Macau, Edição do Autor [Author's Edition], n. d. [1978-?], pp.7-18, pp. 10-11.

20CONCEIÇÃO, Deolinda da, A esmola, in "Cheong-sam: A Cabaia", Macau, Instituto Cultural de Macau, 1987, pp.27-29 [1st edition: Cheong-sam: "A Cabaia": Contos Chineses, Lisboa, p. n. n., 1956].

21 See: Notes 19,20.

22CONCEIÇÃO, Deolinda da, O refúgio da saudade, in "Cheong-sam: A Cabaia", Macau, Instituto Cultural de Macau, 1987, pp.51-53 [1st edition: Cheong-sam: "A Cabaia": Contos Chineses, Lisboa, p. n. n., 1956].

23SILVA, Beatriz Bosco Basto da, Macaenses. Quem são? Umproblema de identidade!, in "Via Latina - Macau", (3) Supplemento, Maio [May] 1991, pp.16-19.

24MARTINI, Maria Edith Jorge de, op. cit., chap.3.

25See: Notes 17,20.

26MARTINI, Maria Edith Jorge de, op. cit.

27FERNANDES, Henrique de Senna, 1978, A-Chan, a tancareira, in "Nanvan: contos de Macau", Macau, Edição do Autor [Author's Edition], n. d. [1978-?], pp.7-18, p. 12.

28FERREIRA, Jose dos Santos, Futuro, in "Macau, Jardim Abençoado", Macau, Instituto Cultural de Macau, 1988, p. 125; FERREIRA, Jose dos Santos, História duma mãe com muitos filhos (Explicação do poema Estória di unga mai co tánto filo-filo), in "Macau, Jardim Abençoado", Macau, Instituto Cultural de Macau, 1988, pp. 137-139 (pp.29-31 —patois); FERREIRA, Jose dos Santos, Macao do nosso coração (Explicação do poema Macau di nôsso coraçãm), in "Macau, Jardim Abençoado", Macau, Instituto Cultural de Macau, 1988, pp.143-145 (pp.41-43 — patois).

29ALVES, Leonel, Sabem quem sou?, in "Por caminhos solitários", Edição do Autor [Author's Edition], n. d [1983-?], part.1, p.29.

30FERNANDES, Henrique de Senna, 1978, A-Chan, a tancareira, in "Nanvan: contos de Macau", Macau, Edição do Autor [Author's Edition], n. d. [1978-?], pp.7-18, p.8.

31Ibidem., p. 13.

32Ibidem., p. 10.

33AMARO, Ana Maria, op. cit., p.4.

34Ibidem., p.6.

35See: Note 1.

36FERREIRA, Jose dos Santos, Macau pequenina (Explicação do poema Macau pequenino), in "Macau, Jardim Abençoado", Macau, Instituto Cultural de Macau, 1988, pp. 161 -163 (pp.63-64 — patois).

37ALVES, Leonel, Canção da fé macaense, in "Por caminhos solitários", Edição do Autor [Author's Edition], n. d. [1983-?], part. l, pp.105-107, p.105.

38MARTINI, Maria Edith Jorge de, op. eit., p. IX

39Ibidem., p. X.

40CABRAL, João de Pina - LOURENÇO, Nelson, op. cit., pp.524-525.

41MARTINI, Maria Edith Jorge de, op. cit., p.1.

42Ibidem., p.2.


44FERREIRA, Jose dos Santos, História de uma mãe com muitos filhos (Explicação do poema Estória di unga mai co tánto filo-filo), in: "Macau, Jardim Abençoado", Macau, Instituto Cultural de Macau, 1988, pp. 137-139 (p.29-31),.pp. 138-139.

45SILVA, Beatriz Bosco Basto da, op. cit., p. 16.

46CONCEIÇÃO, Deolinda da, A esmola, in "Cheong-sam: A Cabaia", Macau, Instituto Cultural de Macau, 1987, pp.27-29, pp.27-28.

47Ibidem., p.29.

48FERREIRA, José dos Santos, História de uma mãe com muitos filhos (Explicação do poema Estória di unga mai co tánto filo-filo), in: "Macau, Jardim Abençoado", Macau, Instituto Cultural de Macau, 1988, pp. 137-139 (p.29-31), pp. 138-139, p. 139 — "[...] / "Filho de Portugal é filho de Deus!/[...].".

4919 FERNANDES, Henrique de Senna, 1978, A-Chan, a tancareira, in "Nanvan: contos de Macau", Macau, Edição do Autor [Author's Edition], n. d. [1978-?], pp.7-18, p.7.

50CONCEIÇÃO, Deolinda da, O refúgio da saudade, in "Cheong-sam: A Cabaia", Macau, Instituto Cultural de Macau, 1987, pp.51-53, p.51.

*MA in Arts and Literature by the University of Jiinan. Lecturer in the Department of Chinese Studies of the Universidade de Macau (University of Macao), Macao.

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