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230 China Review International: Vol. 5, No. 1, Spring 1998 Jonathan Porter. Macau, the Imaginary City: Culture and Society, 1557 to Present. New Perspectives in Asian Studies, vol. 195. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1996. x, 240 pp. Hardcover, isbn 0-8133-2836-5. Lo Shiu Hing. Political Development in Macau. Hong Kong: Chinese University Press, 1995. xxix, 300 pp. Paperback, isbn 962-201-658-8. Many learned monographs on Macau have appeared since the late 1980s, but these are mostly in Portuguese and Chinese. The two books reviewed here are rare examples of English-language works on this subject. The first tide considers the entire history of Macau; the second is restricted to more recent times, mainly to the last two decades. I shall therefore look at the historical account first. Porter defines his work as "an essay in cultural history." It does not follow a strict chronological arrangement but rather examines Macau's past in terms of "a series of images." Macau is presented "as a place in its own right and as a threshold between two larger worlds," namely China and Portugal or Europe (p. 8). Porter's book is a gracefully written account combining personal experience with scholarly expertise, but it is equally true that the topics covered by this study do not really present anything new from an academic standpoint. Macau's history has nearly always been understood as a series of encounters between different cultures , irrespective of whether these concerned the arts, daily life, politics, commerce , and so on. If there is anything remarkable about Porter's work, other than its refined language, it is perhaps that the author has tried to balance his views between both sides, the Portuguese and the Chinese, and that he has attempted to place Macau's role in a greater geographical context—that of South China. By and large, this observation concerns all chapters, including the ones on the city's urban development, its architecture and fine arts, the different facets of its religious life, its administrative structure, and so on. And yet, some doubts remain : Porter quotes a large number of Chinese sources, but Portuguese-language works are clearly underutilized. In some sense this is "mended" by the author's effort to delve into the deeper layers of the Portuguese mind. Now and then, however, gaps of factual knowledge are arbitrarily filled by resorting to the accounts of English and American visitors who stayed in Macau during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The importance of these observers is clearly inflated and their views are not always critically assessed. Harriet Low, for© 1998 by University example, is but a marginal figure in the history ofMacau, and her opinions do ofHawai'i Pressnot always reflect the "real" situation. Dozens of Portuguese sources could have been used to give inside views on the times and on the things diis lady was able to experience in Macau. Questions also arise in connection with the role of Rong Reviews 231 Hong. Saying he was a "mirror image" ofJohann Adam Schall von Bell (p. 125), the great Jesuit who helped to spare Macau from destruction when the Qing ordered the evacuation of China's coastal areas to defend themselves against the Zheng clan, is an extremely courageous remark. Nor do I think that the Protestant Cemetery and the presence of Protestant missionaries in Macau were as important for this city as the audior tends to suggest. Incidentally, for the Protestant Cemetery, readers may now be referred to Bernard Mellor's beautiful edition of the works by Lindsay and May Ride (Hong Kong, 1996). There are a few additional details that might be pointed out here. In discussing Macau's urban development, Porter should have given more attention to the issue ofland reclamation. The Macau peninsula's shorelines on the maps in chapter 6 (pp. 182 and 184) are not accurately drawn. Labeling the work ofthe Jesuits as "aggressive evangelism" surely would not appeal to everyone (p. 58). The more correct name of the captain who ruled Malacca from 1511 to 1514 is Rui de Brito Patalim (p. 63). There are also some incorrect pinyin transcriptions (for example, Xiyuji, on p. 170). Several...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9367
Print ISSN
1069-5834
Pages
pp. 230-235
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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