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Macau: A Cultural Janus

Christina Miu Bing Cheng
Copyright Date: 1999
Pages: 540
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Macau, on the threshold of the twentieth-first century, is perhaps a harbinger of a new urban culture. Having been nurtured by the sharply constrasting legacies of China and Portugal, this unique city manages to meld cultural differences and avoid the destructiveness of ethnic clashes. It is thus likened here to the Roman deity Janus, who is usually depicted with two faces looking in opposite directions. By concentrating on the ambivalent history of Macau, the author reveals the historical reality of cultural vacillation between two political entities and the emergence of a creole minority - the Macanese. With a judicious use of English, Chinese, and Portuguese sources, she has provided a pathbreaking, multi-focal perspective of the last Portuguese outpost in Asia. In light of the 'decolonization' of Macau in December 1999, the author's analysis challenges the easy assumptions of the causal sequence: colonialism/postcolonialism, and opens up an interdisciplinary purview of a local instance in cross-cultural studies.

    eISBN: 978-988-220-211-5
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Plates
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface and Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
    Christina Miu Bing Cheng
  5. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    Macau (澳門)¹ — the ‘gate’ of South China — stands on the Western shore of the Pearl River in Guangdong Province, the southernmost coastal area of China. The total area is 23.5 square kilometres including the Macau peninsula and two small islands — Taipa (氹仔) and Coloane (路環).² Current reclamation projects are to enlarge its size to about 28 square kilometres shortly after 2000. Peninsular Macau is linked to the Chinese mainland by a narrow isthmus at a point called as Portas do Cerco, or the Barrier Gate (first built in 1573), which serves as the ‘borderline’ between Macau and China. The official...

  6. 2 An Anomaly in Colonization and Decolonization
    (pp. 9-46)

    One of the most celebrated Portuguese navigators, Vasco da Gama, left Portugal in 1496. He successfully sailed round the Cape of Good Hope and reached Calicut, India in 1498. The discovery of a new trade route by da Gama marked the zenith of the most difficult and dangerous journey of Portuguese maritime exploration. It also signified the dawn of European imperialism and colonization in the world of the ‘Orient’.¹ The pioneer in opening up the sea route into Asian waters and the subsequent penetration in Asia were fostered by a number of reasons. First, there was an ecclesiastic ideology of...

  7. 3 ‘City of the Name of God of Macau in China, There Is None More Loyal’
    (pp. 47-80)

    The Chinese name ‘Ou Mun’ (澳門) (or ‘Aomen’ in Putonghua) means the Gate of the Bay. It has been commonly used for Macau since the Ming dynasty (1368–1644).¹ Around 1564, Macau was called Porto de Nome de Deos (Port of the Name of God) and Porto de Amacao (Port of Macau) by the Portuguese. The name ‘Macau’ is believed to have derived from A-Ma-Gau (亞媽跑), or the Bay of A-Ma.² It is where the famous Chinese temple, Ma Kok Miu (or Ma Ge Miao in Putonghua), is situated and where the Portuguese first landed. The Portuguese came to rename...

  8. 4 The Rendezvous of a Virgin Trio
    (pp. 81-126)

    If culture is understood as the ensemble of various ‘approved’ values, beliefs, ethnic myths, memories, and behaviourial guidelines, religion is certainly one dimension of culture. In defining religion as a cultural system, Clifford Geertz writes:

    It [culture] denotes an historically transmitted pattern of meanings embodied in symbols, a system of inherited conceptions expressed in symbolic forms by means of which men communicate, perpetuate, and develop their knowledge about and attitudes toward life. (Geertz, 1973: 89)

    Geertz is of the opinion that human behaviour and experience are guided by systems of significant symbols, and culture is the very symbolic dimensions of...

  9. 5 Colonial Stereotypes, Transgressive Punishment and Cultural Anthropophagy
    (pp. 127-160)

    Neatly dividing the world into two fixed entities — the East and the West — is perhaps to simplify the world of humankind which constitutes a totality of interconnected processes, manifold encounters and confrontations. Concepts like ‘nation,’ ‘society,’ and ‘culture’ do not only embody multifaceted human linkages, connections and contacts, they are also the contested outcome of many contradictory relationships. ‘The West’ as a society and civilization is postulated to be independent of and in opposition ‘the East’. This appears to be part of the dominant strategy of colonial power, and inevitably creates false models of reality. Also, the attempt to specify...

  10. 6 Midway Sojourners, Macanese Moments and Stoical Settlers
    (pp. 161-196)

    While Macau lies at the estuary of the Pearl River into which flow the waters of South China’s three great rivers: the East, North and West Rivers, Portugal lies along the Western seaboard of the Iberian peninsula on the Atlantic Ocean. Lisbon, its capital since 1255, is located at the mouth of the Tagus River which immediately joins the sea and was once the starting point for numerous maritime discoveries. The significant similarity of Macau and Portugal is their intrinsic relationship with the river and the sea.

    The river is a symbol of fertility, life and peace. The sea is...

  11. 7 Conclusion
    (pp. 197-218)

    The cultural matrices of Macau are manifested in the repertoire of shared meanings, ideas, symbols, beliefs, and observable series of events and behaviour. They are constituted in large measure by cultural production and practices of China and Portugal. A ‘culture’ is never stagnant and immutable. Instead, it interacts with a temporally and spatially changing and changeable set of relationships. Macau’s connections with diverse cultures reflect both a continuity and a flexibility with clearly identifiable traits. The ‘whole way of life’ of Macau is encoded in texts that are in essence agents in constructing and commenting on the culture’s sense of...

  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 219-232)
  13. Index
    (pp. 233-238)