By JUDY S. LU
On Dec. 20, 1999, Macau was returned to China after 442 years of Portuguese rule. To mark the occasion, the Library's Federal Research Division Chief Robert Worden, and this writer discussed the Library's resources on the history of Macau, the first Asian seaport opened to the West.
Located at the mouth of the Zhu Jiang (Pearl River), about 40 miles southwest of Hong Kong, Macau consists of a peninsula and the islands of Taipa and Coloane. A mix of Eastern and Western cultures is reflected in Macau's architecture, life-styles and traditions.
In 1152, Macau (Sung Dynasty), was under the jurisdiction of Hsiang-shan (Fragrant Mountain). In the early part of the 16th century, when the Portuguese took control of the Asian- European trade, Macau was an integral part of Portugal's seafaring explorations. In 1557 the Portuguese established a permanent settlement there and paid taxes and leased the land from China. Macau became a Portuguese territory in 1845, following the Opium War.
Several important treaties are in the Library's collections, including a handwritten Chinese calligraphy version on white silk of the first treaty between the U.S. and China, signed in 1844; the document is in the Manuscript Division. The Library also has several watercolors of the city, including harbor scenes painted by John West, the official artist who accompanied the first American envoy to China, Caleb Cushing, in 1842.
Rare maps of Macau from the Geography and Map Division include a magnificent hand-drawn scroll map believed to have been created during the Ch'ien-Lung Emperor period (1736-1796).
According to rare publications in the Library's Chinese collection, such as Hsiang Shan hsien chih (the Gazetteer of Hsiang Shan) and Macau History of Four Hundred Years, archaeological discoveries show that Chinese people resided in the area more than 5,000 years ago. Other rare books in the Chinese collection recorded the history of Macau to the Han Dynasty, 206 B.C- A.D. 220.
Also on display were books and documents relating to the agreement signed by China and Portugal in 1987 under which the sovereignty of Macau was to be transferred from Portugal to China. As in Hong Kong, the people in Macau will live for the next 50 years under the "one country, two systems" arrangement.
Ms. Lu is an area specialist in the Library's Asian Division.