segunda-feira, 7 de janeiro de 2019

"Sketches of China and the Chinese": 1842





Sketches of China and the Chinese from drawings by Auguste Borget. Publicado em Paris em 1842 mas em inglês embora as legendas dos desenhos sejam em francês, a língua de Auguste Borget (1808-1877).
Em 1836 Borget embarcou no "Psyche" para dar uma volta ao mundo que duraria 4 anos. Em 1838 chegou a Macau cidade onde esteve mais tempo em escala. Esteve na região (Cantão e Hong Kong) cerca de 10 meses e chegou a conhecer um outro pintor, George Chinnery. Tal como o seu colega britânico, Borget dedicou-se a desenhar a cidade, ruas, edifícios, templos, igrejas, pessoas e costumes, acompanhando os seus desenhos com pequenas descrições que colocou em cartas e num diário.
As centenas de desenhos que fez viriam a ser publicados em livros: em 1842, La Chine et les Chinois (A China e os Chineses), com descrições, ilustrações e litografias, em 1850 Fragments d’un Voyage Autour du Monde (Fragmentos de uma Viagem à Volta do Mundo) e este "Sketches of China and the Chinese". (1842).
Num total de 11 páginas estão 32 ilustrações e Macau está representada em 9. Para além dos desenhos este livro incluir algumas cartas escritas por Borget. Seleccionei uns excertos onde o pintor se refere a Macau em cartas de 1839. O autor não esconde o fascínio que sentiu pelo templo de A-Ma e as suas descrições são tão detalhadas quanto os seus traços. Conta-se que terá vendido este quadro ao rei francês Luís Filipe I.
Sobre o templo de A-Ma, na Barra, diz ser "a maior maravilha que eu já vi". E acrescenta: "A qualquer hora, e sob todos os aspectos, a visão do templo é marcante e, embora imponente pela sua magnitude, o que atrai é a delicadeza das suas proporções, e especialmente, o seu caráter eminentemente chinês."
Borget faz ainda uma descrição minuciosa de um funeral com rituais chineses a que assistiu e que retratou numa ilustração intitulada "General view of Macao"...
 "Embora muito incomodado pelo sol, que estava muito quente, não abandonei o local que tinha escolhido para desenhar até que meu esboço estivesse completo. A situação era magnífica: à minha esquerda estava o Forte de Guia; à minha direita a Fortaleza do Monte; e em frente, ao centro, a cidade, que o mar banha dos dois lados; no horizonte a Lapa e as outras ilhas, até desaparecerem à distância."
Também fica encantado quando se embrenha na parte chinesa da cidade: "As zonas portuguesa e chinesa da cidade estão separadas pelo Largo do Senado. O edifício do Senado fica numa das extremidades e  na outra fica a Igreja de S. Domingos."
Vue interior of great temple of Macao

Macao, May 2, 1839
It is so difficult to describe Chinese objects in European language, that I have not yet dared to speak to you of the great temple of Macao — the greatest marvel which I have yet seen. I should be obliged to invent words to convey an adequate idea of objects to which there is nothing similar in Europe, and for which therefore I can only have imperfect comparisons. Almost daily I visit this temple,— the Chinese name of which, Neang-ma-ko, signifies the Old Temple of the Lady,— either in the morning when all is shadow, or in the evening when every stone and tree and roof reflect the sun, or at mid-day when the extreme heat obliges me to seek its grateful shade. At every hour, and under every aspect, the view of the temple is striking, and, although far from imposing by its magnitude, it yet attracts by the delicacy of its proportions, and especially by its eminently Chinese character.
I never visit it without observing some interesting scenes, some new and piquant details which had previously escaped my notice. I am sure always to find some attractive and picturesque point of view, and indeed I could form a very curious album, merely from the enclosure of the temple and the esplanade on which it stands. Viewed as an object of Chinese art, every thing in the disposition of the edifice is admirable; its arrangement, its picturesque situation amidst rocks and trees, as well as the numerous ornaments by which it is enriched. It is certainly the most interesting object of study which an European could choose. I am assured that nowhere else in China is there to be seen a more remarkable edifice, and I believe it, so superior is it to anything that I have elsewhere seen.
On leaving the town by the street in which stand the Protestant Church and the European Hospital, and proceeding towards the North-west, after passing along the walls of some gardens, we reach a little eminence. From this spot is obtained a good view of the interior of the port and the green mountains of Lapa. Nothing indicates the proximity of the temple except the tops of two red masts, surmounted by three golden balls. The road is terminated by a broad stair-case leading to the temple. At the foot of the stair-case, close by the rocks, are placed three black tumular stones, embedded in grey rock. Judging from the numerous inscriptions with which they are covered, it seems that here as well as in Europe, people like to proclaim the qualities and the titles of the deceased, for death hides all faults: the evil is soon forgotten—the good only is remembered. At these tombs begins the semi-circular esplanade on which the temple is situated. In front of the temple stands the two red masts, each of which has, at about two-thirds of its height, a large frame-work, and on the top the three golden balls which attracted our notice on our arrival. Between these two masts is the most favourable position for viewing this Chinese wonder.
If we compare the temple with our own religious edifices, we might suppose that we were amongst a race of pigmies — there is nothing about it grand — nothing severe — all is toy-like; but all its details are in such perfect harmony that they serve to set each other off to advantage. The enclosure which surrounds the temple is formed partly of walls and partly of rocks, which these sublime conservators have thought more solid than any cement which they could invent, the walls serving merely to unite the different blocks. In front a terraced wall, about five feet in height, built of granite, supports a balustrade, divided into compartments, sculptured with the greatest care, and representing arms, instruments, flowers, and figures. One of these sculptures struck me from its similarity to those of the early masters. A little child, seated on an animal, whose species I could not determine, occupies the centre; on each side are grave personages, kings or philosophers, artistically dressed; two women, richly clothed, hold umbrellas over their heads; and at the extremity the devil, with horns, and apparently terrified, is seen running away. A little grey rock interrupts this balustrade, which is again resumed and continued to the staircase leading to the terrace, and by which it is bounded. On this stone is painted the legend of the temple, which, like many of our chapels, and even of our churches, owes its existence to a vow made in a moment of danger About eight feet in front of the terrace there is a wooden barrier, so close that it is impossible to pass through; and on the same line with the balustrade is the front of the sanctuary. By sanctuary, however, we are not to understand a place covered and protected. It is simply a court with an open gallery on each side, at the end of which there is a little place for offerings. (...)
The centre of this wall is occupied by an immense circular window, formed of a single stone. This front is divided into five unequal parts; the highest forms the centre, the four others gradually decreasing in height; the cornice which supports the roof is composed of leaves nicely carved, and the roof is formed entirely of blue porcelain, and is surmounted by a boat on the sides of which are sculptured pretty little figures exhibiting various scenes of Chinese life, and Chinese houses of every description. Under the cornice there is a coloured bas-relief framed in red stones, representing fabulous animals, and lower down, a similar compartment containing four large black inscriptions, probably important maxims. Then follows the large round window already mentioned.
The two next lower divisions of the facade, which are separated from the first by pilasters covered with inscriptions, have each also their cornice, their blue roof, and their boat, like that of the centre; and, in addition, a square window very artistically carved. The lower divisions, which are also separated from the others by pilasters, have cornices of less pretension, and on the roof, instead of a boat, there is only a simple bas-relief. Then follow the habitations of the priests surmounted by carvings and bas-reliefs, and adorned with paintings.
On the left side of the rock is the entrance, ornamented in the same style as the principal facade. It is reached by a fine stair, at the foot of which stands two elegant pedestals, on each of which is placed a fabulous animal cut out with infinite skill.
Opposite the circular window already mentioned is placed the altar, and behind it stand statues and other ornaments. The side walls are also covered with halberts, a long-shaped drum, a tom-tom, and a great number of little slips of red paper inscribed with prayers which the priests sell- to the faithful, who burn them, hoping by this singular incense to waft their prayers into the presence of the divinity at whose feet the offering is made.
Lanterns, and red and yellow ribbons fastened together by pieces of metal, hang from the roof. On the side opposite to the entrance is a gateway, which conducts to the apartments of the priests; but here all entrance is strictly interdicted to Chinese as well as to foreigners. One day, however, seeing the door open I entered, and found myself in a halfcovered passage ornamented with flowers. I was proceeding with my investigation, when a bonze stopped me with a mysterious and knowing look which convinced me that it was not without reason that the inhabitants of these secluded apartments kept them free from the intrusion of profane eyes. Behind the first temple is a staircase leading to a smaller esplanade, from which some steps ascend to another little temple, where there is a little hexagonal monument to which the faithful come to burn perfumes and papers.

Macao, May 21, 1839
I was alone in my study, and felicitated myself on the unusual tranquillity which reigned in the exterior roads. I was no longer deafened by the incessant noise of the gongs and the guns of the war-junks, which watch the city on that side. Everything seemed asleep. Hearing, however, at short and regular intervals the noise of the tom-tom, I ran to my terrace to see if this was not the announcement of the arrival of some great mandarin, and if the Chinese fleet was not about to hoist its colours to render him due honours. I could, however, discover no signs of movement, and as the tom-tom continued its reverberations I rang for my servant to ascertain what it meant. Being told that a very rich personage who had died some days before was about to be buried, and that the cortege would very soon begin to move, I hastily dressed myself and proceeded to the place very curious to witness the ceremony.
The house of death was hung round with white, and the corpse, enclosed in a coffin formed of four half-sections of a tree worked with remarkable art, stood in the middle of the street. The coffin was covered with a piece of red silk fringed with gold/ The servants of the deceased, holding lanterns and flags, reclined, some in the sunshine, others in the shade, smoking and joking apparently without the slightest thought about the cause of their assemblage. Shortly after my arrival the relations, the friends, the wives and the children of the deceased came out of the house all clothed in white, which is here the colour of mourning. Their clothing was coarser in proportion to the nearness of their relationship.
The women, who uttered piercing cries, unable when unsupported to stand steady on their little feet, kept close together to keep themselves from falling. I watched their every movement with fear and interest, for had one retired from the group, the whole had fallen to the ground. I wondered how they would be able to walk as far as Campo, where the burial was to take place, and afterwards to ascend the hill. But when the procession began to move, each of the ladies was lifted by a female servant, who, not without much fatigue and several stoppages by the way, carried them on their backs to the place of sepulture. The bearers of the lanterns and the flags led the way, followed by a multitude of musicians, playing on a kind of sharp-toned clarionet. Behind them came the coffin, preceded by a long
banner of red silk, on which were inscribed in gold letters the titles and quality of the defunct, and with the end of which the eldest son of the deceased covered his face as they proceeded. Then followed the women, borne as I have already described. In the rear of the procession were carried three tables covered with fruit, dishes of meat, and a large roasted pig.
zoom da imagem acima: península de Macau: à esq. a Praia Grande e à direita o Porto Interior
On reaching Campo the procession painfully ascended the brow of the hill, where the bonze and the grave-diggers awaited its approach. The coffin was placed on trestles, and all the relatives kneeled round it, striking their foreheads and responding to the verses chanted by the bonze, the wailers all the time uttering the most doleful cries. During this ceremony, which lasted a couple of hours, the servants remained behind, and laid aside their indifference only when the procession preparing to resume its march homeward they had once more to take up their loads. The tables were brought away untouched, nothing being left near the grave but a few crumbs, some wax lights, and joss-sticks.
Although very much inconvenienced by the sun, which was very hot, I did not leave the position I had selected till my sketch was completed. The situation was magnificent: on my left lay the Fort of Guya; on my right the Monte; and in front the town, which the sea laves on both sides; while beyond stretched out Lapa and the other islands, till they disappeared in the distance.

Macao, January 3, 1839.
Praya Grande is enclosed on the south side by a high hill, crowned by a convent, whose walls stretch down to the city. Frequently in the evening I stroll to the terrace of the convent, or to the hills covered with rocks, which enclose the peninsula on the south-west, and whence in every direction the eye rests on the most delightful landscapes.
At other times I descend on the opposite side of the fort, and direct my steps towards a sandy bay, where there is a spring of soft water, to which the Chinese and the Portuguese come to wash. All this part of the peninsula is desert, and nothing is to be seen but arid shores and isolated rocks. It is frequented only by poor famished creatures, who come to gather shell-fish, which frequently forms their only food. No sign of habitation is visible, except occasionally that of some unlucky fisherman who, believing himself followed by some fatality, comes hither in the hope that, far removed from every opponent, fortune may be more kind: but, alas! after in vain throwing his net, he abandons this doomed place also, to give way to some equally unhappy wretch, who in his turn leaves it to some new comer. Saddened by the sight of so much misery, I gladly retrace my steps towards the city, and see again with pleasure the convent and the fort; and on the east of Praye Grande the church and the fort of Guya.
Macao, January 10, 1839.
Tortuous as the streets of the Portuguese part of the town are, they afford but a faint idea of the inextricable labyrinth of the part inhabited by the Chinese. There are so many turnings and windings, that in spite of my numerous visits to this quarter, I do not yet know my way, for here the houses move about as well as the inhabitants!
There, where perhaps last night I found no opening, a street now stretches itself out; and the street by which I formerly passed is now altogether closed! How many sketches have I lost from putting off their completion till the morrow! As we advance into the Chinese part of the town the fine shops gradually disappear; those which are merely clean, and where the articles are ranged in order, next decrease in number. The stones of the pavement get smaller and smaller, and many streets want them altogether, and they finish by turning mere sinks, which are hourly enlarged by the swine that come to wallow in them; — and such swine! The size to which these animals increase is almost fabulous; and their numbers, which is nearly incredible, sufficiently testify the preference the Chinese give to their flesh over every other. The rich indeed prefer that of cats and dogs, and sometimes even rats, but every one has his taste. Miserable, however, as these places are, they cannot be compared to the aquatic streets, and the habitations perched on stakes. It is impossible for an European, even when he sees it, to imagine how so many people can exist in such a narrow space.
I will try what I can do to convey any thing like a just idea of the scene. The first comers take possession of the ground, and there they place their worn-out boat, which can no longer float on the water. Those who come next place around the boat stakes of wood, thus forming a sort of stage over the heads of their predecessors, either by hoisting up their boat, or when they do not happen to be so rich, by forming a flooring, which they surround with mats, and cover in by a roof of the same materials. Still poorer individuals follow, who, having neither boat nor materials to form a flooring, nestle themselves in the intervals between the other habitations, and there suspend their hammocks; and uncertain as the tenure of this locality is, it yet serves for the accommodation of a whole family. Often a single ladder is sufficient for five or six such habitations, and yet there is neither any right acquired by one, nor dependence felt by another. Each habitation has its little balcony, from which are displayed mats and rags of every description. I have ascended a great many of these balconies, and notwithstanding the smallness of the space, there were flowers everywhere; it afforded me great pleasure to find some poetry among so many privations. They are so crowded together, that they can scarcely find in such pig-sties room enough to erect the domestic altar, which is nevertheless not wanting in any of them. It consists merely of a little cupboard, occupied by a wax or wooden figure, dressed in the best manner which they can afford, and surrounded with such objects as embellish the altars in the temples. Every morning and night they offer tea to this divinity, and light the little red wax lights. You must not suppose that the misery of these poor people influences their gaiety—no, even in these nooks of five feet square, and perhaps double that length, every face beams with joy; and whenever they have a moment to spare, they amuse themselves by playing with dice. At the least cry, from every dwelling, which before seemed deserted, are pushed out an innumerable number of heads, and one cannot help wondering where they all came from, and how so many people can possibly hide themselves in such a space...
The Portuguese and the Chinese part of the town are separated by a wide street, called the place of the Senate. The Senate-House stands at one of its extremities, and at the other the Church of Santo Domingo.
Macao, January 10, 1839.
The peninsula of Macao is part of the great island of the same name to which it is joined by a narrow isthmus, crossed by a low wall, in the middle of which is a door, through which no European is allowed to pass. At a short distance from this wall there is a temple, into which I never could gain admission, notwithstanding my utmost efforts, for there was a mystery about the place which powerfully attracted me.
Every time that I crossed the Court I heard the barking of dogs, which I could see through the gates, and which are never allowed to go out. This temple rests on the left, on a hill covered with fine trees, and on which there is another temple, so completely hid by the magnificent trees which surround it, that the first time that I came to sketch close to it I did not even suspect its existence. It is reached by a dilapidated stair, and on opening the door, on which may be distinctly traced half-obliterated inscriptions, I found that the temple consisted merely of a roof supported by four wooden columns, under which there remains neither altar nor ornaments of any sort. I have never seen any person in this ruin but some miserable Chinese, without tails, showing that it is a place of asylum for criminals. This explains its ruinous and neglected condition. It has preserved none of its ancient character, and is now only used as a kitchen by the malefactors who seek the refuge of its friendly walls.




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