From Calcutta to Canton
My stay at Hong Kong was very short as I was anxious to proceed to Macao, my next stopping place. Macao, the old Portuguese settlement at the mouth of the Canton river respecting which I hope to have something interesting to say next month (...)
The Steamers which sail daily from Hong Kong to Macao and Canton are built in the style of the American River Steamers with three or four tiers of decks and huge paddle wheels. The Kiu Kiang, which I saw at Canton, has paddle wheels 37 feet in diameter and machinery of equally gigantic proportions the piston rod at every stroke rising high above the hurricane deck. The Chinese passengers of the lower class are stowed away in the hold every entrance to which is closed by heavy iron gratings securely locked and guarded by armed sentries the object being protection against pirates who have been known to break out and endeavour to seize the vessel. Chinese passengers of the better class occupy the lower deck and there is a handsome saloon with cabins adjoining for Europeans. An excellent meal is provided on board. The distance from Hong Kong to Macao is 40 miles and the time occupied about four hours. The route is studded with islands one of great extent with a mountain peak 2400 feet high.
The approach to Macao is most picturesque. Captain Alexander Hamilton who visited it in the course of his voyage to the East, from 1688 to 1723, thus quaintly describes it:
'Maccaw a city built by the Portugese was the first place of Commerce. This city stands on a small Island and is almost surrounded by the sea Towards the land it is defended by three Castles built on the tops of low hills. By its situation and strength by Nature and art it was once thought impregnable Indeed their beautiful churches and other buildings give us a reflecting idea of its ancient grandeur for in the forepart of the seventeenth century according to the Christian Era it was the greatest port for trade in India and China...
The city contains five churches but the Jesuits is the best and is dedicated to St Paul. It has two convents for married women to retire to when their husbands are absent and Orphan Maidens are educated in them till they can catch a husband. They have also a Nunnery for devout Ladies young or old that are out of conceit with the troubles and cares of the world. And they have a Santa Casa or the holy house of the Inquisition that frightens every Catholick into the belief of everything that holy Mother Church tells them is Truth whether it be really so or no.
In its general aspect I fancy Macao is little changed in the present day but the old forts are in ruins and the stately Cathedral of San Paulo finished in 1575 was destroyed by fire some 30 or 40 years ago. The grand façade still stands very little injured It is built on a considerable elevation and is approached by a fine flight of 130 steps of granite of a width of from 60 to 80 feet which are still in good condition.
Anúncio de 1894
The Peninsula on the extremity of which Macao is built is joined to the mainland by a narrow isthmus half a mile in breadth. The Portuguese are said to have first landed there in 1517 and a few years after were secured in its peaceful occupation. The principal fort the Monte Fort was built on a hill overlooking the city in 1626. The Dutch have made unsuccessful attempts to obtain possession, the last was in 1627 since which time the Portuguese seem to have held undisturbed possession subject to an annual tribute paid to the Chinese Government.
The lighthouse on one of the highest hills is said to be the oldest in the East. Passing this point we see on the right the Praya Granda, the most flattering surviving specimen of this Emporium of Oriental trade. It is a fine wide promenade 700 feet in length lined with well built houses prominent among them being the residence of the Governor. The English Factory (now I believe little more than a name), the Custom house, etc...
Entering the Inner Harbour, the New Hospital, the Police Barracks and a fine New Hotel just completed, comes into view. The Harbour is crowded with sampans and junks many of the latter being armed with guns as a protection against pirates which abound in the China Rivers.
Macao is situated on the main estuary of the Pearl River and from the town a glorious view is obtained of the numerous islands, of diversified form and perennial green, part of the Grand Ladrones, which form the outposts washed by the China Sea. At the Northern Extremity of the harbour stands Green Island on which the Jesuits formerly had a Church College and Observatory. A portion of the Island still belongs to The Church and there is a large house and grounds in a very neglected state which is still called the Bishop's house. The remainder of the Island is leased to the Green Island Cement Company. With the manager of these works, my nephew, I spent a very pleasant fortnight. The island like most of the islands in the group is a huge mass of granite covered with low shrubs and ferns and the view from the summit is glorious.
The Mācāistas, says the author of Bits of Old China, generally speak English and are a kind and hospitable people. They enjoy the privilege of living in a city untouched by change as regards its public buildings and defences which remain to day as they were originally built nearly 300 years ago and which bear silent witness to the courage and enterprise of their forefathers the first to lead the way viâ the Cape of Storms to the Far East and who have here left many of the works of their own hands. These remarks probably refer to a period before the Treaty days of 1842. Since that time the trade of Macao has declined and it does not show a relic of its former prosperity. The chief revenue is now derived from the gambling dens with which the city abounds. There are many good houses the mansions of the old Portuguese settlers but the inhabitants where are they Young and old parents and children seem to spend their lives indoors.
The beautiful public gardens are deserted excepting on Sunday afternoon when the band plays and all the rank and fashion of Macao appears on parade. At other times the streets and gardens are forsaken excepting by the Chinese population which number I believe between 50,000 and 60,000. The shops are all Chinese and so far as I saw the Portuguese ladies do not even indulge in the luxury of shopping. There is a Parsee Cemetery on the slope of the hill below the Hospital. The graves are all marked by headstones on which are engraved the names of the deceased and the date of death. The cemetery is kept in good order but I could not see any indication of a Tower of Silence I believe there are no Parsees at present in Macao.
Jas B. Knight in The Indian Magazine nº 239, Novembro de 1890
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