Captured and leased by colonial Portuguese forces in 1557, formally declared under Portuguese rule in 1887, and returned to mainland China in 1999 – Macau has been through a lot in its four-century-long history.
Adorned with Portuguese-influenced architecture in the Macau peninsula, directly in opposition to the glitzy casinos sat in Cotai, the SAR lives on, 24 years since its official handover to the motherland, as a relic of Portugal’s once-domination over the world.
One Hongkonger and his Macanese wife sought to catalogue their home’s peculiar, yet fascinating history into words, capturing the essence of Macau’s twisting tale of Portuguese history clashing with Macanese and Chinese culture. Authors Christopher Chu and Maggie Pui Man Hoi wrote and published ‘Macau’s Historical Witnesses’ in November 2022.
Interviewing Christopher, a self-identifying ABC (American Born Chinese) born in New York, educated in Cambridge, and temporarily calling Hong Kong for a lengthy period, it is hard not to sense his thirst for knowledge.
An investment writer and financial journalist by trade, Christopher quit his job in Hong Kong in late 2021 to meet with his wife in Macau, an associate professor at the University of Macau, having spent more than one year away from Maggie due to harsh pandemic restrictions.
Unemployed and seeking to power his brain muscles in what he describes as “a COVID Disneyland,” he and Maggie spent date nights and weekdays roaming empty Macau streets. “I wanted to teach her and others about Macau,” Christopher told The Beat Asia.
The pandemic project began in January 2022. Christopher and Maggie didn’t want to pen a travel blog nor historical textbook, boring as that came be, but rather a catalogue of stories and legends about the landmarks that have made Macau a hit tourist destination.
‘Macau’s Historical Witnesses’ was born in the Sofitel Hotel, where Christopher began writing the 22-chapter book during the late winter and spring of 2022, documenting the city’s identity through historical landmarks and what they meant when Macau, Portuguese, Chinese, African and European forces entered the island-state
“Macau has buildings 500 years old, they are free, and they give you a sticker”
Championing the east-meets-west identity of Macau is presumptuous and shortsighted, Christopher argues, especially when the city, with its four-hundred-year-old landmarks, tell a different story of colourful religion, culture, and history.
Speaking with the Hong Konger, now residing in Macau with his wife semi-permanently, Christopher notes that even locals to Macau lack a fundamental understanding of Macau’s many UNESCO-listed landmarks and sites.
“Our book helps affirm your understanding of what we think is the city’s 22 most important sites: Former Opium House, Taipa Village, St. Augustine’s Church, and beyond.”
“With [Macau’s Historical Witnesses], we can teach you a slice of Macau before you finish your morning business. It’s not a history book, it’s a storybook.”
Christopher and Maggie worked with a local Macanese printing press to release a limited first run in November 2022, 200 copies locally in English. It sold fast. The second edition came out in March 2023 of 500 copies, gaining more attention in the city. The couple has been in contact with local school boards to introduce the book into English and History curriculums.
“When I die, I don’t want my headstone to be my LinkedIn profile. I want it to say Christopher had a great year during COVID, he won COVID. I published this book with my wife!”
【The Beat】Macau-HK Couple Tell City History Through Historical Landmarks in New Book