In November 2022, an English-language book was launched about Macau’s landmarks, which told their important stories and moments in short chapters to provide an easy and digestible way of reading about local history. That book is entitled “Macau’s Historical Witness”, with a second edition of the book published earlier this year.
The Macau Post Daily recently caught up with the authors, husband and wife Christopher Chu and Maggie Pui Man Hoi, to talk about their book.
Chu is from New York and has a background in finance, having worked in Hong Kong for 15 years. Hoi, who is from Macau, is an associate professor at the University of Macau (UM).
From a personal project to a published book
A project born during the COVID-19 pandemic, Chu, who had started writing what was initially a personal project about Macau that he could share with his wife, and something that he could show to family and friends. “The plan was to stay busy. I quit my job [in Hong Kong] and suddenly, you just don’t know what you should do”, adding that there was a negative news flow given the global situation, along with anxiety and uncertainty. Chu said he needed something that could keep him occupied.
Expecting that the pandemic would end at some point, Chu noted: “I didn’t want it to end without me having done anything. It was a crisis, but in this crisis, there was also an opportunity”.
Taking Macau as their subject, Chu started researching the city’s landmarks and their stories. Later he and Hoi compiled their stories, the number of which would grow to 22 in total. Chu also found that there wasn’t a book about Macau which was in between something that just offered basic information and comprehensive academic research. “I wrote this book with the mindset of ‘I was the customer’. When I come to Macau, I definitely want to know more about these landmarks, but I could never find it”, adding that if he wanted a book like that, someone else might want one too.
After finding a young local publishing company which showed great interest in the book’s content, it would go on to be launched. And it exceeded the couple’s expectations.
Chu said that he was really surprised after the first edition of the book was launched. There were only 300 books printed in November last year and despite being published during the pandemic, it sold out fast, with all the books gone by March. Hoi added that it was beyond their expectations, with tourists keen to buy a copy of the book, a fulfilling feeling for her.
“I feel that writing something is not that difficult. Like a diary, you can always write something that belongs to yourself. But to be able to finish it and make it into a product? I think it’s a very joyful feeling” to have a completed work that people want to read, Hoi said.
The couple also had one goal, according to Chu, which was to have their book on display at Livraria Portuguesa (“Portuguese Bookshop”), and when it happened, he said: “We’re very proud. It’s like looking at a picture of your kid”, noting the joy they felt each time they saw a copy on display.
With the English version doing well, and later also a surprisingly popular Chinese edition, Hoi said that they plan to have the book published in Portuguese and Japanese in the future.
Making history accessible
The book is easy to read, Hoi and Chu said. With around 800 words per chapter, the book is a short one that can be read even while waiting for a bus. It can also be carried by the readers while exploring local landmarks, which the couple highly recommended. “We wanted it to be an easy book to take along with you and you can go and actually look at the landmarks”, Hoi noted.
Chu highlighted that neither did they want the book to be read in order, enabling readers instead to skip around chapters, while a useful timeline is also provided in the book for reference.
Meanwhile, explaining what Macau means to her, Hoi said: “I think Macau is like a great old antique shop. You go inside and you know what you are looking for, you know it has great value”, while Chu described the city as having “a visible blend of uniqueness that you don’t see anywhere else in the world”, a place where ideas started to and will continue to blend together, along with a place where cultural mixes can be found.
With a lot of hard work having gone into the book, the couple are determined to keep the momentum going with related follow-up projects. Aside from the translations, projects are in the pipeline such as organising school activities or workshops with high-school students that incorporates different elements like history, tourism and language to keep the project going, as well as to reach more young students.
Moreover, with two and a half books under their belt, the other being “Camilo Pessanha’s Macau Stories”, the authors aim to have their next book explore local history through its cuisine, as well as looking for and preserving more interesting stories.
【The Macau Post Daily】Catching up with the authors of ‘Macau’s Historical Witness’