By Sofia Jesus

The mountains, the sea, the Lord, the barbarians — Macao through the eyes of Chinese envoys, mostly from the Ming Dynasty: reports in the form of poems.

Poems of a Monograph of Macao (Poemas de Uma Monografia de Macau, in Portuguese), by poet and painter Fernanda Dias, gathers translations — to Portuguese — of a selection of poems originally included in Aomen Jilue (A Monograph of Macau), which was a report on Macau compiled by Yin Guan-ren and Zhang Yulin, two delegates of the Chinese Emperor.

Fernanda Dias’s book, published in December 2004 by Macau’s publisher COD, is based on an oral and literal translation by Stella Lee Shuk Yee. In the preface to the book, Stella Lee Shuk Yee explains the first edition of Aomen Jilue was published in 1751, and the poems included in it had “the double function” of reporting and embellishing the text.

And so it is. In Poems of a Monograph of Macao, we have descriptions of landscapes, as well as of ways of life, but also the expression of feelings such as loneliness — as in Wen Tianxiang’s Sea of Loneliness — or longing — as in Wang Zhen’s In Macau: “I will go to St. Lazarus beg the saints / Inquire, full of faith, when can I return?”.

The book makes us travel back in time to a natural scenery long gone and witness cultural encounters, not always serene. The presence of foreigners in Macau is regarded at times as exotic — as in the descriptions of the habits of “the barbarians'” wives — or as negative. But there are also references to the “quiet way of life” of some of those foreigners.

The sea appears both as what keeps people apart as well as what brings people together, under the same sun and moon so often evoked by the poets in the book. As a person who cannot read Chinese, this book, represents a rare opportunity to get a glimpse of views often distant, and is well worth to discover.


Poemas de Uma Monografia de Macau

Fernanda Dias

COD, 2004