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Macao the Old Portuguese Settlement and Sometime Home of Camoens

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MACAO THE OLD PORTUGUESE SETTLEMENT AND SOMETIME HOME OF CAMOENS "Gem of the Orient, Earth and open Sea— Macao : that in thy lap and on thy breast Hast gathered beauties all the loveliest O'er which the sun smiles in his majesty." -Bowring.

The visitor to Hong Kong should not, if time allows, fail to visit Macao. The delightful trip on one of the well-equipped boats of the Canton anu iviacao Steamboat Company is well worth doing and Macao, with its history going back to 1557, when the Portuguese first founded their settlement (I think it is the earliest European settlement in China), is most interesting. The Portuguese were allowed at that time to build factories, and the Chinese built a wall to exclude the barbarians.

The settlement is on a peninsula on the western side of the Canton River, and the city, with its flat-roofed houses of southern European character, is very pic turesquely situated. It lies on the level piece of land forming the Peninsula, between bold and rocky hills at either end rising some 3oo feet.

The Chinese have always (notably in 1862) disputed the ownership of this piece of territory, but their authority has gradually diminished, and now the place has been for some time regarded as a colonial possession by the Portuguese. It was early occupied by the Jesuit mis sionaries, who established the grand old cathedral, beauti ful even in its ruin, but still towering up into the sky, and sharing with the old castle the domination of the town.

Macao was the centre of a disgraceful and cruel trade in coolies, a slave trade of the worst character, from the middle of last century till it was abolished in 1874. More recently the colonial revenue has been largely gained from a tax on the notorious Fan-Tan gambling dens, which in 1872-73 yielded as much as 380,00o dollars (Mexican), or close on sterling. These and still worse places are largely patronised by the Chinese and Macoese (among whom half-breeds largely predominate), and one is lost in amazement at the action of a European nation in upholding such things and pandering to the worst side of the Chinese character. But, for all this, Macao is a fair place to look at and dream over and it is a more pleasant task to let one's thoughts go back to days when, in 1568, Louis de Camoens, prince of poets of his time, was exiled here as Portuguese Governor of the Fort, for writing a satire on the Portuguese officials at Goa, exposing their corruption. His memory is kept 13 green by the grotto which still bears his name, and here he is said to have composed at least part of his "Lusiad " (the national epic of Portugal), and probably in this peaceful retreat he passed the happiest time of his adventurous life.

Nearly all the outer end of the Peninsula and close to the river rises a small and rocky tree-covered hill, and on this is situated the very beautiful Fisherman's Temple, as dainty and picturesque a group of buildings, small though they are, as I saw anywhere in the East. My

guide induced me to visit the Fan-Tan gambling-houses, the outsides of which are ornamental in a tawdry way the insides did not appeal to me, being rather dull and dirty. We were taken upstairs, where, round a railed opening in the floor, one looked down on the gaming-table; but the game did not appear to me to have any charm. We also looked in at a Chinese theatre, where one of their everlasting plays was in progress. I cannot say that there was any resemblance to Drury Lane. There was no scenery; the actors (there are no actresses, though the men make up very well as women) wear cheap but very gaudy costumes, and change their dresses on the stage ; all the hangers on, such as we might term scene shifters, and the like, stood about the stage and watched the performance, which was so weird I cannot find words to describe it. It largely consisted of the performers yelling at each other in very high-pitched falsetto voices (caterwauling is the only noise I can liken it to), waving their arms and walking up and down — the so-called band adding to the din, cymbals, drums, and sort of coach - horn, &c., making every few minutes a great banging — then a sudden hush, after which off they would start again.

The men who take women's parts are raised on false wooden feet, made quite small to give the appearance of the small, bound feet of the women ; their baggy trousers are tied in at the ankle. The audience, although watching intently, seem moved very little, and only signify their approval slightly. There is no enthusiastic applause as with us, though there is occasionally slight laughter.

While here I visited a charming Chinese residence. The owner was from home, but I was most courteously shown over it by his servants. The gardens were very pretty—approached through quaintly shaped doorways in the walls, and intersected by pathways lined by ornamental stone-work and plants and flowers—sheets of water, with the usual bridges leading to pavilions on islands, making the whole very attractive. The residential part of the house was very well furnished with fine Cantonese black wood and many pieces of beautiful porcelain.

The No. i Boy brought out as a great treasure for my inspection a book of photographs of London, asking me if I knew these places ; and on my saying so, I was asked by my interpreter if I would explain them. This I did, to their great delight. They were greatly struck by St. Paul's, which I described to them as our Chief Joss-House, and with the idea of the railways which went under the houses and streets.