ITINERARIO vol. VI (1982) 1, pp. 25-42


So far we have published half a dozen interviews, mostly with historians engaged in university teaching. This time we bring you one of a different nature with an extraordinarily productive priest, Padre Manuel Teixeira, certainly among the last of the real engage historians. That is, those whose passion it is to recover the past of the living communities in which they play an active role. Leonard BlussC paid him a visit last January and jotted down the following notes of discussions held over an cup of tea in the beautifully restored archives of Macao and over a glass of scotch in the highly nostalgic surroundings of the St.Joseph's seminary, which but for father Teixeira is now completely deserted. Empty rooms, iron beds, stacks of newspapers, a forgotten rosary are the sole reminders of a once busy ecclesiastical life. Tucked away in one corner of the attic, Father Teixeira has nested himself among thousands of dusty books and manuscripts. "I am the ghost that cannot be chased away", he explains. Here follows a "ghost" story you'd better believe:

T. Well, I was borne in Portugal, in a villa called Freixo de Espada-a-Cinta in the Tras-os-Montes. That village is a missionary village. We have more missionaries from that village than all the others put together. I came to Macao in 1924 for my ecclesiastical studies at the seminary of Macao under Jesuit fathers. My professor of French was a father belonging to the Foreign Missions Society of Paris. He was very interested in history and was the only historian at that time. He published a book called: Resumo da histdria de Macau. (A Summary of Macao History.)

Q. What was his name?

T. Father Regis Gervaix. In 1925 he went to Peking and became a professor of French literature at the Goverment University and there he published a new history of Macao in two volumes called "Abre'ge' de l'histoire de Macao". So it was that father who gave me the taste and inclination to carry on his work. Because on his departure Macao was left without historians. When I finished my studies in 1933, I started at once writing history and published my first book in 1937. And since then I have published a hundred and nine books on Macao history. This year on the tenth of June I published four volumes and next year on the tenth of June - because it is a national holiday - another four volumes...

Q. I am dumbfounded! What productivity! To what extent was there already a tradition among priests to engage in this kind of historical studies? Was it Gervaix who started this?

T. The first man who wrote a history of Macao was a Franciscan friar, Jose de Jesus Maria: Azia Sinica e Japonica. A very nice volume. Professor C.R. Boxer has published the manuscript in two volumes. The book was written in between 1742 and 1745. He spent three years in Macao, consulting all the archives. Many of these do not exist any more. Then the second history of Macao was written in 1902 by a layman, Montalto de Jesus: Historic Macao, then came father Gervais as I said and then....

Q. What about Sir Andrew Ljunsted?

T. Yes, in 1834 he published here the History of Macao, an historical sketch of the Portuguese settlements in China. He was the factor of the Swedish in Macao. He used the documents collected by Bishop Dom Joaquim de Souza Saraiva, the Bishop of Peking. He arrived in Macao in 1804 and died here in 1818. All his documents he handed over to Ljungsted and Ljungsted acknowledged in the introduction of his history that he used the bishop's documents.

Q. You are not a Jesuit yourself, are you?

T. No, I am a diocesan priest. I was ordained in 1934.

Q. How is it possible to combine your daily work as a priest with writing history?

T. I was at the same time a priest, a teacher in seminary, a teacher in the government high school and editor of the Boletim eclesiastico da Diocese de Macau, our ecclesiastical magazine. It actually was in the Boletim that I published my historical articles. I was editor from 1934 until 1946. My historical articles are still published in that Boletim.

Q. Do you think that being a priest made it much easier to collect materials than if you had not been one?

T. Oh yes, sure. I have access to all the archives of Ma- cao. I am a very good friend with the government of Macao: so, they open everything to me. And then there are of course the bishop's archives. I have consultated them all. I have published two volumes on the lives of every priest in Macao over the last four hundred years. Two big volumes, the priest of Macao. I have access to all archives, and therefore it was easy for me to write history. Now take for instance the various parishes of Macao. I have consulted every single church. All the registers of baptisms, deaths and marriages at every church of Macao from the beginning until now.

Q. You have produced a hundred books. Would it be right to say that your main objective is to publish important historical sources to make sure that they can be used by other scholars? Or do you work from a theoretical framework? What do you think about history, what should history be according to you? Have you got a philosophy as a historian of Macao?

T. Well, my objective is to note down all the important events of the Macao Diocese. And to collect as many topics as possible. I publish all these documents. If I wouldn't do so they would be lost for ever. My main work is the history of the Macao diocese. That is the church of Macao. I have published already sixteen volumes and there are four more to come. It is called Macau e a sua diocese (Macao and its diocese). Because the civil history of Macao is linked with the church history of Macao it is impossible to publish about one without knowing the other. So while consulting all the church records of Macao I also have to consult the others, regarding the civil history. So far I have published four volumes about Medicine in Macao, and one big volume about the military. Then the women of Macao and two volumes about the Toponomy of Macao together 1200 pages. Now I have published the first volume of a history of Macao called Macao in the sixteenth century. This is a series of volumes (with entries) covering every single year from 1509 up to 1982. One volume or more volumes for every century.

Q. So you are really a chronicler, writing history year by year! When I just asked you whether you were not in a favourable position as a priest for writing history, I also was thinking that you may have met through your work a popular tradition that you may not have run across in the archives.

T. Yes. As Macao people have known me for fifty-eight years, they often leave me all their papers when they die. They say "Father is the only one interested in these papers." The niece of Montalto de Jesus gave me all his papers and notes. Another example: the secretary of the Macao club (built in 1857) gave me all the minutes and documents of the club, so I published a book with all these documents given privately to me. The people say: "Better to give it to Father than any body else. If we don't want this book then let us give it to Father."

Q. When you arrived in Macao in 1924 it probably was still a very sleepy city. It must have been fascinating to witness the transformation of this colony.

T. The boom of Macao started about ten years ago. We had riots in 1966 and everything came to a standstill until 1970. Since then a lot of overseas Chinese money has started to flow in because Hongkong land is very expensive. Only then they started to destroy old buildings. Overseas Chinese from Indonesia and Thailand are still investing. Macao is changing into a modern city. We are now trying to preserve old buildings like the ones you are in now, the Archives. The government bought the whole row of houses in this street and restored it. But I am afraid we fight a loosing battle.

Q. You just said if one wants to understand the history of Macao you have to understand the history of its diocese. Now this is not true any more nowadays, is it?

T. Oh no, on the contrary. The church is indispensable. You know why? Now what happens? We have social work, so many orphanages, so many houses for blind men, children, for people of all ages. Besides that, the church is in charge of all these refugees. The boat people of Vietnam, the refugees of China. We have a whole quarter of refugees. It all started in 1926, when the Russian adviser Borodin controlled Canton. We have put a church, a school and several clinics in 1982 for them near the Green Island. There are a hundred thousand people in this particular quarter. We are in charge of them. In Macao the refugees go on Sunday to the Ricci- House for rice rations and provisions distributed by the Jesuits. Whatever the U.N. gives finds its way through the church to the refugees. Let me give you another example. Father'Cardim S.J. wrote a book called Batalhas da Companhia de Jesus. He wrote that when the Manchus took Canton, thousands and thousands of Chinese people took refuge in Macao in 1649-1650 and the Jesuits distributed alms to these refugees on the staircase of St.Paul's. What they did three hundred years ago, we are doing now. All these things are connected. The government trusts us, the church. So whatever money the government wants to distribute it hands out through the church. We have nurses, doctors, teachers... In past interviews I have talked with historians who are mainly interested in histoire problem. This really is the first time that I speak with somebody who has chosen to write the history of a diocese or a settlement as his life work, a rather restricted subject. Oh no, not restricted at all. The Macao diocese was created on the 23rd January of 1576. At that time it had jurisdiction over the whole of China, Japan and all neighbouring islands. That means it covered China, Korea, Japan, Siam, Malacca. So when I write about the diocese of Macao I do not limit myself to that particular settlement of Macao. I published a book on China, another on Korea, three on Singapore and Malacca, two on Vietnam, one on Thailand. My historical studies cover the whole Far East except the Philippines!

Q. So books about Macao are rather an offspring of your historical work on the diocese?

T. Take for instance the islands Taipa and Coloane. I went there and spent many months consulting the local archives. It was very cold over there.

Q. You mean the small islands in front of Macao? Do they have their own archives?

T. Yes, I published a book only one year ago. In the meantime the University, East Asia University, has settled there. The students and professors are very keen on understanding the history of that island. So I gave them this book. The History of Taipa and Coloane. It is about the fishing villages, the schools that were up there, the local commanders and administrators, the fight against privacy, just a local history. One of the books that I like best, although it may not be a very profound and scientific book, is the one I wrote about the toponomy of Macao. A very interesting subject, the history of all the street names of Macao. Tourists like very much another book called The Voices of Macao Stones, that means the history of every single building, either church, or fortress or monument which carries an inscription.

Q. This brings me upon another question. This toponomy of Macao really stands for the Portuguese names. When you look for inscriptions, they will be the Portuguese inscriptions. What about the Chinese? The history of Macao of course also is the history of the Chinese, not just the history of the Portuguese. This always must have been a big problem for you: how to write a composite history in which Chinese as well as Portugueese play a role.

T. This is a big problem, for we have no Chinese historians over here and therefore I try to ask the Chinese to help. But I cannot find anyone. Suppose the books that I am writing now, Macao year by year. I contacted some Chinese and asked them: do you know some Chinese events in Macao during these years? They even don't know the last fifty years ! It is very hard to find out something from the Chinese because there is no Chinese historian in Macao.

Q. Arenít there any Chinese historical sources if we just forget about the Chinese newspapers of recent times?

T. Not worthwhile to publish. The ones they occasionally publish in the paper, I know very well. They just repeat.

Q. They never see it from their own point of view?

T. No, this is the real pity, you know. The only book we have, a very good one indeed, was written in 1745-1746 or so. The Ou-mun kei-leak. The history of Macao written by two Chinese inspectors that were sent by the Canton authorities to inspect Macao. They produced a report from the Chinese perspective. It has been translated by Luis Gonzaga Gomes who was the director of the Macao archives.

Q. Now yesterday when I tried to find the way to your seminary and asked for the Largo de Santo Augostinho, the Chinese didnít understand. They have a completely different name for it. So they have their own history?

T. It would be interesting to write a Chinese history of streetnames, but there is nobody. It is a pity. I give you a few examples. You are quite right. There is a street here called Rua do Hospital where the first hospital was built in 1569. St.Raphaelís hospital. Now lately, in 1940, this name was changed into Rua Pedro Nolasco de Silva, but the Chinese name is quite different ; Pak-ma-hong meaning the factory of the white horse. Why, because the consul of Hannover once lived there. The flag of Rannover had a white horse on it. And that struck the Chinese. Pak-ma-hong, the street of the white horse, very nice indeed. One more street: Jardim de Sao Francisco, the Chinese call it Kasilan fa yGn, meaning the Garden of the Castillians. Because the Franciscan friars that put up a convent over there were Spaniards from the Philippines. These Chinese streetnames are much more interesting from a sociological point of view. So we are waiting for a Chinese historian. Now we have a university and I have told its staff: ďThis is the opportunity, start by all means!" By the way, the same goes for this history of Medicine in Macao. I do not know anything about the Chinese medicine. (Father Teixeira recently published a four-volume Historia de Medicina em Macao. Ed.)

Q. The question is: was there some interaction between Western and Chinese medicine? Just think of the Irish painter George Chinnery who so much influenced the Chinese painters in Macao at the beginning of the 19th century.

T. Chinese indeed came to study Western medicine here. One of them was Sun Yat-sen, the founder of the Chinese republic.

Q. Don't you think that this difficulty to find a Chinese counterpart to discuss historical matters, stands for something more? Was there ever a dialogue between Portuguese and Chinese? Was there even a cultural exchange of any importance? Only a handful of Chinese became Christians but the big majority of course remained Buddhists or Taoists. So even in religuous matters the influence of the church may have remained rather small.

T. That is a question which is difficult to answer. In a few cases we know there was such interaction. Medicine, painting, porcelain. Just to come back on this question of Chinese sources. There are some interesting cemetery stones of mandarins who were buried in Macao. I put the inscriptions in my book. All the Chinese inscriptions of the Pagodas I also have published. You see, I have written a book Pagodas in Macao and another in English on the Temple of the Goddess Ama. In it are all the Chinese inscriptions and the history of every pagoda, descriptions of the idols in the temples and padogas, the gods and goddesses with their legends. When I collected these stories the Chinese asked me in amazement "Father, do you really believe in them?" Of course, I won't believe in them, but I publish these stories as they are known.

Q. Do you feel that Macao has become sinicised during your stay here in Macao since 1924?

T. Well, Macao has always been Chinese you know, since the beginning upto now. Macao has always been Chinese. We Portuguese here are just a drop of water in the ocean. So in my time when I arrived here the Portuguese still lived in a quarter of the Sa"o Lourenqo parish up to Praia Grande and the Chinese were living on the other side, behind the Council. Governor Barbosa who was my very good friend, was three times governor, in 1918, in 1926 and 1937 and died in 1940 here in Macao. This governor once told me: "Father, it is very good for us that it is like that. Because if they (the Chinese) rebel against us, we point our guns and finish the Chinese quarter." But then what happened is this. The Portuguese had no money so they sold their own houses to Chinese people, and Chinese people built new houses all over Macao. And then the Portuguese started to go to the outskirts to rent low-priced houses. So now the population is all mixed up. There has been an important transformation. The Portuguese used to live in between the Sa"o Lourenqo and the coast. That is over now.

Q. And that is the end of the historic Macao that you have been studying?

T. Yes, but there still is a language barrier. All Macao born Portuguese speak Chinese but they don't read it all. So there is a more or less separated community left. The Chinese don't need to speak Portuguese. They are traders and mind their own business. The official language is Portuguese, but the first language is Chinese, the second language is English, not Portuguese. Portuguese only comes third. Many Chinese want to learn English. We have a lot of schools for them. There are only two or three Portuguese schools. So very few people of the 400,000 inhabitants go to these Portuguese schools.

Q. The Portuguese always had to deal with the problem to manage this enormous majority of Chinese living together with them. How was this politically solved? Did they always rule through Chinese captains?

T. No, in Macao there never was a capitan China like in other overseas Chinese settlements. There was a Chinese mandarin residing here. This so-called tso-tang, governor, settled in Macao in 1744 or so. So all the Chinese were under this mandarin. He ruled the Chinese and applied Chinese laws to this subjects. So we had nothing to do with the Chinese. The Chinese community was apart, outside the walls of the city, and was ruled by the Chinese mandarin. This was the rule for many years. The governor that expelled the mandarin and the Chinese customs was Jogo Maria Ferreira do Amaral. The government said Macao was Portuguese, not Chinese; so Amaral was appointed to liberate Macao from the Chinese. He closed the Chinese customs and chased the mandarins away. This was in 1848. The following year he was murdered by Chinese disguised as beggars. He is the only governor that has a statue in Macao. Amaral in front of Lisboa Hotel.

Q. Wasn't it torn down during the cultural revolution?

T. Aah! They couldn't do anything, because it is made of bronze, you know. Up till Amaral the Chinese were ruling their own Chinese community, we did not have jurisdiction over them. Amaral tore down the walls and built a road right to the barrier which separates Macao peninsula from the mainland. He built this road over some tombstones and this was one reason why he was murdered. He touched the Feng-shui of the graves. A crime to the Chinese!

Q. So under Amaral the Portuguese colonial government suddenly expanded its jurisdiction over the Chinese population. What were the political consequences?

T. Well, the Chinese haven't any political aspirations. If they want to take Macao, they can take it at once. But they are not even represented in the government. When there are elections they do not take part. There are no parties at all. So they are not politically interested. What they want is to engage freely in trade and fill their stomachs, to get money, get the best education for their children and enjoy themselves. Nothing else. So what you have now is Mr Ho Yin the chairman of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce. He is deputy of our legislative assembly and deputy of the Peking assembly at the same time. He is the link between Macao and Peking. So we are quite free here. There is no party here, only the Chamber of Commerce, a Chinese institution. When we want to undertake something regarding the Chinese, Ho Yin goes to Peking and asks the Peking government whether it agrees. For a new harbour, the airport, we must have permission from Peking. Now since we have opened diplomatic relations with China we are very friendly with Peking. No trouble!

Q. You told me that Macao's outlook is changing very quickly. Old houses are torn down, high skyscrapers replace them. It is loosing its identity.

T. Yes. In ten years time I don't know what will be left of Macao. Because all these capitalists from various parts of the Far East are investing money in Macao. Even though the prices are going up and up, Macao is far cheaper than Hongkong. A friend of mine bought an apartment four years ago for 150,000 Macao dollars, now he has been offered 600,000, but he refuses te sell it.

Q. What is your reaction as the city historian against this all?

T. Well, we are fighting for the conservation of our heritage but it is a lost battle.

Q. Who are we? Is that you?

T. There is a committee for that, appointed by the government. We are trying to keep as many historical buildings as possible, but take this example. I was in this committee myself, and resigned, actually all of us resigned! Because you see we pointed out which buildings should be saved, but 80% of them was demolished anyhow. The capitalists offer lots of money. It is impossible to resist. Another example. They wanted to build two very high skyscrapers next to the town square. It would destroy the beauty of the square. There was a young university professor from America, whose wife was writing a book on Macao. He was a visiting professor at the university of Hongkong. They arrived here and came to see me. I told them whatever I could for that book. And then I told that man: You see what they are going to do? He said: "What? This is the best square in the Far East, I never saw a square like this one!" He did not tell me anything more than that, but quickly wrote a letter, a very nice letter, to the minister of Cultural affairs in Lisbon. In that letter he gave all the reasons why the houses around the square should not be demolished. And he sent me a copy, and I photocopied it again and sent it to the government of Macao, my friends in Lisbon, and the minister in Lisbon, to everyone. I wrote: "Please keep the square as it is. Don't touch!" And we saved it. The same thing happened with the Bella Vista Hotel. One morning I was coming from Mass at Sant Rosa and a lady comes up to me and says all excited "Father! Father! Father! They want to destroy Bella Vista and put up a thirty-storey Building. " What! I was going to say goodbye to the minister of Cultural Affairs who just happened to visit Macao. When I arrived there I met the Director of the Public Works Department. He has been my pupil in school; so I told him: "My dear boy, if you allow this hotel to be destroyed, I shall chop your head off!" So he says: "No, father, no. I do not know anything about it?" But I was sure that this matter was already under study at his department. Then a committee came from Lisbon to look into these things and I took them around. I told these architects "look at this", so they answered "Father, we are not going to demolish it, we shall allow the owner to extend the building up to Praia Grande. The building itself will be restored to its original state."

Q. So you are not just fighting windmills, there are results! Let us turn back to your publications.

T. I always have done two things at the same time. I was parish priest for thirty years. Confessions, communions, masses, funerals, weddings. I also have been in Singapore for fifteen years. The people of Singapore are the best people on earth ! Very pious and very religious. In Singapore I also published three books about the Portuguese Mission in Singapore and Malacca. Now in Macao I have already published sixteen volumes about the Macao diocese and besides all the others: Military History, Medicine, Police Force, Navy. Parish work and history work. By doing so everybody is kind to me. One instance, at the first of January the Governor invited me with all his secretaries and their wives. He told me "Father, I invite you not on account of your dignity, because you have no authority, but on account of your work." All the doors are open to me. If I need anything I'll go into the office and people will say "Okay, okay, don't worry!" Even the governor told me "every book you want to publish, we shall print it, through the Tourism Department or the Education Department. I publish now four volumes every year. I send them, they type them, they print and publish. On my 70th birthday I received a public homage from the government.

Q. You were sent to Singapore and became interested in nearby Malacca, another ancient Portuguese colonial town.

T. I intended to publish the history of the governors of Malacca in twelve volumes. Only the Portuguese governors until 1640. There is a lot of material but I had to stop, because in 1962 I was transferred to Macao.

Q. Malacca was cut away from Portugal in 1640. Macao has stayed Portuguese until this day. Now, if you compare the two communities. What differences do you see?

T. Although the Portuguese community of Malacca has been separated from us for three hundred years, it is still attached to us, still loves us so much. After two hundred years of Dutch rule, 150 years of English rule the languages of Malacca, the Parpia cristso, the Portuguese language of the sixteenth century has remained. Now if they get married and I ask them: "what is your religion?" they answer "Portuguese". They don't say Roman Catholic. Portuguese is synonimous with Catholic. They keep our dances, songs, folklore, everything.

Q. What gives these Portuguese communities inner strength? The Malacca Portuguese just look as Malay as their countrymen living around them. Malay is one of the easier languages to learn. Is the secret behind all this religion?

T. Yes, when the Dutch came they tried to convert the Malaccans. Impossible, they ran away and started another city called Malaka Pindah, (Malacca removed). Macao is under Portuguese rule, there are schools, there is everything for the benefit of the community. In Malacca there are no schools, but only that Portuguese sentiment. I am not surprised that Macao under the Portuguese government, flag, language, has a Portuguese flavour, but in Malacca there is nothing. They are not Portuguese subjects but in spite of that their love to Portugal is more wonderful than that of the inhabitants of Macao. They always keep faith in our country. Inter- esting, isn't it? Many things that we have in Macao originally came from Malacca, the dishes, the cooking, the sarong kebaya, the dress. Many words in the Macao patois really are from Malacca. In the very beginning when the Portuguese came here they came from Malacca. They had no Chinese wives, so they brought with them either wives or lovers - often four or more each - because they were very rich merchants. When the Jesuits came here they saw so many girls in the houses that they started to preach and one day four hundred of these girls were sent back. Another time six hundred! When these Indian and Malaccan girls had been partly sent back, then Portuguese started to get married to Chinese girls. But in the very beginning of Macao, Malacca exercised a very strong influence.

Q. Now what about Jose M. Braga and C.R. Boxer, both historians of Macao?

T. My very, very good friends you know. I was the editor of the Boletim Eclesidstico da Diocese de Macau from 1934 onwards. And they both wrote in it. This magazine became internationally known, universities from all parts of the world subscribed to the Boletim on account of the articles by Braga and Boxer. Braga wrote very good articles and books. He published in our Boletim about the Jesuits in Asia, (the Jesuitas na Asia, title of an 18th century archival collection. Ed.) over six hundred pages, and he still has a thousand pages to publish. But Braga failed in one respect: he gave up his writings. He stopped that important work with the biographies and bibliographies of Jesuits. He was a teacher of English in our seminary, then he became involved in business. He sold his books to Canberra University and was appointed librarian of his own library. Not long ago, in 1970 I attended an Orientalist Congress in Canberra and I insisted with him to finish his work, but he is tired now; he is over eighty years old and lives in America.

Q. Braga is alive and well in America?

T. Listen, sometimes one gets tired. It is as simple as that. He could have written while he was in Canberra. The Portuguese ambassador and myself pressed him but he said "Father, you do it, I give you all the manuscripts". But I cannot do everything and he said "DO it yourself". Father Silva Rego asked him & publish Asia Extrema by father Antdnio Gouveia. A 19 century book in manuscript. But he never did it. It is a pity, a great man, he could have been like Boxer, but he stopped. Boxer, Braga and I wrote together for the Boletim. I wrote about the Macao diocese and they published their studies on Portuguese history in Macao and Asia. Our ecclesiastical magazine started in 1903 and is still going on. I publish every month long articles in the Boletim and then later on put them together in books. These facilities in publications are very important you know. All my ecclesiastical books have been published by the diocese of Macao, all my books on the civil history of Macao have been published by the government.

Q. So you have access to all the sources, you have got printing presses...

T. If I need anything from Lisbon I ask for it, they send. So it is quite okay. And if I need something from Leiden, I think a friend of mine will send something!

Q. Do you have any connections with other ecclesiastical historians? Do you meet each other now and then?

T. No, but I correspond with colleagues in Japan, Jesuits in Rome, Franciscans in Madrid. In Rome I had very good friends, the late father Schurhammer and now father Wicki. Schurhammer revised all my books on Malacca. They send me their precious works, such as Documenta Indica by father Wicki, or Sinica Franciscana which presently is edited by Father Margiotti. In France there was my good friend Henri Bernard. Now there is Father Joseph Dehergne. He has overshadowed Father Pfister. You have his book? It is a classical one: Re'- pertoire des Je'suites de Chine de 1552 i 1800. Okay, my dear, anything else?

Q. Yes, the last question, how do you want to be remembered: as the historian, who wrote a hundred books about Macao, as the man who saved many historic buildings, or do you want to be remembered as the friendly parish priest who kisses in the streets all the nice girls he has baptised and given communion.

T. Homo, humus, fama, fumus, finis, cinis. A man is dust, the fame is smoke, the end is ashes. That is to be remembered.

Q. Your books will not turn into ashes I hope.

T. No, the books will remain. The only thing that remains you know. And this is my consolation.