A Macao Narrative

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 21 February, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 21 February, 2010, 12:00am

A Macao Narrative
by Austin Coates
Hong Kong University Press HK$150

This may not be the definitive book on Macau, but it is informative and entertaining - always a plus where history is concerned. Those new to Austin Coates should read Cesar Guillen Nunez's foreword before they start the volume; those familiar with the author's writing will gain more satisfaction finishing with Nunez's essay and his appraisal: that the book is a 'simple, uncontroversial recounting of the city's history', and one that reveals Coates' affection for Portuguese culture. First published in 1978, A Macao Narrative tells of Prince Henry the Navigator's aims during the great period of Portuguese exploration, with its merchants arriving in Macau in the 1550s. Interesting sections abound, including a fascinating snippet on 'the basement Chinese': although Chinese were not allowed to live in Macau it was inconvenient for them to leave every evening, so some Macanese allowed them to stay in the underbellies of their homes. The volume ends with the introduction of what has become contemporary Macau's most well-known feature: gambling. To learn what Timorese sandalwood had to do with games of chance, buy the book.