Gateway to Maritime Silk Road


Probe into history of Macao via archives

BY :丝路云帆

UPDATED :March 10, 2020


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In the National Archive of Torre do Tombo of Portugal, there is a collection of records of Macao during the Qing Dynasty. Known as "Chapas Sinicas", the collection comprises over 3,600 documents, including official letters in Chinese, Portuguese translations of the letters and other miscellaneous documents.

The collection was named "Official Records of Macao During the Qing Dynasty (1693-1886)"and was inscribed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) onto the Memory of the World Register on 30 October 2017, becoming a milestone in the cultural history of Macao.

During Ming and Qing dynasties, Macao was administratively part of Xiangshan County in the Canton Prefecture of China. Formerly known as Hao Jing Ao (written as 蠔镜澳or 濠镜澳 in Chinese), Macao was one of the trading ports along the coast of Canton where Chinese and foreign ships anchored.

Around 1553 to 1557, the Portuguese gained permission from Chinese officials to stay in Macao. For nearly 300 years up to 1849, China exercised full sovereignty over the Portuguese settlement on Chinese soil, as manifested in the appointment of Chinese officials to administer Macao and the implementation of Chinese orders and instructions in the territory.

The collection of "Chapas Sinicas"is made up of official and non-official documents created mainly from the mid-eighteenth century to the mid-nineteenth century.

A major part of the collection is official correspondence exchanged between the Chinese authorities and the Portuguese authorities in Macao during the period of Chinese sovereignty over Macao.

The records are reflections of social conditions, people's lifestyle, urban development, trade and commerce of Macao at that time. In addition, they represent the significance of Macao to the world.

Through sea trade and other means, Macao was connected to many countries along the Maritime Silk Road, such as Britain, France, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Brunei and the Philippines, which made it a key hub for China’s foreign trade and exchanges, a port where foreign ships assembled and a place where the East and the West met and interacted.

Want to learn about stories from the records which, though took place in Macao, are of historical relevance to China, Portugal and even major developments in world history? 

Then you might want to visit the Archives of Macao, or simply access the online exhibition hall on its website(https://www.archives.gov.mo/en/list/27/) to have a close look at the valuable documents.

The Archives of Macao houses thousands of historical archives collections, including copies of the collection of "Chapas Sinicas" . Those archival documents record the development of Macao, foreign missionary activities, as well as some major trade and exchange activities in China.