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CULTURE

cholera epidemics. The faithful prayed to St. Roch for help and the outbreaks disappeared. Subsequently, a street in the city is named after him: S. Roque. The exhibition includes a large collection of dictionaries and textbooks compiled by the Jesuits, in both Mandarin and Cantonese. The Imperial Court of the Qing dynasty (1644–1912) banned its subjects from teaching Chinese to foreigners, so Macao was the only place where Westerners could legally learn the local tongues. Of particular significance is a Chinese­ ‑Portuguese dictionary compiled by Portuguese Lazarist Joaquim Afonso Gonçalves, a famous Sinologist, and published by the seminary in 1833. Forced to stay in Macao because of the Chinese court’s ban on religion, Gonçalves taught Chinese to foreigners, Latin to Chinese, and compiled dictionaries and language textbooks. Various vestments and vessels used during religious services are also on display. Conservationists from the Museum of Macau spent three months cleaning and polishing the vessels with cotton wool to restore their original lustre. The vestments are decorated with the letters “JHS” and “HIS” – Greek and Latin symbols

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of the Jesuit order. “[The Jesuits] brought religious vessels with them from Europe. The ones that were made here introduced Chinese decorative features, resulting in a large number of delicate and sophisticated vestments and vessels,” says Chan. A video describing the history of the seminary and some of the remarkable people who have lived and worked there plays as part of the exhibit. Historical photographs depicting the life of seminary students are also on display. “When I designed this exhibition, I aimed it at ordinary people, not those with prior knowledge of Catholicism,” says Chan. “I want it to be accessible to everyone, so that everyone can understand the pieces. I used ordinary language, not terms specific to religion. On the weekends, we have many mainland visitors. Sometimes I come and help show them around.” The exhibition features a small fraction of the seminary’s extensive collection. Across China, art and historical documents have often been destroyed or lost in fires, accidents, wars and revolutions. But five centuries of peace in Macao have preserved such important items for the future. ST. JOSEPH’S SEMINARY FAÇADE

A CANTONESE HANDBOOK, 1912

NOVEMBER 2016


Macao Magazine November 2016