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macau - The Las Vegas of the East
作者:扁鹊夫人    files来源:本站原创    点击数:    更新时间:2010-3-6    
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Asian ports like Singapore, Batavia, Penang and Malacca, and also ports in India like Calcutta and Bombay. This existence of this trade network facilitated the shipment of coolie overseas. More important, there existed a powerful underworld that controlled drug traffic, slave transactions, prostitutions and other vices.

By the 1930s, Macau appeared to be the paradise for European adventurers, drug smugglers, slave dealers, gamblers, and prostitutes. This was indicated in the population composition recorded by a British observer. In 1810, the total population of Macau was about 4,033, of which 1,172 were white men, 1,830 were white women, 425 male slaves, and 606 female slaves. In 1830, the population increased to 4,480 and the breakdown was 1,202 white men, 2,149 white women, 350 male slaves and 779 female slaves. There is reason to speculate that large numbers of white women were involved in some forms of prostitution which would probably explain the abnormality in the ratio between men and women among the white population.

What accounted most for the rise of Macau as the centre of coolie trade was the attitude of the Portuguese government. Unlike the British Government, it did not have any moral scruples, nor did it care for the welfare of the victims. It treated the coolie trade strictly as business and was interested only in the profit derived from the lucrative trade. Although no evidence is available to suggest that the Portuguese government in Macau had openly encouraged the coolie trade, the fact that it allowed the growth of the barracoons (a Portuguese word for a place to accommodate coolies) in the colony from five in 1856 to 300 in 1872 is clear indication of its tacit approval. If the coolie trade was to serve a Portuguese cutting edge in the competitive East Asian trade, it had to benefit the Portuguese traders directly. There is evidence to suggest that the Portuguese traders in Macau had a large degree of the trade, including the buying and selling of women and female children to foreign lands. As early as 1855, there were reports that the Portuguese nationals had monopolised the trade of female children. They established a network of supply in various coastal ports.

I visited the street that was once the centre of the coolie trade. It is called ‘Patio dos Cules,’ ‘Rua dos Cules,’ or ‘Coolies’ Patio.’ It is known in Chinese as ‘Choi Loong Lei,’ meaning ‘Dragon Will Come;’ the Chinese are known as offspring of the dragon and ‘Choi’ means gathering and ‘Choi Loong’ means ‘gathering of dragons.’ When I visited the street, I could only imagine how young people of 18 signed their eight-year contract and the agony and sufferings they underwent as they were put into Portuguese barracoons and shipped abroad to Southeast Asian ports and as far as Cuba and Peru. Today, Rus dos Cules is a perfectly ordinary street, with a friendly Macau-Chinese atmosphere but without a trace of the darker episodes of the city’s history.

 

The Decline of the Portuguese

The Portuguese decline was as rapid as its success. In 1580, Spanish armies occupied Portugal. In the early years of the 17th century, the Dutch began making their presence felt in the Far East and the Portuguese built fortresses in Macau in anticipation of their attacks. Dutch attempts to take Macau included major but unsuccessful attacks in 1607 and 1627. Another challenge appeared along the coast in 1737: the arrival of an English fleet that attacked Chinese troops in the Pearl River Delta before being driven away. Searching for a scapegoat, the mandarins in Guangdong blamed the Macanese for allowing the ‘Red Beards’ to infiltrate so far upriver and revoked their trade rights. Two years later, the Japanese shogun terminated foreign trade and executed all Christian converts. In 1641, the Dutch took Malacca. Macau fell into economic gloom as the Portuguese commercial empire in East Asia vanished almost overnight. The golden age of Macau was over.

The growth of Dutch influence in the Far East, especially in Japan, made it impossible for the Portuguese to supply Japanese silver to China in exchange for silk and porcelain. Macau was no longer of any use to the Chinese and by 1640, the port of Guangzhou was closed to the Portuguese, leaving Macau to deteriorate rapidly into an impoverished settlement. Macau became an outpost for European traders in China, a position it held until the British took possession of Hong Kong in 1841 and other ports were opened to foreign trade.

Trade in Guangdong resumed in 1685 at the behest of Emperor Kang Xi, but on a more limited basis with no single European nation granted a monopoly. Macau enjoyed a reversal of fortune, but it was nothing like its previous golden age. China’s export policy changed again in 1757 after the emperor granted the Guangdong Merchants Guild exclusive rights to all foreign trade. The merchants made life difficult for European traders, prohibiting their residence in Guangdong between March and Sep

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