A cute piece of land

It is not a secret that the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., is home to numerous valuable sources. Browsing through their catalogs, I came across the Guǎngdōng Yútú 广东舆图, a Chinese map drawn in 1685 by Jiǎng Yī 蒋伊 (1631-1687) and Hán Zuòdòng 韩作栋 (17th c.), two mapmakers of the Qing Dynasty who elaborated a series of maps in the late 17th century.

Every time I find an old Chinese map, the first thing I do is to look for Macao. It is amazing how that tiny piece of land, which was so important for Portuguese history, is bluntly ignored by many mapmakers  of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Jiǎng and Hán, however, did not ignore it, but included the Portuguese enclave as a very tiny – and adorable – detail of their map.

Macao tiny

One can easily read the character “澳” (Ào), which to this day is used in the first half of the Chinese name for Macao: Àomén 澳门. Interestingly, there is an inscription indicating a shízì mèn 十字门. Apparently, the character mén 门, which nowadays means door or gate, used to mean maritime strait at the time. So, the shízì mèn 十字门 is probably the cross-shaped sea passage to the south of Macao in the map.

One can also see to the north of Macao the fortress-city of Xiāngshān 香山, to which the enclave was submitted since the Ming dynasty.

At the time, Macao already was plenty of churches – including the ruins of St. Paul’s, the most characteristic building of Macao even to this day – and fortresses filled with canons. Nevertheless, Chinese mapmakers considered three small houses separated from the rest by a wall were more than enough to represent the port.

The Guǎngdōng Yútú 广东舆图 can be found here.