The first diplomatic mission from Brazil to China took place from 1879-1882; it also included Brazil’s first circumnavigation of the globe (sailing east in this case). An account—Primeira circum-navegação brasileira e primeira missão do Brasil à China (1879) by Marli Cristina Scomazzon and Jeff Franco—has recently been published. This excerpt about the delegation’s stop-over in Hong Kong and Macau has been translated from the original Portuguese and is published with permission.
Since the English edition of this book first came into my possession, it seemed obvious to me that it should be published in Spanish. Fortunately, after some frustrated attempts, the ever-ready publisher Siruela saw fit to take it on. It is a small book and, therefore, doubly interesting, and not only because of what Baltasar Gracián summed up with the sparkling phrase: “Lo bueno, si breve, dos veces bueno” (“what is good, if brief, is good twice over”). There is another factor, or perhaps two, to take into account. The first is that La Plata y el Pacífico illuminates an essential chapter of universal history, that is, the first stage of economic globalization along the axis of the Pacific via the Manila Galleon or Nao de China, an episode largely unknown to the wider public, whether of English-, Spanish- or Chinese-speaking backgrounds.
A young woman, unfamiliar with the city or its cinematic culture, has come to a film studio to return a coat that had been lent to her during a rainstorm. She is holding the coat and a card she found in the coat—on it is the name of a film director. The young woman steps through the studio doorway straight into the film set and is walking a deserted alleyway with lit windows. Silence.
Maung Shwe Yon was a highly acclaimed 19th-century master silversmith from Rangoon. Harry L Tilly, the aforementioned British expert on Burmese art, was effusive in his praise for Maung Shwe Yon. He described one of his pierced bowls as ‘the best example of this kind of work ever produced’ in his 1902 monograph, The Silverwork of Burma.
Translating the poetic sentiments of imperial China is Xu’s prime concern. Embedded in his works are multiple references to literature, painting, calligraphy and religious art in classical China. By synthesising these ideas with those drawn from his vocabulary of Western shapes, Xu gives energy to traditional Chinese dress.
Residents of Qingdao or attentive followers of local news may have heard of the affair I wish to discuss. On the 14th of August 2013, during a routine fire-safety inspection, a worker from the residential committee of Shinan District’s University Road discovered a heavily decomposed corpse by a small building inside the courtyard of Number 5 Longkou Road.
My books all begin with photos, photos from my collection that show Hong Kong in the late 19th and early 20th century. I choose each photo for the stories it has to tell—some obvious, others that need a closer look to uncover.