GREAT FIGURES OF THE MISSIONARY WORK – Macau versus Cambodia (4)

Joaquim Magalhães de Castro

After 1640 the Macau Senate decided to intensify trade with Macassar, Cambodia, Conchichina and Toquim. For these last three destinations, the Portuguese carried “silks, thin silk fabrics, quicksilver, vermilion, china wood, carpets, cangas (Chinese cotton cloth), ‘nunos’ (Chinese linen fabrics) crockery, pots and dishes.”

Macau ships bound for Conchichina and Cambodia were doing business and carrying or bringing in missionaries. The report Ta-Ssi-Yang-Kuo tells us that in March 1667, António Franco and his vessel set out for Cambodia. On the way, he provided his ship with water in Conchichina, where he gives “to the king the pieces of silk that he had bought from him with the silver that the previous year he had brought from the same king, the said Antonio Franco, with the intention of employing it in pieces of silk.”

There were many shipwrecks, with loss of people and goods. It is written: “In the absence of so many wrecked people, besides the ones who die inland, Macau seems to be a city of women, most of them poor and helpless, and seeing the land so scarce in wealth and many houses lost, going all of it in greater deterioration.”

Manuel Teixeira recalls the case of “a Portuguese ship that was shipwrecked on the Chinese coast, and the survivors were able to reach Macau, where Father Jimenez died on December 25 in the arms of Father António Caldeira, a former missionary from Cambodia.”

It would be unfair to forget João da Cruz, a Portuguese mestizo, who, according to national sources, was a native of Macau. Manuel Teixeira states: “We have an official source that confirms this testimony (of the Jesuit Manuel Ferreira, his contemporary) declaring that João da Cruz was sent there by the Loyal Senate.”

João da Cruz, gunner and cannon founder, had, at first, entered the service of the king of Cambodia, who made him Governor of the province because of “his ability to fuse artillery.”

His services would later be requisitioned by the Conchicinean rivals, now victors of the war that opposed them to the Khmers. They gave the gunner the opportunity to set up his own foundry near the capital, Hue in which region there are still many basins and cannons fused by João da Cruz, a personage who enjoyed immense respect with the local monarchy. Thanks to this, the activity of the Jesuits was a little less complicated. The text that follows is a testimony to the importance of Portuguese and shows us how João da Cruz in 1666 presented himself at Faifo to receive the priests Riva and Bartolomeu da Costa, just arrived from Macau.

“João da Cruz presented himself to the priests with a magnificent entourage. His guards wore silk coats and marched in front of him, preceded by a trumpet. His litter and that of his wife were of red silk cloth; his was taken by four men, and his wife was taken by two; one and the other were followed by a great number of lackeys and officers of his house, all very agile and in fine clothes.”

João da Cruz enjoyed the right to have a church of his own, even at a time when the emperor of Conchichina was beginning to persecute Christianity.

His son, Clemente da Cruz, also born in Macau, would continue the work of his father.

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