Originally published 03/26/2013
The view from Macau Fortaleza do Monte. Credit: Wiki Commons.One of the most memorable dates I have ever had was on the walls of a seventeenth-century fort. Located on a small lush hill in the middle of a Chinese city, in the September rain you could see and smell the warm waters of the tropical ocean. The cannons evoke the first Iberian intrusions into Asia, when southern European sailors -- essentially pirates or middlemen plying the lucrative trade between much larger Asian countries -- were the first Europeans to set foot in the country. To the south the powerful Malay sultanate of Melaka, a tributary state of the Ming, was the first to fall. Further east the Portuguese attempt to proselytize Japan -- resisted violently by the archipelago's warrior rulers -- also left deep marks on that country’s history. In Macau, the latest addition to China’s territory, Asia's mostly forgotten encounter with Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries finds beautiful expression in the city's forts and baroque architecture.