Macau - A Cultural Janus

Exhibition of Calligraphy by Dr. Ambrose So

At the invitation of Centro Científico e Cultural de Macau (“CCCM”) and Instituto Internacional de Macau (“IIM”), Dr. Ambrose So, Chancellor of Macau Millennium College (“MMC”), opened his solo calligraphy exhibition at CCCM in Lisbon, Portugal on 9 October 2017. 

In addition to promoting the traditional art of Chinese calligraphy, the exhibition also aims to foster deeper understanding of Macau’s bridging role in the history of cultural exchange between East and West and of the city’s cultural diversity through the content of the calligraphy works, in hopes of actively complementing China’s One Belt One Road Initiative and facilitating stronger cooperation with Portugal and other European Union countries.  Jointly organized by MMC and IIM from Macau, and CCCM and Fundação Jorge Álvares from Portugal, the exhibition represents cross-cultural cooperation.

Dr. Ambrose So Shu Fai’s Calligraphy Exhibition “A Cultural Janus: Macau’s Complexity on Calligraphic Parade” was opened on 9 October at CCCM in Lisbon, Portugal. 

Attending the opening ceremony were Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to the Portuguese Republic Mr. Cai Run, Ambassador of Kazakhstan to the Portuguese Republic Mr. Nurzhan Abdymomunov, former Macau governors General José E. M. Garcia Leandro and General Vasco J. Rocha Vieira, ex-Minister of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers of Portugal Dr. José Luís Arnaut, President of CCCM Prof. Luis Filipe Barreto, President of IIM Dr. Jorge A. H. Rangel, as well as Dr. Ambrose So and his wife Dr. Christina Cheng Miu Bing.

Once a territory under Portuguese administration, Macau’s east-west culture blends Chinese and Portuguese cultures.  Hence, Macau has been dubbed a “Cultural Janus”, as it embraces two different faces, that is, two culturally different aspects, yet co-existing and interacting in harmony.  Dr. So collected some of the poems on Macau from the Ming and Qing dynasties and presented them in the form of calligraphy.  He also invited MMC and IIM to form a task force to translate the poems into English and Portuguese to enable visitors to the exhibition to understand and appreciate more about the cultural matrices of Macau.

The exhibition displays a collection of poems on Macau composed in the Ming and Qing dynasties, bearing witness to the important role of the city in the history of cultural exchange between East and West, for instance, “The Encounter of Foreign Traders in Xiangshan Ao (Macau)” by Tang Xianzu, “Poem on Macau” by Wu Li, “On the New House in Macau” by Zheng Guanying,  “Poem about the Ocean View Pavilion” by Qu Daqun, as well as the poem that describes the eating habit and physical aspect of the Macanese by Pan Feisheng. 

The seventeen exhibits also include inscriptions of couplets from the A Má Temple, Old Temple of Nezha and Ruins of St. Paul in Macau, as well as two calligraphy pieces in oracle bone scripts and a painting “Bamboo”.  The amalgamation of calligraphy with poetry on Macau not only illustrates the art of Chinese calligraphy, but also boasts the essence of Macau’s culture.  The guests at the opening ceremony were all delighted and impressed by Dr. So’s calligraphy works.

Prof. Luis Filipe Barreto, President of CCCM thanked Dr. So for giving them the honour to organize the exhibition.  Talking about the role of CCCM, he remarked, “This Centre, like Macau, is a meeting point between Europe and East Asia, Portugal and China.  We are a little place of exchange and dialogue between the Western and the Chinese academic and cultural worlds.”  He considered calligraphy one of the most important values of Chinese culture, and also an interface of dialogue with different cultures and civilizations. “The exhibition is for us a first step in a stronger cooperation with new friends from south China/ Macau. The academic and cultural cooperation with China, Macau and East Asia is the great key for the future of this Centre.”

Dr. Jorge A. H. Rangel, President of IIM, said in his speech, “Dr. Ambrose So is a well-known person not only in Hong Kong and Macau but also in Portugal as a successful businessman, but he should also be known as a scholar and artist.  The exhibition here in CCCM is a testimony to his talent in this field.”

Dr. So talked about the historical role of Macau in his speech at the opening ceremony, “Macau was once an important arena for China’s foreign trade and cultural exchanges on the Maritime Silk Road in the 16th Century.  It has cultivated a rich repertoire of cross cultural traits and is a rendezvous of different civilizations.  Today, Macau is a Special Administrative Region of China, and has since enjoyed great economic development, riding on the policies and driving force of China’s economy.” 

He continued, “This exhibition intends to showcase Macau’s former position on the world stage and its complex cultural tapestry.  With its unique cultural links with Portuguese speaking countries, Macau braces itself to integrate and align its future development with China’s One Belt One Road Initiative, in particular in cultural projects.”  Dr. So wished that the exhibition would serve as the first step towards a stronger cooperation between the institutions in Macau and Lisbon in bringing more cultural contribution towards China’s One Belt One Road Initiative.

Dr. So added that after this Lisbon exhibition, MMC will continue to work with the Institute of European Studies of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, CCCM, IIM and Fundação Jorge Álvares and others to promote Chinese culture, such as Liu Zu’s Zen Culture and Chinese martial art, to EU countries through the platform of Portugal.  He anticipated that Macau will have an important role to play in the cultural exchange and cooperation between China and Europe, propelling the successful implementation of China’s One Belt One Road Initiative. 


The calligraphy exhibition will continue until 17 December 2017 at CCCM in Lisbon, Portugal.


Dr. Ambrose So is presently a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (“CPPCC”), a member of the Committee of Foreign Affairs of the National Committee of CPPCC, the Honorary Consul of the Republic of Portugal in Hong Kong SAR, as well as a consultant of the Economic Development Council and a member of the Cultural Consultative Council of the Macau SAR Government. 

Furthermore, he is a Committee member of the China Federation of Literary and Art Circles, Vice-President of the Chinese Culture Promotion Society, President of Macau Military Club, Chancellor of MMC, Chairman of the Association of Chinese Culture and Art of Macau, and a member of the board of directors of The University of Hong Kong (“HKU”) Foundation for Educational Development and Research.  A devoted artist in Chinese calligraphy, Dr. So is the founder and Chairman of the Jiazi Society of Calligraphy since 1985. Throughout the years, he has held various solo exhibitions in Hong Kong, Macau, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Beijing, Taiwan and Portugal. 

His works were featured in the “Portugal meets China” exhibition inaugurated by the then President of Portugal Dr. Jorge Sampaio and the Minister of Culture of the People’s Republic of China Mr. Sun Jiazheng in 2005, Beijing.  His calligraphy was also featured on a set of Macau stamps “Macau Art – Chinese Calligraphy” issued in 2000, and inscribed on the plaque of He Xiangning College of Art Design at Zhongkai University of Agriculture and Engineering, unveiled in 2013.  He proposed the Pan Pearl River Delta calligraphy exhibition in 2004 with the first of its series opening in Guangzhou in 2005. 

His works have been collected by various museums, including the University Museum and Art Gallery of HKU, Hong Kong Museum of Art, University of Macau (“UM”), Macao Museum, Hunan Provincial Museum in China, Tsing Hua University in Taiwan, Princeton University Art Museum and the Library of Congress in the U.S.A.  Dr. So was awarded the Honorary University Fellowship by HKU in 2005, the Medal of Merit – Culture by the Macau SAR Government in 2009, and the Doctor of Social Sciences honoris causa by UM in 2012.  He was conferred as Comendador da Ordem do Mérito by the Portuguese Government in 2014.