Exploring the past through Amy Lau’s ‘Memories of Old Macau: The Story of My Childhood’

2022-03-29 03:53     BY Rui Pastorin    Comment:0

Author Amy Lau Chuen Yim (劉全艷) released an English version of ‘Memories of Old Macau: The Story of My Childhood’ earlier this month, allowing readers to glimpse Macau’s past during simpler times as she recalls her memories during “eight happy childhood years” from 1958 to when she left for Hong Kong in 1967, at the age of 11.

The Chinese version of the book was written in the spring of 2016 and was completed in the summer of 2018 and published during the autumn. Meanwhile, translation started in February 2017 and was completed in January 2022.

Lau has been residing in Edmonton, Canada, for over 34 years but usually visits Macau once a year to reminisce on her childhood memories. She was interviewed by The Macau Post Daily via email last week.

Inspiration for writing the book

At age three in 1958, Lau left Guangzhou (then still also known as Canton) with her parents for Macau. Lau described the city during the 50s and 60s as “a plain, quiet and peaceful small town with limited resources”, adding that “living was harsh and impoverished, but the community was close-knit and neighbours lived in harmony, helping and looking after each other”.

Lau remarked that “if life is a journey with many stops, I had spent more time in later stops than in Macau. However, Lau said that she has never forgotten the eight years spent here. “No matter where I am, the memories and vignettes of these eight years of my life from over half a century ago follow me wherever I go, ever fresh and alive, never fading. They stay within my heart, floating along with my joys of living, appearing in my dreams”, she said.

She eventually decided to write these memories down on paper, saying that it enabled all of those people around her 50 years ago to “come back to life again”.

“That Macau has evolved into prosperity today, from a small fishing village of poverty and hardship fifty years ago, is the result of two to three generations of silently hardworking folks. The small-town charm that belongs to that era: material scarcity, a simple life, and rich human relationships, can only be retrieved from memories, the beautiful memories of my childhood.”

Elaborating on the writing process, Lau said that “it was February 2016 after the Lunar New Year that I saw snow falling outside my window. An image of Macau from decades ago came to me. I seemed to see my childhood playmates playing and laughing in the snow”, which prompted her to start writing down her memories.

The Chinese version went on to become a number-one best seller and has a high lending-out statistic in the public libraries in Hong Kong. When asked about its popularity, Lau remarked that many people in the city are “still reminiscing about the plain, quiet and peaceful small town in the 50s and 60s rather than the prosperous, busy and popular tourist spot where the streets are crowded with people today”. Aside from reminiscing about old Macau, Lau added that she thinks its popularity also comes from others who might also be “curious about a different Macau from the old days”.

Recording memories through chapters

With each chapter containing memories, Lau was also asked by The Macau Post Daily about her personal favourite memory, which she said was the chapter “My Maternal Education”, where she wrote about the memories with her mother during her childhood.

“My mother has passed away for over 40 years. When I wrote this chapter, I felt like she was still alive. We spent time together and it was just like she was there beside me”, Lau said.

Accompanying the memories that Lau recalled are water colour paintings by artist Chan Iu-Pui. Lau noted:

“I had the chance to see the local artist, Mr. Chan Iu-Pui’s watercolour paintings in a Facebook group and I loved them. I further appreciated his paintings in his book entitled Scenery of a City – Artworks by Chan Iu-Pui. Filled with a deep nostalgic love for Macau, he has strolled through streets and alleys across the city and captured the cityscape, encompassing historic gems and quaint architectures, in his exquisite artworks. His paintings have brought to life Macau’s unique aroma exuded especially from its charming old districts. Chan’s watercolour paintings are a perfect match with all my writings. I connected with him from Canada and invited him to be the illustrator of my book”.

Lau also spoke about what she missed about old Macau, commenting:

“The Portuguese colony of Macau in the 1950s and 60s was a quaint, quiet and peaceful small town where most roads and alleys were paved with cobblestones. Our activities were centred around several streets only: my father laying out his stall and visiting the tea house, my mother going to the market, myself going to school and playing. All could be reached within several minutes’ walk. Life was so simple. How close we were to each other!

“Our playground was the alleys or streets outside our home. Children met in the streets and played together whenever they liked. We could even spend most of the day just running and chasing each other around in the open. Our childhood friendships developed during such times together. The childhood joy we shared was very simple, yet full of warm human connection. We did not have any real toys; we made our own.

“The Macau of today has evolved from a plain, quiet and peaceful small town to an internationally renowned destination for entertainment, shopping and gourmet food. Luxury casinos and hotel resorts abound, with numerous popular tourist sites, recreational attractions and fine dining opportunities, welcoming tourists from all parts of the world. It is a prosperous, bustling, shining “Las Vegas of the Orient” today.

“With the transformation of the economy in Macau, the simple lifestyle of the past could not be preserved. Today casinos, hotels, and souvenir shops abound, with tourists crowding every street and alley. Who would still remember the cobblestone paths that lie below the pavements we now tread?

“Macau is no longer the small and peaceful town of decades ago. All the unforgettable vignettes of my childhood, with all the joyous moments I experienced, can only be found in my endless reminiscence and memories”.

Target audience and expectations

Moreover, Lau also told The Macau Post Daily about the target audience of the book, noting that it consists of those who lived in Macau during the time when it was a Portuguese colony in the 50s and 60s, as well as the younger generation such as primary and secondary school students who were born after Macau’s return to Chinese rule as “they will see a different Macau”.

Lau also noted that she was pleased to know that there are families of three generations who read her book and all enjoyed it. “The book was written in very plain and simple Chinese that both children and adults can read”, Lau said.

Regarding who the book could resonate with most, Lau said that readers of the same age as herself can do so while the younger generation are offered a different view of Macau from how they see it today.

Lau also spoke about her hopes for the book, saying: “I hope that the younger generations will have a picture of what Macau was like in the old days and treasure its past”, as well as that she wishes that they will “appreciate the work of the people in the past who contributed to the prosperity of Macau today”.

Plans to authorise the Virtual Library of Macau ( to upload her book online to enable people from all over the world to read it for free once the print version of the books is sold out are also in place, Lau said.

Lau also said that she wants those who are considering to read her book to know that they “do not need to have any knowledge about Macau, come from Macau, had resided in Macau or had a chance to visit Macau” before reading it. She added that those who are interested in the history of the past, like to listen to old stories as well as those who like to reminisce about old things can also pick up a copy of her book

Moreover, Lau also said: “As the saying goes, ‘If they are not forgotten, then they are forever alive.’

“If you and I grew up in the same period, and you have lived in Macau, this book may arouse your childhood memories. This is my intention.

“If you did not grow up in the same period of time, and you have not lived in Macau before, this book may enable you to have a glimpse of Macau in the fifties and sixties and arouse your interest in pursuing its culture and history. This is my wish.

“If the publication of this book allows me to meet the childhood friends, teachers, and classmates whom I have lost contact with for decades, this is my lifelong dream. 

This photo shows the author, who resides in Edmonton, Canada.

This photo provided by Amy Lau Chuen Yim (劉全艷) shows the book cover of “Memories of Old Macau: The Story of my Childhood”

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