xi's moments

A Portuguese doctor's family story with China

Xinhua | Updated: 2018-12-15 09:40

Pedro Pacheco Jorge Barreiros and his wife Graca, an old Portuguese couple, live in a modest mansion in Lisbon. Their apartment is a little bit like a mini museum, decorated with artifacts and bookshelves, including Chinese-style furniture and calligraphy, paintings and books about China.

"Most of them belonged to our grandfather, Jose Vicente Jorge, who was an avid collector of Chinese art," Pedro told Xinhua in a recent interview.

"He even wrote a book in 1940 called Notes on Chinese Art based on his collection," said the 75-year-old man, who had served in the Portuguese air force's medical department for a long time and once headed a Portuguese air force hospital.

Pedro inherited his grandfather's love of art. His apartment also features a number of pictures painted by himself.

"I love painting and I especially like painting pictures inspired by poems, particularly poems by the Portuguese poet Camilo Pessanha and the Chinese poets Li Bai and Wang Wei," said Pedro.

"Chinese poetry has always been a big inspiration to me, and it has a singularity that's not found in other poetry," he said.

Pedro was born in 1943 in Macao and considers himself a typical product of the region's mix of bloods. His family can trace its origins back to Portugal, India, Malaysia and China, with his great-grandmother being a Chinese woman from Shanghai.

"The first language I spoke was Cantonese. As a child I found Cantonese much easier to learn than Portuguese, but unfortunately, after the World War II, we moved to Portugal and I gradually forgot my Cantonese," Pedro said.

Nevertheless, Chinese was often spoken at his home. "Our house in Lisbon became a meeting place for anyone from Guangdong, Shanghai or Macao," he said.

Petro said that his mother and his aunt spoke Chinese and they were both born and educated in Beijing, and his grandfather worked as a diplomatic representative of old China to Portugal and spoke and wrote Cantonese and Mandarin very well.

Pedro moved to Lisbon when he was three, whereas Graca remained in Macao until she was 10, before moving to Mozambique and then South Africa. She and Pedro are cousins, so she has the same mixed family background.

In Portugal, Pedro studied medicine, and then became a doctor and a major general in the Portuguese Air Force. His studies and postings kept him away from Asia for almost forty years.

"I finally went back in 1990 and the moment I set foot in Guangdong, the first time I'd been on the Chinese mainland, I felt at home," Petro said.

Nowadays he and Graca go to China every year, visiting Macao and other cities in the Chinese mainland.

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