Books are one of the best ways for us to store the knowledge we accumulate and transfer it to other people. Even with the popularization of online learning mediums such as video courses and YouTube, I often find myself reaching for the good-old paperback whenever I want to expand my knowledge on a topic.
However, there is something that I always found to be peculiar – books aren’t that easy to find and buy in Macau!
Firstly, there doesn’t appear to be very many bookstores in Macau to begin with. And the ones that do exist, such as the two on Rua do Campo, seem to be more catered toward textbooks for students and less for the everyday book enthusiast.
One day, I was speaking with a local friend and this topic came up. When asked why there weren’t very many book stores in Macau, his answer shocked me.
He said that because the Chinese character for ‘books’ (書 Shu) and the character for ‘lose’ (輸 Shu) sound similar, it’s considered bad luck by the casinos and the government to have too many bookstores around!
And the few bookstores and libraries are put underground and out of sight, like the two stores in Rua do Campo and the Taipa Central Park Library.
We’re familiar with some Chinese beliefs related to how certain words are pronounced, like some buildings not having a fourth floor because the number 4 and the character for ‘death’ sound similar in Chinese.
The above example is an interesting cultural by-product, a talking point – but to deny people easy access to books and knowledge because of a coincidence in pronunciation seems a bit ridiculous to me!
I don’t want to jump the gun and say that this is absolutely true. After all, it would be quite difficult to enforce a Macau-wide agenda against bookstores, unless business licenses are actively capped for book entrepreneurs. It might just be the case that selling books just aren’t that profitable in Macau, and basement stores are cheaper to rent.
After all, the only bookstore in Taipa recently shut down (and broke my heart).
There is no way for me to verify that a conspiracy against bookstores exist. For now, I make do by buying books through Taobao and frequenting bookstores in Hong Kong. But if you’re looking for a space to open a bookstore in Macau, let me know, I’d honestly love to help.
Written by: Sam Lee