"Count Maurice August Benyowsky in Macao (1771)"
- 10 November 2014
- Macau Ricci Institue
- 15:30 to 17:30
Audio Record of this Seminar
Edward Kajdański was born in Harbin, North east China (Manchuria at that time) in 1925. Having studied at various institutions, including a Polish school, the North-Manchurian University, at the Medical College and the Harbin Polytechnic, he was awarded a Master Degree in Engineering, following the footsteps of his father, who, in early 20th century, was a railway engineer in Manchuria. Just after graduation Kajdański returned to Poland in repatriation action. Fluent in four languages (Chinese, English, Latin and Russian), Kajdański has worked in various fields upon his return to Poland, in particular in foreign trade and diplomacy. As deputy commercial attaché and first secretary in Embassy of Poland in Beijing, consul and head of the General Consulate of Poland in Guangzhou (1979-1982), and as official representative of an industrial joint venture in Hangzhou, he has encouraged and advocated cultural exchange between Eastern and Western cultures both in Asia and Europe. Mr. Kajdański is a member of the Scientific Council of Eastern Studies Centre at the University of Gdansk.
His extraordinary energy and interest in Asian culture has resulted in the publication of over 20 books and a multitude of articles on topics ranging from Chinese history, ethnography, natural sciences and medicine. As a writer Mr. Kajdański started in 1957, when his two short stories were accepted by Polish Broadcast. His literary output is related to China and Poles living and working in China. First book of this cycle was Michal Boym, the Ambassador of the Middle Kingdom (1988 – Polish title: “Michal Boym. Ambasador Państwa Środka”). A Chinese culture and relations between Poland and China in past several centuries are subjects of his books Corridor. A Turbulent History of the Eastern Chinese Railway (2000 – Polish title “Korytarz. Burzliwe dzieje Kolei Wschodnio-Chińskiej”) and Long Shadow of the Great Wall (2005 – Polish title: Długi cień Wielkiego Muru). He wrote also several popular science books: China – Lexicon (2005 – Polish title: “Chiny – Leksykon”), Secrets of Chinese Medicine – Michał Boym Medicus Sinicus (2010 – Polish title: “Sekrety chińskiej medycyny – Medicus Sinicus Michała Boyma”), and Chinese Medicine for Everyone (2011 – Polish title: “Medycyna chińska dla każdego”). In 2006, his fiction Tibetan Princess (Polish title: Tybetańska Ksieżniczka), was released under pen name Alexander Franchetti. In 1970s Kajdański wrote also a couple books about Chinese economy. He published many articles about Asia and China in Polish periodical magazines, among other “Poznaj Świat” (Know the World), “Wiedza i Życie” (Knowledge and Life), “Kontynenty” (Continents), “East Asia Studies” (Studja nad Azją Wschodnią) published by the University of Gdańsk, as well as in Dziennik Bałtycki (Baltic Daily).
In 2013 his last book Memoires from my Atlantis (Polish title: Wspomnienia z mojej Atlantydy”) came out. Kajdański describes history of his family and his life in Far East in thirties and forties of the 20th century.
Count Benyowsky is a well-known though controversial figure in the Polish and Hungarian history. He took part in the Bar Confederacy - the military association of Polish nobility, established in 1768 in Bar (today's Ukraine) in order to protect nobility privileges and independence. It was aimed at dethronement of the King of Poland, the former lover of the Russian czarina, Catherine II and to rid Poland of a Russian yoke. Benyowsky was wounded in the battle and taken prisoner by Russians. By personal decree of Catherine II he was sent into exile to Kamchatka, the furthermost end of the empire. Benyowsky managed to put under his control the great number of exiles and sailors and after successful plot; they overtook Bolsheretsk, the main city of peninsula and captured a Russian ship "St. Peter and Paul". After nearly five months long sea voyage they reached Macao.
This incredible voyage through the unknown regions of the Bering Sea and Northern Pacific was described by Benyowsky in his Journal, being a part of Memoirs and Travels published in 1790. I wish to discuss the last part of that voyage from the eastern coast of Formosa (Taiwan), through the Taiwan Strait and along the south-western coast of China to Macao (where they stayed four months) and to Canton (from where they at last sailed to France). Many years ago I received F. Manuel Teixeira's book O Conde Benyowsky em Macau which I found very useful for my own research. I have to present some of my new discoveries concerning Benyowsky's stay in Macao. These remarks touch the questions of his sea voyage, of the authenticity of his Journal (as well as his recently found map) and some events which took place in Macao. The concern of the rivalry among the British, Dutch and French East India Companies in their attempt to obtain his diary in which he revealed the places of origin of the most precious furs of sea beavers and black and silver foxes, which Russia exported with great profits to China. I'm also trying to throw some lights on the mystery of Aphanasia, the daughter of the governor of Kamchatka, who voluntary accompanied Benyowsky and died in Macao, being buried (as most authors believe) in St. Paul’s Church.