An adventure.

Sanmao (1943-1991)

Writer, journalist and adventurer Sanmao was born in China in 1943. She was full of life and travelled around Spain, Germany and many other countries. In 1973 she travelled with a burden on her shoulders, as her then fiancé had passed away just days before their wedding. Being true to her get up and go attitude and quite different from other women of her time, Sanmao chose not to live by daily customs, but to go to Spain and get on with her life.

Without any of the technology and communications we take for granted today, the lack of awareness of Asiatic culture compared to the Western world was simply enormous, and contact between the two cultures was tiny or non-existent for the great majority.

In Spain, Sanmao met up with José María Quero, whom she had first met in a previous trip when the young man, who was eight years younger than she was, was just fifteen years old. Now he was 22, Sanmao saw he was of sturdy character. Not without a certain reticence at the beginning, they would become partners for life.

Sanmao y José María Quero

Life opened up a window of adventure to them, and took them to the Sahara in 1974 when this African territory was still a Spanish colony. They would then get married a year or so afterwards, when they took on the Green Walk in Morocco over the Sahara Desert. The couple then moved to Telde, on the island of Gran Canaria. They bought a house in Playa del Hombre, where they set up home. 

Echo Chen got back to writing and began to narrate her experiences through tales and chronicles she managed to get published in a newspaper in Taiwán. She signed her work with the name Sanmao, as a tribute to a character in a comic called “Sanmao”, an adverturous, scalywag “Three-haired” boy who survived many weird and wonderful adventures which the writer herself identified with.

Rincón de Sanmao
Parque urbano de San Juan

Once the couple were settled in Telde they contacted the Chinese colony on the island, comprising around a hundred individuals. Most of the colony came from Taiwan, some from Hong Kong and the odd few from continental China.

Around that time José María Quero got a job as a scuba diver on the neighbouring island of La Palma, a profession he had also been involved in during the previous few years in the Sahara. In La Palma and during the trip that Sanmao went on with her parents, José María died in an accident during a pleasure trip to the sea beds.

The impact this had on Sanmao was indescribable.

Despite this, the writer never stopped writing her diaries with her testimonies on life. She remained in Gran Canaria for several more years, but only a few close friendships kept her on the island. 

She finally decided to look for fresh pastures and after three years found work as a teacher in Taiwan, where her parents still lived. She left Gran Canaria with just a simple suitcase, giving away the rest of her belongings to her dearest friends and acquaintances, with whom she would then keep a close contact by telephone and letter to the end of her days.

As an example of her naturalness, humbleness and descretion, none of Echo Chen’s friends in Gran Canaria knew how famous their friend was in her homeland of China, nobody outside the Chinese colony on the island knew who Sanmao was, a true icon in Asiatic countries.

Privacy Preference Center

Essential cookies

We need some technical cookies necessary for the proper operation of this web page.

pll_language, gdpr