Macao, a lucrative port of strategic importance in the development of international trade, was under Portuguese administration from the mid-16th century until 1999, when it came under Chinese sovereignty. With its historic street, residential, religious and public Portuguese and Chinese buildings, the historic centre of Macao provides a unique testimony to the meeting of aesthetic, cultural, architectural and technological influences from East and West. The site also contains a fortress and a lighthouse, the oldest in China. It bears witness to one of the earliest and longest-lasting encounters between China and the West, based on the vibrancy of international trade.
© Serge Dos Santos
Justification for Inscription
Criterion (ii): The strategic location of Macao on the Chinese territory, and the special relationship established between the Chinese and Portuguese authorities favoured an important interchange of human values in the various fields of culture, sciences, technology, art and architecture over several centuries.
Criterion (iii): Macao bears a unique testimony to the first and longest-lasting encounter between the West and China. From the 16th to the 20th centuries, it was the focal point for traders and missionaries, and the different fields of learning. The impact of this encounter can be traced in the fusion of different cultures that characterise the historic core zone of Macao.
Criterion (iv): Macao represents an outstanding example of an architectural ensemble that illustrates the development of the encounter between the Western and Chinese civilisations over some four and half centuries, represented in the historical route, with a series of urban spaces and architectural ensembles, that links the ancient Chinese port with the Portuguese city.
Criterion (vi): Macao has been associated with the exchange of a variety of cultural, spiritual, scientific and technical influences between the Western and Chinese civilisations. These ideas directly motivated the introduction of crucial changes in China, ultimately ending the era of imperial feudal system and establishing the modern republic.
The history of Macao is intimately associated with the development of world-wide trading routes. Its strategic location on Chinese territory and the special relationship that was established between the Chinese and Portuguese authorities gave Macao a strategic position for the important interchange of influences and human values in the various fields of culture, sciences, technology, art and architecture.
Macao represents an outstanding example of an architectural ensemble that illustrates the development of the encounter between the Western and Chinese civilizations over some four and half centuries. The historical route, with a series of urban spaces and mixture of vernacular architectural ensembles, linking the ancient Chinese port with the Portuguese city, has evolved over time into a unique combination of buildings and structures that testimony to the different phases of the cultural encounter.
The World Heritage site of Macao, located on the south-east coast of China to the west of the Pearl River Delta, consists of the Macao peninsula and the two islands of Taipa and Coloane. It was settled by fishing people long before the arrival of foreigners. The Portuguese first arrived in China in 1513, visiting the famous market of Canton. In 1557, they created in what was to become the oldest permanent European settlement in East Asia. The name of Macao derives from the Ma Kwok temple, built in the 14th century. At the time, the native inhabitants were scattered in small villages. Barra village and Patane village were small settlements of seafaring merchants, whereas the other villagers were farmers.
The first core zone consists of the central area of the historic settlement of Macao. It includes a series of urban spaces and buildings representing the integration of Portuguese and Chinese elements along the city's primary urban route, Rua Direita, which leads from the ancient Chinese harbour in the south to the old Christian city in the north.
Barra Square with the A-Ma Temple (15th century) is an example of Chinese culture inspired by Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism and folk beliefs. The temple is used especially during Chinese Spring Festival, and consists of the Gate Pavilion, the Memorial Arch, the Prayer Hall, the Hall of Benevolence, the Hall of Guanyin and a Buddhist pavilion. North of the temple there is the neoclassical Moorish Barracks (1874) with its wide verandas raised on a granite platform. It was built to house police forces recruited from Goa. Lilau Square is one of the first residential quarters of the Portuguese in Macao, with the Mandarin's House, a traditional Chinese residence belonging to a prominent Chinese literary figure. St Augustine's Square was established by Spanish Augustinian priests in 1591, and still maintains the tradition of the Easter Procession. Dom Pedro V Theatre (1860), the first Western-style theatre in China, is a neoclassical brick building. The Baroque St Joseph's Seminary Building and Church was the principal basis for the missionary work in China, Japan and the region. Leal Senado Square is the main public square of the town with the Leal Senado Building, a two-storeyed neoclassical structure. Close by there is the Cathedral Square with the Cathedral Church (rebuilt in 1850), and the headquarters of Macao's Diocese. Further north is St Dominic's Square with St Dominic's Church (founded in 1587) and the old Chinese bazaar area. Here there is the Sam Kai Vui Kun Temple, testimony to Macao's enduring respect for Chinese and Portuguese communities as equals. Company of Jesus Square has the Ruins of St Paul's, which represent the remaining front elevation of the Church of Mater Dei and Na Tcha Temple. The Section of the Old City Walls (1569) is built from chunambo , a local material made from a mixture of clay, sand, rice straw, ground rocks and oyster shells compacted in layers. East of the there is the Mount Fortress, which stands on the Mount Hill. It was built against attacks from the sea. Camões Garden area has St Anthony's church, the old headquarters of the British East Indies Company, and the Protestant Cemetery with the tombs of renowned personalities.
The second core zone consists of the Guia Fortress, located on the Guia Hill and incorporating Guia Chapel (1622) and Guia Lighthouse (1885), the oldest lighthouse in the South China seas.
The site of Macao was settled by fishing people long before the arrival of foreigners. It was a sheltered bay on the peninsula and a stopping point for seafarers sailing down the Chinese coast from Fujian province. The temple for the Goddess A-Ma, built in the late 15th century, is testimony to their faith. The Portuguese first arrived to China in 1513, visiting the famous market of Canton. In 1557, they arrived in Macao, which became the oldest permanent European settlement in East Asia.
The name of Macao derives from the Ma Kwok temple, built in the 14th century. At the time, the native inhabitants were scattered in small villages. Barra village and Patane village were small settlements of seafaring merchants, while the other villagers were farmers. When the Portuguese arrived, they built simple timber-clay houses in the Inner Harbour area. Several catholic churches and chapels gave the character for the settlement, becoming the focal points for road patterns. In the early 17th century, the Portuguese built a series of forts against other Western powers, e.g. the Dutch. In mid-17th century, the settlement was divided into two parts: the Portuguese in the south and the Chinese in the north. There was relatively little development in the 18th century due to restrictive legislation by the Chinese authorities.
In 1849, Portugal proclaimed Macao a free port, which was confirmed in a protocol in 1887. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the Catholic Church increased its power constructing new or renovating major churches. Due to Macao's role as a trading base, and due to lucrative opium trade, foreign companies established a base in an enclave prior to heading further up the Pearly River to Canton. This increased the quality of the building construction.
At the end of the 19th century, not being able to compete with Hong-Kong, Macao's main finances were based on offering a popular sojourn spot for foreigners. As a result, many luxurious villas were built here, including new functions and buildings, such as Dom Pedro V Theatre, the Military Club, the Moorish Barracks, and Bela Vista Hotel. At the same time, the Chinese continued building in their own style, including Earth God Temple, the God of Justice Temple, Na Tcha Temple, and A-Ma Temple. From this period, there also started the process of land reclaim, which continued through the 20th century, providing a substantial extension to urbanised area.
After 1949 the population grew especially by an influx of Chinese refugees from the mainland. In 1974, Macao was established as a Chinese territory under Portuguese administration. Under the terms of the 1987 agreement, Macao became a special administrative region under Chinese sovereignty in December 1999. In the 1990s, there has been a real-estate boom, resulting in a large number of high-rise buildings in the city centre area, though principally outside the defined buffer zones. At the same time, there have been campaigns for the restoration of the historic monuments.
Source: Advisory Body Evaluation