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Historic Centre of Macao

Historic Centre of Macao

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.

Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

Centre historique de Macao

Macao, riche port marchand d’une grande importance stratégique dans l’essor du commerce international, a été un territoire sous administration portugaise du milieu du XVIe siècle à 1999, date à laquelle il passa sous souveraineté chinoise. Avec sa voie principale et ses bâtiments – résidentiels, religieux ou publics – portugais et chinois, le centre historique de Macao témoigne de la fusion unique d’influences esthétiques, culturelles, architecturales et technologiques de l’Orient et de l’Occident. Le site inclut également une forteresse et un phare qui est le plus ancien de Chine. Le site témoigne d’une des rencontres les plus anciennes et les plus durables entre la Chine et l’Occident, sur la base d’un commerce international florissant.

Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

وسط ماكاو التاريخي

ماكاو مرفأ تجاري غني ذات أهميّة إستراتيجية ساهم في انطلاقة التجارة العالميّة ولقد خضع للانتداب البرتغالي من أواسط القرن السادس عشر حتّى العام 1999 يوم انتقل إلى السيادة الصينيّة. ويُشكّل وسط ماكاو التجاري بطريقه الأساسيّة ومبانيه السكنيّة والدينيّة أو العامة البرتغاليّة كما الصينيّة خير دليل على اندماج التأثيرات الجماليّة والثقافيّة والهندسيّة والتكنولوجيّة اندماجاً فريداً من نوعه بين الشرق والغرب. وفي الموقع أيضاً حصنٌ ومنارة هي الأقدم في الصين. ويُشكّل الموقع محطة تلاقي هي الأقدم والأكثر استدامةً بين الصين والغرب على قاعدة تجارةٍ دوليةٍ مزدهرة.

source: UNESCO/ERI
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0



source: UNESCO/ERI
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

Исторический центр города Макао (Аомынь)

Макао – экономически процветающий порт, имеющий стратегическое значение в развитии мировой торговли, - находился в управлении португальцев с середины ХVI в. до 1999 г., когда он перешел под китайский суверенитет. Исторический центр Макао, его старые улицы, жилые, религиозные и общественные здания в португальском и китайском стилях, представляют собой уникальный пример соединения эстетических, культурных, архитектурных и технологических влияний Востока и Запада. Объект также включает крепость и старейший в Китае маяк. В целом же Макао служит напоминанием об одном из самых ранних и самых продолжительных столкновений между Китаем и западноевропейскими странами, вызванных конкуренцией в сфере международной торговли.

source: UNESCO/ERI
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

Centro histórico de Macao

Macao, próspero puerto mercantil de gran importancia estratégica en el comercio internacional, fue administrado por los portugueses desde mediados del siglo XVI hasta 1999, año en que China recobró su soberaní­a territorial. La calle principal del centro histórico de Macao y los edificios residenciales, civiles y religiosos de estilo portugués y chino son un testimonio excepcional del encuentro entre las tendencias estéticas, culturales, arquitectónicas y tecnológicas de Oriente y Occidente. El sitio comprende también una fortaleza y el faro mí¡s antiguo de toda China. El sitio conserva testimonios de uno de los encuentros mí¡s antiguos y perdurables entre China y Occidente, propiciado por el diní¡mico florecimiento del comercio internacional.

source: UNESCO/ERI
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0


source: NFUAJ

Historisch centrum van Macao

Macao was een belangrijke winstgevende haven in de internationale handel. De stad was onder Portugees bestuur van halverwege de 16e eeuw tot aan 1999, toen de soevereiniteit aan China werd overgedragen. De naam Macao is ontleend aan de 14e-eeuwse Ma Kwok tempel. Het historisch centrum van Macao een mooi voorbeeld van het samengaan van invloeden uit het Oosten en Westen, met historische straten, religieuze en openbare Portugese en Chinese gebouwen. In het centrum zijn ook een fort en een vuurtoren – de oudste in China – te vinden. Macao getuigt van de eerste en langste handelsrelatie tussen China en het Westen.

Source: unesco.nl

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Historic Centre of Macao (China) © Serge Dos Santos
Outstanding Universal Value

Brief synthesis

Macao, a lucrative port of strategic importance in the development of international trade in Chinese territory, became a Portuguese settlement in the mid-16th century and returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1999. The inscribed property presents a group of 22 principal buildings and public spaces that enable a clear understanding of the structure of the old trading port city. With its historic streets, residential, religious and public Portuguese and Chinese buildings, the Historic Centre of Macao provides a unique testimony to the meeting of aesthetic, cultural, religious, architectural and technological influences from East and West. It bears witness to the first and most enduring encounter between China and the West, based on the vibrancy of international trade. As a gateway between China and the western world, Macao played a strategic role in world trade. Different nationalities settled in this hub of a complex maritime trading network, along with missionaries who brought with them religious and cultural influences, as illustrated by the introduction of foreign building types (China’s first western-style theatre, university, hospital, churches and fortresses), many still in use. Macao’s unique multicultural identity can be read in the dynamic presence of Western and Chinese architectural heritage standing side by side in the city and the same dynamics often exist in individual building designs, adapting Chinese design features in western style buildings and vice versa, such as the incorporation of Chinese characters as decorative ornaments on the baroque-mannerist church façade of St. Paul’s Ruins. Typical European port city characteristics can also be seen in the urban fabric structure of the settlement with public squares blending into the densely packed lots along narrow, meandering streets, whilst accumulating experiences from other Portuguese settlements, seen in the concept of “Rua Direita” that links the port with old citadel. Visual connections between the property and seascape are attributes that reflect Macao’s origin as a trading port city; the Inner Harbour used over centuries and still functioning today adds to that testimony. Intangible influences of the historic encounter have permeated the lifestyles of the local people, affecting religion, education, medicine, charities, language and cuisine. The core value of the historic centre is not solely its architecture, the urban structure, the people or their customs, but a mixture of all these.  The coexistence of cultural sediments of eastern and western origin, along with their living traditions, defines the essence of the historic centre.

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.


Macao has been a fast growing economic region in recent decades. The integrity of the major monuments and the original urban fabric that define the historic settlement however has remained intact, with all necessary qualities to fully convey the Outstanding Universal Value of the property despite the contemporary setting of Macao. Land reclamation begun in the 19th century has changed the original coastline, but the historic centre is still connected visually with the sea, between the Guia Lighthouse and the Outer Harbour to the east, the A-Ma Temple with the river to the south, and the Mount Fortress to the river on the west. The Penha Hill inside the buffer zone also overlooks the river and the historic route of trading boats coming into Macao is still in use today, therefore it should also be identified as a visual link that can enrich the interpretation of the historic centre. Since 2005, there have been new development pressures outside the limits of the property, which have encouraged the expansion of detailed planning control guidelines beyond the limits of the inscribed site, with a special focus towards retaining visual corridors between the historic centre and the seascape and towards the riverside.


The major monuments in their urban setting testify to the Outstanding Universal Value of the property in terms of form, design, materials and use, supported by local and overseas archive documents, drawings, maps, sketches, photographs and by the fact that many monuments and public squares have retained their original functions, with associated living traditions such as worship and processions still being practised. The authenticity of the setting of the property as a historic trading port is vulnerable to development encroaching on important visual links (principal sightlines) to the Outer Harbour and the river.  

Protection and management requirements

At the time of inscription, in 2005, the protection of the Historic Centre of Macao was fundamentally guaranteed in the context of Law-Decrees 56/84/M and 83/92/M, directly related to the management and conservation practices for the preservation of each of the buildings and respective urban settings. Chief Executive Directive 202/2006 was issued following the inscription, in order to expand planning control guidelines over the entire inscribed area as well as the buffer zones. Chief Executive Directive 83/2008 was issued, in 2008, in order to address the impact from development pressures outside the property area, more specifically in reference to the area surrounding Guia Hill and the protection of visual corridors and linkage of the Lighthouse with the seascape. Studies for an urban plan for Macao, incorporating the wider setting of the World Heritage site, with the objective of reinforcing the connection between the historic centre and the seascape, have been carried out in order to protect the core value of Macao as a trade port city and to mitigate the visual impact on the monuments from future developments outside the buffer zones.

Through effective heritage protection mechanisms, the State Party envisages the Historic Centre of Macao will provide a phenomenal on-site experience that fully imparts the Outstanding Universal Value of the property. This vision will be supported by a new urban plan designed to reinforce Macao’s identity as a historic trade port city by maintaining visual connections with the sea and protecting the wider setting, while minimizing the negative effects from future developments outside the buffer zones, in order to safeguard the visual linkages of the monuments. Besides implementing the plan, the State Party will continue to conserve the monuments and urban characteristics of the Historic Centre of Macao, undertake district rehabilitation, and seek opportunities to restore and reuse properties with heritage value in accordance with the historic character of each site.  This will be pursued in partnership with the community, which understands the Outstanding Universal Value of the property and embraces the mission of safeguarding Macao’s world heritage, so that with hands joined the culture, values, and all aspects of the Historic Centre of Macao will continue to be protected for many generations to come.