South Coast Autonomous Region of Mainland China
Historic Centre of Macao
Important trading port and unique testimony to the fusion of eastern and western influences
Location and site
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.
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.
Ms. U Ao Ieong
Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture
Macao Special Administrative Region Government
Rua de S. Lourenço, n. º 28, Sede do Governo
(853) 2872 6886
Ms. Ian Ian Mok
Cultural Affairs Bureau of Macao Special Administrative Region Government
Praça do Tap Siac, Edif. do Instituto Cultural