The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary







Região Administrativa Especial de
Macau da República Popular da China
Flag of Macau Macao Coat of Arms
(Flag) (Coat of Arms )
National motto: none
Location of Macau
Official language Chinese and Portuguese
Chief Executive Edmund Ho Hau-wah
- Total
- % water
Not ranked
27.3 km²
- Total (2004)
- Density
Not ranked
 - Date
Handover from Portugal to the People's Republic of China

20 December 1999

Currency Pataca (MOP)
Time zone UTC+8 (AWST)
Internet TLD .mo
Calling Code +853

The Macau Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China, short form Macau or Macao (see Names), is a small territory on the southern coast of China. It is 70 km southwest of Hong Kong and 145 km from Guangzhou. It was the oldest European colony in China, dating back to the 16th century. The Portuguese government transferred sovereignty over Macau to the People's Republic of China in 1999, and it is now run as a Special Administrative Region of the PRC. Residents of Macau mostly speak Cantonese natively; Mandarin Chinese, Portuguese, and English are also spoken.

Broadly, Macanese refers to all permanent inhabitants of Macau. But narrowly, it refers to an ethnic group in Macau originating from Portuguese descent, usually mixed with Chinese blood.

Besides historical colonial relics, the biggest attractions in Macau are the casinos. Though many forms of gambling are legal there, the most popular game is Pai Gow, a game played with Chinese dominoes. Gamblers from Hong Kong often take a one-day excursion to the city. Ferry service by hydrofoil between Hong Kong and Macau is available 24 hours a day, every day.



The name "Macau" (馬交 Cantonese: Magau) is thought to be derived from "Mage Temple" (媽閣廟 Cantonese: Magok), a still-existing landmark built in 1448 dedicated to the goddess Matsu. The more popular Chinese name of Àomén (澳門) means "Inlet Gates". The "gates" refer to two erect gate-like mountains of Nantai (南台) and Beitai (北台). Or the other source: "Ao" from Macau's previous name "Heung San Ao" and "men" from "door", as it is geographically situated at "Cross' Door". Macau is also known as Haojing'ao (壕鏡澳 "Trench-mirror Inlet"), Xiangshan'ao (香山澳 "Fragrant-mountain Inlet"), Liandao (蓮島 "Lotus Island"), as well as "Soda port" (疏打埠).

Macau is the official Portuguese spelling. In English, both Macao and Macau are used.


Main article: History of Macau

Macau was first settled by the Portuguese in 1557. Beginning in 1670, Portugal leased the territory although there was no transfer of sovereignty. Macau prospered as a port and was a subject of repeated attempts by the Dutch to conquer it in the 17th century.

After the House of Braganza regained control of Portugal from the Spanish Habsburgs in 1640, Macau was granted the official title of Cidade do (Santo) Nome de Deus de Macau, Não há outra mais Leal (City of the (Holy) Name of God of Macau, There is none more Loyal).

A church in Macau, with the region's distinctive striped tiling.
A church in Macau, with the region's distinctive striped tiling.

With Hong Kong established as a British Crown Colony, Macau declined as regional trading center as larger ships were drawn to the deep water port of Victoria Harbour. In 1849, Portugal declared the colony independent of China. This was recognized by the Chinese government in 1887.

In 1955, the Salazar regime declared Macau, in common with other Portuguese colonies, an "Overseas Province" of Portugal).

Though Macanese culture has always been a mixture between Chinese and Portuguese this did not always come about peacefully. Chinese citizens efforts to establish their own identity were often counter to the aims of the Portuguese government. In 1966 residents tried to obtain a license for a private school in Taipa, a city in Macau. After being rejected many times they went ahead and started building without permits. On November 15th, 1966, the Portuguese police arrested the school officials and beat construction workers, residents, and press reporters. As a result, Chinese teachers and students gathered at the Governor’s house to peacefully protest, but on December 3rd the government ordered them to be arrested. This stirred up the anger of the general public and more people came to protest. The Portuguese government sent riot police and declared martial law. As result of the protests 11 people died and 200 were injured.

To peacefully oppose the government, the Chinese people enacted “three no’s” - no taxes, no service, no selling to Portuguese. They were successful and on January 29th, 1967 the Portuguese government of Macau signed a statement of apology. This marked the beginning of equal treatment and recognition of Chinese identity and of defacto Chinese control of the colony.

After the leftist military coup of 1974, the now democratic Portuguese government was determined to relinquish all its overseas possessions. However, there was no interest on the part of the People's Republic of China in regaining the territory. In 1976, Lisbon redefined Macau as a Special Territory, and granted it a large measure of administrative and economic independence. In addition, Portugal and the PRC agreed to regard Macau as 'a Chinese territory under Portuguese administration'. This status was made anomalous by the agreement in 1985 to return Hong Kong to PRC rule, and in 1987, an agreement was made with the People's Republic of China to make Macau a Special Administrative Region. The Macau Special Administrative Region finally came into being on December 20th 1999.


Main article: Politics of Macau

The chief executive is appointed by the People's Republic of China's central government after selection by an election committee, whose members are nominated by corporate bodies. The chief executive appears before a cabinet, the Executive Council, of between 7 and 11 members. Edmund Ho, a community leader and banker, is the first China-appointed chief executive of the Macau SAR, having replaced General de Rocha Vieira on December 20th, 1999.

The legislative organ of the territory is the Legislative Assembly, a 23-member body comprising eight directly elected members, eight appointed members representing functional constituencies and seven members appointed by the chief executive. The Legislative Assembly is responsible for general lawmaking.

The legal system is based largely on Portuguese law . The territory has its own independent judicial system, with a high court — the Court of Final Appeal (CFA). Judges are selected by a committee and appointed by the chief executive.

Map of Macau


Macau comprises two administrative subdivisions:

Although the phrase "Northern District", broadly speaking, may refer to the entire Macau peninsula, some of the people in Macau use the phrase "Northern District" more narrowly. It refers to the northern part of the Macau peninsula, and the northern part of the Macau peninsula is situated near the border of China. In this way, a lot of people travel to and from China by land (on foot or with land transportation) through the northern district.

During the last periods of Portuguese rule, the peninsular (northern) district was administered by the Macau Municipal Council (Câmara Municipal de Macau), and the islands by the Islands Municipal Council (Câmara Municipal das Ilhas). After the handover to China in 1999, these were transferred to the Provisional Municipal Council of Macau (臨時澳門市政執行委員會; Câmara Municipal de Macau Provisória) and the Provisional Municipal Council of the Islands (臨時海島市政執行委員會; Câmara Municipal das Ilhas Provisória) respectively per Article 15, Law 1/1999; the corresponding Municipal Assembly (Assembleia Municipal) was also changed to a provisional one (臨時市政議會; Assembleia Municipal Provisória). Article 16 and Annex XII of Law 6/1999 changed the Portuguese-style coat-of-arms with two angels as heraldic supporters to a simple design of a key with two birds as supporters. Implicitly, this also revoked the historical name of Cidade do (Santo) Nome de Deus de Macau, Não há outra mais Leal (City of the (Holy) Name of God of Macau, There is none more Loyal) which had religious and royal overtones. Subsequently in 2001, Law 17/2001 and Administrative Regulation 32/2001 introduced the Institute (or Bureau) of Civic and Municipal Affairs (民政總署; Instituto para os Assuntos Cívicos e Municipais; IACM) which replaced the Provisional Municipal Councils. The IACM was given a simple logotype based on the Han (Chinese) character for 'civilians'.


Main article: Geography of Macau

Macau consists of a peninsula, and the islands of Taipa and Coloane.

The peninsula is formed by the Zhujiang (Pearl River) estuary on the east and the Xijiang (West River) on the west. It borders the Zhuhai Special Economic Zone in mainland China.

Macau has a generally flat terrain resulting from extensive land reclamation, but numerous steep hills mark the original natural land mass. The Macau peninsula was originally an island, but gradually a connecting sandbar turned into a narrow isthmus. Land reclamation in the 17th century made Macau into a peninsula.

With a dense urban environment, Macau has no arable land, pastures, forest, or woodland. Because of this deficiency, Macau's people traditionally have looked to the sea for their livelihood.


Main article: Economy of Macau

Macau's economy is based largely on tourism, including gambling, and textile and fireworks manufacturing. Efforts to diversify have spawned other small industries, such as toys, artificial flowers , and electronics. The clothing industry has provided about three-fourths of export earnings, and the gambling industry is estimated to contribute more than 40% of GDP. More than 8 million tourists visited Macau in 2000. Although the recent growth in gambling and tourism has been driven primarily by mainland Chinese, tourists from Hong Kong remain the most numerous. Recently gang violence, a dark spot on the economy, has significantly declined, to the benefit of the tourism sector. During the last four years, the average growth rate of the economy has been approximately 10% per year.


Main article: Demographics of Macau

Considered as a "dependency", Macau is the most densely populated of the countries/dependencies in the world.

Macau's population is 95% Chinese, primarily Cantonese and some Hakka, both from nearby Guangdong Province. The remainder are of Portuguese or mixed Chinese-Portuguese ancestry, or the so-called Macanese. Some Japanese, including descendants of Japanese Catholics who were expelled by shoguns, also live. The official languages are Portuguese (especially its creole Patuá or Macaista Chapado, which is almost extinct) and Mandarin Chinese, though the residents commonly speak Cantonese Chinese. English is spoken in tourist areas.


Main article: Culture of Macau



  • Like Hong Kong, but unlike both mainland China and Portugal, traffic in Macau travels on the left side of the road, and the majority of vehicles are right-hand drive . This is a curious side effect of colonial isolation from the parent country. The Macanese first saw cars in Hong Kong that were imported by the British and copied them.
  • Like Hong Kong, Macau also has a flower to represent the city. While the representative flower of Hong Kong is Bauhinia, the representative flower of Macau is Lotus. Lotus is always used as a symbol of the Macau Special Administrative Region.

See also

External links

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