Macau Overview

Macau Overview


The Portuguese occupied Macao on August 14, 1556. Beginning in 1670, Portugal began to pay a tax to China for its presence in the territory. Macau prospered because of its location on the trade route between Malacca and Japan.

According to abbreviationfinder, Macao was the entry point to China for missionaries seeking China’s conversion to Christianity, such as the Jesuit Matteo Ricci. The presence of various religious orders, especially Jesuits, gave a boost to education in Macau.

The peculiarity of Macao as a European pass in China disappears in 1842 at the end of the First Opium War, when the British achieved sovereignty over Hong Kong. The port of Hong Kong would isolate Macao into the background in the commercial arena. Despite this crisis, the weakness of the Qing court at that time allowed Portugal to suspend the payment, imposed for the use of the land that Portugal paid to China and which implied an implicit recognition of Chinese sovereignty.

This consolidation of Portuguese control over Macao is also reflected in the recognition of the territory as a province of Portugal in 1844. Until then, Macao was dependent on the Portuguese possessions in India. Despite the fact that there had never been a formal transfer of sovereignty, Portugal considered Macao an integral part of its territory in 1822 and with the cessation of paying tribute to China it was confirmed that power over Macao belonged to Portugal. In 1851, the Taipa and Coloane islands took over the territory, thus tripling the area of Macao.

During the 20th century, the policies that shook China caused many migratory movements to Macao. This increased during the Second World War, when Macao, thanks to Portugal being neutral, escaped the Japanese invasion. After the Chinese Communist Party took power in China in 1949, many Kuomintang sympathizers took refuge in Macau, where there would be many moments of tension between the two parties, particularly during the Cultural Revolution.

Like Portugal, struggling to hold Macau territory, it offered China its return twice, first in 1967 and then in 1974. In those times of political turmoil under Maoism, the Chinese government rejected the offer to take over the Macau administration. In 1984, in agreement with the United Kingdom for the return of Hong Kong, the People’s Republic of China informed Portugal of its intention to regain the administration of Macao on December 20, 1999.


Macau is made up of three parts: The Macau peninsula, attached to the mainland, and the two islands of Taipa and Coloane. Macau was an island, but thanks to the land reclaimed from the sea, Macau became a peninsula in the 17th century, as a result of which city gates were built to separate the peninsula from the mainland. Pre-colonial records indicated that Macao had an area of 2.78 km², but it began to grow because of the Portuguese settlements. The growth of the surface accelerated in the last quarter of the 20th century, from 15 km² in 1972 to 16.1 km² in 1983 and 21.3 km² in 1994. Where more ground has been gained from the sea has been with the aforementioned islands. In 2000, the total area was approximately 23.6 km². Macao’s border with the rest of China, the so-called Portas do Cerco, separate Macao from the Zhuhai Special Economic Zone (Guangdong Province), one of the most prosperous coastal cities, in part because of its proximity to Macao. The peninsula and the two islands have been linked for years by several bridges. See Macau facts.


In ancient times, the merchants of the area used an awl to mark foreign coins, and thus allow their circulation. There are two countermarks that were used for this purpose; the first, older, contained the legend “MACAO” in Chinese and was stamped on pieces of 5 Spanish pesetas, 5 French francs, 8 Mexican reales, 960 Brazilian reis, Maria Teresa of Austria talers and Philippine pesos. While the second, which is more contemporary, was used by Chinese gambling house merchants.

Today Macau’s economy is largely based on tourism and games. Macau receives a lot of visitors from Hong Kong and, lately, from mainland China.

Along with Macau’s rich historical heritage, the biggest draw for visitors is undoubtedly gambling. Since casinos are banned in both Hong Kong and mainland China, Macau is the only place in China where you can legally play money gambling. This fact, together with the growing purchasing power of the Chinese population, has led to spectacular economic growth in recent years.


Macau’s population is 98% Han Chinese, mainly Cantonese and some Hakka, both from nearby Guangdong province. There is also a population of Japanese and Filipino origin. The community of so-called Macanese, people of mixed Asian and Portuguese descent, make up about 1% of Macau’s current population. Macau has the highest life expectancy in the world at 84.36.

The most widely spoken Chinese dialect is Cantonese, although the number of Mandarin speakers has increased. The Portuguese, despite his co-official character, has a very limited presence in Macau. In fact, the Portuguese dialect spoken by the Macanese community is now practically extinct, and few maintain an active use of Portuguese. English, although unofficial, is already the second most used language in Macau.

Macau Overview

Comments are closed.