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Special Edition 02/17/2015 World Heritage China Part 15- The Historic Centre of Macao


02-17-2015 21:56 BJT

Chinese name: Ao Men Li Shi Cheng Qu

English name: The Historic Centre of Macao

Based on the standards C(ii)(iii)(iv)(vi) for selecting cultural heritage, the Historic Centre of Macao was listed in the World Cultural Heritage List in 2005

The Historic Centre of Macao is an area of historic blocks, of which, the core part is the old town of Macao. The blocks are connected by the squares and streets among them, including the Barra Square, Lilau Square, St. Augustine’s Square, Senado Square, Cathedral Square, St. Dominic's Square, Company of Jesus Square, and Camoes Square. The Centre contains over 20 historic buildings including the A-Ma Temple, Port Authority Building, Mandarin House, St. Lawrence Church, St. Joseph Seminary and Church, Dom Pedro V Theatre, Sir Robert Ho Tung Library, St. Augustine Church, Leal Senado Building, Sam Kai Vui Kun Temple, Holy House of Mercy, Cathedral, Lou Kau Mansion, St. Dominic Church, St. Paul Ruins, Na Tcha Temple, Section of Old City Walls, Mount Fortress, San Antonio Church, Casa Garden, Protestant Cemetery, and Guia Fortress (including Guia Lighthouse and Chapel).

The Historic Centre of Macao

The Historic Centre of Macao

In the Historic Centre of Macao, the essence of the cultural exchanges between China and western countries in the past over 400 years are well preserved. It is China’s oldest, largest, best preserved and concentrated historic urban area which mainly consists of western-style buildings but also has many Chinese-and-western-style buildings. It is an important historic proof of the western religious culture spreading in China and the Far East. It is also the fruit of the cultural exchanges and co-existence between China and western countries in the past 400 years.

Multi-existence and harmonious integration

In the middle of the 16th century, required by the new foreign trade situation, the government of the Ming Dynasty appointed the southwestern part of the Macao Peninsula as the place for foreign people, mainly the Portuguese people, to live and carry out trade activities. Then, Macao developed into the most important foreign trade port of China and also an important international port in Asia before the 19th century. The prosperity of trade in Macao attracted many people from around the world to move to Macao, and finally, an international city where Europeans, Asians, Africans and Americans lived together emerged. The Portuguese called this wall-surrounded city the “City of the Holy Name of God,” and the current Historic Centre of Macao was its core part.

During the past over 400 years, many people move to Macao bringing different cultures, concepts, professional skills and social customs from different countries and regions of the world, including Portugal, Spain, Holland, the U.K., France, Italy, the U.S., Japan, Sweden, India, Malaysia, Philippines, Korea and even Africa. They built houses, churches, roads, fortresses and even cemeteries in the city, and started their colorful lives and various cultural activities. In this situation, Macao became the earliest and most important place of China in contacting modern western materials and cultures, and also a bridgehead for China to contact western culture. Meanwhile, the foreign people living in Macao also introduced all the traditional Chinese culture, concepts and social customs they saw in Macao to the world. Macao had become a window for the world to learn about China.

As foreign people began to settle in Macao, they also brought their traditional architectural technologies to Macao, making Macao the first place in China to adopt modern western architectural technologies. Especially, the architectures built by the Portuguese in Macao were extremely similar to Portugal’s local architectures in all the aspects. In fact, Macao’s architecture is pretty unique, because they were built based on the main western architectural forms and styles that emerged after the “Revival of Learning,” but also absorbed many Asian architectural elements from different places.

Setting up many “first businesses of China”

At the end of the Ming Dynasty and the beginning of the Qing Dynasty, a lot of Catholic missionaries actively worked in the Far East and were based in Macao. Therefore, a splendid chapter of cultural exchanges between China and western countries started. The missionaries from different monasteries brought modern western sciences, technologies and arts to China, and also introduced China’s cultural achievements to the west. In Macao, the base of the missionaries, many “first businesses of China” were established, including the first western-style university of China (St. Paul's College), the first western-style hospital of China (St. Raphael's Hospital), the first printing house of China using western metal plates and printed in Latin (Printing House under St. Paul's International College) and the first foreign-language newspaper of China (A Abelha Da China). St. Paul's College (does not exist anymore.) and the St. Joseph's Seminary established by the Society of Jesus trained a lot of specialists for the Catholic missionary cause in China and the Far East, and meanwhile also trained a lot of Chinese missionaries.

In the 19th century, after the first Protestant missionary Robert Morrison arrived in China, Protestantism also took Macao as a base to actively promote missionary work. For example, Choi Kou, China’s first Protestant, was baptized by Morrison in Macao, and the “Dictionary of Chinese Language” compiled by Morrison was also published in Macao. Especially, the Morrison School established by Protestants introduced the modern western education model into China, and many famous students such as Yung Wing were trained. It contributed immensely to the modernization of China’s education.

On the other hand, the Mazu Cult among Macao’s residents reflects the close connection between Macao’s residents and the residents living in the coastal areas of Fujian and Guangdong provinces. However, due to Macao’s special social environment and history, the A-Ma Temple in Macao is quite different from other Mazu Temples of China. The A-Ma Temple in Macao possesses the typical characteristics of the common Mazu Temples in China and even other places of the world, but since Macao was the most important commercial port of China in contacting the west in the modern history, the A-Ma Temple in Macao was also the first place that spread the Mazu Culture to Europe.

In Macao’s history of over 400 years, the Chinese and Portuguese people have established different residential communities in the Historic Centre of Macao. In these communities, not only can the architectural characteristics of the Chinese-style and western-style buildings be seen, but the integration of Chinese and Portuguese people’s different religions, cultures and lifestyles and their mutual respect for each other can also be reflected. The warm, simple and comprehensive atmosphere in the communities is the most distinctive and valuable part of Macao.

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