|Name||澳门 (ào mén) ['bay' 'entrance']|
|Population||0.6362 million (0.05 %) [33rd last] comparison table|
|Area||1,000 km2 [386 mile2] (0.01 %) [32nd]|
|GDP||513,427 (1.31 %) [1st]|
Macau (or Macao) is a relic of China's subjugation by European powers. Macau stands on a rocky peninsular on the mouth of the Zhu (Pearl) River estuary connected by bridges to Taipa and Coloane Islands .
Macau is a Special Administrative Region (S.A.R.) rather than a province just like nearby Hong Kong on the other side of the estuary. The mandarin Chinese name for the island is 'Aomen'. Both Cantonese and Portuguese are widely spoken in the city. Originally Portugal helped China remove Japanese pirates who were damaging trade with the port of Guangzhou (Canton). Portuguese traders then settled in the 16th century and it remained under the control of Portugal until December 20th 1999, making it the first and last foreign possession in China. The early trade was extremely lucrative, the Portuguese acted as the trusted middlemen for trade between China and Japan. Because of the ban on direct trade with the ‘barbarous’ Japanese the Portuguese had a monopoly of luxury goods such as silk which they bought with Japanese silver. Because gold in China was relatively undervalued they could make huge profits by exchanging silver for gold and shipping the gold back to Europe. This trade came to an end when all contact with Europeans was banned by the Japanese Emperor at the end of the 1630s.
In the Qing dynasty up to the Opium Wars foreign merchant ships were not allowed into Guangzhou for much of the year, and so the Europeans spent several months in Macau. From the mid 18th century up until 1876 Macau was the center of the infamous ‘coolie trade’ where Chinese workers were treated no better than slaves. They were held in ‘barracoons ➚’ at Macau while awaiting transport to Cuba, Peru and other foreign destinations. Many of the old buildings are of the Portuguese style even though they now represent only 2% of the population. Portugal's neutrality in the second World War made it a refuge for 600,000 fleeing the Japanese occupation. When China was closed to International trade during the 1950s Macau became the conduit for many illicit deals. Later on, in the 1980s it began a period of development, but was far out-stripped by Hong Kong just across the estuary. A certain degree of democracy was introduced to the island in 1976.
Like Hong Kong it has fifty years of semi-autonomy within China before it becomes fully assimilated. Unlike Britain, Portugal kept out of military conflict with China and so Macau has remained an example of foreign and Chinese living and working side-by-side. It has its own currency the pataca ➚ which is currently pegged to the Hong Kong dollar. Macau has a tiny area of only 11 sq miles [28 sq kms] with the highest population density in the world.
The Portuguese gave it the name 'Macau' probably after a temple to Mazu a deity of the seafarers in the area. A Ming temple dedicated to her, also known as A-Ma Gau Temple, is located in the south west of the main island. The International airport was being built on an artificial island due to the scarcity of land. There is a popular horse racing course on Taipa Island. The Fortaleza do Monte ➚ on the central high part of the island has a museum documenting the outpost's history, while the ‘Largo do Senado’ is at the old heart of the city with many colonial style buildings. Macau Tower at 1,107 feet [337 meters] offers dizzying view of the whole area.
The main industries continue to be tourism and gambling. With major casinos like Sands Casino ➚; Casino Lisboa ➚ and Venetian Macao ➚ (the largest in the World), it generates more gambling revenue than Las Vegas ➚. The traditional cuisine of Macau has a Portuguese style using olive oil and almonds and saffron. A very cosmopolitan mix of other cuisines is available, with seafood a major constituent.
Macau has a warm and humid climate through most of the year. It can be very wet during the summer months.
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