WHS: Historic Centre of Macao

Today we’re off to the piece of China most well known for its spectacular casinos these days, but was the first — and for going on 400 years the most important — point of contact between Chinese and Western civilizations:

Historic Centre of Macao

A-Ma Temple

Macao, a lucrative port of strategic importance in the development of international trade in Chinese territory, became a Portuguese settlement in the mid-16th century and returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1999.

The inscribed property presents a group of 22 principal buildings and public spaces that enable a clear understanding of the structure of the old trading port city. With its historic streets, residential, religious and public Portuguese and Chinese buildings, the Historic Centre of Macao provides a unique testimony to the meeting of aesthetic, cultural, religious, architectural and technological influences from East and West.

It bears witness to the first and most enduring encounter 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…

Macao is the most thoughtfully explained World Heritage city we’ve ever encountered; not only are tourist maps of those 22 buildings and spaces readily available at points of entry, there’s handy signs of exposition — in English, no less! — standing at all of them. How thoughtful, indeed.

Take, for instance, the A-Ma Temple that opening shot is of, here’s another one:

A-Ma Temple

Standing right beside it is this handy guide sign:

A-Ma Temple

Or, on the Western religious side, by St. Lawrence’s Church,

St. Lawrence's Church

(which has some particularly pretty stained glass bits on the inside)

St. Lawrence's Church

you have this sign explaining the history.

St. Lawrence's Church

The Moorish Barracks are a particularly handsome building,

Moorish Barracks

which were built to house, no not Moors as you might think, but an Indian regiment from Goa!

Moorish Barracks

Another one we’d put on the moderately interesting list is the Mandarin’s House

Mandarin's House

… although does something covering 4000 square meters really count as a “house”?

Mandarin's House

They do start falling off in dramatic interest, we grant you, by the time you get to places like A Po Jing Square

Lilau Square

and you start reading on the sign that this was the site of … a spring …

Lilau Square

hunting around to get ‘em wall does start to feel like a Pokémon hunt at that point. And what more enjoyable way to while away a day could there be? we ask rhetorically.


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Pro tip for a quick visit to Macao: There’s a free shuttle bus between SZX Shenzhen airport and the nearby Macau ferry — if you find yourself with a long layover in Shenzen, by accident or design, taking the ride across the Pearl River is a thoroughly enjoyable way to spend it!


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Alex Curylo


I go places.

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