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Macau is a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People's Republic of China. Macau became a colony of the Portuguese empire in 1887. It was lent to the Portugal as a trading post but remained under Chinese authority and sovereignty. Self administration was not achieved until the 1840's and it was subsequently transitioned into a Portuguese territory when Qing signed the Sino-Portuguese Treaty of Peking, until its handover to China in 1999. It was the last European territory in continental (on-shore) Asia.
The human history of Macau stretches back up to 6,000 years, and includes many different and diverse civilisations and periods of existence. Evidence of human and culture dating back 4,000 to 6,000 years has been discovered on the Macau Peninsula and dating back 5,000 years on Coloane Island.
During the Qin Dynasty (221–206 BC), the region came under the jurisdiction of Panyu County, Nanhai Prefecture of the province of Guangdong. It was administratively part of Dongguan Prefecture in the Jin Dynasty (265–420 AD), and alternated under the control of Nanhai and Dongguan in later dynasties. In 1152, during the Song Dynasty (960–1279 AD), it was under the jurisdiction of the new Xiangshan County.
Since the 5th century, merchant ships travelling between Southeast Asia and Guangzhou used the region as a port for refuge, fresh water, and food. The first recorded inhabitants of the area are some 50,000 people seeking refuge in Macau from invading Mongols in 1277, during the Southern Song Dynasty. They were able to defend their settlements and establish themselves there. Mong Há has long been the center of Chinese life in Macau and the site of what may be the region's oldest temple, a shrine devoted to the Buddhist Guanyin (Goddess of Mercy). Later in the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644 AD), fishermen migrated to Macau from various parts of Guangdong and Fujian provinces and built the A-Ma Temple where they prayed for safety on the sea. The Hoklo Boat people were the first to show interest in Macau as a trading centre for the southern provinces. However, Macau did not develop as a major settlement until the Portuguese arrived in the 16th century.
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During the age of discovery Portuguese sailors explored the coasts of Africa and Asia. The sailors later established posts at Goa in 1510, and conquered Malacca in 1511, driving the Sultan to the southern tip of the Malay Peninsular from where he kept making raids on the Portuguese. The Portuguese under Jorge Álvares landed at Lintin Island in the Pearl River Delta of China in 1513 with a hired junk sailing from Portuguese Malacca. They erected a stone marker at Lintin Island claiming it for the King of Portugal, Manuel I. In the same year, the Indian Viceroy Afonso de Albuquerque commissioned Rafael Perestrello — a cousin of Christopher Columbus to sail to China in order to open up trade relations. Rafael traded with the Chinese merchants in Canton in that year and in 1516, but was not allowed to move further.
The embassy lasted until the death of the emperor Zhengde in Nanjing. The embassy was further rejected by the Chinese Ming court, which now became less interested in new foreign contacts. The Ming Court was also influenced by reports of misbehaviour of Portuguese elsewhere in China, and by the deposed Sultan of Malacca seeking Chinese assistance to drive the Portuguese out of Malacca.
In 1521 and 1522 several more Portuguese ships reached the trading island Tuen Mun off the coast near Canton, but were driven away by the now hostile Ming authorities.
The Malay Malacca Sultanate was a tributary state and an ally of Ming Dynasty China. When Portugal conquered Malacca in 1511 and committed atrocities against the Malay Sultanate, the Chinese responded with violent force against Portugal.
The Chinese Imperial Government imprisoned and executed multiple Portuguese envoys after torturing them in Guangzhou. The Malaccans had informed the Chinese of the Portuguese seizure of Malacca, to which the Chinese responded with hostility toward the Portuguese. The Malaccans told the Chinese of the deception the Portuguese used, disguising plans for conquering territory as mere trading activities, and told of all the atrocities committed by the Portuguese.
Due to the Malaccan Sultan lodging a complaint with the Chinese Emperor against the Portuguese invasion, the Portuguese were greeted with hostility by the Chinese when they arrived in China.The Malaccan Sultan, based in Bintan after fleeing Malacca, sent a message to the Chinese, which combined with Portuguese banditry and violent activity in China, led the Chinese authorities to execute 23 Portuguese and torture the rest of them in jails. After the Portuguese set up posts for trading in China and committed piratical activities and raids in China, the Chinese responded with the complete extermination of the Portuguese in Ningbo and Quanzhou Pires, a Portuguese trade envoy, was among those who died in the Chinese dungeons.
Good relations between the Portuguese and Chinese Ming Dynasty resumed in the 1540s, when Portuguese aided China in eliminating coastal pirates. The two later began annual trade missions to Shangchuan Island in 1549. Diplomatic relations were salvaged by the Leonel de Sousa agreement with Cantonese authorities in 1554. In 1557, the Ming court finally gave consent for a permanent and official Portuguese trade base at Macau. In 1558, Leonel de Sousa became the second Portuguese Governor of Macau.
Following a ship wreck in 1535, Portuguese traders were allowed to anchor ships in Macau's harbours, and the right to carry out trading activities, though not the right to stay onshore.
Macao was first settled by Portuguese survivors of the massacres of the Portuguese at Ningbo and at Quanzhou by Chinese government soldiers. After the Portuguese raided and pillaged villages around the trading posts in those two cities, the Emperor ruled that all Portuguese encountered everywhere should be killed on the spot. The casualties in total, with the 800 dead Portuguese, totalled 12,000 dead Christians. The massacres resulted in the Portuguese survivors fleeing to Macao, where they were allowed by China to start a colony to build sheds for drying goods in 1557. From the Mings' standpoint, the Portuguese were ultimately responsible for the massacre, since it was they who provoked the Chinese through "rapaciousness". The Portuguese considered it permissible to attack and pillage "Eastern peoples", and not treat them according to the law. The historian Kenneth Scott Latourette said that "the Portuguese had chiefly themselves to thank" for the massacres the Chinese committed against them. The Portuguese commander Albuquerque once stated "a Chinese junk man knew more about courtesy and humanity than a European knight". The Chinese had massacred them after the Portuguese engaged in pillaging and murder in Chinese villages. "A Lesson" was delivered to the Portuguese in this manner from the Chinese. The section of Macao they settled on was San Chuan island. They had to pay rent to China. They later built some rudimentary stone-houses around the area now called Nam Van. But not until 1557 did the Portuguese establish a permanent settlement in Macau, at an annual rent of 500 taels ( 20 kilograms/44 pounds ) of silver. Later that year, the Portuguese established a walled village there. Ground rent payments began in 1573. China retained sovereignty and Chinese residents were subject to Chinese law, but the territory was under Portuguese administration. In 1582 a land lease was signed, and annual rent was paid to Xiangshan County.
The Portuguese continued to pay an annual tribute up to 1863 in order to stay in Macau.
In 1564, Portugal commanded the trade of India, Japan, and China, though their pride was deeply shocked at the supreme indifference with which the Chinese treated them. Their atrocities at Ningpo and Macao, and their subsequent servility, had opened the eyes of the Chinese to their true character, and unfortunately for other European adventurers, they had come to the conclusion that all western nations were alike. The senate of Macao complained to the viceroy of Goa, of the contempt with which the Chinese authorities treated them, confessing however that, “it was owing more to the Portuguese themselves than to the Chinese.” The Chinese were obliged to restrict the commerce of Portugal to the port of Macao, in 1631.
On 24 June 1622, the Dutch attacked Macau in the Battle of Macau with 800 men under Captain Kornelis Reyerszoon, expecting to turn it into a Dutch possession after its conquest. African slaves who fought for the Portuguese repulsed the Dutch attack, and the Dutch never tried to conquer Macau again. The majority of the defenders were Africans slaves, with only a few Portuguese soldiers and Priests.
The Portuguese, often married Tanka women since Han Chinese women would not have relations with them. Some of the Tanka's descendants became Macanese people. Some Tanka children were enslaved by Portuguese raiders. The Chinese poet Wu Li wrote a poem, which included a line about the Portuguese in Macau being supplied with fish by the Tanka.
After Portuguese permanent settlement in Macau, both Chinese and Portuguese merchants flocked to Macau, although the Portuguese were never numerous (numbering just 900 in 1583 and only 1,200 out of 26,000 in 1640). It quickly became an important node in the development of Portugal's trade along three major routes: Macau-Malacca-Goa-Lisbon, Guangzhou-Macau-Nagasaki and Macau-Manila-Mexico. The Guangzhou-Macau-Nagasaki route was particularly profitable because the Portuguese acted as middlemen, shipping Chinese silks to Japan and Japanese silver to China, pocketing huge markups in the process. This already lucrative trade became even more so when Chinese officials handed Macau's Portuguese traders a monopoly by banning direct trade with Japan in 1547, due to piracy by Chinese and Japanese nationals.
Macau's golden age coincided with the union of the Spanish and Portuguese crowns, between 1580 and 1640. King Philip II of Spain was encouraged to not harm the status quo, to allow trade to continue between Portuguese Macau and Spanish Manila, and to not interfere with Portuguese trade with China. In 1587, Philip promoted Macau from "Settlement or Port of the Name of God" to "City of the Name of God" (Cidade do Nome de Deus de Macau).
The alliance of Portugal with Spain meant that Portuguese colonies became targets for the Netherlands, which was embroiled at the time in a lengthy struggle for its independence from Spain, the Eighty Years' War. After the Dutch East India Company was founded in 1602, the Dutch unsuccessfully attacked Macau several times, culminating in a full scale invasion attempt in 1622, when 800 attackers were successfully repelled by 150 Macanese and Portuguese defenders. One of the first actions of Macau's first governor, who arrived the following year, was to strengthen the city's defences, which included the construction of the Guia Fortress.
As well as being an important trading post, Macau was a center of activity for Catholic missionaries, as it was seen as a gateway for the conversion of the vast populations of China and Japan. Jesuits had first arrived in the 1560s and were followed by Dominicans in the 1580s. Both orders soon set about constructing churches and schools, the most notable of which were the Jesuit Cathedral of Saint Paul and the St. Dominic’s Church built by the Dominicans. In 1576, Macau was established as an episcopal see by Pope Gregory XIII with Melchior Carneiro appointed as the first bishop.
In 1637, increasing suspicion of the intentions of Spanish and Portuguese Catholic missionaries in Japan finally led the shogun to seal Japan off from all foreign influence. Later named the sakoku period, this meant that no Japanese were allowed to leave the country (or return if they were living abroad), and no foreign ship was allowed to dock in a Japanese port. An exception was made for the Protestant Dutch, who were allowed to continue to trade with Japan from the confines of a small man-made island in Nagasaki, Deshima. Macau's most profitable trade route, that between Japan and China, had been severed. The crisis was compounded two years later by the loss of Malacca to the Dutch in 1641, damaging the link with Goa.
The news that the Portuguese House of Braganza had regained control of the Crown from the Spanish Habsburgs took two years to reach Macau, arriving in 1642. A ten week celebration ensued, and despite its new-found poverty, Macau sent gifts to the new King João IV along with expressions of loyalty. In return, the King rewarded Macau with the addition of the words "There is none more Loyal" to its existing title. Macau was now "City of the Name of God in China, There is none more loyal". ("Não há outra mais Leal" [ Listen (help·info)]).
In 1685, the privileged position of the Portuguese in trade with China ended, following a decision by the emperor of China to allow trade with all foreign countries. Over the next century, England, Holland, France, Denmark, Sweden, the United States and Russia moved in, establishing factories and offices in Guangzhou and Macau.
Until 20 April 1844 Macau was under the jurisdiction of Portugal's Indian colonies, the so-called “Estado português da India” (Portuguese State of India), but after this date, it, along with East Timor, was accorded recognition by Lisbon (but not by Beijing) as an overseas province of Portugal. The Treaty of Peace, Amity, and Commerce between China and the United States was signed in a temple in Macau on 3 July 1844. The temple was used by a Chinese judicial administrator, who also oversaw matters concerning foreigners, and was located in the village of Mong Há. The Templo de Kun Iam was the site where, on 3 July 1844, the treaty of Wangxia (named after the village of Mong Ha where the temple was located) was signed by representatives of the United States and China. This marked the official beginning of Sino-US relations.
After China ceded Hong Kong to the British in 1842, Macau's position as a major regional trading centre declined further still because larger ships were drawn to the deep water port of Victoria Harbour.
In an attempt to reverse the decline, Portugal declared Macau a free port, expelled Chinese officials and soldiers, and thereafter levied taxes on Chinese residents. In 1849, Portugal declared the colony independent of China.
Portugal continued to pay rent to China until 1849, when the Portuguese abolished the Chinese customs house and declared Macau's “independence”, a year which also saw Chinese retaliation and finally the assassination of Gov. Ferreira do Amaral. Portugal gained control of the island of Wanzai (Lapa by the Portuguese and now as Wanzaizhen), to the northwest of Macau and which now is under the jurisdiction of Zhuhai (Xiangzhou District), in 1849 but relinquished it in 1887. Control over Taipa (氹仔 in Chinese, Jyutping: Tam5 Zai2; pinyin: Dàngzǎi) and Coloane (路環 in Chinese, Jyutping: Lou6 Waan4; pinying: Lùhuán), two islands south of Macau, was obtained between 1851 and 1864. Macau and East Timor were again combined as an overseas province of Portugal under control of Goa in 1883. The Protocol Respecting the Relations Between the Two Countries (signed in Lisbon 26 March 1887) and the Beijing Treaty (signed in Beijing on 1 December 1887) confirmed “perpetual occupation and government” of Macau by Portugal (with Portugal's promise “never to alienate Macau and dependencies without agreement with China” in the treaty). Taipa and Coloane were also ceded to Portugal, but the border with the mainland was not delimited. Ilha Verde (青洲 in Chinese, Jyutping: Ceng1 Zau1 or Cing1 Zau1; pinyin: Qīngzhōu) was incorporated into Macau's territory in 1890, and, once a kilometre offshore, by 1923 it had been absorbed into peninsular Macau through land reclamation.
From 1848 to about the early 1870s, Macau was the infamous transit port of a trade of coolies (or slave labourers) from southern China. Most of them were kidnapped from the Guangdong province and were shipped off in packed vessels to Cuba, Peru, or other South American ports to work on plantations or in mines. Many died on the way there due to malnutrition, disease, or other mistreatment. The Dea del Mar which had set sail to Callao from Macau in 1865 with 550 Chinese on board, arrived in Tahiti with only 162 of them still alive.
Unlike in the case of Portuguese Timor which was occupied by the Japanese in 1942 along with Dutch Timor, the Japanese respected Portuguese neutrality in Macau, but only up to a point. As such, Macau enjoyed a brief period of economic prosperity as the only neutral port in South China, after the Japanese had occupied Guangzhou (Canton) and Hong Kong. In August 1943, Japanese troops seized the British steamer Sian in Macau and killed about 20 guards. The next month they demanded the installation of Japanese "advisors" under the alternative of military occupation. The result was that a virtual Japanese protectorate was created over Macau. Japanese domination ended in August 1945.
When it was discovered that neutral Macau was planning to sell aviation fuel to Japan, aircraft from the USS Enterprise bombed and strafed the hangar of the Naval Aviation Centre on 16 January 1945 to destroy the fuel. American air raids on targets in Macau were also made on 25 February and 11 June 1945. Following Portuguese government protest, in 1950 the United States paid US$20,255,952 to the government of Portugal.
When the Chinese communists came to power in 1949, they declared the Protocol of Lisbon to be invalid as an “unequal treaty” imposed by foreigners on China. However, Beijing was not ready to settle the treaty question, leaving the maintenance of “the status quo” until a more appropriate time. Beijing took a similar position on treaties relating to the Hong Kong territories of the United Kingdom.
Riots broke out in 1966 when local Chinese and the Macau authority clashed, the most serious one being the so-called 12-3 incident. It was sparked by the overreaction of some Portuguese officials to what was a regular minor dispute concerning building permits. The riots caused 8 deaths and the end was a total climbdown by the Portuguese Government, which signed two agreements, one with Macau's Chinese community, and the other with mainland China. The latter committed the Government to compensate local Chinese community leaders with as much as 2 million Macau Patacas and to prohibit all Kuomintang activities in Macau. This move ended the conflict, and relations between the government and the leftist organisations remained largely peaceful. This success in Macau encouraged leftists in Hong Kong to "do the same", leading to riots by leftists in Hong Kong in 1967. A Portuguese proposal to return the colony to China was declined by China.
In 1974, following the anti-colonialist Carnation Revolution, Portugal relinquished all colonial claims and proposed Chinese sovereignty over Macau.
Portugal and the People's Republic of China established diplomatic relations on 8 February 1979, and Beijing acknowledged Macau as “Chinese territory under Portuguese administration.” A year later, Gen. Melo Egidio became the first governor of Macau to pay an official visit to Beijing.
The visit underscored both parties' interest in finding a mutually agreeable solution to Macau's status. A joint communiqué signed 20 May 1986 called for negotiations on the Macau question, and four rounds of talks followed between 30 June 1986 and 26 March 1987. The Joint Declaration on the Question of Macau was signed in Beijing on 13 April 1987, setting the stage for the return of Macau to full Chinese sovereignty as a Special Administrative Region on 20 December 1999.
After four rounds of talks, "the Joint Declaration of the Government of the People's Republic of China and the Government of the Republic of Portugal on the Question of Macau" was officially signed in April 1987. The two sides exchanged instruments of ratification on 15 January 1988 and the Joint Declaration entered into force. During the transitional period between the date of the entry into force of the Joint Declaration and 19 December 1999 the Portuguese government was responsible for the administration of Macau.
The Basic Law of the Macau Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China, was adopted by the National People's Congress (NPC) on 31 March 1993 as the constitutional law for Macau, taking effect on 20 December 1999.
The PRC has promised that, under its “one country, two systems” formula, China's socialist economic system will not be practised in Macau and that Macau will enjoy a high degree of autonomy in all matters except foreign and defence affairs until at least 2049, fifty years after the handover.
Thus the history of European colonisation of Asia ended where it began. Although offered control of Macau in the 1970s, the Chinese deemed the time "not yet ripe" and preferred to wait until December 1999—the very end of the millennium, two years after the Hong Kong handover--to close this chapter of history.
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