Saturday, January 13, 2007

History of Macau

History of Macau. This is a short history of the former Portuguese colony which is now a Special Administrative Region of China. A map can be found here.

The Encyclopædia Britannica notes, "Special administrative region (Pinyin tebie xingzhengqu; Wade-Giles t'e-pieh hsing-cheng-ch'ü) of China, on the country's southern coast. Macau is located on the western side of the Pearl River (Chu Chiang) estuary (at the head of which is the port of Canton) and stands about 40 miles (64 km) opposite the special administrative region of Hong Kong, which is on the eastern side of the estuary. Macau comprises a small, narrow peninsula projecting from the mainland sheng (province) of Kwangtung and includes the islands of Taipa and Coloane. Extending up a hillside and overlooking La-Pa Island is the city of Macau, which occupies almost the entire peninsula. The name is derived from the Chinese A-ma-gao, or Bay of A-ma, for A-ma, the patron goddess of sailors."

From the site:

Chinese records of Macau date back to the establishment in 1152 of Xiangshan County under which Macau was administered, though it remained unpopulated through most of the next century. Members of the South Sung (Song) Dynasty and some 50,000 followers were the first recorded inhabitants of the area, seeking refuge in Macau from invading Mongols in 1277. They were able to defend their settlements and establish themselves there.

The Hoklo Boat people were the first to show commercial interest in Macau as a trading center for the southern provinces. Macau did not develop as a major settlement until the Portuguese arrived in the 16th century. Portuguese traders used Macau as a staging port as early as 1516, making it the oldest European settlement in the Far East. In 1557, the Chinese agreed to a Portuguese settlement in Macau but did not recognize Portuguese sovereignty. Although a Portuguese municipal government was established, the sovereignty question remained unresolved.

Initially, the Portuguese developed Macau's port as a trading post for China-Japan trade and as a staging port on the long voyage from Lisbon to Nagasaki. When Chinese officials banned direct trade with Japan in 1547, Macau's Portuguese traders carried goods between the two countries. The first Portuguese governor was appointed to Macau in 1680, but the Chinese continued to assert their authority, collecting land and customs taxes. 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.

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