The History of Macau


The History of Macau dates back to at least 6000 years. Macau is very rich and diversified ever since the arrival of the Portuguese in the 16th century, as it was an important portal for the western civilization to enter China, and making contact with the Chinese civilization, and vice-versa. This small piece of land provided an important platform for the symbiosis and the exchange of western and oriental cultures. This intense symbiosis and exchange moulded the unique and personal identity for Macau.

Macau already has a population of Chinese fishermen and farmers when the Portuguese came and colonized it in 1557. During their gradual occupation of Macau, they successfully brought prosperity to this small parcel of land that is located near the mouth of the Pearl River, and transformed it into a great commercial city. Macau is considered the first European centre of commerce in Chinese territory and is of strategic value to the Portuguese, as it became an important node in the development of Portugal’s trade between China, Europe and Japan. The first Governor of Macau was D. Francisco Mascarenhas appointed in July 7, 1623.

Though Macau was invaded several times by other European powers, this city reached its height during the end of the 16th century and the beginning of the 17th century.  In 1865, Macau built the first lighthouse of the South China Sea, the “Guia Lighthouse”. It was only in 1887 that Macau was official recognized by China for its sovereignty and permanent Portuguese occupation, through the Treaty of Friendship and Sino-Portuguese Commerce. In 1987, after intense negotiations between Portugal and the People’s Republic of China, both parties found a mutually agreeable solution to Macau’s status. The Sino-Portuguese Joint Declaration on the Question of Macau set the stage for the return of Macau to full Chinese sovereignty as a Special Administrative Region on December 20, 1999. The last Governor of Macau under Portuguese administration was General Vasco Joaquim Rocha Vieira.

After the transfer of sovereignty, Macau became an Administrative Special Region of the People’s Republic of China, influencing the beginning of “one country, two systems” and following the promises established by Portugal and China during the ratification of the “Joint Declaration”. Macau SAR was first led by the Chief of the Executive of Macau, substituting the post of “Governor of Macau”, which was abolished in 1999 soon after the transfer of sovereignty. The Basic Law of the Administrative Special Region of Macau, promulgated by the National Popular Congress of China in the year of 1993, is the current constitutional text of the legal system of Macau SAR.