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History of Macau

zh-cn:澳门历史 zh-tw:澳門歷史

Table of contents
1 Early history
2 Imperial times
3 Portuguese settlemement
4 Handover to the People's Republic of China

Early history

Evidence of Chinese material cultural dating back 4,000 to 6,000 years has been discovered on the Macau peninsula and dating back 5,000 years on Coloane Island.

Imperial times

Historical records show that what was later known as Macao was part of Fanyu County, Nanhai District, Guangdong Province, under the Qin empire (221-206 B.C.). During the Jin Dynasty (A.D. 265-420), the area was part of Dongguan County and later alternated under the control of Nanhai and Dongguan. In 1152 (during the Song Dynasty, A.D. 960-1279), it was identified as administratively part of the new Xiangshan County.

Since at least the 5th century A.D., merchant ships traveling between Southeast Asia and Guangzhou used Haojingao as a way stop for refuge, fresh water, and food.

Members of the southern 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. Wangxia 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).

The Hoklo Boat people were the first to show commercial interest in Macau as a trading center for the southern provinces. During the Ming Dynasty (A.D. 1368-1643), fishermen migrated to Macau from various parts of Guangdong and Fujian provinces and built the A-Ma Temple in which they prayed for safety on the sea.

Portuguese settlemement

Macau did not develop as a major settlement until the Portuguese arrived in the 16th century. Having established themselves at Goa in 1510 and Malacca in 1511, the first Portuguese arrived on the China coast in 1513 aboard a hired junk sailing from Malacca. They landed on Lintin Island in the Zhujiang (Pearl River) estuary and erected a stone marker claiming the island for the king of Portugal. When Portuguese fleets arrived in the vicinity of Haojingao in 1517 and 1518, Chinese officials expressed displeasure over violations of China's sovereignty. Portuguese adventurers were forcibly expelled from along the coast of Guangdong in 1521. Following a ship wreck in 1536, Portuguese traders were allowed to moor at Haojingao, however. Most historians note the date of the permanent presence of the Portuguese in Macau as 1553, the year they started establishing on-shore trading depots there.

Although Portuguese attempts to settle other islands along the southern coast of China - including Shangchuan Island - had failed, Macau prospered. The Portuguese set up bases of operations there for trade with China, especially Guangzhou, and for trade with Japan. Both Portuguese and Chinese merchants flocked to Macau, and it quickly became an important node in the development of Portugal's trade with India, southern China, Japan, and Southeast Asia. Lisbon obtained a leasehold for Macau in return for tribute paid to Beijing in 1557, and during that same year, 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. In 1586 Macau became a self-governing city. In 1605 Dutch attacks led the Portuguese to build a city wall without China's permission. China officially established Macau as a foreign-trade port in 1685.

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. During the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, Macau served as an important center for Portuguese trade with China (primarily with Guangzhou), Japan, the Philippines, mainland and island Southeast Asia, Goa, and Mexico during the Ming (1368-1643) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties. The decline of Lisbon's world trade system in the mid-17th century ended Macao's role as a major trade entrepôt. The development of Hong Kong by the British and the opening of treaty ports along the China coast after 1842 further overshadowed the commercial importance of Macau.

Until April 20, 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 (also known as the Treaty of Wangxia) was signed on July 3, 1844, in a temple in Macau. The temple was used by a Chinese judicial administrator, who also oversaw matters concerning foreigners, and was located in the village of Wangxia. In 1845 Portugal declared Macau a free port, expelled Chinese officials and soldiers, and thereafter levied taxes on Chinese residents.

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 Wanzhai, to the north of Macau and which now is under the jurisdiction of Zhuhai, in 1849 but relinquished it in 1887. Control over Taipa (Dangzai in Chinese) and Coloane (Luhuan), two islands south of Macau, was obtained between 1851 and 1864. The Treaty of Tianjin (signed August 13, 1862) recognized Macau as a Portuguese colony, but because China never ratified the treaty, Macau was never officially ceded to Portugal. 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 March 26, 1887) confirmed "perpetual occupation and government" of Macau by Portugal (with Portugal's promise "never to alienate Macau and dependencies without agreement with China"). Taipa and Coloane were also ceded to Portugal, but the border with the mainland was not delimited. The Treaty of Commerce and Friendship (August 28, 1888) recognized Portuguese sovereignty over Macau but was never ratified by China. Ilha Verde (Qingzhou in Chinese) was incorporated into Macau's territory in 1890, and, once a kilometer offshore, by 1923 it had been absorbed into peninsular Macau through land reclamation.

Macau enjoyed a brief period of economic prosperity during World War II as the only neutral port in South China, after the Japanese occupied Guangzhou (Canton) and Hong Kong. In 1943, Japan created a virtual protectorate over Macau. Japanese domination ended in August 1945.

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, requesting a 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. Portugal designated Macau a separate overseas province in 1955.

Riots broke out in 1966 when the pro-communist Chinese elements and the Macau police clashed. The Portuguese Government reached an agreement with the PRC to end the flow of refugees from China and to prohibit all communist demonstrations. This move ended the conflict, and relations between the government and the leftist organizations have remained peaceful.

The Portuguese tried once in 1966 after the riots in Macau, and again in 1974, the year of a military revolution in Portugal, to hand administration over Macau to the PRC. In 1974 the new Portuguese government granted independence to all overseas colonies and recognized Macau as part of China's territory, but the Chinese government did not accept administration of the territory.

Handover to the People's Republic of China

Portugal and the People's Republic of China established diplomatic relations on February 8, 1979, and Beijing acknowledged Macau as "Chinese territory under Portuguese administration." A year later, Gen. Melo Egidio became the first Governor of Macau to visit China. The visit underscored both parties' interest in finding a mutually agreeable solution to Macau's status. A joint communiqué signed May 20, 1986, called for negotiations on the Macau question, and four rounds of talks followed between June 30, 1986 and March 26, 1987. The Joint Declaration on the Question of Macau was signed in Beijing on April 13, 1987, setting the stage for the return of Macau to full Chinese sovereignty as a special administrative region on December 20, 1999. 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 March 31, 1993, as the constitutional law for Macau taking effect on December 20, 1999.

The PRC has promised that, under its "one country, two systems" formula, China's socialist economic system will not be practiced in Macau and that Macau will enjoy a high degree of autonomy in all matters except foreign and defense affairs.

See also: Macau