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The Macau Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China, shortened to Macau or Macao (See #Names), is a small city-island on the southern coast of China. It is 70 km southwest of Hong Kong and 145 km from Guangzhou. It was the oldest European colony in China, dating back to the 16th century. The Portuguese government transferred sovereignty over Macau to the People's Republic of China in 1999 and is now run as a special administrative region of the PRC. Macanese speak Cantonese natively.

Besides historical colonial relics, the biggest attractions in Macau are the casinos. Though many forms of gambling are legal there, the most popular game is Pai Gow, a game played with Chinese dominoes. Gamblers from Hong Kong often take a one-day excursion to the city. Ferry service by hydrofoil between Hong Kong and Macau is available 24 hours a day, every day.

Região Administrativa Especial de
Macau da República Popular da China
(In Detail) (Full size)
National motto: none
Official languages Chinese and Portuguese
Chief Executive Edmund Ho Hau-wah
 - Total
 - % water
(Not ranked)
25.4 km²
 - Total (2002)
 - Density
(Not ranked)
 - Date
Handover from Portugal to the People's Republic of China
December 20, 1999
Currency Pataca (MOP)
Time zone UTC +8 (AWST)
Internet TLD.MO
Calling Code853

Table of contents
1 Names
2 History
3 Politics
4 Subdivisions
5 Geography
6 Economy
7 Demographics
8 Culture
9 Miscellaneous topics
10 External link


The name "Macau" (馬交 Cantonese: Magau) is thought to be derived from "Mage Temple" (媽閣廟 Cantonese: Magok), a still existing landmark built in 1448 dedicated to the goddess Matsu. The more popular Chinese name of Àomén (澳門) means "Inlet Gates". The "gates" refer to two erect gate-like mountains of Nantai (南台) and Beitai (北台). Macau is also known as Haojing'ao (壕鏡澳 "Trench-mirror Inlet"), Xiangshan'ao (香山澳 "Frangrant-mountain Inlet"), and Liandao (蓮島 "Lotus Island").

Macau is the official Portuguese spelling. Sometimes in English, Macao is used.


Main article: History of Macau

Macau was officially founded as a colony of Portugal in 1557 and recognized by the Chinese in 1670. Macau prospered as a port and was a subject of repeated attempts by the Dutch to conquer it in the 17th Century.

After the House of Braganza regained control of Portugal from the Spanish Habsburgs in 1640, Macau was granted the official title of Cidade do Nome de Deus, de Macau, Não há outra mais Leal (City of the Name of God, Macau, There is None More Loyal).

With Hong Kong established as a British Crown Colony, Macau declined as regional trading center as larger ships were drawn to the deep water port of Victoria Harbour.

After the leftist military coup of 1974, the now democratic Portuguese government was determined to free up all its overseas possesssions. In 1976, Lisbon redefined Macau as a Special Territory and granted it a large measure of administrative and economic independence. Following the example of the British, an agreement was made with the People's Republic of China to make Macau a special administrative region in 1999.


Main article: Politics of Macau

The chief executive is appointed by People's Republic of China's central government after selection by an election committee, whose members are nominated by corporate bodies. The chief executive appears before a cabinet, the Executive Council, of between 7 and 11 members. Edmund Ho, a community leader and banker, is the first China-appointed chief executive of the Macau SAR, having replaced General de Rocha Viera on December 20th 1999.

The legislative organ of the territory is the legislative Assembly, a 23-member body comprising eight directly elected members, eight appointed members representing functional constituencies and seven members appointed by the chief executive. The Legislative Assembly is responsible for general lawmaking. The city of Macau and the islands of Taipa and Coloane each have a municipal council.

The legal system is based largely on Portuguese law. The territory has its own independent judicial system, with a high court--the Court of Final Appeal (CFA). Judges are selected by a committee and appointed by the chief executive.


Macau comprises two administrative subdivisions:


Main article:
Geography of Macau

Macau comprises of a peninsula, and the islands of Taipa and Coloane.

The peninsula is formed by the Zhujiang (Pearl River) estuary on the east and the Xijiang (West River) on the west. It borders the Zhuhai Special Economic Zone in mainland China.

Macau has generally flat terrain resulting from extensive land reclamation, but numerous steep hills mark the original natural land mass. The Macau peninsula was originally an island, but gradually a connecting sandbar turned into a narrow isthmus. Land reclamation in the 17th century made Macau into a peninsula.

With a dense urban environment, Macau has no arable land, pastures, forest, or woodland. Because of this deficiency, Macau's people traditionally have looked to the sea for their livelihood.


Main article: Economy of Macau

Macau's economy is based largely on tourism, including gambling, and textile and fireworks manufacturing. Efforts to diversify have spawned other small industries, such as toys, artificial flowers, and electronics. The clothing industry has provided about three-fourths of export earnings, and the gambling industry is estimated to contribute more than 40% of GDP. More than 8 million tourists visited Macau in 2000. Although the recent growth in gambling and tourism has been driven primarily by mainland Chinese, tourists from Hong Kong remain the most numerous. Recently, gang violence, a dark spot in the economy, has declined somewhat, to the benefit the tourism sector.


Main article: Demographics of Macau

Considered as a "dependency", Macau is the most densely populated of the countries/dependencies in the world.

Macau's population is 95% Chinese, primarily Cantonese and some Hakka, both from nearby Guangdong Province. The remainder are of Portuguese or mixed Chinese-Portuguese ancestry. The official languages are Portuguese and Mandarin Chinese, though the residents commonly speak Cantonese Chinese. English is spoken in tourist areas.


Main article: Culture of Macau

DateEnglish NameLocal NameRemarks

Miscellaneous topics



External link

Countries of the world  |  Asia

Not to be confused with the parrot macaw.

Macau is also the name of a commune in the Gironde ''département, in France