Historic Centre of Macao

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Ruin of St Paul’s (Jareed/Flickr, CC BY 2.0).
 China
Macao Special Administrative Region
N22 11 28.651 E113 32 11.26
Date of Inscription: 2005
Criteria: (ii)(iii)(iv)(vi)
Property : 16.1678 ha
Buffer zone: 106.791 ha
Ref: 1110
800px-macau_tour_50814_08
Leal Senado Square (Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 2.5).

Macao, a lucrative port of strategic importance in the development of international trade in Chinese territory, became a Portuguese settlement in the mid-16th century and returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1999. The inscribed property presents a group of 22 principal buildings and public spaces that enable a clear understanding of the structure of the old trading port city. With its historic streets, residential, religious and public Portuguese and Chinese buildings, the Historic Centre of Macao provides a unique testimony to the meeting of aesthetic, cultural, religious, architectural and technological influences from East and West. It bears witness to the first and most enduring encounter between China and the West, based on the vibrancy of international trade. As a gateway between China and the western world, Macao played a strategic role in world trade. Different nationalities settled in this hub of a complex maritime trading network, along with missionaries who brought with them religious and cultural influences, as illustrated by the introduction of foreign building types (China’s first western-style theatre, university, hospital, churches and fortresses), many still in use. Macao’s unique multicultural identity can be read in the dynamic presence of Western and Chinese architectural heritage standing side by side in the city and the same dynamics often exist in individual building designs, adapting Chinese design features in western style buildings and vice versa, such as the incorporation of Chinese characters as decorative ornaments on the baroque-mannerist church façade of St. Paul’s Ruins. Typical European port city characteristics can also be seen in the urban fabric structure of the settlement with public squares blending into the densely packed lots along narrow, meandering streets, whilst accumulating experiences from other Portuguese settlements, seen in the concept of “Rua Direita” that links the port with old citadel. Visual connections between the property and seascape are attributes that reflect Macao’s origin as a trading port city; the Inner Harbour used over centuries and still functioning today adds to that testimony. Intangible influences of the historic encounter have permeated the lifestyles of the local people, affecting religion, education, medicine, charities, language and cuisine. The core value of the historic centre is not solely its architecture, the urban structure, the people or their customs, but a mixture of all these.  The coexistence of cultural sediments of eastern and western origin, along with their living traditions, defines the essence of the historic centre.

Criterion (ii): The strategic location of Macao on the Chinese territory, and the special relationship established between the Chinese and Portuguese authorities favoured an important interchange of human values in the various fields of culture, sciences, technology, art and architecture over several centuries.

Criterion (iii): Macao bears a unique testimony to the first and longest-lasting encounter between the West and China. From the 16th to the 20th centuries, it was the focal point for traders and missionaries, and the different fields of learning. The impact of this encounter can be traced in the fusion of different cultures that characterise the historic core zone of Macao.

Criterion (iv): Macao represents an outstanding example of an architectural ensemble that illustrates the development of the encounter between the Western and Chinese civilisations over some four and half centuries, represented in the historical route, with a series of urban spaces and architectural ensembles, that links the ancient Chinese port with the Portuguese city.

Criterion (vi): Macao has been associated with the exchange of a variety of cultural, spiritual, scientific and technical influences between the Western and Chinese civilisations. These ideas directly motivated the introduction of crucial changes in China, ultimately ending the era of imperial feudal system and establishing the modern republic.

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CATEGORY:   CHINA
TAG:     CN – HISTORIC CENTRE OF MACAO

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