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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 peninsula 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. Residents of Macau mostly speak Cantonese natively.

Broadly, Macanese refers to all permanent inhabitants of Macau. But narrowly, it refers to an ethnic group in Macau orginating from Portuguese descent, usually mixed with Chinese blood.

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 20, 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:

Although the phrase "Northern District", broadly speaking, may refer to the entire Macau peninsula, some of the people in Macau use the phrase "Northern District" more narrowly. It refers to the northern part of the Macau peninsula, and the northern part of the Macau peninsula is situated near the border of China. In this way, a lot of people travel to and from China by land (i.e. on foot or all sorts of land transportation) through the northern district.


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 on the economy, has declined somewhat, to the benefit of 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

Miscellaneous topics


Most of the schools in Macau are private or subsidized schools. There are only a few government or public schools in Macau. A basic nine-year compulsory, free education is offered to those students who have been enrolled in the schools which have met certain requirements stipulated by the government.

Most of the schools in Macau are so-called grammar schools, which offer language learning, mathematics, science subjects, etc. to the students. There are only a few vocational schools in Macau, offering technical subjects such as car repairing, electronics, electrical engineering, etc.

Regarding language learning in Macau, Chinese and English are offered in most of the schools. Portuguese is also taught as a subject in some schools in Macau. As Macau has already become a special administrative region of China, Mandarin or Putonghua is widely taught in most schools in Macau. Some languages such as French may also be offered in a few schools.

Moreover, Macau does not have its own universal education system for the time being. In this way, schools in Macau follow different educational systems that reflect their goals and visions. In general, there are three types of educational systems in Macau. They are the Chinese educational system, the British educational system, and the Portuguese educational system.

In those schools adopting the Chinese educational system, students attend six years of schooling for their primary school education, up to primary 6, three years for junior secondary school education, and two years for senior high school education up to Form 5, and some schools up to Form 6. In their senior secondary school education, students are required to choose their major, namely, science, commerce, or arts.

In those schools adopting the British educational system, students attend six years of schooling for their primary school education, three years for junior secondary school education, two years for senior secondary school education, and one to two years for their matriculation. Students in their senior secondary school years are required to choose either one of the following majors, namely, science, commerce, or arts. Furthermore, after the completion of their education, students are required to sit for the General Certificate of Education (GCE) directed by different educational boards in Britain such as the University of London or the Cambridge University.

In those schools adopting the Portuguese educational system, students attend four years for their basic education, five years for their junior secondary school education, and three years for their senior school education.

In recent years, the Macau government has made an attempt to unify the educational system. In other words, it plans to standardize the number of years attended by students from different educational systems. However, such an attempt has not been well accepted by the educational circles, especially those from the schools that follow the British system.

There are more than ten higher-learning institutions in Macau. However, some students of Macau choose to further their studies in the local universities or polytechnics whereas some others choose to further their studies in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, the UK, the US, Canada, Australia, or some other places.


External link

[ Edit {}] Province-level divisions of the People's Republic of China
Provinces¹: Anhui | Fujian | Gansu | Guangdong | Guizhou | Hainan | Hebei | Heilongjiang | Henan | Hubei | Hunan | Jiangsu | Jiangxi | Jilin | Liaoning | Qinghai | Shaanxi | Shandong | Shanxi | Sichuan | Yunnan | Zhejiang
Autonomous Regions;: Guangxi | Inner Mongolia | Ningxia | Tibet | Xinjiang
Municipalities: Beijing | Chongqing | Shanghai | Tianjin
Special Administrative Regions;: Hong Kong | Macau
¹ See also: Political status of Taiwan

Not to be confused with the parrot macaw.

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