"Macao, a lucrative port of strategic importance in the development of international trade, was under Portuguese administration from the mid-16th century until 1999, when it came under Chinese sovereignty. With its historic street, residential, religious and public Portuguese and Chinese buildings, the Historic Center of Macao provides a unique testimony to the meeting of aesthetic, cultural, architectural and technological influences from East and West. The site also contains a fortress and a lighthouse, the oldest in China. It bears witness to one of the earliest and longest-lasting encounters between China and the West, based on the vibrancy of international trade." The above is the comment given by World Heritage Committee when the Historic Center of Macao was added to the World Cultural Heritage List in 2005.
Macao lies on the Pearl River Delta alongside the southeast coast of China, and consists of the Macao Peninsula and the two islands of Taipa and Coloane. The Historic Center of Macao is located on Macao Peninsula. With the old town of Macao as the hub, it's linked by adjacent squares and streets, and is the oldest, largest, the most well-preserved, and the most centralized Western buildings existing in Chinese territory. More than 20 historic buildings are inscribed on the Heritage List, including Barra Square, Lilau Square, St. Augustine's Square and other square space, plus A-Ma Temple, Moorish Barracks, Mandarin's House, St. Lawrence's Church, Ruins of St. Paul's, Mount Fortress, etc.
This historic center with predominance of Western buildings, as well as vivid contrast between Chinese and Western buildings, is the very witness to the spread of Western Religious Culture in China and the Far East. As a result, conspicuous architectural features of China and Western countries combined are conserved in most buildings in the historic center. Among them are China’s oldest relics of abbey and church, Protestant Cemetery, and Western fortresses, as well as China’s first Western theater, modern lighthouse, Western-style university, and Western-style hospital, etc. Most of the buildings mentioned are well preserved and are still functional as they were in past history.
As the first colony established by European countries in East Asia, the Historic Center of Macao stands as an observer which witnesses not only Macao's 400-year history of unpredictable and rapid change, but also the profound path Chinese and Western cultures takes that starts with communication and confrontation, and proceeds with development and co-existence, and then concludes with integration and sublimation.