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A former overseas province of Portugal which includes the Macao peninsula on the SE coast of China and the island s of Taipa and Coloane, approximately 40 mi W of Hong Kong. Its name was derived from the Ma Kwok temple built there in the 14th century. First visited by Vasco da Gama in 1497 and settled by Portugal in 1557, it was the oldest permanent European settlement in the Far East. From 1717 until the 19th century Macao and Canton were the only Chinese ports open to European trade. Portugal declared the independence of Macao in 1849, but it was not recognized by China until 1887 in the Protocol of Lisbon. The burial place of Robert Morrison and of St.Francis Xavier, it was also the residence c. 1560 of the Portuguese poet, Camoens, who wrote part of The Lusiads here. Separated from China by a barrier gate, Macao had been a haven for mainland refugees after 1949 until the Portuguese administration faced considerable opposition from the Chinese in 1967. In 1999 power was transferred to China, and the Macao Special Administrative Region was created. Notable buildings include St. Paul’s Basilica, built in 1635 by Roman Catholic Japanese artisans; St. Domingo’s church and convent, founded in 1670; the fort and chapel of Guia from 1626; and the fort of Sao Paolo de Monte of the 16th century.


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