Inscribed! Macao’s Heritage now features on World Heritage List


    The 29th Session of the World Heritage Committee has agreed to inscribe “The Historic Monuments of Macao”, with the official title altered to “The Historic Centre of Macao”, on UNESCO’s prestigious World Heritage List, under the terms of the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (“World Heritage Convention”). The announcement was made by the Chairperson of the World Heritage Committee on 15 July at 4:10 pm Macao time, to the applause of all present in the hall and by unanimous agreement.

    The Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, which governs the World Heritage List, was adopted at the 17th General Conference of UNESCO in Paris in November 1972, and by 31 March 2005, 180 out of 191 Member States had ratified the international treaty.

    Currently sitting in Durban, South Africa, the 29th Session of the World Heritage Committee has approved China’s bid, “The Historic Centre of Macao”, following grueling analysis by the Committee and its associated experts. The cultural heritage site will now be officially inscribed on the World Heritage List, raising the number of World Heritage Sites in China to 31. This international recognition will further raise community and visitor awareness, fostering a greater appreciation of heritage in Macao.

    The 26-member Chinese delegation headed by Zhang Xuezhong, Ambassador and Permanent Delegate of China to UNESCO, Zhang Bai, Deputy Director-General of the National Administration of Cultural Heritage, Fernando Chui, Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture, Heidi Ho, President of the Cultural Affairs Bureau, and Stephen Chan, Acting Vice-President of the same organisation, witnessed the historic moment in Durban.

    The Historic Centre of Macao” is a living representation of the city’s historic western settlement, comprising architectural legacies interwoven amongst the original urban fabric illustrating the first and most lasting encounter between China and the western world.

    The newly-listed World Heritage site incorporates streetscapes and piazzas such as Barra Square, Lilau Square, St. Augustine’s Square, Senado Square, Cathedral Square, St. Dominic’s Square, Company of Jesus Square and Camões Square. These provide the linkage for a succession of over twenty monuments, including A-Ma Temple, Moorish Barracks, Mandarin’s House, St. Lawrence’s Church, St. Joseph’s Seminary and Church, Dom Pedro V Theatre, Sir Robert Ho Tung Library, St. Augustine’s Church, “Leal Senado” Building, Sam Kai Vui Kun Temple, Holy House of Mercy, Cathedral, Lou Kau Mansion, St. Dominic’s Church, Ruins of St. Paul’s, Na Tcha Temple, Section of the Old City Walls, Mount Fortress, St. Anthony’s Church, Casa Garden, the Protestant Cemetery and Guia Fortress (including Guia Chapel and Guia Lighthouse).

    “The Historic Centre of Macao” correlates to the origins of the city as a trading port and principal gateway between China and the western world. Founded on this stretch of land are western building types, many of which were the first of their kind on Chinese soil: churches, seminaries, fortresses, a university, hospital, theatre, lighthouse and Protestant cemetery. “The Historic Centre of Macao” also comprises examples of traditional Chinese architecture such as residential compounds and temples which co-exist with western-style buildings as part of the same urban fabric. This succession of monuments encapsulates a broad spectrum of architectural legacies, reflecting the multicultural dimension of the historic port which has given Macao its unique East-West identity.

    Integrated within a historically vibrant environment, the “Historic Centre of Macao” still has a clearly identifiable character, remaining fertile ground for cultural exchange. East and West have met and merged for over four centuries in an atmosphere marked by respect and tolerance, facilitating unique forms of cultural assimilation, from tangible traditions such as building techniques, to intangible aspects of life such as religion and social lifestyle.

    Since 2003, States Parties to the World Heritage Convention have been limited to submitting a single nomination for the consideration of the World Heritage Committee: the Macao application topped the list for China this year.

    At last year’s session held in Suzhou, the World Heritage Committee decided that starting in 2006 States Parties may make two nominations each year, one of which must be Natural Heritage. China plans to submit two nominations for consideration next year, for Cultural and Natural Heritage respectively: the Yin Ruins, Anyang, and the Wolong Nature Reserve, Sichuan.

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