Since the handover in 1999 to China, massive changes have been brought to the city. Macau claimed to possess a unique example of historically-rooted “multiple heritage”, (UKNA, 2013) which combines ‘’modern as well as traditional; urban as well as maritime; and indigenous as well as more recent “imported heritages” associated with the prosperity brought by the gambling gaming industry’’. There is an effort of mediating the tension between heritage preservation and new pragmatic casinos development, as seen from the promotion of Macau’s identity, the avocation of cultural tourism which tries to categorize heritage as a kind of new industry just like the gaming industry. The definition of heritage also shifted from western Portuguese heritage to both western and Chinese heritage, further to the imitation, reinvention of heritage’s façade. This act rises questions of the existing value left in Macau heritage, shaping the city’s position in the process of conservation.

According to UNESCO, the criteria of identifying heritage is how much can it represents the interchange, development of technology, cultural exchange etc. of human. Macau gets nominated in 2005 as World Heritage City for its heritage demonstrated the mix-cultural, socio-political aspect of the place and fulfill the 2,3,4,and 5 criteria of UNESCO. (Macauheritage20).

    “to be an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use which is representative of a culture (or cultures), or human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change”- UNESCO, Selection criteria V

The heritage of Macau represents the old trading port city of the past. The gaming industry shapes the value of heritage by erasing its relationship to the site. Many heritages like the Guia lighthouse, A ma temple lost their close relation to the water because of reclamation for gaming industry. The value of the cultural meaning behind location selection becomes blurred. Also, the building’s height was not regulated before the case of the high-rise next to Guia lighthouse(Chung, 2009) therefore the visual symbolic meaning of these heritage in the urban context is also weakened. The government were accused for fail to protect ‘public goods’ and people appeal to UNESCO resulting in the restriction of regulating building height. This conflict arose by heritage shaped the city landscape.

The inscription of Macau as an UNESCO World Heritage City has accelerated the demolition of many older buildings in Macau. The developers try to compete with the conservators in identifying possible heritage in the future. The urgency and public concerns regarding conservation is intensified because of the rapidly growing gaming industry, which contributed to a ‘’collective sense of loss and concomitant urgency to ‘do something to preserve the city’’(Clayton, 20) Even though Macau has always been a city of multi-culture that allows the coexistence of different settlements and lifestyles, there has never been a clear definition of what is native for Macau. The conflicts of the past and future trigger this awareness which will reorient the position of the city.

1 Clayton, Sovereignty at the edge: Macau and the question of Chineseness. Harvard University Press
2 Chung, T. Valuing heritage in Macau: On contexts and processes of urban conservation.
Journal of Current Chinese Affairs 1(2009): 129-160.
3 Macau Heritage AMbassadors Association(MHAA),”Tracing a decade of Macao Heritage AMbassadors”. 2011
4 Patrimonio Cultural De Macau, last modified November 1, 2016,
5 Urban Knowledge Network Asia, Macau Inner Harbour Round Table Conference. 2013.
6 UNESCO, The Criteria for Selection,


  1. The influence of gaming industry on Macau is indeed significant in shaping the citizen’s mind of overly emphasizing on economic values. In fact, it would be problematic if everyone in a city focuses only on how much they earn but ignore the history and heritages. The cultural significance will eventually be wiped out, which may result in the homogenization. What makes countries and cities interesting is the differences in their historic background, which actually shape the civilization that we see nowadays. Nevertheless, it would be great if how the preservation works are being conducted is discussed more, as it would be a good for the overall reflection of heritage preservation policy in developed cities nowadays.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.