The urbanization of Macau and its influence to the city in the mid to late 19th century 02: The significance of the markets in Macau

The markets in Macau were first established in the mid-18th century. They became one of the centers of the public’s activity. A market was beginning with the trading between the Chinese and the Portuguese. Stalls were set up along the streets near the churches and gradually they turned into a market.

The expansion of the boulevards in the mid-19th century consolidated the ruling power of the Portuguese Macau government over the markets. This is important because it means the Portuguese had taken over the control of the trade and the food supply from the Qing government. Before the power of the Qing government decreased, the Portuguese had to follow the rule of the Qing government to ensure they can have food supply sent from the mainland.

Figure 1. The power of the emperor was portrayed.
The Chinese emperor was respected by the guests from different countries. When the guests made a visit to China, they would always send their gift to the emperor.

In late the 19th century, an increase in Macau’s population required more markets to be built along the new streets. Some markets were also established in Taipa and Coloane, where were the residential district of the Chinese. In addition, the importance of the market is reflected through the naming of the streets, in which they were named according to the goods that were sold in the area. For example, there was a firewood market in Rua da Palha (賣草地街), a fish market was along Travessa do Alpendre (賣魚巷) and a vegetable market was in Rua da Estrela (賣菜街). Therefore, this reflects that markets did not only function to serve the daily needs of the public, but they were also a base for the street planning and development of the city (see Figure 2).

Figure 2. The map of Macau Peninsula in the mid-20th century.
The map was produced in 1953 to portray the development of Macau Peninsula in the mid-20th century. The streets and the distribution of the facilities were noted. Rua da Palha, Travessa do Alpendre and Rua da Estrelaare were in the central district of the peninsula near the coastline. Markets were indicated by symbol ‘I’.

Figure 3. A market in Largo do São Domingo (板樟堂街), Freguesia da Sé, Macau (大堂區).

A shift in the control of the market in the mid-19th century is significant because it highlighted the rise of the Portuguese’s governmental power and the fall of the Qing government. Since everyone could come to the markets, conflicts and murder often happened between the Chinese and the Portuguese. Dispute over the jurisdiction of Macau between the Chinese and the Portuguese government happened constantly. To prevent conflicts, Qianlong Emperor established a law in 1774, that the Portuguese and other foreigner who visited and lived in Macau should follow the law of China, and the execution should be done accordingly (see Figure 3). This shows that Macau was still under the domination of the Qing government. Despite the establishment of the law, the dispute over jurisdiction was never relieved. In 1789, the Qing government made a concession that one of the earliest markets, Mercado de S. Domingos (營地街市) was built in Rua dos Mercadores (營地大街) to accommodate the Portuguese. Until the end of the Opium War, the power of the Qing government was diminished. In the late 19th century, the Portuguese had took over the control of all the markets in Macau, which marked the end of the governing power of the Qing government over Macau.

Figure 4.《乾隆九年定例》
The law established by Qianlong Emperor.

Since more markets were built, the job opportunities for the Chinese increased. The map below illustrates the life of people in Macau during the 16th century (see Figure 4). Most of the Chinese were engaged in farming and fishing industry. They sold the product to the Portuguese in the market to earn money. However, such business mode was constrained to the center of Macau Peninsula. After the expansion in the 19th century, this mode of trade became common.

Figure 5. The residential district of the Portuguese in Macau Peninsula during the 16th century was portrayed.
The left of the map is the North, where farms and finishing boats were draw, suggesting here was the Chinese residential district. The Chinese would come to the market behind the city wall to trade their goods with the Portuguese. A cross is in the center of the map, suggesting that there was an execution ground in the market.

To conclude, market played a crucial role in the history of Macau. It served the daily need of the public, provided the bases for urban development, and created more job opportunities for the Chinese. The change of the control over the markets from the Qing government to the Portuguese, highlights the rise of the Portuguese power and consolidated their control over the trade and food supply of Macau.




[1] 葉農:《澳門街市》,三聯書店(香港)有限公司,2016年。



Fig. 1 An extract from 《旅獒》(historical record produced in Qing dynasty).

Fig. 2 The map was produced in 1953. Image source from: ‘澳门市全图’, Memory de Macau.

Fig. 3 Painting by Chinnery George. Image source from: ‘澳门街市:营地街市’, Memory de Macau.

Fig. 4 An extract from《乾隆九年定例》(law established by Qianlong Emperor) in 1774.

Fig. 5 The map was drawn in 1598, collected in the Petit Voyages (A Traveling Diary) by Johann Theodor de Bry and Johann Israel de Bry. Image source from: Memory de Macau.

1 Comment on “The urbanization of Macau and its influence to the city in the mid to late 19th century 02: The significance of the markets in Macau

  1. Hi Irene, your narrative shows the crucial role in social-historical development. Selling and buying are very important economic activities in every society and markets are the space dedicated to these activities. The naming of the streets tells the story of the purpose of the space. I am wondering if there was any relationship between the locations of the markets of different dry and wet products. Also, did these markets mainly serve the locals or the expats? Would there be “high-class” markets for the expats?

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