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Sometimes spelled Macao, Macau is an autonomous region of China that consists of the lower portion of the Macau Peninsula, as well as Taipa Island and Coloane Island, which are now connected by a reclaimed land area known as Cotai, forming one large island.

Macau has twenty-five miles of coastline, and only a thousand feet of land border with mainland China. The Macau Peninsula itself was originally an island. A connecting sandbar grew into an isthmus, and land reclamation turned it into a peninsula in the 17th century.

Macau's history goes back to the Qin Dynasty, around 220 BC, when it was under the administrative control of Panyu County, which is now Guangdong Province. In the 1200s, several of the Chinese people sought refuge from invading Mongols in Macau. Chinese fishermen came from time to time, but Macau didn't develop as a settlement until the Portuguese came in the early 1500s.

Originally, the Portuguese paid to lease Macau from the Chinese. They built storage sheds and stone houses, and by 1557 they had established a permanent settlement, from which they conducted trade with China, India, and Japan. During the 1600s, there were about 20,000 Chinese, 2,000 Portuguese, and 5,000 slaves in Macau.

As more Portuguese came to Macau, they began making demanding autonomy from the Chinese government, which occurred in steps. A Roman Catholic Diocese was established in Macau in 1576, and in 1583 the Portuguese formed a senate to administer social and economic affairs, but China stopped short of granting sovereignty.

In the early 1600s, the Dutch made repeated attempts to conquer Macau, but were repelled by the Portuguese. The last such attack was in June of 1622. Known as the Battle of Macau, although outnumbered, the Portuguese accomplished a decisive victory. The majority of the defenders of Macau were African slaves, with only a few Portuguese soldiers.

Portugal occupied the island of Taipa in 1851, and Coloane in 1864, following the First Opium War. These islands were previously uninhabited. In 1887, Macau became a Portuguese territory. When the Qing Dynasty was overthrown, a treaty with the new Chinese government made changes related to tariffs and business, but did not change the status of Macau as a Portuguese territory.

Although Macau was officially neutral during World War II, the Japanese forced a protectorate over Macau, which led to American raids on Macau targets. During the Chinese Civil War that began after World War II, Macau was a haven for Chinese refugees.

In 1949, the new communist government in China declared previous treaties with Portugal invalid, and the status of Macau became uncertain. After Portugal's government was overthrown in a revolution in 1974, the new Portuguese government its interest in relinquishing its overseas possessions. In 1977, the status of Macau was defined as a Chinese territory under Portuguese administration. In 1986, Macau became a special administrative region of China, and the Chinese government claimed sovereignty over Macau in 1999.

The 1993 Macau constitution specifies that its economic system, rights, freedoms, and social structure will remain unchanged for at least fifty years after the transfer of sovereignty to China in 1999, so Macau benefits from a higher degree of autonomy than mainland China, except in areas of defense and foreign affairs. The internal administration of Macau is exercised by Macau officials, with executive, legislative, and judicial powers separate from the Chinese government. Macau also has its own currency, immigration, and border controls.

Macau is the most densely populated region in the world. Approximately 95% of the population of Macau are Han Chinese, with its Portuguese community making up only about 2% of its current population. Most Macau citizens were born in mainland China. Chinese and Portuguese are the official languages of Macau.

Religious tolerance and freedom are respected in Macau, although most of its population are not affiliated with a specific religion. Most of the Chinese in Macau are influenced by tradition and culture, and many take part in the rituals of Chinese folk religions. Although most Macanese do not claim membership in a religion, Buddhism is the most common religion, with better than 15% of the population. Catholicism is second, with nearly 7% of the population. Nevertheless, more than two-thirds of the people in Macau went to temples occasionally.

Topics related to Macau are the focus of websites listed in this category. Appropriate topics may include those that are about Macau, as well as those representing businesses, organizations, schools, religious institutions, governmental bodies, and individuals in Macau.



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