History Field Trip@Macau: Heritage Preservation Dilemma

March 14, 2013 / by / 0 Comment












The things that come to mind when I think of Macau:

Casinos. Hotels. Shows. Portuguese-styled buildings. Pastel de Nata. Pork chop bun.

I’ve been to Macau several times over the years and I’ve never found it particularly fun or interesting—for all I knew, it’s an island of casinos of which I couldn’t, and still can’t, get into (the age limit has now been raised to 21…). My History field trip to Macau today, however, made me notice much more of what I’ve missed before, or rather, didn’t care to look at. My course is about the history of “the early modern world” and the cultural heritage sites I’ve visited today show Macau to be a true embodiment of globalization during this period in history. Macau was the place where the Portuguese had arrived to Asia with Renaissance culture and vitalized the island with international trade. The range of nationalities that had coexisted in Macau during the 1500 to 1800—Chinese locals, Portuguese colonizers, Japanese traders, African slaves, and other European merchants—is no less cosmopolitan than today’s Hong Kong.

Besides visiting various architectures and learning about Macau’s cultural vibrancy, what this trip got me thinking about is the issue of heritage preservation—something that Hong Kong’s not all too good at, to say the least. With the eventual decline of the Portuguese, it led to the decline of Macau and its position as a trading center was greatly diminished when Hong Kong was ceded to the British in 1842.  Dr. Cunich explained that part of why Macau’s able to preserve so much of its old architecture is actually due to poverty—they didn’t have the financial means to tear down old buildings and erect new high-rises. With Hong Kong, however, its thriving economy over the years was accompanied notoriously by tearing down anything old and in the way of modern development.

So is heritage destruction an inevitable tradeoff for economic development? And how worthwhile is this tradeoff? Do you think it’s important to preserve cultural heritage or is the memory of them in photographs enough? Could heritage preservation in part be provoked by the “you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone” mentality? How do you like Macau?

I’m interested in hearing what you think so sound off below!



“Blogging is a conversation, not a code.” – Mike Butcher ~Comments, queries, ideas, feel free to read and drop me a line~