Macanese people
Total population
c. 42,000
Regions with significant populations
 Macau 8,000[2]
 United States15,000[3]
 Hong Kong1,000[5]
Portuguese · Cantonese · Macanese
Roman Catholicism
Related ethnic groups
Portuguese diaspora · Cantonese people · Hong Kong people · Macau people · Tanka people · Sinhalese people · Japanese people · Malay people · Indian diaspora
Macanese people
Literal meaningNative-born Portuguese people
Alternative Chinese name
Literal meaningNative-born Macau people
Second alternative Chinese name
Literal meaningWheat-border men

The Macanese people (Portuguese: Macaense, Maquista) are an East Asian ethnic group that originated in Macau in the 16th century, consisting of people of predominantly mixed Cantonese and Portuguese as well as Malay,[7] Japanese,[7] English,[7] Dutch,[8] Sinhalese,[7] and Indian[8] ancestry.[9][10]


The term "澳門人" (meaning Macanese) and "土生葡人" (meaning native-born Portuguese people) in Chinese (Cantonese), the lingua franca of Macau, refers to the Macau people and the Macanese people, respectively. Although there were attempts by the Portuguese Macau government in the mid-1990s to redefine the Portuguese and English term "Macanese" as Macau Permanent Resident (anyone born in Macau regardless of ethnicity, language, religion or nationality), in accordance with the Chinese (Cantonese) usage, this did not succeed.[11] Consequently, the Portuguese and English term "Macanese" refers neither to the indigenous people of Macau (Tanka people) nor to the demonym of Macau, but to a distinctive minority culture making up approximately 1.2% of Macau's population. However, due to the rise of localism among the Macau people, especially the young people, after the handover of Macau in the year of 1999, the term “Macanese” is proper to be used to refer to the people that were born in or live in Macau.


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Modern Macanese culture can be best described as a Sino-Latin culture. Historically, many ethnic Macanese spoke Patuá, which is a Portuguese-based creole and now nearly extinct. Many are fluent in both Portuguese and Cantonese. The Macanese have preserved a distinctive Macanese cuisine.


Portuguese colonial period

The Macanese, Miguel António de Cortela. Attributed to Lam Qua, early to mid-19th century.

Macau was founded circa 1557 by Portuguese merchants with permission of the Chinese Canton governor and later the emperor. Since its beginning, Macau has not been conquered and until the attacks of the Dutch in 1604, it didn't have a military garrison. Portuguese culture dominates the Macanese, but Chinese cultural patterns are also significant. The community acted as the interface between Portuguese merchant settlers or ruling colonial government – Portuguese from Portugal who knew little about the Chinese – and the Chinese majority (90% of population) who knew equally little about the Portuguese. Some were Portuguese men stationed in Macau as part of their military service. Many stayed in Macau after the expiration of their military service, marrying Macanese women.

Rarely did Chinese women marry Portuguese; initially, mostly Goans, Ceylonese/Sinhalese (from Sri Lanka), Indochina, Malay (from Malacca), and Japanese women were the wives of the Portuguese men in Macau.[12][13][14][15] Slave women of Indian, Indonesian, Malay, and Japanese origin were used as partners by Portuguese men.[16] Japanese girls would be purchased in Japan by Portuguese men.[17] Macau received an influx of African slaves, Japanese slaves as well as Christian Korean slaves who were bought by the Portuguese from the Japanese after they were taken prisoner during the Japanese invasions of Korea (1592–98) in the era of Hideyoshi.[18] From 1555 onwards, Macau received slave women of Timorese origin as well as women of African origin, and from Malacca and India.[19][20] Macau was permitted by Pombal to receive an influx of Timorese women.[21] Many Chinese became Macanese simply by converting to Catholicism, and they had no ancestry from the Portuguese, having assimilated into the Macanese people since they were rejected by non-Christian Chinese.[22] The majority of marriages between Portuguese and natives were between Portuguese men and women of Tanka origin, who were considered the lowest class of people in China and had relations with Portuguese settlers and sailors.[23] Western men like the Portuguese were refused by high class Chinese women, who did not marry foreigners.[24] Literature in Macau was written about love affairs and marriage between the Tanka women and Portuguese men, like "A-Chan, A Tancareira", by Henrique de Senna Fernandes.[25][26][27][28] More of the stories of Christianized Chinese who adopted Portuguese customs will be narrated on the 3rd paragraph. Furthermore, in the midst of the Manila Galleon trade, a small number of Latinos settled in the ports of Macau in China and Ternate in Indonesia which were secondary connecting trade nodes to the primary trade-route between Manila, Philippines and Acapulco, Mexico; they intermarried with the Portuguese settlers and various Asian settlers; the first Latin American Asians were mostly Mexicans and to a lesser extent, Colombians and Peruvians who made their way to Asia (mainly the Philippines) in the 16th century, the Latin-Americans who were sent to the Philippines and Macau from the Spanish colonies in America were often made up of Mulattoes, Mestizos and Indios (Amerindians).[29] Following the Shimabara Rebellion in 1638, about 400 Japanese Christians were officially deported to Macau or to the Spanish Philippines, and thousands more were pressured into voluntary exile. Among those Japanese Catholic refugees, many were fluent in Portuguese, even intermarried with Portuguese settlers & already existing Macanese settlers.

Main article: Women in Vietnam § European rule

Much of the business conducted with foreign men in Vietnam was done by the local Vietnamese women, who engaged in both sexual and mercantile intercourse with foreign male traders. A Portuguese and Malay-speaking Vietnamese woman who lived in Macao for an extensive period of time was the person who interpreted for the first diplomatic meeting between Cochin-China and a Dutch delegation. She served as an interpreter for three decades in the Cochin-China court with an old woman who had been married to three husbands, one Vietnamese and two Portuguese.[30][31][32] The cosmopolitan exchange was facilitated by the marriage of Vietnamese women to Portuguese merchants. Those Vietnamese women were married to Portuguese men and lived in Macao which is how they became fluent in Malay and Portuguese.[33]

Macanese senhora in her traditional attire, the dó, early 20th century

During the late-nineteenth century, and increasingly during Salazar's fascist Estado Novo regime, the upbringing of most Macanese fell along the lines of the continental Portuguese – attending Portuguese schools, participating in mandatory military service (some fought in Africa) and practising the Catholic faith. As recently as the 1980s, most Macanese had not received formal Chinese schooling and, hence, could speak but not read or write Chinese. Spoken Cantonese was largely familiar, and some spoke the language with a regional accent (鄉下話) – acquired largely from their mothers or amahs.[34]

Since Portuguese settlement in Macau – dating from 1557 – included a strong Catholic presence, a number of Chinese converted to Catholicism. A large number of Macanese can trace their roots to these New Christians. Many of these Chinese were assimilated into the Macanese community, dropping their Chinese surnames and adopting Portuguese surnames. In the collective Macanese folk memory, there is a little ditty about the parish of St. Lazarus Parish, called 進教圍, where these Chinese converts lived: 進教圍, 割辮仔, 唔係姓念珠 (Rosário) 就係姓玫瑰 (Rosa). Hence, it is surmised that many Macanese with surnames of Rosario or Rosa probably were of Chinese ancestry.[citation needed] Because of this, there are many Eurasians carrying Portuguese surnames Rosario, Rosa, and others that are not Portuguese-blooded may be mistaken by others as Portuguese-blooded, and Eurasians of Portuguese blood carrying Portuguese surnames trace their Portuguese blood on their maternal side.[citation needed] A visit to the St Michael the Archangel Cemetery (Cemitério São Miguel Arcanjo), the main Catholic cemetery near the St. Lazarus Parish, would reveal gravestones with a whole spectrum of Chinese and Portuguese heritage: Chinese with Portuguese baptised names with or without Portuguese surnames, Portuguese married with Chinese Catholics, and so on.

The mid-twentieth century, with the outbreak of the Second World War in the Pacific and the retreat of the Republic of China to Taiwan, saw the Macanese population surge through the re-integration of two disparate Macanese communities: the Hong Kong Macanese and the Shanghai Macanese. With the Japanese invasion of Hong Kong in 1941, the Macanese population, escaping the occupation, made its way to Macau as refugees. These Macanese, including many skilled workers and civil servants, were fluent in English and Portuguese and brought valuable commercial and technical skills to the colony. Another distinct group within the Macanese community is the 上海葡僑; the descendants of Portuguese settlers from Shanghai that acted as middlemen between other foreigners and the Chinese in the "Paris of the Orient". They emigrated from Shanghai to Macau in 1949 with the coming of the communist forces. Many spoke little Portuguese and were several generations removed from Portugal, speaking primarily English and Shanghainese, and/or Mandarin. The Shanghai Macanese carved a niche by teaching English in Macau. Only the children and grandchildren of Shanghainese settlers who were born and raised in Macau have the ability to speak Portuguese.

A number of Macanese also emigrated during the Carnation Revolution and Macau's handover to the People's Republic of China, respectively. Most potential emigrants looked to Brazil, Portugal's African territories, and Australia.

Post-colonial period

Beginning with the post-1974 independence of other Portuguese colonies and hastened by Macau's return to China, the Macanese community began to lose its Portuguese heritage. Many Portuguese, Eurasians and Chinese who were loyal to the Portuguese left after its return to China. Of those that remained, many children – including those of pure Chinese descent – switched from Portuguese- to English-medium high school education, particularly as many of parents recognised the diminishing value of Portuguese schooling. Many Macanese people of mixed ancestry since Portuguese time never speak Portuguese and speak only Cantonese as their first language; if other Macanese people of mixed ancestry speak Portuguese, they speak it as a second language, affected by a Cantonese accent. At the same time, Macanese of pure Portuguese descent are also learning Cantonese and Mandarin to be able to communicate to non-Portuguese-speaking Chinese. Today, most Macanese – if they are still young enough – would go back to study to read and write Chinese.[citation needed] Many see a niche role for fluent speakers of Portuguese, Cantonese and Mandarin.[citation needed] Code-switching between Portuguese, Cantonese, and Mandarin among native speakers is common. In the 1980s, Macanese or Portuguese women began to marry men who identified themselves as Chinese.[35]

Macanese identity dispute

There is some dispute around the exact meaning of "Macanese". An essay by Marreiros offers a broad spectrum of "Macanese types", ranging from Chinese Christian converts who live among the Portuguese to the descendants of old-established families of Portuguese lineage; all groups are integrated into this historically legitimated group.[10] As a general rule, it is not a point of reference, however for ethnic Chinese living and raised in Macau; they often identify themselves as Chinese or Chinese from Macau; "Macanese" is applied to those people who have been acculturated through Western education and religion and are recognized by the Macanese community as being Macanese.[36]

Traditionally, the basis for Macanese ethnic affiliation has been the use of the Portuguese language at home or some alliances with Portuguese cultural patterns and not solely determined along hereditary lines. Pina-Cabral and Lourenço suggest that this goal is reached "namely through the Portuguese-language school-system".[37] Often, due to the close proximity to the Portuguese, the Macanese closely identify themselves with Portuguese nationals as opposed to Chinese in the bi-cultural and bi-racial equation. In practice, however, being Macanese is left up to how individuals categorize themselves.

In the mid-1990s, there had been attempts by the Macau government to redefine the Macanese to be everyone born in Macau regardless of ethnicity, language or nationality.[38] Since the re-integration of Macau with the People's Republic of China in late 1999, the traditional definitions are in a state of re-formulation.[39] Given the shifting political climate of Macau, some Macanese are coming to recognize and identify closer with a Chinese heritage.

This ambiguity might be reduced by the further adjective crioulo.

Prominent Macanese

See also: Category:Macanese people and Category:Hong Kong people of Portuguese descent

Arts and letters

Entertainment and sports

Politics, military and business

See also


  1. ^ "Famous People From Macau Famous Natives". Archived from the original on 18 August 2018. Retrieved 17 August 2018.
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2017-07-17. Retrieved 2016-10-07.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ a b "Encontro para não esquecer – Comunidades macaenses reunidas até domingo". Jornal O Clarim. Archived from the original on 3 September 2014. Retrieved 26 May 2017.
  4. ^ Entrevista a José Cordeiro, no programa televisivo RCP Rescaldos da Comunidade Portuguesa Canadá, 10 de Março de 2012 – na entrevista filmada, ir ao minuto 8, ondo José Cordeiro, fundador da associação macaense Amigu di Macau, fez uma estimativa da população macaense residente em Toronto.
  5. ^ "Lusitano abre as suas portas". Revista Macau. 2 December 2006. Retrieved 13 June 2017.
  6. ^ "Uma comunidade cheia de vida e tradição no Brasil". Revista Macau (in Portuguese). 16 June 2013. Retrieved 2 May 2017.
  7. ^ a b c d Minahan, James B (2014). Ethnic Groups of North, East, and Central Asia: An Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. p. 169. ISBN 978-1-61069-017-1.
  8. ^ a b Porter, Jonathan (1996). Macau, the imaginary city: culture and society, 1557 to the present. Avalon. p. 78. ISBN 9780813328362. ((cite book)): |work= ignored (help)
  9. ^ Teixeira, Manuel (1965),Os Macaenses, Macau: Imprensa Nacional; Amaro, Ana Maria (1988), Filhos da Terra, Macau: Instituto Cultural de Macau, pp. 4–7; and Pina-Cabral, João de and Nelson Lourenço (1993), Em Terra de Tufões: Dinâmicas da Etnicidade Macaense, Macau: Instituto Cultural de Macau, for three varying, yet converging discussions on the definition of the term Macanese. Also particularly helpful is Review of Culture No. 20 July/September (English Edition) 1994, which is devoted to the ethnography of the Macanese.
  10. ^ a b Marreiros, Carlos (1994), "Alliances for the Future" in Review of Culture, No. 20 July/September (English Edition), pp. 162–172.
  11. ^ Clayton, Cathryn H. (2010). Sovereignty at the Edge: Macau & the Question of Chineseness. Harvard University Press. pp. 110-113. ISBN 978-0674035454.
  12. ^ Annabel Jackson (2003). Taste of Macau: Portuguese Cuisine on the China Coast (illustrated ed.). Hong Kong University Press. p. x. ISBN 962-209-638-7. Retrieved 2014-02-02.
  13. ^ João de Pina-Cabral (2002). Between China and Europe: person, culture and emotion in Macao. Vol. 74 of London School of Economics monographs on social anthropology (illustrated ed.). Berg. p. 39. ISBN 0-8264-5749-5. Retrieved 2012-03-01. To be a Macanese is fundamentally to be from Macao with Portuguese ancestors, but not necessarily to be of Sino-Portuguese descent. The local community was born from Portuguese men. ... but in the beginning the woman was Goanese, Siamese, Indo-Chinese, Malay – they came to Macao in our boats. Sporadically it was a Chinese woman.
  14. ^ C. A. Montalto de Jesus (1902). Historic Macao (2 ed.). Kelly & Walsh, Limited. p. 41. Retrieved 2014-02-02. macao Japanese women.
  15. ^ Austin Coates (2009). A Macao Narrative. Vol. 1 of Echoes: Classics of Hong Kong Culture and History. Hong Kong University Press. p. 44. ISBN 978-962-209-077-4. Retrieved 2014-02-02.
  16. ^ Stephen A. Wurm; Peter Mühlhäusler; Darrell T. Tryon, eds. (1996). Atlas of Languages of Intercultural Communication in the Pacific, Asia, and the Americas: Vol I: Maps. Vol II: Texts. Walter de Gruyter. p. 323. ISBN 3110819724. Retrieved 2014-02-02.
  17. ^ Camões Center (Columbia University. Research Institute on International Change) (1989). Camões Center Quarterly, Volume 1. Vol. 1 of Echoes: Classics of Hong Kong Culture and History. The Center. p. 29. Retrieved 2014-02-02.
  18. ^ Kaijian Tang (2015). Setting Off from Macau: Essays on Jesuit History during the Ming and Qing Dynasties. BRILL. p. 93. ISBN 978-9004305526. Retrieved 2014-02-02.
  19. ^ Frank Dikötter (2015). The Discourse of Race in Modern China. Oxford University Press. p. 11. ISBN 978-0190231132. Retrieved 2014-02-02.
  20. ^ Frank Dikotter (1992). The Discourse of Race in Modern China: Hong Kong Memoirs. Hong Kong University Press. p. 17. ISBN 9622093043. Retrieved 2014-02-02.
  21. ^ Francisco Bethencourt (2014). Racisms: From the Crusades to the Twentieth Century. Princeton University Press. p. 209. ISBN 978-1400848416. Retrieved 2014-02-02.
  22. ^ João de Pina-Cabral (2002). Between China and Europe: person, culture and emotion in Macao. Vol. 74 of London School of Economics monographs on social anthropology (illustrated ed.). Berg. p. 39. ISBN 0-8264-5749-5. Retrieved 2012-03-01.
  23. ^ João de Pina-Cabral (2002). Between China and Europe: person, culture and emotion in Macao. Vol. 74 of London School of Economics monographs on social anthropology (illustrated ed.). Berg. p. 164. ISBN 0-8264-5749-5. Retrieved 2012-03-01.
  24. ^ João de Pina-Cabral (2002). Between China and Europe: person, culture and emotion in Macao. Vol. 74 of London School of Economics monographs on social anthropology (illustrated ed.). Berg. p. 165. ISBN 0-8264-5749-5. Retrieved 2012-03-01.
  25. ^ João de Pina-Cabral (2002). Between China and Europe: person, culture and emotion in Macao. Vol. 74 of London School of Economics monographs on social anthropology (illustrated ed.). Berg. p. 164. ISBN 0-8264-5749-5. Retrieved 2012-03-01. Henrique de Senna Fernandes, another Macanese author, wrote a short story about a tanka girl who has an affair with a Portuguese sailor. In the end, the man returns to his native country and takes their little girl with him, leaving the mother abandoned and broken-hearted. As her sailorman picks up the child, A-Chan's words are: 'Cuidadinho ... cuidadinho' ('Careful ... careful'). She resigns herself to her fate, much as she may never have recovered from the blow (1978).
  26. ^ Christina Miu Bing Cheng (1999). Macau: a cultural Janus (illustrated ed.). Hong Kong University Press. p. 173. ISBN 962-209-486-4. Retrieved 2012-03-01. Her slave-like submissiveness is her only attraction to him. A-Chan thus becomes his slave/mistress, an outlet for suppressed sexual urges. The story is an archetypical tragedy of miscegenation. Just as the Tanka community despises A-Chan's cohabitation with a foreign barbarian, Manuel's colleagues mock his 'bad taste' ('gosto degenerado') (Senna Fernandes, 1978: 15) in having a tryst with a boat girl.
  27. ^ Christina Miu Bing Cheng (1999). Macau: a cultural Janus (illustrated ed.). Hong Kong University Press. p. 173. ISBN 962-209-486-4. Retrieved 2012-03-01. As such, the Tanka girl is nonchalantly reified and dehumanized as a thing ( coisa). Manuel reduces human relations to mere consumption not even of her physical beauty (which has been denied in the description of A-Chan), but her 'Orientalness' of being slave-like and submissive.
  28. ^ Christina Miu Bing Cheng (1999). Macau: a cultural Janus (illustrated ed.). Hong Kong University Press. p. 170. ISBN 962-209-486-4. Retrieved 2012-03-01. We can trace this fleeting and shallow relationship in Henrique de Senna Fernandes' short story, A-Chan, A Tancareira, (Ah Chan, the Tanka Girl) (1978). Senna Fernandes (1923-), a Macanese, had written a series of novels set against the context of Macau and some of which were made into films.
  29. ^ Letter from Fajardo to Felipe III From Manila, August 15 1620.(From the Spanish Archives of the Indies)
  30. ^ Reid, Anthony (1990). Southeast Asia in the Age of Commerce, 1450–1680: The lands below the winds. Vol. 1 of Southeast Asia in the Age of Commerce, 1450–1680 (illustrated, reprint, revised ed.). New Haven: Yale University Press. p. 165. ISBN 978-0-300-04750-9. Retrieved 10 December 2014.
  31. ^ MacLeod, Murdo J.; Rawski, Evelyn Sakakida, eds. (1998). European Intruders and Changes in Behaviour and Customs in Africa, America, and Asia Before 1800. Vol. 30 of An Expanding World, the European Impact on World History, 1450–1800, Vol 30 (illustrated, reprint ed.). Ashgate. p. 636. ISBN 978-0-86078-522-4. Retrieved 10 December 2014.
  32. ^ Hughes, Sarah S.; Hughes, Brady, eds. (1995). Women in World History: Readings from prehistory to 1500. Vol. 1 of Sources and studies in world history (illustrated ed.). M.E. Sharpe. p. 219. ISBN 978-1-56324-311-0. Retrieved 10 December 2014.
  33. ^ Tingley, Nancy (2009). Asia Society. Museum (ed.). Arts of Ancient Viet Nam: From River Plain to Open Sea. Andreas Reinecke, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (illustrated ed.). Asia Society. p. 249. ISBN 978-0-300-14696-7. Retrieved 10 December 2014.
  34. ^ Of interest is the role that the amah plays in Macanese society. It is well known that local Cantonese women were often hired by the Catholic Church in Macau to act as wet-nurses for orphans in the Church's charge. These women were also hired by Macanese families to clean their houses, cook meals and care for their children. It is in these early encounters that Macanese children are first introduced to the Cantonese language and culture. Families are known to keep long-standing friendships with their amahs and in the past, young brides would sometimes bring them along with them to their new home. Nowadays Filipinas fill the role. c.f. Soares, José Caetano (1950), Macau e a Assistência (Panorama médico-social), Lisbon, Agência Geral das Colónias Divisão de Publicações e Biblioteca, and Jorge, Edith de (1993), The Wind Amongst the Ruins: A childhood in Macao, New York: Vantage Press.
  35. ^ Gary João de Pina-Cabral (2002). InteBetween China and Europe: person, culture and emotion in Macao. Berg Publishers. p. 165. ISBN 0-8264-5749-5. Retrieved 2010-07-14.
  36. ^ There are many pretenders who have claimed to be Macanese. Although one's ethnic identity is a personal project, ultimately, any claim to a Macanese identity is either accepted or refuted by the already existing Macanese community on criteria dependent upon shared cultural heritage and collective notions (these criteria shift with each emerging generation). As Turner and later Bhabka suggest, identity is a layering of experiences unraveled through contact with others and is only decipherable within the social sphere. There are limits to a Macanese identity, and Pina-Cabral and Lourenço (op. cit.), offer a broad-based definition delineated by family and community acceptance as two basic denominators for a tentative definition of the Macanese.
  37. ^ Pina-Cabral and Lourenço (1993). Tentatively, language is not so much a key determinant to Macanese identity, but rather the alliance with the Portuguese cultural system that knowing Portuguese entails. A great number of Macanese families of Hong Kong only speak English but are still considered Macanese. Along these lines, knowledge of Portuguese is preferably – but not absolutely necessary – for a Macanese identity. It should be mentioned, however, that Portuguese language use is only one of several criteria that are used by other Macaense to determine other Macanese, not the sole determinant.
  38. ^ Clayton, Cathryn H. (2010). Sovereignty at the Edge: Macau & the Question of Chineseness. Harvard University Press. pp. 110113. ISBN 978-0674035454.
  39. ^ Shifting, not in the sense of deconstruction of the identity definition, but a re-formulation of the definition as each rising generation dictates. The current generation is looking toward the transition and finding themselves deciding upon their cultural/identity alignments. However, as Pina-Cabral and Lourenço explain, this is the nature of the Macanese community.