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Although Macanese culture is more Portuguese than Chinese, Portuguese culture almost lost touch with Macau after Portugal's African provinces won independence, and Indonesia claimed Portuguese Timor, in 1975. Furthermore, the main language of Macau is Cantonese, and the main religion is Buddhism. Macanese culture now influences its Portuguese counterpart. The worldwide popularity of Chinese food and Chinese martial arts (kung fu or wu shu) has made them popular in Portugal as well.

Before the handover, the city government designated Macau as a "city of culture”. It supported various arts foundations, such as the Fundação Macau and the Fundação Oriente. There are also private cultural foundations, such as the Instituto Português de Oriente. Since the mid-1990s, several new museums have opened, including the Chinese Robert Ho Tung Museum, the Luis de Camões Museum, and the Museum of Art. There is also a National Library. The tourist market and local people have created a demand for contemporary art.


There is a long Portuguese-Macanese literary tradition in the city, which likes to take inspiration from the myth that the famous seventeenth-century Portuguese poet Luis de Camões spent some time in Macau. The most famous writer in the Macau patois was José dos Santos Ferreira (d. 1993). Macau also inspired many local Chinese poets and authors (such as seventeenth-century poet Wu Li, and twentieth-century author Liang Piyun). The local Chinese and Portuguese literary traditions have remained relatively separate. Chinese Macanese literature is as a rule more political in content.

Visual Arts

The Chinese graphic arts emerged as landscape painting, Chinese calligraphy, and book illustration. Some European painters (such as George Chinnery, d. 1852, and A. Borget, d. 1877) lived in Macau and depicted life and landscapes of Macau in many drawings, watercolors, and paintings. Notable local painters in 19th-century Macau were M. Baptista and Guan Qiaochang. Several Chinese painters in Macau show a creative mix of Chinese and European styles. There are also Portuguese-Macanese artists. The contemporary graphic arts scene (among both Portuguese and Chinese artists) is alive and well, supported by cultural foundations.

Performing Arts

In hotels and clubs one finds traditional Portuguese dance performances, fado singers, Chinese dance groups and foreign artists. The theatre scene in Macau is relatively unimportant.

Cantonese opera is quite popular, especially among elderly residents. In 2003, the Cultural Institute of the Macau Government, in collaboration with the Leisure and Cultural Services Department of the Hong Kong, organised the exhibition Fong Yim Fun - The Life and Work of a Cantonese Opera Artiste. As a well-known actress and opera artiste in Canton, Hong Kong and Macau, Fong Yim Fun performed in more than 150 operas and films). Part of her works was exhibited in the Museum of Macau at that time.

Events & Festivals

The mixing of the Chinese and Portuguese cultures and religious traditions for more than four centuries has left Macau with an inimitable collection of holidays, festivals and events. The biggest event of the year is the Macau Grand Prix in November, when the main streets in Macau Peninsula are converted to a racetrack bearing similarities with the Monaco Grand Prix. Other annual events include Macau Arts festival in March, the International Fireworks Display Contest in September, the International Music festival in October and/or November, and the Macau International Marathon in December.

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