Country Listing

Macau Table of Contents



Location, Size, Border, and Coastline: Macau is located in the southern part of China's Guangdong Province, on the tip of the peninsula formed by the Zhujiang (Pearl River) estuary on the east and the Xijiang (West River) on the west. Macau is situated sixty kilometers west of Hong Kong and 145 kilometers southwest of Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong Province. It is immediately adjacent to the Zhuhai Special Economic Zone. The region comprises the Macau Peninsula and the islands of Taipa and Coloane. Macau was once an island but gradually a connecting sandbar turned into a narrow isthmus. Land reclamation in the seventeenth century made Macau into a peninsula, and a barrier gate was built to mark the separation between the peninsula and the mainland. Pre-colonial records show that Macau totaled only 2.78 square kilometers but began to increase as a result of Portuguese settlement. Land growth has accelerated since the last quarter of the twentieth century, from 15 square kilometers in 1972 to 16.1 square kilometers in 1983 to 21.3 square kilometers in 1994. Macau's size has gradually increased as result of continued land reclamation, especially on Taipa and Coloane. In 2000, the total land area was approximately 23.6 square kilometers. There is a 0.34-kilometer-long border between Macau and mainland China and a forty-kilometer-long coastline.

Topography: Macau has generally flat terrain resulting from extensive land reclamation, but numerous steep hills mark the original natural land mass. The modern high-rise skyline of Macau obscures much of the hilly landscape. Macau's highest point is at Coloane Alto (174 meters above sea level).

Macau skyline

The Macau skyline both defines and obscures its topography. Courtesy Robert L. Worden

Climate: The climate is subtropical and is hot and humid, with an average year-round temperature of 25°C and temperatures exceeding 30°C from June to September. Temperatures rarely fall below 14°C (the average for January and February). There is about 2,030 millimeters of rainfall annually. Macau is exposed to tropical storms originating from the southern Pacific Ocean during the summer. Major destruction occurred in September 1874, when a devastating typhoon hit Macau and high seas swept across the low-lying area of the peninsula.

Natural Resources: Negligible. In the past, large amounts of granite were extracted from Macau's hills for use as building material.

Land Use: No arable land, pastures, forest, or woodland. Because of this deficiency, Macau's people traditionally have looked to the sea for their livelihood.

Environmental Factors: Dense urban environment.

Data as of August 7, 2000