As early as 1516, Portuguese traders began stopping at the port of Macau on their way to Japan. Portugal later established an official outpost there, with China’s approval. Even before Macau became a colony of Portugal in the late 19th century, the Chinese territory operated under Portuguese administration, an arrangement that worked well for both countries. But Portugal never wanted to stay permanently, and by the mid-1970s the country began trying to give Macau back. By 1987, China agreed to take back control, and on 20 December 1999, Macau was reunited with the mainland -- securing its place in history as the final European colony in Asia. The United Kingdom had likewise returned sovereignty of Hong Kong, a nearby neighbor of Macau, to the Chinese in 1997.
A little bit of Portugal remains:
- Like Hong Kong, Macau was considered a Special Administrative Region and was governed under the "one country, two systems" principle established by Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping.
- Portuguese is still an official language in Macau, and Portuguese influence can be seen everywhere -- from the colorful Mediterranean-style buildings to the tile floors and beautiful gardens.
- Macau has the world's highest population density, and depends on lavish gambling casinos to bring in 30 million visitors every year.