The ruin problem: Negotiating cultural heritage in Macau

Source of Publication

Revista Portuguesa de Estudos Regionais


© APEQ - Associacao Portuguesa para o Estudo do Quaternario. Traditionally, ruins were perceived in China as undesirable architectural structures that could 'only be meaningful in the present day when they are completely renovated' (Chen, 2016: 356). They were identified with chaos, disturbance, deficit and misfortune. The traditional, Chinese principles of wholeness, completeness, design balance and gestalt pursuit derive from the Taoist tradition. According to these conventions harmony and aesthetic appeal could have been valued over the authenticity and historical truth. Consequently, traditional Chinese stylistic restoration resorted to practices of rebuilding what had been previously demolished or lost. The article intends to consider Macau's Portuguese, famous landmark - Ruins of St. Paul's - as a space of negotiation between the 'Western' and the Chinese attitudes toward the heritage preservation. By way of such analysis, the ultimate goal of the paper can be achieved - to reveal Macau's complex urban identity as exhibited in its cultural heritage. Methods used in this study included surveying the common characteristics of Chinese traditional heritage preservation practices and comparing them against the Western traditions by means of comparative literature review and policy documents analysis. Additional methods combined reviewing sources, which reveal the social reception of Chinese heritage preservation practices, together with first-hand observations. The article's conclusion affirms that St. Paul's needs to be recognized as a place of manifestation of dissonant heritage restoration-related visions and an emblematic marker of Macau's complex identity.

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Author First name, Last name, Institution

Marta Wieczorek, Zayed University

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