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Macau's Golden Age

Lucrative Trade Agreements Benefited Both Countries

Portuguese trade routes resulted in Macau becoming an epicenter of trade in the region. With the Iberian Union in 1580, King Philip II of Spain was encouraged to not harm the trade relationship with the East.

Years:  1558 — 1640

After the Portuguese were allowed to permanently settle in Macau, both Chinese and Portuguese merchants flocked there, although the Portuguese were never numerous, numbering just 900 in 1583 and 1,200 out of 26,000 in 1640. It quickly became an important center in the development of Portugal's trade along three major routes: Macau-Malacca-Goa-Lisbon, Guangzhou-Macau-Nagasaki, and Macau-Manila-Mexico. The Guangzhou-Macau-Nagasaki route was particularly profitable because the Portuguese acted as middlemen, shipping Chinese silks to Japan and Japanese silver to China, pocketing huge markups in the process. This already lucrative trade became even more so when Chinese officials handed Macau's Portuguese traders a monopoly by banning direct trade with Japan in 1547.

Macau's Golden Age coincided with the union of the Spanish and Portuguese crowns, between 1580 and 1640. King Philip II of Spain was encouraged to not harm the status quo, to allow trade to continue between Portuguese Macau and Spanish Manila, and to not interfere with Portuguese trade with China. In 1587, Philip promoted Macau from "Settlement or Port of the Name of God" to "City of the Name of God" (Cidade do Nome de Deus de Macau).

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