Macau: Casa do Mandarim

One of the highlights of our trip to Macau was the visit of the House of the Mandarin. The Mandarin House is the former residence owned by eminent modern Chinese thinker Zheng Guanying and his father Zheng Wenrui. Zheng Guanying was a member of the literati who published several books that are still considered classics today. The Macau Mandarin House was built in around 1881 and it has the characteristics of traditional Guangdong’s residences. Yet, it also features a fusion of architectural influences from western cultures, making it a unique product of Chinese and western cultural interchange.

The Mandarin’s House is very large, occupying an area of 4000m2 on which are buildings and open spaces designed in various architectural styles. The entire complex has more than 60 rooms in total. Around 1950’s to 1960’s, the descendants of the Zheng’s family moved out to live in different places. The Mandarin’s House was then rented out. At one time, there were more than 300 tenants packed inside the complex, constituting to poor living conditions. The carrying capacity of the complex was pushed to limits. Building modifications, on top of everyday wear and tear began to cause damage to the architecture. The lack of daily maintenance and fire attacks brought further destructions. When the government got proprietorship of the property in 2001, more than 80% of the architecture was suffering from different degrees of damage. Alterations done by tenants also brought challenges in recovering the original appearance of the mansion.Since 2002, the government began to conduct step by step conservation work on the Mandarin’s House. Rigorous studies were followed by careful restoration work. After 8 years of continuous efforts, the conservation works were completed, with the basic original image of the complex being presented.

When we arrived, they just asked us for our country of origin – but we did not have to register or pay an entrance fee. We were allowed to walk through the house on our own, and we started by watching a video about the restoration project. We then entered through the moon gate and stepped into the first house, walked up the stairs and crossed the bridge into the second house. Again, fascinating architecture – European pillars, Asian blinds and windows, a wooden frieze, stone floors and wooden room dividers. All very beautiful and we spent hours strolling around and looking at the details.

  • The Mandarin’s House is open from 10-6pm every day except for Wednesday and Thursday (closed).  Further info here:
  • An interesting read in the New York Times tells the story of the restoration project here

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