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Macao at expo 2010 Shanghai

Sat, 20th Jun 2009
Macao will mark its presence at the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai with two pavilions. Located next to the Chinese Pavilion, Macao’s “Jade Rabbit Lantern” will welcome many of the millions of tourists expected to attend the event. (October 2009)

Macao will mark its presence at the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai with two pavilions. Located next to the Chinese Pavilion, Macao’s “Jade Rabbit Lantern” will welcome many of the millions of tourists expected to attend the event. The “Tak Seng On” pawnshop will showcase Kung Fu heroes. Images, colours, aromas and emotions, together with 20 of the most advanced technology, will show a Macao of the future, without forgetting the past. Come and discover for yourself!

The Special Administrative Region of Macao (MSAR) will be present at the Shanghai World Exposition, which is scheduled to take place between 1 May and 31 October, 2010.

The political, social and economic status of Macao and Hong Kong as part of the People’s Republic of China made the Shanghai Expo organisers set a challenge to the governments of the two cities: to build their own pavilions right next to the large China National Pavilion, which was named Oriental Crown.

Offered the possibility of showing the world the best it has to offer, Macao and Hong Kong responded to the challenge with innovative projects that will surprise the roughly 70 million visitors expected at the Expo next year.

Hymn of Harmony 

Macao – Spirit of Cultures, Essence of Harmony is the theme of the MSAR at the Shanghai Expo. This theme was chosen taking into account Macao’s most significant treasure: its people.

Christiana Ieong Pou Yee, Coordinator of the Office for the Preparation of Macao's Participation in the Shanghai World Expo, said: “Macao’s history is over 400 years old and results from a coming together of the East and the West. Macao’s different cultures have always known how to share without conflicts. That is why we believe that Macao’s most important asset is its people, because they are the ones that built the harmonious society we live in.”

Even though the local economy has seen major growth over the last 10 years, the people responsible for Macao’s image at Shanghai preferred to respond to the theme of the World Expo – Better City, Better Life – using its citizens as the example. Their hard work, tolerance and honesty are the recipe for the development of any region or country.

Jade Rabbit, a pawn shop and much more 

The Shanghai Expo is expecting over 200 partici-pants representing countries, territories and companies and they all plan to show their respective economic, social and cultural potential. Macao’s answer to capture the audience’s attention was to adopt an innovative solution.

Following a public tender, which included 31 proposals, the Office for the Preparation of Macao’s Participation in the Shanghai World Expo chose “Imperial Lantern – Jade Rabbit”, designed by local architect Carlos Marreiros.

According to Ieong, “the rabbit symbolises harmony, family and unity, which is the message that Macao wants to convey in Shanghai”.

And according to Carlos Marreiros, “as China is represented by a dragon, it did not make sense to choose an animal symbol that was equally powerful”.

Macao will mark its presence at the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai with two pavilions. Located next to the Chinese Pavilion, Macao’s “Rabbit Lantern” will welcome the millions of tourists that are expected to attend the event.

Macao’s pavilion is loca-ted right next to Hong Kong’s pavilion, which was named Pavilion of Infinity, a rectangular structure with minimalist styling. The grouping of the pavilions together aims to represent the perfect harmony between both special administrative regions and the mother country.

“We wanted to do something different. We want visitors to remember Macao, to remember the jade rabbit, to take photos and keep them at home”, said Ieong Pou Yee. In addition to the Rabbit Lantern, Macao’s participation in the Shanghai Expo will also include a replica of the Tak Seng On Pawnshop, as well as taking part in exhibitions and forums.

Macao Week, the pro-gramme for which is being prepared, will take place between 13 and 17 October.

Future, present and past 

Cultural diversity, heritage, development and modernity – these are the four themes that define the inside of the Rabbit Lantern and the Tak Seng On Pawnshop.

The organisers of Macao’s presence aim to promote the region as a tourist destination and a global centre for fairs, exhibitions and conventions, without forgetting Macao’s most important aspect - its people. Content producers have been hired and are currently working on these objectives.

Visitors to the Rabbit Lantern will, in the first part of the exhibit, have a chance to compare old Macao with new Macao, and get to know its people and its numerous cultural traditions.

“An example of the dif-ferent cultures living together in harmony can be found in the streets of Macao. In certain parts of the city you can see Portuguese cobblestones (cal-çada) surrounding Chinese temples,” said Ieong Pou Yee.

Further into the exhibit, visitors will be surrounded by the sights and sounds of the Grand Prix, the International Fireworks Display Contest, the Drunken Dragon Festival and many other sporting and artistic events that are part of Macao's annual calendar.

At the end each visitor will be presented with a gift to remember their trip through the MSAR.

Ieong Pou Yee was certain about one thing: “The Rabbit Lantern will be the location that will have the most up-to-date information about the future of Macao”.

The Tak Seng On Pawnshop will exhibit some of the original written work of Hong Kong novelist Jin Yong, who is famous in Thailand, South Korea and Japan.

Scenes of ten of the most emblematic Kung Fu heroes from Jin Yong’s novels will be projected onto the facade of the pawnshop. 

Macao’s organisers at the World Expo plan to showcase the region’s industries and products via exhibitions and forums and aim to attract investments and promote Macao’s artistic and sporting calendar. Relations between China, Portuguese-speaking countries, the European Union and other economies will also be a focus.

"We’re working jointly with the Macao Government Tourist Office, the Macau Grand Prix Committee, the Macao Trade and Investment Promotion Institute (IPIM), the Forum for Economic and Trade Cooperation between China and the Portuguese-speaking Countries, and the Cultural Affairs Bureau. We plan to organise more activities during the Shanghai Expo," said Ieong Pou Yee.

Various performances from China and Portugal are scheduled for Macao Week, as are daily parades and other artistic events.

At the end of the World Expo, in October, attention will turn towards the 57th Grand Prix, which will take place in November, 2010. 

The Rabbit Lantern
Tradition and modernity 

Macao’s Rabbit Lantern Pavilion was inspired by the traditional lanterns used by adults and children to commemorate the Moon Festival, held each year on the 15th day of the eighth month in the lunar calendar.

The lanterns are made of colourful paper and usually made into the shape of an animal, the most popular of which is the rabbit, which is believed to be the companion of the Moon Goddess Chang’e in Chinese mythology. A small candle is placed on the inside and its light glows through the paper, illuminating the streets.

This tradition used to be found all over the south of China - from Guangdong to Jinjiang . In the specific case of Macao, the tradition of going out with lanterns during the Moon Festival has been passed down from generation to generation for some time and is very popular with children, whether they are Chinese, Portuguese or of other nationalities.

The Rabbit Lantern, because it has always been the most popular figure, has evolved over time, according to Carlos Marreiros, the architect of the Macao Pavilion. “There is a book written by Ana Maria Amaro that traces this evolution from the '50s to the present day. There have in fact been changes to its shape, but the rabbit lantern has kept its main characteristics since it first appeared. The biggest difference is in the colours. From red and white, many different colours have since been used. There are examples of rabbit lanterns that were made using the colours of the flags of Macao and Portugal”.

Despite being the most expensive to make, because of the difficulty in making it, the rabbit lantern has always been the most popular because it has wheels and its head moves up and down on a spring.

Symbolism and technology 

The rules for the public competition to design the concept of the rabbit lantern for the Macao Pavilion required that the winning project reflect Macao's multiculturalism, harmony, tradition and modernity. At the same it had to contain auspicious elements.

“The Lantern met all the criteria. It is festive, secular and has been admired by all for many years“, said Marreiros.

The rabbit also fits in with what the organisation was looking for. It is small, just like Macao: astute, like the people of Macao – it knows how to solve situations without getting into conflicts; and it is an inhabitant of the moon, a heavenly body that has enormous symbolism in the Chinese culture.

“The rabbit is related to the moon goddess. It visits the heavens through a door that is south facing, which is precisely the direction in which the Oriental Crown, the Chinese Pavilion, is facing”, Marreiros noted.

As the Oriental Crown is a stylised classic Chinese capital and as the Macao Pavilion had to be in keeping with its surroundings, Carlos Marreiros had the idea of also reinventing a traditional classical element, with the aim of building a pavilion that was modern, environmentally friendly and with hi-tech features.

The Macao Pavilion is in fact designed to be a giant screen, onto which numerous images will be projected, both on the outer and inner walls.

The Rabbit Lantern is expected to receive seven million visitors, which accounts for 10 percent of the visitors due at the Chinese National Pavilion. For this reason, the project’s designers decided to use multimedia solutions, rather than other exhibits that could make people spend too long inside the pavilion.

“If people are expecting to see the same thing they see in a museum, they are mistaken. This is a new philosophy, a philosophy for the future”, said Marreiros. 

An exciting visit 

In the centre of the entrance hall of the Macao Pavilion, there will be a multi-projection screen. Acrobats and dancers will liven up the space.

Visitors, who will be able to configure their own mobile phones to hear the voice of a tour guide in the language of their choice, will be guided to the top floor. They will go up in an escalator or a lift, one of which will have panoramic views, whilst hearing music as they watch the images that dozens of cameras will project in every direction.

As visitors come to the top floor, 13 metres up, the visit itself will begin. They will walk down a circular ramp, which has been transformed into a time tunnel where images tell the history of Macao, from the arrival of the first Portuguese ships right up to modern times.

A lot of colour, aromas and other sensations will make visitors aware of the cultural and sporting events that take place annually in Macao. All information can be received via mobile phones, using Bluetooth technology.

“We want people to know what Macao is today, what Macao was over the centuries and what Macao will be tomorrow. All of this is done in a fun and entertaining way,” said Marreiros.

Roughly 15 to 20 minutes after having entered the Rabbit Lantern, visitors will leave the pavilion and will have time to visit other displays.

Walking around the outside of the pavilion, enthusiasm will remain high, as dances, acrobatics and magic are performed. The installation of an LED screen in front of the pavilion, broadcasting films about Macao, is still under review.

“Not everyone who visits the Chinese Pavilion will go inside the Macao Pavilion. That is why we are looking at installing a screen on the outside, as it is another way to promote the region,” said Ieong Pou Yee.

People who are not able to go to the Shanghai Expo will be able to visit the Rabbit Lantern and the Tak Seng On Pawnshop, via the Internet, as the respective site will continue to operate after October.

Interesting facts and figures 

The Rabbit Lantern was the winning project of the Macao Pavilion Concept Design Competition. Dancing Lotus, by architects Chio Wai Tong and Loi Mang Chon came in second place, whilst Glitter, by Carlos Couto, Chio Wa Cheng and Ana Ramos da Fonseca, came in third.

The Rabbit Lantern’s creator, Carlos Marreiros, has been working jointly with Tongji University, in Shanghai, famous for its architecture and engineering courses. Marreiros also worked closely with two teams that were responsible for creating and developing the pavilion’s multimedia content.

In addition to Macao, the project also includes work from professionals that hail from Hong Kong and Singapore, among other nationalities.

Marreiros worked with the Portuguese government in the World Expositions of Tsukuba (1985), Seville (1992) and Lisbon (1998).

Construction of the pavilion is expected to be finished by the end of November of this year, while the interiors are due to be completed in December.

Installation of the multi-media content will take place between January and March of 2010, and the final tests are scheduled for April, just a few weeks before the inauguration of the Shanghai Expo.

The Macao Pavilion is environmentally friendly: the structure is steel, the windows are double-glazed and the paint used acrylic (does not contain gasoline). All signage, both inside and outside, will be projected and therefore no physical signs will be posted.

The head and the tail of the Rabbit Lantern are non-flammable inflatable gas balloons, which can be retracted in the case of a hurricane, as they are made of the same material that is used in building airships.

The structure can be taken down and transferred to another location and the possibility of donating it to the Shanghai municipal council or transporting it back to Macao, after the close of the World Expo, is being considered.

Ground area
600 square metres
Total height 
(not including head and tail)
19.99 metres

Size of head
10 metres tall and 16 metres wide
Total construction area
1,500 square metres
Total area of the exhibition ramp
780 square metres
Length of exhibition ramp
250 metres
Area of entrance hall
145 square metres
Area of hall on top floor
80 square metres
The lifts will transport 2,200 people per hour

The replica of the Tak Seng On Pawnshop is part of a series of permanent buildings that will be at the event. These buildings, unlike a majority of the pavilions, are not planned to be transferred elsewhere or demolished.

The actual Tak Seng On Pawnshop in Macao recently received a UNESCO award for its state of conservation, a result of a partnership between the MSAR government, the owner of the building and private companies.

Shanghai after the World Expo
A new urban centre 

Studies have shown that the development of areas that were chosen to host World Expos is ten times faster, when compared with other urban areas, even in the same city.

With the exception of Seville and other less wealthy cities, world expositions quickly contribute to the redevelopment of certain areas, as the infrastructures that are built are, for the most part, used for other purposes.

The location chosen by the Shanghai Municipal Council has been run down for some time, without a plan to minimise the social and environmental problems that were felt there.

The organisation of a World Expo in Shanghai fitted in perfectly with China’s strategy to host large international events, and its execution was merely dependent on choosing the space.

Faced with this challenge and eager to redevelop an area near the Huangpu River, the Shanghai Municipal Council relocated people, transferred companies and cleaned the water and land across an area totalling 5.28 square kilometres, on both banks of the river.

Included in the Shanghai transport p lan is the expansion of the metro network, which is going to increase from the current 250 kilometres to around 400, and is due to be ready around the time of the opening of the Expo.

Interestingly, the largest metro networks in the world serve the cities of London, Tokyo, Moscow and Paris, all of which have around 500 kilometres of lines.


By José Miguel Encarnação in Macao

(Issue N. 1, October 2009)