The Macau Civil Code - A Partial English Translation

87 Pages Posted: 8 Oct 2008 Last revised: 20 Jun 2016

Jorge A. F. Godinho

University of Macau

Date Written: September 12, 2013


This text is a partial English translation of the Civil Code of the Macau Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China. The Macau Civil Code was approved by Decree-Law no. 39/99/M, of August 3, just a few months before the transfer of sovereignty over Macau from Portugal to China.

In terms of genealogy, the 1999 Code is in essence an updated, improved and ‘localized’ version of the 1966 Portuguese Civil Code, which in turn is heavily influenced by the German Civil Code (BGB). The Code is therefore a ‘grandson’ of the BGB, although clearly other influences are also present. Nevertheless, this origin reflects a shift towards German legal science by the Portuguese academic legal community, which took place from the early years of the twentieth century.

The division used in the Civil Code is, unsurprisingly, the so-called German classification of civil law branches, created during the nineteenth century by the German Pandectist movement, and also used by the BGB, which separates between:
I. General part
II. Law of obligations
III. Property law
IV. Family law
V. Succession law

One feature of the legal tradition in which the Civil Code fits is the extensive use of very abstract and technical concepts, which are intended to be precise, logical and consistent, almost ‘scientific’. This conceptual refinement is typical of civil law legal systems and flows from the German Pandectist tradition that produced the BGB. For more details, see Jorge Godinho, Macau business law and legal system, Hong Kong, LexisNexis, 2007.

The importance of the existence of a translation of the Civil Code into English cannot be overemphasized. The Civil Code is the basic foundation of private law and especially of business transactions. The fundamental concepts and regulation of contracts and of property law and civil liability (torts) can be found in the Civil Code, namely the detailed rules on the mortgage, bond, purchase and sale, loan, conclusion and performance of contracts, and many other matters of direct interest to business transactions. The Civil Code is the basis for the regulation of all business activities, and it is the legal foundation upon which the Commercial Code is built.

An attempt was made to produce an accurate and consistent translation, employing a modern and elegant style of English writing, consistent with the translation of the Commercial Code. This is obviously a rather difficult task, both in quantitative and qualitative terms. More than a translation, it is, in fact, a highly specialized work of legal research, given that the search for the appropriate equivalent terms and expressions involves considerable comparative law research.

A word of thanks is due to all my students: with clinic eye, they greatly helped to improve the translation.

The author gladly welcomes all comments, suggestions or requests for inclusion of specific articles by e-mail.

Suggested Citation

Godinho, Jorge A. F., The Macau Civil Code - A Partial English Translation (September 12, 2013). Available at SSRN: or

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