Fishermen from Fujian and farmers from Guangdong were the first known
settlers in Macau, when it was known as Ou Mun, or "trading gate",
because of its location at the mouth of the Pearl River downstream from
Guangzhou (Canton). During ancient times port city was part of the Silk
Road with ships loading here with silk for Rome.

Even after China ceased to be a world trade centre, Guangzhou prospered
from seaborne business with the countries of Southeast Asia, so the local
entrepreneurs welcomed the arrival of Portuguese merchant-explorers. They
followed in the wake of Jorge Alvares, who landed in southern China in
1513, and set about finding suitable trading posts.

In the early 1550s the Portuguese reached Ou Mun, which the locals also
called A Ma Gao, "place of A Ma", in honour of the Goddess of Seafarers,
whose temple stood at the entrance to the sheltered Inner Harbour. The
Portuguese adopted the name, which gradually changes into the name
Macau, and with the permission of Guangdong's mandarins, established a
city that within a short time had become a major entrepot for trade between
China, Japan, India and Europe.

It also became the perfect crossroad for the meeting of East and West
cultures. The Roman Catholic church sent some of its greatest missionaries
to continue the work of St Francis Xavier, (who died nearby after making
many converts in Japan). A Christian college was built, beside what is now
today's Ruins of St Paul's, where students such as Matteo Ricci prepared
for their work as Christian scholars at the Imperial Court in Beijing. Other
churches were built, as well as fortresses, which gave the city an historical
European appearance that distinguishes it to this day.

Following the Opium War in 1841, Hong Kong was established by Britain
and most of the foreign merchants left Macau, which became a quaint, quiet
backwater. Nevertheless it has continued to enjoy a leisurely multicultural
existence and make daily, practical use of its historical buildings, in the
process becoming a favourite stopover for international travellers, writers
and artists.

In modern times Macau has developed industries such as textiles, electronics
and toys, as well as building up an a world class tourist industry with a
wide choice of hotels, resorts, sports facilities, restaurants and casinos. As
in the past, Macau's economy is closely linked to that of Hong Kong and
Guangdong Province, in particular the Pearl River Delta region, which
qualifies as one of Asia's "little tigers". Macau provides financial and
banking services, staff training, transport and communications support.

Macau is a Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China
since 20 December 1999, and, like Hong Kong, benefits from the principle
of "one country, two systems". The tiny SAR is growing in size - with
more buildings on reclaimed land - and in the number and diversity of its
attractions. The greatest of these continues to be Macau's unique society,
with communities from the East and West complementing each other, and
the many people who come to visit.
Although best known for gambling, Macau is merely rich in attractions and
oozing with atmosphere, thanks to hundreds of years of fusion between
European and Chinese cultures.

Macau is a fascinating place to just walk around as the place is packed with
churches, temples, fortresses and other old buildings bearing an interesting
mix of Portuguese and Chinese characteristics. Besides buildings, there are
also hundreds of narrow alleyways forming a maze in the old part of Macau
where the people of Macau carry out businesses and work. If the sheer
density of humans get to you, take a break and enjoy several pretty gardens
or head to the island.

One of the interesting things to see in Macau is a statue of the Bodhisatta
Avalokitesvara (known as 觀音 kwoon yam in Cantonese) located next to
the sea near the Sands Casino and MGM Grand. Despite being a Chinese
deity, the statue is distinctly European in design and resembles the statues
of the Virgin Mary you can find in Europe.

Rua da Tercena is the most popular art, antique, and flea market street in
Macau, a little off the beaten track with less Chinese tourist crowds and a
lot of character. It is located near St Paul's, behind Senado Square. Follow
Rua de São Paulo to Rua das Estalagens and turn down the hill to the next
narrow street. Go past the shops selling antiques, the tailor shops, and other
small shops until the road reaches a fork.

You'll find most of the attractions in Macau Peninsula, but Taipa and
Coloane, each with a pretty village, also draw hordes of visitors. Visit the
Cotai reclaimed land area to see its transformation into the "Las Vegas Strip
of the East". The Venetian is the most famous with its Venice-styled
shopping mall with rivers running through, and is also currently the largest
casino in the world.
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