|A Brief History of Macau
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
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
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.