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Shanghai Sights and Sounds
A-ma Temple

A-ma Temple

When the first Portuguese traders landed on Macau in the 15th century, they disembarked from their boats close to the A-Ma temple – a gathering place for worshipers of the sea goddess Mazu. The traders asked the locals the name of the place, meaning the whole island, but the worshipers misunderstood and said “Ma Ge” – temple of Mazu. From then on, the Portuguese referred to the whole area as Macau. The temple is located at the south-east of the Macau peninsula, halfway up Barra Hill. It dates back to 1488, and is the oldest temple in the region.

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Find out how Macau got its name, and see the goddess who guards the oceans at this Ming Dynasty temple.

When the first Portuguese traders landed on Macau in the 15th century, they disembarked from their boats close to the A-Ma temple – a gathering place for worshipers of the sea goddess Mazu. The traders asked the locals the name of the place, meaning the whole island, but the worshipers misunderstood and said “Ma Ge” – temple of Mazu. From then on, the Portuguese referred to the whole area as Macau.

The temple is located at the south-east of the Macau peninsula, halfway up Barra Hill. It dates back to 1488 in the Ming Dynasty, and is the oldest temple in the region. It was established in honor of the goddess Mazu who started life as a girl named Lin Mo from Fujian Province who used to bless sailors before they set out on their voyages. The temple is guarded by stone lions, and features a statue of Mazu and a brightly colored model ship as well as a Buddhist hall called Zhengjiao Chanlin, a Memorial Arch, and the simple brick and stone Hall of Avalokitesvara.

A visit to the A-Ma Temple gives you a glimpse of what Macau was like before the Portuguese took over.

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Ruins of St. Paul’s

Ruins of St. Paul’s

When many people think of Macau, the first image that springs to mind is the façade of the ruined St. Paul’s Cathedral. Also known as the Church of the Mother of God, and Sam Ba Sing Tzik, the ruins stand beside Mount Fortress and the Macau Museum and are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The original cathedral was built in 1580 by the Jesuits, and was the largest Catholic church in Asia at the time.  Several fires damaged the building over the years, but it was the devastating typhoon of 1835 that left the cathedral in ruins apart from its impressive Baroque façade.

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Stand in the shadow of Macau’s most recognizable historic building.

When many people think of Macau, the first image that springs to mind is the façade of the ruined St. Paul’s Cathedral. Also known as the Church of the Mother of God, and Sam Ba Sing Tzik, the ruins stand beside Mount Fortress and the Macau Museum and are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The original cathedral was built in 1580 by the Jesuits, and was the largest Catholic church in Asia at the time.  Several fires damaged the building over the years, but it was the devastating typhoon of 1835 that left the cathedral in ruins apart from its impressive Baroque façade. The magnificent vaulted ceiling, white granite halls and elaborate decorations were entirely destroyed, and never rebuilt.

The façade was carved between 1620 and 1627 by exiled Japanese Christians, and is made up of five tiers. The bottom consists of three rectangular doorways and ten Ionic columns. Above are three arched windows, ten Corinthian columns and four saints. The top three tiers are decorated lavishly with Portuguese ships, crucifixes, and other religious iconography. The third level is dedicated to Madonna and the fourth to Jesus. The presence of Chinese dragons and bas-reliefs of cherry blossom and chrysanthemum adds a touch of eastern charm to the western-style architecture. The triangle at the top of the façade symbolizes the Holy Trinity, and the whole frontage is topped off with a crucifix.

The façade was restored between 1990 and 1995, during which the structure was reinforced. Evidence of a crypt was discovered along with countless relics that are now housed in the adjoining museum.

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Golden Lotus Square

Golden Lotus Square

Macau’s Golden Lotus was a gift from the Chinese State Council to commemorate it becoming a Special Administrative Region (SAR) in 1999. Macau will retain autonomy until 2049 under the “One System, Two Countries” policy. The “Lotus Flower in Full Bloom”, as the statue is known, is made from gilded bronze and weighs 6.5 tons. It is six meters tall and 3.6 meters across at its widest point. The giant flower rests on a pedestal made of 23 pieces of polished red granite, whose three layers represent Macau Peninsula, Taipa Island and Coloane Island.

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Find out what China gave to Macau as a “welcome home” gift in 1999.

Like the gilded orchid in Hong Kong’s Golden Bauhinia Square, Macau’s Golden Lotus was a gift from the Chinese State Council to commemorate it becoming a Special Administrative Region (SAR) in 1999. Macau will retain autonomy until 2049 under the “One System, Two Countries” policy.

The “Lotus Flower in Full Bloom”, as the statue is known, is made from gilded bronze and weighs 6.5 tons. It is six meters tall and 3.6 meters across at its widest point. The giant flower rests on a pedestal made of 23 pieces of polished red granite, whose three layers represent Macau Peninsula, Taipa Island and Coloane Island. The flower itself has 16 components making up the stem, petals, and pistils.

The square is known as Praça de Lodão in Portuguese, and is popular among local skateboarders thanks to its open space, ledges and curves.

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Fisherman’s Wharf

Fisherman’s Wharf

Watch a “volcano” erupt, place a bet, and wander streets styled after the world’s great ports at Macau’s first ever theme park. Covering 11,500 square meters close to the Hong Kong-Macao ferry terminal on the Macau Peninsula, Fisherman’s Wharf is home to 150 shops and restaurants centered around models of famous international ports, and Sands – the first and largest US-owned casino to open in Macau.

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Watch a “volcano” erupt, place a bet, and wander streets styled after the world’s great ports at Macau’s first ever theme park.

Covering 11,500 square meters close to the Hong Kong-Macao ferry terminal on the Macau Peninsula, Fisherman’s Wharf cost 1.9 billion Macanese petacas (13 million US$) and five years to build. Financed by billionaire Ho Hung San and entrepreneur Chow Kam Fai, the project was completed in 2005 and opened to the public a year later. Among its many highlights are a replica volcano which erupts every evening, 150 shops and restaurants centered around models of famous international ports, and Sands – the first and largest US-owned casino to open in Macau.

Fisherman’s Wharf is divided into three main sections. Dynasty Wharf is home to Tang Dynasty features like towers and fortresses; East Meets West is home to the replica volcano along with an ancient battleship, waterfalls, and a Roman amphitheater. Legend Wharf will appeal to tech fans thanks to its video game center.

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Senado Square

Senado Square

Take a stroll through one of the focal point of Macau’s Portuguese history, and see gorgeous colonial-era buildings. Located in the center of Macau Peninsula, Senado Square (also known as Senate Square and Largo do Senado) covers 3,700 square meters and is paved with tiles in an eye-catching wave pattern that dates from renovation in the early 1990s. The plaza is surrounded by the General Post Office, St. Domingo’s Church, and the Leal Senado, where the Portuguese authorities used to inspect their troops. Avenida Ribeiro – the main boulevard of historic Macau – runs across it. The square has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2005.

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Take a stroll through one of the focal point of Macau’s Portuguese history.

Located in the center of Macau Peninsula, Senado Square (also known as Senate Square and Largo do Senado) covers 3,700 square meters and is paved with tiles in an eye-catching wave pattern that dates from renovation in the early 1990s. The plaza is surrounded by the General Post Office, St. Domingo’s Church, and the Leal Senado, where the Portuguese authorities used to inspect their troops. Avenida Ribeiro – the main boulevard of historic Macau – runs across it.

The square has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2005. It is one of Macau’s four historic squares along with Praça do Centro Cultural Praça do Lago Sai Van, and Praça do Tap Seac. Thanks to its many shops and restaurants, and proximity to other historic sites like the Ruins of St. Paul’s, it is a must for any visitor to Macau.

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Macau Tower

Macau Tower

Get a bird’s eye view of Macau and see all the way to Hong Kong from this 338-meter tower that broke a bungee world record. The building was designed by New Zealand engineering firm Beca Group and Gordon Moller from Craig Craig Moller architects. It was begun in 1998 and completed in 2001, and rises 338 meters into the air. At the time of completion it was the eighth tallest building in Asia and tenth tallest in the world.

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Get a bird’s eye view of Macau from the tower that broke a bungee world record.

If the Macau Tower reminds you of Auckland’s Sky Tower, it’s no coincidence. When casino billionaire Stanley Ho Hung-sun visited New Zealand, he was so impressed with the country’s tallest building that he commissioned one almost identical for Macau. The building was designed by New Zealand engineering firm Beca Group and Gordon Moller from Craig Craig Moller architects. It was begun in 1998 and completed in 2001, and rises 338 meters into the air. At the time of completion it was the eighth tallest building in Asia and tenth tallest in the world.

As well as acting as a communications tower for the surrounding area, the structure is home to various entertainment and leisure facilities. Fans of white-knuckle exploits can jump the same bungee course as A. J Hackett, who broke the Guinness World Record for highest bungee jump in 2006. If you prefer your entertainment a little tamer, there is a selection of restaurants and cafes, as well as a children’s store and cosmetics emporium.

You can enjoy the view from either the Level 61 viewing deck, or the observation lounge on Level 58. Look out for the Pearl River Delta, Mangyang Hill, and Casino Lisboa. On clear days you can see all the way to Hong Kong.

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