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A-Ma Temple, Macau

The A-Ma Temple is one of the oldest temples in Macau, having been built in 1488, and is certainly the most famous. It is believed to have lent its name to Macau itself.

A-Ma is also known as Mazu (in mainland China, more commonly called Tian Hou). She is a goddess of people who travel and work on the sea. Fittingly, the temple is located near the water, and was clearly once right on the shore.

There are numerous stories of Mazu saving ships in peril. In the local version, a young lady aboard a ship calmed a storm, and then stepped ashore where the current temple is located. Walking to the top of the nearby Barra Hill (Macau's second highest), she then ascended to Heaven with the expected attendant light show.

When the Portuguese arrived less than a century later, we're told, they asked the name of the place, then known as Haojing (Oyster Mirror) or Jinghai (Mirror Sea). The locals, thinking the visitors were asking about that specific spot, replied "A-Ma Bay"--in the local dialect, Amagao. Hence the name Macau.

The temple still thrives, both as a tourist destination and as a place of worship. These pictures were taken in a visit in October of 2005.

The large, round window at the front of the main hall gives a view of the interior; formerly, it also gave a view out to the bay.

The window is a popular spot for tourists to pose for photos.

Here's the main altar, lit only by the light from the round window. Notice the coils of incense hanging above; these are meant to burn for two weeks (from new moon to full moon, or vice versa).

In this wider shot of the main hall's front, you can see the former "seawall." The pebbled area in the lower right would have been under water.

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