A-Ma Temple in Macau was probably already standing when the Portuguese arrived, although the present structure may date from the 16th century.
The history of the temple
The A-Ma Temple was constructed in the year of 1488 of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) to commemorate Mazu, the sacred sea goddess who blesses the fishermen. It is said that the goddess was called Lin Mo, and that she was born in Putian City, Fujian Province, and was more intelligent than other children her age. She could predict good or ill luck and after her death she often helped merchants and fishermen ward off calamities and turn danger into safety. Now there are a number of folktales about the great goddess narrated in the littoral lands.
The temple’s architecture
The temple is a destination offering silence and spectacular views. It contains six main parts, all of which make up a series of classical Chinese architectural treasures, and this is all guarded by stone lions. Entering it and going across a gateway, you will reach the Hongren Hall by a winding path. A statue of Mazu is worshipped here, and it is believed that the hall has the longest history in the complex. Going ahead, the Hall of Avalokitesvara will present itself to visitors. It was constructed mainly using bricks and stone in a simple style. Compared with the other halls, the Zhengjiao Chanlin (a Buddhist hall) was designed tastefully both in regards to size and architectural style.
Guarded by a pair of stone lions, the Gate Pavilion is a granite structure measuring 4.5 metres wide. Ceramic animal decorations sit on exaggerated upturned roof ridges, forming a very distinctive profile. A succession of pavilions are aligned with the main gate, starting with the Memorial Arch (pilou), which leads to the Prayer Hall located in front of the Hall of Benevolence. The Prayer Hall dedicated to Tian Hou (Goddess of Seafarers) is a granite structure featuring lattice windows and upturned roof ridges. The Hall of Benevolence, also built in granite and brick, is much smaller in scale, incorporating the natural slope of the Barra Hill in its construction. Like the Prayer Hall, the roof is covered with green glazed tiles and decorative roof ridges.
Further up on Barra Hill is the Hall of Guanyin, which is a plain brick structure, roofed in the yingshan (flush-gable) tradition. In comparison, the Zhengjiao Chanlin pavilion has more refined architectural details and is more impressive in scale. It consists of a shrine dedicated to Tian Hou and a retreat area with roof fashioned in the yingshan style. The shrine is a four-beam structure housed within high gabled walls that were used to protect against the risk of fire. The front façade features a moon gate, elaborately trimmed in granite and is richly decorated with colourful wall sculptures as well as delicate ornaments under the eaves.
Containing not only an ancient architectural complex, the temple also possesses a measure of the rich and profound Chinese culture. It is worth your while to stay and enjoy the various poems and inscriptions carved on the stone along the cliff. Furthermore, each year, on the days of the birthday of Mazu and the Chinese New Year, many male and female disciples gather here. They burn lots of incense to pay homage and pray for good fortune.
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