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Monday, December 5, 2011

Slipping through Macau from Guangdong

Pictures of Guangdong in transit in the morning

July 2005 We had traveled into Macau on an overnight sleeper bus from Yangshuo, with three cramped rows of stainless steel slipper-shaped 'coffins' and taken a ferry with all the Chinese heading for the copious casinos which Macau is notorious for. We are heading for Hong Kong but decided to route through Macau for a day visit because there are frequent fast ferries linking the two.

Here we visit the old Portuguese centre, the charming A-Ma temple on a hill along the coastline out of town the oldest in Macau, and the Kun-Yam temple on a downtown avenue, photographing some of the commercial back streets and catching the hyrdofoil in the afternoon for Hong Kong island.

A-ma Temple is the oldest temple of Macao. Built during the period of Chenghua Reign in the middle age of the Ming Dynasty as said, it has a history of over five hundred years. On the monument in commemoration of the 500th Anniversary of A-Ma temple, it is written: "China is large in area and becomes prosperous during the Three Tang Dynasties. Its civilization is well known everywhere. Vessels and vehicles come to China from all directions. As to the land route, there is a Silk Road connecting Da Shi and Persia. As to the water route, there are boats in deep blue seas leading to Tian Zhu in the south, where people offer treasure and presents at the beginning, Macao was just a fishing port and the people of Quanzhang immigrated here on a large scale and settled down. During the period of Chenghua Reign of the Ming Dynasty. A-Ma temple was constructed".

The catholic missionary Matteu Ricci, who arrived in Macao in 1582, once mentioned A-Ma Temple in Reading Note of Matteu Ricci in China when relating the origin of Macao: "They gave a part of the neighbouring island to the visiting merchants as a stage. There was an idol called A Ma, which we can still see today. The territory around A-Ma bay is called Macao. It is better to call it a protruding rock than to call it a peninsula. However, this piece of land was soon inhabited by Portuguese and also by some other races nearby lands. Soon it developed into a remarkable port and famous market"

Kun Iam Temple is the most impressive and magnificent of the three most famous temples of Macau (the other two are A-Ma Temple and Lin Fung Temple (Temple of the Lotus). With a history dating back as early as 1632 in the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644), it has many similarities with ancient Chinese temples. It is also known as the site of the first Sino-American treaty which was signed in 1844.

Kun Iam Temple has three main shrines suited one behind another. It consists of one Hall of Sakyamuni, one Buddha of Longevity Hall and one Kun Iam Hall with several small shrines around these three main halls. Facing the gate of the Buddhist monastery, the Hall of Sakyamuni is dedicated with three gilded statues. The statue of Sakyamuni sits in the middle. A bronze bell, over 300 years old, hangs beside the hall. Buddha of Longevity adorns the Longevity Hall. Serene and mild, this statue is a symbol of Buddha's purpose: to deliver all living creatures from torment. Kun Iam Hall is the most important hall of the temple. Kun Iam, arrayed in embroidered silk and in crown, is flanked by the Eighteen Buddhas. One of them is said to be carved in the image of Marco Polo who studied Buddhism in the temple.

At the back of the temple are terraced gardens. The first Sino-American treaty Wong Ha (Wangxia) Treaty was signed on one of the stone desks here. In addition, many calligraphic masterpieces and cultural relics are brought together in this temple.

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