Enchanting temples of Macau

By Vestigo Macau
Photography: Amy Wong / Wu Sai Cheong

The unique multiculturalism of Macau and its architecture fully reflects the city’s East-meets-West history, where colonial buildings sit side by side with cha chaan teng restaurants, and Chinese temples stand on maritime-themed Portuguese tiles. Not surprisingly for a city that has a humble beginning as a fishing village and given Macau’s  rich maritime heritage, many temples are dedicated and worshipped for safety of the seafarers. Take a slow walk and soak up the all the history and fascinating stories of these enchanting temples. 

A-Ma Temple
The oldest and best-known Chinese shrine in Macau, A-Ma Temple was completed in 1488 and thus predates the arrival of the Portuguese settlers. Built to honour Mazu, the goddess of the sea, it consists of six separate elements: the Gate Pavilion, the Memorial Arch, the Prayer Hall, the Hall of Benevolence, the Hall of Guanyin, and Zhengjiao Chanlin, a Buddhist pavilion. Collectively, these structures make up a trove of classical Chinese architectural treasures. A-Ma is an excellent example of a Chinese temple that is representative of not just one religion but many – including Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism and multiple folk beliefs – and is thus visited by devotees of many faiths.

Address: Barra Square, Macau

Na Tcha Temple
Just on the right side of the Ruins of St Paul’s is the modest folk-religion temple, Na Tcha, a Chinese shrine, that underscores the religious pluralism of Macau. In 2005, it became part of the historic city of Macau, next to the site of another cultural relic. Through this wall, there is a Na Tcha exhibition room. Na Tcha is hailed as a protector of Buddhist dharma and legend has it that the purpose for construction of Na Tcha Temple in 1888 and reconstructed in 1902 was to dispel a plague.

Photography: Na Tcha Temple

Address: No. 6 Calçada de S. Paulo

Kuan Tai Temple | Sam Kai Vui Kun
Located near the St. Dominic's Church, the Kuan Tai Temple is a modest shrine with a gray brick façade, dedicated to the God of Martial Arts and Wealth. Kuan Tai was a general of Three Kingdoms Period and was famed for his extraordinary bravery and loyalty in battles. Sam Kai Vui Kun, literally  ''community hall for three streets''  was built in 1750 as the meeting place of Chinese tradesmen initially, gradually converted into a temple. In 2005, it was inscribed into the UNESCO's World Heritage List as it forms part of Historic Centre of Macau.

Address: Rua Sui do Mercado de Sao Domingos

Pak Tai Temple
Russet and red hues fill the 160-year-old Pak Tai Temple with a heady glow as incense spirals hang from the roof. Pak Tai Temple sits quietly in a breezy square framed by old banyan trees, dedicated to the shrine for Taoist deity of the North, Pak Tai is worshipped as protector from natural disasters and evil spirits. Every year on the third day of the third lunar month, cantonese opera performances are held in honor of the deity.

Photography: Pak Tai Temple

Address: Address: Largo Camoes, Taipa, Macau

Tian Hou Palace | A-Ma Cultural Village
Encircling the centre of the parish at an average elevation of 100 metres above sea level, hikers ascend alongside precariously poised boulders and lush greenery, before finally reaching A-Ma Cultural Village, near the summit. By this point the vistas are spectacular, looking out to the South China Sea beyond. The Cultural Village, with its pavilion style gate, carved marble altar and Tian Hou Palace, is dedicated to the seafarers’ goddess, A-Ma is the oldest temple in Coloane.  Hikers can proceed along another trail up to Coloane Alto, and its white-jade, 20m-tall A-Ma Statue, illuminated dramatically by night. 

Photography: Tian Hou Palace 

Photography: A-Ma Statue  

Address: on the Dieshi Mountain, Coloane Macau

Kun Iam Ecumenical Centre 
Although not nominally a religious building, Kun Iam Ecumenical Centre makes the list for its standout architecture and its inspiration, the goddess of mercy, compassion and love. Designed by Portuguese architect Cristina Rocha Leiria, the mixed-use space was opened in 1999 on an artificial island connected to peninsular Macau.

Photography: Kun Iam Ecumenical Centre 

Its most recognizable feature is the extraordinary 20-metre bronze statue rising from its dome that portrays Kun Iam (Guan Yin in Mandarin), embodying the centre’s goal of promoting universal solidarity, peace, respect and friendship. Below, the cupola is decorated with figures, symbols and texts related to Lao Tse, Confucius, Mencius and Buddha.

Address:  Avenida de Sun Yat-sen


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