The name of Macau is derived from the word Magao (A-Ma Temple), which were shrines dedicated to Mazu, a sacred sea goddess worshiped by Macau people. It was said that when the Portuguese people first came here in the middle of sixteenth century, one of the officers asked a fisherman the name of the land. The man misunderstood the officer's question, and answered 'Magao' - the name of A-Ma Temple in front them.
The word became the Portuguese name for the land. For nearly 400 years, the Portuguese ruled prior to Macau's official return to the People's Republic of China on December 20, 1999 as a special administrative region.
Man people wonder how Macau is spelled? Is it "Macao" or "Macau"? Both are actually correct. Macao is Portuguese, and this is the offical spelling backed by Macau SAR Government. Macau is English, that's how they spell it in the U.S. and other parts of the world. However, most publications use "Macau" as the preferred spelling.
Members of the southern Song Dynasty and some 50,000 followers were the first recorded inhabitants of the area, seeking refuge in Macau from invading Mongols in 1277. They were able to defend their settlements and establish themselves there.
Mong Há has long been the center of Chinese life in Macau and the site of what may be the region's oldest temple, a shrine devoted to the Buddhist Guanyin (Goddess of Mercy).
The Hoklo Boat people were the first to show commercial interest in Macau as a trading center for the southern provinces. During the Ming Dynasty (1368–1643), fishermen migrated to Macau from various parts of Guangdong and Fujian provinces and built the A-Ma Temple in which they prayed for safety on the sea.
Chinese fishermen have been living and working in the Pearl River Delta for more than four thousand years. The small peninsula and islands that came to be called Macau were first settled by the Portuguese in the sixteenth century.
In 1557, the Portuguese established a permanent settlement in Macau, and beginning in 1670, Portugal leased the territory, although there was no transfer of sovereignty.
.The Chinese people adopted a "three no's" approach as a means to continue their struggle with the Government — no taxes, no service, no selling to the Portuguese. They were successful and in 1967 the Portuguese government of Macau signed a statement of apology. This marked the beginning of equal treatment and recognition of Chinese identity and of de facto Chinese control of the colony.
Portugal and the People's Republic of China agreed 12 years later to regard Macau as "a Chinese territory under (temporary) Portuguese administration". Negotiations between the Chinese and Portuguese governments on the question of Macau started in June 1986. In 1987, an international treaty, known as the Sino-Portuguese Joint Declaration, was signed to make Macau a Special Administrative Region of the PRC.
In 1998, Chinese (Cantonese) was given official status and the same legal power as Portuguese, the official language. The Chinese government assumed sovereignty over Macau on December 20, 1999, ending 329 years of Portuguese rule.