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Macau is derived from the name of a Chinese goddess, known as A-Má or Ling Má, and is popular with seafarers and fishermen. When Portuguese sailors landed and asked the name of the place, the natives replied A-Ma-Gao (Bay of A Ma). In modern usage, Amagao was shortened to Macau.

The Portuguese settled in Macau between 1554 and 1557 during the great era of Portuguese exploration initiated by Prince Henry the Navigator. Jorge Alvares was the first Portuguese to set foot in Southern China in 1513 and this visit was followed by the establishment of a number of Portuguese trading centers in the area. These were eventually consolidated at Macau, which boomed with a virtual monopoly on trade between China and Japan, between both nations and Europe. But the establishment of Hong Kong in the 19th Century proved to be more competition than Macau could bear. Stripped of its importance as a center for trade, the territory survived as a center of scholarship, legalized gambling, and espionage and vice. After many centuries of administration by Portugal, Macau was given broad autonomy in 1974.

Throughout its years of history, Macau has proudly been the stronghold of Portuguese presence and culture in the Far East. The Portuguese flag was always flown in Macau, even during the Spanish occupation of Portugal, and D. João IV, King of Portugal, rewarded this act of faithfulness by granting Macau the title, "CITY OF THE NAME OF GOD, MACAU, THERE IS NONE MORE LOYAL".

Christianity was the dominant religion in Macau, and it was via Macau that the religion saw a massive expansion throughout Asia. A permanent attestation of the growth of Christianity is still seen in the majestic façade of St. Paul's Church of the Mother of God, or commonly known as the Ruins of Saint Paul.

The city of Macau has always been able to sustain its identity, resulting from the encounter between two completely different cultures and civilizations: Eastern and Western. Such harmonious co-existence and uniformity has resulted in a concentration of cultural heritage, one of a kind in the entire Asia-Pacific region, expected to last even after the Territory of Macau reverts to Chinese rule on December 20, 1999. Today's Macau gets its revenues from casinos, commerce, light industry, and tourism. On weekends and holidays, Macau is filled with Hong Kong Chinese, who enjoy the gambling and slower, more relaxed pace of life.

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