Located on the Southeast coast of China on the western bank of the Pearl River Delta, Macau borders on Guangdong Province. It is 60 kilometers from Hong Kong and 145 kilometers from the city of Guangzhou.
Being Asia's well-known gambling Mecca, it is a place to find the traditional Chinese culture while enjoying the exotic Portuguese buildings. The name of the city is derived from the word Magao (A-Ma Temple), which was the shrine dedicated to Mazu, a sacred sea goddess respected by the local people.
Macau came under the sway of China in the 3rd century BC, but it was the arrival of the Portuguese – who had colonial bases in Goa and Melaka – in 1557 that established Macau as an international trading port.
The union of the Portuguese and Spanish crowns between 1580 and 1640 marked a golden age for Macau. The territory soon became the major entrepôt between the Far East and Europe, and several other colonial powers, most notably the Dutch, made repeated but unsuccessful attempts to conquer it. Portugal split from the Spanish Habsburgs in 1640, but by then its power in Southeast Asia was in decline.
British prominence in the region began when they opened a trading post nearby on the Chinese mainland in 1750, which is known today as Hong Kong. Using gunboat diplomacy, Britain forced the Chinese to accept imported opium from India, a trade that helped Hong Kong compete with Macau.
Conflicting viewpoints and growing resentment between Britain and China sparked the first Opium War (1839-42), which was essentially a dispute over trade. During this tumultuous time the Macau remained under Portuguese control until the Carnation Revolution of 1974, which sounded the death knell for the Portuguese Empire and saw Macau gain a kind of quasi independence.
In 1985, the Portuguese began negotiations with Beijing on the transfer of sovereignty of the territory and the final settlement provided for a handover in 1999, after which Macau would become a Special Administrative Region within China.
It was said that in the middle of sixteenth century when the Portuguese first set foot there, one of the officers asked a fisherman the name of the land. The man misunderstanding the officer's meaning, answered 'Magao' - the name of A-Ma Temple in front them. The word became the Portuguese name for the land and for nearly 400 years, the Portuguese ruled here prior to its official return to the People's Republic of China on December 20, 1999 as a special administrative region.