My fascination on Chinese temples dedicated to the Goddess Lin Mo started when I first visited her in Saigon, to the very halls of Thien Hau Temple and the quest for the next temple started seemingly like the IPhone and IPad game, Temple Run, I search for places that has temples dedicated to the Goddess of the Sea and others call her Matzu. While in Hong Kong, I have prayed at Tin Hau Temple and made me realized I have to check if there is one in nearby Macau. My research was not in vain when I encountered materials on the web pertaining to Ma Ge Temple or famously called A-ma Temple.
Ma Ge Temple is the oldest of all of Macau and its rich origins even spark the naming of the territory to Macau by Portuguese seafarers and settlers. It was said that some 400 years ago, when at the height of her maritime power, Portugal’s sons came to shores of Macau. While they disembark from their ships, they saw a temple which sits from the mountaintop and they asked the local the name of the territory to which it sits. Accordingly, the locals no conversant with Portuguese thought they were asked the name of the temple, so they replied “Ma Ge”, the name of the temple and later on, many years since then, until today, the territory is called Macau (Macao) in adherence from the temple name Ma Ge.
The temple was constructed during the Ming Dynasty in the year of 1488, way ahead of the discovery of Macau by the Portuguese. The temple has six chambers and I saw them entirely made of stones, bricks, and the carvings as well as calligraphy are impressively preserved until today. The Ma Ge Temple sits comfortably in the southeast part of the Macau peninsula. Over the years, many faithful, fisherfolks and fishmongers pray for safety, good fortune and peace.
What I love of the Ma Ge temple is its coiled incense, very much the same as those I found in Vietnam and Hong Kong. Akin to spirituality, locals flock to this temple to seek solace from the bustling city-living and the demands for a fast-paced life. What impressed me much about the temple is its place of revered silence and moments of reflections as well as vista of Macau.
Disturbing to my keen eye was a scene where I saw an old lady asking for alms on locals and tourists going to A-ma temple. What I saw were scenes of contrast of the faithful, one of an old lady seeking grace by asking alms while of another who ignores the pleadings of the poor. It speaks of humanity’s failure to see through deeper meaning of religiosity, piety and compassion even when near the graces of the Goddess.