Category: Heritage @ Macau.

Historic Center of Macau :: A-Ma Temple

A- Ma Temple built in the 15th century, also called Barra Temple, is situated halfway up the western slope of Barra Hill. It consists of the Gate Pavilion, the Memorial Arch, the Prayer Hall, the Hall of Benevolence, the Hall of Guanyin, and Zhengjiao Chanlin (A Buddhist pavilion), each forming a small part of the well-ordered complex which sits in perfect harmony with the natural environment.

Stone lions at the entrance steps guard the main gate. The entrance gate is probably the most emblematic element of A—Ma Temple. This gate is a halt-moon portico, 4.5m in diameter, with three Chinese characters Ma Zu Ge (A-Ma Temple) inscribed on the lintel and a couplet down each side, all decorated with glazed tiles. The lintel is roofed with upturned eaves and a porcelain crown on top. There are decorative ceramic animal sculptures on the root ndges. Immediately following the gate is the temple’s pilou (portico), built of granite with three doorways.

There are four stone lions on top of the pilou. The Prayer Hall known as the “First Palace of the Holy Mountain” is dedicated to Tian Hoo, Goddess ot Seafarers. It is in alignment with the Gate Pavilion, the pilou and the Hall of Benevolence which are located at the foot of the hill. Close to the entrance area of the temple, there is a rock with a coloured engraving of a Portuguese ship. On the slope there is another rock with an engraving of a Chinese junk. On the way up the hill there are many other rocks with inscriptions of poems left by famous scholars.

The Hall of Benevolence is a granite and brick structure. There are large square glazed tile windows on the side walls. with round transom windows above these. The root is also covered with glazed tiles and decorated elaborately with upturned eaves. The roof design over the worship area and the Shrine of the Goddess differs; while the former has a “rolling” fence pattern, the latter has double-eaves with a more robust, solid appearance.

Though smaller in size, with an area of only 7 square metres, the Hall of Benevolence is the oldest pavilion in the temple complex. This Hall is built into a rock taking advantage of the natural environment of the hill’s slope. The shrine is dedicated to Tian Hou, with relief sculptures of Tian Hou’s maids and guards on the interior walls and a statue of Tian Hou in front of the rock. Like the Prayer Hall, the roof is also covered with green glazed tiles and decorative eaves. The Hall of Guanyin at mid-level is made of plain brick based on the Yingshan (flush-gab|e root) tradition.

In comparison, the Zhengjiao Chanlin pavilion is more refined in its architectural detail and more impressive in scale. It consists of a shrine dedicated to Tian Hou and a retreat area that is an ordinary house in the Yingshan style. The shrine is a four-beam structure with a courtyard in front of the main section. The side-corridors along the courtyard have flush—gable roofs in round ridges. Glazed tiles top the partitions with high Guo (edge gable) walls in each section, with the purpose of preventing
the spread of any fire.

Inside A—Ma Temple there is also an altar dedicated to Guanyin (Avalokita). The facade consists of five sections with the highest point in the centre. The walls are decorated with clay sculptures and roofed with glazed tiles. Below the glazed eaves there are three-tier dougong (structural brackets). There is also a 1.1 metre-diameter moon window in the mid-section so that Tian Hou overlooks the sea.

A-Ma Temple is a representative example of Chinese culture inspired by Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism and multiple folk beliefs.

The Goddess A-Ma is very popular amongst Macao’s residents. On A-Ma’s birthday, the 23rd day of the 3rd moon of the Chinese lunar calendar, the square in front of the temple is packed with all sorts of street performances. During Chinese Spring Festival, crowds of devotees come to pay their respects and pray for blessings.

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Category: Heritage @ Macau