Category: Heritage @ Macau.

Historic Center of Macau :: Sam Kai Vui Kun (Kuan Tai Temple)

Sam Kai Vui Kun or Three Streets Neighbourhood Association is located on Rua Sul do Mercado de S. Domingos. lt is the meeting quarter of the neighbourhood association that used to represent business organizations on Rua dos Mercadores, Rua das Estalagens and Rua dos Ervarios. These three streets made up the central business district of Macao in the early history of the city’s development.

Sam Kai Vui Kun was established over two hundred years ago. The exact date of construction is unknown, but inscriptions on plaques recovered inside the building reveal several reconstrtiction dates first recorded in 1792. The succeeding restoration works were carried out in 1804 and finally in 1835 vvhen the building acquired its present appearance and scale. Tradesmen from all over China clustered in this neighbourhood for business. As a result of rivalries, prices of` goods plunged, threatening the survival of many trades in the neighbourhood. ln order to sustain these businesses and avoid further damaging competition, the traders came together in an alliance to control prices, and so founded the Neighbourhood Association in the interests of fair trade and profit.

Sam Kai Vui Kun also contributed to the civil history of Macao; voices from the Association were recognised by the Portuguese Government office. When public forums were held at Senado Square, Sam Kai’s representatives would be invited to participate in the discussion of civil affairs with government officials, Sam Kai Vui Kun was also the official venue used by the Qing Government to make public announcements in Macao.

According to Chinese tradition, mythical deities and Chinese legendary rulers are worshipped at most public congregational places. These deities are chosen according to their fields of power that are propitious to the congregation. Legendary figures with meritorious personalities are often idolized as gods. As such. Guandi, a renowned figure of loyalty, and the god of Wealth were placed on the altar of the Sam Kai Neighbourhood Association. From Guandi, traders pledged for the spirit of unity and fair trade while the god of Wealth is invoked for good business returns. As a public building accessible by the general population, the congregational venue soon acquired an added function, serving also as a temple in the neighbourhood.

In the early days of Macao, Sam Kai Vui Kun represented the voice of the commercial sector and played an important participative role in civil affairs as well as the politics of the city. Urban developments however necessitated expansion beyond the boundaries of the original commercial district once confined within the “Three Streets”. The Macao Chamber of Commerce, established in 1912, eventually succeeded the role of Sam Kai Vui Kun, representing Chinese commercial enterprises of the broader society outside the Sam Kai’s neighbourhood. As the earliest business society in Macao, Sam Kai Vui Kun is considered the precedent for all commercial associations today.

Today, the Sam Kai Vui Kun no longer serves as a neighbourhood association, but its functional use as a place of worship has been carried forward. Similar to the cultural traditions of the A-Ma and Na Tcha temples, Cantonese operas are performed outside the temple to celebrate the birthdays of Guandi and the god of Wealth annually. These festivities have continued to be an intangible part of Macao’s cultural identity that has prevailed alongside the diffusion of Western civilisation over the last 450 years.

Architectural Design

Built by local Chinese tradesmen, the Sam Kai Vui Kurt Temple is a modest construction. ln its simplicity however, elements of traditional Chinese treatment are embedded within, such as the green glazed tiles on the Yingshan style roof, the recessed entrance gateway of the Ninang architectural trend and the grey brick facade. Friezes under overhanging eaves are dressed with colourful sculptural ornaments depicting scenes from legendary tales. Upturned falling ridges of the roof further add to the distinguishing Chinese elements of the complex.

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Category: Heritage @ Macau