It was said that fishermen from Guangdong and Fijian provinces of China were the first settlers of Macau. It was then known as Ou Mun, which meant trading gate, during the Ming Dynasty. Because of its geographical location, it flourished in terms of trading with neighboring Southeast Asian nations. In the 16th century, Portuguese explorers arrived looking for a trading post to enable trade among China, Japan, India and Europe. Locals also called Ou Mun “A Ma Gao” in honor of the goddess of seafarers. The Portuguese settlers adopted the name and eventually changed it to Macau.
More Portuguese settled in Macau in the interest of trading and gradually brought in their influence. The diocese of Macau was established in 1576, and some Portuguese were given a say in terms of economics but still under the Chinese rule. There was also Catholic missionaries who established churches and a Christian college.
The Dutch wanted to take over Macau and started the Battle of Macau in 1622. Their attempt was not successful as the African slaves employed by the Portuguese defended the port. After the opium war, Portuguese settlers dwelt in Taipa in 1851 and Coloane in 1864. The Sino-Portuguese Treaty of Amity and Commerce was signed in December 1887 yielded sovereignty over Macau.
When the Qing Dynasty was overthrown, the first treaty was disregarded, and the Sino-Portuguese Friendship and Trade Treaty was established. This however, retained Portugal’s government of Macau. Portugal’s rule continued and Macau’s economy prospered as a neutral trading port amidst the World War II. However, the cultural revolution within China caused dissatisfied citizens to go against the foreign government.
In 1974, Portugal had a new government, which decided to surrender their colonies, but Macau was still under Portuguese administration. Eventually, the Sino-Portuguese Joint Declaration was signed in 1987, which established Macau as a Special Administrative Region of China, made official on December 20, 1999.