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Before the [Portuguese] settlement in the early 16th century, Macau was known as Haojing (Oyster Mirror) or Jinghai (Mirror Sea).Macau Yearbook 2007, 517. The name Macau is thought to be derived from the [A-Ma Temple] ,, a temple built in 1448 dedicated to [Matsu] — the goddess of seafarers and fishermen. It is said that when the Portuguese sailors landed at the coast just outside the temple and asked the name of the place, the natives replied "媽閣" ,. The Portuguese then named the peninsula "Macau".Fung, 298. The present Chinese name 澳門 , means "Inlet Gates".

The history of Macau is traced back to the [Qin Dynasty] (221–206 BC), when the region now called Macau came under the jurisdiction of Panyu county, in Nanhai prefecture (present day [Guangdong] ). The first recorded inhabitants of the area were people seeking refuge in Macau from invading [Mongols] during the [Southern Song Dynasty] . Under the [Ming Dynasty] (1368–1644 AD), fishermen migrated to Macau from Guangdong and [Fujian] provinces.

Macau did not develop as a major settlement until the Portuguese arrived in the 16th century.Chan, 3-4. In 1535, Portuguese traders obtained the rights to anchor ships in Macau's harbours and to carry out trading activities, though not the right to stay onshore.Fung, 5-6. Around 1552–1553, they obtained temporary permission to erect storage sheds onshore, in order to dry out goods drenched by sea water;Fung, 7. they soon built rudimentary stone houses around the area now called Nam Van. In 1557, the Portuguese established a permanent settlement in Macau, paying an annual rent of 500 [tael] s of silver.

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