Barra Temple, also known as Tianhou Temple, Juehai Temple, and Zhongjue Buddhist Temple, is dedicated to Ma Zu, a fortune-teller in Putian, Fujian Province, during the Song Dynasty. As a child, Ma Zu showed a talent for forecasting the future. When she grew up, she became a nun, and died at the age of 28.
Legend has it that after her death Ma Zu's spirit helped merchants and fishermen head off dangers on the roiling sea. Therefore, local fishermen in Fujian constructed what was called the Barra Temple to commemorate her. Ma Zu was granted the honorific of Queen of Heaven, and later, during the Qing Dynasty, the Sea Goddess. The transom of the front gate of Barra Temple is engraved with the golden characters "Barra Temple"; the couplets at the two sides of the gate are respectively "Boundless Humanity and Generosity" and "Benefiting all Human beings". The temple is composed of the audience hall, stone hall, Hongren Hall, and Buddhist Pavilion, in traditional Buddhist temple style. The history of Macao and the Barra Temple are closely connected with each other.
The Barra Temple enjoys a high status among the Macanese, and is visited by worshippers from all fields every day. March 23rd in the Chinese lunar calendar is believed to be the birthday of Ma Zu, and a lot of religious activities and grand celebrations occur at that time.
In fact, the name of Macao, which is also known as Macau in Portuguese, comes from the translation of "Ma Zu" by the Cantonese to "Ma Jiao". The Barra Temple is incorporated in the design of the Macao Dollar, reflecting its special status.