Fishermen from Fujian and farmers from Guangdong were the first known settlers in Macau, when it was known as Ou Mun, or 'trading gate,' because of its location at the mouth of the Pearl River downstream from Guangzhou (Canton). During ancient times port city was part of the Silk Road with ships loading here with silk for Rome .
Even after China ceased to be a world trade center, Guangzhou prospered from sea borne business with the countries of Southeast Asia , so the local entrepreneurs welcomed the arrival of Portuguese merchant-explorers. In the early 1550s the Portuguese reached Ou Mun and adopted the name, which gradually changed into the name Macau .
Macau also became the perfect crossroad for the meeting of East and West cultures. Portugal 's golden age in Asia faded as rivals like the Dutch and British took over their trade. However the Chinese chose to continue to do business through the Portuguese in Macau . So for over a century the British East India Company and others set up shop here in rented houses like the elegant Casa Garden . Following the Opium War in 1841, Hong Kong was established by Britain . Most of the foreign merchants left Macau . Nevertheless it has continued to enjoy a leisurely multicultural existence and make daily, practical use of its historical buildings, in the process becoming a favorite stopover for international travelers, writers and artists.
In modern times Macau has developed industries such as textiles, electronics and toys, as well as building up an a world class tourist industry with a wide choice of hotels, resorts, sports facilities, restaurants and casinos. As in the past, Macau 's economy is closely linked to that of Hong Kong and Guangdong Province , in particular the Pearl River Delta region, which qualifies as one of Asia 's "little tigers." Macau provides financial and banking services, staff training, transport and communications support.