Guan Yu

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Heroic bronze statue of Guan Yu in Jingxou, China; designed by Han Meilin and unveiled in 2016 in the Loyalty Park of Guan Yu in Jingzhou; it stands 190 feet tall and weighs over 1,320 tons

Guan Yu or Kwan Yu (160 - 219 CE) was a Chinese military leader who was famed as a just, loyal, and noble warrior. After his death in battle, he was deified within the Taoist religion and given honorific names such as Kuan Kung, Kwan Kung, and Guan Gong (Lord Guan); and Kuan Ti or Kwan Tai (Military General God or Military Emperor God). To some Taoists he is known as Guan Shendi or Guan Shendijun (Saintly Emperor Guan), the subduer of demons. Some Buddhists also revere him as "Kuan Ti, The Protector of Buddhism."

Guan Yu played a central role in the events that led to the end of the Han dynasty and the establishment of the Three Kingdoms period. His deeds of war were performed for the good of his people and not for personal glory, and thus he is revered for his loyalty, integrity, nobility, bravery, and moral uprightness. His ability to bear pain is demonstrated in the story told of an occasion when he was wounded by a poisoned arrow, and in order to save his life, his doctor told him that his arm would have to be cut open to the bone. There was no anesthesia available, and Guan Yu agreed to this, concentrating his attention on a game of chess while the surgery proceeded, and showing no signs of pain or distress.

The veneration of Guan Yu as a Taoist deity is a particular feature of Southern Chinese Taoist culture, both in China and in the American diaspora. Among the Cantonese people who immigrated to California from Guandong Province during the mid-19th century, the worship of Guan Yu was an important element. Statues and tapestry images of the god can be found in a number of historical California joss houses (a local term for Taoist temples), where his name may be given with various Anglicized spellings, including General Kung (Lord General), Kwan Gong, Kuan Yu, Quan Yu; Kwan Dai, Kwan Tai, Kuan Ti, or Guan Di (Warrior Guan); Wu Ti (God of War), or Mo Dai. For instance, the Mendocino Joss House, a historical landmark in northern California, is also known as Mo Dai Miu, The Military God-King's Temple, or Temple of Kwan Tai. Built in 1852, it is a typical example of the small shrines erected to Guan Yu in America. Guan Yu is recognizable by his red face, full and flowing beard, military body armour, warrior's stance, and his characteristic bladed weapon, known as the Green Dragon Crescent Blade.


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