Culture of Guan Yu
Culture of Guan Yu
Guan Yu (160--219), who styled himself as Yunchang, was born in the current Changping village of Xiezhou of Yuncheng in Shanxi province. He was interested in reading Spring and Autumn Annals. He was esteemed as the God of War for his loyalty and bravery. The Temple of Guan Yu in his homeland Xiezhou was firstly built in Kaihuang 9 (589) of Sui Dynasty, and then was enlarged for many times in the following time. Now it is 73000 square meters in size and the largest temple of Guan Yu in the world. There are tablets inscribed by the emperor Qianlong and emperor Xianfeng of Qing Dynasties.
Guan Yu is a god worshipped by the people of different classes including the ruling class, various religions and the ordinary people. He is the God who is from the ordinary people and the temples for honoring him are built all over the country. The admiration for Guan Yu either among the authorities or among the ordinary people made him the leader of all gods. He is esteemed as the god of war just like Confucius who is esteemed as the god of literature. In some cases, people of different industries show more respect to him than to Confucius. The influence of Guan Yu has gone beyond the mainland of China. Where there are Chinese people, there is respect for Guan Yu. According to an approximate statistics，only in Taiwan are there more than one thousand temples of Guan Yu. There are more than 40000 temples of Guan Yu in more than 30 countries such as America, Japan, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Burma and Australia. The spiritual treasure of the culture of Guan Yu does not only belong to China, but also to the world. Almost no god from the ordinary people gets the admiration like that for Guan Yu.
The admiration for Guan Yu is so prevalent because of the support of the rulers. Guan Yu was honored as Marquis of Zhuangmiu after he died. After Song Dynasty, he was granted with many titles for 23 times by the following 16 emperors, from marquis, lord, emperor, sage to god. Confucians and Taoists both view Guan Yu as one member of them to enhance their influences among people. In Ming and Qing Dynasties, the worship for Guan Yu is not only confined to a certain religion, but also an important national memorial ceremony. He also became the god worshipped by the ordinary people.
Guan Yu is admired so much because his conduct sets a good example of the moral values advocated by the ruling class. He was loyal to the country and courageous to sacrifice his life for the country. When he was alive, he was a great hero in the human world. When he died, he was a hero in the world of gods. Therefore after Confucius and Mencius, Guan Yu, the god of war, was the only one who could support the moral values and principles. Guan Yu is admired by the ordinary people for his loyalty and generosity to his friends. So those sworn brothers will kneel down before the sculpture of Guan Yu and worship him. All those things increase people’s admiration and faith in Guan Yu. For example, people will pray to Guan Yu for rain, babies, recovery from illness and family harmony. He is also esteemed as the god of helping people to make money and protect their wealth. Guan Yu is called the Martial God of Wealth, with the same status of the God of Wealth. He was not a gold-digger and rejected the gold and silver offered by Caocao. He never accepted the ill-gotten money, and hence he is worshipped as god of wealth.
The culture of Guan Yu is based on the virtues of loyalty, righteousness, kindness and bravery, and is a kind of moral worship in essence. It is rooted in our national culture and embodies the ethics of Confucius which has typical national characteristics and demonstrates the original cohesion and unity of our nation. From Song and Yuan Dynasties to the late Qing Dynasty, both the ruling class and the ordinary people regarded Guan Yu as the moral model and even worshiped him as the moral idol of the whole society to regulate the moral values and moral behaviors. Just like the policy of forbidding all philosophies but worshipping Confucianism as the model for people in Han Dynasty, a trend of beautifying, sanctifying and deifying Guan Yu emerged and a cultural tradition which circles the virtues of loyalty, righteousness, kindness and bravery and a series of moral values and behavioral rules were formed. Hence Guan Yu became the core of the Chinese people’s belief and the highest moral idol imitated by the people. The establishment of the temple of Guan Yu and the worship for him has become a traditional way to unite the Chinese people and promote the Chinese culture. The new value and function of the spirit of Guan Yu and the culture of Guan Yu in the modern society are embodied mainly in maintaining the good moral traditions of the Chinese people and enhancing the recognition of the national culture among the Chinese people all over the world.
Guan Yu is also the symbol of the corporate culture of Jin merchants, and the worship for him is a unique phenomenon among Jin merchants and private banks (there is no such phenomenon among other groups of merchants, at least unlike Jin merchants who view Guan Yu as the only idol.). The unique phenomenon lies in the fact that Guan Yu was born in Shanxi province, but more importantly it is because of the spirits of Guan Yu which Jin merchants needed. Guan Yu is just the symbol of the corporate culture of Jin merchants, and the worship for him and many memorial activities are intended for advocating and enhancing honest corporate culture.
The culture of Guan Yu has gone beyond China as the traditional Chinese culture. It is quite influential especially in the Southeast Asia. The Southeast Asian Cultural Circle refers to the mode of cultural formation based on the ethics of Confucius embodied by Guan Yu’s virtues—loyalty, righteousness, kindness and bravery. Therefore the culture of Guan Yu has become a bond connecting the Chinese culture and the world culture which promote the development of the social civilization of the Southeast Asia. Advocating the culture of Guan Yu is beneficial to the cultural communication and the promotion of the Chinese culture all over the world.
Relevant scenic spot
The Temple of Guan Yu—it is located in Xiezhou town of Yanhu District of Yuncheng in Shanxi province. It is nearby the Salt Lake in the north and faces Mount Zhongtiao with a beautiful view. Changping village which is 10 kilometers away from Xiezhou in the southeast is the birthplace of Guan Yu, the general of Shu Kingdom in the times of Three Kingdoms, so the Temple of Guan Yu is viewed as the origin of the temple of war god. The temple of Guan Yu was built in Kaihuang 9 of Sui Dynasty (589AD). From Song and Ming Dynasties to Ming and Qing Dynasties, with the increasing beautification, sanctification and deification of Guan Yu, the Temple of Guan Yu in Xiezhou was repaired, rebuilt and enlarged for many times. Then the original image was basically regained. Nowadays the Temple of Guan Yu which is a big ancient building complex of Ming and Qing Dynasties with a line of central axis, the front court house and the back living palace, consists of three parts: the garden of taking oath, the temple of ancestry and the royal garden of Guan Yu. In 168 countries with Chinese people, there are temples of Guan Yu. The original temple of Guan Yu in Xiezhou is the earliest, the largest, the best, and the most complete one of all the temples, so it is called the champion of the temples of Guan Yu and also the birthplace and distribution place of the culture of Guan Yu. It is the national-level protective unit and AAAA-class scenic spots. In addition, there are other scenic spots such as the temple of Guan Yu’s ancestors, the temple of Guan Yu’s family, the graveyard of Guan Yu and the sculpture of Guan Yu nearby the temple of Guan Yu.