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Kuan Kung: Deity Status

Kuan Kung has been deitified as early as the Sui Dynasty and is still popularly worshipped today among the Chinese people variedly as an indigenous Chinese deity, a bodhisattva in Buddhism and a guardian deity in Taoism. He is also held in high esteem in Confucianism. These are not necessarily contradictory or even distinguished among the common folks as is characteristic of the Chinese, who have quite seamlessly merged these ancient philosophies and religions into their own culture.

In the West, Kuan Kung is sometimes called the Taoist God of War, probably because he is one of the most well-known military generals in Chinese history. This is misconceived as, unlike Mars or Tyr, Kuan Kung as a god does not necessarily bless those who go to battle but rather anyone who observes the code of brotherhood and righteousness.

In general worship, Kuan Kung's is widely referred to as Emperor Guan, short for his Taoist title Saintly Emperor Guan . Temples and shrines dedicated exclusively to Kuan Kung could be found in parts of Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, and other places where Chinese congregate. Some of these temples, such as the Emperor Guan Temple in Xiezhou were built exactly in the layout of a palace, befitting his status as an "emperor".

The escalation of Kuan Kung's status to that of an emperor took place during the Ming Dynasty. In 1614, the Wanli Emperor bestowed on Kuan Kung the title of Saintly Emperor Guan the Great God Who Subdues Demons of the Three Worlds and Whose Awe Spreads Far and Moves Heaven. During the Qing Dynasty, the Shunzhi Emperor gave Kuan Kung the title of Zhongyi Shenwu Great Saintly Emperor Guan in 1644. This title was expanded to Renyong Weixian Huguo Baomin Jingcheng Ruijing Yuzan Xuande Zhongyi Shenwu Great Saintly Emperor Guan, a total of 24 characters, by mid-19th century.

Throughout history Kuan Kung had also been credited with many military successes. During the Ming dynasty he was said to have aided the founding emperor Zhu Yuanzhang's fleet at the Battle of Boyang. In 1402, Zhu Di launched a coup d'état and successfully deposed his nephew, the Jianwen Emperor. Zhu Di claimed that he had been blessed by the spirit of Kuan Kung. During the last decade of the 16th century, Kuan Kung was also credited with the repulse of Japanese invasion of Korea by Toyotomi Hideyoshi (called The Seven-Year War of Korea). The ruling Manchu house of the Qing dynasty also associated with Kuan Kung's martial qualities. During the 20th century, Kuan Kung was worshipped by the warlord Yuan Shikai, president and later a short-lived emperor of China.

Today Kuan Kung is still widely worshipped by common folks. In Hong Kong, a shrine for Kuan Kung is located in each police station. Though by no means mandatory, most Chinese policemen worship and pay respect to him. Seemingly ironic, members of the Triad gangs and the Hung clan worship Kuan Kung as well. This exemplifies the Chinese belief that a code of honor, epitomized by Kuan Kung, exists even in the underworld. In Hong Kong, Kuan Kung is often referred to as "Yi Gor" (Cantonese for second big brother) for he was second to Liu Bei in their legendary sworn brotherhood. Kuan Kung is also worshipped by Chinese businessmen in Shanxi Province, Hong Kong, Macau and Southeast Asia as an alternative God of Wealth, since he is perceived to bless the upright and protect them from the crooked. Another reason being related to the release of Cao Cao during the Huarong Pass incident where he let Cao Cao and his general passed through safely. As for that, he was perceived to be able to give a lifeline to those that needed it.

Alternative Names:
Guan Yu, Kuan Yu, Kwan Ti, Guan Gong, Kuan Kung, Guan Gung, Kwan Kong

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Other Links:
Kuan Kung God of War
Kuan Kung, God of War

Feng Shui Item: Kuan Kung on Horse of Progress
Kuan Kung on Horse of Progress

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