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Kuan Kung: Taoism & Buddhism

Kuan Kung is revered as Saintly Emperor Guan and a leading subduer of demons in Taoism. Taoist worship of Kuan Kung began during the Song Dynasty. Legend has it that during the second decade of the 12th century, the saltwater lake in the present day Xiezhou County gradually ceased to yield salt. Emperor Huizong then summoned Celestial Master Zhang Jixian, thirtieth descendent of Celestial Master Zhang Daoling, to investigate the cause. The emperor was told that the disruption was the work of Chi You, a deity of war. The Master then recruited the help of Kuan Kung, who did battle with Chi You over the lake and triumphed, whereupon the lake resumed salt production. Emperor Huizong then bestowed upon Kuan Kung the title of Immortal of Chongning, formally introducing the latter as a deity into Taoism.

In early Ming Dynasty, the forty-second Celestial Master Zhang Zhengchang recorded the incident in his book Lineage of the Han Celestial Masters, the first Taoist classic to affirm the legend. Today Taoism practices are predominant in Kuan Kung worship. Many temples dedicated to Kuan Kung, including the Emperor Guan Temple in Xiezhou County, show heavy Taoist influence. Every year, on the thirteenth day of the fifth month on the lunar calendar (legendary birthday of Kuan Kung), a street parade in the honor of Emperor Guan would also be held.

In Chinese Buddhism, Kuan Kung is honored as a bodhisattva and protector of the Dharma. He is called Sangharama Bodhisattva. Sangharama in Sanskrit means "temple", therefore Kuan Kung is also the guardian of the temple. His statue is usually located on the far left of the main shrine, opposite his counterpart, Skanda Bodhisattva.

According to the Buddhist account, in 592, Kuan Kung manifested himself one night before the Tripitaka Master Zhiyi, founder of the Tientai school of Buddhism, with a retinue of spiritual beings. Zhiyi was then in deep meditation on Yuquan Hill when he was distracted by Kuan Kung's presence. After receiving Buddhist teachings from the master, Kuan Kung acquired the Five Precepts. Henceforth he became the guardian of temples and the Dharma. Legends also claim that Kuan Kung assisted Zhiyi in the construction of the Yuquan Temple, which still stands today.

In the historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Luo Guanzhong wrote that Kuan Kung manifested himself to a monk named Pujing on Yuquan Hill on the night of his death. From Pujing Kuan Kung sought the Buddhist teachings and entered the faith. While this being a modification of the "true" account, Pujing did exist in history. The location at which Pujing built a grass hut for himself was where the Yuquan Temple was later built on.

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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