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The Symbol of General Kwan

Walking into many Chinese places of work, from police precincts to laundromats to Kung Fu schools, one can’t help but notice the statue of a stately, red-faced warrior with a flowing beard and stern expression, holding the iconic Guan Dao. Also known as Lord Guan (Guan Gong 關公), Emperor Guan 關帝, the Great Protector, and the God of War, General Kwan remains a beloved and revered figure in Chinese culture and spirituality. But who was the real General Kwan?


General Kwan, or Guan Yu 關羽, is considered one of China’s greatest war heroes and has been lionized for his achievements as a stalwart warrior and military strategist. Born in present-day Shanxi Province during the late Eastern Han dynasty, Guan Yu rose to prominence during the tumultuous Three Kingdoms (220-280AD), a period of time following the demise of the Han dynasty (206BC-220AD) when Ancient China was divided into three warring dynasties: Wei, Shu-Han, and Wu. Alongside his sworn brothers, Liu Bei and Zhang Fei, General Kwan was instrumental in the events leading to the establishment of Liu Bei’s Shu-Han state. For seven years, General Kwan governed and protected the Jing Province. He was respected, even by his adversaries, for his moral integrity and unwavering loyalty to Liu Bei. In 219, Sun Quan broke his alliance with Liu Bei and began conquering Liu Bei’s territories, eventually overtaking the Jing Province. Following the Battle of Fancheng in 220, General Kwan was captured and executed by Sun Quan’s forces.


General Kwan’s life was mythologized in the centuries that followed as he became a model of loyalty and righteousness. He is revered as a deity in Chinese folk religion and Taoism, where he is worshipped as a protector and guardian. Many believe he brings blessings of safety, prosperity, and success. People make offerings and pray to him for divine intervention and guidance. Facing the front door, Guan Gong wards off evil spirits and safeguards the household. At Moy Yee San Jong, strive to emulate the qualities that General Kwan embodies: bravery, honesty, comradery, integrity, leadership, martial prowess and, most of all, loyalty.

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