Escorting Guan Yu (Guan Gong) to Chengdu
On the Saturday evening when we were getting ready to leave Juming Museum, Jeff got a call from his manager. He was requested to go to Chengdu to escort a statue of Guan Gong to the shrine at the Foxconn factory there. So when Jeff and I left Taiwan on Tuesday morning, we flew to Chengdu, not Hong Kong. Jeff was given the statue of Guan Gong at the Taipei airport. He has a special carrying bag, and his signature sword was in a little red envelope, hidden from sight. He had his own seat on the plane, so Jeff had to get him safely through security, which turned out not to be a problem. Maybe the security people in Taiwan are used to god statues flying?
We also got to board the plane first, with the other people who needed special assistance. I wondered why, then I realized once we boarded the plane that it was because the crew knew they would need extra time to figure out how to secure Guan Gong in his seat!
One of the things that Jeff found amusing about this journey was that we were taking Guan Gong “home.” The statue was made in Taiwan, but Guan Yu was an actual person who lived most of his life in the Chengdu area. So after we had safely delivered him to the person who was taking him to the shrine, we went to visit Wuhou Shrine in Chengdu, to learn more about Guan Yu.
Guan Yu (died 219), was a general serving under the warlord Liu Bei in the late Eastern Han kingdom of China. He played a significant role in the civil war that led to the collapse of the Han dynasty and the establishment of the kingdom of Shu in the Three Kingdoms period, during which Lui Bei was the first emperor. As one of the best known Chinese historical figures throughout East Asia, his true life stories have largely given way to fictional ones, where Guan is respected as a hero of loyalty and righteousness. Guan was deified (thus commonly called Guan Gong) as early as the Sui dynasty and is still worshiped by many people today, especially in southern China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. He is popular in Confucianism, Taoism, and Chinese Buddhism, and and small shrines to Guan Gong are found in many traditional Chinese shops and restaurants.
Guan is traditionally portrayed as a red-faced warrior with a long lush beard. Supposedly, Guan’s weapon was a guan dao, which resembled a halberd and was said to weigh about 40 pounds. Below are some photos of statues of these historical figures from the Wuhou Shrine. I am sorry about the glass reflection, but the angle of the sun made it hard to take these photos. (And Chengdu was actually sunny! This was the first time Jeff had seen the sun in all of his trips to Chengdu.) Maybe the sun came out to welcome Guan Yu home?
Wuhou Shrine Complex
Wuhou Shrine is an important shrine from the Three Kingdom period in China. It was built in the Western Jin period (265-316) in the honor of Zhuge Liang, the famous military and political strategist who was Prime Minister of the Shu Kingdom. During the Three Kingdoms period of China from the year 220 until 280, China was divided into three empires that were warring to conquer each other: the Wu, Wei and Shu Kingdoms. The area around the ancient city of Chengdu was a part of the Kingdom of Shu. Liu Bei was the Shu Kingdom’s first emperor, and he needed Zhuge Liang to help him govern. The Shrine highlights the Zhuge Liang Memorial Temple, the San Yi temple, and Liu Bei’s mausoleum. There are also statues of other historical figures of Shu Kingdom, such as Guan Yu, as well as cultural relics like stone inscriptions and tablets. The Wuhou Shrine is unique in that it honors both the emperor and his subjects in the same shrine, a rarity in China.
The Wuhou Shrine complex is big., We only had a few hours, and it would have taken a day to truly see all of it. But I learned a lot from what I did get to see.
In China, the emperors were entombed inside hills, or hills were built on top of their tombs. And then certain symbolic trees and plants were planted on top of the hill. So this is typical of an emperor’s grave site in China. The hill is also too big to fit in a photo frame! I definitely would like to go back here if I ever return to Chengdu!