Origin of Emperor Guan
Emperor Guan was originally the revered Mr. Guan of the Shu kingdom in the Three kingdoms Period. Named Yu and literally titled Yunchang, he was a local of Xieliang county, Puzhou prefecture (now Xieyu county, Shaanxi province). According to legend, Guan was the incarnation of a green dragon. He was born with a heroic look with erect eyes, knitted brows, a wide forehead and a long face. When grown up, he was 9.5 feet tall with a 1.8-foot-long beard. With a jujube-red face, red-phoenix eyes, and lying-silkworm eyebrows, he was a hero able to fight ten thousand men. At the end of the Eastern Han, Guan Yu, Liu Bei and Zhang Fei became sworn brothers in a peach garden and planned to raise troops. At first Guan Yu was defeated and captured by Cao Cao at Xiapi. Cao Cao treated him with special respect and gave him the rank of general. As a loyal commander, he killed Yuan Shao's courageous general Yanliang in battle and saved Cao Cao from dangerous difficulties. Cao appealed to the Emperor to the Marquis of Shouting with very rich largess. However, after being informed of Liu Bei's whereabouts, Guan left the gold and the marquis's seal untouched and went for Liu. Having founded the Shu kingdom, Liu ordered Guan to defend Xianyang and govern Jinzhou prefecture. Guan defeated Cao Ren and his seven army corps at Fancheng, killing Pang De and capturing Yu Jin, and won resounding fame through the country. Underestimating the enemy from the Wu kingdom, Guan was cheated by the enemy's scheme and suffered defeat at Maicheng and was killed. According to legend, Guan's head was buried in Guan Woods at Luoyang, Henan and his body on Mt. Yuquan at Dangyang, Hubei. Moved by his loyalism and righteousness, later generations have offered sacrifice for him every year. According to Daoist scriptures, Guan manifested himself in theophany and later met the Perfected Man of the Iron Bowl ( 鐵真人 Tiebo Zhenren ), who honored him as Admiral and Earthly Deity. In the Song dynasty, responding to the call of Perfected Man Xujing, the 30th Celestial Master, Guan manifested himself to the emperor, killed monsters, and tamed the flood dragon. The Zhenzong Emperor praised his merit in protecting the state and blessing the people. In the 1st year (1102 A.D.) of the Chongning Era of the Huizong Emperor, Guan was honored as Loyal and Benefiting Duke ( 忠惠公 Zhonghui Gong ). In the 5th year (1123 A.D.) of the Xuanhe Era, he was honored as Righteous and Courageous King of Martial Protection ( 義勇武安王 Yiyong Wu’an Wang ). In the Yuan dynasty, he was honored as Righteous and Courageous King of Martial Protection, Heroic Blessing and Numinous Manifestation ( 顯靈義勇武安英濟王 Xianling Yiyong Wu’an Yingji Wang ). In the early Ming dynasty, people honored him as Grand Warrior Duke Guan and offered sacrifices for him together with Yue Fei. Consequently, martial temples were also called "Temple of Guan and Yue". In the 33rd year (1605 A.D.) of the Wanli Era, the emperor honored him as Imperial Sovereign Saint Guan, Great Emperor Who Defeats the Demons of the Three Realms, and Heavenly Lord Known from Afar for His Divine Power ( 三界伏魔大帝、神威遠震天尊、關聖帝君 Sanjie Fumo Dadi, Shenwei Yuanzhen Tianzun, Guansheng Dijun ). In the 1st year of the Shunzhi Era in the Qing dynasty, he was honored as Loyal Righteous Divine Courageous and Imperial Saint Guan ( 忠義神武關聖大帝 Zhongyi Shenwu Guansheng Dadi ). In the 5th year (1666 A.D.) of the Kangxi Era, he was honored as Loyal, Righteous, Divine, Courageous, Numinous, Benevolent, Mighty and Imperial Saint Guan ( 忠義神武靈佑仁勇威顯關聖大帝 Zhongyi Shenwu Lingyou Renyong Weixian Guansheng Dadi ). People erected a stele for him in the Guan Woods in Luoyang. Since the Northern Song dynasty, Guan Yu has been one of the law-protecting heavenly deities and known as the Demon-Cleansing Perfected Sovereign ( 蕩魔真君 Dangmo Zhenjun ) or as the Great Emperor Who Defeats the Demons. The folk people call him Imperial Sovereign Saint Guan or Emperor Guan. Some people in Taiwan also call him Mysterious Numinous Lofty Emperor ( 玄靈高上帝 Xuanling Gaoshang di ).
Miracles and worship
During the Song and Yuan dynasties, Emperor Guan was a symbol of loyalty and righteousness. In the Ming and Qing dynasties, many Planchette Writing sessions invited Emperor Guan to descend and handed down some writings popular among the people, such as the Perfect Book of Emperor Guan's Enlightenment ( 《關帝覺世真經》 Guandi Juehsi Zhenjing ), the Book of Emperor Guan's Manifest Holiness ( 《關帝明聖經》 Guandi Mingsheng Jing ), and the Admonishment for the Literati ( 《戒士子文》 Jie Shizi Wen ). People worship Emperor Guan not merely as a law-protecting heavenly deity, but also as god of war, god of wealth and god of righteousness. They pray to Emperor Guan for many reasons, such as success in imperial examinations, promotion in official ranks, elimination of disasters, curing diseases, exorcising evil, punishing treachery, inspecting hell, blessing merchants, enlarging the exchequer and judging doubtful cases. Secret societies even made the loyalty and righteousness of Emperor Guan their spiritual ligament. For reasons varying from joining the society to becoming sworn brothers, they held all kinds of rituals in front of him, such as burning incense, prostrations and kowtowing, and smearing the blood of sacrifice on mouths when swearing oaths. During the Ming, Qing and Republican periods, Temples of Emperor Guan were built everywhere. Some large-sized Daoist and Buddhist temples also contained images or memorial tablets of Emperor Guan. The popularity of the belief in Emperor Guan can be compared with the cults of City God Temples and local earth spirit temples. According to legend, the holy birthday of Emperor Guan is the 13th day of the 5th month or the 13th day of the 1st month of the lunar year. On the divine birthday of Emperor Guan, temples of Emperor Guan hold celebration rituals. Someone at the end of the Qing dynasty sighed with emotion that the worship of Emperor Guan would be "eternal as heaven and earth".