1st Chapter: North-South Dynasty to Tang, from human to deity
The Formative period of the belief in Guan Yu
Guan Yu died in 219 AD and it was after nearly 250 years that we see the establishment of his first temple.
The Emperor of Chen then, Chen Bo Zong remarked, "Guan Yu had manisfested himself and became a god." As such, in 567-568, a temple was built east of Dang Yang county (where he was killed) 30 miles, at the northwest of Yu Quan temple. This is the first Guan Gong temple.
During Sui dynasty, many myths of Guan Yu appeard and spread exponentially. Most of them actually came from Jing Zhou and Xiang Yang where he lived and warred there. These include events of Guan Yu's protection of the civilians and instances where he appeared and aided the people. The hometown of Guan Yu, Jie Xian Cheng (City of Jie county) was built in 589. Since then, temples were established around the country.
Tang would further develop this culture and belief, as demonstrated in the below-mentioned developments.
1) Many places renovated and further built the Guan Yu temples. This can be seen on inscriptions made or poems written by the intellectuals. One such poem, <Zhuang Miu Hou Miao Bie You Ren> (Bidding Farewell to a friend at temple) by Lang Jun Zhou wrote," The General graced a heavenly appearance, his loyalty and bravery unparalled. On calvary he waged hundred wars of which his sword matched tens of thousands. Who would feel his grace? ... Away from the fence facing the temple, a toast made to the sky in deep rememberance. I leave without words, and record my sorrows." (Ok, the gist is there thought its not word for word translation.
Dong Yan also wrote a very long article titled <Zhen Yuan Chong Jian Miao Ji> (The reconstruction of the temple). This is significant because while reminiscing the old Guan Yu temple built in 567, the people of the Tang who believed in Guan Yu had already associated it with majestic terms. Secondly, Guan Yu's position in the hierarchy of dieties was still low because even if he then commanded worshipping, he is still between a diety (shen) and a spirit (Guei) Indeed, perhaps he was being worshipped out of fear since even during Qing, he was depicted as a ferocious demi-god. (<Bei Meng Suo Yan> Thirdly, it can also be seen that at the end of Tang, many people had put up statues or portraits of Guan Yu for worshipping, first in the palace and later in the commoners. The portrait would be hanged at the hall or main door. Fourthly and actually with conjunction to the second point, the reason why Guan Yu was still a relatively low status diety was because he is just a historical figure.
It must be noted that in Tang, many other three kingdoms characters had temples set up in memory of them as shown in many literary works, especially poems. These include Zhuge Liang, Zhang Fei, Liu Bei, Zhou Yu and Deng Ai. Indeed, many of the more reowned generals had temples with Liu Bei and Zhuge Liang as having more prominence. Guan Yu was even beneath Zhuge Liang then.
hence, we see a major transition in Guan Yu as a diety. He transformed from a historical figure and fearsome warrior to a worshipped god. Even if his status was not high and the level of belief not widespread, he has nevetheless became a diety. This first manisfestation of the religious belief in Guan Yu would of course be an important foundation for future developments.
This is a very short summary so if you all want the name of the poems etc please feel free to ask.
to be continued
Truth is always partial
Absense of dream creates nothing but dream creates absense if you do nothing