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Guan Yu – The Religious Afterlife of a Failed Hero - Oxford Scholarship Online
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Guan Yu: The Religious Afterlife of a Failed Hero

Barend J. ter Haar


Guan Yu was a minor general in his own day, who supported one of numerous claimants to the throne in the early third century CE. He was captured and executed by enemy forces in 219. He eventually became one the most popular and influential deities of imperial China under the name Lord Guan or Emperor Guan, of the same importance as the Buddhist bodhisattva Guanyin. This is a study of his cult, but also of the tremendous power of oral culture in a world where writing became increasingly important. The book follows the rise of the deity through his earliest stage as a hungry ghost, his subsequen ... More

Keywords: Guan Yu, Lord Guan, religious history, temple cults, historical myths, oral culture, vernacular novels, messianic traditions, morality books

Bibliographic Information

Print publication date: 2017 Print ISBN-13: 9780198803645
Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2017 DOI:10.1093/oso/9780198803645.001.0001


Affiliations are at time of print publication.

Barend J. ter Haar, author
Run Run Shaw Chair of Chinese, University of Oxford