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Guan YuThe Religious Afterlife of a Failed Hero$
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Barend J. ter Haar

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198803645

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198803645.001.0001

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The Educated Deity

The Educated Deity

(p.190) 7 The Educated Deity
Guan Yu

Barend J. ter Haar

Oxford University Press

During the sixteenth century, the educated elite developed their own beliefs about Lord Guan, with very distinct stories and expectations that were not necessarily shared by the non-literate community. As literacy increased during the Qing period, these beliefs and associated practices then also spread to a larger segment of the population, especially during the nineteenth century. From being a deity who primarily operated through his violent martial actions, appearing in dreams and visions, he acquired a new dimension in which he communicated with his literate audience through writing. He assisted his devotees with a more personal kind of help, still appearing in real life, dreams, and visions, but now also providing counsel by means of prognostication and spirit writing. The deity’s predictions were often enigmatic and became clear only after the unfolding of events, serving as a confirmation of what had happened rather than a very clear guide.

Keywords:   Lord Guan, spirit writing, literati culture, literacy, dreams, prognostication, examination system, Spring and Autumn Annals, Zhengyang Gate

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