Kuan Ti was born in 162 AD during the period of the warring states of the Three Kingdoms. Born as Kuan Yu he led a simple life and made his living by selling bean curds. He also devoted much of his time to serious study and on one occasion displayed his talent by reciting the entire volume of the classic word for word after only reading it once.
Kuan Yu was a righteous man who loved justice and was more than eight feet tall. His love for fair-play put him into trouble when he killed the licentious and corrupt magistrate who forced a poor girl to be his concubine. This made him into a criminal and had to flee for his life into the mountain. He came upon a stream while crossing to the neighboring province and stopped for a wash. Immediately after that he noticed a transformation to his appearance. His facial complexion had changed from white to reddish tint which saved him from easy passage through the sentries who were guarding the mountain pass.
Upon reaching Chu-Chou of the Szechuan Province he befriended two men who shared his noble ideals and virtues that they ended up as “sworn blood brothers” which had been recorded in history as the “Brotherhood at the Peach Orchard.” Chang Fei, a butcher, became the youngest brother and was a man of fiery temper. He had a black face which was full of whiskers and was seven feet tall. His great respect and loyalty to Kuan Yu won him a place of honor and was always seen standing behind Kuan Yu in all depictions. Liu Pei, the elder brother came from a distinguished family with imperial linkage, was known to be a man of honor.
Together the three sworn blood brothers set out and became involved in military and served under the crafty and famous Ts'ao Ts'ao. They displayed great military might and prowess and fought many battles recorded in the novel of “The Romance of the Three Kingdoms.” Kuan Yu proved himself to be worthy of honor because of his nobility, uprightness, integrity, loyalty, bravery and generosity and never known to turn aside from danger. He also proved his fidelity by not taking advantage of ladies and preserved his reputation and trustworthiness.
He lived at a time of great distress and chaos of the Han Dynasty, set up in 202 BC, began to decline and uprising, warring, dissatisfactions and rebellions were rampant. In the year 219 AD, he was captured by Sun Chuan and put to death. The honor and tributes that the succeeding emperors of the various dynasties conferred upon him marked him as the greatest military hero ever lived. Kuan Yu earned the rank of “Ti” meaning “God” or “Emperor” and since then became “Kuan Ti.”
His admirers and devotees ranged from Emperors to the common people and his popularity never waned over the long period of time until now. Thousands of temples and shrines have been erected in his honor all over the world wherever there are Chinese. His images and portraits adorn home shrines of countless homes of Taoist and even Confucianist as well as Buddhist. He is China's most illustrious and outstanding son, a great hero and is one of the most popular Gods of the Chinese people.
According to the Buddhist study, Kuan Ti manifested himself before the Tripitaka Master Chi Tsai, the founder of Tien Tai Buddhism. It was during the master's deep meditation, that Kuan Ti manifested before him and hence he has been worshipped as a Guardian or Dharma Protector in the Buddhist Temples. The Pure Land Buddhists also respected him as the Sentinel to the Western Paradise of Amitabha Buddha. Kuan Ti has earned a place in the Chinese Pantheon of Deities and his statues are normally found in the first hall of most temples.
As a Buddhist deity, Kuan Ti normally stands alone but as a Taoist deity he is usually accompanied by his two other blood brothers. It is customary for the Chinese to pay respect to Kuan Ti at the start of Chinese New Year by making their ways to Kuan Ti Temples to offer prayers of gratitude for favors rendered and to seek his continued protection for the coming year.
In the temple of Tao of Heaven, God conferred him the title of the First Heavenly Discipline Teacher of Tao, in charge of disciplining Tao devotees to attain great discipline. Lao Mu (God) said, “Man should have the character of ‘Kuan Ti' and lady the character of ‘Kuan Yin,' the Goddess of Mercy.
Author: T.A Chew
T.A Chew grew up near a Taoist Temple where there was a statue of Kuan Ti. He had seen during his younger days, medium going in trance where the spirit of Kuan Ti manifested. A man of great honor indeed and devotees of Tao respect his great teaching of discipline. Website: http://www.white-sun.com