Guan Yunchang, Marquis of Houting, Lord Guan, Emperor Guan. Despite his many names and guises, Guan Yu is known to most as the red-faced god of wealth, with his lush beard; his green and golden robes; and his signature blade, the Black Dragon Crescent Halberd. As one of the most popular gods in the Chinese pantheon, he is found in countless temples scattered across the globe, worshipped by “Confucians,” Buddhists, and Taoists equally. Little statues devoted to the god show up in in small shrines in Chinese restaurants, Hong Kong police stations, and triad headquarters alike. Asked what the god represents, most will answer that, in addition to bringing wealth and fortune, he serves as a paragon of noble virtues. As an invincible hero and immortal god, he fights for transcendent morals of righteousness and loyalty.

Though attractive, this image of a loyal man is also, according to Barend ter...

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