Guan Di’s Halberd

The main god I’m worshiping currently is Guan Di (aka Guan Gong). A blogger named Phil who lives in Hong Kong wrote an interesting post about a commonly-circulated “fact” (which may well be an urban myth) about the symbolism of the positioning of his weapon:

I thought I should mention a ‘fact’ I heard many years ago and recently sprang back into my mind because I think I spotted an example of it (I say fact but actually I have no idea if it is true or some sort of urban myth). […]

He’s usually, mistakenly, referred to in English texts as the God of War but actually his role in Chinese worship is more related to his reput[at]ion for integrity and right[e]ousness. He also happens to be the god who is worshipped [sic] on both sides of the criminal divide. Police and triads worship him alike.

This leads me on to the fact I was talking about. His symbolism – integrity and righteousness etc – is obviously interpreted in vastly different ways by these latter two groups and to represent the two sides to this interpretation/worship each group places the god’s halberd (his long spear pole with its sword attached to the end) in one or the other hand. The halberd in the left hand is how the triads have their statues of Kuan Ti positioned, and the police (and all other law abiding groups and individuals) have their statues positioned so that the halberd is in the right hand.

Phil wrote the above-quoted post after he visited a restaurant, and noticed a particular detail about their shrine to Guan Di.

Humorously, Phil says, “Hmmm – don’t think I’ll be complaining about the food or service in that place again.”

5 responses to “Guan Di’s Halberd

  • Damocles Loraine

    I found this post doubly interesting. Firstly when one is given to the invocation of deities most folk have never heard of (mine are Egyptian), it is always an encouragement to know that others do similarly.
    Secondly, when I was a small boy, our mantlepiece was dominated by a bronze of a bearded Chinese general on horseback in whose left hand was just such an halberd. Although it had come from an auction, and on a whim, my parents were nevertheless career criminals who became very wealthy. May I assume this to be a statue of Guan Di or is the image a common one?


      I think that would indeed be Guan Di, though left-handed statues don’t seem to be very common. That’s fascinating that your parents were successful career criminals and that your mantlepiece had a left-handed Guan Di on mantlepiece!

      I was wondering what your religious practices were, but didn’t want to pry. Are there any particular Egyptian deities that are more central to your worship? I think that this particular blog post is the first time I’ve mentioned that Guan Di is central to mine.

      • Damocles Loraine

        I don’t think you will be surprised when I say that upon my altar are images of Djhwty, whom the Greeks call Thoth, and Ma’at who is oft compared to the Tao. As for yourself, integrity and righteousness best reflect the Way of Heaven.
        Little being known of the precise nature of ancient Egyptian practices I mix and match with with neo-platonic hermeticism, raja yoga, and such sources of wisdom as over forty years of trial and error have led me to judge sound.
        Recently I have, following dawn adorations to Ra with much burning of frankincence, spent several months meditating on the similarity between The XXXIX th chapter of the Lao Tzu (Of old these came to be in possession of the One) and the Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistos.
        A link I owe in part to Butler’s excellent essays on Proclus.
        As the great Leonardo had for his motto, “Still I am learning”.
        Thanks for asking and and may your Eye and the Eye of Guan Di see as One.

  • Are The Gods On Our Side? | GODS & RADICALS

    […] protestors on behalf of the police. Contradictions upon contradictions. There’s also an interesting urban legend that Guan Di statues in Triad shrines hold the guan dao (Guan Di’s distinctive polearm) in […]

  • Ming Hui

    Care to share the avenue of this restaurant location? I might go visit one day to see this odd left hand halbred Guan Di altar you posted.

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