The Cult of the Chinese God Guan Yu in the Studies of Russian Sinologists: Fieldwork Observations, Approaches, Methodology


  • Ekaterina Zavidovskaya Institute of China and Modern Asia, Russian Academy of Sciences; Bryansk State University


Guan Yu, Chinese popular religion, fieldwork, legend, motif


The paper explores materials, methods and approaches used by Russian sinologists to define and analyse the cult of Guan Yu (also known as Guan-gong, Guandi, etc.), a popular god of the Chinese pantheon, revered by Daoists, Buddhists and educated Confucians, and who was also granted a number of imperial titles. Guan Yu was worshipped in late imperial China as god of war and wealth, paragon of moral virtue and loyalty to the ruler. Published and unpublished materials by Russian scholars shed light on beliefs and practices related to Guan Yu and display an array of methods including translation of original Chinese sources, field observations, scrutiny of numerous written and oral sources as well as mythological motifs. The paper displays how various angles and approaches to the same subject – worship of Guan Yu – allow a multifaceted and wholesome vision of this god’s place in Chinese traditional culture.


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