The Kuan Yu Shrine
warrior god on the Chao Phraya

By Eric Lim

The Kuan Yu Shrine is dedicated to the ancient Chinese god of war, a legacy of the early Chinese immigrants who settled in the village of Bangkok during the Ayutthaya era.

Located on the Thonburi bank of the Chao Phraya, the shrine is just behind the Princess Mother Memorial Park, near the twin Memorial and Phra Pok Klao Bridges.

From a comparison with old pictures, it's apparent that the old shrine has been completely renovated.

The present shrine is in an octagonal pavilion under a pagoda roof with a praetorian guard of dragons, the symbol of the emperor, strength and wisdom.

Dragons glide down the roof, coil round the pillars within the shrine and the ornamental lamppost outside.

Kuan Yu, an ancient Chinese general in the 2nd and 3rd centuries, played a pivotal role in the civil wars among the warring kingdoms of China. The best-known general in Chinese history, he was immortalized in the Chinese classic Romance of the Three Kingdoms, an epic tale spanning 113 years and 120 chapters!

Set in a tumultuous period in Chinese history (168 – 280 AD), the tale covers the disintegration of the empire, the rise and fall of dynasties, constant wars before final reunification.

Renowned for his courage, integrity, loyalty and righteousness, Kuan Yu was elevated to a deity after his death and the Kuan Yu Shrine became an institution in Chinese culture.

Owing to his military prowess, he is popularly known in the West as the God of War or the Warrior God. With his flowing black beard, the red-faced Kuan Yu, brandishing a deadly kuan tao, is a fearsome figure

The kuan tao, a broad sword at the end of a long shaft, is similar to the medieval halberd, which has an axe and a pike instead.

However the Chinese worship him for his other virtues. For his loyalty, integrity and sense of justice for the common man, he is the God of Righteousness.

For his financial acumen, merchants and traders worship him as the God of Commerce and Wealth.

For the ethnic Chinese in Bangkok, Kuan Yu has been their protector as they went about their daily lives for generations.

As one of the five Tiger Generals in the Three Kingdoms, he is known in Thai as Jao Pho Seua, or the Tiger Guardian Spirit.

The little courtyard leading to the Kuan Yu Shrine has a traditional Thai spirit house near the entrance and a little Chinese pagoda at the far end. A group of old men sit around a table at the side chatting in their native Teo Chiew, a southern Chinese dialect.

In this harmonious blend of culture, the warrior god in the Kuan Yu Shrine stands sentinel on the Chao Phraya River, the guardian spirit of the common man.

To return to Bangkok Shrines.

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