WHAT IS GENERAL GUAN READING?
by Max Yan and Todd Plager
In homes, offices and traditional Gong Fu schools across China, people display General Guan’s picture or statue. General Guan is usually shown seated and holding a scroll. Do you know what he is reading?
The book he is reading is called, “Spring and Autumn” and was written by Confucius. The title, “Spring and Autumn” would probably be better translated into english as, “Year After Year.” The book tells of the history of China from the years, circ. 70O BC to circ, 50O BC, It is an accurate record of how the politicians, noblemen and royalty fought with each other for wealth and holdings. It also tells of the treatment of the commoner under the rule of these people. Confucius recounts the acts of trickery, abandonment and pain that befell the common person at the hands of the leaders and politicians along with the downfall of those leaders.
Confucius wanted his people and future generations to remember their past and to provide a way to learn from it. Confucius is quoted as saying, “Because of this book, some people understand me and some people hate me.” By reading this book, people could understand the Confucian way of living a good life and raising a family. Also, leaders could gain insight on how to rule a country. His truthful depiction of China’s history also generated negative feelings from some people who would prefer the past to remain silent. “Spring and Autumn” is not only considered a history book, but a book of philosophy as well.
It is said that General Guan became a great leader by reading “Spring and Autumn” again and again. In addition to being considered a brave general, General Guan came to symbolize the virtues of fearlessness, loyalty, fairness, and selflessness. This is why his picture or statue is displayed all over China. Traditional Chinese believe that not living according to these tenants would bring misfortune into their lives. Some even believe that displaying a picture or statue of General Guan will ward off misfortune. Unfortunately, people now worship General Guan without knowing how he became the leader he was. Today, people expect that merely owning the statue or picture of General Guan will bring them good fortune without living by the same tenets that he did. General Guan’s statue and picture should serve as reminders of who he was and what he stood for ethically.
General Guan’s weapon became known as, “Spring and Autumn Broad Sword” because of his association with this book. Chen style tai chi includes a form for this weapon, the “Spring and Autumn Broad Sword.” The first movement is called “General Guan holding broad sword going up Ba Bridge” (Ba Bridge is a very famous old bridge in the old capital of China, called Xian). This form is an excellent weapons form. The techniques are very clear, the movements are practical and the form is cleverly thought out. It is a good form for improving internal power and developing dantien rotation. This was the favored weapon of the founder of Tai Chi, Chen Wang Ting.