This 190-foot tall, 1,450-ton [*] statue represents Guan Yu, a heroic general and warrior who lived during China’s Three Kingdoms period (220-280 AD). His famous Green Crescent Dragon Blade weighs 150 tons [*]. For comparison, the Statue of Liberty is 111 feet tall and weighs 225 tons.
Guan Yu was so fierce and righteous that he is worshiped as a god. This statue, one of many in China, was erected last summer in the Chinese city of Jingzhou in Hubei province. There is an even larger statue, 292 feet high, in his home town of Changping in Shanxi province.
He was a character in the famous Chinese historical novel, The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, which became the basis of many a Chinese movie and video game and is said to be one of the favorite reading of Mao Zedong.
I read a translation of The Romance of the Three Kingdoms in 1993 over a six-week period while I was recovering from surgery. It was a compelling read, with every chapter ending with a cliff-hanger, a question and the command to “read on”.
I never could be sure what would happen next. It was as if the author, Luo Ghanzhong, rolled dice or cast I Ching stalks to determine the outcome. But more likely it was because he followed actual historical events, which, unlike fiction, are unpredictable.
The classic Chinese novels are more complex and have many more plot threads than European novels. In terms of plot, War and Peace is a young adult novel to The Three Kingdoms. The translator, Moss Roberts, provided lists of characters, chapter summaries, a chronology, maps and extensive footnotes to help the reader keep track. I referred frequently to all of them.
The central figure is the noble but poor Liu Bei, who swears an oath of friendship in a peach orchard with Xhang Fei and Guan Yu, two heroes he happens to meet in a tavern. The three enlist to defend the Chinese government against the Yellow Banner rebels, who have supernatural powers. They rise in the ranks, and Liu Bei becomes one of a number of independent warlords as the Han dynasty loses power.
His main rival is a Napoleonic figure named Cao Cao, a bold and ruthless figure who stops at nothing. He becomes more and more powerful, eliminating his rivals one by one, all except Liu Bei, who is always able to recover from defeat because people trust him.
The characters are revealed through action, not their interior thoughts, so it is never certain whether Liu Bei is a person of flawless integrity or a brilliant schemer who manipulates things in order to always occupy the moral high ground.
The scheming of the contenders for power would make Machiavelli or Clausewitz seem naive. In one chapter, Guan Yu does not have time to destroy a bridge over a river that stands between his troops and a vastly superior force. So he advances alone, and challenges the enemy commander to single combat. Fearing a trap, the enemy falls back, and Guan Yu has time to destroy the bright.
When he reports his feat, Liu Bei tells him he is a brave soldier, but a poor tactician. Liu Bei says he could have delayed the force longer if he had left the bridge standing. (Think about it.)
Footnote [*]: The statue weighs 1,320 metric tonnes, which is about 1,450 English tons, and the sword weighs 136 metric tonnes, which is about 150 English tons.
Guan Yu Wikipedia article.
Giant Chinese general Guan Yu statue stands in Jingzhou by the Chinese Daily.
China Unveils Epic 1,320-Ton God of War Statue by James Gould-Bourn for Bored Panda.
China’s Awe-Inspiring New Guan Yu Statue Is Absolutely Huge by Kirsten Howard for Mental Floss.