Kuan Yu (162-219 a.d.) was a famous warrior whose exploits were popularized in the fourteenth century novel San Kuo Chih Yen-i
(Romance of the Three Kingdoms). He was exalted during later dynasties and in 1594 the Wan-li emperor awarded him the title "Faithful and Loyal Great God Supporter of Heaven and Protector of the Kingdom." He is shown here in full armor astride his war horse. Typifying the robust style of middle Ming sculpture, such an image would have appealed greatly to aristocratic members of the military bureaucracy.
Kuan Yu was a favorite "household god" during Ming and Ch'ing, but temples were also dedicated to him. Civil and military officials alike worshiped his image on the 15th day of the second month and 13th day of the fifth month. His protective image was often placed in the first hall of Buddhist temples.