Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Character Analogy - Romance of the Three Kingdoms

Establishing analogous characters was the most important part of a mimajiao session. Once the analogies were established, the stories would follow with ease. However, due to the massive differences between Chinese fiction and the Gospels, a perfect one-to-one analogy was seldom possible. Romance of the Three Kingdoms, while one of the most common stories used, also proved one of the hardest to analogize. Nevertheless, there are a few common threads that link the different versions. What follows is the most common version I could find. I will discuss variants later.

-Liu Bei : Jesus Christ
-Guan Yu : John the Baptist*
-Zhang Fei : Saint Andrew
-Zhuge Liang : Saint Peter
-Zhao Yun, Huang Zhong, Ma Chao : Other apostles**
-Liu Biao : Thomas the Apostle
-Handi Xian : Herod
-Cao Cao : Caiaphas or Judas Iscariot***
-Zhang He : Judas Iscariot
-Yuan Shao : Pontius Pilate
-Sun Quan : Joseph of Arimathea
-Lady Sun : Mary Magdalene
-Gan Ning : Barabbas


*Westerners who are familiar with the Three Kingdoms mythology often wonder why Guan Yu is never analogized with Jesus. On the surface, it seems a good fit: Guan Yu is already a sacred icon in East Asia, and he actually returns from the dead in the novel. There are several reasons why this is not done. First, his status as a bodhisattva would actually interfere with the lesson by conflating the Christian tradition with the traditions of Buddhism and Daoism. Second, while Guan Yu is a very important character, Liu Bei is still the main protagonist, so using him as the Christ figure makes storytelling easier. Finally, Guan Yu is often associated with war, which clashes with most lessons. In contrast, Liu Bei is almost a pacifist, using violence as a last resort and even then being mournful about it.

**The Five Tiger Generals are always associated with apostles, but which apostles vary greatly depending on the story.

***As he is considered a villain in the novel, it makes sense that Cao Cao would be analogized to a biblical villain. Which villain depends on the event from the novel being used. In addition to the above, I have even heard of sessions in which he is compared directly to Lucifer. Interestingly, some mimajiao practitioners who rely more on the Records of the Three Kingdoms than the fictionalized novel will occasionally use Cao Cao as a biblical hero, even an apostle.

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