Years ago, I came across an interesting concept unique to Hong Kong, called “enlisting soldiers” (收兵). It refers to “a soldier of the Goddess Guanyin” (觀音兵). Guanyin is a bodhisattva, someone who has reached Nirvana, but rather than reaching the Heavens to become a Buddha, she has decided to stay on this earth as a protector of humanity. She, of course, is aided by thousands of celestial soldiers willing to die for her.
Loyalty of a Guanyin soldier is absolute
A “Guanyin soldier” is a man who is absolutely obedient to his Goddess and is willing to do anything for her. He won’t hesitate to sacrifice his life to win her affection. In the famous novel Journey To The West, the Goddess Guanyin has not one, but thousands of celestial soldiers at her service. Their loyalty is absolute. If Guanyin orders them to jump off a cliff, they will jump to their deaths without hesitation.
Guanyin soldier in Western popular culture
In Game of Thrones, the Guanyin soldiers are the Unsullied at the service of the khaleesi, Daenerys Targaryen. The Unsullied are eunuchs who have no sexual desires and their only objective is to serve their master with absolute loyalty. If the khaleesi, the Queen, commands an Unsullied to kill himself, he would have dug his own grave and buried himself alive. This is the true spirit of the Guanyin soldier.
Guanyin solider in modern day Hong Kong
As described, a “soldier” is one who is absolutely devoted to his Goddess, believing that all those sacrifices he makes for her will be rewarded one day. In modern day context, “Goddess” refers to a woman who attract men to be her followers. Her followers are dispensible soldiers who are willing to unconditionally shell out their time, money and hearts and be at her service at a moment’s notice. The soldiers’ loyalty is sacred.
A similar phenomenon in Western society
This is not to say that a Guanyin soldier exists only in Hong Kong. In fact, they are not unique. In Western society, there is a special English word for this: friendzoned. I don’t think the term requires further explanation than a man in pursuit of a woman but whom is considered “just friends.” Interestingly, there is so much literature devoted to not being “friendzoned” that the friendzone phenomenon appears to be a global epidemic.
Hong Kong men are often criticised for being lacking in devotion, drive and dedication. The “Guanyin soldier” phenomenon however shows that Hong Kong men are capable of showing absolute devotion to their Goddess and are willing to fight wars on her behalf unconditionally. In these circumstances, men are often willing to sacrifice everything, including their own dignity. This absolute devotion is almost devine. The Guanyin soldier is selfless and if that doesn’t make him a saint, then I don’t know what does.