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The history behind the 2019 Overwatch Lunar New Year skins

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Lion Orisa is perfect

Reinhardt in his Guan Yu skin Blizzard Entertainment

Overwatch’s Lunar New Year event is finally here, and so are the skins that we’ve been waiting for.

Similar to last year’s event, a chunk of these skins correspond to the same stories and myths. This year, we take a look at which characters are connected and unpack some of the cultural significance behind the flashy skins.

Zhuge Liang Zenyatta

Blizzard Entertainment

Zhuge Liang was a Chinese writer, politician, and prominent military strategist during the Three Kingdoms period (220-280) who was often compared to Art of War author Sun Tzu. Known to be a mathematical and a mechanical genius — he supposedly developed his own type of crossbow — Zhuge Liang is a perfect fit for the wise Zenyatta.

Zhang Fei Torbjörn

Blizzard Entertainment

Zhang Fei was a military general during the late Eastern Han Dynasty, and also appears in the 14th-century novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms. At the beginning of the story, Zhang Fei and Guan Yu (Reinhardt’s 2019 Lunar New Year skin) pledge to become sworn brothers. The two of them share an inseparable bond protecting Liu Bei, ruler of the Shu Han region. It’s an appropriate reference, as Torbjörn and Reinhardt go way back in their Overwatch glory days.

Guan Yu Reinhardt

Blizzard Entertainment

When Guan Yu was captured by another general, Cao Cao, he served as a lieutenant general until he managed to return to Liu Bei and Zhang Fei. But before he went back to them, he did one last bloody favor for Cao Cao: decapitating and delivering the head of his enemy. Impressed by this and Guan Yu’s unwavering loyalty to his friends, Cao Cao let him go. Guan Yu continues to be revered today in Buddhist and Taoist cultures, honored for his bravery and loyalty.

Lü Bu Reaper

Blizzard Entertainment

Lü Bu, also known as the “Flying General,” was also a military general in the same period. It comes as no surprise that Reaper is given the Lü Bu skin — the latter fought against Guan Yu and Liu Bei. In addition to his military exploits, Lü Bu is also known for his bad temper and string of betrayals.

Huang Zhong Hanzo

Blizzard Entertainment

Huang Zhong was known as one of the Five Tiger Generals (a term used to describe a ruler’s five best generals) who served under Liu Bei. When he was initially appointed, Guan Yu became angry — perhaps even jealous — that someone so old should be given such a high rank.

Sanye Orisa

Overwatch - Lion Orisa skin for 2019 Lunar New Year event Blizzard Entertainment

Sanye” refers to the lion dance performed at the start of the New Year in Korea. These dances are meant to ward off evil spirits and perform a kind of exorcism to attract good luck for the coming year. Sometimes it’s paired with a brown lion (saja-noreum), and the two of them perform every night for the first 15 days of the Lunar New Year.

General Brigitte

Blizzard Entertainment

Brigitte’s skin correlates to the generals’ uniforms of the Joseon Dynasty. There’s also been speculation that it may be a reference to Yi Soon-Shin, a Korean admiral revered for his bravery and victory against the invading Japanese navy. Despite having no naval training, he was undefeated at sea. Many consider him to be Korea’s national hero.

Hong Gildong Tracer

Tracer poses in her Hong Gildong skin for Overwatch’s Lunar New Year 2019 event. Blizzard Entertainment

Hong Gildong is a Robin Hood-like literary classic set in Korea’s Joseon dynasty. Hong is the son of a nobleman and a concubine, who grows up with more than his fair share of discrimination and mistreatment because of his low birth rank. Despite his wit and excellent martial arts skills, Hong never feels that his own family treats him fairly. Frustrated, he leaves and starts a band of outlaws that steals from the rich. It all goes well until he’s found by the king and forced to leave by exile. He starts over at the island of Yul, where he eventually overthrows that king and takes the crown for himself. Not bad.

Overwatch’s Lunar New Year event is now live on PC, PS4, and Xbox One. Along with these skins, last year’s Lunar New Year skins are also up for purchase until Feb. 19.