Guan Yu

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Guan Yu was a general for Liu Bei during the Three Kingdoms period. He was a major figure in the Romance of the Three Kingdoms.


Guan Yu
Traditional Chinese 關羽
Simplified Chinese 关羽

Guan Yu fled his hometown at the age of 23 after slaying a local bully named Lü Xiong. Five years later, he was a volunteer in a civilian army to stop the Yellow Turban Rebellion. During this time, he served under Liu Bei. For his efforts in putting down the rebellion, Liu Bei was appointed as the Governor of Pingyuan County. Liu Bei appointed Guan Yu as an officer. Except for a brief period when he was forced to fight for Cao Cao, Guan Yu served under Liu Bei until his death. Guan Yu participated in many battles during the Three Kingdoms period. He was an important figure in the Battle of Chibi, where he nearly captured a fleeing Cao Cao. He died during the attack on Fancheng in 219.

Romance of the Three Kingdoms

In the novel, Luo Guanzhong glorified Guan Yu by portraying him as a righteous and loyal warrior. He first appears with his pact-brothers Liu Bei and Zhang Fei during the Yellow Turban Rebellion. Later, he gains fame by slaying the "undefeatable" warrior Hua Xiong and driving Lu Bu back.

During the invasion of Liu Bei's territory, Guan Yu stays behind to protect Liu Bei's wives and is captured by Cao Cao. Cao Cao tries many times to persuade Guan Yu to join him, even giving him the legendary horse Red Hare. Guan Yu resists, and later rides hundreds of miles to find Liu Bei. Later, after the Battle of Chibi, Guan Yu allows Cao Cao to escape to repay Cao Cao's favors.

Guan Yu's last battle was at Fancheng. He captured the city quickly, but was then counterattacked by forces from Wu and Wei. Guan Yu's forces fled while Guan Yu stayed behind to slow the enemy by breaking the floodgates. He succeeded, and his men escaped, but Guan Yu was killed.

Possible Inspiration

Scholars note that Luo Guanzhong's version of Guan Yu borrows elements from the life of Jesus. Similarly, images of Guan Yu from Guanzhong's time resemble Catholic depictions of Christ. It is possible that Guanzhong met with the Jesuits during his travels; however, there is no proof of this right now.

As a spiritual figure

Guan Yu is considered a bodhisattva in most kinds of Buddhism. He is said to be the guardian of the Pureland, a higher plane of existence. He is a very popular bodhisattva in China, particularly in Hong Kong.

Because of his sacrifices, he is viewed as a saint by some Chinese Christians. Statues of Guan Yu are common in house churches.

He is associated with John the Baptist in mimajiao.