Guan Yu bigraphy, stories - General under Liu Bei

Guan Yu : biography

Unknown - 219

Guan Yu (died 219), style name Yunchang, was a general serving under the warlord Liu Bei in the late Eastern Han Dynasty of China. He played a significant role in the civil war that led to the collapse of the Han Dynasty and the establishment of the state of Shu Han in the Three Kingdoms period, of which Liu Bei was the first emperor.

As one of the best known Chinese historical figures throughout East Asia, Guan's true life stories have largely given way to fictionalised ones, most of which are found in the historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms or passed down the generations, in which his deeds and moral qualities have been lionised. Guan is respected as an epitome of loyalty and righteousness.

Guan was deified as early as the Sui Dynasty and is still worshipped by many Chinese people today, especially in southern China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and among many overseas Chinese communities. He is a figure in Chinese folk religion, popular Confucianism, Taoism, and Chinese Buddhism, and small shrines to Guan are almost ubiquitous in traditional Chinese shops and restaurants. He is often reverently called Guan Gong (Lord Guan) and Guan Di (Emperor Guan). His hometown Yuncheng has also named its airport after him.

Guarding Jing Province

Between 212 and 215, Liu Bei started a campaign to seize control of Yi Province (益州; covering present-day Sichuan and Chongqing) from the provincial governor Liu Zhang. Most of Liu Bei's subordinates participated in the campaign, while Guan Yu was ordered to remain behind to guard Liu's territories in Jing Province and oversee its affairs.(先主西定益州,拜羽董督荊州事。) Sanguozhi vol. 36.

Sun-Liu territorial dispute

During that period of time, tensions were rising at the border between Liu Bei and Sun Quan's domains in Jing Province as the two allies became more suspicious of each other. After Liu Bei had taken over Yi Province, Sun Quan asked him for three commanderies in southern Jing Province but Liu refused. Sun Quan then sent his general Lü Meng to seize the three commanderies by force. In response, Liu Bei ordered Guan Yu to lead troops to stop Lü Meng,(及羽與肅鄰界,數生狐疑,疆埸紛錯,肅常以歡好撫之。備旣定益州,權求長沙、零、桂,備不承旨,權遣呂蒙率衆進取。備聞,自還公安,遣羽爭三郡。) Sanguozhi vol. 54. but Guan was deterred by Gan Ning from crossing the shallows near Yiyang (益陽) to confront Sun Quan's forces. The shallows were thus named 'Guan Yu's Shallows' (關羽瀨).(羽號有三萬人,自擇選銳士五千人,投縣上流十餘里淺瀨,云欲夜涉渡。肅與諸將議。 ... 肅便選千兵益寧,寧乃夜往。羽聞之,住不渡,而結柴營,今遂名此處為關羽瀨。) Sanguozhi vol. 55. Lu Su (the chief commander of Sun Quan's forces in Jing Province) later held talks with Guan Yu to discuss and settle the problem. Liu Bei eventually agreed to divide Jing Province between his and Sun Quan's domains along the Xiang River. Both sides then withdrew their forces.(備遂割湘水為界,於是罷軍。) Sanguozhi vol. 54.

Modern references

Chinese opera

Guan Yu appears in Chinese operas such as Huarong Trail, Red Cliffs, and other excerpts from Romance of the Three Kingdoms. His costume is a green military opera uniform with armour covering his right arm and the knees of his pants. The actor's face is painted red with a few black lines, to represent honour and courage. He also wears a long three-section black beard made of yak hair and carries the Green Dragon Crescent Blade. Traditionally, after the show ends, the actor has to wash his face, burn joss paper, light incense, and pray to Chinese deities.

Film and television

Notable actors who have portrayed Guan Yu in film and television include: Lu Shuming, in Romance of the Three Kingdoms (1994); Wang Yingquan, in The Legend of Guan Gong (2004); Ti Lung, in Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon (2008); Ba Sen, in Red Cliff (2008-2009); Yu Rongguang, in Three Kingdoms (2010); Donnie Yen, in The Lost Bladesman (2011).

Films which make references to Guan Yu include: Stephen Chow's comedy film From Beijing with Love (1994), which, in one scene, refers to the story of Hua Tuo performing surgery on Guan Yu's arm; Zhang Yimou's Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles (2005), in which the fictional story of Guan Yu slaying six generals and crossing five passes forms a major part of the narrative; the horror comedy film My Name Is Bruce (2007), where Guan Yu's vengeful spirit is accidentally set free by a group of teenagers and he begins to terrorise their town.

Living octopus

Living octopus

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