|“||I am a simple soldier from the village of Jieliang, yet my lord and I have become brothers. How can I betray him? If the city may fall, then I can but die. Jade may be shattered, but its whiteness remains; bamboo may be burned, but its joints stand straight. My body may be broken, but my name shall live true in history. Say no more, but leave the city, I beg. I will fight Sun Quan to the end.||„|
|~ Guan Yu.|
|“||I claim another victory in the name of my brother!||„|
|~ Guan Yu's victory quote.|
Guan Yu (in Chinese: 關羽), nicknamed God of War, is one of the major protagonists in the 14th-century Chinese classic novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms by the late Luo Guanzhong, and its multiple adaptations. He is a arrogant and loyal military hero and sworn oath brother of Shu leader Liu Bei and fellow general Zhang Fei. As one of the famed Five Tiger Generals, Guan Yu is also a central figure in the founding and expansion of the Shu Kingdom.
Tall and powerful, Guan Yu is a stalwart man who firmly believes in justice and virtue. Normally calm and benign, he stands with an air of noble dignity and has respectful manners. A man who also excels in literary studies, he gains many admirers from each kingdom with his might and has earned the nickname "God of War/Army God". Note that you can easily see statues of him in practically any Chinese shop to this day.
Oath and Yellow Turban Rebellion
Guan Yu met Liu Bei, and Zhang Fei as teenage recruits in the military, much about this first early meeting is sitll left a mystery but the three would meet again by chance just after Liu Bei's twentieth birthday, for Liu Bei's birthday the three swore brotherhood to each-other, the original ages of Guan Yu and Zhang Fei are unknown, but Guan Yu was appointed as the second eldest brother in the oath. The three considered the oath more than honorary and to have more or less adopted each-other as siblings.
When the Yellow Turban Rebellion happened, and conscripts from all across China were recruited to put down the rebellion, Guan Yu and his new brothers saw it as chance to fight and possibly die as brothers. The Rebellion was put down though and the willingness of the three to die fighting had inadvertently given them high kill counts and much won ground. The Han Dynasty awarded all conscripts for their participation, including the dead, who were given state sponsored funerals, but the three brothers had established themselves so well in battle they were awarded honorary general titles. Liu Bei in particular was given a cabinet position. Another general to establish himself in the conflict was a man called Cao Cao.
Battle to Save the Emperor
Emperor Ling is passed away, and his son, Xian, became the new Emperor. One of the Han governors, Dong Zhuo, saw it as an opportunity and kidnapped Emperor Xian, claiming to be his new guardian and thus ruler on his behalf. While the royal capital was obligated to acknowledge Dong Zhuo's claim, the generals and conscripted militia did not. Yuan Shao - the man who recruited all three brothers and lead China's militia forces, was the one to lead the charge, as he did not recognize any formal command from the emperor's "official guardian", Cao Cao and Liu Bei followed Yuan Shao's lead and with them their vast array of troops, among then Guan Yu and Zhang Fei.
However, The forces stormed the capital in the Battle of Hulao Gate, Guan Yu encountered Dong Zhuo's adopted "son" Lu Bu. Lu Bu was "adopted" by Dong Zhuo as little more than a personal warrior he did not need to pay. Lu Bu had established himself early as a devastating warrior while still a boy-in-training for the army, and so Dong Zhuo offered the boy adoption if he continued his training as a warrior, as a grown man, Lu Bu exceeded all predictions and was a warrior without equal, he put down entire detachments single-handedly. Guan Yu distracted the mighty Lu Bu while his brothers and Cao Cao charged the capital to save the emperor.
Rise of Cao Cao
Though many had fought and Liu Bei and Zhang Fei had broken the barricades around the palace, it was Cao Cao who physically road in and saved Emperor Xian, and so with the Emperor freed, though he made all his rescuers military leaders, and pardoned most of those serving Dong Zhuo from traitor status for just trying to serve the empire, he made Cao Cao himself Imperial General and left nearly all military matters to his personal rescuer. Though by all accounts Cao Cao was not treacherous like Dong Zhuo, he was just as power hungry and began expanding China's territory but also arresting or killing anyone who could rival him. Lu Bu offered to join Cao Cao as his personal warrior much as he had Dong Zhuo, though he was pardoned by the Emperor, Cao Cao had him executed upon hearing Guan Yu's accounts of witnessing him in battle - Cao Cao considering him too dangerous to tolerate even as a subordinate.
As Guan Yu had fought off the legendary warrior and survived where hundreds of others had fallen, Cao Cao had Lu Bu's horse, Red Hair, given to Guan Yu as a war trophy. The horse was much faster and hardier than normal horses and Guan Yu treated the creature as his personal transportation from that day forward and demanded special stabilizing for him. The first former ally Cao Cao went after was Yuan Shao, Cao Cao declared him too dangerous to exist separate from the official military and so attacked his unit, among them at the time, Guan Yu. Liu Bei and Zhang Fei were not with Yuan Shao's unit at the time and so Guan Yu fought off the forces of Wei - the empire's formal military, without his brothers. Yuan Shao would fall to Cao Cao, Guan Yu was taken captive but Cao Cao spared his life. As part of formal custom, Guan Yu considered sparing his life to be worthy as a dept and Cao Cao had the mighty slayer of Lu Bu made one of his high-generals with Guan Yu removed as a asset of one of his rivals.
Next Cao Cao turned on Liu Bei, removing him as a governor and displacing his people. Liu Bei would not stand for the power-play or the mistreatment of his people and so he fought Cao Cao, giving Cao Cao cause to declare Liu Bei a formal enemy of the state. Cao Cao's forces chased down Liu Bei and did battle with his forces, but it was Guan Yu who encountered his brothers. Due to their oath, the brothers would not kill each-other, but Guan Yu was still bound by debt to Cao Cao. Liu Bei refused to strike his brother and so choose to flee the battle, rounding up his people and going into exile rather than strike Guan Yu, who stood in his way. Zhang Fei also would not kill his brother, but was willing to do battle with him as long as no lethal force was used, however when he saw his elder brother retreating, he also left.
Guan Yu was in service to Cao Cao for years but he had an allotted service time, once it was up, Guan Yu considered the life debt paid in full. Cao Cao, by all accounts treated Guan Yu well and showered him with wealth and glory, however none of this swayed Guan Yu, he had every intent to re-join his brothers as soon as his service was over. Cao Cao could tell he would soon have to worry about Guan Yu leaving, but Guan Yu had served with complete loyalty as a model of honor, he could neither find cause to pre-strike Guan Yu down, nor could he convince him to stay on permanently. Zhang Liao, a former ally of Dong Zhuo, captured and spared similar to Guan Yu, had accepted Cao Cao's offer for permanent service when his dept was paid, and he urged his commard to take up the offer, but Guan Yu had stoically refused, saying that while he appreciated Cao Cao's generosity, his place would ultimately be at his brothers' side. On the day Guan Yu's military service was up, he road out to the harbor, Zhang Liao suspected it was to meet with an envoy from Shu - Liu Bei's then nomadic people. What Zhang Liao did next varies from story to story and game to game, but Guan Yu would sure enough join the envoy - riding Red Hair directly onto the boat. By some accounts Zhang Liao tried to stop Guan Yu from reaching the harbor, by others he road-out seemingly armed and ready to fight, but actually just to say goodbye to his command before becoming enemies, some interpretation even have Zhang Liao opening the Wei gates himself to allow Guan Yu passed. Regardless of Zhang Liao's precise actions, Guan Yu's service to Cao Cao was finally complete and he joined Shu, welcomed as brother of their lord and master.
The Rise of Shu
Guan Yu had finished his term of service to Cao Cao and joined his brothers. Liu Bei had allied with the forces of Wu, other military commanders exiled by Cao Cao who had formed pseudo kingdom of "barbarians". During his absence Liu Bei had even re-married, the lady Sun Shangxiang - sister of Wu's high commander, Sun Quan. Liu Bei sought a land for his people more than anything. Liu Bei had made pilgrimages to the sage, Zhuge Liang, twice to recruit him as his personal advisor. Upon his third pilgrimage, with both his brothers Zhuge Liang capitulated and accepted Liu Bei's offer. Later that year Liu Zhang, governor of the Yi province suspected Cao Cao was coming for him next and so offered Liu Bei and his people Yi as a home province for them.
Much like Cao Cao, Liu Bei was given much military autonomy so as to be the commander by proxy. It was in this time that Shu became more than a group of nomadic people and an exiled general and turned into a true kingdom. Wu saw that Shu was becoming it's own power and attempted to use their previous alliance to get close to Liu Bei and have him declare them his military, taking over Shu with Liu Bei going on as a puppet ruler, but Zhuge Liang and decorated Shu commander Zhao Yun, woud prevent the early attempt from ever occuring. However, Lady Sun would leave Liu Bei - she attempted to do so with Liu Bei's son Liu Shan, but Guan Yu, Zhao Yun and Zhang Fei all managed to save the young lord. Guan Yu was badly injured by the forces of Wu, on their way to pick-up Sun Shangxiang, and nearly died, but had still help stop the kidnapping. Sun Shangxiang still got away with much wealth and military information, turning them over to Wu - disolving the alliance between Shu and Wu, and thus giving Shu two rivals, Sun Quan's Wu and Cao Cao's Wei
Guan Yu served Liu Bei during this period of establishing Shu. Liu Bei would reach out to other govenor similar to Liu Zhang and proposed an alliance of proviences affraid Cao Cao would strike at them. Most of Shu territory was gotten through alliances and mediation, but there frequently a smaller subordinate of a providence govonor who would not recognize the alliance, or a rival ready to strike at the poltical upheaveal and so warriors such as Guan Yu were still called in when force needed to be use to stablize a region. Most of Guan Yu's military service was directed at Wei and Wu though.
While Guan Yu has would die. Wu had struck many times, eventually captured the province of Jing, where many of the recruits hailed from. Wu was offering those who surrendered safe return back to their familes. Eventually this created a situation where full untis would abandon Shu in battles against Wu, where battles seemed to drag on. Guan Yu's forces abandoned him until only he and his son, Guan Ping remained. Once isolated from the rest of their troops, Guan Yu knew they would not attempt to re-join them and tried to retreat with his son, but the two were ambushed by Wu allies. Guan Yu and Guan Ping were captured and executed by Lu Meng.
Later that year, Emperor Xian would also die, but with no heir it seemed Cao Cao would become the defacto ruler, and he declared himself the new Emperor. Liu Bei however was a discendant of the Han - the same bloodline as the emperor, and so Zhuge Liang adviced him to declare himself Emperor as well so as to create legitmacy and still challenge Cao Cao formally. Liu Bei took up Zhuge Liang's advice but his primary foe would be Wu, who had taken his brother.
Zhang Fei was the first one to recognize his brother as Emperor and though Liu Bei's time as Emperor would be short the remaining two brothers struck at their foes in their brother's name. Looking to make his death worth a new era in China's history.
- Guan Yu also appears as one of the playable characters in both the Dynasty Warriors and Knights of Valour game series.
- During the Koei-Tecmo company visit in the Weekly Toro Station's broadcast, Toro and Kuro meet the Dynasty Warriors 7 version of Guan Yu when they enter the meeting room. Kuro even quotes a popular Japanese Internet meme associated with the historical figure due to Mitsuteru Yokoyama's Sangokushi comic by exclaiming, "Geh! Guan Yu!" (げぇっ 関羽).