Comprehensive Officer Biography
Translated & Authored by
Place of Birth: Xie County, Hedong (Presently Yuncheng in Shan Xi Province)
Lifespan: AD 162 – 219 (57 Years)
Titles: General Who Eliminates Bandits, Lord of Hanshou Precinct, Courageous and Harmonious Lord
Guan Yu was forced to leave his home county after killing a local ruffian. He went to Zhou County and met Liu Bei who was looking for volunteers. Liu Bei, Zhang Fei and Guan Yu swore an oath of brotherhood in a peach garden.
When Liu Bei served under Gongsun Zan, Guan Yu volunteered to fight against the mighty warrior Hua Xiong, who was serving Dong Zhuo. Yunchang killed him before his heated wine could cool off, and earned the reputation of fearsome warrior (1).
During Liu Bei’s occupation of Xu Zhou, Guan Yu was appointed Governor of Xia Ye. In the fifth year of Rebuilt Tranquility (AD 200), Cao Cao invaded Xu Zhou and separated the forces of the three brothers. In order to safeguard Liu Bei’s family, Guan Yunchang surrendered to Cao Cao and served him.
He was treated handsomely by Cao Cao and was given the title of Auxiliary General. In the battles against Yuan Shao, Yunchang killed both Yan Liang and Wen Chou, two esteemed generals of the north. Cao Cao’s soldiers were in awe of his might but Guan Yu warned them that his brother Zhang Fei was twice as strong, thus Cao Cao ordered his men to write down Zhang Fei’s name on their sleeves in case they would ever face him (2). After Cao Cao reported Guan Yu’s achievements to the court, he was titled Lord of Hanshou Precinct.
Yunchang paid back his debt and after hearing of Liu Bei’s whereabouts, Guan Yu returned the seals and gifts from Cao Cao and journeyed three hundred miles to find him.
At the battle of Chi Bi, Liu Bei captured Nan Jun and appointed Yunchang as Governor of Xiang Yang. While Liu Bei was attacking Yi Zhou, Guan Yu was in charge of defending Jing Zhou. When Liu Bei assumed position as Protector of Yi Zhou, Yunchang was promoted to General Who Eliminates Bandits and re-appointed as Lord of Hanshou Precinct.
In the twenty-fourth year of Rebuilt Tranquility (AD 219), when Liu Bei proclaimed himself King of Hanzhong, Guan Yu was honored as a Tiger General and appointed General of the Forward Army to attack Fan Cheng. He was able to drown the city and capture Yu Jin and Pang De, two of Cao Cao’s best generals.
In the same year, relations with Wu soured as Guan Yu rejected a marriage proposal from Sun Quan between Guan’s daughter and Quan’s son. When Guan Yu heard that Wu’s Lu Xun was appointed to fight him, Yunchang dismissed his worries as he did not fear the significantly younger officer. Guan Yu paid the heavy price of underestimating his opponent and lost all his troops in a night raid by Wu (3).
Guan Yu and his son Guan Ping were then captured and beheaded by Lü Meng. Liu Bei posthumously titled Yunchang Courageous and Harmonious Lord.
(1) In SGZ, it was Sun Jian who killed Hua Xiong in battle, but Luo Guanzhong attributed it to Guan Yu for unknown reasons. <return>
(2) SGYY Chapter 25: “What have I done to talk about?” said Guan Yu. “My brother, Zhang Fei, did the same thing in an army of a hundred legions, and did it as easily as picking something from his own pocket.” <return>
(3) The original text mentions nothing of Lu Xun and Lü Meng and only Sun Quan. These comments are based on SGYY Chapters 75 – 77. <return>
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Major Sources: Zhongguo Lishizhu Professor T.Chen (1965 Peking)