Biography (SGYY): Guan Ping

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Guan Ping
(AD 182—220)

Sanguo yanyi Officer Biography
Author Notes in Blue
Authored by Sam Wrest

Guan Ping

Guan Ping was the son of Guan Ding, a farmer who resided just north of the Yellow River. Ping, who was the younger of two brothers, was not content with the life of a farmer, and instead took a keen interest in the martial arts and the strategies of warfare.

When Guan Yu visited Guan Ding’s farm in AD 200, Guan Ping, his father, and his brother Ning came out to meet the famed general and offer him their farm for the night. When Guan Yu’s sworn brother, Liu Bei, arrived at the farm the next day to rendezvous with Yu, Guan Ping and the rest of his family went out to pay their respects and Guan Yu introduced Guan Ding to Bei. “This man is named Guan too,” he said, “and these are his sons, Guan Ning, a student of letters, and Guan Ping, the junior, a student of martial arts.”

Guan Ding said, “I wish my second son could enter General Guan’s service. I wonder if it would be possible.”

“How old is he?” Liu Bei asked.

“Eighteen,” Ding answered.

“Since you have been so generous,” Bei said, “and since my brother has no son, your son may become his. What do you say?”

Guan Ping’s father was delighted and had Ping honour Guan Yu as father and address Liu Bei as uncle. Liu Bei and his few followers set out from the farm shortly after, Guan Ping following Guan Yu all the way, and Guan Ding escorted them a good stretch before returning to his farm.

Liu Bei went on to Gucheng and, along with Guan Ping and several other commanders, built up a force of several thousand, including infantry and cavalry. The army later went on to join forces with Liu Pi and Gong Du in Runan, and it was here that Liu Bei began formulating a plan to attack Cao Cao’s capital, Xuchang. When Bei learned that Cao Cao was on a campaign against Yuan Shao in the north, he left Liu Pi to guard Runan and began his march onto the capital. Guan Ping was chosen to join the expedition.

Before Liu Bei reached Xuchang, Cao Cao caught word of his advance and rushed back to the city to join in its defence. Initially, Liu Bei defeated Cao’s fatigued troops, but after Cao Cao sent general Xiahou Dun to capture Runan from Liu Pi, Bei was forced to break camp and flee. Liu Bei suffered many casualties in his flight, including the death of Liu Pi, and he eventually ran to a valley blocked by Cao’s general Zhang He. Learning of Liu Bei’s peril, Guan Ping, along with Guan Yu and general Zhou Cang, led three hundred men to rescue Bei and cut a bloody path into Zhang He’s ranks, forcing the general to retreat. Now united again, Liu Bei and his army continued on to the river Han, where Bei established that he would seek refuge with Liu Biao of Jingzhou. Shortly after, Liu Bei arrived at Jingzhou with Guan Ping and the remainder of his army. The year was AD 201.

In the years that Liu Bei and his army stayed with Liu Biao, Bei had been stationed at Xinye and had acquired the services of a scholar named Zhuge Liang. In AD 207, Cao Cao led an army of one hundred thousand to attack Xinye. Zhuge Liang, now serving as Liu Bei’s military executive, ordered Guan Ping and Liu Feng to take five hundred men with combustible materials and wait on either side of the area beside Bowang slope. The two young commanders set off to carry out their orders immediately.

As Cao Cao’s vanguard general Xiahou Dun approached Bowang slope in pursuit of general Zhao Yun, Guan Ping and Liu Feng waited until Dun had advanced enough past their own position. As he did, Guan Ping ordered his men to set fire to the surrounding undergrowth, trapping Xiahou Dun and his men in a spreading inferno. Many of Xiahou Dun’s men were killed in the ambush, but Dun himself was able to escape. Guan Ping later united with the rest of Liu Bei’s forces, and together the victorious army returned to Xinye to receive thanks and praise from its inhabitants.

When Liu Bei learnt that Cao Cao himself was preparing to march his army onto Xinye, Bei led his forces, as well as a large mass of civilians, in flight to Xia Kou. Guan Ping accompanied the massive train in the struggle and successfully made it to the city. Some time later, the battle of Chi Bi took place and ended in victory for the combined forces of the Southland and Liu Bei. Following the victory, Liu Bei was able to gain control over the province of Jingzhou and stationed his army there. It was during this time that Sun Yu, a commander of the Southland and Sun Quan’s younger brother, advanced on Jing with an army. However, Guan Ping, along with Liu Feng, was able to stop Sun Yu’s forces at Baqiu and repelled the army.

In AD 211, Liu Bei set out on his campaign against the Riverlands and Guan Ping was chosen to join him in the expedition. At first, Liu Bei met Liu Zhang, ruler of the Riverlands, with promises of friendship and servitude, for he didn’t want to attack a fellow kinsmen directly. Following which, Liu Zhang assigned Bei and his forces to guard Jiameng Pass. It was during Liu Bei’s posting at Jiameng that he requested men and supplies from Liu Zhang, but when Zhang sent meagre amounts of both, Liu Bei was outraged and decided to initiate his attack on Chengdu.

As a faint, Liu Bei began marching back to Jingzhou under the pretext that the province was in need of extra defence. As a result of which, Riverlands commanders Gao Pei and Yang Huai, with two hundred men, came to Jiameng Pass to see Liu Bei off. As the two entered Bei’s command tent, Guan Ping arrested them and found concealed knives on their persons. Following the discovery, Liu Bei had the two executed and had their two hundred soldiers brought before him. After informing them that they needn’t fear for their lives, he ordered them to march onto Fu Pass and have the gates opened. The soldiers consented, and, because the gates of the pass were opened with no need for battle, Liu Bei’s army took Fu without suffering any casualties.

Some time later, Liu Bei set out to take the forts at Luoxian, and Guan Ping was selected to join him. Upon arriving at Luoxian, Ping successfully managed to capture its eastern encampments along with Liu Bei and Liu Feng. In addition, Liu Bei’s commanders Huang Zhong and Wei Yan were able to capture the western encampments as well as slaying Riverlands commander Deng Xian and capturing Ling Bao.

Some time after the victory at Luoxian, Liu Bei’s Director General Pang Tong was ambushed and killed at Fallen Phoenix Slope by enemy commander Zhang Ren. Following his death, Liu Bei’s entire army was assailed from several different fronts and Bei himself was forced to retreat to Fu Pass with Zhang Ren in close pursuit. As Liu Bei’s struggle was beginning to look futile, Guan Ping and Liu Feng charged Zhang Ren with fresh troops and, through heavy and desperate fighting, were able to defeat his forces and drive him off. The two young commanders pursued Ren for over 20 li and recovered many war-horses, as well as securing the road from Luoxian to Fu.

Following the past battles, Liu Bei summoned Guan Ping to his quarters and handed him a letter, instructing him, “Go to Jingzhou for me; request the director general to come.”

Ping set off for Jing immediately and, upon arriving, handed the letter to Zhuge Liang and his father, Guan Yu. It read, “On the seventh day of the seventh month Director General Pang was slain on Fallen Phoenix Slope by Zhang Ren’s archers.”

After reading the letter, Liang wept freely and said, “I shall have to go. Lord Liu is in trouble at Fu Pass.”

“If you leave, Director General,” Guan Yu asked, “who will guard this base so vital to our fortunes?”

“Although this letter does not say so specifically,” Liang replied, “I think I know our lord’s mind. Our lord has had placed the responsibility for Jingzhou upon me, with instructions to appoint whomsoever I deem fit. Nonetheless, today Guan Ping is here with a letter whose intent is that Lord Guan assume this heavy task. Yunchang (1), be ever mindful of the honour-binding oath in the peach garden and do your utmost to defend this province. So weighty a task will demand the utmost diligence.”

1: Yunchang was Guan Yu’s style name.

Thus, Zhuge Liang left Jingzhou for the Riverlands and left Guan Ping and his foster father, Guan Yu, in charge of the defence at Jing.

In AD 214 , Liu Bei’s army conquered the Riverlands and Bei assumed protectorship of the region. Because of his achievements in the campaign, Guan Ping was richly rewarded and promoted to a place of rank.

Not long after Liu Bei’s seizing of the Riverlands, Sun Quan, ruler of the Southland, sent Zhuge Jin to ask for the three districts of Jingzhou to be given to the south. Guan Yu refused the offer and, some time after Jin’s departure, another southern envoy was sent to Jing with a letter. Upon the envoy’s arrival, Guan Ping questioned him and then took him to speak with his father. The letter was from Lu Su and invited Guan Yu for a feast with the southerners. After reading the text, Yu said, “Since Lu Su invites me to dinner, I will come tomorrow. You may return.”

Once the envoy had left, Guan Ping said, “Father, Lu Su means us no good. Why did you accept?”

“Do you think I don’t know?” Guan Yu replied. “Zhuge Jin has informed Sun Quan that I won’t give back the three districts. Sun Quan has therefore sent Lu Su to fortify Lukou and call me to a meeting to press his demand. If I don’t go, they’ll call me a coward. Tomorrow I shall take a light craft down there, a dozen attendants, and my own trusty blade. Let Lu Su try to touch me!”

But Guan Ping didn’t agree with his father and persisted: “Father, for a man as valuable as you to walk into that den of wolves and tigers will compromise your duty to Uncle Xuande (2).”

2: Xuande was Liu Bei’s style name.

Guan Yu replied, “When I faced a thousand spear points, ten thousand blades and arrows, and missiles flying from all sides, I charged in all directions as if travelling through uncontested ground. Do you think I fear a pack of rats from the south?”

Ma Liang, Yu’s advisor, voiced his agreement with Guan Ping: “Although Lu Su has always behaved in an upright, self-respecting manner, he is unlikely to be altogether aboveboard in so vital a matter. Do not go, General.”

But Guan Yu persisted, “Long ago in the time of the Warring States, Lin Xiangru of Zhao was too weak to tie up a chicken, but at the Mianchi meeting he helped the king and ministers of mighty Qin in contempt. Need I, master of ‘one against-many’ battle tactics, feel fear? I cannot go back on my word.”

“If so, General, you must make precautions,” Ma Liang said.

“Then let my son, Ping, follow me with ten swift craft holding five hundred skilled marine fighters and wait on the river. Watch for my raised flag, then sail across,” said Guan Yu.

Guan Ping agreed and left to carry out his orders.

After waiting some time on the river, Guan Ping spotted a red flag being raised by commander Zhou Cang. Ping immediately began racing for the shore and, once there, saw Guan Yu approaching with Lu Su embraced in his left arm; his sword in his right. As Yu neared his son’s boat, he released his hold of Su and boarded, waving farewell to the various southern generals left on the shore. The two then set off back to Jingzhou. (3)

3: Guan Yu had taken Lu Su as a hostage to ensure his own safety. His taken of Lu Su was whilst he pretended to be intoxicated by alcohol, so as to show that there was no deliberate malice in his actions. Without his having done so, he may very well have been killed by the various southern generals gathered at the dinner, who included the likes of Lü Meng and Gan Ning.

Following Liu Bei’s capture of Hanzhong in AD 219, Guan Yu was ordered to attack Fan Castle. Originally, Yu made commanders Mi Fang and Fu Shiren vanguard for the expedition, but when the two got drunk and neglected their duties, they were stripped of rank and beaten. In their stead, Guan Ping and Liao Hua were placed in the van. The army set off towards Xiangyang shortly after.

As the army neared Fan, Cao Ren and his own army rode forth to meet them. Guan Ping was summoned by his father and given instructions for the ensuing battle. Once the opposed armies had consolidated their lines, Liao Hua rode forth and issued a challenge. The enemy commander Zhai Yuan rode out in response, but after a brief clash, Hua feigned defeat and fled with the rest of the Jingzhou army some 20 li. The following day, Liao Hua issued another challenge for battle, which was promptly answered by Zhai Yuan and Xiahou Cun. Again the Jing troops fell back 20 li, but as the northern army pursued them, Guan Ping struck hard from behind and successfully routed the army. What ensued was a frenzied struggle for Cao Ren’s army to flee back to Fan—Zhai Yuan attempted to escape the chaos, but Guan Ping overtook the commander and felled him with one stroke of his sword. More than half of Cao Ren’s troops died in the River Xiang, but Ren himself was able to withdraw to a defensive position in Fan.

Shortly after the victory, Guan Ping was summoned by his father and ordered to prepare boats to cross the river and attack Fan. As the Jing army approached the mouth of the river, a force of two thousand led by enemy commander Lü Chang was ready to meet them, but upon seeing the sight of Guan Yu and his army, the force panicked and fled—more than half of them were killed in their flight and the Jing army were able to occupy the bank.

Not long after the Jing army’s successive victories, a surveillance report was received in the command tent: “Cao Cao has sent Yu Jin in command of seven detachments of picked troops. Pang De, the vanguard, has brought a coffin with him and defiantly vows to fight you to the finish, General. They’re some thirty li from here.”

At the report, Guan Yu’s face darkened and he retorted, “Heroes of the realm cower at the sound of my name. How dare this punk scorn me! Guan Ping, you attack Fan. I myself will dispatch this skunk to vent my outrage.”

Guan Ping replied, “Father, does mighty Mount Tai challenge a common stone? Let me engage Pang De.”

“Try one turn,” his father replied, “I will follow and relieve you.”

Guan Ping left the tent, armed himself with his sword, and rode off with his contingent of men to meet Pang De.

As Guan Ping reached Pang De’s position, the opposed lines began to form. Above the northern camp flew a black banner inscribed “Pang De of Nan’an.” Ping approached the enemy line and denounced Pang De: “Traitor! Villain!”

De called back to him: “I hold the mandate of the King of Wei to take your father’s head. Scrubby urchin, you’re not worth the killing. Call out your father.”

Guan Ping’s only reply was to charge forward, swinging his blade, but after thirty bouts with Pang De, neither could prevail and the fighters broke and rested. At the news of the combat, Ping’s father went himself to the battlefield where Guan Ping and Pang De had previously fought. Ping told his father of the battle he had had with De and Yu, upon hearing of it, took to the field to try his lot with the northern commander. But, like his son, neither was able to prevail.

After the fight, Guan Ping met his father in the tent, who said, “Pang De is a past master of swordsmanship. Truly my equal.”

Guan Ping replied, “You know the saying, ‘The newborn calf has no fear of tigers.’ Even if you kill him, father, he’s no more than a run-of-the-mill Qiang warrior. And what if something goes wrong? What a way to show respect for our weighty charge from Uncle Xuande!”

“There is no other way to settle the score,” his father replied. “My mind is made up. The matter is closed.”

The following day, Guan Yu met Pang De on the battlefield once again, and the two commanders began their combat without any exchange of words. After fifty clashes, De turned his horse around and fled, his sword trailing behind him. Guan Yu followed immediately and Guan Ping, seeing the potential danger in his father doing so, urged his own mount forward and followed the two warriors. “Scoundrel!” Guan Yu cried. “You think that old trick will scare me!”

But Guan Ping saw the real intent in Pang De’s fleeing—he had in fact hooked his sword onto his saddle and drawn his bow, preparing to shoot. Before he could do so, Ping shouted: “Villain! No sneak shot!”

But his father was too late in realising the danger; the bow hummed and the shaft struck him in his left arm. Guan Ping raced to his father’s side and escorted him out of danger and back to their camp. Before Pang De could take advantage of the situation, the gongs in his own camp sounded and he had no choice but to withdraw. (4) For the next ten days, Guan Ping had the points of access closed and ordered all commanders to report nothing to his father so as to stop him from getting aggravated by the northern army’s taunts.

4: Yu Jin had seen Pang De’s arrow hit Guan Yu and rang the gongs of retreat to prevent De from achieving merit that would eclipse his own reputation. Had he not have done so, it is quite possible that Yu would have fallen to Pang De’s blade.

Some time later, Guan Yu’s wound closed, to the great satisfaction of Guan Ping. Soon after, however, he learned that Yu Jin had shifted his seven armies to the north of Fan. Unable to discern what the enemy was planning, Ping went to inform his father. After Guan Yu had overlooked the enemy’s movements, he asked a local guide, “What do they call that ravine north of Fan?”

“Open Net Stream,” was the reply.

“Then Yu Jin is mine!” Guan Yu said.

“How do you know that?” his officers asked.

“Once a fish enters the mouth of the net,” Yu answered, “how long can it live?”

The various commanders response was one of skepticism.

Following this exchange of words, and his father’s decision to prepare rafts and poles for punting, Guan Ping asked his father, “We will confront them on land; why do we need these things?”

“You wouldn’t understand,” his father replied. “Yu Jin has not positioned his forces on broad and open ground but has consolidated them by the narrow point called Open Net Stream. Now the seasonal rains have been coming down for days; the Xiang is bound to overflow. I have already had several points damned. When the flood crests, we’ll take to our boats. Then we’ll release the waters and turn the troops around Fan and Open Net into fishes and turtles.”

Guan Ping expressed admiration for his father’s strategy.

The following night, the flood Guan Ping’s father had planned struck Yu Jin’s seven armies full on, causing most to drown. A great many of the army surrendered to Guan Yu, including Yu Jin himself, but Pang De and a score of his followers refused to give up the fight. His forces made their last stand on a small embankment, which the Jing army assailed on all sides. Eventually, all were either killed or surrendered—Pang De himself was captured by Zhou Cang. De, however, refused to surrender and so was executed—being touched by his loyalty and spirit, Guan Ping’s father had him buried properly. Then, while the flood waters were still high, the Jing army took to their boats and began the siege of Fan Castle.

As the Jing army approached the castle’s walls, Guan Yu called up to the city’s defenders to surrender, but he was answered with a volley of arrows—one arrow struck Yu in his right arm and dropped him from his horse. The northern army, seeing Yu fall, rushed out of the city in an attempt to claim victory. Seeing the scene unfold before him, Guan Ping urged his mount forward and drove the northerners back to the castle in retreat. He then found his father and brought him safely back to camp, where the arrow was removed. The arrow-head, however, had been poisoned, causing the arm to turn greenish and swell to the point that movement for Guan Yu was impossible. Guan Ping gathered the commanders and said, “If my father loses his arm, he will never fight again. It will be best to go back to Jiangling and take care of it.”

The commanders agreed and Ping went to go see his father. “What have you come for?” Guan Yu asked.

“We are afraid the shock of battle could be bad for you,” his son replied. “Our consensus is for all to return to Jiangling with you in treatment.”

But Guan Yu responded harshly, “Fan is within our grasp, and once we have it, we can reach Cao’s capital Xuchang by forced march. Then we can flush out the traitor, destroy him, and secure the house of Han. I cannot ruin this enterprise for the sake of a minor wound. Don’t sap the morale of the troops.”

Guan Ping could do nothing but retire in silence.

Some time after Guan Ping’s conversation with his father, a low-ranking officer brought before him a doctor that had unexpectedly arrived from the Southland. Studying the man, Ping saw that he had a square cap and loose-fitting clothes; a black satchel hung from his arm. “I am Hua Tuo from the Qiao district in the fief Pei,” the man said. “Hearing that General Guan, the world-renowned hero, has been wounded by a poisoned arrow, I have come especially to cure him.”

Recognising the name, Guan Ping said, “I believe you are the man who once treated Zhou Tai of the Southland.”

“That is true,” Tuo replied.

Delighted, Guan Ping immediately took Huo Tuo to see his father. Guan Yu agreed to let Tuo operate on his arm, and was healed that very same night. However, Huo Tuo advised Guan Yu to not put any form of physical strain on his right arm for the following one hundred days.

Following his father’s recovery, Guan Ping was stationed at Yan in the case of further attack from the north. True enough, after some time in the city, it was reported to Ping that commander Xu Huang had been sent by Cao Cao to attack Yan. Guan Ping quickly mustered his army and rode out of the city to meet the northerners. As the two forces took formation, enemy commander Xu Shang rode out, but Ping bested him in a clash lasting only three bouts and Shang fled. Lu Jian next took the field to challenge Guan Ping, but too was bested in five or six clashes. Ping pursued the fleeing army some 20 li, killing many in his charge, but a report soon came in that a fire had started in Yan. Realising he had rode into a trap, Ping quickly turned his force around and rode back to save the city. A force of well-deployed troops awaited him; at their head was Xu Huang. Raising his voice, Huang called out, “Guan Ping, worthy nephew. Have you no fear of death? The southerners hold your Jingzhou now, yet you refuse to behave yourself here!”

Unbelieving to Xu Huang’s words, Guan Ping charged the general in a burst of anger, but after they had clashed a few times, his men began shouting behind him: the city of Yan was burning down. Unable to continue the fight, Ping cut a bloody swath through Xu Huang’s men and made for Sizhong, the second camp. Liao Hua received him, saying, “I hear that Lü Meng has taken Jingzhou. Our troops are close to panic. What are we going to do?”

“It’s a lie!” Ping retorted. “Execute anyone repeating it!”

At that moment, a messenger brought word that Xu Huang had attacked the first position north of Yan. Guan Ping said to his comrade, “If that position is lost, our camps will not be secure. Here, however, we are right on the River Mian. The bastards won’t dare approach. Let’s go and relieve it.”

Liao Hua agreed and, with their combined forces, the two commanders set off to go relieve the first camp.

As Guan Ping and Liao Hua entered the first camp, the two comrades could see northern troop stationed on a low hill not far from their position. “Xu Huang did not exploit the geography of this place,” Ping said. “We can raid that camp tonight.”

“General,” Liao Hua said, “you take half the troops and make the raid. I will hold the fort with the rest.”

Guan Ping agreed and, with a detachment of soldiers, attacked the northern encampments that night. When he attacked, however, he found that the camp was entirely empty. Realising he had entered a trap, Guan Ping ordered a swift withdrawal, but he was soon set upon by Xu Shang and Lu Jian from both sides. Unable to hold up against the attack, Ping had his men withdraw to the first camp, but the northerners were soon able to surround it. Together with Liao Hua again, Guan Ping made for Sizhong, but it too had fallen to the northerners. With no other option, Guan Ping fled down the main road to Fan.

As Guan Ping fled down the main road, he was blocked again by Xu Huang, but through heavy fighting was able to break through and make for the Fan encampment. Once there, he sought out his father and told him, “Xu Huang has taken Yan and the other bases. Cao Cao is bringing a major force in a three-pronged advance to the relief of Fan. And other reports say that Lü Meng has taken Jingzhou.”

“Lies!” Guan Yu shouted. “Lies spread by the enemy to weaken our morale. Lü Meng is seriously ill; some young fellow, Lu Xun, took his place. Nothing to worry about.”

But just as Guan Yu finished speaking, reports came in that Xu Huang’s army had arrived outside. Upon hearing the report, Yu called for his horse. “You cannot engage the enemy, father,” Guan Ping urged, “while your strength is still impaired.”

“I’ve known Xu Huang many years,” his father replied, “and am fully aware of what he can and cannot do. If he doesn’t pull back, I will take the initiative and kill him; that’ll give the generals of the north a good scare!”

Despite Guan Ping’s objections, Guan Yu still rode out to meet the northern army. “Xu Huang, where are you!” he called.

Xu Huang emerged and bowed deeply. After an exchange of words between the old friends, the two generals closed and clashed more than eighty bouts. Guan Ping could see that his father was beginning to weaken from his wound, and so hastily had the recall gongs sounded, but even as he did, the Jing army was attacked from another front by Cao Ren. Assailed from two sides, Guan Ping and his father were forced to retreat to Xiangyang. On the way, however, a courier approached and informed them that Jiangling had fallen. Because Xiangyang was no longer safe, the army began retreating to Gong’an. But scouts brought a new report: “Fu Shiren has surrendered Gong’an to the south.”

Guan Ping and his father were furious at this, but then yet another report arrived from their quartermaster. “Fu Shiren has gone to Nanjun and induced Mi Fang to surrender.”

At this new report, Guan Yu decided to send Ma Liang and Yi Ji to Chengdu with a letter seeking aid. He then set out with the rest of the army to Jiangling; Guan Ping took the rear along with Liao Hua.

On the march to Jiangling, Guan Ping was separated from his father’s force and beset several times by southern troops. Because the struggle had begun to look futile, many of his own troops had begun to abandon him, but still Guan Ping marched on. As the day approached the third watch, Ping spotted his father fighting several southern contingents with but three hundred men. Ping let out a great cry and charged the southern line, managing to break through the encirclement to save his father. “The troops are out of control,” he said. “We have to get to a fortified place and hold it until help comes. The town of Mai, though small, should serve.” His father agreed to the plan and the small army made for Mai.

Upon entering the town, all four of its gates were closed tight and counsel was held between the remaining commanders. Zhao Lei said, “We are close to Shangyong. Liu Feng and Meng Da are defending it. Send to them for help. Even a small contingent, just to relieve us until a larger force comes from the Riverlands, will restore morale.”

As Zhao Lei finished speaking, it was reported that southern troops had surrounded Mai. “Who will break out and go to Shangyong for help?” Guan Yu asked.

Liao Hua volunteered, and Guan Ping agreed to escort his comrade through the enemy lines. A letter was prepared for Liao Hua. The two friends then supped well, mounted, and rode out of the gate. They were assailed by the southern commander Ding Feng, but Guan Ping attacked him valiantly and drove him off. With that, Liao Hua was able to break through the siege; Guan Ping then re-entered the city and resolutely refused to reappear.

After some time, no sign of relief from Shangyong was forthcoming (5), and a shortage of rations for the army, which now numbered a mere five or six hundred, was causing suffering. It was at this time that Zhuge Jin asked for an audience with Guan Yu, which was permitted. After the formalities, Jin attempted to incite surrender from Yu and his army, but they stood resolute in their defiance. “Lord Sun wanted to form an alliance with you, based on marriage, so that we could unite against Cao Cao and uphold the house of Han,” Zhuge Jin said. “We harbour no other ambition. Why must you cling to these misconceptions, my lord?”

5: Liu Feng had initially wanted to ride to the defence of Mai but his adviser, Meng Da, persuaded him to remain in Shangyong. For his unwillingness to send troops to the aid of Guan Yu, Liu Feng was later executed by his father, Liu Bei’s, own order, but Meng Da escaped punishment by fleeing to Wei.

Hearing this, Guan Ping drew his sword and began making for Jin. His father stopped him. “His younger brother Kongming (6) is in the Riverlands serving as your uncle’s right-hand-man. If you kill him, you will offend his brother.”

6: Kongming was Zhuge Liang’s style name.

Ping stopped his approach, and his father then ordered Zhuge Jin driven from the city.

When it was apparent no aid was coming from Shangyong, Guan Yu ordered an evacuation to the Riverlands. Guan Ping joined his father in the mission along with Zhao Lei and two hundred men, while Wang Fu and Zhou Cang remained in Mai with one hundred. After making his farewells with friends and comrades, Guan Ping armed himself, mounted, and rode out of the north gate with his father and retinue. After travelling twenty li, drums and gongs began sounding from the pockets and hollows in the hills and the meagre force was beset by southern troops. Zhu Ran was in their lead, who charged and shouted, “Go no further! Surrender or die!”

Resistance against their much greater numbers was impossible, and so Guan Ping and his father fled down a narrow road leading to Linju, but after another four or five li, they were attacked again, this time by Pan Zhang. Guan Ping kept to the rear while his father continued the retreat in the front. Whilst fighting the southern troops from the rear, Ping saw Zhao Lei fall in the melee, and hastened to the front of the line to inform his father. Guan Yu was dismayed at the loss, but ordered his son to continue taking the rear of their line; a dozen men was all that they had left under their command.

As Guan Ping reached a place called Breach in the Rocks, he heard a voice cry out near the front of the line and rushed forward to see his father taken prisoner by enemy commander Ma Zhong. Ping rushed to his aid, but he was attacked from both sides by Zhu Ran and Pan Zhang. Still Guan Ping fought on, completely alone and without any hope of victory, but fatigue eventually took its toll on him, and he too was captured along with his father.

Guan Ping and his father were brought to Sun Quan’s tent, who attempted to incite surrender from them, but both were united in their decision to die in the service of Liu Bei. With no other option, Sun Quan had Guan Yu and Guan Ping, father and son, beheaded on the twelfth month of the twenty-fourth year of Jian An, AD 220. Guan Ping was thirty eight years old.

Copyright © 2005 Sam Wrest
Based on the novel, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, attributed to Luo Guanzhong