|Caption=A statue of Guan Yu on an altar.
Qíelán Púsà Saintly Emperor Guan
*Guān èr Yé
Lord Guan the Second
*Měi Rán Gōng
Lord of Magnificent Beard
1. See for more posthumous titles.
Guan Yu was a general under the warlord Liu Bei during the late Eastern Han Dynasty and Three Kingdoms era 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 , of which Liu Bei was the first emperor.
One of the best known Chinese historical figures throughout East Asia, Guan Yu's true life stories have largely given way to fictionalized ones, mostly found in the historical novel ''Romance of the Three Kingdoms'' or passed down the generations, in which his deeds and moral qualities have been much exaggerated.
Guan Yu had been deified as early as the Sui Dynasty and is still being worshiped by Chinese people today, especially in Hong Kong. While being seen as the epitome of loyalty and righteousness, Guan Yu had been criticized by historians for being arrogant and vain, qualities that eventually led to his downfall in the hands of Sun Quan, lord of Eastern Wu.
Guan Yu is traditionally portrayed as a red-faced warrior with a long lush beard. While his beard was indeed mentioned in the '''', the idea of his red face probably derived from a later description of him in , where the following passage appears:
Alternatively, the idea of his red face could have been borrowed from opera representation, where red faces depict loyalty and righteousness. Supposedly, Guan Yu's weapon was a named Green Dragon Crescent Blade, which resembled a halberd and was said to weigh 82 ''''. During the Eastern Han Dynasty and Three Kingdoms eras, one catty was approximately 220 grams, so 82 catties would have been approximately 18.04 kilograms . A wooden replica can be found today in the Emperor Guan Temple in Xiezhou County, China. He traditionally dons a green robe over his body armour, as depicted in the ''Romance of the Three Kingdoms''.
The historical Guan Yu
Guan Yu was born in the county of Xie . The year of his birth is not found in historical records.
Guan Yu fled his hometown at the age of twenty-three after slaying a local bully named Lü Xiong . Five years later, he arrived in Zhuo Commandery , where Liu Bei was recruiting a force to heed the government's call to resist the Yellow Turban Rebellion. Together with , Guan Yu joined Liu Bei and fought against the rebel forces in northern China. For his efforts Liu Bei was appointed governor of Pingyuan County . Guan Yu and Zhang Fei were also made commanders and given their own divisions of troops. According to the ''Records of Three Kingdoms'', the three men slept on the same bed and treated one another like brothers. Guan Yu and Zhang Fei also followed Liu Bei wherever he went, and protected him from danger however perilous the situation.
In 199 Liu Bei attacked and killed Che Zhou , the governor of who was appointed by the rising warlord Cao Cao, and placed Guan Yu in control of the regional capital Xiapi, while he returned to Xiaopei. Cao Cao soon retaliated, personally leading a campaign east to reclaim Xuzhou. Liu Bei fled to seek refuge under Yuan Shao, a powerful warlord further north, but Xiapi was captured and Guan Yu surrendered to Cao Cao. Cao Cao treated Guan Yu with respect and even made him a deputy general.
Short service under Cao Cao
In 200, Yuan Shao mustered an army boasting 100,000 in strength and marched on Xuchang, the new capital and base city of Cao Cao. To ensure a safe crossing of the Yellow River, Yuan Shao sent his trusted general Yan Liang to attack as a diversionary tactic. In a counter-tactic, Cao Cao moved his main force westwards along the Yellow River, diverting Yuan Shao's army in the same direction, but sent Guan Yu and Zhang Liao east to relieve the attack on Baima. Upon reaching Baima, Guan Yu speared Yan amid the enemy troops, and brought back his severed head. Thus Yuan Shao lost an important lieutenant and the siege of Baima was unraveled. Guan Yu was then enfeoffed as Marquis of Han Shou. After doing Cao Cao this favor, Guan Yu left for Liu Bei, his former lord who was still in the camp of Yuan Shao, leaving behind a farewell letter and all of Cao Cao's rewards. When some of his subordinates wanted to pursue Guan Yu, Cao Cao stopped them, saying, "To each his own."
Capture of Jingzhou
After Cao Cao defeated Yuan Shao at the decisive Battle of Guandu, Liu Bei went south to seek shelter under governor Liu Biao, who soon died of sickness. Cao Cao took the opportunity to expand his control south and seized a great part of Jingzhou north of the Yangtze River, but Liu Bei escaped south and formed a coalition with Sun Quan, a powerful warlord controlling most of southeastern China. The coalition defeated Cao Cao at the Battle of Red Cliffs and Jingzhou was reclaimed. During the campaign against the city of Jiangling Guan Yu was sent to attack from a northern route. Li Tong ambushed him and destroyed his equipment. As a result of Guan Yu's withdrawal, Li Tong was able to reinforce Jiangling. Guan Yu was promoted to General Who Purges Rebels and made governor of Xiangyang , in charge of the defense of northern Jingzhou.
In 213, Liu Bei left for and took over the region two years later, staying there ever since. In 219, Liu Bei proclaimed himself King of Hanzhong and promoted Guan Yu to General of the Front , The popular ranking of the Five Tiger Generals, was however a work of fiction.
In the same year, Guan Yu attacked Fancheng , a city near Xiangyang which was defended by Cao Ren, a trusted general and cousin of Cao Cao. A long spell of rainfall as autumn came around flooded the next to the city, which greatly aided Guan Yu. The flood drowned the majority of the relief troops Cao Cao sent, while their commanders, Yu Jin and Pang De, were both captured by Guan Yu. However, a further relief force under Xu Huang successfully repelled the invaders.
Further, at this time, it became known that Sun Quan attacked Guan's of Jiangling, and that the two commanders that Guan had left in charge of the home base -- Mi Fang and Fu Shiren had surrendered to Sun Quan. Instead of immediately sealing off the report of this, Guan Yu allowed this news be known to his army. The families of the soldiers accompanying Guan Yu fell under Wu control. In secret soldiers began to sneak off to rejoin their families.
With many of his troops deserting, Guan Yu attempted to retreat west to reunite with Liu Bei. However, he was encircled by Sun Quan's forces west of Maicheng . As Guan Yu attempt to escape, he and his surviving followers including his son Guan Ping, his Inspector General Zhao Lei were captured in Zhang Township . All three were executed. Sun Quan sent Guan Yu's head to Cao Cao in an attempt to lay all the blame on Cao Cao, who buried the body with the honors befitting a marquis. Guan Yu was given the posthumous title of Marquis Zhuangmou .
In 223, Liu Bei attempted a campaign to recapture Jingzhou and avenge Guan Yu, which culminated in his decisive defeat at the Battle of Yiling. Guan Yu's son Guan Xing and grandson Guan Tong both served as military commanders for Shu Han.
Guan Yu in ''Romance of the Three Kingdoms''
''Romance of the Three Kingdoms'' is a historical novel based on the events that occurred before and during the Three Kingdoms era. Written by Luo Guanzhong more than a millennium after the Three Kingdoms period, the novel incorporates many popular tales and opera scripts into the character of Guan Yu, making him one of the most altered and aggrandized in the book. Significant incidents that deviate from true history include:
Brotherhood sworn in the garden of peach blossoms
One of the most well-known story from the novel, found in the first chapter, it speaks of Liu Bei, Guan Yu and Zhang Fei who, having met by chance in the county of Zhuo in 184, found that all three shared the same desire to serve the country in the tumultuous times. They swore to be brothers the next day in Zhang Fei's backyard, which was a garden full of peach blossoms. Liu Bei was ranked the eldest, Guan Yu the second, and Zhang Fei the youngest. Having done this, they recruited more than 300 local men and joined the resistance against the Yellow Turban rebels.
The Oath of the Peach Garden inspired the present day secret societies in Chinese communities, such as the , to use a similar ritual when swearing in new members. "Though not born on the same day of the same month in the same year, we hope to die so" — the phrase the three brothers made during the oath — had also become popular among the present day secret society members.
Slaying Hua Xiong
In Chapter 5, warlords around the country formed against Dong Zhuo, the tyrannical warlord and minister who held the puppet hostage in the capital Luoyang. Guan Yu and his sworn brothers were then serving in the camp of Gongsun Zan, a warlord from northern China who was also in the coalition.
Dong Zhuo placed Hua Xiong at the to ward off the attack. Having singlehandedly slain four generals of the coalition – Zu Mao, Pan Feng, Bao Zhong, and Yu She – Hua Xiong seemed indomitable. Despite mistrust from many warlords of the coalition, most notably a commander named Yuan Shu, Guan Yu, who was a mere mounted archer then, volunteered to duel Hua Xiong. To convince them to give him the opportunity, he told them that if he failed against Hua Xiong, the coalition could take his head as punishment. Cao Cao, one of the eighteen coalition leaders, poured Guan Yu a cup of hot wine but the latter declined, claiming he would soon return. Within moments Guan Yu returned with Hua Xiong's head in hand, while the wine was still warm.
In true history Hua Xiong was executed after his force was defeated by Sun Jian at Yangren .
Repelling Lü Bu
In one of the more dramatic duels of the novel, Guan Yu's oath brother Zhang Fei attacked the infamous Lü Bu during the campaign against Dong Zhuo. Guan Yu came to his aid after the unyielding pair had fought savagely for 50 bouts, and he and Zhang Fei fought together against Lü Bu for a further 30 bouts. Still unable to gain an advantage, they were soon joined by Liu Bei. Lü Bu still managed to fend off all their attacks and they could not gain an advantage until 20 bouts later, when Lü Bu began to tire and retreated. This spectacle is one of the most consistently recreated in the ''Dynasty Warriors'' video game series.
Short service under Cao Cao
In Chapter 25, Cao Cao attacked Liu Bei's position in Xuzhou . The defeated Liu Bei escaped to seek refuge in the camp of Yuan Shao, a powerful warlord in the north. Guan Yu, along with two wives of Liu Bei, was besieged in the city of Xiapi. Taunting outside the city walls, Cao Cao's general Xiahou Dun managed to draw Guan Yu out. As he pursued his enemy far from the city gate, Guan Yu found his retreat cut off by the invading troops. He then made a stand on top of a nearby knoll, but the city was already taken.
Zhang Liao, another general under Cao Cao who was an old friend of Guan Yu, then came unarmed up the knoll. He tried to persuade Guan Yu to surrender using reason. Guan Yu agreed, but with three conditions: that the surrender was to the Han emperor and not Cao Cao; that the two wives of Liu Bei were to be suitably provided for and protected; and that all three would leave to seek Liu Bei once they found out his whereabouts. These conditions were agreed to and Guan Yu finally surrendered without breaking the code of loyalty. Cao Cao was very pleased and showered Guan Yu with many gifts, including Red Hare, a top-grade steed previously owned by the mighty warrior Lü Bu.
Slaying Yan Liang
Also in Chapter 25, Cao Cao confronted Yuan Shao on the shores of the Yellow River. To ensure a safe crossing south, Yuan Shao sent a diversionary force east under his trusted general Yan Liang to attack Baima . Cao Cao drew a 50,000-strong army and came personally to defend Baima. As the two armies made their stands across the plain, Cao Cao sent out Song Xian and Wei Xu to duel with Yan Liang, but both were slain within bouts. As suggested by advisor Cheng Yu, Cao Cao then sent for Guan Yu.
The next day, as Yan Liang's army lined up on the battlefield, Guan Yu sat with Cao Cao on a hillock and looked down. From afar he saw Yan Liang sitting on a chariot under the army standard. Leaping onto the Red Hare, Guan Yu galloped straight into the enemy ranks, which broke before him like waves before a swift vessel. Before Yan Liang could react, he was struck down by his nemesis. Guan Yu severed Yan Liang's head, tied it to the neck of his steed and rode back unhindered.
Slaying Wen Chou
In Chapter 26, following the death of Yan Liang in Guan Yu's hands, Wen Chou, another trusted general of Yuan Shao, volunteered to avenge his close friend. Leading 100,000 troops, Wen Chou crossed the Yellow River and came for Cao Cao's camp. In an unusual move, Cao Cao turned his entire formation around, placing the supplies in front. While Wen Chou's soldiers made an easy task robbing the supplies, Cao Cao directed his men south onto a knoll, from where they allowed their horses to graze. Wen Chou's soldiers pounced upon the horses as they approached the knoll and became disorganized. Cao Cao then gave the order for a counterattack, forcing the enemies to retreat.
Zhang Liao and Xu Huang immediately gave chase. Wen Chou fired two arrows from atop his horse, one of which cut off the feather on Zhang Liao's helmet and the other hit Zhang Liao's horse in the face. With his poleaxe, Xu Huang came for Wen Chou but had to retreat when a band of enemy soldiers came to their commander's rescue. Leading a dozen riders, Guan Yu cut off Wen Chou's escape and engaged in a duel with the enemy. Within three bouts, Wen Chou withdrew and attempted to evade. However, Guan Yu's Red Hare was of a superior breed and soon caught up. Guan Yu then slew Wen Chou from behind.
Crossing five passes and slaying six warriors
Another of the most popular stories surrounding Guan Yu, this tale speaks of the loyal man's hazardous journey to reunite with his lord and sworn brother Liu Bei, who was residing in Yuan Shao's camp. The five passes mentioned in fact only consist of two bona fide passes – Dongling and Sishui – while the rest were two cities and a guarded ferry point.
The story began late in Chapter 26 where, having found out the whereabouts of Liu Bei some time after the slaying of Wen Chou, Guan Yu prepared to leave Xuchang along with Liu Bei's two wives. Unable to keep the determined general, Cao Cao forbade his subjects from pursuing Guan Yu.
Riding beside the horse carriage carrying his sisters-in-law, Guan Yu set off for Luoyang. However, he was stopped at Dongling Pass by the pass defender Kong Xiu, who refused passage for the former without a document from Cao Cao. Guan Yu had no choice but to slay Kong Xiu in a duel and force through the pass.
Having crossed the first pass, Guan Yu arrived outside Luoyang. The city governor drew a thousand troops and blocked the city gate. Han Fu's aide Meng Tan came forward to duel Guan Yu. Within bouts, Meng Tan retreated in an attempt to draw Guan Yu into a trap, but Guan Yu's horse was fast and Meng Tan was slashed into halves before he could escape. However, Han Fu had already taken aim and fired an arrow at Guan Yu, who was struck in the left arm. Plucking the arrow out from the bleeding wound, Guan Yu then came for Han Fu and cleaved him clean below the shoulders.
Having dressed his wound, Guan Yu was anxious to move on. The company moved through the night to arrive at Sishui Pass . The pass defender, Bian Xi, laid 200 men in ambush in a temple outside the pass, while he went out to meet Guan Yu. Having won the trust of the latter, Bian Xi then invited Guan Yu to a feast in the temple hall. One of the monks, who was also from the county of Xie, hinted the danger to his fellow townsfolk. The ambush then failed and Guan Yu slew the scheming Bian Xi and left for Xingyang.
Wang Zhi, the governor of Xingyang, attempted a similar scheme. Feigning kindness towards Guan Yu, Wang Zhi led the company to a relay station to settle for the night. He then ordered his deputy Hu Ban to draw a thousand troops to surround the station and burn it. Curious about how the famed Guan Yu looked like, Hu Ban decided to go into the station to take a peek. Guan Yu heard him and asked who he was, whereupon he learned that Hu Ban was the son of Hu Hua , an old villager who had given Guan Yu's company lodging early in the journey. Guan Yu then passed Hu Ban a letter from his father, which told of the loyal and upright man Guan Yu was, whereupon Hu Ban divulged Wang Zhi's plot, and opened the city gate for Guan Yu to escape. However, Wang Zhi soon caught up and came for Guan Yu with his spear poised. Guan Yu spun around and cleaved him in half.
Trudging along, the company finally arrived at the ferry point on the southern shore of the Yellow River. Qin Qi, the defender of the crossing, met a similar fate as his colleagues who dared challenge Guan Yu. Within a bout, Guan Yu severed Qin Qi's head with a sweep of his saber. Thus the company finally crossed the Yellow River and came to Yuan Shao's territory, though, unknown to them, Liu Bei had by then already moved to .
After slaying Qin Qi, he encounters Xiahou Dun who seeks to battle Guan Yu in revenge for the death of his subordinate. However, the battle is averted as Zhang Liao arrives with a message from Cao Cao that Guan Yu is to be allowed to leave peacefully despite his slaying of the gate guardians.
At the end of his departure, Guan was to meet Zhang Fei, who, against the advice of others, was infuriated with Guan for having defected and picked up his spear to engage him. Guan was unprepared for this but after beheading Cai Yang , a commander loyal to Cao Cao , Guan managed to convince Zhang that he was still true to their brotherhood.
Releasing Cao Cao at Huarong Trail
In Chapter 50, after the fire started burning his ships at the Battle of Red Cliffs, Cao Cao gathered all the men he could and escaped towards the city of Jiangling. Under instruction from adviser Zhuge Liang, Guan Yu led 500 foot soldiers and lay in wait along the Huarong Trail, a narrow shortcut in the woods leading to Jiangling. Prior to leaving, Guan Yu had duly sworn an oath not to allow Cao Cao passage over past favors from the warlord.
On the other hand, Cao Cao had come to a fork in the road during his perilous escape. Columns of smoke were seen rising from the narrower path. Cao Cao judged that the smoke was a trick of the enemy to divert him to the main road, where an ambush must have been laid. He then led his men towards the narrow path – the Huarong Trail.
The smoke was indeed a trick by Zhuge Liang. Grasping Cao Cao's psychology exactly, Zhuge Liang had meant to direct him to the Huarong Trail, where Guan Yu with his men were waiting. Upon being cut off, Cao Cao rode forward and appealed to Guan Yu to remember his kindness in former days. Seeing the plight of the defeated men and recalling the former favors he received from Cao Cao, Guan Yu eventually allowed the enemy to pass through without challenge, despite his previous oath. Upon returning, Guan Yu pleaded guilty but under the beseeching of Liu Bei, Zhuge Liang fully understood the compassion and mercy of General Guan Yu and forgave him.
Treatment of a poisoned arm
In Chapter 75, during a siege on Fancheng , Guan Yu had been struck in the right arm by a bolt fired by crossbowers from the city walls. The arrow was promptly removed but poison smeared on the arrowhead had already seeped deep to the bone. As he was unwilling to abandon the offensive campaign, his subjects had to send for physicians to the camp to treat the poisoned arm.
One day, the famed physician Hua Tuo came by a boat from the east and went to see Guan Yu, who was playing a game of with adviser . After examining the wound, Hua Tuo told Guan Yu he had to cut open the flesh and scrape off the residual poison on the surface of the bones. He also suggested that the patient place the injured arm through a ring fixed to a pillar to prevent movement in the absence of anesthesia, and that blindfold be applied. However, Guan Yu requested that the primitive surgery be performed on the spot, while he continued the game. Those around him cringed at the sound of the knife scraping the bone, but Guan Yu ate and drank, talked and laughed as if he did not feel any pain, presumably not to affect the morale of his army.
Within moments, the treatment was completed. Hua Tuo applied some medications to the wound and sewed it up. Guan Yu laughed and praised the skills of the physician, for the arm felt no more pain. Hua Tuo then left without accepting any reward.
''Records of Three Kingdoms'' did record a similar incident, though the physician was not named. Also, the injury was sustained on the left arm instead of the right at an unspecified time. Hua Tuo was not alive at that time of treatment. He was credited to have died in 208 AD, 12 years before the scraping of the bones story happened, making this event an anachronism.
Enlightenment on Yuqian Hill
In Chapter 77, after Guan Yu was beheaded by Sun Quan, lord of the Kingdom of Wu, his spirit roamed the land, crying, "Give me back my head!" Thus he came to outside Dangyang County , where he met the same monk who saved his life at the temple outside Sishui Pass many years ago during his journey to reunite with Liu Bei. The monk said to Guan Yu's spirit, "Now you ask for your head, but from whom should Yan Liang, Wen Chou, the guardians of the five passes and many others ask for theirs?" The spirit was enlightened and dissipated, though it henceforth often manifested itself around the hill and protected the locals. A temple was then built by the people on the hill to worship him.
The monk mentioned in the novel, named Pujing in his faith, was said to have built a grass hut for himself at the southeastern foot of Yuquan Hill during the last years of the Eastern Han Dynasty. At the location of the hut was later built the Yuquan Temple , the oldest temple in the Dangyang region from where Guan Yu worship originated, completed within the last decade of the 6th century, during the Sui Dynasty. Accordingly, it was to the first reverend of the Yuquan Temple Guan Yu's spirit manifested itself and requested entrance into Buddhism. One of the temple halls, named Sangharama Hall, is dedicated to Guan Yu .
Revenge on Lü Meng
Also in Chapter 77, after executing Guan Yu and reclaiming , Sun Quan threw a feast to celebrate and commend Lü Meng, chief planner and commander of the maneuver to capture Jingzhou and Guan Yu. On the feast, however, Lü Meng was possessed by Guan Yu's spirit and seized Sun Quan. As others rushed forward to save their lord, the possessed Lü Meng swore revenge. In moments, Lü Meng collapsed onto the floor and died. The frightened Sun Quan then sent Guan Yu's severed head in a wooden box to Cao Cao, meaning to sow a discord between the Kingdom of Shu and Kingdom of Wei.
When Cao Cao opened the box, he saw that Guan Yu looked as he did alive. Cao Cao smiled and said to Guan Yu's head, "I hope you are well since we last parted." To his horror, Guan Yu opened his mouth, and the long beard and hairs stood on their ends. Cao Cao fell to the floor and did not regain consciousness for a long time. When he did, he exclaimed, "General Guan is truly a god from heaven!" He then ordered the head be buried with honors accorded to a noble.
Historically, Lü Meng died of illness some time after Guan Yu's death, naming as his successor. In what can be seen as a case of irony, Lü Meng's death gave the brilliant young strategist his chance to inflict a far more devastating defeat on Liu Bei at Yiling, all but destroying Shu's war making capability.
In the novel, Guan Yu was said to have had three sons: Guan Ping, Guan Xing and Guan Suo; and a daughter who was not named. His sworn brothers were Liu Bei and Zhang Fei. Guan Yu was also often flanked by two generals, Zhou Cang and Liao Hua, who were both former Yellow Turbans who came to join Guan Yu.
Worship of Guan Yu
Guan Yu has been deified as early as the Sui Dynasty and is still popularly worshipped today among the Chinese people variedly as an indigenous Chinese deity, a bodhisattva in Buddhism and a guardian deity in Taoism. He is also held in high esteem in Confucianism. These are not necessarily contradictory or even distinguished in these Chinese religious systems, which merge multiple ancient philosophies and religions.
In the Western world, Guan Yu is sometimes called the Taoist ''God of War'', probably because he is one of the most well-known military generals in . This is misconceived as, unlike or Tyr, Guan Yu as a god does not necessarily bless those who go to battle but rather people who observe the code of brotherhood and righteousness.
In general worship, Guan Yu is widely referred to as Emperor Guan , short for his Daoist title Saintly Emperor Guan , and as Guan Gong, literally "Lord Guan." Temples and shrines dedicated exclusively to Guan Yu can be found in parts of Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, and other places with Chinese influence such as Vietnam, South Korea, and Japan. Some of these temples, such as the Emperor Guan Temple in Xiezhou , Shanxi, were built exactly in the layout of a palace, befitting his status as an "".
The apotheosis of Guan Yu occurred in stages, as he was given ever larger posthumous titles. Liu Shan, the second emperor of Shu Han, gave Guan Yu the posthumous title of Marquis Zhuangmou four decades after his death. During the Song Dynasty, bestowed upon Guan Yu the title of Duke Zhonghui , and later even the title of a prince. In 1187, during the reign of Guan Yu was established as ''Prince Zhuangmou Yiyong Wu'an Yingji'' . After Song was annihilated by Mongols, who established the Yuan Dynasty in China, Guan Yu was renamed ''Prince of Xianling Yiyong Wu'an Yingji'' by .
The escalation of Guan Yu's status to that of an emperor took place during the Ming Dynasty. In 1614, the Wanli Emperor bestowed on Guan Yu the title of ''Saintly Emperor Guan the Great God Who Subdues Demons of the Three Worlds and Whose Awe Spreads Far and Moves Heaven'' . During the Qing Dynasty, the Shunzhi Emperor gave Guan Yu the title of Zhongyi Shenwu Great Saintly Emperor Guan in 1644. This title was expanded to ''The Grand Emperor Zhongyi Shenwu Lingyou Renyong Weixian Huguo Baomin Jingcheng Suijing Yizan Xuande Guan Sheng Dadi'' , a total of 24 , by mid-19th century.
Throughout history Guan Yu had also been credited with many military successes. During the Ming dynasty his spirit was said to have aided the founding emperor Zhu Yuanzhang's fleet at the Battle of Lake Poyang. In 1402, launched a coup d'état and successfully deposed his nephew, the Jianwen Emperor. Zhu Di claimed that he had been blessed by the spirit of Guan Yu. During the last decade of the 16th century, Guan Yu was also credited with the repulse of Japanese invasion of Korea by Toyotomi Hideyoshi . The ruling Manchu house of the Qing dynasty also associated with Guan Yu's martial qualities. During the 20th century, Guan Yu was worshipped by the warlord Yuan Shikai, president and later a short-lived emperor of China.
Today Guan Yu is still widely worshiped by common folks, with many shrines to him are found in homes or businesses. In Hong Kong, a shrine for Guan Yu is located in each . Though by no means mandatory, most Chinese worship and pay respect to him. Seemingly ironic, members of the Triad gangs and the Hung clan worship Guan Yu as well.There's difference between statue used by triad gangs and police station for the shrine, indicated by which arm held his weapon, right for the police whether left for triads. This explain in which side Guan Yu is worshipped, by the righteous people or vice versa. Guan Yu's statue face for triads usually appears more sinister than the usual one or right hand armed statue.
This exemplifies the Chinese belief that a code of honor, epitomized by Guan Yu, exists even in the underworld. In Hong Kong, Guan Yu is often referred to as "Yi Gor" for he was second to Liu Bei in their legendary sworn brotherhood. Guan Yu is also worshipped by Chinese businessmen in Shanxi Province, Hong Kong, Macau and Southeast Asia as an alternative wealth god, since he is perceived to bless the upright and protect them from the crooked. Another reason being related to the release of Cao Cao during the Huarong Pass incident where he let Cao Cao and his general passed through safely. As for that, he was perceived to be able to give a lifeline to those that needed it.
Among the Cantonese Chinese who emigrated to California during the mid-19th century, worship of Guan Yu was an important element. Statues and tapestry images of the god can be found in a number of historical California joss houses , where his name may be given with various Anglicized spellings, including Kwan Dai, Kwan Tai, Kuan Ti, Kuan Kung, Wu Ti, Mo Dai, Guan Di, Kuan Yu, Kwan Yu, or Quan Yu. The Joss House, a historical landmark also known as Mo Dai Miu, The Military God-King's Temple, or Temple of Kwan Tai, built in 1852, is a typical example of the small shrines erected to Guan Yu in America.
Worship in Taoism
Guan Yu is revered as Saintly Emperor Guan and a leading subduer of demons in Taoism. Taoist worship of Guan Yu began during the Song Dynasty. Legend has it that during the second decade of the 12th century, the saltwater lake in the present day Xiezhou County gradually ceased to yield salt. then summoned Celestial Master Zhang Jixian , thirtieth descendant of Celestial Master Zhang Daoling, to investigate the cause. The emperor was told that the disruption was the work of Chi You, a deity of war. The Master then recruited the help of Guan Yu, who did battle with Chi You over the lake and triumphed, whereupon the lake resumed salt production. Emperor Huizong then bestowed upon Guan Yu the title of Immortal of Chongning , formally introducing the latter as a deity into Taoism.
In early Ming Dynasty, the forty-second Celestial Master Zhang Zhengchang recorded the incident in his book ''Lineage of the Han Celestial Masters'' , the first Taoist classic to affirm the legend. Today Taoism practices are predominant in Guan Yu worship. Many temples dedicated to Guan Yu, including the Emperor Guan Temple in Xiezhou County, show heavy Taoist influence. Every year, on the twenty fourth day of the sixth month on the , a street parade in the honor of Emperor Guan would also be held.
Worship in Buddhism
In Chinese Buddhism, Guan Yu is revered by most practicing Buddhists as Sangharama Bodhisattva a protector of the Buddhist dharma. ''Sangharama'' in Sanskrit means 'community garden' and thus 'monastery'. The sangharama refer to a group of devas and spirits who guard Buddhist monasteries, the dharma, and the faith itself. Over time, Guan Yu was seen as a representative ''sangharama'' guardian of the temple and the garden in which it stands. His statue is usually located on the far left of the main shrine, opposite his counterpart, .
According to Buddhist legends, in 592, Guan Yu manifested himself one night before Ch'an Master Zhiyi, the founder of the Tientai school of Buddhism, along with a retinue of spiritual beings. Zhiyi was then in deep meditation on when he was distracted by Guan Yu's presence. Guan Yu then requested the master to teach him about the dharma. After receiving Buddhist teachings from the master, Guan Yu took refuge in the triple gems and also requested the Five Precepts. Henceforth, it is said that Guan Yu made a vow to become a guardian of temples and the Dharma. Legends also claim that Guan Yu assisted Zhiyi in the construction of the Yuquan Temple , which still stands today.
In the historical novel ''Romance of the Three Kingdoms'', Luo Guanzhong wrote that Guan Yu manifested himself to a monk named Pujing on Yuquan Hill on the night of his death, with his spirit shouting "Return my head!" From Pujing, Guan Yu sought the Buddhist teachings and entered the faith after being told by Pujing "Where will Yan Liang, Wen Chou, and the guardians of the five passes whom you have slain should seek their heads?" While this being a modification of the "true" account, Pujing did exist in history. The location at which Pujing built a grass hut for himself was where the Yuquan Temple was later built on.
In popular culture
*In Zhang Yimou's 2005 film ''Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles'', a ''nuo'' opera performance of ''Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles'' forms a major part of the film's narrative.
*In 's 1994 comedy ''From Beijing with Love'', Chow plays an absentminded spy named "Ling Ling Chai" who is shot by a double agent during a mission. When it is discovered the bullet has lodged deep into his thigh bone, he watches an film to divert his attention from the wound while the bullet is retrieved. When asked why, he calls upon Guan's example of playing Chess while Hua Tuo performed surgery on .
*In the 2008 horror-comedy ''My Name is Bruce'', Guan Yu's vengeful spirit is accidentally set free by a group of teenagers and he begins to terrorize their town. The town then enlists the aid of B-movie actor Bruce Campbell to combat Guan Yu because of his experience with dispatching monsters in his previous films. Campbell accepts the job, believing it to be some impromptu movie production, but later discovers the threat is real.
*In the 2008 historical epic "Red Cliff", Guan Yu is played by Ba Sen Zha Bu and is featured primarily in the Battle of Changban and later in a semi-fictional land battle near Chibi, which preceded the major naval battle.
In the manga'' Ikki Tousen'', all the warriors from ''Romance of the Three Kingdoms'' are reborn as Japanese high school students whose lives have to replay the entire story. His reincarnation is schoolgirl , who carries the Blue Dragon Crescent Blade with her.
In the manga ''BB Senshi Sangokuden Fuuun Gouketsu Hen'', ZZ Gundam portrayed as ''Guan Yu Gundam'', similar to the ''Three Kingdoms'', his personality same as the story, except some words, including his weapon, are different.
*Guan Yu is a playable character in Koei's ''Dynasty Warriors'' video game series. In the first title, he is depicted as a tall, red-skinned man dressed in a green robe, alluding to his legendary portrayal. In all subsequent releases, Guan's depiction is much more realistic, with his red skin becoming a more natural colour. Guan is portrayed as a man who places great emphasis on honor, dedication and duty. He often displays respect for his enemies and fulfills debts to friend and foe alike. His weapon is an elaborate guan dao called the "Blue Moon Dragon", and is of the exact same design as Zhang Liao's polearm, the "Gold Wyvern". Guan often appears atop Red Hare in combat and during cinematic sequences. In the latest release, ''Dynasty Warriors 6'', Guan still uses the "Blue Moon Dragon", although its appearance has been significantly revamped. His appearance appears to be a throwback of his ''Dynasty Warriors 3'' design.
*Guan Yu is also an officer in the video game series ''''. He often possesses one of the highest "War" and "Leadership" statistics, making him one of the best overall characters in the series.
*Guan Yu also appears in ''Sango Fighter''. Like ''Dynasty Warriors'', in ''Sango Fighter'', Guan Yu is also depicted as a tall, red-skinned man dressed in a green robe.
*''MapleStory'', a MMORPG from Wizet, has recently added a Guan Yu costume. It includes a turban hat, green battle gown, shoes, beard and his well known Green Dragon crescent-moon blade weapon.
*In ''Destiny of an Emperor'' from the original Nintendo Entertainment System, he is a general who becomes available to add on to the player's fighting group and is generally considered one of the strongest commanders in the game.
*In '''', Guan Yu is a Taoist hero with some knowledge of . He can fill warehouses with soybeans, lead troops into battle, and bless a military fort to fill it with weapons for training soldiers.
*In '''''s ''Portal Three Kingdoms'' game set, he is a playable rare creature card with the "Horsemanship" ability.
*In the History Channel's '''' card game, Guan Yu's cards have high initiative. His weapon is the "", his armor is "Jiang Jun Zhi Kai", his Special card is "", and his inspiration card is "Guan Di", possibly alluding to his worship in the Taoist pantheon. Artwork for the five cards was done by Rob Alexander.