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Guan Yu (关羽 (雲長))Guan Yu was a general serving 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 Kingdom of Shu, of which Liu Bei was the first emperor.
As 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 lionized.
Guan Yu was deified as early as the Sui Dynasty and is still being worshipped by Chinese people today, especially in southern China. He is respected as the epitome of loyalty and righteousness.
Guan Yu is traditionally portrayed as a red-faced warrior with a long lush beard. While his beard was indeed mentioned in the Records of Three Kingdoms, the idea of his red face may have derived from a later description of him in Chapter One of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, where the following passage appears:
"Xuande took a glance at the man, who stood at a height of nine chi, and had a two chi long beard; his face was of the color of a Zao, with red lips; his eyes were like that of a phoenix's, and his eyebrows resembled silkworms. He had a dignified aura and looked quite majestic."
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 "GuanDao" named "Green Dragon Crescent Blade", which resembled a halberd and was said to weigh 82 catties (about 49.5 kg or 109 lbs). 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.
In 219, Guan Yu attacked the nearby enemy city of Fancheng (樊城, present day Xiangfan, Hubei), which was guarded by Cao Ren, and besieged it. In autumn, heavy showers in the region caused the Han River next to the city to overflow. The flood destroyed reinforcements troops from Cao Cao led by Yu Jin and Pang De. Both Yu and Pang were captured by Guan Yu in battle. However, reinforcements led by Xu Huang managed to force Guan Yu's troops to retreat.
At that time, Guan Yu realised that Eastern Wu had secretly formed an alliance with Cao Wei and attacked Jingzhou while he was attacking Fancheng. The commanders Mi Fang and Fu Shiren he left in charge of Jingzhou had surrendered to Eastern Wu. When Guan Yu's troops received news that their families in Jingzhou had fallen into the control of Eastern Wu, some of them started deserting and returning to Jingzhou to reunite with their families.
Guan Yu's army fell in numbers significantly after several of his troops deserted. Guan attempted to retreat to Bashu in the west but was surrounded and besieged by Eastern Wu forces at Maicheng (麥城, southeast of present day Dangyang, Hubei). Guan Yu attempted to break out of the encirclement together with his son Guan Ping and subordinate Zhao Lei but failed. They were captured in Zhang Town (east of modern day Yuan'an County, Hubei) and executed by Eastern Wu forces after refusing to surrender. Sun Quan sent Guan Yu's severed head to Cao Cao, who performed the proper funeral rites and buried Guan Yu's severed head with full honours. Guan Yu was granted the posthumous title of Marquis of Zhuangmou (壯繆侯).
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