Guan Yu was right-hand
man to Liu Bei from the time they joined forces to suppress the Yellow
Turban Rebellion. He was unswerving in his loyalty and unequaled in
his attempt to assist the weak and bear down on the strong. Arrogance
was his only fault. His invincible reputation was even feared by Dong
Zhuo. Wielding the Green Dragon Saber, his one hundred twenty pound,
curved blade, Guan Yu cut down the fiercest of Dong Zhuo's men, Hua
Xiong, at River Si Pass.
Guan Yu was far more cunning than other
warriors, and for this reason Cao Cao wanted to distance him from Liu
Bei. Cao Cao lured him to fight from his Xiapi fortress and captured
him in ambush. An old acquaintance, Zhang Liao, emerged from his captors
and persuaded him to surrender. Having lost track of Liu Bei, he agreed
to submit to Cao Cao, but only until a day when he could be reunited
with his brother. Although he had a comfortable position under Cao Cao,
Guan Yu worried about fulfilling his duty to his brother. He did not
know that Liu Bei was safely serving under Yuan Shao. Cao Cao dispatched
him against Yuan Shao's army, hoping he would kill Liu Bei in the attack.
He swung his Green Dragon overhead and charged into the enemy, crushing
Yan Liang and Wen Chou. In the course of the battle he learned of Liu
Bei's whereabouts and set out to find him. Five barriers did not stop
him, and six men were slain as Guan Yu passed. Reluctantly, Cao Cao
let him go.
As Liu Bei forged his way into Yizhou,
Guan Yu helped fend off Cao Cao from the north and Sun Quan from the
east. He was given authority over Jingzhou, yet opposed the promotion
of the newly recruited warrior Huang Zhong to a rank equaling his own.
Fei Shi reminded him, "As brothers, the Prince of Hanzhong (Liu Bei)
and his Chief General (Guan Yu) are of one body and soul. It disgraces
each of you to quibble over a mere difference in titles." Taking these
words to heart, Guan Yu resigned himself to his position in Jingzhou.
Later, Guan Yu led an incursion on the north. He moved his army into
Fancheng and encircled Cao Ren's castle from the surrounding hills.
There was a great strom, but Guan Yu made use of water reserves to destroy
his enemy. He broke the dams and flooded his victims in the valley below.
Yu Jin sent Wei reinforcements, but Guan Yu captured him, and executed
Pang De, another of Cao Ren's generals. Guan Yu frightened his opponents
to the point that they almost moved the capital just to avoid his wrath.
His one mistake was to leave Jingzhou vulnerable to attack. Lu Meng
took advantage of his absence and moved in, thereby cutting off his
path of retreat. Unable to force Xu Huang out of Fancheng, Guan Yu was
trapped between two opponents.
Despite his early successes, Guan Yu could
not defend himself alone in central China. He fell into the hands of
the Wu army in a desperate attempt to escape. When he refused to pledge
his loyalty to Wu, Sun Quan beheaded him on the spot, and sent his head
to Cao Cao. To his dismay, Cao Cao mourned Guan Yu's death and established
a memorial to him at the southern gate of Luoyang. This shrine was the
first commemorative mausoleum to the Han Dynasty in Luoyang, and recognizes
Guan Yu as 'God of War' in the annals of Chinese history.