The second of the three blood brothers
in the Chinese epic Romance of the Three Kingdoms
, the other two being Liu Bei
and Zhang Fei
. He was later honored in later generations as the God of War
and the God of Literature
. In the epic
, he rides a horse
named Red Hare
, and wields a 100 pound halberd
named Green Dragon Crescent Moon Sabre
, also known as Frozen Glory
. He is also called Guan Gong
, or Lord Guan. His long, flowing beard
is a trademark, sometimes he is referred to as the Man with the Magnificient Beard.
Guan Yu grew up near the town of Jieyu in Shanxi province. His styled name was Changshen, which he later changed to Yunchang. When he was nearing adulthood he killed the tyrant magistrate of the prefecture for molesting a girl. Fearing for his life Guan Yu fled and wandered North China as an outlaw. After five to six years of wandering he came to selling bean curd. There he met Liu Bei, a poor shoe maker and a prosperous butcher called Zhang Fei. The three became friends and swore oaths of undying loyalty to each other in the famous "Swearing of Brotherhood in the Peach Blossom Garden", the beginning of the story in the Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Using Zhang Fei's family estate and other assets they raised a small army. With this force the three went to war first against the Yellow Turban rebels and later against the usurper Dong Zhuo.
He was named one of the five Fierce Tiger generals, and in the following years had amazing military sucesses against the Wei and the Wu. Under the famed commander Zhuge Liang, his army routed the enemy in many campaigns. He was finally defeated by a joint campaign by the Wei and the Wu, taken before Sun Quan, the Wu lord, and executed along with his son.
Later, he was deified as Guan Di, or the Chinese God of War. Revered by soldiers and peddlers (as he was one before he became famous), he also shares the position of the God of Literature. In the 17th century the cult spread to Japan and Korea. He is always depicted as wearing a green robe and a rouged face, as he had to disguise himself in his outlaw years.