Episode 125: Lord Guan

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Today we will talk about Lord Guan 关公. He is probably the most respectful and most widely worshiped deified historical figure. We mentioned him in our episode 25 god of wealth and is is regarded as a military god of wealth.


Lord Guan’s name is Guan Yu 关羽 and his courtesy name is Guan YunChang 关云长. He died in the year 220. He was a general working for the warlord Liu Bei 刘备 during the late Eastern Han dynasty 东汉 of China. He shared a brotherly relationship with Liu Bei and is remembered for his loyalty . He is also undefeatable in wars and is regarded as the God of Wars 武圣.


He was deified after his death as early as the around the year 600 and through centuries of story telling especially in the 14th century novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms 三国演义. Romance of the Three Kingdoms is one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature. It is set in the turbulent years at the end of the Han dynasty 汉朝 around the year 169 AD the the year 280. The book is based on the history but also mythical about the plots and battles of three kingdoms. Liu Bei, we just mentioned, whom Guan Yu working with is the leader of one of the three kingdoms.


In the book Records of the Three Kingdoms 三国志, a historical text about the history of the Three Kingdoms, it mentions Guan Yu has a peerless beard. The image of Guan Yu we see most today is a red-faced warrior with a long, lush beard. In the book of Romance of the Three Kingdoms, it says “XuanDe 玄德 took a look at the man, who stood at a height of nine chi, around 2 meters and a two chi long beard, around half a meter. His face was of the color of a date, with lips that were red and plump, his eyes were like those of a crimson phoenix and his eyebrows resembled reclining silkworms. He had a dignified air and looked quite majestic.”


His red face influenced the Peking opera that people with red face in the operas represent loyal characteristics. Guan Yu is usually depicted wearing a green robe holding his weapon called Green Dragon Crescent Blade 青龙偃月刀.

Guan Yu is respected for his deeds and moral qualities and not only in China but in the whole East Asia, he is one of most popular paradigms of loyalty and righteousness and is worshiped in Chinese folklore, Chinese Buddhism and Taoism.



三国演义 Romance of the Three Kingdoms

三国志 Records of the Three Kingdoms

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