Rediscovering Guan Yu

Join the Romance of the Three Kingdoms discussion with our resident Scholars. Topics relating to the novel and history are both welcome. Don't forget to check the Forum Rules before posting.
Kongming’s Archives: Romance of the Three Kingdoms
Three Kingdoms Officer Biographies
Three Kingdoms Officer Encyclopedia
Scholars of Shen Zhou Search Tool

Rediscovering Guan Yu

Unread postby Mistelten » Thu Jan 05, 2006 3:21 am

All Guan apologetics go here. After a long period of being indifferent to Shu and considering the generals overrated, I'm coming back around to seeing Guan Yu in a very positive light. What sparked this is how he was said to be loved by his men. Now just how far this went, I'm not sure, but I'm not going to count it out just because it was a rare thing.
Indeed, few generals in history can be called "loved" by their men. Wellington had the respect of his men, but they didn't love him. Veterans will tell you that they were proud to serve with Patton, but they wouldn't say they loved him when they did.
The few who I can think of that it can surely be said are:
Alexander the Great
Gustavus Adolphus
R.E. Lee

and, of course, Guan Yu

That alone boosts his image in my eyes because a general who can elicit such loyalty from his men has mastered the art of leadership, which is no less important than being tactically proficient.

Then there's the fact that he was a great man of learning. Guan was the true scholar: reading and becoming a master by his own standard. He was a trailblazer, and if the legends are to be believed, inventive.

Assuming that he was willing to risk all for his beliefs -- whether it was killing a ruffian to protect a girl, or dying for his country -- I think that Guan Yu's merits off the battlefield alone stand far above the fatal flaw of arrogance.
User avatar
Mistelten
Scholar of Shen Zhou
 
Posts: 2832
Joined: Fri Feb 06, 2004 5:12 am

Unread postby Jordan » Thu Jan 05, 2006 4:43 am

Even if Wu defeated him, I think that Guan Yu's defense of Fan stands as a testament to what you aim to point out in your thread. Guan Yu accomplished something great in continuing to hold out against Cao Ren at Fan Castle, despite both armies being demoralized. Both Cao Ren and Guan Yu proved adept in this fight, both with inspiring their forces and commanding well tactically. Dr. Rafe de Crispigny paints a very nice and short summed-up image of the fight in Generals of the South from what I remember, before it goes on to say how Wu exploited the situation. I think that people who are anti-Guan Yu too often assume that Guan Yu was bad just because the historical Guan Yu's counter-part was not as great as the Guan Yu presented in the novel. This sort of thinking seems somewhat irrational to me. Whether Guan Yu accomplished all the things listed in Romance of the Three Kingdoms is debatable, and in the end he probably did not do a lot of the things Luo Guanzhong listed. Despite this however he was trusted enough by Liu Bei to hold Shu's Jing territories, loved by his men long enough to hold out quite awhile at Fan and seemingly good enough as a Shu commander to deserve a place in history and legend.

Edit-I don't think Guan Yu was as loved by his men as Gustavus Adolphus or Alexander the Great was though. Both of them were renowned heroes in their day and afterwards. Guan Yu probably close to matched this fame but ultimately I feel that the soldiers under Gustavus were more willing to fight (since they were also sort of fighting even for their very belief) and the men under Alexander the Great truly loved their leader more than the soldiers under Guan Yu were willing to die for their commander.
Last edited by Jordan on Thu Jan 05, 2006 10:04 am, edited 3 times in total.
User avatar
Jordan
Scholar of Shen Zhou
 
Posts: 5884
Joined: Thu Dec 02, 2004 4:52 am

Unread postby Elitemsh » Thu Jan 05, 2006 9:59 am

I agree Guan Yu was invaluable to Shu and few generals could match his accomplishments. The capture of Yu Jin and Pang De, two renowed generals, via the flooding attack was very impressive. Guan Yu must be respected for this. However, IMO he should also be remembered for his flawed personality not just his remarkable achievements.I think one of the reasons he attacked Wei was because he was hearing of the exploits of Liu Bei's other generals and felt a need to achieve more himself. Foolish pride caused him to underestimate his enemies. Had he kept his pride aside for Liu Bei and Shu's sake, then he would have taken greater precautions against Wu and hence Jing would not have been lost. Nonetheless, I agree Guan Yu was an excellent commander, though I do not like his personality.
''I've never fought for anyone but myself. I've got no purpose in life. No ultimate goal. It's only when I'm cheating death on the battlefield. The only time I feel truly alive.'' ~Solid Snake
User avatar
Elitemsh
Scholar of Shen Zhou
 
Posts: 1399
Joined: Wed Jun 15, 2005 4:14 pm
Location: Outer Heaven

Unread postby Shi Tong » Thu Jan 05, 2006 1:18 pm

I think that people who are anti-Guan Yu too often assume that Guan Yu was bad just because the historical Guan Yu's counter-part was not as great as the Guan Yu presented in the novel.


I agree with this, since the folk lore and legends surrounding him are too much for anyone to live up to. This goes for Zhuge Liang and a few other characters in SGYY who LGZ tries to make look supernatural in their powers in the novel.

To those who dont think much of Zhuge, just because the fact that the legend of the empty city and Chi Bi's borrowing of the East Wind aren't true, that doesn't take away from his achivements, militarily, politically and morally in Shu.

I think this also goes very much for Guan Yu, and one could argue that Guan Yu was almost as important to Shu's sucess as Zhuge is- since Zhuge was prime minister and controled the politics in Shu's capital Cheng Du- one has to realise that Guan Yu had complete control of Jing and controlled it almost single handedly. This is really no mean feat, and even though he was defeated, one can also argue that there was a good chance for him to suceed, and dispite his eventual defeat, he still actually governed Jing for a long time before his downfall.

Foolish pride caused him to underestimate his enemies.


Did it? I'm not so sure- Guan Yu was lied to by Wu's advisers (mainly Lu Meng) who pretended that he was supporting Guan Yu's advance on Wei. Lets not forget that even though Guan Yu rejected Sun Quan's offer of marriage to one of his daughters, Shu and Wu had had a long relationship in alliance to attack Wei together.

In Guan Yu's mind, he must have thought that Wu and Shu were allies still. Even though there was tention over Jing after Chi Bi, Sun Quan of Wu and Liu Bei of Shu still formed an alliance between themselves, and agreed that their target was Wei. Why then, would Guan Yu think the opposite?

Guan Yu, therefore only thought he had one target, and only realised that he had two once it was too late.

Though Guan Yu was proud, I dont think you could call him foolish, someone who was so sucessful politically and militarily, so trusted and loved by his leaders, allies and men cannot be foolish, though he can make a mistake, after all, he was only a man!
User avatar
Shi Tong
Stupid Egg of Shen Zhou
 
Posts: 4034
Joined: Mon Apr 11, 2005 10:12 pm
Location: London, England

Unread postby Wo Long » Thu Jan 05, 2006 11:01 pm

Sure Shi Tong, post everything I wanted to say. :P

Shi Tong wrote:
I think that people who are anti-Guan Yu too often assume that Guan Yu was bad just because the historical Guan Yu's counter-part was not as great as the Guan Yu presented in the novel.


I agree with this, since the folk lore and legends surrounding him are too much for anyone to live up to. This goes for Zhuge Liang and a few other characters in SGYY who LGZ tries to make look supernatural in their powers in the novel.

To those who dont think much of Zhuge, just because the fact that the legend of the empty city and Chi Bi's borrowing of the East Wind aren't true, that doesn't take away from his achivements, militarily, politically and morally in Shu.

I think this also goes very much for Guan Yu, and one could argue that Guan Yu was almost as important to Shu's sucess as Zhuge is- since Zhuge was prime minister and controled the politics in Shu's capital Cheng Du- one has to realise that Guan Yu had complete control of Jing and controlled it almost single handedly. This is really no mean feat, and even though he was defeated, one can also argue that there was a good chance for him to suceed, and dispite his eventual defeat, he still actually governed Jing for a long time before his downfall.


Yeah, it bugs me aswell that people always seem to be anti-Guan or anti-Zhuge simply because the historical people can't live up to Guanzhong's mythology. I still think Zhuge Liang was the best strategist and Guan Yu was one of Shu's most able officers(Zhao Yun gets #1 in my book).


Shi Tong wrote:
Foolish pride caused him to underestimate his enemies.


Did it? I'm not so sure- Guan Yu was lied to by Wu's advisers (mainly Lu Meng) who pretended that he was supporting Guan Yu's advance on Wei. Lets not forget that even though Guan Yu rejected Sun Quan's offer of marriage to one of his daughters, Shu and Wu had had a long relationship in alliance to attack Wei together.

In Guan Yu's mind, he must have thought that Wu and Shu were allies still. Even though there was tention over Jing after Chi Bi, Sun Quan of Wu and Liu Bei of Shu still formed an alliance between themselves, and agreed that their target was Wei. Why then, would Guan Yu think the opposite?

Guan Yu, therefore only thought he had one target, and only realised that he had two once it was too late.

Though Guan Yu was proud, I dont think you could call him foolish, someone who was so sucessful politically and militarily, so trusted and loved by his leaders, allies and men cannot be foolish, though he can make a mistake, after all, he was only a man!


I wouldn't call it foolish pride, it was senelity. He was 50+ years old and had fought more battles than almost anyone alive at the time. He was confident in his abilities and was senile, there was plenty of reasons why he would've gone after Fan. Not to mention the alliance that you(Shi Tong) mentioned. Guan Yu was great and was rivalled by few warriors. He truly was a remarkable warrior.
Me Blog.
Restore the Ming Dynasty in Beijing!
User avatar
Wo Long
Scholar of Shen Zhou
 
Posts: 1414
Joined: Fri Feb 25, 2005 12:51 am

Unread postby iamnick » Fri Jan 06, 2006 4:42 am

While I agree with most of this, I felt I should point two things out real quick. Perhaps his most shining moment, captureing Pang De and Yu jin, was almost entirerly luck. He did not use a flood attack. There was a flash flood, and he took advantage of it. There is a large difference there, as planning and executing a flood attack is much more glorifying than seeing that a river is flooding and realizing that you should get on a boat.

Another point, some one claimed that he still assumed Wu and Shu were allied... if that is the case, why would he raid a Wu supply post during his assault on Fan?

I also dislike how Zhuge and Guan are often looked down upon because their historical records cannot match up with their novel ones, but the fact remians that there are many other officers of the time that are equal or better than Guan Yu, and a few who I would say are better than Zhuge as well. While I respect both, I still don't believe that Guan Yu is worthy of his title (god of war), and that in Shu, there were many officers better than him.
iamnick
Assistant
 
Posts: 138
Joined: Sat Dec 18, 2004 8:43 pm

Unread postby LiuBeiwasGreat » Fri Jan 06, 2006 4:58 am

Well, perhaps i am missing the definition of a flash flood but after 10 days of raining i don't think it is a flash flood anymore. If you are in a valley near a river and you are still there after 10 days of raining you are rather foolish. Several bios say that Guan Yu used the river to attack. This is just one of the many times where we see contradiction between bios in SGZ.

As to the raid on the depot, if he did this he could have easily assumed that he was borrowing the supplies and might not have felt it was that big of a thing. However it has always bothered me that this isn't in Sun Quan's bio. I mean as the leader he should have the reason for the attack. However his bio basicly implies that he simply attacked Guan Yu out of fear. The fact that the only bio which states a reasonably sounding explanation for the invasion is the bio of the man who wants to attack Guan Yu way before any of this happens has always bothered me.

I personally think that Guan Yu was one of the better people in Shu-Han. I don't think this because his recorded feats are better then most others. I think this way because it is obvious to me that he did things that are not recorded. The fact that he held the respect of so many and inspired such fear in powerful intelligent men leads me to believe that they obviously knew something that we don't. Looking at the bios Yu Jin does so much more then Guan Yu yet there is no record of him inspiring fear. Xu Huang is praised for his many many accomplishments yet you don't read about rival leaders fearing Xu Huang (though they probably should have) This is why i consider Guan Yu one of Shu's best. The man inspired fear in people who possessed much more power then he, there had to be a reason why.
"If you can't drink a lobbyist's whiskey, take his money, sleep with his women and still vote against him in the morning, you don't belong in politics."
LiuBeiwasGreat
Scholar of Shen Zhou
 
Posts: 2505
Joined: Mon Mar 22, 2004 4:13 pm
Location: Raleigh, NC

Unread postby iamnick » Sat Jan 07, 2006 6:38 pm

it rained for 10 days. Flooding only takes a matter of a day or two. The other 8 days would just sustain the flood.
iamnick
Assistant
 
Posts: 138
Joined: Sat Dec 18, 2004 8:43 pm

Unread postby LiuBeiwasGreat » Sun Jan 08, 2006 12:10 am

iamnick wrote:it rained for 10 days. Flooding only takes a matter of a day or two. The other 8 days would just sustain the flood.


it doesn't say that it rain, flooded and continued to rain. It says that it rained for 10 days and the river overflowed. Simply assuming that it flooded quickly in order to argue that it was a flash flood so you can take away from Guan Yu's actions is simply your opinion that doesn't have much in the way of facts to back it up. The river could have had dams and could have held the water back and after 10 days the dams burst or (no evidence of this but) Guan Yu breaking the dams, many things could have happened. We cannot assume that the flood happened after 2 days since the text implies that it happened after 10. Unless there is text which says that it flooded and then continued to rain somewhere. I doubt that if there was a flood after two days and Guan Yu attacked and defeated Yu Jin right then and there and then continued to rain for a week or so more they would have recorded the amount of days raining then. They would say that it rained for 2 days and Yu Jin's army was lost in the flood. The only reason to record the amount of days is to show how long it took for the event to occur not because they thought it was a really interesting weather pattern.
"If you can't drink a lobbyist's whiskey, take his money, sleep with his women and still vote against him in the morning, you don't belong in politics."
LiuBeiwasGreat
Scholar of Shen Zhou
 
Posts: 2505
Joined: Mon Mar 22, 2004 4:13 pm
Location: Raleigh, NC

Unread postby Mistelten » Sun Jan 08, 2006 4:25 am

Wo Long wrote:Yeah, it bugs me aswell that people always seem to be anti-Guan or anti-Zhuge simply because the historical people can't live up to Guanzhong's mythology. I still think Zhuge Liang was the best strategist and Guan Yu was one of Shu's most able officers(Zhao Yun gets #1 in my book).

I hear you on this. I'm not even Shuist myself, but the fact is that RTK is so famous because of LGZ. He also did spice up the story a bit and make it come across as kind of a mainstream story, rather than just a war story. I don't see how some people can enjoy the story at all for a bias.

I have an easier time relating to heroes who have had failures...who weren't perfect. A guy makes one foolish decision and ideologues on the other side lambast him endlessly for it. If you can criticize someone for one mistake or character flaw, then how can you face even yourself? Also, having been in dire straits, I can actually put myself in the shoes of men who are on the losing side.

I love an underdog, it's just my nature.
User avatar
Mistelten
Scholar of Shen Zhou
 
Posts: 2832
Joined: Fri Feb 06, 2004 5:12 am

Next

Return to Sanguo Yanyi Symposium

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Yahoo [Bot] and 3 guests

Copyright © 2002–2008 Kongming’s Archives. All Rights Reserved