Was Guan Yu really impatient?

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Was Guan Yu really impatient?

Unread postby Shi Tong » Mon Nov 27, 2006 4:00 pm

Hello everyone!

As I'm sure a lot of you know, I like Guan Yu, and I would question the conventional wisdom on these forums about Guan Yu being very imapatient, though I do know that he insulted Sun Quan when he dismissed his proposal for his daughter being married off to Wu.

So, I'm posting this thread in the defence of Guan Yu and his life- I'm reading through his bio, and it does seem to me that Guan Yu had lots of responsibilities, all of which he carried out very well.

So, I'm going to site some examples of Guan Yu's faithfulness, good nature and general calmness from (one of his) SGZ bios.

Guan Yu’s devotion to Liu Bei could be seen through many actions like when many were sitting, he would be standing close to Liu Bei to assist him, etc and he would faithfully follow Liu Bei through all the dangers and not escaping the difficulties


This shows how Guan Yu must have been a good companion and close ally. Guan Yu must have advised and help talk when Liu Bei was in a conference like this.

he commanded Guan Yu to take care of the governing matters of Xiapi City


Though it doesn't mention how good his governership in Xiapi was, it's interesting because Liu Bei resided in Xiao Pei at the time, leaving Guan Yu with a larger responsibility than himself.

Cao Cao captured Guan Yu and kept him in his ranks and appointed him as Pian Jiangjun (Lieutenant General) and treated him with the great honor.


Why would a high an important man like Cao Cao treat Guan Yu with such respect and give him such authority if he was really and truly that quick to anger and be impatient. It is commonly said that being a good general requires that you are patient.

Cao Cao promptly awarded Guan Yu with the rank of Hanshou Tinghou (Marquis of Hanshou).


Same thing again- he obviously greatly admired Guan Yu's abilities.

(Guan Yu)said, “I am in full knowledge of the honor and privilege Cao Cao had shown me, however, General Liu [Liu Bei] had treated me well also, hence I swear to die with him and I will never betray him. I will not be staying here forever, but I will contribute a [sizeable] exploit first to repay Cao Cao’s favor first before I take my leave”. Zhang Liao related his words to Cao Cao, and the latter was impressed by his honorable attitude (3). Seeing Guan Yu had killed Yan Liang, Cao Cao knew that he would surely take his leave soon, hence further showered him with rewards. Guan Yu did not accept any of the gifts and sealed all of them [a sign of rejection]; he also proceed with writing a letter to tender his resignation before leaving for Yuan Shao’s land where Liu Bei was situated. Some of Cao Cao’s subordinates wanted to chase after him but Cao Cao replied, “each for his own master; hence do not give chase”


This is a very good example of how Guan Yu is patient and willing to fulfil his duties to his lord, also that he is a great diplomat- anyone who can escape the grip of Cao's mastership is pretty smart at diplomacy. IMO, if Guan Yu was so impatient and flighty, he would have fled to Liu Bei as soon as he'd learned of his location.

appointed Guan Yu as the governor of Xiangyang and also the rank of Dangkou Jiangjun (General Who Terrifies Criminals) and stationed him to guard at the north of the river.


Guan Yu shows great patience when he's given the orders by Liu Bei to take ships to Xiakou instead of helping Liu Bei in a battle. This I think also shows how Guan Yu was greatly respected and needed by Liu Bei to do duties which he didn't necessarily suit his talents.

Guan Yu led his army to attack Cao Ren at Fan. Cao Cao sent Yu Jin to assist Cao Ren. It was autumn then and there was heavy downpour leading to the overflowing of River Han. As a result, the seven armies commanded by Yu Jin all drowned. Yu Jin surrendered to Guan Yu, and Guan Yu executed General Pang De. The bandits of Liang, Jia and Lu were called to action by Guan Yu and assisted in the battle, thus Guan Yu’s named spread throughout China.


Surely a man doing these deeds cannot be seen as impatient? Not only did he look after Jing, but he won battles for Liu Bei against their sworn enemy.

On the point where Guan Yu insults Sun Quan's emisary I would like to point out that Sun Quan already knew that he was going to attack Guan Yu to stop his exploits against Cao Cao, therefore I think that Sun Quan's idea was to make Guan Yu really believe that they were allies and he could keep attacking Wei without a worry from Wu.

I dont think that if Guan Yu had agreed, Sun Quan would have called off his plan to attack him.

Guan Yu was also incredibly unfortuante to not only have 2 incompetant generals working for him in the form of Mi Fang and Fu Shiren, but also that they were willing to betray Liu Bei's (their lord's) close friend. Even in a SGY bio it mentions that Liu Bei and Guan Yu were like brothers.

I personally dont think that Guan Yu was impatient. I think he made one slip, and it did result in his death, but I do think that it was only one mistake in what was actually a distinguished life, so why should I suddenly think that Guan Yu was "generally" impatient when he only made this one slip and paid dearly for it?
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Unread postby James » Mon Nov 27, 2006 4:50 pm

Guan Yu also suffered from Liu Feng’s inaction as well.

I’ve never agreed with the assessment that Guan Yu was impatient or prone to anger. He always struck me as a calm and thoughtful officer, but one that drew lines carefully and never deviated from his beliefs. And I suspect his reaction to Sun Quan was a manifestation of his character. His loyalty was to Liu Bei and no other, so why would he accommodate an idea that would place that loyalty in any sort of jeopardy? He probably caught hint of a ruse, and was not interested in playing along.

I also agree that the way in which Cao Cao treated him is a manifestation of just what kind of general Guan Yu was. And what kind of man he was. Cao Cao never struck me as the sort that would take great interest in someone—at least on that level—unless they were not only very talented, but very strong of character as well. For me, at least, this alone discredits the suspicion of some that he really wasn’t anyone exceptional in history.

I’m looking forward to hearing people’s thoughts on this one.
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Unread postby Shi Tong » Wed Nov 29, 2006 12:06 pm

Yes, I agree with what you say there James.

It's a good observasion that if Guan Yu had accepted the marriage proposal that he would be torn between one king and another- his loyalty to Liu Bei would mean that he wanted his daughter to marry into the Liu clan or someone else that was loyal to Shu and their cause, not into Wu whose loyalty and character was questionable.

Another point you made was exellent, and that is that Guan Yu had many influential and rather incredible friends, I mean, we all respect Zhang Liao, and I would imagine that most people would say that Zhang Liao was a pretty good judge was well as a brilliant general, so why would he be friends with Guan Yu if he thought he was impatient and incompentant? I dont buy it.
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Unread postby jiang cheng » Thu Nov 30, 2006 3:38 am

Cao Cao respect him for his battle ability and cao cao is well know for respecting talent and want them to work for his cause.

Guan Yu's downfall indirectly is caused by his words not his rejection of the union. He said something like How can my tiger dog marry herself to a dog son. (Usually people will call their son as dog son as a humble point)
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Unread postby Shadowlink » Thu Nov 30, 2006 2:20 pm

jiang cheng wrote:Cao Cao respect him for his battle ability and cao cao is well know for respecting talent and want them to work for his cause.

Guan Yu's downfall indirectly is caused by his words not his rejection of the union. He said something like How can my tiger dog marry herself to a dog son. (Usually people will call their son as dog son as a humble point)
"Tiger Lass" marry a guy that is not strong. plus if he did gave her away wu will just make her a hostage and attack shu
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Unread postby Shi Tong » Thu Nov 30, 2006 4:21 pm

Do you think that Shu and Guan Yu would be ok if Guan's daughter is taken as a hostage? I dont think so.. Maybe this is why Guan Yu was incredibly reluctant.

In other ancient wars (namely in Roman times) the Gauls always gave away hostages to Rome in order to be loyal to them, but as soon as the Gauls did anything they didn't like, the Romans would kill the hostages.

The same thing could have happened to Guan Yu's daughter, and if he was a loving father, then he would have turned down the marriage proposal if this is what he was scared of.

Dont forget that Wu was still a different country, and though it should have been diplomatically dealt with by politicians, this matter was directly taken to Guan Yu who had to reply himself without any guidance. I might have been as undiplomatic if I didn't have the right tools- and I think Guan Yu lacked the tools which he needed when defending Jing- he didn't have good advise or coleagues.
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Unread postby Sun Gongli » Thu Nov 30, 2006 5:47 pm

At that point, though, both countries were, in words at least, paying lip service to restoring the Han.

I don't think Guan Yu's weakness is impatience. I think it's arrogance. It's not that he rejected the union, but it's the way in which he did it. Had he politely declined, or at the very least said flat out how he felt without trying to be witty or insulting, then Sun Quan may not have gotten so ticked off.

Then there's Mi Fang, Fu Shiren, and Pan Jun. All three of these men didn't like Guan Yu. Mi Fang, in particular, had served Liu Bei dutifully for years. Why would he seek to defect from a lord whom he had served loyally? Because Guan Yu treated him like dirt, threatened him, and belittled him. Even the appraisal of Guan Yu in his SGZ biography states that he belittled those around him.
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Re: Was Guan Yu really impatient?

Unread postby Elitemsh » Thu Nov 30, 2006 7:54 pm

Shi Tong wrote:Guan Yu was also incredibly unfortuante to not only have 2 incompetant generals working for him in the form of Mi Fang and Fu Shiren, but also that they were willing to betray Liu Bei's (their lord's) close friend. Even in a SGY bio it mentions that Liu Bei and Guan Yu were like brothers.


Hmm, perhaps the reason Mi Fang and Fu Shiren did not carry out their duties adequately was not simply incompetence but possibly because it was Guan Yu who told them to do it. Since Guan Yu belittled others, it is likley he may have treated them with disrespect. You are much more likely to do something well if you are asked to do it nicely. Theoretically, I bet if Mi Fang and Fu Shiren were ordered by Zhuge Liang or Liu Bei to carry certain tasks they would have performed them diligently.

I do though agree with your assessment of Guan Yu being a patient man, I see no reason to suggest he wasn't.
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Unread postby LiuBeiwasGreat » Thu Nov 30, 2006 10:39 pm

Sun Gongli wrote:
Then there's Mi Fang, Fu Shiren, and Pan Jun. All three of these men didn't like Guan Yu. Mi Fang, in particular, had served Liu Bei dutifully for years. Why would he seek to defect from a lord whom he had served loyally? Because Guan Yu treated him like dirt, threatened him, and belittled him. Even the appraisal of Guan Yu in his SGZ biography states that he belittled those around him.


When it comes to Mi Fang and Shi Ren (never knew Pan Jun didn't like Guan Yu, where was this said?) Depending on the account they defect for different reasons. In Guan Yu's bio it implies that they defect out of fear of punishment, in their own bios (well at least Mi Fang's bio) it suggests he defects for personal gain, in Lu Meng's bio it says that Shi Ren defected out of fear of Lu Meng. Lu Meng has a friend of Shi Ren write a letter which basicly says that if he doesn't surrender when they defeat him and take the city his life, his families life and his shrines to his ancestors would all be destroyed and it is because of that Shi Ren surrenders. Mi Fang also surrenders out of desparation when he sees that Shi Ren surrendered (since now be believes there is no way for him to resist)
I do find it odd that depending on the document these people have different reasons for their actions.
Guan Yu's bio doesn't say he belittled others. It says that he had too much self repect and was unyeilding which was Chen Shou's opinion (not that Chen Shou ever met him)
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Unread postby Sun Gongli » Thu Nov 30, 2006 10:51 pm

Mi Fang's bio is only contained in Mi Zhu's own, and has such, is written to further amplify the merits of Mi Zhu by contrasting the two. You can't honestly believe that's an objective passage.

Similarly, Lu Meng's bio will say that it was because Shi Ren feared him because it wants Lu Meng to look fearsome while making Shi Ren not look like a cowardly whelp, just a smart, cautious man.

I would say that Chen Shou is a better judge of personalities than modern day historians, who are even far more removed than he was. Just because he peppered up his biographies a little bit doesn't mean he was completely inaccurate.
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