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Appraisal of Guan Yu by contemporaries and historians

Unread postPosted: Fri Jun 08, 2018 9:52 pm
by Han
Sources used: ... index.html
Biographical Dictionary of Later Han and Three Kingdoms
Imperial Warlord

Guan Yu and most people who fought for Shu Han receive a lot of flak by the 3K online community. I have thus sought to use historical sources to offer a different point of view when it comes to Guan Yu career and the many praises he has received by his contemporaries and historians for his historical exploits over the Centuries.

Guan Yu was known to assist Liu Bei no matter how dangerous the situation.

When Liu Bei was young he had become good friends with Guan Yu of Hedong and Zhang Fei of Zhuo commandery. He made Guan Yu and Zhang Fei Majors with Separate Commands and shared his troops with them. Liu Bei could sleep with these two men in the same bed and he treated them with the favour of brothers, but when there was a crowd of other people about, they would stand in attendance all day. They followed Liu Bei
everywhere, and they would undertake anything for him, no matter how difficult or dangerous.

Cao Cao admired Guan Yu

Before this, Cao Cao had always admired Guan Yu, but he saw on his face that he would not stay long. He sent Zhang Liao to ask Guan Yu about it, and Guan Yu sighed and said, "I know very well how generously Lord Cao has treated me, but I have received favours from General Liu [Bei] and I swore to die with him. I cannot turn away [from that commitment], and eventually I must leave here. I want to offer Lord Cao some assistance in
return [for the generous treatment he has given me], and then I shall go." Zhang Liao reported to Cao Cao what Guan Yu had said and Cao Cao saw the justice of it. Then Guan Yu killed Yan Liang and Cao Cao knew that he was sure to go. He had given him great rewards, but Guan Yu sealed up everything he had received. Then he wrote to make his excuses, and he fled to Liu Bei in Yuan Shao's army. Some of the attendants wanted to chase after him, but Cao Cao said, "That man has chosen his master. Let him go."

Zhou Yu comparing Guan Yu and Zhang Fei to bears and tigers.

Zhou Yu sent in a memorial to Sun Quan saying, "Liu Bei is a cruel fierce leader, and he has Guan Yu and Zhang Fei as officers like bears or tigers. They will never agree to serve anyone else for very long.

Liu Ye comments that Guan Yu and Zhang Fei has courage superior to anyone.

Liu Ye argued,25 "Liu Bei is a hero among men and has the generosity of a ruler, but he has come a little late. He has only held SHU for a few days, and the people do not yet trust him. Now that you have destroyed Hanzhong, everyone in SHU will be shaken and frightened and their power will fall of its own accord. With your spiritual wisdom, taking advantage of their weakness to destroy them, there is nothing you cannot manage. "If, on the other hand, you hesitate even a short time, then his
Chancellor Zhuge Liang knows how to bring a state to good order, while his military commanders Guan Yu and Zhang Fei have courage excelling all others. Soon the people of SHU will be settled, and they will hold the passes and guard the important positions. We would never be able to attack them. Unless we take them now, they will surely cause trouble later." Cao Cao would not agree.

Wen Hui noted that Cao Ren would struggle against Guan Yu due to the latter's bravery and cunning.

Sun Quan attacked Hefei.26 The soldiers of several [WEI] provinces were stationed along the frontiers in Huainan.27 The Inspector of Yang province Wen Hui said to the Inspector of Yan province Pei Qian, "Though the enemy come against us, we have nothing to worry about here. On the other side, however, with the river floods rising, Zixiao [Cao Ren] keeps his army idle and has no long-term plans for contingencies. Guan Yu is brave and cunning. If he attacks, I fear the General Who Subdues the South [Cao Ren] will have trouble."28

This badass statement needs no explanation

Guan Yu's power made central China tremble, and King Cao of WEI even considered shifting the capital from Xu city to avoid his attacks.

Lü Meng pointed out to Sun Quan that Guan Yu could easily wipe out Sun Quan descendants.

Before this, Lu Su had urged Sun Quan that so long as Cao Cao lived he should stay in harmony with Guan Yu and maintain the alliance. They should never break off with him. Then Lü Meng took Lu Su's place and
camped at Lukou.47 He considered that Guan Yu had always been an ambitious general who planned to take over all the territory. He already controlled the upper reaches of the state,48 and it would be difficult to
maintain this position for long. So he said secretly to Sun Quan, "Order the General Who Subdues the Caitiffs [Sun Jiao] to hold Nan commandery, Pan Zhang to go to Bodi, and send Jiang Qin with ten thousand soldiers raiding up and down the Yangzi, to harass the enemy wherever he turns. Then I shall go forward and occupy Xiangyang for our state. After that, what have we to fear from Cao Cao? And why should we rely upon Guan Yu?49 "Moreover, though Guan Yu and his master [Liu Bei] boast of their
pretended power, they are very unstable and we cannot trust them. If Guan Yu has not yet turned eastwards against us, it is only because of your honour's sage-like intelligence, and because I and others are still here. Should you fail to act while we are strong, then one day we may be gone, and if you wish to muster your forces again, how will you manage?"

Lu Xun told Lü Meng that without Lü Meng presence, Guan Yu would cause trouble and that Guan Yu had proud ideas and ambition. Lü Meng replied that Guan Yu was brave and fierce and governed Jing province excellently and that matching him would be very difficult. Much less dealing with him.

As Lü Meng passed Wuhu, the Colonel Who Settles Majesty Lu Xun said to him,51 "You hold the border against Guan Yu, why have you come so far down here? Won't that soon cause us problems?" "What you say is true," replied Lü Meng, "but I am very ill." "Guan Yu boasts of his courage," said Lu Xun, "and he oppresses others. Having lately gained a great success, he now has proud ideas and unbridled ambition. Fully occupied with his attack to the north, he has yet no suspicion of us. When he hears of your illness, he will certainly reduce his
guard against us. If we break out now when he is not expecting us, we can take him. When you go down to see his honour [Sun Quan] you should make good plans." "Guan Yu is brave and fierce," replied Lü Meng, "so it is difficult to match him. He already holds Jing province and he governs with great favour and good faith. Now he has begun to have success, his courage and strength
are growing. It will not be easy to deal with him."

Sun Quan believed that Lu Su, a fine military commander, could not cope with Guan Yu to the point that Lu Su needed to talk big.

Years later, Sun Quan spoke with Lu Xun about Zhou Yu, Lu Su and Lü Meng: "Gongjin [Zhou Yu] was brave and fierce, his courage and skill surpassing all others. So he defeated Mengde [Cao Cao] and extended our territory into Jing province.74 He stands alone without compare. "Zijing [Lu Su] was introduced to me by Zhou Yu. I spoke with him at a banquet and he talked of the great plan for imperial rule. This was one thing that caused me pleasure.75 "Later, Cao Cao seized Liu Zong's power and boasted how he would lead hundreds of thousands of sailors and soldiers together down the river.
When I asked my generals what I should do, not one of them had anything to suggest, while Zhang Zibu [Zhang Zhao] and Qin Wenbiao [Qin Song] both said that we should send tribute and receive Cao Cao.76 "Lu Su, however, argued against them, that we should do no such thing. He urged me to call upon Zhou Yu to take command of the army to face and attack the invaders. This was the second occasion that caused me
pleasure.77 "Later, he encouraged me to cede territory to Xuande [Liu Bei], but this was his only weakness, and not enough to discount his two fine actions.78 2172 "The Duke of Zhou did not look for everything in one man, so I disregard Lu Su's shortcomings and remember only his greatness. I always compare him to Deng Yu.79 "When Ziming [Lü Meng] was young,80 I used to say that he was not the man to hesitate, no matter whether a task might prove difficult or easy. He was brave and gallant, and as he grew to maturity he became an increasingly good scholar. He was particularly good at strategy and schemes, and for that I would put him equal to Zhou Yu; only in argument and debate did he fall short. It was Lü Meng who planned the destruction of Guan Yu, and in that he was better than Lu Su. "Whenever I wrote to him, Lu Su would always reply that, 'When an emperor is coming to power, someone must clear the path for him. Guan Yu is of no concern.' But this was only because Lu Su realised that he could not cope with Guan Yu; so he showed off and talked big. Yet I can excuse him and I do not blame him. "Furthermore, in his management of armies in camp, Lu Su never failed to have his orders obeyed, and whatever he prohibited always stopped. In
territory under his command none could evade their duties, and things dropped on the roads were not picked up. He was truly a fine commander."

Zhang Fei was considered inferior only to Guan Yu, and was highly praised by Cheng Yu to be as strong as ten thousand men.

The General of Chariots and Cavalry (juji jiangjun) Zhang Fei was brave and martial, second only to Guan Yu. The counseling ministers of Wei, such as Cheng Yu, all said that Guan Yu and Zhang Fei were each the match of ten thousand men. Guan Yu treated his rank and file well but was arrogant towards the gentry; Zhang Fei loved and respected superior men but was harsh towards his troops. The Sovereign of Han always admonished Zhang Fei, "You are extraordinarily severe in sentencing your men to death; furthermore, you daily whip and beat soldiers and order these very men to wait upon you. This is simply courting disaster." Still Zhang Fei did not mend his conduct. When the Sovereign of Han was about to attack Sun Quan, Zhang Fei was to lead ten thousand men from Langzhong and join him at Jiangzhou. On the eve of his setting out, Zhang Da and Fan Jiang (范彊), who were his subordinate generals, killed Zhang Fei; carrying his severed head, they sailed down the river and fled to Sun Quan. Hearing that Zhang Fei's yingdudu {Chief Controller} had sent a memorial to him, the Sovereign of Han said, "Alas, Zhang Fei is dead."

Chen Shou in his appraisal compared Guan Yu and Zhang Fei to be as strong as ten thousand men and were like tigers. They were praised for their honour and to be noted gentlemen but were criticised for their flaws.

Chen Shou in his commentary says:
"Guan Yu and Zhang Fei, each of them known as the match of ten thousand men, served their Sovereign as bravely as tigers. Guan Yu repaid Duke Cao Cao for the favors he received and Zhang Fei magnanimously gave back freedom to Yan Yan; in these they showed that they were first gentlemen of the land. But Guan Yu was uncompromising and obdurate, overly proud of himself; Zhang Fei was unbridled in his temper, never making others attached to him. Because of these defects, they met their sad ends; theirs was a lot that could not be prevented."

Cao Pi ministers believed that Guan Yu was Shu Han only great general. Een though Ma Chao who ambushed Cao Cao and defeated Xiahou Yuan once plus Zhang Fei who crushed Zhang He were both still healthy and alive.

Some time ago the Emperor had commanded his body of officials to hazard a conjecture as to whether Liu Bei would issue from his domain and avenge Guan Yu on Sun Quan. The consensus was, "Shu is but a petty state and has had only one general of renown, Guan Yu. Now that Guan Yu is dead the army is overthrown, the whole country is possessed by worry and fear; Liu Bei has no chance of issuing from his domain." The Palace Attendant (shizhong) Liu Ye alone said, "Narrow and weak though Shu may be, Liu Bei has set his heart on consolidating his position by martial prowess. Therefore he is certain to conduct a campaign to demonstrate that he still has plenty of strength. Furthermore, the relation between Guan Yu and Liu Bei was indeed that of sovereign and subject, but their affection was comparable with that of father and son. If he cannot, after Guan Yu's death, raise his troops and take revenge on the enemy, he will not be fulfilling his part!"

Lu Xun compared Guan Yu as an equal to Cao Cao and Liu Bei and one of the 3 heroes of the time inferior only to Sun Quan.

Lu Xun sent up a memorial saying, “Relying on his steep terrain and fortified positions, Gongsun Yuan has detained our envoys and has not presented us with fine horses. He indeed deserves our ire! The barbarous tribes disturb our bright great land—they are not imbued with your royal sway. These fugitives who like birds resort to uncivilized regions, would offer resistance to the royal army, going so far as to cause Your Majesty to rise majestic in wrath. [3] You would trouble your august person to sail lightly over the sea, and disregarding danger, risk mishap. At present the empire is in a turbulence like that of clouds; masses of heroic men contend like tigers, men of strength and spirit strive with raised voices and wide open eyes.

“With divine martial spirit, Your Majesty has become heir to the time. You have put Cao Cao to rout at Wulin, defeated Liu Bei at Yiling, and captured Guan Yu in Jingzhou. These three men were heroes of the age, yet you crushed their strength. Wherever is your Majesty's sage-dominion, the myriad li bend like grass. [7] You are on the point of conquering and tranquilizing the whole of China, to rule with your great Counsel. Yet now you will not bear a minor vexation and pour out your thunderous wrath! In this you disregard the warning against 'sitting below the overhanging roof of a house' and treat your august person lightly. This is something that puzzles me. I have heard that one who goes ten thousand li does not stop walking in the middle of the road; one who plans to win the land within the four seas does not concern himself with trifles and jeopardize the great plan. A strong enemy is on our borders; there are still those who have not submitted; yet Your Majesty would ride on a raft to undertake a distant expedition, which will surely provide opportunity for our enemies. You will blame yourself after disaster has come, but regret then will be too late. If the great affair is speedily accomplished, Gongsun Yuan will submit on his own before we send an expedition against him. Now you set your heart on the masses and horses of Liaodong; must you throw away your foundation in Jiangdong, secure enough to last through thousands of generations, and feel no regret for it? [I beg you to rest the Six Armies and put the greater enemy in awe, to conquer China as early as possible and so leave behind your brilliance for the future.”

Cheng Yu believed that Guan Yu and Zhang Fei were a match for ten thousand armies.

Tàizǔ campaigned in Jīngzhōu [208], and Liú Bèi fled to Wú. Commentators believed Sūn Quán would certainly kill Bèi, but Yù predicted: “Sūn Quán is newly come to power, and is not yet feared Within the Seas. Lord Cáo has no match in the world Under Heaven. When he first raised up against Jīngzhōu, his authority shook beyond the Jiāng, and though [Sūn] Quán had planning ability, he cannot oppose us alone. Liú Bèi has heroic reputation, and Guān Yǔ and Zhāng Fēi are both a match for ten thousand enemies. [Sūn] Quán will certainly use them to oppose us. As his difficulty has been resolved, Liú Bèi is saved and cannot be taken and killed.” [Sūn] Quán indeed gave [Liú] Bèi troops to resist Tàizǔ.

It is noted in the Fuzi that Zhang Liao who had difficulty getting along with his colleagues at one point in time considered Guan Yu to be his brother.

Fùzǐ states: Liáo wished to inform Tàizǔ [Cáo Cāo] but feared Tàizǔ would kill Yǔ, but to not inform was not the way to treat one’s master, so he sighed and said: “Lord [Cáo] is like master and father. Yǔ is like a brother and that is all.” Therefore he informed him [Cáo Cāo]. Tàizǔ said: “To serve one’s master without forgetting one’s origins is to be a righteous hero Under Heaven. When do you judge he will go?” Liáo said: “Yǔ has received your favor, and will certainly establish a service to repay you and afterward go.”

Zhuge Liang wrote that Ma Chao was equal to Ying Bu, Peng Yue and Zhang Fei but inferior to Guan Yu in terms of military and civil ability.

Yǔ heard Mǎ Chāo had come to surrender. He had previously not known him at all, so Yǔ wrote a letter to Zhūgě Liàng, to ask who could Chāo compare with in ability. Liàng knew that Yǔ was proud, so he answered: “[Mǎ Chāo] Mèngqǐ has both civil and military ability and valor surpassing others, a hero of the age, comparable to Qíng [Bù] and Péng [Yuè], and so can compete with [Zhāng Fēi] Yìdé, yet he cannot yet compare to how the bearded one excels above others.” Yǔ had great whiskers and beard, and therefore Liàng called him bearded one. When Yǔ received the letter he was greatly pleased, and showed it to his follower guests.

According to the Fuzi, Xu Huang who was noted to have a limited social network was fond of Guan Yu.

Shǔjì states: Yǔ and Huǎng were formerly fond of each other. From afar they conversed, though they only spoke of common life and not military affairs. Suddenly, Huǎng dismounted his horse and announced an order: “For obtaining Guān [Yǔ] Yúncháng’s head, the reward is a thousand jīn of gold.” Yǔ was surprised, and said to Huǎng: “Elder brother, why say this?” Huǎng said: “This is the state’s affair and that is all.”

Zhuge Liang believed that Huang Zhong who just slaughtered Xiahou Yuan was inferior to Guan Yu in terms of fame.

That year, Xiān-zhǔ became King of Hànzhōng, and wished to appoint Zhōng as General of the Rear. Zhūgě Liàng advised Xiān-zhǔ: “Zhōng’s renown cannot be compared to Guān [Yǔ] or Mǎ [Chāo]. Yet now you wish them to have the same rank. Mǎ [Chāo] and Zhāng [Fēi] were nearby and personally saw his achievement, and so can be convinced, but Guān [Yǔ] is far away and when he hears of this, I fear he will certainly be displeased. Is this not impossible?” Xiān-zhǔ said: “I will personally resolve it.” Therefore he was given equal rank with [Guān] Yǔ and the rest, and given fief as Marquis Within the Passes.

Pei Songzhi believed that Guan Yu was as close to Liu Bei like limbs and was his trusted aide.

Liú Bèi went east to attack Wú [221]. The King of Wú [Sūn Quán] asked for peace, and Jǐn wrote to Bèi: “I have abruptly heard you have come with banners and drums to Báidì, and am concerned that your advisers will believe that because the King of Wú has obtained this province and harmed Guān Yǔ so that your blame and anger are exceedingly great, it is not appropriate to discuss peace. This is to use the emotions of a petty man, and not consider the greater situation. I shall try to explain for Your Majesty the light from severe and the great from the small. If Your Majesty restrains your power and controls your anger and heed my words, then everything can be settled, and there will be no need to consult with other officials. How does Your Majesty’s relation to Guān Yǔ compare to your relation with the Former Emperor [Xiān-dì Liú Xiè]? How does the importance of Jīngzhōu compare with that of the whole land Within the Seas? If you give into your anger, who will carry on the succession [of Hàn]? If you consider these points, it is as easy as turning a hand [in deciding for peace].” (1)

Your Servant Sōngzhī says: I believe Lord Liú used Shǔ to close the [Yellow] River and Jīng-Chǔ to defend the Hàn. Guān Yǔ raised troops about the Miǎn and Hàn, intending to ascend up the state, and though he sought to establish hegemony for the proper ruler he could not be certain of his achievement, and needed to use a great sound to shake the distant, and had that plan. Sūn Quán secretly had disastrous intentions, and assisted Wèi in removing a danger. As a result the example of Jiǎn Zōngzǐ rescuing his King, the cause for Lord Cáo to plan to move the capital, the scheme to restore Hàn, came close to success only to be thwarted. It was suitable that the banners for justice should point toward the Sūn. How could Jǐn speak of great justice to reproach Bèi? Moreover Bèi and Yǔ were as close as one’s four limbs. To suddenly lose his trusted aide, his fury and resentment was already very deep. How could a flowery letter stop him? That it was recorded in this chapter is truly a wasteful inclusion of prose

Fu Gan believed Guan Yu and Zhang Fei were brave and righteous and both were as strong as ten thousand men and heroes along with Zhuge Liang.

HHThe Fuzi says: “Previously when Liu Bei attacked Shu, Clerk to the Chancellor Zhao Jian 趙戩108 said, ‘Would Liu Bei not be successful? He is clumsy in his handling of troops; every time he fights a battle, he suffers defeat. He flees without a break. How could he be a man of vision? Although Shu is a small place, it is impregnable all around. It is a state where one could preserve himself, and it would be difficult to unexpectedly
swallow it up.’ Recruit for Office (zheng shi 徵士) Fu Gan 傅幹109 said, Liu Bei is benevolent and measured; he is able to get men to fight to the death. Zhuge Liang is a perspicacious administrator who understands changing situations. He is upright and is able to plan, and he is [Liu Bei’s] chancellor. Zhang Fei and Guan Yu are brave and possess righteousness. Both are the equal of 10,000 men, and they are his commanders. These three men are all heroes. Considering Liu Bei’s acumen, with these three
heroes assisting him, how can he not be successful?’”

Rafe De Crespigny notes Guan Yu and Zhang Fei martial abilities.

In Liu Bei's company at Fan city during the autumn of 208 there were his two lieutenants, Guan Yu and Zhang Fei, and his adviser Zhuge Liang. Guan Yu and Zhang Fei had both been with Liu Bei since the earliest days. Both men were noted for their fighting skills, their courage, and their arrogant self-confidence. Zhang Fei, who had at one time been a butcher, was known also for his violent temper, which had on occasion brought trouble to himself and his party. Guan Yu, for his part, had acquired a reputation for personal honour superior even to that of Liu Bei; and based, perhaps, on better evidence.62

Rafe De Crespigny notes that Sun Quan analysis of Lu Su being afraid of Guan Yu was reasonable.

And again, Sun Quan suggested that Lu Su was afraid of Liu Bei's general Guan Yu, and it was for this reason, when he felt he could not cope with the situation, he presented fine-sounding arguments to justify his policy of co-operation, and even subservience.19

Rafe De Crespigny believes that Guan Yu was Liu Bei most senior comrade and commander.

There was no question that the invasion would come: the coup against Guan Yu was too easily seen as treachery to an ally, and the death of Guan Yu, Liu Bei's
most senior comrade and commander, gave an element of blood-feud to the already bitter quarrel.

Rafe De Crespigny notes Guan Yu was a skilled horseman.

Frontiersmen such as Lü Bu, Gongsun Zan, Liu Bei and Guan Yu were naturally skilled horsemen, but Yuan Shao also rode and Cao Cao was an active leader of cavalry

Rafe De Crespigny claims that Cao Cao treatment towards Guan Yu was extraordinary and out of respect for a hero.

Cao Cao forgave the renegade Wei Chong and gave him charge of Henei, and he showed similar
tolerance to others: he took the hostile propagandist Chen Lin as his personal secretary, and appointed his old enemy Liang Gu to his staff. The latter two, of course, were literary rather than fighting men, and it helped Cao Cao’s reputation to treat them well; his generosity towards Guan Yu, however, close comrade of his declared enemy Liu Bei, was extraordinary, and we must assume it was similarly motivated by the need to show respect for a common-man’s hero.

Rafe De Crespigny describes Guan Yu as energetic.

This, however, was no longer a viable issue,
and formal alliance with Cao Cao could be useful in dealing with the ambitious Liu Bei and his energetic general Guan Yu.

Rafe De Crespigny describes Guan Yu to be notable and a continuous threat.

Guan Yu was a notable military commander, and
his army presented a continuing threat to Cao Cao’s position in Jing province, but his nearest troops were three hundred kilometres to the south, and it would not have been easy for him to reach Xu city in time to support the rising.

Rafe De Crespigny refers to Guan Yu and Zhang Fei as heroic companions.

Unlike Cao Cao, the leaders of Shu-Han hardly appear in Shishuo xinyu. Liu Bei is referred to just once, and that in dismissive fashion: were he in central China, he might raise a rebellion but could never build a proper government; should he take refuge in a frontier territory with good natural defences, however, he might survive as the ruler of a small state.41 His heroic companions Guan Yu and Zhang Fei are mentioned not at all, and though there are four items concern-ing Zhuge Liang, the first tells how one of his stratagems was foiled by the prescience of Xin Pi, while the other three mention him only in passing.42

Rafe De Crespigny praises Guan Yu physical prowess.

A man of great physical courage and skill, at one
occasion Guan Yu had a serious operation on his arm
carried out during a banquet, and even as the blood
flowed he ate and drank and laughed as usual.

Rafe De Crespigny writes that Guan Yu and Zhang Fei were considered the greatest military commanders of their time.

Zhang Fei and Guan Yu took Liu Bei as their leader when they were young, and Zhang Fei, some years junior to Guan Yu, treated him as an elder brother. There are anecdotes describing Zhang Fei as a man of literary
taste who composed verse in the midst of battle, but he
is more generally known as arrogant, impetuous and
brutal. While Guan Yu was said to be harsh towards men of the gentry but treated his soldiers well, Zhang Fei was courteous towards his betters but cruel to his rank and file. The two men were nonetheless regarded as the finest fighting men of their time.

And thats it. I have dug up and posted what I can find. To avoid criticisms of being biased, my posts are compiled by different texts, annontations, historical judgements, and Rafe De Crespigny opinions.

I can only hope that readers would view this without bias and take the time out to look up on the historical sources personally and read and enjoy the vasts knowledge of historical literature.

Re: Appraisal of Guan Yu by contemporaries and historians

Unread postPosted: Sat Jun 09, 2018 2:45 pm
by Elitemsh
It's great that you took the time to bring it all together like this. I would agree that Guan and Zhang were great talents. I generally defend them more than most. Some of the flak is fair though. One thing about them both is that despite their great courage on the field they'd didn't show it off the field. They had very serious flaws and neither of them showed the personal courage to change who they were. Guan Yu's ultimate defeat could be partly attributed to this 'lack of courage' depending on your opinion. I can understand people resenting them for this and thereby underestimating their martial ability.

Re: Appraisal of Guan Yu by contemporaries and historians

Unread postPosted: Sat Jun 09, 2018 3:44 pm
by Dong Zhou
Great work.

Some of these I wasn't aware of so thank you and I'm glad you included the man of honour bit by De Crespigny. There is always difficulty with finding the right balance between his poor record recorded and that he was clearly a man very well regarded in his time but I agree, he is getting too much flak of late. Even his reputation for honour is being attacked sometimes and I'm not sure people are always aware of how highly regarded he was in his own time

Re: Appraisal of Guan Yu by contemporaries and historians

Unread postPosted: Mon Jun 11, 2018 8:27 am
by Sun Fin
Good job Han! It is helpful to have all of these collected in one place! :D

Re: Appraisal of Guan Yu by contemporaries and historians

Unread postPosted: Thu Jul 19, 2018 11:48 pm
by Aaron.K
Dong Zhou wrote:Great work.

Some of these I wasn't aware of so thank you and I'm glad you included the man of honour bit by De Crespigny. There is always difficulty with finding the right balance between his poor record recorded and that he was clearly a man very well regarded in his time but I agree, he is getting too much flak of late. Even his reputation for honour is being attacked sometimes and I'm not sure people are always aware of how highly regarded he was in his own time
(Emphasis added by me)

Which is strange considering his otherwise poor record, which suggests something else is at play. I have some opinions as to why, but I obviously can't prove them.

Re: Appraisal of Guan Yu by contemporaries and historians

Unread postPosted: Fri Jul 20, 2018 8:48 pm
by Elitemsh
Guan Yu's poor record just seems more unfortunate circumstances. Taking nothing away from Zhang Fei but he had greater opportunity for glorious victories since he didn't have to guard Jing. With some of these Shu men their chances were fewer anyway.

Re: Appraisal of Guan Yu by contemporaries and historians

Unread postPosted: Sat Jul 21, 2018 12:24 am
by Aaron.K
Elitemsh wrote:Guan Yu's poor record just seems more unfortunate circumstances. Taking nothing away from Zhang Fei but he had greater opportunity for glorious victories since he didn't have to guard Jing. With some of these Shu men their chances were fewer anyway.

I mean that's true, but even then that doesn't warrant the kind of contemporary appraisal he gets; though some of it is probably making him look more fierce and skilled in order to make someone else look better (like how Lu Xun speaks of Guan Yu in relation to Sun Quan).

It's possible that this esteem was based on his loyalty towards Liu Bei and leaving Cao Cao while returning all of the gifts he was given, which might have been held in higher regard than any sort of skill or ability. It could even be related somehow to the kind of "brotherly" ideal that's held up to be the most virtuous of traits in "All Men are Brothers".

My other thought is that there might be some missing events from his biography, or even non-mentions of aspects of his personality that others were highly attracted to.

Re: Appraisal of Guan Yu by contemporaries and historians

Unread postPosted: Sat Jul 21, 2018 1:29 am
by LiuBeiwasGreat
I personally believe that there are gaps in Guan Yu's bio that give more examples of his ability.

It is also possible that despite his losses he would inflict significant casualties upon the winning force that people would fear to face him even if they won.

I cannot believe that his reputation was artificially inflated by his enemies to make themselves look better as we really don't see other examples of this. Plus there were plenty of people who were just as loyal as Guan Yu who don't get the same treatment. Mi Zhu joined Liu Bei at one of his lowest points and even rejected appointments from Cao Cao to stay with Liu Bei.

There has to be more to Guan Yu that we will never know about that his contemporaries understood that made him worthy of their praise. Somethings I guess you just need to see to believe.

Re: Appraisal of Guan Yu by contemporaries and historians

Unread postPosted: Sat Jul 21, 2018 3:51 am
by Aaron.K
I wouldn't say his reputation was artificially inflated, but when you look at the way Lu Xun was talking about him to Sun Quan, it's quite obvious that he's trying to make Sun Quan look superior (he even tells Zhongmou that he's near to conquering and tranquilizing all of China, which could be nothing further from the truth). This is a common thing throughout history when talking about defeated opponents. It makes their victory look so much greater if their opponent's ability is described in glowing terms.

Some of the other appraisals are evidently less partisan (like Cao Pi's councilors), while others are attempts at not wounding his pride (like Zhuge Liang's). I'm a huge Guan Yu apologist, but you have to take these appraisals within their context, and not all of them are free from some kind of other motive for praising him.

Re: Appraisal of Guan Yu by contemporaries and historians

Unread postPosted: Sat Jul 21, 2018 7:23 am
by Sun Fin
If you think about the time most of those quotes were made, Guan Yu would have been one of the most experienced fighting men in the era. He started in the Yellow Turbans, had participated in pretty much every significant campaign of the era since (other than the battle against Dong Zhuo and Sun Ce's conquering of the south lands) and was still active then. Only a handful of men would have been fighting longer and I doubt any would have fought in more battles. I don't think it's a surprise that most people were somewhat in awe of him. However up until that point his whole career had been spent as a front-line officer, his reputation was built on fighting and I don't doubt he was very good at it. I just think being a commander was a step to far.