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Guan Yu is a legendary figure of ancient China that lived during the collapse of the Han Dynasty and the rise of the Three Kingdoms era. He was the sworn brother of Liu Bei and Zhang Fei, and later in life became one of the five Tiger generals of Shu, a kingdom founded and ruled by Liu Bei. He also for a time served the warlord Cao Cao after becoming separated from his sworn brothers, but eventually fled Cao Cao's service to return to Liu Bei's side. After his death, he became worshiped as the god of war and of righteousness. He had two sons, Guan Ping and Guan Xing. Stories and texts have also referred to a third son, Guan Suo, but this particular figure is considered fictional by historians.
Guan Yu was executed in the year 219 A.D. by the forces of Sun Quan of Wu when he refused to surrender and betray his lord Liu Bei.
Due to his legendary, undoubtedly romanticized, exploits displaying exemplary bravery and chivalry, Guan Yu was bestowed various posthumous honors by later Chinese dynasties, eventually leading to his deification by approximately 600 AD. Worship of Guan Yu is common throughout the religions and belief systems of China, including Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism. He is generally seen as a protector and bestower of boons to those who uphold the virtues of brotherhood and honesty, as he did during the Three Kingdoms period. In Buddhism, he is seen as a protector of temples and a sage of dharmic knowledge.
In the West, Guan Yu's status as a divinity is often perceived incorrectly as a god of war, owing to his great military successes as one of Shu's Five Tiger Generals. However, some later Chinese tales of Guan Yu do not preclude his famous physical prowess, such as one legend when he was called upon during the 12th century Song Dynasty to stop the great demon Chi You, who was preventing the creation of valuable salt within a saltwater lake.