From legend to myth: the Legendary figure of Guanyu and the God of loyality and courage


The informant shares a legendary figure that later transformed into a god with mythic characteristics. The context of this legend takes place during the Three Kingdoms period in China, around the years 220-280. This is a period of upheaval characterized by distinct individuals. The protagonist of the legend, Guanyu, is one of them, serving under the Shu dynasty. Other two kingdoms were the Wu Dynasty and the Wei Dynasty. It was a time when the three nations fiercely struggled for the orthodox king of China. Guanyu was a fearless warrior and was also the sworn brother of the king of Shu.


“Guanyu was captured by Lu Meng, a general in the Wu Dynasty. After he captured Guanyu, he beheaded him and sent the head in a box as a gift to Cao Cao, the king of the Wei Dynasty. He did this because at the time, Wei was the most powerful kingdom, and Wu wanted to befriend Wei to fight Shu. When Cao Cao opened the box, he found out that it was Guanyu’s head. The head of Guanyu jumped out of the box and tried to bite. It scared Cao Cao so much that his headache attacked. But regardless of the hostile relationship between Shu and Wei, Cao Cao admired Guanyu as a warrior of great courage and loyalty. He buried Guanyu with great honor and built temples in his name. Some say that it’s because Cao Cao was afraid of the fury of the Shu Dynasty for losing the King’s brother; others say that Cao Cao truly admired Guanyu. But that’s where the legend ends.

However, the myth of Guanyu starts there. Guanyu had been woven into Taoism and become one of the Taoist gods. He is the one that represents loyalty between friends and brothers. Many of the gang members in China would worship Guanyu as a sign of the bond between their members.”


The transformation of Guanyu from a legendary figure to a mythic god can be seen as a natural progression in the process of cultural storytelling. In folklore, legendary figures often embody the values and qualities admired by the society that creates and perpetuates their stories. As these values become more deeply ingrained in the culture, it’s common for these figures to take on a more divine or supernatural aspect.

In the case of Guanyu, his legendary status as a courageous and loyal warrior made him a powerful symbol for the values of loyalty and brotherhood. By incorporating Guanyu into the Taoist pantheon as a god, he became a representation of these values in a more profound and spiritual way. This transition allowed for a more profound connection to Guanyu’s virtues, as people could now seek his divine assistance and protection in their lives. Also, it becomes a mythtic figure because it teaches people how to behave in life and what to believe, without the fact that many people live up to the tradtions of Guanyu, he would remain a legend.

Interestingly, Guanyu as a mythtic figure was viewed differently in different groups. In Taoists, Guanyu was one of the four great protectors of Taoism. In Buddism, Guanyu was the Galan Budda, which resembles the chief of police in the world of budda. In the business world, merchants and ordinary people view him as Martial God of Wealth who save guard their wealth and good luck. Others view Guan yu as Guandi, God of war who controls over evil spririt of the world.