Guan Yu - Summer Palace Art

Guan Yu's escape

In Romance of the Three Kingdoms, chapter 26, Guan Yu hears about the whereabouts of his sworn brother Liu Bei and leaves Cao Cao, together with Liu Bei's wives, to reunite with Liu Bei. Guan Yu attempted to bid Cao Cao farewell in person before his departure but Cao Cao did not give him the chance to do so. Frustrated, Guan Yu eventually wrote a farewell letter to Cao Cao and left. He took with him none of the luxuries and gifts Cao Cao gave him, except the Red Hare. He even gave up his title as Marquis of Han Shou by leaving behind his official seal. Cao Cao's subordinates felt that Guan Yu behaved far too rudely and arrogantly by leaving without bidding farewell and wanted to pursue him and bring him back. However, Cao Cao knew that no one could stop the determined Guan Yu and he gave orders for the officials along the way to give passage to Guan Yu.

1st PassageEdit

Guan Yu rode beside the carriage carrying his sisters-in-law and escorted them safely all the way. The first pass they reached was Dongling Pass (東嶺關, south of present day Dengfeng, Henan). The guarding officer Kong Xiu refused to allow Guan Yu passage as Guan did not have any official permits with him. Infuriated, Guan Yu killed Kong Xiu and forced his way through the pass.

2nd PassageEdit

They next reached the city of Luoyang. The Governor Han Fu led 1,000 men to blockade Guan Yu's passage. Han Fu's subordinate Meng Tan challenged Guan Yu to a duel but was sliced in two by Guan Yu. While Guan Yu was fighting with Meng Tan, Han Fu secretly took aim and fired an arrow at Guan Yu. The arrow hit Guan Yu's arm and wounded him, but Guan Yu drew the arrow from the wound and proceeded to kill Han Fu regardless. The shocked soldiers immediately gave way and Guan Yu's party passed through safely.

3rd PassageEdit

Guan Yu's party arrived at Sishui Pass (汜水關, north of present day Xingyang, Henan). The guarding officer Bian Xi received Guan Yu's party with a warm welcome and invited Guan to a feast at the temple outside the Pass. In fact, Bian Xi had ordered 200 of his men to lie in ambush inside the temple and kill Guan Yu. Fortunately, one of the monks called Pujing, who was also from Guan Yu's hometown, hinted to Guan Yu of the hidden danger. The ambush failed and Guan Yu killed Bian Xi and passed through Sishui Pass.

4th PassageEdit

The Governor of Xingyang, Wang Zhi, adopted a similar scheme to kill Guan Yu. Like Bian Xi, he pretended to be welcoming towards Guan Yu and led Guan Yu's party to a courier station for them to settle in for the night. After that, Wang ordered his subordinate Hu Ban to lead 1,000 men to surround the station secretly and set fire to it in the middle of the night. Curious to know what the famous Guan Yu looked like, Hu Ban stole a glance at Guan Yu. Guan noticed Hu Ban and invited him into the room. Guan Yu had met Hu's father earlier and carried a letter with him. He gave the letter to Hu Ban and, after reading his father's letter, Hu decided to help Guan Yu. Hu Ban revealed Wang Zhi's evil plot and opened the city gates secretly for Guan Yu and his party to leave. Wang Zhi caught up with the party a while later but Guan Yu turned back and killed him.

5th PassageEdit

Guan Yu's party finally arrived at a ferry crossing on the southern bank of the Yellow River. Qin Qi, the officer in charge, refused to allow them to cross the river and was killed by an angered Guan Yu. Guan Yu and his party then crossed the river safely and entered Yuan Shao's domain. However, they soon realised that Liu Bei was no longer in Yuan's territory and had already left for Runan. Guan Yu and his party then made their long journey back and were finally reunited with Liu Bei and Zhang Fei at Gucheng.

See AlsoEdit

  • The Lost Bladesman
    A 2011 movie very loosely based on this fictional event, with Donnie Yen starring as Guan Yu.

What happened historically?Edit


  • ...Guan Yu never crossed five passes, which were, in fact, far away from each other.
  • ...the officers Kong Xiu, Meng Tan, Han Fu, Bian Xi, Wang Zhi and Qin Qi did not exist.
  • ...Cao Cao let Guan Yu return to Liu Bei without a fight.
  • ...Xiahou Dun never chased Guan Yu in his escape.


  • Luo Guanzhong 羅貫中. Sanguo yanyi 三國演義 “Romance of the Three Kingdoms”. Trans. C. H. Brewitt-Taylor. New York: Tuttle Publishing, 2002.