Romance of the Three Kingdoms: Five Tiger Generals
The Five Tiger Generals is a popular appellation in Chinese culture for the top five military commanders serving under one lord. Although the term does not appear in Chinese historical records and is not used officially, it has been heavily used in literature texts, folklore, as well as popular culture.
As a romanticized novel based on the history of the Three Kingdoms period, the historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms refers Guan Yu, Zhang Fei, Huang Zhong, Ma Chao and Zhao Yun as the “Five Tiger Generals” of Shu Han, one of the Three Kingdoms, led by warlord Liu Bei. In the literature, Liu Bei initially appointed Guan Yu as General Who Destroys Rebels and Lord of Hanshou, Zhang Fei as General Who Subdues Rebels and Lord of Xin, Huang Zhong as General Who Conquers the West, Ma Chao as General Who Pacifies the West, and Zhao Yun General Who Guards the West, and promoted them to “Five Tiger Generals” later. Guan Yu is one of Liu Bei’s strongest generals in the novel.
Together with Zhang Fei, he started following Liu Bei’s leadership at a very early stage of Liu Bei’s career, at which time the Han dynasty was experiencing the large-scale Yellow Turban Rebellion. He joined a militia that was led by Liu Bei, funded by local business groups in Zhuo County. He impressed Liu Bei at their first meet-up due to his physical strength and outgoing personality, and quickly formed a brotherly relationship with Liu Bei and Zhang Fei. He rose from fighting Yellow Turbans, commanded Liu Bei’s navy, conquered Changsha, governed Jing Province, expanded Shu Han’s territory to Cao Wei-controlled Fancheng. Throughout his career, Guan Yu participated in numerous battles against Cao Wei led by Cao Cao and Eastern Wu led by Sun Quan, and played a critical role in establishment of Shu Han. Due to the might of his arm and his chivalry, Guan Yu is divinized after his death, representing bravery, power, loyalty, righteousness, as well as brotherhood.