Guan yun chang (The Lost Bladesman) (2011)






Director:     , .

Starring:     Donnie Yen (Guan Yu), Wen Jiang (Cao Cao), Betty Sun (Qi Lan), Bing Shao (General Zhang Liao), Bo-Chieh Wang (Emperor Liu Xie), Yong Dong (Xuyou), Andy On (General Kong Xiu), Yuan Nie (Han Fu), Xuebing Wang (Wang Zhi), Zonghan Li (General Qin Qi), Ailei Yu (General Bian Xi), Alex Fong (Liu Bei).

legendary Guan Yuchang slays six generals in the civil war that led to the collapse of Han Dynasty & the establishment of Shu Han of the 3 Kingdoms, making Liu Bei its first emperor, 219



Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film.

Two men are carving a statue.  A man receives a box with a human head inside.

A man at a wake says:  "If Guan Yunchang, righteous as heaven itself, can come to such an end, who's left to guard the Way?"  General Guan's righteousness was six parts compassion.  The man goes on to say this earth is ruled by wolves.     

Flashback.  Twenty Years Ago.  The Han reigned over a war-torn land.  "Commanding a small force, I Cao Cao managed at least to stabilize the empire. Then Yuan Shao rebelled, attacking my army.  His commander, Yan Liang, stormed Baim with his mighty army. . . . With this defeat, the city in ruins my generals couldn't contain their distress. . . . Guan Yunchang was my prisoner then. . . . They called him the undefeatable."  Then there was a man named Liu Bei. 

A man comes to Guan Yunchang asking him if Guan can kill a man for him?  The man says it would end the fighting. 

Guan asks for 30 cavalry volunteers.  Zhiang Liao says he will ride with Guan.  The others in the group now join up. 

The enemy rams through the front gate, but a number of archers prevent the enemy soldiers from pouring in. 

Guan kills one of the enemy commanders.  He and his 30 men then push through an enemy formation and come up behind the enemy group trying to get past the archers at the main gate.  Guan and his men force their way into the middle of the group.  Guan kills the enemy commander. 

In a big main room filled with soldiers and Guan, His Majesty, the Emperor, is announced to the crowd.  They want to give Guan some type of reward, but Guan says he is not worthy for the Emperor is in danger and yet he does nothing.  "Rebellion is clearly brewing."  He then asks Cao Cao why does he not kneel before the throne?  The Emperor is just a young man and he says, since there's no ceremony going on, everybody can rise.  Nobody moves, until Cao Cao tells them they can stand up.  They now stand up. 

Guan Yunchang is now a marquis.  He goes out into the fields where Cao Cao is.  The powerful man is very proud of establishing this immense field of grain out of the wilderness.  Guan tells him that Cao Cao rules the imperial court.  Cao Cao says that is not correct.  It's the Emperor makes him take charge.  He says only two types of people believe that he rules the court:  the bad, like Liu Bei, and the stupid, like Guan.  Cao Cao starts getting carried away and Guan grabs a cutting tool and sticks it next to Cao Cao's neck.  Cao Cao tells Guan that you never kill those who you are not supposed to kill.  He says he wants Guan to work in the fields with him and the Emperor.  Yes, the Emperor is out working in the fields.     

The Emperor confides in Guan that he has survived these last year by running from palace to ruins to palace, eating chaff and drinking dirty water.  "If an Emperor can find no refuge, what sort of empire is it?"

The Emperor admits that the empire is in the hands of Cao Cao and says it's because Cao Cao is stronger than him.  But one day the Emperor thinks he will become stronger than Cao Cao.

Guan and Cao Cao go to Guan's relative's house.  The people gather around Guan to say hello to him. but as soon as he introduces Cao Cao all the villagers suddenly disappear.  Guan says these are their people and asks Cao Cao for help for them.  Cao Cao says he will provide some help.  He leaves. 

Guan goes inside a house and pays his respects to Brother Liu Bei's two wives.  The young and pretty wife is Qilan.  The wives ask her why is she ignoring Brother Guan?  Qilan asks the question:  does a dishonorable man deserve respect?  The oldest wife tells Qilan that Guan's promotion was just a ruse by Cao Cao.  Anyway, Liu Bei has full trust in Guan.  And, as Liu Bei's future concubine, so should she.  Qilan is a daring one.  She says she wishes Guan would return to Liu Bei and attack the capital Xuchang while Cao battles Yuan Shao.  Taking that kind of verbal taunting, Guan leaves. 

A lot of men like to stare at Qilan.  She attracts a lot of attention.  There are four men in a group that are interested in Qilan.  At night they come to her mother's house.  A local man waits for them.  He had seen them ogling Qilan and prepared for their arrival.  He knocks them all down and stabs some of them.  In the morning, Qilan is shocked to see the dead bodies of four men outside her mother's gate.  (The man was Guan.)

The city is happy today as General Liu returns home with his men.  Qilan is younger at the time and she is introduced to General Liu.  Qilan is with a bunch of girls who notice Guan and refer to him as an ox-cart driver.  One of the girls warns the others that now Guan is General Guan.  It's true, at one time Guan was an ox-cart driver.  But he was a bit of a hero in his home town.  When Cao's bandits raided the town, he cut quite a few of them down.

Liu Bei's future wife doesn't even know her compatriot Guan Yunchangh. Liu has joined forces with Yuan Shao.  Guan killed General Yan Liang at Baima and now Yuan Shao wants to kill Liu Bei for that.

At his place at dinner time, Cao Cao asks Guan:  "What does Liu Bei do for you and Zhang Fei?"    Guan skirts around the issue.  Cao Cao says he wants Guan to join with him and his army.   Guan says he is a sworn brother to Liu Bei, but since Cao Cao released Liu's family, he would like to repay Cao Cao for this gentlemanly kindness, but again, Liu is his sworn brother.  Cao Cao and Guan both get a little drunk. Cao Cao drops him off at his room in the compound.

Guan keeps imagining that he sees Qilan.   Cao Cao's huge assistant tells Cao Cao that he has drugged Guan's food and the effect will last for four hours.  And he paralyzed Qilan with acupuncture and placed her on Guan's bed. 

Guan tries to go to bed, but finds Qilan there.  He says she can't be there because she belongs to Liu Bei.  Guan sees a masked man dressed in black and grabs him.  The fellow tells Guan that Liu Bei sent him here. He's in Ruyang, in Yuan Shao's camp. The man then kills himself with his own knife.  Now Guan wants to see Cao Cao.  But he finds out from the guards that Cao Cao is out and they don't know when he will be back.  So Guan tells the guards to tell Cao Cao that Guan Yunchang says goodbye.

Cao Cao gets the message.  He tells an aide that since Guan wants to go, let him.  His advisor says that letting Guan go is like letting loose a tiger -- and war is imminent.  Cao Cao says they need to discuss Yuan Shao.  He asks if Yuan Shao's key man, General Zhang He, wants to defect?    Zhang is not valued in the Yuan camp, so he's coming here.  Cao Cao wants to know if they can trust such a man on their side? 

Cao Cao says that Yuan Shao will attack and he will be joined by the House of Sun.  Ha approves a plan of sending 30 assassins to kill the key House of Sun generals.

Now Guan drives the carriage for sister-in-law Qilan away from the area too infested with the influence of Cao Cao.

Cao Cao sends his carrier pigeons out to carry the following message to his key men:  "Imperial Edict:  Guan Yunchang is approaching.  Execute without mercy." 

Guan arrives and is stopped by one of the key men who got the message.  He demands to see Guan's paper.  Qilan has a pass and gives it to the man.  Now the young fellow bangs the bottom of his lance on the ground and Guan is surrounded by armed soldiers.  He says:  "I, Kong Xiu, am under orders to kill GuanYunchang."  The attack on Guan beings, but he fights back.  He knocks several men down with his fists and leg kicks and then he grabs a long railing off the side of the carriage.  He starts knocking man after man down and out.  Kong Xiu goes after him and he's pretty talented, so Guan jumps on a horse with a nice weapon he picked up and rides out.  Kong Xiu chases after him. 

Kong catches up and then there's a long fight between Kong and Guan, with Guan coming out the winner.  He takes Qilan and leaves.  They stop at a small stream for the night.  He gives her a dagger just in case of trouble.  She looks at the insignia on the dagger and sees it carries the same insignia as a knife that was found in one of the dead bodies laid out in front of her mother's house. 

They reach a city and its seems to them that everyone is staring at them.  A man gives a hand sign to Guan and Guan tells Qilan that the fellow is in the brotherhood.  He follows the guy and finds shelter.  Guan knows the fellow running the place.  It's Han Fu.  The two men warmly greet each other.  Guan says he is joining up with Liu Bei and he wants Han Fu to come along and bring his men with him.  Han says he has no desire to fight anymore.  So Guan just asks Han to provide a boat for him and his sister-in-law so he can get over to Liu Bei.  Han, however, now works for Cao Cao and shoots a poison needle into Guan's left shoulder. Guan strikes him with a sword on the left shoulder.  Han falls to the floor.  He does manage to get a warning shout out and his men appear as if by magic they are so fast. 

There's another long battle and Guan and Qilan get away, but Guan is hurt with blood coming out of his mouth. The men comesafter him again and he kills or wounds a lot of them.  Now they are just scared of him and not so daring to rush him.   Now they are cautious.  Guan tries to rest a bit and catch his breath.  He charges again and men start jumping off the balcony to get away from him.  Guan thinks he has killed or gotten rid of them all, but one man sneaks up behind him and grabs him and puts a blade to his throat.  But now Qinlan stabs the last fellow in the back with a long spear. 

Guan wakes up in a bed.  He goes outside and a monk named Pu Jing introduces himself.  The General says thank you for saving his life for the monk effectively dealt with the poison in Guan's body.  The monk says that Qilan kept watch over him day and night.  Guan was out cold for ten days. 

Pu Jing informs Qilan that the General has left and that he is to escort her to the camp of Liu Bei. 

Guan goes to see Bian Xi, who butchered 50,000 men at Bingzhou.  Bian says it was no big loss because the 50,000 were rebels.  He then says Guan is just like him.  Guan denies that and Bian gets angry and he and his men attack Guan. 

Cao Cao and his staff go over the battle plan.  Yuan Shao has 100,000 troops at Guandu and 100 warships at Hetao.  Liu Bei's camp is at Ruyang with 10,000 troops.  Then why is Guan heading north?  He has killed Kong Xiu of Dongling, Meng Dan and Hanfu of Luoyang and Bian Xi of Yishui Pass.  And Cao Cao wants to know why Guan killed these men.  A staff member says because the deceased had orders to kill Guan on sight.  Cao Cao denies he gave this order.  He is going to kill some of his staff for this, but another member stops him saying that Cao Cao always says it is better to do wrong, than to be wronged. 

Guan comes into a virtually deserted town.  He finds just one man, Wang Zhi, who explains to Guan that it was he who killed the corrupt ruler a month ago and the Emperor appointed Wang Zhi to take the dead man's place.  Guan decides to leave, telling the man:  "Forget it."  He turns away to walk to his horse and weapon, but Wang Zhi comes after him with his sword.  During the fight, Guan tells his opponent that the man lacks strength.  Wang just keeps coming at him.  Guan spares his life twice and walks away, but the guy just keeps coming after him.  And now Wang is really going to make Guan mad.  He says two days ago, a monk and a lady were fleeing to Ruyang.  Wang led his troops to the Nanyang Road and invited them to Xingyang.  He then sent word of their hiding place to the town of Xudu.  Wang says Guan better hurry or the two people might starve to death.  Guan demands to know the hiding place but Wang kills himself.   

Guan finds all the people of the town behind a walled compound.  He explains who he is.  A little boy tells the adults that the man killed Sir Wang.  The people demand that the guards kill Guan to avenge Sir Wang.  They start throwing rocks at Guan, who knells down and lets them throw the rocks at him.  A farmer is going to spear Guan with a pitch-fork, when the real mayor appears and throws a spear in front of the attacker.  He tells Guan that he can leave.  A number of roped men are brought in to be beheaded.  The mayor says that Guan can go.  But Guan grabs a weapon and says that no one is to die here. 

Cao Cao appears and explains that if they don't kill these people and word gets out about it, Guan's reputation will be ruined.  Guan says kill any of these people and he will kill Cao Cao.  So Cao Cao says to let the people live.  He then says quietly to Guan to go ahead and play the hero, and Cao Cao will play the role of the lesser man. 

The monk says that Luoyang had been hell, but now things are much better thanks to Lord Cao's boundless beneficence.  Lord Cao says outside Luoyang it's still hell.  Guan now talks with Cao Cao.  He asks how many troops would Lord Cao expect him to kill?  The Lord says 10% percent of Yuan Shao's 200,000 troops.  That's roughly 20,000 troops.  The rest of the troops will flee.  Then Cao Cao will win over the House of Sun and stabilize the Western frontier.  Then with the realm united, there will be peace.  Guan asks what if he just killed the one man, Yuan Shao?  Cao Cao says good.  Guan asks will he then be able to lead an ordinary life?  Cao Cao says a hero can never live an ordinary live and besides Liu Bei will be furious. Guan is still determined to go back home and farm.  The two men shake on it.  Qilan watches all this from one of the buildings.

Guan drives the wagon with Qilan in it.  Nearing the Yellow River ferry crossing, he decides to let Qilan drive herself the rest of the way.  Qilan gets out of the wagon to tell Guan that she knows his true intentions.  And when she gets to Liu Bei she will ask him to betroth her to Guan.  He asks her how can she do this to Liu Bei?  Qilan says the one she wants is Guan.  She tells him that if he loves her too, Liu Bei will let them marry.  Guan says farewell and starts to walk away, but Qilan yells that he must not help Cao Cao.  Guan turns and sees that Qilan holds a knife to her throat.  He grabs her hand that holds the knife and tells her:  "All I want is to do some good."  He forces her hand to her side, but when he releases her hand she thrusts the knife into his mid-section.  She's not strong enough to kill him through his clothes.  He takes the knife from her and stabs himself in the mid-section.  He then pulls the knife back out.  Guan tells Qilan that when she sees Liu Bei tell him that Guan Guan Yunchang is dead. 

All of a sudden arrows start hitting the wagon.  Guan grabs Qilan and rolls with her under the carriage.  Hundreds of arrows hit the wagon and now Guan thinks that Qilan set him up to be killed.  Cao Cao and his men start running toward the wagon.  They see a man running away from the wagon and they catch up with him.  They ask if he is the one who ordered this attack?  No, it wasn't him.  It was the Emperor.  The Emperor with many men step forward and he says he is the one who ordered the attack. 

Guan runs through the forest killing soldier after soldier belonging to the Emperor. 

Cao Cao approaches the Emperor.  The Emperor says that if Cao Cao lets Guan go, the world will never know peace.  Cao Cao laughs heartily, pulls out the Emperor's sword and tells the Emperor he must do it, or there never will be peace in the world.  The boy Emperor says alright.  But the men suddenly become quiet when they hear the sound of men dying from blows delivered by Guan.  There is a lot of fog in the area and they don't know from which way Guan will appear. 

Guan suddenly appears and tells the men:  "Who blocks me dies."  Guan sees the Emperor and says he is going to kill him.  Cao Cao stops him saying that Guan can't kill the Emperor.  That will unleash complete chaos.  "For a woman who didn't love you, you pit yourself against the world.  She was your sister-in-law.  Another man's woman."  He now promises Guan that if peace is attained, he himself will kill the Emperor.  Guan tells Cao Cao that he cannot pacify this world.  He drops his sword and starts walking away. 

Guan drives his wagon covered in arrows toward the Yellow River.  Inside, unbeknownst to him, is his sister-in-law, dead from an arrow. 

"For seven years, Guan Yunchang fought alongside Liu Bei against the rival kingdoms of Wei and Wu.  China became a living hell.  20 years later, Wei and Wu attacked Guan's army.  Awaiting reinforcements, they fought to the last man.  Guan was captured and killed and his head sent to Cao Cao."

Cao Cao is there at the funeral ceremony.  He says he wants everyone to know that Sun Quan of Wu, Liu Bei and Kong Ming killed Guan.  And now war is inevitable. 

"Cao Cao buried Guan's head with ceremony hoping to incite war between Shu and Wu.  Wu gave Guan's body a regal funeral and built a temple to him, but the alliance was shattered.  After honoring Guan Yunchang, Liu attacked Wu once more."


Good movie.  The action takes place in the transition of the Han Dynasty to the Three Kingdoms period in China.  And there is a lot of action in the movie.  General Yunchang [a general serving under the warlord Liu Bei in the late Eastern Han Dynasty of China, who played a significant role in the civil war that led to the collapse of the Han Dynasty and the establishment of the state of Shu Han in the Three Kingdoms period] was quite the bladesman and considered invincible.  His one downfall was his love for his sister-in-law Qilan.  Donnie Yen (as Guan Yu) and Wen Jiang (as Cao Cao) were both very good. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historical Background:

189-220 AD  --  reign of Emperor Xian of Han, personal name Liu Xie, style name Bohe, who was the last emperor of the Han Dynasty period of Chinese history. Emperor Ling died.  He was succeeded by his eldest son, Emperor Shao, whose brother became Emperor when General Dong Zhuo, who controlled the realm, removed his brother from the throne.

192  --  Dong Zhuo is assassinated by L Bu.   Emperor is stranded in Luoyang with the warlords formally acknowledging him but giving him no aid.

193  -- Cao massacred thousands of civilians in Xu Province to avenge his father, whom Cao Cao believed to have been murdered by Xu Province's governor, Tao Qian.

196  --  Emperor Xian comes under the control of Cao Cao.  Cao used Emperor Xian as a nominal ruler effectively, issuing edicts beneficial to him in Emperor Xian's name, greatly helping him in his quest to reunify the empire.

winter of 208/9  --  Cao Cao is defeated by Sun Quan and Liu Bei at the Battle of Red Cliffs.  This leads to Sun and Liu's entrenchment in their territories.

219  --  Guan Yunchang and his son Guan Ping are executed by Sun Quan's forces in Linju (in present-day Nanzhang County, Xiangyang, Hubei).

220  --  Cao Cao dies in Luoyang at the age of 65, having failed to unify China under his rule.

220  --  the Han Dynasty was finally overthrown by Cao Cao's son Cao Pi, ending more than 400 years of Han dynastic rule and ushering in the era of the Three Kingdoms.  Emperor Xian was forced to abdicate in favor of Cao Pi and was given the title of Duke of Shanyang.

220-280  --  the Three Kingdoms period was a tripartite between the states of Wei, Shu and Wu, following the loss of the de facto power of the Han Dynasty in China, ushering in the start of the Period of Disunity.




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