Grand Master Oogway was an elderly tortoise and the previous senior master of the Jade Palace. In the film's fictional universe, he is the founder of kung fu itself.
Not much is revealed about Grand Master Oogway's past life. However, it is implied that he was probably full of questions as a youth, which led to his departure from his home in the Galápagos Islands on a journey of discovery almost a thousand years ago, traveling all around the world and visiting every country until he arrived in China. Grand Master Oogway stood on a hill overlooking the land that would later become known as the Valley of Peace and knew that he had found the place he would call home for the rest of his life.
Highly venerated for his wisdom, knowledge and experience, Grand Master Oogway was considered to be a sage. It is also apparent that he seemed to be reckoned as a god in the art of Kung Fu, as he was greatly respected by Shifu, the Furious Five, Po, the entire Valley of Peace, and all of China. He is wise and possesses considerable physical skill. He's the only one that Tai Lung could not defeat, instantly paralyzing him with a lighting fast series of nerve strikes. Also, he proved skillful in his battle with Monkey, and encouraged him to use compassion towards others after deducing why Monkey played tricks on everyone. His selection of Po as the Dragon Warrior was strongly doubted by all, especially Po himself, but he stood by his decision, which proved to be the correct one. After convincing Shifu to train Po, Grand Master Oogway ascended to the Heavens in the midst of dozens of peach blossom petals floating away in the cold night breeze as he disappeared. Among all the proverbs he recites, his most recurring is "There are no accidents."
More of Grand Master Oogway's past was revealed in Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness. It was shown that Grand Master Oogway broke the Valley of Peace's citizens from Scorpion's hypnosis, fended off his former student Fenghuang, and chose Master Shifu to run the Jade Palace instead of Master Junjie. In "Ghost of Oogway," Master Junjie assumed the form of the Ghost of Grand Master Oogway to trick Po and the Furious Five into letting their guard down. Master Shifu later assumed the form of the Ghost of Grand Master Oogway to fool Master Junjie. Following Master Junjie's defeat, Master Shifu stated to Po that he knew Master Junjie was impersonating Grand Master Oogway because the real Grand Master Oogway never said "awesome." In the episode's final scene, it was shown that the real Ghost of Grand Master Oogway was watching the battle from the peach tree and stated "awesome" before ascending back to the Heavens.
"Oogway" is the English approximation of the Chinese word for "turtle" (simplified Chinese: 乌龟; traditional Chinese: 烏龜; pinyin: wūguī).