Warrior Emperor of the Kingdom of Wei
Chaos of the Three Kingdoms
Chaos of the Three Kingdoms
Cao Cao is depicted as a cruel, vicious and satanic evil warlord who stop at nothing to destroy ancient china and shape it into his own utopia of chaos and despair, he uses his own officers including his sons and daughter Cao Pai as mere pawns to his malicious plans. He also allies with Sun Quan to continue to spread more genocide and suffering to the land, these actions makes Cao Cao a very machiavellian character in chinese history.
Early life Further information: History of the Han DynastyCao was born in the county of Qiao (present day Bozhou, Anhui) in 155. His father Cao Song was a foster son of Cao Teng, who in turn was one of the favorite eunuchs of Emperor Huan. Some historical records, including the Biography of Cao Man, claim that Cao Song's original family name was Xiahou.
Cao was known for his craftiness as an adolescent. According to the Biography of Cao Man, Cao's uncle complained to Cao Song about Cao Cao's indulgence in hunting and music with Yuan Shao. In retaliation, Cao Cao feigned a fit before his uncle, who immediately rushed to inform Cao Song. When Cao Song went to see his son, Cao Cao behaved normally. When asked, Cao Cao replied, "I have never had a fit, but I lost the love of my uncle, and therefore he deceived you." Afterwards, Cao Song ceased to believe his brother regarding Cao Cao, and thus Cao Cao became even more blatant and perseverant in his wayward pursuits.
At that time, a man living in Runan named Xu Shao was famed for his ability to evaluate one's potentials and talents. Cao paid him a visit in hopes of receiving an evaluation that would help him politically. At first, Xu refused to make a statement; however, under persistent questioning, he finally said, "You would be a capable minister in peaceful times and an unscrupulous hero in chaotic times." Cao laughed and left. It is worth noting that there are two other versions of the comment in other unofficial historical records: "capable minister in peaceful times, unrighteous hero in chaotic times" and "sinister foe in peaceful times, great hero in chaotic times." Statue of Cao CaoAt the age of 20, Cao was appointed district captain of Luoyang. Upon taking up the post, Cao placed rows of multicolored stakes outside his office and ordered his deputies to flog those who violated the law, regardless of their status. An uncle of Jian Shuo, one of the most powerful and influential eunuchs under Emperor Ling, was caught walking in the city after the evening curfew by Cao's men and was flogged. This prompted Jian Shuo and other higher authorities to ostensibly promote Cao to the post of governor of Dunqiu County while actually moving him out of the imperial capital. Cao remained in this position for little more than a year, being dismissed from office in 178 for his distant family ties with the disgraced Empress Song. Around 180, Cao Cao returned to court as a Consultant (議郎) and presented two memoranda against the eunuchs' influence in court and government corruption during his tenure, to limited effect.
When the Yellow Turban Rebellion broke out in 184, Cao was recalled to Luoyang and appointed "Captain of the Cavalry" (騎都尉) and sent to Yingchuan to suppress the rebels. He was successful and was sent to Ji'nan (濟南) as Chancellor (相) to prevent the spread of Yellow Turban influence there. In Ji'nan, Cao Cao aggressively enforced the ban on unorthodox cults, destroyed shrines, and supported state Confucianism. He offended the local leading families in the process, and resigned on grounds of poor health around 187, fearing that he had put his family in danger. He was offered the post of Administrator of Dong Commandery (東郡), but he declined and returned to his home in Pei county. Around that time, Wang Fen (王芬) tried to recruit Cao Cao to join his coup to replace Emperor Ling with the Marquis of Hefei, but Cao Cao refused. The plot came to nothing, and Wang Fen killed himself.
Main article: Campaign against Dong Zhuo
|Summary of major events|
|155||Born in Qiao.|
|180s||Led troops against Yellow Turban Rebellion in Yingchuan.|
|190||Joined the coalition against Dong Zhuo.|
|196||Received Emperor Xian in Xuchang.|
|200||Won the Battle of Guandu.|
|208||Lost the Battle of Red Cliffs.|
|213||Created Duke of Wei and given ten commanderies as his dukedom.|
|216||Received the title King of Wei.|
|220||Died in Luoyang.|
|—||Enthroned posthumously as Emperor Wu.|
After eighteen months in retirement, Cao Cao returned to the imperial capital in 188. That year, he was appointed Colonel Who Arranges the Army (典軍校尉), fourth of eight heads of a newly established imperial army, the corps of the Western Garden (西園軍). The effectiveness of this new force never became known, since it was disbanded the next year.
In 189, Emperor Ling died and was succeeded by his eldest son (Emperor Shao), although state power was mainly in the hands of Empress Dowager He and others. The empress dowager's brother, General-in-Chief He Jin, plotted with Yuan Shao to eliminate the Ten Attendants (a group of influential eunuchs in the imperial court). He Jin summoned Dong Zhuo, a seasoned general of Liang Province, to lead his army into Luoyang to pressure the empress dowager to surrender power, despite accusations of Dong's "infamy". Before Dong arrived, He Jin was assassinated by the eunuchs and Luoyang was thrown into chaos as Yuan Shao's supporters fought the eunuchs. Dong's army easily rid the palace grounds of opposition. After he deposed Emperor Shao, Dong placed the puppet Emperor Xian on the throne, as he deemed that Emperor Xian was more capable than the original puppet Emperor Shao.
After rejecting Dong Zhuo's appointment, Cao left Luoyang for Chenliu (southeast of present day Kaifeng, Henan, Cao's hometown), where he built his army. The next year, regional warlords formed a military alliance under Yuan Shao against Dong. Cao joined them, becoming one of the few actively fighting members of the coalition. The coalition fell apart after months of inactivity, and China fell into civil war while Dong was killed in 192 by Lü Bu.
Through short-term and regional-scale wars, Cao continued to expand his power. In 193, Cao massacred thousands of civilians in Xu Province to avenge his father's death.
In 196, Cao joined Emperor Xian and convinced him to move the capital to Xuchang as suggested by Xun Yu and other advisors, as Luoyang was ruined by war and Chang'an was not under Cao's military control, and he was appointed chancellor. Cao became commander-in-chief (大將軍) and Marquis of Wuping (武平侯), though both titles had little practical implication. While some viewed the emperor as a puppet under Cao's control, Cao adhered to a strict personal rule to his death that he would not usurp the throne. Later, when he was approached by his advisors to overthrow the Han Dynasty and start his own dynasty, he replied, "If heaven bestows such a fate upon me, let me be King Wen of Zhou."
To maintain a good relationship with Yuan Shao, who had become the most powerful warlord in China when he united the northern four provinces, Cao lobbied to have Yuan appointed Minister of Works. However, this had the opposite effect, as Yuan believed that Cao was trying to humiliate him, since Minister of Works technically ranked lower than Commander-in-chief, and thus refused to accept the title. To pacify Yuan, Cao offered his own position to him, while becoming Minister of Works himself. While this temporarily resolved the conflict, it was the catalyst for the Battle of Guandu later.
In 200, Yuan Shao amassed more than 100,000 troops and marched southwards on Xuchang in the name of rescuing the emperor. Cao gathered 20,000 men in Guandu, a strategic point on the Yellow River. The two armies came to a standstill as neither side was able to make much progress. Cao's lack of men did not allow him to make significant attacks, and Yuan's pride forced him to meet Cao's force head-on. Despite his overwhelming advantage in terms of manpower, Yuan was unable to make full use of his resources because of his indecisive leadership and Cao's position.
Besides the middle battleground of Guandu, two lines of battle were present. The eastern line with Yuan Tan of Yuan Shao's army against Zang Ba of Cao's army was a one-sided battle in favor of Cao, as Yuan Tan's poor leadership was no match for Zang's local knowledge of the landscape and his hit-and-run tactics. On the western front, Yuan Shao's nephew, Gao Gan, performed better against Cao's army and forced several reinforcements from Cao's main camp to maintain the western battle. Liu Bei, then a guest in Yuan Shao's army, suggested that he instigate rebellion in Cao's territories as many followers of Yuan were in Cao's lands. The tactic was initially successful but Man Chong's diplomatic skills helped to resolve the conflict almost immediately. Man had been placed as an official there for this specific reason, as Cao had foreseen the possibility of insurrection prior to the battle.
Finally, a defector from Yuan Shao's army, Xu You, informed Cao of the location of Yuan's supply depot. Cao broke the stalemate by sending a special group of soldiers to burn all the supplies of Yuan's army, thus winning a decisive and seemingly impossible victory. Yuan Shao fell ill and died shortly after the defeat, leaving two sons – the eldest son, Yuan Tan and the youngest son, Yuan Shang. As he had designated the youngest son, Yuan Shang, as his successor, rather than the eldest as tradition dictated, the two brothers fought each other, as they fought Cao. Cao used the internal conflict within the Yuan clan to his advantage and defeated the Yuans easily. Cao assumed effective rule over all of northern China. He sent armies further out and expanded his control across the Great Wall into present-day Korea, and southward to the Han River.
Traditional site of the Red Cliffs, north of WulinHowever, Cao's attempt to extend his domination south of the Yangtze River was unsuccessful. He received an initial success when Liu Biao, Governor of Jing Province, died, and his successor, Liu Cong surrendered to Cao without resistance. Delighted by this, he pressed on despite objections from his military advisors and hoped the same would happen again. His forces were defeated by a coalition of his arch-rivals Liu Bei and Sun Quan (who later founded the states of Shu Han and Eastern Wu respectively) at the Battle of Red Cliffs in 208.
In 213, Cao was titled "Duke of Wei" (魏公), given the nine bestowments, and given a fief of ten cities under his domain, known as Wei. In 216, Cao was promoted to "King of Wei" (魏王). Over the years, Cao, as well as Liu Bei and Sun Quan, continued to consolidate their power in their respective regions. Through many wars, China became divided into three powers – Wei, Shu and Wu, which fought sporadic battles without the balance tipping significantly in anyone's favor.
In 220, Cao died in Luoyang at the age of 65, having failed to unify China under his rule. His will instructed that he be buried near Ximen Bao's tomb in Ye without gold and jade treasures, and that his subjects on duty at the frontier were to stay in their posts and not attend the funeral as, in his own words, "the country is still unstable".
Cao's eldest surviving son Cao Pi succeeded him. Within a year, Cao Pi forced Emperor Xian to abdicate and proclaimed himself the first emperor of Cao Wei. Cao Cao was then posthumously titled "Grand Ancestor Emperor Wu of Wei" (魏太祖武皇帝)
In fiction See also: List of fictitious stories in Romance of the Three KingdomsRomance of the Three Kingdoms, a historical novel by Luo Guanzhong, was a romanticization of the events that occurred during the Three Kingdoms period. While adhering to historical facts most of the time, the novel inevitably re-shaped Cao dramatically to some extent, so as to portray him as a cruel and suspicious villain. In some chapters, Luo created fictional or semi-fictional events involving Cao. They include:
While in reality Cao did leave Dong Zhuo, the tyrannical warlord who held Emperor Xian hostage in 190 to consolidate power, Luo Guanzhong took a step further in describing Cao's attempted assassination on Dong:
Dong deposed Emperor Shao, the successor of the late Emperor Ling, and placed Emperor Xian on the throne. His autocratic behavior and acts of brutality against his political opponents and the common people incurred the anger of various court officials. One of them, Wang Yun, called for a secret meeting of the officials under the pretext of his birthday celebration. During the feast, Wang cried upon recalling the cruel deeds of Dong. His colleagues felt the same anguish and joined him in tears.
Cao, however, laughed and said, "All the officials of the court – crying from dusk till dawn and from dawn till dusk – can you make Dong Zhuo die by crying?" Wang met him in private later and lent him the Seven Gems Sword (七星劍) after Cao promised to assassinate Dong Zhuo personally.
The next day, Cao brought the precious sword to see Dong. Having much trust in Cao, Dong received the guest in his bedroom. Lü Bu, Dong's foster son, left the room for the stable to select a better horse for Cao, who complained about his slow ride. When Dong turned away, Cao prepared to unsheathe the sword. However, Dong saw Cao's action through a reflection in the mirror and hastily turned to question Cao's intention. Coincidentally, Lü Bu returned at that moment as well. In desperation, Cao knelt down and claimed that he wanted to present the sword to Dong. Cao seized the opportunity to escape from Luoyang under the pretext of trying a ride on the new horse. Dong realized later that Cao had intended to assassinate him and sent his men to summon Cao back to see him. However, Cao had already escaped and Dong issued an order for Cao's arrest.
Following the escape from Dong Zhuo is a legendary episode aimed at illustrating Cao's near-Machiavellian tendencies for later characterizations of him as a villain. Though never exactly proven, it is said that Cao escaped with Chen Gong, a county magistrate who arrested him earlier and released him out of admiration for Cao's sense of righteousness later. They sought shelter at the home of Lü Boshe, a close friend of Cao's father. Lü promised to protect him and left to purchase some materials in preparation for a feast. Cao and Chen overheard a conversation between Lü's servants about a murder plot. Cao's suspicious nature caused him to jump to the conclusion that Lü Boshe had deceived him and intended to kill him and hand over his corpse to Dong Zhuo for a reward. Cao and Chen burst in and killed everyone in the house, including Lü's wife and children. They discovered later that the servants were actually discussing how to "murder" (slaughter) a pig for the feast.
Cao and Chen fled immediately and ran into Lü Boshe, who had just returned from his errand. When questioned, Cao provided an excuse, saying that he was afraid of being followed, as the reason for his abrupt departure. Cao then asked Lü, "Who's that behind you?" When Lü turned around, Cao stabbed and killed him from behind. Chen was shocked and asked him why he committed that atrocity. Cao explained that it was for their safety, because if Lü went home and saw the ghastly sight, he would report the murder to the authorities and hence create serious trouble for them. Cao then raised his sword and famously said, "I'd rather let the world down than to allow the world to let me down." (寧教我負天下人，休教天下人負我). According to Cao's biography in Records of the Three Kingdoms, Cao said "I'd rather let others down than to allow others to let me down." (寧我負人，毋人負我) with a sense of regret and remorse. The exact quote was altered in Luo Guanzhong's Romance of the Three Kingdoms, with "world" (天下人; literally: people under Heaven) replacing "others" (人; literally: people). Historian Yi Zhongtian speculated that Cao was probably trying to console himself after mistakenly killing Lü Boshe, by speaking with a sense of remorse. Yi believed that Luo had changed the quote to reflect that Cao had no sense of remorse (because "world" carries greater weight than "others"), so as to enhance Cao's image as a villain in his novel. Portrait of Cao Cao from a Qing Dynasty edition of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, the hunched figure clearly portraying him as a villain=== Strict disciplinarian=== Du Mu's account of Cao's life states that he was such a strict disciplinarian. He cited the example of an incident, in which Cao condemned himself to death for having allowed his horse to stray into a field of grain, violating a military law that dictates any soldier who damages commoners' crops would be executed. However, in lieu of losing his head, he was persuaded to satisfy his sense of justice by cutting off a lock of his hair. "When you pass a law, see that it is not disobeyed; if it is disobeyed, the offender must be punished."
In 220, Cao died in Luoyang due to an unknown illness. Legends contain explanations for the cause of his death. Romance of the Three Kingdoms included some of these legends, as well as Luo Guanzhong's own story about the involvement of Hua Tuo, a renowned Chinese physician.
When Cao started complaining about splitting headaches in the last days of his life, his subjects recommended Hua Tuo, a physician with remarkable healing skills. Upon examination, Hua diagnosed Cao's illness to be a form of rheumatism in the skull. He suggested giving Cao a dose of hashish and then splitting open his skull with a sharp axe to extract the pus within.
Due to an earlier incident with another physician called Ji Ping, who attempted to poison him, Cao grew suspicious of any physician. Cao believed that Hua intended to kill him to avenge the death of Guan Yu. He had Hua imprisoned and Hua died a few days later. Without proper treatment, Cao died soon as well. In another account of Cao's cause of death, it was said that a curse befell him when he tried to cut down a sacred tree and use its wood to build a lavish villa.
- Foster grandfather: Cao Teng, eunuch official, descendant of Cao Shen
- Father: Cao Song, served as Grand Commandant during the reign of Emperor Ling
- Lady Bian, Cao Cao's official spouse, bore Cao Pi, Cao Zhang, Cao Zhi, Cao Xiong and Cao Jie
- Lady Ding (丁夫人), Cao Cao's first wife, fell out with him after Cao Ang's death
- Lady Liu (劉夫人), Lady Ding's servant, later became Cao Cao's concubine, died of illness at a young age, bore Cao Ang and Cao Shuo
- Lady Huan (環夫人), bore Cao Chong, Cao Ju (曹據) and Cao Yu
- Lady Du (杜夫人), bore Cao Lin, Cao Gun and Princess Jinxiang
- Lady Qin (秦夫人), bore Cao Xuan and Cao Jun (曹峻)
- Lady Yin (尹夫人), bore Cao Ju (曹矩)
- Lady Wang (王昭儀), bore Cao Gan
- Consort Sun (孫姬), bore Cao Shang, Cao Biao and Cao Qin
- Consort Li (李姬), bore Cao Cheng, Cao Zheng and Cao Jing
- Consort Zhou (周姬), bore Cao Jun (曹均)
- Consort Liu (劉姬), bore Cao Ji
- Consort Song (宋姬), bore Cao Hui
- Consort Zhao (趙姬), bore Cao Mao
- Laiying'er (來鶯兒), a prostitute from Luoyang, later fell in love with Cao Cao's bodyguard Wang Tu (王圖)
- Consort Chen (陳妾)
- Cao Ang, raised by Lady Ding, killed in action at the Battle of Wancheng
- Cao Pi, became the first emperor of Cao Wei after forcing Emperor Xian of Han to abdicate. See Cao Pi#Family for details on Cao Pi's family.
- Cao Zhang, instated as Prince of Rencheng in 223. Fathered Cao Kai (曹楷).
- Cao Zhi, instated as Prince of Chen in 225. See Cao Zhi#Family for details on Cao Zhi's family.
- Cao Xiong, died at a young age. Fathered Cao Bing (曹炳).
- Cao Shuo (曹鑠), died at a young age, posthumously granted title of Prince of Shang by Cao Rui. Fathered Cao Qian (曹潛). Cao Qian fathered Cao Yan (曹偃).
- Cao Chong, died at a young age
- Cao Ju (曹據), instated as Prince of Pengcheng in 232. Fathered Cao Cong (曹琮), Cao Fan (曹范) and Cao Chan (曹闡).
- Cao Yu (曹宇), instated as Prince of Yan in 232. Fathered Cao Huan.
- Cao Lin (曹林), instated as Prince of Pei in 232. Fathered Cao Wei (曹緯).
- Cao Gun (曹袞), instated as Prince of Zhongshan in 232. Fathered Cao Fu (曹孚).
- Cao Xuan (曹玹), instated as Marquis of Xixiang in 211. Fathered Cao Heng (曹恒).
- Cao Jun (曹峻), instated as Prince of Chenliu in 232. Fathered Cao Ao (曹澳).
- Cao Ju (曹矩), died at a young age
- Cao Gan (曹幹), instated as Prince of Zhao in 232
- Cao Shang (曹上), died at a young age
- Cao Biao (曹彪), instated as Prince of Chu in 232. Forced to commit suicide in 251 after staging a rebellion with Wang Ling. Fathered Cao Jia (曹嘉).
- Cao Qin (曹勤), died at a young age
- Cao Cheng (曹乘), died at a young age
- Cao Zheng (曹整), instated as Marquis of Mei in 217
- Cao Jing (曹京), died at a young age
- Cao Jun (曹均), instated as Marquis of Fan in 217. Fathered Cao Wan (曹琬), Cao Min (曹敏) and Cao Kang (曹抗). Cao Wan fathered Cao Lian (曹廉); Cao Min fathered Cao Kun (曹焜); Cao Kang fathered Cao Chen (曹諶).
- Cao Ji (曹棘), died at a young age
- Cao Hui (曹徽), instated as Prince of Dongping in 232. Fathered Cao Xi (曹翕).
- Cao Mao (曹茂), instated as Prince of Quyang in 232
- Cao Ping (曹平), instated as Marquis of Wu in 232
- Cao Jie (曹節), empress of Emperor Xian
- Cao Hua (曹華), concubine of Emperor Xian
- Princess Anyang (安陽公主), personal name unknown, married Xun Yu's son Xun Yun (荀惲)
- Princess Jinxiang (金鄉公主), personal name unknown, married He Yan
- Princess Qinghe (清河公主), personal name unknown, married Xiahou Mao
- Princess Linfen (臨汾公主), personal name unknown
- Foster children:
- Filial and Incorrupt (孝廉) - nominated candidate to be a Gentleman Cadet
- Gentleman Cadet (郎)
- Captain of the North District of Luoyang (洛陽北部尉)
- Prefect of Dunqiu (頓丘令)
- Consultant (議郎)
- Commandant of Cavalry (騎都尉)
- Chancellor of Jinan (濟南相)
- Colonel Who Arranges the Army (典軍校尉)
- Colonel of Valiant Cavalry (驍騎校尉)
- General Who Uplifts the Military (奮武將軍)
- Governor of Yan Province (兗州牧)
- General Who Builds Virtue (建德將軍)
- General Who Guards the East (鎮東將軍)
- Marquis of Fei Village (費亭侯)
- General-in-Chief (大將軍)
- Marquis of Wuping (武平侯)
- Excellency of Works (司空)
- General of Chariots and Cavalry (車騎將軍)
- Imperial Chancellor (丞相)
- Duke of Wei (魏公)
- King of Wei (魏王)
- The following two titles were granted to Cao Cao posthumously
- King Wu (武王)
- Grand Ancestor Emperor Wu (太祖武皇帝) - sometimes shortened to "Emperor Wu"
Supreme Hades Blade
- First Appearance: Chaos of the Three Kingdoms
- Description: Cao Cao summons the flames of hell to absorb into his sword and swings it at enemy soldiers, immolating them. Fire Elemental.
- First Appearance: Chaos of the Three Kingdoms
- Description: Cao Cao dashes forward and unleashes a flamming drill attack which burns enemy soldiers. Fire Elemental.
Beasts Defiling The Netherworld
- First Appearance: Chaos of the Three Kingdoms
- Description: Cao Cao summons a swarm of pyrokinetic hellhounds to pounce and maul away at enemy soldiers, supposedly killing them. Fire Elemental.
Valor Attack: Ultimate Retribution of Hades
- First Appearance: Chaos of the Three Kingdoms
- Description: Cao Cao most powerful and vicious attack, he will continuely performs multi hit slashes 12 times and unleashes a destructive blast of hellish flames that will burn all enemies on screen. Fire Elemental.