a capable minister in peaceful times and an unscrupulous hero in chaotic times
Chinese Name: 曹操
English Name: Cao Cao
Other Names: Aman 阿瞒, Mengde 孟德, Jili 吉利, Grand Ancestor Emperor Wu of Wei 魏武帝
Died: March 15, 220
Implement a land reclamation system 实行屯田制
Uniting northern China 统一北方
Lay the foundations of Cao Wei regime 奠定曹魏政权的基础
View of the Blue Sea 观沧海
Brief Biography of Cao Cao
Cao Cao 曹操, Emperor Wu of Wei Dynasty 魏武帝, was an outstanding statesman, strategist, writer, calligrapher, and poet in ancient China. He was the son of Grand Commandant 太尉 Cao Song 曹嵩 and the founder of Cao Wei 曹魏.
Cao Cao was born in Qiao 谯县, Principality of Pei 沛国 (present Bozhou 亳州, Anhui 安徽) in 155. He was known for his craftiness as an adolescent.
In the third year of Xi Ping 熹平(174), Cao Cao was appointed district captain of Luoyang 洛阳郎. Luoyang洛阳, the capital of the Eastern Han Dynasty 东汉, is a place where royalty and relatives live together, which is difficult to govern. As soon as Cao Cao took office, he declared serious law and discipline, regardless of their status. As a result, no one dares to commit crimes.
In the first year of Zhong Ping 中平 (184), the Yellow Turban Rebellion 黄巾起义 broke out, Cao Cao was appointed Captain of the Cavalry 骑都尉 and sent to Yingchuan 颍川 to suppress the rebels. He was successful and was sent to Jinan 济南 as Chancellor 相. He aggressively enforced the ban on unorthodox cults, destroyed shrines, and supported state Confucianism 国家儒学.
In the sixth year of Zhong Ping (189), Dong Zhuo 董卓 entered Luoyang, specializing in state affairs. Cao Cao escaped from Luoyang. When he arrived in Chenliu 陈留, he “scattered his family wealth and formed the righteous soldiers 散家财，合义兵” and called on the heroes of the world to fight against Dong Zhuo.
In the third year of Chu Ping 初平(192), Yanzhou 兖州 was occupied, more than 300,000 troops surrendered, and the elite Qingzhou Army 青州军 was selected. Since then, Cao Cao‘s troops have been greatly strengthened, and Yuan Shu 袁术, Tao Qian 陶谦, and Lü Bu 吕布 have been defeated successively.
In the first year of Jian An 建安 (196), Emperor Xian of the Han Dynasty 汉献帝 was received in Xu City 许(now Xu Changdong 许昌东, Henan Province 河南省), and he was appointed as Sikong 司空, commanding the power of state affairs.
In the twelfth year of Jian An (207), Wu Huan 乌桓 was defeated and the north was unified.
In the twentieth year of Jian An(215), Zhang Lu 张鲁 was defeated and Hanzhong 汉中 was occupied. The following year, he was promoted to Wang Wei 魏王.
In the twenty-fifth year of Jian An (220), Cao Cao died of illness in Luoyang at the age of sixty-six. Cao Cao’s eldest surviving son Cao Pi 曹丕 succeeded him. Within a year, Cao Pi forced Emperor Xian 汉献帝 to abdicate and proclaimed himself the first emperor of the state of Cao Wei. Cao Cao was then posthumously titled “Grand Ancestor Emperor Wu of Wei 魏太祖武皇帝”.
Personal Life and Major Contributions
Implement a land reclamation system
While waging military campaigns against his enemies, Cao Cao did not forget the basis of society-agriculture and education.
In 194, a locust plague caused a major famine across China. The people resorted to cannibalism out of desperation. Without food, many armies were defeated without fighting. From this experience, Cao Cao saw the importance of an ample food supply in building a strong military. He began a series of agricultural programs in cities such as Xu City and Chenliu.
Refugees were recruited and given wasteland to cultivate. Later, encampments not faced with the imminent danger of war were also made to farm. This system continued and spread to all regions under Cao Cao as his realm expanded. Although Cao Cao’s primary intention was to build a powerful army, the agricultural program also improved the living standards of the people, especially war refugees.
By 203, Cao Cao had eliminated most of Yuan Shao’s forces. This afforded him more attention to construction within his realm. In the autumn of that year, Cao Cao passed an order decreeing the promotion of education throughout the counties and cities within his jurisdiction. An official in charge of education was assigned to each county with more than 500 households. Youngsters with potential and talent were selected for schooling. This prevented a lapse in the training of intellectuals in those years of war, and, in Cao Cao’s words, would benefit the people.
Uniting northern China
Cao Cao was skilled in the art of war and played a positive role in unifying the north. After the Yellow Turban Rebellion, the Eastern Han Dynasty 东汉 disintegrated and warlords fought in melee. In the melee, not only did Dong Zhuo, Li Jue 李傕, and other Liangzhou 凉州 warlords slaughter people and rob property everywhere, but the desolate scene of “people eat each other and the state is depressed 民人相食，州里萧条” was generally appeared.
From the second year of Chu Ping (191) to the thirteenth year of Jian An (208), Cao Cao successively wiped out the separatist forces in the north of the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River 长江 and unified most of northern China. Cao Cao’s war to unify the north lasted for 17 years, which was the founding battle of Cao Wei, and laid a solid foundation for the later Western Jin Dynasty 西晋 to unify China.
Cao Cao’s literary achievements are mainly manifested in poetry. There are more than 20 poems, all of which are Yuefu 乐府 poems. The content can be roughly divided into two categories. One is related to current events, the other is mainly about expressing ideas.
There are some works related to current events, such as “Haolixing 蒿里行”, “Kuhanxing 苦寒行” and “Buchuxiamenxing 步出夏门行”, which express his political aspirations and reflect the miserable life of the people in the late Han Dynasty 汉末.
Poems mainly expressing ideals include Du Guanshan 度关山, Duijiu 对酒, Short Songs 短歌行, etc. The first two articles write about political ideals. His vision of a peaceful and prosperous time is the politics of virtuous monarch and good ministers, combining Confucianism and law with kindness and prestige.
This is undoubted progressive significance under the realistic background of the great social destruction in the late Han Dynasty 后汉. The theme of “Short Songs ” is to seek talents, it expresses the desire to seek talents and recruit talents to achieve a great cause.