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Cao Cao was one of the greatest generals of the late Han dynasty in China

Marija Georgievska

Cao Cao, often known as Mengde, was one of the greatest generals of the late Han dynasty in China.

As one of the central figures of the Three Kingdoms period, he laid the foundations for what was to become the state of Cao Wei, and was posthumously honored as “Emperor Wu of Wei”.

Portrait of Cao Cao.

Portrait of Cao Cao.

 

Cao Cao appeals to the powerful warlords of the Han.

Cao Cao appeals to the powerful warlords of the Han.

Cao Cao was born in the state of Qiao in 155 CE. He was the son of Cao Song, a foster son of Cao Teng, who in turn was one of the favorite eunuchs of Emperor Huan.

 

Cao was initially a minor garrison commander and rose to prominence as a general when he suppressed the Yellow Turban Rebellion, which threatened the last years of Han rule.

Cao Cao cites a poem before the Battle of Red Cliffs, portrait at the Long Corridor of the Summer Palace, Beijing. Photo Credit

Cao Cao cites a poem before the Battle of Red Cliffs, portrait at the Long Corridor of the Summer Palace, Beijing. Photo Credit

 

A Qing Dynasty illustration showing a victory over Cao Cao for Lu Bu and his army.

A Qing Dynasty illustration showing a victory over Cao Cao for Lu Bu and his army.

According to China Highlights, during his long political career, he helped to defeat the Yellow Turban rebellion, gained power in Wei, defeated a powerful army with a much smaller force, gained control of the dynastic court, lost the legendary Battle of Red Cliffs, and promoted policies to help his territory to prosper.

Fresco of a tomb in Luoyang dated to the Cao Wei period (220-265 AD), showing seated men wearing Hanfu silk robes. Photo Credit

Fresco of a tomb in Luoyang dated to the Cao Wei period (220-265 AD), showing seated men wearing Hanfu silk robes. Photo Credit

Known as an illustrious poet, Cao Cao wrote a list of poetry anthologies. His poems were deeply influenced by the Yuefu Poem pattern while being more creative in content.

Therefore, his poems, as well as those of his two talented poet sons Cao Pi and Cao Zhi, began a new style of Jian An literature.

 

 

Illustration of Cao Cao. Photo Credit

Illustration of Cao Cao. 

 

A mask of Cao Cao in Chinese opera.

A mask of Cao Cao in Chinese opera.

While historical records indicate Cao Cao was a brilliant ruler, he was represented as a cunning and deceitful man in Chinese opera, where his character is given exaggerated facial makeup to reflect his treacherous personality.

Statue of Cao Cao in Wuhan. Photo Credit

Statue of Cao Cao in Wuhan. Photo Credit

Cao Cao died in Luoyang at the age of 65, having failed to unify China under his rule. His eldest surviving son, Cao Pi, succeeded him. Within a year, Cao Pi proclaimed himself the first emperor of the state of Cao Wei.