This page uses content from Wikipedia and is licensed under CC BY-SA.

Cao Song

Cao Song
Grand Commandant (太尉)
In office
187 (187) – 188 (188)
MonarchEmperor Ling of Han
Preceded byCui Lie
Minister Herald (大鴻臚)
In office
? (?) – 187 (187)
MonarchEmperor Ling of Han
Minister of Finance (大司農)
In office
? (?) – ? (?)
MonarchEmperor Ling of Han
Personal details
Bozhou, Anhui
Linyi, Shandong
  • Cao Cao
  • Cao Bin
  • Cao De
  • Marquis Ai of Haiyang
Courtesy nameJugao (巨高)
Posthumous name
Emperor Tai (太皇帝)

Cao Song (died 193), courtesy name Jugao, was an official who lived during the Eastern Han dynasty of China. He was the foster son of the eunuch Cao Teng and the father of the warlord Cao Cao, who rose to prominence in the final years of Eastern Han and laid the foundation of the state of Cao Wei in the Three Kingdoms period. Cao Song was posthumously honoured as "Emperor Tai" (literally "Grand Emperor") by his grandson Cao Pi in 220 when the latter ended the Han dynasty and founded the Cao Wei regime.[1]


Cao Song was known to be honest, sincere and of good moral conduct. He served as the Colonel-Director of Retainers (司隸校尉) in the Han imperial court. During the reign of Emperor Ling, he served consecutively as the Minister of Finance (大司農) and Minister Herald (大鴻臚) before replacing Cui Lie (崔烈) as the Grand Commandant (太尉).[2] However, it was alleged that Cao Song obtained the post of Grand Commandant by bribing eunuchs, who were deeply trusted by the emperor.[3] Another account stated that Cao Song purchased those official posts because Emperor Ling introduced a practice of selling political offices for money.[4]


Around 193, Cao Song retired and returned to his hometown in Qiao County (譙縣; present-day Bozhou, Anhui). Along the way, he was murdered while passing through Langya State (琅玡國; present-day Linyi, Shandong) in Xu Province.[5] At the same time, Cao Song's eldest son, the warlord Cao Cao, had established a base in Yan Province (covering present-day southwestern Shandong and eastern Henan).

There are three different accounts of Cao Song's death:

  • The Shiyu (世語) mentioned that Cao Song was in Hua County (華縣; north of present-day Fei County, Shandong) at the time. Cao Cao ordered Ying Shao, the Administrator of Taishan Commandery (泰山郡; east of present-day Tai'an, Shandong), to escort his father and family to Yan Province. However, before Ying Shao's men arrived, Xu Province's governor Tao Qian secretly sent a few thousand riders to attack Cao Song and his family. Cao Song thought that Ying Shao had come to receive him, so he was unprepared and completely taken by surprise. Tao Qian's men killed Cao De (曹德), one of Cao Song's sons. Cao Song became afraid and brought one of his concubines with him as they tried to squeeze through a crack in a wall to escape. However, Cao Song's concubine was too fat and could not squeeze through, so they hid in the latrine. Tao Qian's men found them eventually and killed Cao Song and all his family members who were with him at the time.[6]
  • Another account from Wei Zhao's Wu Shu (吳書) stated that Cao Song had with him more than 100 carts full of his personal belongings. Tao Qian sent one of his officers, Zhang Kai (張闓), and 200 horsemen to escort Cao Song and his family to Yan Province. At Hua County, Zhang Kai murdered Cao Song, seized his riches and fled to Huainan.[7]
  • The Houhanshu wrote that Cao Song was travelling to Langya Commandery to evade chaos. Along the way, he passed by Yinping County (陰平縣; southwest of present-day Zaozhuang, Shandong), where Tao Qian had garrisoned some troops. Tempted by greed, Tao Qian's men killed Cao Song and seized his wealth.[8]

All the accounts agree that Cao Cao held Tao Qian responsible for the murder of his father regardless of the degree of Tao Qian's involvement in the incident. This led to Cao Cao launching an invasion on Xu Province between 193 and 194 to punish Tao Qian for his role in Cao Song's death.

Posthumous honour

In 220, Cao Cao's son and successor, Cao Pi, ended the Eastern Han dynasty and established the state of Cao Wei, marking the start of the Three Kingdoms period. Cao Pi granted his grandfather the posthumous title "Emperor Tai" (literally "Grand Emperor").[9]

Family background

Cao Song's family background is a mystery. Chen Shou wrote in the Sanguozhi that Cao Song's origin could not be determined.[10] The Cao Man Zhuan (曹瞞傳) and the Shiyu (世語), two sources used by Pei Songzhi in his annotations to the Sanguozhi, mentioned that Cao Song's original family name was Xiahou (夏侯) and that he was an uncle of Xiahou Dun. Therefore, Cao Cao and Xiahou Dun were cousins.[11]

The Qing dynasty scholar He Zhuo (何焯; 1661–1722) refuted the claim in the Cao Man Zhuan and Shiyu that Cao Song was from the Xiahou clan and dismissed it as a rumour started by people from Eastern Wu, a state founded by Cao Cao's rival, Sun Quan.[a] This was because Xiahou Dun's son Xiahou Mao married Cao Cao's daughter Princess Qinghe (清河公主), and Xiahou Yuan's son Xiahou Heng (夏侯衡) married Cao Cao's niece,[12] so the Xiahous and Caos could not have shared the same lineage.

On the other hand, the Qing dynasty historians Pan Mei (潘眉; 1771–1841) and Lin Guozan (林國贊) believed it was true that Cao Song was a Xiahou, as evident from the fact that Chen Shou placed the biographies of Xiahou Dun, Xiahou Yuan, Xiahou Shang, Cao Ren, Cao Hong, Cao Xiu, Cao Zhen in the same volume (volume 9) in the Sanguozhi.[13][14]

Li Jingxing (李景星; 1876–1934), a scholar who lived in the late Qing dynasty, speculated that when Chen Shou wrote that Cao Song's origin could not be determined, his intention was to expose a scandal behind Cao Cao's family background.[15]

Wu Jinhua (吳金華), a history professor from Fudan University, believed that Chen Shou employed a writing technique to distort facts when he wrote that Cao Song's origin could not be determined. Wu consolidated all the earlier differing viewpoints and pointed out three pieces of evidence to prove that Cao Song was from the Xiahou family:

  • The Weilüe recorded a letter written by Sun Quan to the Wei official Hao Zhou (浩周) sometime between 220 and 222, when Sun was nominally a vassal of the Wei regime. The letter mentioned that Hao Zhou suggested that Sun Quan's son could establish marital ties with the Cao family in the same way as how the Caos and Xiahous were connected by marriages. This proved that the claim that Cao Song was a Xiahou was not a rumour spread by people from Wu[16] because a person from Wei already spoke of it sometime between 220 and 222.[b]
  • The Wei Shu (魏書) mentioned that when Xiahou Dun died, Cao Pi dressed in plain clothing and mourned at the eastern gate of Ye (in present-day Handan, Hebei).[17] The Eastern Jin dynasty historian Sun Sheng commented that it was still within traditions for an emperor to mourn his kinsmen outside of an ancestral temple, and that Cao Pi had clearly lost his composure when he cried for Xiahou Dun at the city gate.[18] As Sun Sheng lived during the Eastern Jin dynasty (317–420), not long after the Three Kingdoms period ended in 280, his remark gave an impression that the people in his time were already aware that Cao Song was from the Xiahou clan.
  • Between 1974 and 1979, parts of a tombstone from Cao Cao's family ancestral tomb were unearthed in Bozhou, Anhui (the ancestral home of Cao Cao's clan). The Chinese characters "xia hou you" (夏侯右) were inscribed on it.[19]

The late Qing dynasty writer Zhou Shouchang (周壽昌; 1814–1884) explained in Sanguozhi Zhu Zheng Yi (三國志注證遺) about the inter-clan marriages between the Caos and Xiahous. He cited Chen Jiao (陳矯) as an example – Chen Jiao's original family name was "Liu" (劉). He was raised by his uncle (his paternal aunt's husband), whose family name was "Chen" (陳), and adopted "Chen" as his family name. Chen Jiao later married the daughter of Liu Song (劉頌), a close relative. Cao Cao appreciated Chen Jiao's talent and wanted to protect Chen's reputation, so he gave an order forbidding any dissent about Chen's personal life. Zhou Shouchang felt that when Cao Cao banned people from speaking against marriages between those who share the same family name, he was actually making it convenient to cover up his own family background.[20]

Wu Jinhua also pointed out that in the late Han dynasty and the Three Kingdoms period, it was not uncommon to find married couples who shared the same family name. For example, one of Cao Cao's foster sons, He Yan, married Cao's daughter Princess Jinxiang (金鄉公主), who was possibly his half-sister (born to the same mother), even though the identity of the princess's mother is not confirmed.[21] Wu Jinhua mentioned that a person will have no doubts that Cao Song was from the Xiahou clan as long as he/she understands that inter-clan marriages were not unusual in that era.[19]

Others such as history professors Zhu Ziyan (朱子彥) and Han Sheng (韓昇) argue that the accounts from the Cao Man Zhuan and Shiyu are not reliable, and the fact that Xiahou Mao, Xiahou Heng and Xiahou Shang married women from Cao Cao's clan proved that Cao Song was not a Xiahou.[22][23]

See also


  1. ^ The Cao Man Zhuan is believed to have had its origins in Eastern Wu, while the Shiyu was written by Guo Song (郭頒) during the Jin dynasty.
  2. ^ Sun Quan was a vassal of Wei from 220–222.


  1. ^ a b de Crespigny (2007), p. 48.
  2. ^ (續漢書曰:嵩字巨高。質性敦慎,所在忠孝。為司隸校尉,靈帝擢拜大司農、大鴻臚,代崔烈為太尉。) Xu Han Shu annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 1.
  3. ^ (嵩靈帝時貨賂中官及輸西園錢一億萬,故位至太尉。) Houhanshu vol. 78.
  4. ^ (續漢志曰:「嵩字巨高。靈帝時賣官,嵩以貨得拜大司農、大鴻臚,代崔烈為太尉。」) Xu Han Zhi annotation in Houhanshu vol. 74.
  5. ^ (興平元年春,太祖自徐州還,初,太祖父嵩去官後還譙,董卓之亂,避難琅邪,為陶謙所害,故太祖志在復讎東伐。) Sanguozhi vol. 1.
  6. ^ (世語曰:嵩在泰山華縣。太祖令泰山太守應劭送家詣兗州,劭兵未至,陶謙密遣數千騎掩捕。嵩家以為劭迎,不設備。謙兵至,殺太祖弟德於門中。嵩懼,穿後垣,先出其妾,妾肥,不時得出;嵩逃於廁,與妾俱被害,闔門皆死。劭懼,棄官赴袁紹。後太祖定冀州,劭時已死。) Shiyu annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 1.
  7. ^ (韋曜吳書曰:太祖迎嵩,輜重百餘兩。陶謙遣都尉張闓將騎二百衛送,闓於泰山華、費間殺嵩,取財物,因奔淮南。太祖歸咎於陶謙,故伐之。) Wu Shu annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 1.
  8. ^ (初,曹操父嵩避難琅邪,時謙別將守陰平,縣名,屬東海國,故城在今沂州承縣西南。士卒利嵩財寶,遂襲殺之。) Houhanshu vol. 73.
  9. ^ (黃初元年,追尊嵩曰太皇帝。) Xu Han Shu annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 1.
  10. ^ (養子嵩嗣,官至太尉,莫能審其生出本末。) Sanguozhi vol. 1.
  11. ^ (吳人作曹瞞傳及郭頒世語並雲:嵩,夏侯氏之子,夏侯惇之叔父。太祖於惇為從父兄弟。) Cao Man Zhuan and Shiyu annotations in Sanguozhi vol. 1.
  12. ^ (采注吳人作《曹瞞傳》郭頒《世語》並雲嵩夏侯氏子,按夏侯惇子楙尚清河公主,淵子衡亦娶曹氏,則謂嵩夏侯氏子者,敵國傳聞,蓋不足信。) He Zhuo. Yi Men Dushu Ji (義門讀書記).
  13. ^ (陳志於《帝紀》云:「莫能審其生出本末」,於列傳則以夏侯惇、夏侯淵、曹仁、曹洪、曹休、曹真、夏侯尚為一卷,顯以夏侯氏為宗室矣。) Sanguozhi Kaozheng (三國志考證).
  14. ^ (歷代史率以宗室合傳,陳氏於蜀、吳亦然。志獨以夏侯、曹氏合傳,用意尤其明審。) Sanguozhi Pei Zhu Shu (三國志裴註疏).
  15. ^ (「莫能審其生出本末」句,揭老瞞家世,丑不可言。) Sanguozhi Pingyi (三國志評議).
  16. ^ (又曰:「今子當入侍,而未有妃耦,昔君念之,以為可上連綴宗室若夏侯氏,) Weilüe annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 47.
  17. ^ (魏書曰:王素服幸鄴東城門發哀。) Wei Shu annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 2.
  18. ^ (孫盛曰:在禮,天子哭同姓於宗廟門之外。哭於城門,失其所也。) Sun Sheng's annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 2.
  19. ^ a b Wu, Jinhua (October 1990). Sanguozhi Xiao Gu (三國志校詁), First Edition. Jiangsu Ancient Classics Publishing (江蘇古籍出版社). pp. 1, 2. ISBN 7-80519-197-2.
  20. ^ (魏陳矯本劉氏子,出養於姑,改姓陳氏,後娶劉頌女。頌與矯固近親也,魏武擁全之,特下令禁人誹議。殆以同姓為婚禁人議,即以便己私也。) Zhou, Shouchang; Tang, Geng; Chen, Liang. Sanguozhi Zhu Zheng Yi (三國志注證遺).
  21. ^ (魏末傳曰:晏婦金鄉公主,即晏同母妹。) Wei Mo Zhuan annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 9.
  22. ^ Zhu, Ziyan (2010). Surviving copy of the Cao family genealogy has nothing to do with Cao Cao's descendants -- Group discussion with Fudan "The historical research about Cao Cao's tomb and the study of the human genome" (存世曹氏族譜與曹操後裔無關——與復旦"曹操墓人類基因調查的歷史學研究"課題組商榷). Social Sciences Bulletin (社會科學版), Shanghai University Press (上海大學學報).
  23. ^ Han, Sheng (2010). Textual research on the Cao Wei pedigree (曹魏世系考述). Social Sciences Bulletin (社會科學版), Fudan University Press (上海大學學報).