The topic surfaces again, I see
... Oh well, I suppose it is time once more.
First off, do we know for sure if Ma Teng was a direct servant of Cao Cao? I thought he was appointed an Imperial position, just like how Cao Cao was still technically a servant of the Han Emperor in terms of rank.
Ma Chao's SGZ bio wrote:[Ma Teng] was then appointed as Weiwei (Commandant of the Palace Guards)
Wasn't Cao Cao overstepping authority in killing a fellow ranking Han official, when that official had done no wrong? My view on the matter is that Cao Cao is the traitor here, not Ma Chao. He displayed again his blatant abuse of power to murder those whom he wanted.
Regarding Ma Chao, I have two theories as to why he acted the way he did with Ma Teng in the capital.
1) He honestly underestimated Cao Cao's tyranny in the Han courts, and was too trusting that loyal men would protect his father.
2) Ma Teng himself was plotting something secretive, so Ma Chao was going to aid the plot by rebellion. Ma Teng may have not realized Cao would kill him, or a plan of escape could have fallen through.
However, the vilification occurs, because people assume Ma invaded in order to preserve his own personal power. However, what if he had much more laudable reasons. What if he was in fact preserving Qiang independence? He had much reason to do so, considering chinese atrocities against the Qiang for 2 centuries. Would not his father's life be a small price to pay to keep the chinese away?
I like this idea, and do not believe that Ma Chao would invade simply in search of power. His family had sat off in Liang most of their lives and simply were not ambitious enough to seek territory elsewhere. Cao Cao would have turned to Liang soon enough, and Ma Chao saw a chance to keep him away for good.
There is no justification. Ma Chao served Cao Cao, he went and setteled a rebellion in Wei territory. He obviously served him and rebelled.
And Cao Cao rebelled against Dong Zhuo, a tyrant who widely abused his power in the Han courts. And he did not do it to save the Han. He wanted power for himself. So is he justified?
And the stupid thing is, that he whined about Cao Cao killing his family. It's almost like he is too stupid to realize that he caused Cao Cao to kill his family. I hate him. For this reason, and the whole losing to Xiahou Yuan part, and being scared of Xu Zhu and Guan Yu. Yeah, he definatly has no idea what he was doing.
Whining implies no action. Cao Cao was preserved only by great fortune and a great defender from Ma Chao's burning anger and desire for revenge. And when did he lose to Xiahou Yuan? His force was broken up by Jia Xu's brilliant plot and was forced to flee. There is adequate historical information to conclude that his might on the field was unmatched by Wei. And if you are attempting to capture a man, with his bodyguard glaring at you all the while, a man who you fought in battle and was evenly matched by, would you do it? And how was he scared of Guan Yu. If anything, he realized that it would be unwise to be at contention with a high ranking and incredibly strong general who serves the same ruler. Such contention would only hurt Shu.
Ma Chao campaign's against Cao Cao are pure opportunism. However, like most generals he lacked the ability to deliver the final stroke to defeat Cao Cao. Mengde was concerned about Ma Chao (refer to Ma Chao's SGZ bio for Cao Cao's quote about knowing where he'd be buried if Ma Chao lived). As for the style name incident with Liu Bei, that event should be taken with a grain of salt as Guan Yu never went to Yizhou and supposedly the incident occured there. Pei points this out.
Well, thanks to Chen Shou we will never know about Ma Chao as fully as we would like. He had the ability to deliver the blow though, there is no doubt of that. He progressed all the way to Tong Gate, and comparable bios suggest that his battlefield prowess was great. We know Cao Cao was saved from certain death at least twice by Xu Zhu, when by all means he should have met his end.
Ma Chao lacked a strategist with the capabilities of Jia Xu - that is the only reason why he lost, and is not anything we can blame him for. It is as simple as that. Yuan Shao similarily beat a superior army under Gongsun Zan using great strategies.
"I have gained this by philosophy: that I do without being commanded, what others do only from fear of the law." -Aristotle