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Did Cao Cao want to become Emperor?

Unread postPosted: Tue Feb 12, 2008 7:30 pm
by Shadowlink
Well did he?
Why I made this thread was because I watch "The Legend of Guan Gong" series where Cao Cao said he only wanted to be like Emperor Zhou Wen, when Zhuge Liang was talking to Liu Bei, he said Emperor Zhou Wen was a man who was prime minister toward the end of his career; however once Zhou Wen died and his son became Emperor, his son named Zhou Wen Emperor after his death.

Also I was playing the game "Legend of Cao Cao" Evil side, you get to choose whatever or not to take the throne, I chose "No"

I have no plans to take the throne" - Cao Cao
"I unite the world with my might, and govern it with my wisdom. Being Emperor will just be an extra burden"- Cao Cao
"my only ambition is to build a mighty empire. The throne itself, though, is meaningless to me"- Cao Cao
"Who says the world cant be governed without an Emperor? I dont have to be an emperor to run the realm"- Cao Cao
"My lord, what is your view about the Son of Heaven?" -sima yi
The Son of Heaven is a man, and yet he is not. He lives only the existence known as "Being the son of heaven"- Cao Cao
"IF I must stop being myself by being the Son of Heaven, would you, then wish for me to lose who I am? - Cao Cao
The realm belongs to a mortal man, how can it be run by someone who is not one?"- Cao Cao


Even though this is from a series and a game, what do you think Cao Cao's intention was?

SH: Edited poll options for clarity and added Other option. Keep on debating!

Unread postPosted: Thu Feb 14, 2008 2:09 pm
by Shi Tong
It's very hard to say.

However, if you look at the other people before Cao's rise to power, you'll see that there are a lot of people who suddenly say "I'm the son of Heaven!" and I'm not talking about just Yuan Shu.

Saying you were the emperor was a really stupid idea for a lot of the protagonists of the 3k era.

Why?

That meant there was just cause to attack you.

Why?

You could say it was in the name of the "real" emperor (or the Han emperor), so everyone can easily gang up on you declaring you a traitor to the throne and the Han.

This saw the downfall of many people.

I think especially since Cao Cao was the Prime Minister of the Han and held court with his title of "King" (I think.. right??), actually making himself the emperor might have even looked odd to those who were closest to him. He might have rocked the boat.

And what's the point in rocking the boat if you're already top dog?

No reason at all.

As for what's in his heart.. who knows? I think he would have become emperor if the conditions were right, so in his heart of hearts I think he would have liked the title emperor, but was probably wise not to become so.

Unread postPosted: Thu Feb 14, 2008 2:32 pm
by Sima Hui
I agree with Shi Tong to a large extent; it is very hard to know what was in Cao Cao's mind. I agree that Cao probably felt it would be foolish to declare himself emperor, even after he became the King of Wei, as it would have been very revolutionary and raised more than a few eyebrows, even among his closest supporters. Yet he clearly set out a foundation for potential usurpation and his marginalizing of the Emperor didn't help.

I think the closest analogy would be to compare Cao Cao with Joseph Kennedy, the father of the President. Neither reached the top position themselves, but they created conditions and supported their families in an attempt to establish the future generations as leaders of their respective countries. Both were patriarchs of future dynasties (albeit on a less successful level with the Kennedys), but neither of them actually became the official ruler of their countries.

Unread postPosted: Thu Feb 14, 2008 3:58 pm
by Roy
Good comaprisons and arguements to you both, but I don't think Cao Cao ever really wanted the throne. When Cao Pi became emperor nothing really happned, Wei was not obliterated by Wu and Shu. The same applies for when Liu Bei and Sun Quan became emperor, their kingdoms were not destroyed. I think that if Cao Cao wanted the throne he would have taken it towards the end of his life perhaps around 218,219 or even 220, the effects of this would have been small. It would appear he had somthing else in mind. Perhaps he was ahead of his time, perhaps he intended to start a democracy or a republic. There really is no telling what he had planned.

Unread postPosted: Thu Feb 14, 2008 4:10 pm
by Shi Tong
hmm.. interesting idea Roy.

I think to a degree you're right.. as time went by, the Han court crumbled too much to do anything about Cao anyway.

BUT....

Dont forget that Sun Quan had a "legitimate" reason to become the emperor, and he constantly took rank from Cao Cao like a subordinate.. which was odd, it was like he was the leader, but he kept playing political games with Cao and titles.

Also, Liu Bei had a "legitimate" reason to become emperor. He "thought" that the Han emperor had been usurped, or he was maybe dead, so this was reason enough for him to "avenge" the emp by taking up the Han mantle.

Cao didn't officially have a reason to take the throne, apart from being a rock hard b*stard, so.. though I doubt there would be much decent, why rock the boat? :wink:

Unread postPosted: Thu Feb 14, 2008 4:13 pm
by Dong Zhou
I think he had the idea of controlling the emperor, like so many had done before rather, then taking the throne itself.

Unread postPosted: Thu Feb 14, 2008 4:32 pm
by Sun Mantian
Well once you get up as high as he did in his title there is no way that he didn't at least think about taking over China.

Unread postPosted: Fri Feb 15, 2008 2:49 am
by Lu Kang
I've always felt, without looking very deeply, that Cao Cao didn't want to tarnish his legacy. He was something of a scholar and knew a thing or two about the past. Did he deep down want to be Emperor? Probably. Would doing so tarnish his legacy? Yes.

I think if he was going to assume the throne he would do it after he had taken all of China. If he did so before and Sun Quan or Liu Bei came back to defeat him history would look very poorly upon him.

Unread postPosted: Fri Feb 15, 2008 5:50 pm
by Long
No, Cao Cao was at heart, a Han loyalist and even though he put on airs while entertaining grand audiences, he truly did feel he was supporting the Han. Remember that in his earlier years of protecting the Emperor, he sought out Imperial decree and approval for his proposed military actions.

Further to support this, even after their relationship had deteriorated, Cao Cao would still not depose the Emperor, nor cause him harm. Whether this was due to his legacy, or due to his own loyalty can be debated, but I firmly believe that until the day he died, Cao Cao was a Han loyalist.

Unread postPosted: Fri Feb 15, 2008 9:55 pm
by Zhilong
Long wrote:No, Cao Cao was at heart, a Han loyalist and even though he put on airs while entertaining grand audiences, he truly did feel he was supporting the Han. Remember that in his earlier years of protecting the Emperor, he sought out Imperial decree and approval for his proposed military actions.

Further to support this, even after their relationship had deteriorated, Cao Cao would still not depose the Emperor, nor cause him harm. Whether this was due to his legacy, or due to his own loyalty can be debated, but I firmly believe that until the day he died, Cao Cao was a Han loyalist.


A Han loyalist does not kill officials who discuss affairs with the emperor or kill his infants.

If Cao Cao united the empire then i am sure he would have declared himself emperor, that would have been a powerful legitimisation. What use is a title without the Empire to back it up? Xian and Yuan Shu were examples in his time that should have illustrated that point well enough.

By this time, the general convention was already well established that you let your son finish the job. That way you retain your reputation, have all the power, and still get to be Emperor posthumously.

What he did so was take the title of King/Prince, knowing full well what connotations that had so it demonstrated to ppl that he could well take the throne but didn't.