Cao Cao a Communist?

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Cao Cao a Communist?

Unread postby Cao Ah Man » Sun Apr 04, 2010 7:59 pm

No, not really, but after seeing several portrayals of him in the same light, I have to ask:

Why does Cao Cao get a portrayal (in some popular culture things) that makes him seem like a man who seeks a classless society? I understand that they are going based on his more legalist slant, making a real meritocracy but at the same time, the masses of his relatives who had official posts, his own gradual increase of power, there's nothing in the history or even the SGYY that implies Cao as being such a "noble idealist." Now personally I'm a big fan of The Man, but some of this feels a little unwarranted. Your thoughts?
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Re: Cao Cao a Communist?

Unread postby GuoBia » Sun Apr 04, 2010 8:39 pm

My take is that Cao Cao isn't going for a class-less society (in a China with the Four Catagories, I mean!), but rather, he seemed to be helping along a society where people could switch from class to class with much more ease than previously dictated in the Han times. So yes, there was class, but if you worked hard enough (or screwed up enough), you could move.

Uh. I think.
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Re: Cao Cao a Communist?

Unread postby Cao Ah Man » Sun Apr 04, 2010 8:57 pm

I never quite gotten that vibe to be honest :O. I think he just valued talent, and was willing to use that to achieve his own objective of a peaceful reunified China. I don't think he was quite that much against the status quo, save he probably didn't like the power of the Confucian gentry.
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Re: Cao Cao a Communist?

Unread postby Lady Wu » Sun Apr 04, 2010 9:49 pm

Cao Cao was a pragmatist. He was for anything that he deemed useful. He needed talent, and, seeing that the class restrictions in his society were not conducive to his goals, he went against social conventions to get the talents he needed. He wasn't the type that would go out of his way to abolish class or the nobility.

Also, as a poet, he was sensitive to the suffering of the lower classes (civilians and soldiers), as seen from his earlier poetry. However, that sensitivity didn't stop him from massacring Xuzhou or burying alive Yuan Shao's troops.

I don't know which "popular culture things" you were referring to, but certainly Mao Zedong was a big fan of The Man, and following that there were people who did a communist analysis of Cao Cao. However, that doesn't make Cao Cao communist---he shared a few of the visions of communism, but he was hardly a communist.
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Re: Cao Cao a Communist?

Unread postby GuoBia » Sun Apr 04, 2010 10:10 pm

But they all seemed to be taking in high-ranked people of low social class. Wu... Uh, Jiang Qin, Zhou Tai, possibly Ling Cao, Gan Ning, and that one civil officer fellow are just examples. Plus there's Lu Meng, who Sun Quan said was his second-best, after Zhou Yu. It seems it's a trait of the times, not just Cao Cao? Uh, not sure.

Well, with Cao Cao, I gotta say Public Education.

And Shu.. I dunno 'bout them. XD But wasn't Zhang Fei a peasant-class person?
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Re: Cao Cao a Communist?

Unread postby GuoBia » Sun Apr 04, 2010 10:24 pm

Cao Ah Man wrote:I never quite gotten that vibe to be honest :O. I think he just valued talent, and was willing to use that to achieve his own objective of a peaceful reunified China. I don't think he was quite that much against the status quo, save he probably didn't like the power of the Confucian gentry.

No he didn't like them, but he saw their importance. XD

Well that goes hand in hand. If he wants a large talent pool that he can easily access, he needs to allow people from lower-classes to rise in status via their talents/merits, and to maintain that quality, he needs to be able demote high-rank people harmful to him or lacking in talent.
Last edited by GuoBia on Sun Apr 04, 2010 10:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Cao Cao a Communist?

Unread postby Cao Ah Man » Sun Apr 04, 2010 10:25 pm

Believe me Lady Wu I am aware that Cao Cao wasn't a communist by anymeans, I'm just more curious as to later portrayals of him having Communist sympathies :). Although, now that you mention those Marxist analyses of Cao, that does make me want to ask if you wouldn't happen to know if any actual articles or writing on that is available? I remember reading somewhere that one scholar attributed Guandu to class struggle- Cao facing off against the aristocrats, etc. etc. etc.

Dr. Crespigny's "Man from the Margin" article excellently covers the advancement of individuals from all sorts of family backgrounds. Although the article revolves mostly around Cao, it does make a great deal of reference to those you brought up, men who took advantage of the chaos of the times to break through the mold, essentially. It is true what you say, but I'm really curious why Cao is the man who gets singled out. I suppose it's just because of his "if a man has talent, I can use him" credo.

As for the popular references I was referring to, several manhua I've read, including Ravages of Time all feature Cao as desiring that "classless" society. Dynasty Warriors 6 makes the same mention, going so far as to suggest that he would retire from politics after achieving unification (I presume they derived that from his long winded excuse to holding power that he wrote after assuming...either the Dukedom or Kingship of Wei. Can't remember.) And Legend of Cao Cao Red Path (going off the translation mind you) has Cao mention that he would be perfectly happy to live in a society without Emperor's and Nobles. Obviously those statements are fictional, but I always thought it was interesting that they would portray him like that.

So far as calling him a Communist, that was just for shock affect ;). Although if Obama is descended from Cao Cao....hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm :twisted: j/k
Last edited by Cao Ah Man on Sun Apr 04, 2010 10:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Cao Cao a Communist?

Unread postby GuoBia » Sun Apr 04, 2010 10:32 pm

That's the essay I was referring to! XDD

Because once he maintained his power and social status, he kept that ideology. He didn't just do that when he was desperate; he kept it up. And he seemed to be personally committed to getting talent regardless of class, as well as instituting policies to do so, ie. education.

And marriage. Instead of marrying into a powerful high family for support, he took some of their daughters as concubines yes, but Lady Bian was made Empress because of her personal talent, individual virtue, and support. She was an able woman, if she was capable of preventing the officers in Luoyang from running away when Cao fled Dong Zhou, and was financially shrewd. I'd actually say that a better decision would have been to marry in a woman from a powerful family that he wanted to ensure the support of. That's class at work.
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Re: Cao Cao a Communist?

Unread postby Cao Ah Man » Sun Apr 04, 2010 10:36 pm

Ah...I always found it to be an absolute shame that Cao's far sighted and wise marriage to Lady Bian would be his family's downfall, as all of his successors followed suit and wed women of lower birth- leading to a lack of support from in-laws. That coupled with the lack of power in the Royal family made it all too easy for the Sima's to uncouthly seize power.

Sometimes it makes me wonder if China would not have been better off if ideas that men like Cao or even Shang Yang espoused (I think of it as Legalism light- without the heavy punishments ;) ) as opposed to the wishful idealism of Master Kong. Maybe even Suncius? (I dunno how they'd latinize Sun Zi XD)
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Re: Cao Cao a Communist?

Unread postby Qu Hui » Sun Apr 04, 2010 11:35 pm

Cao Ah Man wrote:Ah...I always found it to be an absolute shame that Cao's far sighted and wise marriage to Lady Bian would be his family's downfall, as all of his successors followed suit and wed women of lower birth- leading to a lack of support from in-laws. That coupled with the lack of power in the Royal family made it all too easy for the Sima's to uncouthly seize power.

I think that calling Cao Cao's marriage to Lady Bian the downfall of his family is misleading. While yes, Cao Pi did marry two women of lower class, the rest of the emperors did not follow suit. Cao Mao and Cao Huan both married into the Bian family, which by that point was fairly powerful in Cao Wei. The lack of power in the royal family can be traced back to the succession of Cao Fang and the regency of Cao Shuang, who created the oppourtunity for Sima Yi to seize power in the first place.

As for Cao Cao being a communist, I doubt it. His ideals, including allowing the continued existance of the gentry, are in direct conflict with the basic tenants of Communism.
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