Cao Rui (Yuanzhong)
Highest Title: Emperor of Wei
Cao Rui was first son of Cao Pi and the second emperor of the Wei dynasty. His mother was Lady Zhen, posthumously called Empress Zhao, who married Cao Pi in 205. In 220, the final emperor of the Han dynasty abdicated the throne in favor of Cao Pi. In 222, Cao Rui’s title was advanced from Duke of Qi to Prince of Pingyuan. He was said to be a very attractive man, with a dignified and solemn demeanor.
After his mother’s death in 221, Cao Rui was given over to care of his father’s favored consort, the Empress Guo styled Nüwang. While there is some disagreement regarding their relationship, it appears to have been mostly harmonious. Cao Rui asked after Lady Guo’s health every morning and evening and when she passed away in 235, Cao Rui ordered a period of three years mourning for her. He buried her in Shouyang, where Cao Pi was buried.
An anecdote about Cao Rui during his younger days tells of a certain hunting trip he took with his father. The pair came across a doe and a fawn. Cao Pi, being an excellent archer, shot and killed the doe. Cao Rui wept and could not bring himself to shoot the fawn, especially now that its mother was dead. Cao Pi was moved to pity by his son’s tears and threw down his bow and arrows.
In June of 226, Cao Pi grew deathly ill and confirmed Cao Rui as his heir. On June 28, Cao Pi summoned Cao Zhen, Chen Qun, and Sima Yi to his sickbed and commanded them to serve as guardians for Cao Rui. Cao Pi passed away on June 29. Cao Rui took the throne soon thereafter and gave various appointments as was appropriate. Cao Rui was only 21 at the time.
During his younger years, Cao Rui did not associate himself with the court and instead devoted himself to his academic studies. As a result, the high officials knew almost nothing about him. Several days after taking the throne, he met privately with his father’s longtime friend and adviser, Liu Ye. After this meeting, Liu Ye praised Cao Rui to the other officials, comparing his intelligence to that of the greatest emperors of old.
In September of 226, Cao Rui named his son, Cao Jiong, as Prince of Qinghe. Sadly, Cao Jiong passed away only two months later, in November.
Following the death of Cao Pi, Sun Quan – who Cao Pi had named King of Wu – launched a large assault on Cao Rui’s territories in Jing province. Cao Rui’s army won handedly. The veteran general Wen Pin defended his portion of Jiangxia commandery from the main thrust of the assault, along with reinforcements from the capital led by Xun Yu. Zhuge Jin attacked Xiangyang and was defeated by Sima Yi, while Cao Zhen defended Xun’ang.
In spring of 227, a man named Peng Qi gathered soldiers in Poyang to rebel against Sun Quan. Some of the Wei officials wanted to send the army to support Peng Qi. Cao Rui consulted a trusted aide, Sun Zi, on the subject. Sun Zi warned him that Peng Qi’s family had revolted before without any success. Furthermore, Sun Quan’s army was well disciplined and competent, so Peng Qi could not cause them serious trouble. Because of these things, he advised against a campaign, fearing that it was doomed to failure from the start. Cao Rui accepted this advice. Because he did not receive support, Peng Qi was killed by Sun Quan’s army.
In March, Cao Rui ploughed the imperial field for the first time. He also erected a mausoleum for his mother, Empress Zhen in Ye, which was the home of the Cao family. Wang Lang, the Minister Over the Masses, went to see this tomb and he found that many of the people in Ye were poor and hungry. Wang Lang thought that some of the money being spent on construction projects could be better spent to give aid to the masses and he sent a memorial to the throne explaining his position, admonishing Cao Rui to be frugal and thrifty.
In April, Zhuge Liang, the Chancellor [chengxiang] of the Shu rebel state, brought his army to camp at Hanzhong, declaring his intention to attack Wei. Cao Rui considered attacking Zhuge Liang at Hanzhong and asked Sun Zi about it. Sun Zi pointed out that even Cao Cao had experienced difficulty attacking their enemies in Hanzhong due to the terrain. Given the natural defenses of the region, Sun Zi believed that even Zhuge Liang could mount a successful defense of the region. Cao Rui concurred with this assessment and decided to adopt a defensive strategy instead.
At several points throughout the history of the time, coins called wushu went in and out of circulation to control inflation. At the start of Cao Rui’s reign, these coins were not circulated and people instead traded grain and silk. However, people commonly sold their grain when it was wet (so that it would weigh more) and made silk that was extremely thin. While these practices were illegal, they could not be stopped. As a countermeasure, Cao Rui agreed to put the wushu coins in circulation again.
In the final month of 227, Cao Rui named the Lady Mao as his empress. She was later known as Empress Dao. She had entered Cao Rui’s service sometime after 222 and was greatly valued by him. Cao Rui had her share his carriage whenever he left his estate. 
After this, Cao Rui enfeoffed Lady Mao’s father, Mao Jia, as Marquis of Beiping and promoted him to Imperial Household Grandee [guanglu dafu]. Cao Rui ordered that court officials attend banquets and entertainments at Mao Jia’s estate. Mao Jia apparently behaved quite foolishly at these events and always referred to himself as, “The Lordly Person.” The people of the time often mocked him. Later, in 236, Cao Rui enfeoffed Lady Mao’s mother, Lady Xia, as Marchioness of Yewang. Cao Rui took this occasion to distribute grain among the common folk with uncommon generosity. All who were old yet still unmarried, those who were widowed, those who were orphaned, those who had no children, and those who simply were not able to support themselves were given grain.
Prior to 167 B.C., various punishments involving mutilation were standard practice in the Han dynasty. Lesser offenses were punished by the tattooing of the face, while more severe ones saw the amputation of the nose. Even greater offenses saw the amputation of the left foot or both feet. These punishments were typically followed by a flogging and a term of hard labor. Emperor Wen abolished these punishments in 167. He replaced these mutilation punishments with more severe floggings and a longer term of enforced labor.  In 213, Cao Cao considered reinstating these punishments. His official Chen Qun argued that the floggings often resulted in the death of the offender, which was not their intention. Additionally, the current legal code showed a disparity between the severity of some crimes and the penalty to the offender. He gave the example of killing a man as opposed to maiming him. Murder earned one the death penalty. However, crippling a man for life earned the offender only a flogging, while the victim would never recover. Furthermore, the penalty for crimes sounded as though it was not especially severe, which Chen Qun believed encouraged people to commit crimes they would not if the penalty was something more horrifying. Chen Qun also argued that some punishments, which had previously been punishable by mutilation, were now only punished by execution. Under the previous system, the judging official could order the mutilation punishment rather than the death sentence if there were extenuating circumstances surrounding the crime so that the offender might live. Under the current system, such latitude did not exist. Many officials debated this issue, though ultimately only Zhong Yao agreed with Chen Qun. The majority, led by Wang Lang, objected to the proposal. Cao Cao made no decision on the matter, effectively agreeing with Wang Lang.
During Cao Pi’s reign, the debate about these punishments rose again, with Zhong Yao still advocating Chen Qun’s position while Wang Lang argued against it. In the end, Cao Pi followed his father’s example and shelved the discussion, in effect supporting Wang Lang’s position.
Sometime during 227, Zhong Yao again revived the debate regarding the mutilation punishments. Cao Pi ordered that his various officials discuss the matter. Wang Lang still led the majority opinion in objecting to this proposal, citing that people would not understand Zhong Yao’s argument. The common people would only perceive that the government had begun to mutilate criminals and would not understand that this actually resulted in less deaths. It would be seen as a barbaric and cruel practice instead of an attempt to show mercy to criminals. Such a thing would cause great unrest within the state. As did his father and grandfather, Cao Rui decided not to make a firm decision on the proposal, so the mutilation punishments were not reinstated.
Early in 228, Zhuge Liang announced that he would advance from Yegu to Mei. He sent the generals Zhao Yun and Deng Zhi to draw Wei’s attention and occupy Jigu while he led the main force to attack Mount Qi. Cao Rui sent the Grand General [da jiangjun] Cao Zhen to command the defense of the region. Cao Zhen made his base at Mei. Revolts broke out in the commanderies of Tianshui, Anding, and Nan’an, so these territories were suddenly contested.
Sun Tzu’s Art of War said that, “A good fighter is one who induces the enemy to advance and not one who is induced by him.” Cao Rui reminded his officials of this and pointed out that Zhuge Liang was absolutely one who had been induced to advance. As such, defeating him would be a simple matter. He then sent the General of the Right [you jiangjun] Zhang He with 50,000 soldiers to support Cao Zhen. On March 4, Cao Rui himself arrived in Chang’an to oversee the campaign against Zhuge Liang.
Cao Rui’s confidence was swiftly vindicated. Zhang He’s army met Zhuge Liang’s army at Jieting, where he easily crushed Zhuge Liang’s vanguard. With his forward positions thoroughly obliterated, Zhuge Liang was unable to advance and withdrew to Hanzhong. Zhao Yun and Deng Zhi were also defeated at Jigu. Cao Zhen led the armies in pacifying Tianshui, Anding, and Nan’an, affirming Cao Rui’s control over those commanderies. Cao Zhen personally pacified Anding while the Inspector [cishi] of Liang province captured Nan’an and Zhang He took Tianshui. Cao Rui returned to Luoyang on June 29.
Around the time of Zhuge Liang’s campaign, Wu’s Grand Administrator [taishou] of Poyang, Zhou Fang, sent letters to the Grand Commander [da sima] Cao Xiu saying that he wanted to defect to Wei. Cao Xiu took 10,000 soldiers to support Zhou Fang at Huan city. Cao Rui decided to take this opportunity to make a campaign against Wu. He ordered Sima Yi to advance against Jiangling and Jia Kui to attack Ruxukou. In the eighth month (September 17 – October 15), Sun Quan sent Zhu Huan, and Quan Zong with 60,000 soldiers under the command of Lu Xun to intercept Cao Xiu at Huan. Cao Xiu realized that Zhou Fang had deceived him but still intended to continue the campaign against Wu.
While Cao Xiu advanced towards Huan, the Master of Writing [shangshu] Jiang Ji sent a memorial to Cao Rui warning him that Cao Xiu was in a very dangerous position and that he should be ordered to break off his campaign. Once Cao Xiu reached Huan, Jiang Ji sent another memorial warning that the various Wu armies were moving to unite themselves against Cao Xiu and that reinforcements should be sent to him immediately. The General of the Front [qian jiangjun] Man Chong also sent a memorial presenting the situation and warning of Cao Xiu’s danger. However, before Cao Rui could reply to Man Chong’s memorial, Cao Xiu’s forces engaged Lu Xun’s in battle at Shiting and was defeated.
Cao Xiu fled to Jiashi and were pursued by Lu Xun’s army. Jia Kui saw that Ruxukou was lightly defended and realized that the soldiers he expected to encounter must have been sent against Cao Xiu, so he advanced quickly to Jiashi. Jia Kui’s army used extra banners and drums to make his force appear larger than it was. When their army arrived at Jiashi, Lu Xun retreated, so Cao Xiu survived.
On November 30, Cao Rui enfeoffed his son, Cao Mu, as Prince of Fanyang. In this same month, Cao Xiu passed away. Cao Rui canonized him as the Magnificent Marquis. Cao Rui then promoted Man Chong to be Marshal [dudu] of Yang and replace Cao Xiu in that region. In the eleventh month (December 14 228 – January 12 229), the Minister Over the Masses [situ] Wang Lang passed away. Cao Rui canonized him as the Accomplished Marquis.
After Zhuge Liang’s campaign earlier in 228, Cao Zhen sent the General [jiangjun] Hao Zhao to prepare Chencang against invasion, predicting that it would be Zhuge Liang’s next target. In the twelfth month of 228 (January 23 – February 12, 229), Zhuge Liang attacked Chencang as Cao Zhen predicted. Because of Hao Zhao’s defense, Zhuge Liang was unable to claim the position, so he retreated. Cao Rui rewarded Hao Zhao by making him a Guannei Marquis.
While Chencang was still under siege, Cao Rui summoned Zhang He and sent him to reinforce Hao Zhao. He held a banquet to honor Zhang He before sending him away. Cao Rui asked Zhang He if it was possible for Zhuge Liang to capture Chencang before he arrived, but Zhang He correctly predicted that Zhuge Liang would be defeated before he even arrived. Nevertheless, Cao Rui sent elements of the Imperial Guards to ensure Zhang He’s personal safety.
Also in 228, Gongsun Yuan took control Liaodong, seizing it from his uncle, Gongsun Gong. He then sent a memorial to the court informing Cao Rui of the new situation in the territory. The Palace Attendant [shizhong] Liu Ye pointed out that Liaodong was very isolated. The Gongsun family had been gathering power there for many years and it was only a matter of time until they defied Cao Rui’s sovereignty. He suggested attacking Gongsun Yuan unexpectedly. Cao Rui declined this advice and instead made Gongsun Yuan General of Vehemence [yanglie jiangjun] and Grand Administrator [taishou] of Liaodong.
In the spring of 229, Zhuge Liang again attacked Wei. He sent the general Chen Shi to attack the commanderies of Wudu and Yinping. The Inspector [cishi] of Yong, Guo Huai, led the army to oppose Chen Shi. Zhuge Liang himself advanced to Jianwei. Fearing that he would be isolated and that more important positions would be in danger, Guo Huai withdrew his forces, so Chen Shi was able to capture Wudu and Yinping.
In June of that same year, Cao Li, the Prince of Yuancheng, died. In the sixth month, on July 29, Cao Mu, the Prince of Fanyang, also passed away.
On August 3 (in the sixth month), Cao Rui posthumously enfeoffed his great-great-grandfather, Cao Teng, as Emperor Gao. His wife, Lady Wu, was named Empress Gao.
In the seventh month (August 8 – September 5), Cao Rui issued an edict. He cited various historical examples of feudal princes becoming the heirs to emperors and establishing their own parents posthumously as emperors in their own right. Cao Rui condemned this practice, as it confused the line of succession. He concluded his edict by saying, “Should it happen in the future that a feudal price succeed to the imperial line, they ought to be clear in their minds on the significance of his succession to someone else. Any who dare to be wickedly glib-tongued in flattering the sovereign of the time, wantonly including him to establish false titles and thereby infringe on the orthodox line of succession, such as calling his own father Emperor and his own mother Empress--such persons shall be put to death by the ministers concerned without mercy.” The primary reason that Cao Rui issued such an edict is because two of his sons had recently died and it seemed likely that his heir would be one of the feudal princes.
In the tenth month (November 4 – Deember 3), the Bingwang Terrace was renamed Dingsung Terrace and was used for court proceedings. Cao Rui often said that criminal justice was the very life of the nation. Whenever there was a major crime being judged, he would personally go to the terrace and listen to the case.
During Cao Rui’s reign, the Master of Writing [shangshu] Wei Ji proposed that the various officials be reacquainted with the legal code. Cao Rui ordered the Minister of Works [sikong] Chen Qun and the Cavalier Attendant in Ordinary [sanji changshi] Liu Shao to revise Wei’s legal code. The resultant creation was generally considered more efficient than the previous legal systems.
In the eleventh month (December 2 – January 1 of 230), the ancestral temple was completed at Luoyang.
Early in 230, Dong Zhao was made Acting Minister Over the Masses [jia situ]. He then sent a memorial to the throne criticizing the scholars of the younger generation. It read: “Of all those who have ruled over the empire there has been none who did not appreciate men of simplicity and truthfulness, and profoundly dislike those who were false and untruthful. This is because the latter would demolish good teachings, disturb good rule, destroy good custom, and injure good transformation. In recent years, Wei Feng was put to death at the end of the Jian-an period and Cao Wei suffered the punishment of death at the beginning of the Huangchu period. I respectfully observe that the sacred edicts, ancient and modern, expressed deep hatred for superficiality and falsity, to the extent of gnashing the teeth, the intention being to destroy and scatter wicked partisanship. Yet the officials in charge of the law all stand in fear of their power and influence, and so are unable to eliminate them. The destruction of good custom has thus reached an extreme degree.
“I presume to observe that young men of our times do not consider study as their fundamental duty but make it their exclusive business to form associations. These gentlemen of the land do not take filial piety, brotherly affections, and the cultivation of character as the paramount matter, but put first running after the powerful and associating with those who might give them profit. They form groups and associate into parties, mutually praising and eulogizing; calumny and defamation are considered as capital punishment, partisan commendation and praise as rank and reward. Those who follow they praise vociferously; those who do not, they find fault with. They go so far as to say to each other, 'Why worry that we cannot make our lives and careers good? Worry only lest we should not be assiduous in the "way" of searching out people and not extensive in spreading out out net. Why should any man worry that other people do not appreciate him? He only needs to make them swallow our medicine to make them affable.'
“I am also told there are those who even let their slaves and retainers presumptuously assume official titles in their houses; and under these false titles they go to and from the palace, take letters back and forth, and make inquires.
“All these are things which laws do not permit and which are unpardonable with respect to punishment. Even the crimes of Wei Feng and Cao Wei are not worse than these."
Cao Rui commended Dong Zhao’s words. On March 5, he issued an edict in response, saying: “As for internal quality and external embellishment, the change depends on the different teachings. Since war and disturbance began, the study of the classics has been completely abandoned; the advancements of younger people are not given through two Canons and the Three Counsels. Is it not that those whose study is yet insufficient and who are about to be given official appointment have become prominent by their virtue? Those of the Gentlemen Masters of Writing [shangshu lang] who have mastered one classic and whose talent suffices to govern the people shall be examined by the Academicians. Those who pass the examination with high marks shall promptly be given appointment; those who are shallow and superficial, and do not consider the source of the true way as their cardinal business, shall be dismissed.” As a result of these examinations, a number prominent officials were dismissed from office when their studies were found to be insufficient.
In 220, Cao Pi had considered posthumously enfeoffing his maternal grandparents. Chen Qun argued against this, saying that it went against the ancient rites to extend enfeoffments through a maternal line. Cao Pi was convinced and declared that such a practice would never be followed. Cao Rui, however, disagreed with this idea and, in spring of 230, granted titles to the parents and grandparents of Grand Empress Dowager Bian. Her grandfather, Bian Guang, was posthumously canonized as the Respectful Marquis of Kaiyang, and his wife, Lady Zhou, was titled the Respectful Marchioness of Yangdu. Her father, Bian Yuan, was canonized as the Attentive Marquis.
In the fourth month, on July 9 of 230, Cao Rui’s grandmother, Grand Empress Dowager Bian, passed away. She was canonized as the Celebrated Empress (Empress Xuan).
In the seventh month (July 28 – August 26), Grand Commander [da sima] Cao Zhen proposed an invasion of Shu. Cao Rui agreed with Cao Zhen’s suggestion and ordered the Grand General [da jiangjun] Sima Yi to join with Cao Zhen in attacking Shu. Chen Qun argued against this campaign, believing that the route Cao Zhen intended to use would certainly result in a disastrous defeat for Wei. Cao Zhen then proposed advancing along a different route and Chen Qun again argued against it. Cao Rui sent Chen Qun’s objections to Cao Zhen for his own consideration, ordering Cao Zhen to keep them in mind when planning his troop movements. Cao Rui himself left the capital on August 31 (the eighth month) on a tour of inspection in eastern Wei.
In Shu, Zhuge Liang brought his army to Chenggu and Chiban to wait for Cao Zhen’s army. He sent Li Yan ahead to Hanzhong with 20,000 soldiers to oppose Cao Zhen. These preparations proved unnecessary. A full month of rain at the outset of the campaign flooded the mountain passes and made it impossible for Cao Zhen’s army to advance.
During the month of rain, Cao Rui received a number of memorials from concerned officials. The Grand Commandant [taiwei] Hua Xin sent a memorial that read, “It is already two dozen years since war and disturbances broke out. Meanwhile our great Wei has succeeded to the heavenly mandate. With your sage-like virtue Your Majesty has met a time as flourishing as the Zhou Kings Cheng and Kang. You must propagate the good rule in this time and be an heir to the Three Kings. There are indeed the two rebels, who rely on their steep territory to prolong their lives, but when your sage-like transformation grows day by day and the distant people cherish your virtue, they will come to us, carrying their children on their shoulders.
“Now arms are to be used when there is no other choice; therefore they are held back and put into movement only on the right occasions. I sincerely hope that Your Majesty will first pay attention to the way of good rule, and regulate campaigns to the background. Besides, it will not be a successful campaign to carry provisions one thousand li; in crossing over defiles and making a deep incursion there cannot be any unchallenged achievements.
“I am told this year's enlistment and corvee has brought about a serious loss in agriculture and sericulture. The ruler of a state takes the people as foundation and the people take clothing and food as their fundamental. If China does not have the calamity of cold and hunger and the people do not have hearts estranged from their superiors, then it is the empire's good fortune, and the opportunity against the two rebels will come to us in no time.
“As one of the first ministers of the state, I grow day by day more aged and infirm. This unworthy life of mine is soon to end; I fear I shall no longer be able to raise my glance to your carriage. Therefore I dare not fail to carry to the utmost the love of a subject for his Sovereign. May Your Majesty take notice of this.”
Cao Rui responded by saying, “You have reflected profoundly on the future of the state; I commend you highly. The rebels rely on mountains and waters. My two ancestors toiled in earlier times but were unable to conquer them. Can I be so presumptuous as to think that I am certain to exterminate them? The various generals think that unless we attempt it once, the rebels will not bring about their own decline. It is because of this that I display our arms to seek an opportunity against them. The time being not ripe, King Wu of Zhou withdrew with his troops; this is a warning for me. Can I respectfully forget this warning?”
The Privy Treasurer [shaofu] Yang Fu also sent a memorial, saying, “Anciently King Wen of Zhou was the recipient of the auspicious augury of a red crow, yet throughout the whole day he did not have time to take a meal. A white fish leaped into the boat of King Wu; the Sovereign and his subjects all lost their color. In spite of having received downright auspicious signs, they were still fearful. Is one to remain without shivering when there are calamities and evil omens?
“At present Wu and Shu are not yet conquered, yet Heaven has frequently sent down strange omens. Your Majesty ought to devote yourself to concentrating your energy and obtaining advice, sitting humbly on the edge of the mat. You should think of demonstrating your liberality to the distant people and pacifying the nearer ones by your frugality.
“Our forces had barely moved forward when there came the calamity of great rain from heaven; for many day already they have been marooned in mountains and defiles. The toil of transport and the suffering from carrying burdens on the shoulders have already cost much. If this is not continued, our original plan will fail. Tradition says, ‘To advance when you see advance is possible, and withdraw in face of difficulties, is a good way of moving an army.’ To let the Six Armies be harassed in mountains and valleys to no purpose, with nothing to conquer when they advance and not being able to retreat – this is not the way for the troops of a Sovereign.
“King Wu withdrew his troops, but in the end Yin perished; he knew the time appointed by Heaven. At present the crops are bad and the people are starving. An illustrious edict should be issued announcing reduced government use of food and clothing; works of art, rare and strange objects should be put aside. The Privy Treasurer [shaofu] Shao Xinchen once memorialized, ‘In times of peace and normalcy, to do away with superfluous food consumption.’ Now that army provisions are insufficient, temperance should be exercised all the more.”
Furthermore, the Cavalier Attendant in Ordinary [sanji changshi] Wang Su memorialized, "In an earlier treatise it is said, 'If provisions are carried a thousand li, the soldiers will show hungry looks; if wood is first gathered to make fires, the troops will not have their stomachs full over the night.' This refers to a march on a level terrain. In the case of making a deep incursion into defiles and steep regions, where roads have first to be hewn through, the toil will certainly be a hundredfold. Added to this, we now have incessant rain; mountain slopes are steep and slippery; our hosts are hard pressed and cannot spread out; provisions are far off and difficult to keep coming. These are indeed great evils for one who commands troops.
“I am told that Cao Zhen, who started more than a month ago, has only reached halfway in Ziwugu. The work of constructing roads is being done by the entire forces. In other words, the enemy, at their ease, are waiting for us, who are worn out. This is something students of strategy abhor. To speak of earlier times, King Wu made a campaign against Zhou but withdrew after having gone outside the Pass; in recent times, both Wu-Di and Wen-Di, leading expeditions against Sun Quan, did not cross the Jiang when they faced it. Are they not called men who complied with Heaven and knew their time, and were versed in expedient and compromise?
“If the myriads of the people know that you, a superior sage, gave them rest and repose because of the difficulty and severity of water and rain, then when you later take advantage of an opportunity to use them, it will be like saying, 'When it is pleasure that makes them encounter difficulties, the people forget what death is.’”
Cao Rui was swayed by these arguments and in the ninth month (September 25 – October 24), he ordered the army to retreat. He himself returned to Luoyang on December 3. While Cao Rui was on his inspection tour, an official named Xu Xuan supervised the state documents. He held the rank of Left Supervisor [zuo puyi], Palace Attendant [shizhong], and Imperial Household Grandee [guanglu dafu]. When Cao Rui returned, a palace official brought him the state documents for his approval. Cao Rui refused to inspect the documents Xu Xuan had managed.
Around this time, Liu Ye spoke with Cao Rui and agreed that the attack on Shu was feasible. However, when he spoke to the other officials, he argued against it. Liu Ye shared his arguments against the campaign with his friend, Yang Ji, who was also one of Cao Rui’s close advisers. Yang Ji subsequently presented Liu Ye’s arguments to Cao Rui as though they were his own. Cao Rui recognized that these were not Yang Ji’s words and questioned him about the origins of his argument. Yang Ji admitted that he was using Liu Ye’s words, which perplexed Cao Rui because Liu Ye argued the opposite position in his presence. The emperor summoned Liu Ye and questioned him about the matter. Liu Ye insisted that he was only arguing against the campaign in public to deceive Shu spies. Initially, Cao Rui was willing to accept this argument, but others urged him to investigate Liu Ye’s behavior more closely; they worried that he was simply telling Cao Rui whatever he wanted to hear. Cao Rui then summoned Liu Ye for discussion and asked him about affairs. He phrased his questions in leading terms, implying that he believed the opposite to what he truly thought. Liu Ye’s answers agreed with Cao Rui’s false ones, so Cao Rui became convinced that Liu Ye’s judgment was no longer trustworthy. Liu Ye was demoted to a post outside of the capital.
Before he was dismissed, Liu Ye falsely accused the Prefect of the Masters of Writing [shangshu ling] Chen Jiao of monopolizing power. However, Cao Rui saw through Liu Ye’s words and raised no charges against Chen Jiao. He summoned Chen Jiao and spoke with him for a whole day to assure him that he was not suspected of any wrongdoing. Cao Rui also gave Chen Jiao five bars of gold as a sign of his favor in order to put the minds of his wife and children at ease.
In the twelfth month of that year (on February 17 of 231), Cao Rui had his mother, Empress Zhen, reburied in a finer mausoleum.
Around the end of 230, Sun Quan made it known that he was planning an attack on Hefei, in Yang province. Man Chong warned Cao Rui of this, so Cao Rui ordered soldiers from Yan and Yu provinces to gather and defend Hefei. Sun Quan retreated without attacking the position. Cao Rui was going to disband the soldiers, but Xu Xuan believed that Sun Quan was making a false retreat so that Cao Rui would disband the soldiers; he would then turn around and attack Hefei. Cao Rui heeded Xu Xuan’s warning and kept the soldiers at Hefei. True to Xu Xuan’s predictions, Sun Quan soon returned to attack Hefei, where he was easily defeated by the large army in the area.
Cao Zhen fell ill in 231, and Cao Rui visited him personally to inquire after his health. Cao Zhen passed away in the third month (April 20 – May 18) of this year. He was canonized as the Principal Marquis.
Early in 231, Zhuge Liang again attacked Mount Qi. Because Cao Zhen was ill at the time, Cao Rui sent Sima Yi to oppose Zhuge Liang. Zhuge Liang was not able to overcome Sima Yi and retreated in the sixth month (July 17 – August 15) when his supplies ran out. However, Zhang He was struck with an arrow in battle with Zhuge Liang’s forces and was killed.
On August 30, Cao Rui’s son, Cao Yin, was born.
In this year, Cao Rui and his uncle, Cao Zhi, exchanged many letters. Cao Zhi first sent a memorial protesting the way that Cao Rui’s relatives were excluded from the government and offering advice on affairs. Cao Rui sent him a reply conceding that the imperial relatives were being unduly neglected. He condemned the officials who had been preventing imperial relatives from inquiring after state affairs. Cao Zhi felt encouraged to send more letters, offering Cao Rui further advice on a variety of government affairs. Cao Rui replied with gracious letters, though he did not invite Cao Zhi to serve in any government position. However, in the eighth month (September 14 - October 13), Cao Rui issued an edict commanding that all of the princes (i.e. his uncles and brothers) come to court along with their heirs.
The Privy Treasurer [shaofu] Yang Fu sent memorials to Cao Rui urging him to be more frugal in his spending and to treat the Imperial relatives more graciously. Cao Rui replied to his first memorial with a gracious letter. Yang Fu sent another memorial continuing to urge Cao Rui to be more strict with his expenditures. Once again, Cao Rui personally replied with a polite and friendly letter. On a later occasion, Cao Rui wore a cap and gown with short sleeves. Yang Fu criticized him for dressing so informally, and from then on Cao Rui would not see Yang Fu without being properly attired.
The Inspector [cishi] of Yang province, Wang Ling, slandered the Marshal [dudu] of Yang, Man Chong, saying that he was too old and too fond of wine to properly perform his duties. The Palace Assistant Recorder [ji shizhong] Guo Mu advised Cao Rui to investigate these accusations. Cao Rui invited Man Chong and discussed the affairs of the east with him. He found Man Chong to be healthy and strong in spite of his age, so Cao Rui thanked him for his long years of service and sent him back to his position.
In the twelfth month of 231 (on January 30, 232), the Grand Commandant Hua Xin passed away. Cao Rui canonized him as the Respectful Marquis.
In the second month (March 10 – April 7) of 232, Cao Rui altered a minor point of his government. The domains of the feudal princes were subsequently called states [guo] rather than commanderies [jun].
During the year of 232, Cao Rui’s daughter, Cao Shu, died in infancy. Cao Rui mourned her deeply and canonized her as the Virtuous Princess of Pingyuan. He had a temple for her erected in Luoyang and had her buried in the mausoleum at Nanling along with his own-grandnephew, Zhen Huang, to be her consort. Cao Rui wished to attend her funeral in person and travel to Xuchang. The Minister of Works [sikong] Chen Qun argued against Cao Rui’s attending his daughter’s funeral on the grounds that the ancient rites did not provide for the death of a child under eight years of age, while Cao Rui was granting his daughter the funeral of an adult. He also worried that Cao Rui’s visiting Xuchang, along with the majority of court officers, might be misinterpreted by the common folk as an attempt to flee unfavorable conditions in Luoyang. The Privy Treasurer [shaofu] Yang Fu also argued against Cao Rui’s plans, pointing out that he did not attend the funerals of Cao Pi and Grand Empress Dowager Bian because affairs of state were more pressing. Given this, it would be improper for him to attend the funeral of an infant. Cao Rui ignored these objections.
On April 14, in the third month, Cao Rui began a tour of inspection. When he passed through a village, he asked after the elderly, widows and widowers, orphans, and childless. He distributed grain and silk to all who were in need. He arrived in Xuchang on June 14. In the ninth month (October 2 – October 31), Cao Rui repaired the old palace in Xuchang and built additions onto it. One of Cao Rui’s officials arrested another without due cause. The Supervisor of the Right [you puyi] Wei Zhen arrested the first official and wanted to put him on trial. Cao Rui was initially reluctant to do so because that official had been overseeing the construction of the palace. Wei Zhen convinced him to have the official tried as an example to others.
Tragedy again struck Cao Rui in the fifth month (June 6 – July 5) when his son, Cao Yin, passed away.
In the seventh month (August 4 – September 2), Cao Rui made Dong Zhao Minister Over the Masses [situ].
Because Gongsun Yuan had harbored disloyalty for some time, Cao Rui ordered Tian Yu and Wang Xiong to attack Liaodong. The Cavalier Attendant in Ordinary [sanji changshi] Jiang Ji sent a memorial to the throne arguing against this action, but Cao Rui did not heed his advice. Tian Yu’s campaign proved to be fruitless, so Cao Rui disbanded the task force. However, while returning home, Tian Yu was able to intercept some envoys sent to Gongsun Yuan by Sun Quan, so he was able to earn some victory from his campaign. At one time, Cao Rui arrived at Chen Jiao’s office suddenly and requested to inspect the state documents. Chen Jiao answered by saying that this sort of inspection was his job. He argued that if Cao Rui thought he was doing his job correctly, there was no need for such an inspection; if he thought Chen Jiao was doing his job poorly, then he should be dismissed. Cao Rui agreed with Chen Jiao’s words and did not proceed in his inspection.
The Gentleman Master of Writing [shangshu lang] Lian Zhao became one of Cao Rui’s favored advisers due to his talents. However, he was fond of criticizing officials for trifling faults in order to gain Cao Rui’s favor. In 232, the Gentleman in Attendance at the Yellow Gates [huangmen shilang] Du Shu sent a memorial to the throne criticizing Lian Zhao and warning against such councilors.
Early in 233, Man Chong proposed destroying the current fortress at Hefei and rebuilding it on top of a hill about 10 miles from the current location. He believed that this would make it far more difficult for Sun Quan to attack and easier to send reinforcements. Jiang Ji argued that tearing down the fortress would make Wei appear weak and incite Wu to attack. Man Chong explained that such a thing was exactly the result he was hoping for. It would lure Sun Quan into attacking, where he could easily be defeated. The Master of Writing [shangshu] Zhao Zi convinced Cao Rui to support Man Chong’s plan.
In the first month of 233, on February 19, a dragon was allegedly seen in a well in Mopo. On March 4, Cao Rui went to Mopo to see the dragon and changed the reign style from Taihe to Qinglong.
In the sixth month (July 25 – August 22), a fire broke out in the palace at Luoyang and the jushi burned down. The jushi was a special enclosure on the palace grounds where sporting events were held.
The great Xianbei daren [chieftain] Kebineng had been at odds with another powerful leader, Budugen, for some time. Budugen was allied with Wei while Kebineng was a declared enemy of the state. These two reconciled in 233 and Budugen went to serve Kebineng. Kebineng defeated an army sent against him by the Inspector [cishi] of Bing province. Kebineng then ravaged Bing, devastating the local military. Cao Rui sent The General of the Valiant Cavalry [xiaoji jiangjun] Qin Lang with the Imperial Guards to defeat Kebeineng. Kebineng withdrew from Wei before Qin Lang arrived to offer battle. He subsequently killed Budugen, which encouraged some of Budugen’s soldiers to return to alliance with Wei. They were led by Budugen’s nephew, Xieguini.
Gongsun Yuan offered his surrender to Wu in 233, so Sun Quan sent ambassadors to Liaodong against the advice of his ministers. Gongsun Yuan subsequently killed Sun Quan’s emissaries and confiscated their gifts. In the twelfth month of the year (January 18 – February 15 of 234), Cao Rui enfeoffed Gongsun Yuan as Duke of Luolang and Grand Commander [da sima].
Once the issue with Gongsun Yuan was resolved, Sun Quan decided to vent his anger by attacking the new fortress at Hefei. Initially, he was reluctant to leave his ship for fear of an attack. Man Chong sent 60,000 soldiers to intercept Sun Quan along the Fei River. When Sun Quan did emerge from his ship, he was immediately attacked by concealed troops, so Sun Quan retreated.
In the second month (March 18 – April 15) of 234, Zhuge Liang advanced against Wei for the fifth time. He sent envoys to Sun Quan so that Wu and Shu could attack at the same time and divide Wei’s attention.
In the third month, on April 21, Liu Xie passed away. He had served as the final emperor of the Han dynasty from 189-220, when he abdicated the throne to Cao Pi. After his abdication, he was enfeoffed as Duke of Shanyang. Cao Rui personally performed mourning rites for him. Cao Rui canonized him as Emperor Xiaoxian and ensured that he was buried with all of the rituals and honors due to a Han emperor.
In the fourth month, Zhuge Liang’s army arrived and camped south of the Wei River. Sima Yi led his soldiers across the river to camp on the south side as well. He constructed fortifications in preparation for battle. Cao Rui sent the Protector of the Army Who Conquers Shu [zhengshu hujun] Qin Lang with 20,000 soldiers to reinforce Sima Yi. Zhuge Liang attempted to cut off Sima Yi’s army by marching on Boyuan, but he was intercepted and defeated by Guo Huai. Unable to advance, Zhuge Liang camped at Wuzhang and attempted to establish agricultural colonies. The two armies faced each other for over 100 days. Though Zhuge Liang attempted to lure Sima Yi into battle several times, Sima Yi was not deceived and maintained his position. In the eighth month, Zhuge Liang died of illness. The Shu army retreated, putting an end to the campaign.
At the same time, a far more serious threat came from Wu. In the fifth month (June 15 – July 13), Sun Quan camped in Zhaohukou and, from there, advanced on Hefei with 100,000 soldiers. At the same time, he sent Lu Xun and Zhuge Jin to attack Xiangyang. Sun Shao and Zhang Chen were sent against Guangling and Huaiyin. In the sixth month (July 14 – August 12), Man Chong requested permission to lead reinforcements to Hefei. However, the general Tian Yu suggested letting Sun Quan’s army exhaust itself attacking Hefei, then sending reinforcements in secret to catch them unprepared. Cao Rui accepted this strategy. Man Chong then proposed that the generals and soldiers who were on leave be summoned to defend Hefei; he also asked that the Imperial Guards be sent as reinforcements. The Cavalier Attendant in ordinary [sanji changshi] Liu Shao agreed with Man Chong’s plan and also suggested sending 8,000 elite soldiers ahead to cut off the Wu supply line. Cao Rui accepted this plan as well. Man Chong also suggested abandoning Hefei and drawing the Wu army to fight at Shouchun instead. However, the Wu army had been broken at Hefei many times before, sometimes in spite of devastating odds against the defenders. It now held an almost mythical reputation. Cao Rui refused to abandon the position. Instead, he decided to personally lead the main body of the army to defend Hefei. On August 30th of the seventh month, Cao Rui took began his advance to the east.
Man Chong personally led the 8,000 elite soldiers that Cao Rui sent ahead to cut off the Wu supply lines. Though horribly outnumbered, Man Chong’s force devastated the Wu army. He led his soldiers against the siegeworks and set fires to destroy their siege engines. He also shot and killed Sun Quan’s nephew, Sun Tai. A plague also broke out among the Wu army, further devastating Sun Quan’s forces. When Cao Rui arrived with the main body of the army, Sun Quan fled and his army retreated. Sun Shao’s army also withdrew, as did Lu Xun’s.
Some suggested that Cao Rui should go west to oversee Sima Yi’s battle against Zhuge Liang, but Cao Rui said that it was unnecessary. Instead, he entered Shouchun and issued many rewards to those who had fought for Hefei.
Sima Yi was made Grand Commandant [taiwei] on February 13, in the first month of 235.
On March 14, Cao Rui’s step-mother, Empress Dowager Guo, passed away. Cao Rui canonized her as the Virtuous Empress (Empress De). She was buried near Cao Pi in Shouyang and Cao Rui ordered a three year mourning period for her.
Cao Rui showed great favor to the palace women. They were given ranks identical to those of the various officials of the Imperial Court. Six of the women in Cao Rui’s harem, because they were very intelligent and well-educated, were selected to be Mistresses of Writing [nü shangshu], with the same responsibilities as their male counterparts. While Chinese historians traditionally present this as an odd perversion or curiosity on Cao Rui’s part, such an interpretation is an obvious attempt to force Cao Rui’s actions to fit into the traditional concept of a male-dominated society. Yet, in addition to granting these women government positions, Cao Rui enfeoffed members of his maternal line and even enfeoffed women independently of their husbands. He also distributed grain and silk to disenfranchised women. Furthermore, he attended the funeral of his daughter Cao Shu and not those of his sons. When viewed in context with these actions, it would appear that Cao Rui made an active effort to advance the position of women in Wei’s society.
Cao Rui embarked on many construction projects during his time. Work was constantly being done on various palaces and temples, and it began to interfere with the regular lives of the common folk and agricultural production. Chen Qun felt that these projects were frivolous and urged Cao Rui to focus on military affairs. Cao Rui argued that once Shu and Wu were conquered, the government would be focused on controlling the territories and there would not be opportunity to build the temples and palaces that he felt would increase Wei’s prestige among the people. Chen Qun continued to argue against these projects and Cao Rui was persuaded to reduce his plans.
The Minister of Justice [tingwei] Gao Rou also sent a memorial warning Cao Rui that he was exhausting the people with endless construction and that it would weaken the state. Cao Rui sent him a letter, thanking him graciously for his well considered opinion and inviting him to submit his advice on other matters in the future. Gao Rou subsequently submitted another memorial criticizing certain hunting restrictions that had resulted in an overpopulation of deer causing severe environmental damage. In addition to his formal memorial, Gao Rui also submitted an extremely sassy argument: “I have profoundly reflected: The reason why Your Majesty does not take these deer early is that you wish them to multiply to the extreme, when you will take them on a large scale to make them serve army and state. But I presume to think that, as it is, the deer will daily decrease and you will have no chance to get them on a large scale. Why do I think so? Now the Imperial enclosure extends to an area of more than a thousand li. In my calculation, there are in this area easily 600 tigers, large and small, 500 wolves, and 10,000 foxes. Supposing a large tiger eats one deer every three days, one tiger will eat 120 deer in a year; since there are 600 tigers, that means that the tigers will eat 72,000 deer a year. Supposing ten wolves eat a deer each day, the 500 wolves will eat up 18,000 deer a year. A newly born deer is not good at running; let ten foxes eat one young deer a day—during the period of a month when the young deer begin to run fast, the 10,000 foxes will eat 30,000 young deer a month. In all, the number of deer falling prey to these animals amounts to 1,200,000. The harm due from vultures, I have not counted. Thus seen, there will be no chance of obtaining them in large numbers. There is nothing like taking them early.” It is unknown how Cao Rui responded to such a memorial.
Cao Rui at one point considered leveling Pomang hill and building a terrace on it. The Commandant of the Guards [weiwei] Xin Pi argued against this, saying that it was an unnecessary expenditure of labor. Cao Rui accepted this advice and canceled his plans.
The Gentleman of the Palace Writers [zhongshu shilang] Wang Ji sent a memorial urging Cao Rui to be more active in his attempts to suppress Wu and Shu, though Cao Rui did not act on his suggestions.
The Master of Writing [shangshu] Sun Li also appealed to Cao Rui to cancel some construction projects. Cao Rui agreed to dismiss the workers. However, the superintendant in charge of the construction said that the work could be completed in just one more month. Sun Li went to the construction site himself and dismissed the workers, claiming that it was by Cao Rui’s order. Cao Rui admired Sun Li for this and did not reprimand him.
While Cao Rui did not always accept the advice of his officials, he always encouraged them to give their opinions. He was tolerant of opposing points of view and always replied to their suggestions graciously, even if he did not share their opinions.
In the seventh month (August 2 – August 30) of 235, a portion of the palace in Luoyang caught fire. Cao Rui feared that this might be some sort of omen, so he consulted the Palace Attendant [shizhong] Gaotang Long about this. Gaotang Long answered by saying that it was a supernatural warning against excessive spending. He suggested that Cao Rui cancel various projects in order to avoid disaster. Cao Rui subsequently rebuilt the damaged portion of the palace.
On September 23, of the eighth month, Cao Rui adopted Cao Fang and Cao Xun as his sons. Cao Fang was made Prince of Qi and Cao Xun was made Prince of Qin. It is unknown who the parents of these children were.
Cao Rui was very strict with those who superintended his construction projects. Any who wasted time and passed their deadlines received severe punishment. Wang Su sent a memorial to the throne advising Cao Rui to be more lenient with these officials.
Also in this year, Cao Rui opened trade relations with Wu. He traded Sun Quan horses for various treasures.
On July 4 of 236, the Minister Over the Masses [situ] Dong Zhao passed away. Cao Rui canonized him as the Constant Marquis. On February 7 of 237, the Minister of Works [sikong] Chen Qun died and was canonized as the Calm Marquis.
Around the end of 236, Cao Rui ordered his officials to recommend people of talent for imperial service. His edict read: “I wish to recruit those of talent, wisdom, and literary accomplishments, and of profound counsel; those who can see the distant as if were near at hand; whose calculations always work and whose schemes are always fruitful; whose character is whole and whose minds are fine; whose persons are pure and cultivated, refined and calm, and who are indefatigable in their aims.” These people were to be given office regardless of age and status.
On February 6 of 237, Shangqi county reported that a yellow dragon had been sighted. Gaotang Long advised that this was a good omen and also convinced Cao Rui to alter the calendar and reign year. The court garments were also changed to yellow. Cao Rui enacted these changes in the third month (April 13 – May 12) of the year. At that time, the third month became the fourth month of the new calendar.
In the sixth month, Chen Jiao was made Minister Over the Masses [situ] and Wei Zhen, Left Supervisor of the Masters of Writing [shangshu zuo puyi] was made Minister of Works. These two replaced Dong Zhao and Chen Qun, who had held these positions before passing away . However, Chen Jiao himself died on July 11, in the seventh month. He was canonized by Cao Rui as the Propitious Marquis.
Also in the sixth month, the chief officials of Wei memorialized that the three emperors of Wei (that is, Cao Cao, Cao Pi, and Cao Rui) be given temple names. Cao Cao was made the Grand Ancestor [taizu], while Cao Pi was made the Founding Ancestor [gaozu] and Cao Rui was made the Meritous Ancestor [liezu]. Some historians have criticized Cao Rui for accepting such an honor, which was supposed to be issued only after death, though the fault is with the officials who included him in this memorial rather than with Cao Rui himself.
Because of Gongsun Yuan’s past behavior, Cao Rui considered a campaign against Liaodong. As preparation for this, he made Guanqiu Jian the Inspector [cishi] of You province. Guanqiu Jian subsequently sent a memorial to the court requesting permission to attack Liaodong. Wei Zhen argued against this campaign, saying that it was for petty reasons and too difficult to accomplish. In spite of these objections, Cao Rui gave Guanqiu Jian permission to proceed. He gathered allies from the Xianbei and Wuhuan tribes, then advanced on Liaodong. Gongsun Yuan took up arms to defend himself and met Guanqiu Jian in battle at the Liao River. Gongsun Yuan’s army proved to be victorious and Guanqiu Jian retreated to Beiping. Gongsun Yuan subsequently declared himself King of Yan. He allied with the Xianbei and threatened Wei’s northern border.
In September of 237, Cao Rui’s wife, Empress Mao, passed away. She was canonized as the Lamented Empress (Empress Dao). Her brother, Mao Zeng, was promoted in her memory.
Also in this year, Cao Rui moved a number of ancient treasures from Chang’an to Luoyang. He also had several large statues made and displayed in the capital. The official Dong Xun sent a memorial to the throne harshly criticizing Cao Rui for this using extremely rude and disrespectful language. While the chief officials wanted to arrest Dong Xun for his open disrespect towards the emperor, Cao Rui ordered that he be left alone.
Gaotang Long had sent many memorials to Cao Rui, advising him and remonstrating with him. He never feared how Cao Rui may receive his words and so became one of the emperor’s most prominent advisers. He fell deathly ill in 237 and sent a final memorial, reminding Cao Rui of the various qualities of the great sovereigns of the past and urging him to rectify any faults in his behavior. Cao Rui personally wrote to him, thanking him for his advice. Gaotang Long died shortly after receiving his letter.
Cao Rui disliked superficial and false people, so he told the Director of Personnel [libu shangshu] Lu Yi not to employ people who were famous. Lu Yi argued that while fame itself was not a measure of ability, it was sufficient for finding people of ordinary competence. He said that ordinary people became famous because of their positive qualities, while truly great talent often went unrecognized by the common people. Cao Rui was swayed by this argument and withdrew his previous order.
Cao Rui ordered the Cavalier Attendant in Ordinary [sanji changshi] Liu Shao to rewrite the regulations for examining officials. He then submitted Liu Shao’s proposal for discussion. The Colonel Director of Retainers [sili xiaowei] Cui Lin, Attendant at the Yellow Gates [huangmen shilang] Du Shu, and Head Clerk to the Minister of Works [sikong yuan] Fu Jia all criticized this proposal. In the end, it was not adopted.
In the first month of 238 (January 3 – February 1), Cao Rui summoned the Grand Commandant [taiwei] Sima Yi to the capital and ordered him to attack Gongsun Yuan with 40,000 soldiers. Some criticized this, believing that it was an unnecessary expense, but Cao Rui disregarded such criticism. He discussed the strategy of the campaign with Sima Yi, who said that he could make the journey, conquer Liaodong, and return in approximately one year.
While Sima Yi marched for Liaodong, Cao Rui asked Lu Yi who he should appoint as the new Minister Over the Masses [situ]. Lu Yi first recommended the scholar Guan Ning, but Cao Rui could not employ him. Lu Yi then recommended Han Ji or Cui Lin. Cao Rui chose to appoint Han Ji as Minister Over the Masses. However, Han Ji passed away in the fourth month. Cao Rui canonized him as the Reverent Marquis.
Sima Yi reached Liaodong in the sixth month (May 31 – June 28) and confronted Gongsun Yuan’s army at the Liao River. He tricked the defenders out of their positions and advanced on Gongsun Yuan’s capital at Xiangping. The defending forces turned around to chase Sima Yi but were ambushed and defeated. He then began to encircle Xiangping. Continuous rain in the seventh month (June 29 – July 26) flooded the Liao River and prevented Sima Yi from completing his encirclement of the city. When the court heard of the terrible weather, many officials wanted to call off the campaign. However, Cao Rui maintained faith in Sima Yi and was confident that Gongsun Yuan would soon be defeated. As soon as the rain ceased, Sima Yi completed his encirclement and attacked the city ferociously. Gongsun Yuan’s army suffered heavy casualties and many of his generals and soldiers surrendered. In the ninth month, on September 29, Gongsun Yuan attempted to flee the city. He was killed by Sima Yi’s forces and the city of Xiangping was secured.
Gongsun Yuan’s brother, Gongsun Huang, had been living in the capital as a hostage for some time. He repeatedly warned the court that Gongsun Yuan would not remain loyal to Wei and suggested that an army be sent to subdue him. Politically, Cao Rui was required to execute Gongsun Huang when his brother revolted, but he did not wish to do so in public. Instead, he sent poison to Gongsun Huang and his family, so they committed suicide. Cao Rui donated funeral clothing and coffins for the family.
On November 18 of the eleventh month, Wei Zhen was promoted to be Minster Over the Masses [situ]. Cui Lin filled the now-vacant post of Minister of Works [sikong].
On December 31, Cao Rui fell badly ill. On January 16 of 239, he made his consort, Lady Guo, his empress. On this occasion, Cao Rui distributed grain to widows and widowers as well as orphans and those without children. In this circumstance, the Empress Guo’s position was not a simple formality.
Under the Later Han and in Wei, if the emperor passed on and his heir was too young to properly manage the empire, the Empress Dowager could assume authority in the central government. During the Han times, she was advised by a senior male relative, who was given the title Grand General [da jiangjun], though that position had ceased being connected to the Empress in 189. The Empress Dowager could, if necessary, dethrone the emperor and replace him with a candidate of her choice. This was a power that no other officials held and made the Empress Dowager one of the most powerful officials in the empire.
Cao Rui wanted to make his relative, Cao Yan, a senior official to guide his heir, Cao Fang. However, Cao Yan refused the appointment. Cao Rui’s confidants, Liu Fang and Sun Zi, suggested that he appoint Cao Shuang and Sima Yi as guardians for Cao Fang. On January 19 of 239, Cao Shuang was made Grand General [da jiangjun]. Fearing that Cao Shuang may not be fit for his new position, Cao Rui also appointed Sun Li as his Chief Clerk [changshi] to advise him. 
Sima Yi himself arrived in the capital on January 22. Cao Rui gave his final order, commanding Sima Yi to guard Cao Fang and the empire. On that same day, Cao Fang was named Crown Prince [taizi]. Cao Rui passed away shortly thereafter.
Cao Rui was praised by the historians of the time for the clarity with which he perceived affairs and the consideration with which he always made decisions. He refused to be blinded by superficiality and falsehoods, instead employing those who were talented and upright. He as admired by all the ministers of the state for his intelligence. Cao Rui was also said to have a perfect memory. He committed all of the court’s important records to memory as well as the names of all the state’s officials and their relatives. He was patient when solving problems and would admit his own faults. Cao Rui always listened to the complaints and suggestions of the common people in addition to accepting criticism from his officials. He permitted ordinary citizens to send him letters and received hundreds in a month. No matter what the contents of a letter, he would read it to its completion and write a reply.
 Huangchu 2, 10
 Huangchu 1, 36
 Huangchu 3, 7
 Fang’s note 3 of Jingchu 3
 Huangchu 2, 10
 Some historians believe that Lady Guo slandered Lady Zhen to Cao Pi until Cao Pi ordered Lady Zhen to commit suicide. They believe that, as a result, Cao Rui eventually bore ill-will towards Lady Guo. While this is the position of many historians, including sanguozhi author Chen Shou, there is a large body of evidence to cast doubt on this story. As this debate is more relevant to the life of Cao Pi and would take a long time to discuss in full, I have chosen not to dwell on it in this biography. Even the sources who claim that there were feelings of enmity between Cao Rui and Lady Guo agree that Cao Rui took certain courses of action regarding her, and it is those that I have chosen to emphasize.
 Fang’s note 4 of Qinglong 3, quoting from the sanguozhi biographies of Cao Rui and Empress De.
 According to his autobiography in the dianlun, Cao Pi was a great archer who could shoot with either hand.
 Huangchu 7, 10; paraphrased from the Records of the End of Wei [wei mozhuan]
 Huangchu 7, 11
 Huangchu 7, 12; while the main passage also mentions Cao Xiu, this event is not mentioned in Cao Xiu’s sanguozhi biography. The account in Cao Zhen’s biography does not mention Cao Xiu, nor does Sima Yi’s biography.
 Huangchu 7, 13
 Huangchu 7, 15
 Fang’s note 2.2 of Jingchu 3 says that Cao Rui must have been born in 205. Thus, he would have been 21 (22 by Chinese count) when he took the throne.
 Huangchu 7, 16
 Huangchu 7, 22
 Huangchu 7, 25
 Huangchu 7, 21. This Xun Yu is either the nephew or grandson of the more famous Xun Yu who advised Cao Cao.
, whic Huangchu 7, 23
 Taihe 1, 1
 Taihe 1, 2
 Taihe 1, 3
 Taihe 1, 4
 Taihe 1, 5
 Taihe 1, 7
 Taihe 1, 8
 Taihe 1, 11
 Empresses and Consorts, p. 111
 Fang’s note 11.5 of Taihe 1
 Empresses and Consorts, 112; it is important to note that she was enfeoffed separately from her husband, who was Marquis of Beiping.
 Fang’s note 11.1 of Taihe 1; while past emperors had also rewarded the common folk on such occasions, Cao Rui’s rewards extended to people who were normally ignored.
 de Crespigny’s note 39 of Jian’an 18.
 To clarify Chen Qun’s position: a flogging and hard labor sounded like lenient punishments compared to, say, the amputation of one’s left foot. Because criminals expected to survive the flogging (which was by no means a certainty), they might feel encouraged to commit crimes that they would not even consider if the penalty was something so permanent as the amputation of the left foot.
 Jian’an 18, O; much of Chen Qun’s argument can be difficult to follow and is clarified in de Crespigny’s notes 39-47 of Jian’an 18.
 Fang’s note 12.1 of Taihe 1
 Taihe 1, 12
 Taihe 2, 5
 Taihe 2, 7
 Fang’s note 8.2 of Taihe 2
 Taihe 2, 8
 Taihe 2, 9; while it seems that operations were commanded by Cao Zhen, Cao Rui’s presence certainly must have been encouraging to the Wei army. Furthermore, Cao Rui was placing himself in significant danger, since Chang’an was Zhuge Liang’s ultimate target in this campaign.
 Taihe 2, 11
 Taihe 2, 15
 Taihe 2, 19
 Cao Zhen’s sanguozhi
 Fang’s note 21 of Taihe 2
 Zhang He’s sanguozhi
 Taihe 2, 20
 Taihe 2, 23
 Taihe 2, 24
 Taihe 2, 25
 Taihe 2, 26
 Fang’s note 26.3 of Taihe 2
 Taihe 2, 27
 Taihe 2, 28
 Taihe 2, 29
 Taihe 2, 30
 Taihe 2, 31
 Taihe 2, 32
 Taihe 2, 34
 Taihe 2, 19
 Taihe 2, 36
 Taihe 2, 40; a Guannei Marquis (or Marquis Within the Passes) had a title but came with no estate.
 Taihe 2, 38
 Fang’s note 38.4 of Taihe 2
 Taihe 2, 41
 Taihe 3, 1
 Taihe 3, 11
 Taihe 2, 12; by this point, three sons of Cao Rui have died: Cao Jiong in 226, with Cao Li and Cao Mu in 229.
 Taihe 3, 13; Cao Teng was a powerful and virtuous eunuch who adopted Cao Song as his son. Cao Song was the father of Cao Cao.
 Taihe 3, 14
 Fang’s note 14 of Taihe 3
 Taihe 3, 19
 Taihe 3, 20; it is unknown when exactly this happened, though it must have been prior to Chen Qun’s death in 238. The main text of the ZZTJ puts it in 229, though the reasons for doing so are unclear.
 Taihe 3, 21
 Fang’s note 3o of Taihe 4
 Wei Feng was an official who plotted a revolt in Ye, home of the Cao family.
 Cao Wei was a private citizen who sent letters to Sun Quan, offering to be his representative in Wei after Sun Quan surrendered to Cao Pi in 220. He was executed for treasonously soliciting favors from the ruler of a foreign state.
 Taihe 4, 3; this passage includes the whole of Dong Zhao’s memorial.
 Taihe 4, 4
 These were the parents of Grand Empress Dowager BIan. The second wife of Cao Cao, she was his Queen and the mother of Cao Pi.
 Huangchu 1, 41
 Empresses and Consorts, 94
 Taihe 4, 6
 Taihe 4, 8
 Taihe 4, 9
 Taihe 4, 10
 Taihe 4, 12
 Taihe 4, 13
 Taihe 4, 13; this passage contains the entirety of Hua Xin’s memorial and Cao Rui’s response
 Taihe 4, 14 contains all of Yang Fu’s memorial
 Wang Su was the son of the former Minister Over the Masses [situ] Wang Lang.
 Taih 4, 15 contains the entirety of Wang Su’s memorial.
 Taihe 4, 16
 Taihe 4, 17
 Taihe 4, 18; Fang’s note 18 contains Xu Xuan’s other ranks and titles.
 Taihe 6, 15; The main text of the ZZTJ places this event in 232, but from the context provided (“When the emperor was about to make a campaign against Shu”) it seems that it must have happened in this year, since Cao Rui only attempted to invade Shu in 230. I suspect that it was put in 232 to coincide with Liu Ye’s death.
 Taihe 6, 16
 Fang’s note 16 of Taihe 6
 Taihe 4, 19
 Taihe 4, 21
 Cao Zhen’s sanguozhi
 Taihe 5, 6
 Taihe 5, 4
 Taihe 5, 5
 Zhang He’s SGZ
 Taihe 5, 10
 Taihe 5, 11
 Taihe 5, 12
 Qinglong 3, 11
 Qinglong 3, 12
 Qinglong 3, 13; the main text of the ZZTJ places these events in 234, but Fang’s note 11 of Qinglong 3 says that these incidents occurred in 230. Yang Fu’s memorials were sent in response to Cao Zhi’s conversations with the emperor.
 Taihe 5, 17
 Taihe 5, 19
 Taihe 6, 2; under the Han, the Imperial princes [wang] were enfeoffed in domains called states or kingdoms [guo]. These were the same as commanderies [jun]. It would appear that when Cao Pi founded the Wei dynasty, the domains of the princes were still called commanderies [jun]. This is consistent with Cao Pi’s desire to keep his relatives removed from state affairs. Cao Rui’s reformations mirrored those of the Han.
 While some ministers objected to the practice, de Crespigny’s note 106 of Jian’an 13 clarifies that the posthumous marriage of children was an acceptable and normal practice.
 Taihe 6, 3
 Taihe 6, 4
 Taihe 6, 7
 Taihe 6, 10
 Qinglong 3, 17; it is unclear when this incident occurred, though Fang’s note 17 clarifies that it occurred between 228 and 234. I believe that this is the most likely time for such an event, as palace construction is mentioned.
 Taihe 6, 8; this is the fourth of Cao Rui’s sons to die young.
 Taihe 6, 9; Dong Zhao had been serving as Acting Minister Over the Masses [jia situ] since 230. It is unclear why Cao Rui waited until 232 to make his position official.
 Taihe 6, 11
 Taihe 6, 12
 Taihe 6, 18
 Taihe 6, 17; Du Shu was the father of Du Yu, one of the most respected general of Western Jin. His father, Du Ji, was a highly successful administrator under Cao Cao.
 Taihe 6, 20
 Qinglong 1, 1
 Qinglong 1, 2; dragons, of course, did not exist. However, it is certainly possible that a strange saurian was seen in a well, or that some other phenomenon occurred in that place and time, such as unusual lighting conditions.
 Qinglong 1, 7
 Fang’s note 7 of Qinglong 1
 Fang’s note 8.1, part A of Qinglong 1
 Fang’s note 8.1, part C of Qinglong 1; drawing from the sanguozhi biography of Kebineng
 Fang’s note 8.1, part B of Qinglong 1
 Qinglong 1, 3
 Qinglong 1, 9
 Qinglong 1, 10
 Qinglong 1, 17; Cao Pi must have been particularly pleased by this battle, as it vindicated his decision to allow Man Chong to rebuild the fortress of Hefei.
 Qinglong 2, 2
 Qinglong 2, 6; Cao Rui’s treatment of the fallen Han emperor was extremely generous. Most emperors who had abdicated their positions were not honored this way after their passing.
 Qinglong 2, 7
 Qinglong 2, 14
 Qinglong 2, 8
 Qinglong 2, 9
 Qinglong 2, 23
 Qinglong 2, 26
 Qinglong 2, 28
 Qinglong 2, 10
 Qinglong 2, 11
 Fang’s note 11.5 of Qinglong 2
 This is the third instance of Cao Rui’s Imperial Guards being sent into special duty. Under the Han, the Imperial Guards were the Gentlemen of the Household, who were serving a term of parole before being appointed to civil offices. This system was abolished under Cao Pi and it appears that the Imperial Guards under Cao Rui were an elite military unit.
 Qinglong 2, 12
 Qinglong 2, 13; this is the second time that Cao Rui went to personally oversee a campaign (the first time being when Zhuge Liang first attacked the north in 228).
 Qinglong 2, 16
 QInglong 2, 17; Sun Tai was the son of Sun Kuang. It is, perhaps, a sad irony that Sun Tai’s mother was a relative of Cao Cao (possibly his niece), making the unfortunate Sun Tai a relative of the Wei imperial family.
 Qinglong 2, 18
 Fang’s note 18.1 of Qinglong 2
 Qinglong 2, 20
 Qinglong 3, 1
 Qinglong 3, 2
 Qinglong 3, 4
 Fang’s note 4 of Qinglong 3; while some texts claim that there was enmity between Empress De and Cao Rui, this is certainly not supported by his actions and is simply slander.
 Qinglong 3, 7
 Qinglong 3, 6; essentially, Cao Rui argued that these construction projects were a propaganda tool. The people of Wu, Shu, and Wei would see them as a sign that Wei was strong and powerful, so the people of Wei would be more loyal and those of Shu and Wu would be more willing to submit. Chen Qun argued that Cao Rui should focus on substantive efforts at unification rather than psychological ones.
 Qinglong 3, 8
 Qinglong 3, 9; one might recall the earlier story in which Cao Rui refused to shoot a deer. He appears to have harbored great sympathy for these animals.
 Fang’s note 9.6 of Qinglong 3
 Qinglong 3, 10
 Qinglong 3, 16
 Qinglong 3, 18
 Qinglong 3, 19
 Qinglong 3, 20; Gaotang Long was very concerned with the supernatural, a fascination that Cao Rui appears to have shared. This is unsurprising, as Cao Pi was also a noted scholar of the occult.
 Qinglong 3, 23
 Qinglong 3, 21; Cao Rui presumably met these young men when the various Imperial relatives visited the capital in the first month of 232.
 Qinglong 3, 25
 Qinglong 3, 31; while this event is typically portrayed as more frivolous expenditure on Cao Rui’s part (trading something as valuable as a horse for something with no practical use), the fact that peaceful trade was now possible between Wei and Wu had profound implications and indicated a normalizing of relations between the rival states.
 Qinglong 4, 5
 Qinglong 4, 9
 Qinglong 4, 13
 Fang’s note 13 of Qinglong 4
 Jingchu 1, 1
 Jingchu 1, 2
 Jingchu 1, 3
 Jincghu 1, 7
 Jingchu 1, 11
 Fang’s note 11 of Jingchu 1
 Jingcchu 1, 9
 Jingchu 1, 10
 Jingchu 1, 12
 Jingchu 1, 13
 Jingchu 1, 14
 Jingchu 1, 17; allegedly, Empress Mao was slandered by Cao Rui’s consort, Lady Guo, until Cao Rui ordered her to commit suicide. It is worth noting that this story is nearly identical to the one regarding the death of Cao Rui’s own mother, Empress Zhen. Given the body of evidence against that story in Empress Zhen’s case, it is prudent to doubt this story as well.
 Jingchu 1, 21
 Jingchu 1, 22
 Jingchu 1, 28
 Jingchu 1, 29
 Jingchu 1, 30
 Jingchu 1, 31
 Jingchu 1, 32
 Jingchu 2, 1
 Jingchu 2, 2
 Jingchu 2, 3
 Guan Ning was a famous scholar of the time who had been nominated for this position in the past. However, Guan Ning always refused to accept an appointment with the court.
 Jingchu 2, 6
 Jingchu 2, 10
 Jingchu 2, 12
 Jingchu 2, 13
 Jingchu 2, 14
 Jingchu 2, 15
 Jingchu 2, 16
 Jingchu 2, 17
 Jingchu 2, 18
 Jingchu 2, 20
 Jingchu 2, 21 while he was not legally obligated to do so, Cao Rui had limited options in this matter. It was common for the leaders of dependant states to send hostages to the court, with the understanding that if they rebelled against the government’s authority, their relatives would be killed. While Gongsun Huang certainly had no part in his brother’s rebellion, to grant him clemency would likely have encouraged the leaders of Wei’s other dependant states (such as the Qiang and Wuhuan) to rebel as well. Cao Rui was evidently remorseful regarding Gongsun Huang, but from a practical standpoint, there was little he could do.
 Jingchu 2, 35
 Jingchu 2, 37
 Jingchu 2, 38
 Fang’s note 38 of Jingchu 2
 de Cespigny’s “Later Han Civil Administration”
 de Crespigny’s “Ladies of the Court of Emperor Huan of Han”
 Jingchu 2, 43
 Fang’s note 43.4 of Jingchu 2
 Jingchu 3, 47
 Fang’s note 1.1 of Jingchu 3
 Jingchu 3, 2
 Jingchu 3, 3