The Death of Empress Zhen

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The Death of Empress Zhen

Unread postby Shen Ai » Fri Mar 13, 2015 6:39 pm

As per the suggestion of Dong Zhou, I wanted to speculate and talk about the death of Empress Zhen.

Chen Shou says that she was ordered to commit suicide by Cao Pi. This was because Zhen Ji had felt neglected and had voiced her anger. Guo Nüwang informed Cao Pi of this, and Cao Pi ordered Zhen Ji to kill herself in his anger. Some say he felt guilty and tried to retract it, but it was too late. No idea about that part really.

After that, the story goes that Zhen Ji was improperly buried by Guo Nüwang (hair covering her eyes) and that Cao Rui bore a grudge against Guo Nüwang and drove her to her death and improperly buried as well.

So here are my issues with the story, because I myself choose not to believe it.

Chen Shou's Selection of Record: So Chen Shou often consulted the Weishu (official Wei records drawn up by Wei scholars and historians) for his work. An alternative work was Weilüe by Yu Huan, which is generally well thought of as a work.

Most of the time Chen Shou used Weishu, but for this portion of history, he consulted Weilüe.

Weishu says Cao Pi offered Zhen Ji three times the chance to become Empress, but she turned down each chance on account of her poor health. It also mentions and notates a letter Zhen Ji had written, which outlines her humility and her refusal of the title. Cao Pi intended to visit her and speak with her, but she died of that illness.

Obviously that's completely different from what Weilüe says. You could of course, make the argument that Weishu was covering up for Cao Pi and did not want to document that he killed his wife. But that doesn't seem right, since it is mentioned that Cao Rui later killed his own wife Empress Mao, and there is vastly less controversy.

Weilüe mentions several instances of poor behaviour on the part of Cao Pi and Cao Rui that aren't mentioned elsewhere. I believe it is also the Weilüe that mentions Cao Rui hounded Guo Nüwang to her death. I'll get to that in a second.

Weilüe isn't consistent with what we know about Zhen Ji: This is true. Zhen Ji was described as being generous, talented, caring, and humble in the extreme. She lived with her widowed sister-in-law to comfort her when she was young, and convinced her family to food the poor and needy when there was a famine.

It's mentioned that she and Lady Bian (Cao Pi's mother and her mother-in-law) got along very well. When Lady Bian was mentioned as to being sick, Zhen Ji asked after her many times and even broke down in tears and refused to sleep Lady Bian had to write a letter herself telling Zhen Ji that she was okay and that the girl needed to get her damn beauty sleep. When Cao Cao took the family on a daytrip to Ruxu to watch him kill Wu soldiers, Cao Pi brought Cao Rui and his daughter, while Lady Bian was brought by Cao Cao. Zhen Ji did not attend as she was ill at the time. She had full confidence in her husband and her mother-in-law in taking care of her children and was said to not be worried after them at all.

Also recorded is Zhen Ji's close friendship with several of Cao Pi's concubines, such as Lady Li. It is said that Zhen Ji was close friends with several of the concubines and comforted those who had displeased her husband and encouraged those who won his favour.

More to it, Zhen Ji and Cao Pi lived in Ye for over 13 years together, give or a take a year for travel and such. There was no reported issues between them then.

So after hearing of how selfless, kind, and caring Zhen Ji was, does it really make sense that she would complain her husband was showing favour to another woman more than her?

Zhen Ji only had two children with Cao Pi herself, most of his children were from concubines (he had over 16 by the end and at least 10 or more children, and several before Zhen Ji's death), and the Princess of Dongxiang was born around the 210 period. So not accounting for stillborns or miscarriages, they didn't seen to be so intimate that much in their later years (not saying that they weren't at all, since pregnancy is not a sign of intimacy at all). Cao Pi spent plenty of time with his other kept women however. Like I said, there was no issue of this before.

Does complaining about her husband apparently neglecting her seem accurate? He was away for one year and had just become Emperor. And like I said, they lived together in Ye for many, many years. No issues were mentioned then, and it's not unheard of for a lord to kill his wife or at least send her away. That didn't happen. Why would Cao Pi ignore her after he became Emperor?

For what it's worth, Zhen Ji was mentioned as to being sick more than once in his records. Once around the time of Cao Cao's conquest of the Yuan territory, and then later at Ruxu and then later when Cao Pi ascended the throne. Would the common cold warrant a mention?

Lady Bian: Like I said before, Zhen Ji was probably one of the best daughter-in-laws in existence. If Cao Pi was to order Zhen Ji to commit suicide, would Lady Bian not stand up in her defence? She had no issues of doing this before. She spoke up in favour of Cao Zhi and was probably one of the main reasons the guy wasn't beaten and imprisoned or forced to commit suicide. And she did the same with Cao Hong. She clearly wasn't buggered about telling her son where to stick it. If she was so close to Zhen, would she not say anything? She threatened to depose Guo Nüwang, and that was a major reason Cao Pi let Cao Hong live. If she can do that to the Empress halfway through Cao Pi's reign, would she not do that now? I mean, she could have even bartered with him to spare Zhen and make Nüwang Empress instead, or something of the like.

Cao Pi Slander is the Most Common Slander: Honestly, Cao Pi made out to be the boogeyman half the time. The number of stories about him doing something horrible to consolidate power or to just be a bad guy is kind of silly now.

We have some totally baseless stories first off:

Cao Pi slandered Kong Rong - No, Cao Cao just didn't like the man, and Cao Pi didn't either. Kong Rong wasn't easy to like anyways. Seemed like a total snob.
Cao Pi got Zhang Xiu killed - No. I mean... where did this one come from? It's not reliable at all.
Cao Pi got Cao Zhi drunk when he was to aid Cao Ren at Fancheng - Entirely baseless.
Cao Pi killed Ding Yi and Ding I for no reason - No, for somewhat good reasons. They were disreputable people who never liked him and slandered better men than them for the sole reason that they supported Cao Pi (Cui Yan and Mao Jie).
Cao Pi killed Kong Gui for no reason - No, Kong Gui was a thief who was stealing the money he was given for his job.
Cao Pi assassinated Cao Zhang - No.
Cao Pi forced Cao Xiong into suicide - I'm positive it was mentioned that Cao Xiong was ill and sick. Moreover, no.
Cao Pi mocked Wang Zhong - Dubious folktales, and not really reliable.
Cao Pi mocked Cao Zhen for his weight - That was Cao Hong, and Cao Zhen was probably Cao Pi's best friend, or one of them. Considering how well Cao Pi treated him, this feels silly.

Cao Pi mistreated his brothers - Han Dynasty custom was to remove the princes from positions of power. Cao Pi did nothing wrong. While some say this was a mistake because the Sima clan took power, look what giving power to princes did to the Sima clan. The War of the 8 Princes was a pretty horrifying, brutal period and it ended the united condition of China.

Cao Pi punished Cao Hong for petty reasons - Most claim that in his younger days Cao Hong was a bit of a bully to Cao Zhen and Cao Pi, and later refused to loan Cao Pi money. So when Cao Pi became Emperor, he tried to have Cao Hong killed. Really Cao Hong had lost control of his troops, and this was like the 3rd time this had happened, and for failing to discipline and control them Cao Pi wanted to punish him. While I don't doubt there was a degree of personal hatred (because death is harsh), Cao Pi's demotion of him seemed very fair considering Cao Hong had a history of losing control of his men, which is a terrible quality in a general.

Cao Pi removed Zang Ba from power for petty reasons - Er... great general aside, Zang Ba openly defied Cao Pi, took his soldiers, and deserted. That's not a man you can trust. Cao Pi treated him well and gave him a lovely estate in Luoyang, he just removed him from his military role.

Cao Pi killed Xiahou Shang's concubine and is a bastard for it - Considering he was appealed to by Cao Zhen's sister (Xiahou Shang's wife), he was in a tough position. Cao Zhen's family was being disrespected, so his punishment was harsh, but I wouldn't say it was cruel, or at least no more cruel than half the things other warlords did (Cao Cao executing the Empress and Lady Cui, Liu Bei executing Liu Feng, Zhang Fei abducting Xiahou Yuan's daughter, and Sun Quan being Sun Quan).

Cao Pi never listened to counsel - Cao Pi took the advice Cheng Yu, Jia Xu, Xin Pi, Jiang Ji, and Sima Fu gave him and acted on it well. Even when people like Xin Pi and Jiang Ji disagreed with him (Xin Pi for Cao Pi's hunting habits and for assaulting Cao Pi, and Jiang Ji for his edict to Xiahou Shang), he never punished them.

Cao Pi killed the Han Emperor - Folktales, no records. But still, it's just proof people are out to get him. Liu Xian was treated very well for a very long time.

Cao Pi was not Cao Rui's father - He had to be. Yuan Xi and Zhen Ji hadn't even met or where anywhere near the other when Zhen Ji would likely become pregnant. Also, pretty sure he'd know if she wasn't... you know.

Cao Zhi was in love with Zhen Ji (Zhen Ji had an affair) - Just more slander meant to demean Cao Pi has a heartless guy while his wonderful brother was so full of love (barring that he was a drunk who had no business even being considered for heirship).

Cao Pi's killing of Bao Xun - Bao Xun was dismissing punishment for a guy who had mildly disrespected Cao Pi. Cao Pi seemed content to sentence him to hard labour, but Chen Qun, Hua Xin, and Wang Lang had overruled this. Cao Pi got angry and had Bao Xun killed. While it seems harsh, he had to maintain his authority. When he wanted the man punished, his people overturned his decision. Looking weak right when he restored the powers of the Excellencies wouldn't do.

Cao Pi and Yu Jin - Yu Jin was returned to Wei because of Cao Pi's actions. Yu Jin wept upon seeing Cao Pi and Cao Pi treated Yu Jin very well, pardoning him for his surrender and then promoting him to a specialized general (General Who Pacifies Distant Lands I think), so he could act as Wei's ambassador to Wu. The story says that before Yu Jin left, he visited Cao Cao's memorial up in Ye and Cao Pi had art showing Yu Jin as a coward painted there. Yu Jin fell ill and died from the shame.

Some problems with this one:

1. Why would Cao Pi desecrate his father's memorial?
2. Why would Cao Pi care about Fancheng? He wasn't there, he wasn't close to Pang De or Yu Jin.
3. Why would Cao Pi pardon Yu Jin and then promote him only to do this?
4. Why would Yu Jin be so emotional upon seeing Cao Pi?
5. Cao Pi treated surrendered generals pretty well for the most part, and forgave military failures (Zhang He, Cao Zhen vs Zhu Ran for example, Huang Quan and Meng Da for Shu).
6. If Cao Pi wanted to get rid of him, why did he do it in such an elaborate way? I mean, a mockery-induced illness? Zhuge Liang using the power of verbiage to kill Cao Zhen and Wang Lang is more credible than this. He could execute him (military failure could sometimes be met with execution, that wasn't unknown) if he wanted.
7. Why did Cao Pi sent Yu Jin to Ye to do this? Why would he put it at Cao Cao's memorial anyways? Why not Yu Jin's house?
8. Yu Jin's sons were both rewarded by Cao Pi and Yu Jin's second son was made a marquis as well.

Honestly, just seems more like some made up lie to make him seem worse than he was.

Moreover, where are the stories of Cao Pi's kindness? His hunting trip with his son Cao Rui. His kind treatment of Huang Quan, Yang Biao, and Meng Da. His humility in regards to Xin Pi, Jiang Ji, and Jia Xu. His loving relationship with his father (he wrote quite a moving poem for him you know, and Cao Cao seemed to spend a lot of time with the boy when he was young). Cao Pi rewarding those who had served long and well (Zhu Ling, Zhang Ji). He was even moved by the story of Pang Tong's brother's loyalty to his wife and sent them money as a reward. Or how he cared for and raised Cao Gan at his father's behest? And his admiration and respect for Zhang Liao (acted like a total fanboy more like) and Zhang Liao's mother (whom he had ordered his soldiers to bow before and built them both a mansion in Luoyang). His tears shed after his father died (practically breaking down). How heavily he mourned Xiahou Shang despite their falling out. His friendship with Guo Yi and how he rewarded Handan Chun despite him being a follower of Cao Zhi.

All of those are examples of Cao Pi being generous, kind, or otherwise goodnatured, and they aren't nearly as prominent.

Honestly, it seems like Weilüe and a lot of folktales and unofficial stories are out to get Cao Pi and vilify him. Most likely because he ended the Han dynasty. All of these stories are false or have deeper elements at play in them, and most of the time just aren't consistent. A story of Cao Pi killing his wife could just be more slander. In fact, I strongly believe that's the case.

Guo Nüwang and Weilüe: This history treats the women quite badly. It says that she was an intelligent but merciless woman who plotted against Zhen Ji. Most accounts just say that she was close to Cao Pi, clearly very smart and helped him deal with Cao Zhi and invade Wu, and some say she was kind and beautiful.

The real shocking part comes from it being said that Cao Rui despised Guo Nüwang and drove her to her death, and then had her desecrated like Zhen Ji was when she was buried.

Most other accounts say that Cao Rui loved Guo Nüwang like a mother and asked about her health every day. He even composed a poem about her. After her death he had her buried alongside Cao Pi in a jade tomb and declared 3 years of mourning (which you only did for your father in those days). That doesn't like like hounded to death and desecration to me.

Again, two very different stories. Weilüe's version just seems like cruel slander to Guo Nüwang and Cao Pi, and even Cao Rui to a degree. More to it, it might be worth mentioning that Yu Huan was an admirer of Cao Zhi.

Moreover, in regards to Zhen Ji's burial, it was said to be Lady Li (Zhen Ji's close friend and one of Cao Pi's concubines) who covered Zhen Ji's face, because she couldn't bare to see her in death.


So with all of that considered, I don't believe Cao Pi ordered Zhen Ji to kill herself. The only record that states that is Weilüe, which treats Cao Pi and Guo Nüwang (and Cao Rui to a degree) very poorly. Up yours Yu Huan. And the horse you rode in on.

If Weilüe wrote insulting lies about Cao Pi, Cao Rui, and Guo Nüwang more than once, why should it be trusted more than Weishu? It's clearly written out flat out lies, so why is it hard to believe that the death of Zhen Ji at Cao Pi's hands was a lie?
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Re: The Death of Empress Zhen

Unread postby Qu Hui » Fri Mar 13, 2015 11:12 pm

Shen Ai, I was originally going to do a quote-based response, but given the length of your post, I've decided to go for a more general approach. Please let me know if you need further elaboration or clarification.

On Chen Shou's choice of documentation: I'm not sure where you're getting the idea that Chen Shou used the Weilüe's account for the Sanguozhi instead of the Weishu's account. Because of political reasons relating to dynastic succession and legitimacy, Chen Shou could not explicitly state that Lady Zhen was ordered to commit suicide. The closest he got was explicitly stating that Cao Pi's favor towards Empress Guo was the cause of Lady Zhen's death, and that could be interpreted in a number of ways. Cutter and Crowell actually dedicate a section of their introduction to Empresses and Consorts to the matter of Lady Zhen's death, though more in relation as to how Chen Shou quietly hinted to the true outcome of certain events that he couldn't cover explicitly.

As for the Weishu's account, there's one glaring problem with it: According to the Weishu account, after Lady Zhen's death, Cao Pi elevated her to the rank of Empress posthumously. However, in the SGZ, Chen Shou reproduces the edict given by Cao Rui that posthumously elevated Lady Zhen to the rank of Empress in her biography. Obviously, if Lady Zhen had already been posthumously promoted by Cao Pi, Rui doing so wouldn't make any sense. Another inconstancy is that Cao Rui, because of Lady Zhen's actions, was not made Crown Prince until Cao Pi was on his deathbed. If Lady Zhen had died honored, then why was Cao Rui not made Crown Prince earlier?

On the Weilüe itself: There are a lot of problems with presenting the Weilüe as "full of lies and slander" about Cao Pi. The Weilüe was written by Yu Huan, a servant of the Cao Wei dynasty, sometime between Cao Rui's death and the fall of Wei. That he could possibly get away with publishing lies and slander against two Emperors of the dynasty he was serving is pretty close to impossible. If he had fabricated these accounts that attacked Pi and Rui, he would have been executed for doing so, official historian or no. I'd also like a source for the information that Yu Huan was an admirer of Cao Zhi.

On Lady Zhen: While Lady Zhen was a very virtuous woman, she was also human. She was the primary wife and she had been favored by Cao Pi over his concubines for the entirety of their relationship. That she expressed some discontent because her husband was suddenly neglecting her in favor of his concubines and one concubine in particular is understandable. (Of course, there's also the possibility that Guo Nuwang was lying, but that's just speculation.) Just because she was kind and caring and selfless when it came to important matters does not mean she was incapable of being jealous or resentful of others.

And, as I mentioned over in The Vs. Thread, "got sick suddenly and died" is a common shorthand for "committed suicide," and especially used when saying suicide explicitly would have been problematic. While in most cases this implication could be ignored, given that most reliable historical evidence points to Lady Zhen committing suicide, it's most likely the Weishu's way of covering up the truth.

On Empress Bian: As much as I respect Empress Bian and think she's awesome, this section was basically a tangent. For the part related to your main point: it would have been incredibly improper for Empress Bian to intervene in Cao Pi's marital affairs. The Cao Zhi incident was fine because she was the mother of both parties, and her intervention on behalf of Cao Hong wasn't unacceptable because it was also an affair of the state (and also because Cao Hong had saved her husband's life.)

On The "Slander" of Cao Pi: I'm going to address this in a separate post because details.

On Guo Nüwang: While I don't agree that Guo Nuwang was killed by Cao Rui (she was in her 70s when she died), I also don't agree that the Weilue was treating women badly for...basically giving an account you don't agree with or that their account of Nuwang is false. I would also like sources for Nuwang being involved with the invasion of Wu, Rui treating her like a mother (most accounts I've read indicate that their relationship was cordial but not much more than that) and the mourning period thing.

EDIT: A major point against Guo Nuwang: according to Dr. Rafe, Guo was the one who had Pi execute Xiahou Shang's concubine because Guo was jealous of the concubine's beauty.
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Re: The Death of Empress Zhen

Unread postby WeiWenDi » Sat Mar 14, 2015 12:15 am

Qu Hui wrote:On Chen Shou's choice of documentation: I'm not sure where you're getting the idea that Chen Shou used the Weilüe's account for the Sanguozhi instead of the Weishu's account. Because of political reasons relating to dynastic succession and legitimacy, Chen Shou could not explicitly state that Lady Zhen was ordered to commit suicide. The closest he got was explicitly stating that Cao Pi's favor towards Empress Guo was the cause of Lady Zhen's death, and that could be interpreted in a number of ways. Cutter and Crowell actually dedicate a section of their introduction to Empresses and Consorts to the matter of Lady Zhen's death, though more in relation as to how Chen Shou quietly hinted to the true outcome of certain events that he couldn't cover explicitly.


Won't comment on the contents of the Weishu 魏書 or the Weilüe 魏略 since I don't have the things in front of me at mo'. Suffice it to say I have no independent reason to argue that your analysis of them below is incorrect. (One objection to the idea of Weishu's pro-Wei bias, though, would be that its editors, particularly Wang Chen 王沈 and Xun Yi 荀顗, were not notable for their pro-Cao sympathies: Wang Chen had actively helped to depose and kill Cao Mao 曹髦, and Xun Yi was a factional ally of Fu Gu 傅嘏, and therefore the Simas, against Cao Shuang 曹爽.) But the quoted part above in particular strikes me as pretty off-base. Chen Shou was first a partizan of Shu Han, and then later a court historian for Xi Jin. It seems unlikely in the extreme that he would have shown any particular partiality for the succession or legitimacy of Cao Wei, and it's clear that the Simas were already in the business of delegitimising the Wei state as a successor to Dong Han. Sima Zhao and Sima Shi were already patronising people (like Xun Xu) who were making careers out of the idea that Wei's conduct was improper, that its rites-and-music were incorrect and that its affairs were disordered. And Xun had been a supporter of Cao Shuang!

Chen Shou was obligated to treat Cao Cao in a favourable light, and Cao Pi's claim to the Dragon Throne as legitimate because that was the source of Sima Zhao's own claim to Imperial authority. But he was not obligated to speak well of the Wei dynasts once they were on the throne. Indeed, the fact that 'caught ill suddenly and died' was a euphemism for suicide would not have been lost on the contemporary Chinese scholar, and as a means of political spin or innuendo against Cao Pi it could very well have served its purpose - the Confucian-didactic idea for Jin's purposes then being something along the lines of, 'see? Cao Pi had woman problems - how could he have kept the affairs of his state together for very long?'

So, Shen Ai - much as I like Cao Pi and agree with you that he gets unfairly treated by later history, I can't really understand your objection. You're taking a document with a noted editorial anti-Cao bias (Weishu) and holding it up as an objective history. That's fine, and you're welcome to do that - heck, it even strengthens your point if you were to say that even the anti-Cao Weishu doesn't believe that Cao Pi was guilty of killing his wife. I just don't understand how Weilüe (which, as Qu Hui points out, was written by someone we have every reason to believe was a pro-Wei partizan) gets singled out here as unfair to Cao Pi, Cao Rui and Lady Guo.

I may have to dig up the original texts. Do you have any links? It would save me time.

Qu Hui wrote:For the part related to your main point: it would have been incredibly improper for Empress Bian to intervene in Cao Pi's marital affairs. The Cao Zhi incident was fine because she was the mother of both parties, and her intervention on behalf of Cao Hong wasn't unacceptable because it was also an affair of the state (and also because Cao Hong had saved her husband's life.)


Um... dude, you do know what goes on in Chinese families, right? At least the traditional ones?

Yeah, technically the head of the household is the man - but if the man's mother is still alive as Lady Bian still was, she is basically entitled to comment on anything in her son's life, including the conduct of her daughter(s)-in-law. In fact, this is one of the big complaints a lot of Chinese women still tend to have about their mothers-in-law, though it can also be a real asset to her if she manages to get on her mother-in-law's good side. When I first took my then-girlfriend, now-wife to see my parents, she didn't particularly want to talk to them that much but wanted to help them out around the house and compliment them every opportunity she got. (Only after she got to know them a lot better would she start talking to my dad about politics, history or geography.)

It doesn't strike me that things were that different for classical Chinese emperors, and a powerful mother-in-law could be incredibly invasive, often with impunity, into her sons' private lives. For the extreme example, think of Wu Zetian 武則天 of Tang Dynasty, who managed to get her own elder son Zhe deposed for what amounted to problems with her son's in-laws. And of course her younger son Dan couldn't say boo to her even when she wanted to take the throne herself.

EDIT 1: Obviously not saying Lady Bian is really comparable to Wu Zetian. But Lady Bian was clearly no pushover - being a low-born brothel girl and going to Cao Cao's primary wife (and later Empress Dowager) she had to be made of some fairly stern stuff. If she was really that close to Lady Zhen it is really weird to think she would have left her out to dry.

EDIT 2: Just wanted to address this briefly.

Shen Ai wrote:Cao Zhi was in love with Zhen Ji (Zhen Ji had an affair) - Just more slander meant to demean Cao Pi has a heartless guy while his wonderful brother was so full of love (barring that he was a drunk who had no business even being considered for heirship).


This relationship is not attested in any reliable history. It's a legend that arose to explain the circumstances around the writing of one of Cao Zhi's most famous poems, Fu to the Luo Goddess (雒神賦). The idea was supposedly that Cao Zhi wrote this poem because he was in love with Lady Zhen, whose personal name was supposed to have been Luo 雒, but there's no real credible basis for this rumour, and the difference between Cao Zhi's and Lady Zhen's ages would have been far too great.
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Re: The Death of Empress Zhen

Unread postby DragonAtma » Sat Mar 14, 2015 3:11 am

Do keep in mind that some people change over time, especially if they get power. Two who changed for the worse were Dong Zhuo (said to be chivalrous when he was younger) and Sun Hao (choosing him was definitely a natural 1!)

As for Cao Pi killing Emperor Xian, I somehow doubt it... partially because Cao Pi died in 226, while Emperor Xian died in 234! RANDOM TRIVIA: Emperor Xian and Zhuge Liang share both the same birth year and death year.

The problem with (at least some of) the slander is likely the novel. It's freakishly popular in asia (some lists put it as second popular of all time, behind only the christian bible). As a result, people lean towards a "Shu good, Wei evil!" mindset. It's also the same reason people often neglect Wu and the post-234 period...
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Re: The Death of Empress Zhen

Unread postby WeiWenDi » Sat Mar 14, 2015 4:23 am

DragonAtma wrote:Do keep in mind that some people change over time, especially if they get power. Two who changed for the worse were Dong Zhuo (said to be chivalrous when he was younger) and Sun Hao (choosing him was definitely a natural 1!)

As for Cao Pi killing Emperor Xian, I somehow doubt it... partially because Cao Pi died in 226, while Emperor Xian died in 234! RANDOM TRIVIA: Emperor Xian and Zhuge Liang share both the same birth year and death year.

The problem with (at least some of) the slander is likely the novel. It's freakishly popular in asia (some lists put it as second popular of all time, behind only the christian bible). As a result, people lean towards a "Shu good, Wei evil!" mindset. It's also the same reason people often neglect Wu and the post-234 period...


:lol: There is that. It is kind of hard to kill Liu Xie when you're already dead!

Also worth note is that Cao Rui was one of the mourners at Liu Xie's funeral, and that he was buried with all the honours due to an Emperor.

Qu Hui wrote:Another inconstancy is that Cao Rui, because of Lady Zhen's actions, was not made Crown Prince until Cao Pi was on his deathbed. If Lady Zhen had died honored, then why was Cao Rui not made Crown Prince earlier?


Also wanted to weigh in on this.

There were (actually quite sound) political reasons to put off assigning an heir until it became necessary, and Cao Pi would have been very well-aware of most of these. Remember that Cao Zhi was essentially Cao Cao's favourite until he FUBARed that straight up massively with his wild drunken ride on the Emperor's road up through the front gate of the palace - and Cao Cao died about two years later. But Cao Cao never formally designated Cao Pi as his heir until after Fancheng, and that largely because Cao Zhi was quickly proving himself an idiot and an incorrigible drunkard.

But the political reasons for not designating an heir until as late as politically feasible without creating a succession crisis were fairly obvious. Succession disputes were highly-effective lightning rods for factional strife (as, again, Cao Pi was himself too well-aware). Xun Xu and Jia Chong 賈充 were embroiled in just such a succession crisis over whether Sima Zhong 司馬衷 or Sima You 司馬攸 would come to the throne, and thanks to Jia Chong's daughter Nanfeng's 南風 manipulations, the succession dispute turned out to be brutal and bloody. Sima Zhong had been designated heir very early on, in 267, and a large number of well-connected people (Jia Chong in particular) had a lot riding on it.

As for Cao Pi's choosing Cao Rui as heir, as I've read about it that was always pretty much a foregone conclusion (no other candidates being viable), and politically speaking there was nothing to be gained either by Pi or Rui, and there was an awful lot to lose, by him being declared heir any earlier.
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Re: The Death of Empress Zhen

Unread postby Shen Ai » Sat Mar 14, 2015 4:36 pm

WeiWenDi wrote:
So, Shen Ai - much as I like Cao Pi and agree with you that he gets unfairly treated by later history, I can't really understand your objection. You're taking a document with a noted editorial anti-Cao bias (Weishu) and holding it up as an objective history. That's fine, and you're welcome to do that - heck, it even strengthens your point if you were to say that even the anti-Cao Weishu doesn't believe that Cao Pi was guilty of killing his wife. I just don't understand how Weilüe (which, as Qu Hui points out, was written by someone we have every reason to believe was a pro-Wei partizan) gets singled out here as unfair to Cao Pi, Cao Rui and Lady Guo.


Well it is unfair, isn't it? I mean, Weilüe is the text that mentions half of Cao Pi's supposed killings when half of them never happened. And it paints Cao Rui and Guo Nüwang very poorly when it's quite apparent he treated her very well and very respectfully.

If it's willing to forge something that's untrue about Cao Rui and Cao Pi like that, then it's contradicting take on Zhen Ji's death in opposition to Weishu could be seen as slander as well. Just something done to make him look worse than he was.

This relationship is not attested in any reliable history. It's a legend that arose to explain the circumstances around the writing of one of Cao Zhi's most famous poems, Fu to the Luo Goddess (雒神賦). The idea was supposedly that Cao Zhi wrote this poem because he was in love with Lady Zhen, whose personal name was supposed to have been Luo 雒, but there's no real credible basis for this rumour, and the difference between Cao Zhi's and Lady Zhen's ages would have been far too great.


Oh of course I don't believe that it's true or that it was in any actual histories, but it's a popular folktale and it only makes Cao Zhi and Lady Zhen seem far more sympathetic while casting Cao Pi in a poor light. It's... proof let's say, that history tends to treat him very poorly.

EDIT 1: Obviously not saying Lady Bian is really comparable to Wu Zetian. But Lady Bian was clearly no pushover - being a low-born brothel girl and going to Cao Cao's primary wife (and later Empress Dowager) she had to be made of some fairly stern stuff. If she was really that close to Lady Zhen it is really weird to think she would have left her out to dry.


Lady Bian used to be a brothel girl? That's one hell of an incredibly story.

Qu Hui wrote:On Chen Shou's choice of documentation: I'm not sure where you're getting the idea that Chen Shou used the Weilüe's account for the Sanguozhi instead of the Weishu's account. Because of political reasons relating to dynastic succession and legitimacy, Chen Shou could not explicitly state that Lady Zhen was ordered to commit suicide. The closest he got was explicitly stating that Cao Pi's favor towards Empress Guo was the cause of Lady Zhen's death, and that could be interpreted in a number of ways. Cutter and Crowell actually dedicate a section of their introduction to Empresses and Consorts to the matter of Lady Zhen's death, though more in relation as to how Chen Shou quietly hinted to the true outcome of certain events that he couldn't cover explicitly.


What other documentation would be used? Weishu says it wasn't suicide, it was illness. Chen Shou hints at Cao Pi ordering her death. Unless he was there, or used some nonsensical folk story as his basis, Weilüe would be the only resource.

As for the Weishu's account, there's one glaring problem with it: According to the Weishu account, after Lady Zhen's death, Cao Pi elevated her to the rank of Empress posthumously. However, in the SGZ, Chen Shou reproduces the edict given by Cao Rui that posthumously elevated Lady Zhen to the rank of Empress in her biography. Obviously, if Lady Zhen had already been posthumously promoted by Cao Pi, Rui doing so wouldn't make any sense.


One fault in that account doesn't defy it's legitimacy, not anymore than Weilüe's faults would deny it's potential truths.

Besides, I believe Cao Pi at Chen Qun's behest was against honouring the female side of one's family.

Another inconstancy is that Cao Rui, because of Lady Zhen's actions, was not made Crown Prince until Cao Pi was on his deathbed. If Lady Zhen had died honored, then why was Cao Rui not made Crown Prince earlier?


Because Cao Rui was 15-16 when Cao Pi took the throne and I don't think he anticipated dying. Could have been waiting for his children to grow up. You could say the same for Cao Cao. Lady Bian was a deeply favoured wife, Cao Pi wash is oldest son, why was he not made heir as soon as Ang died? Cao Cao, and later Cao Pi, wanted to smell the other roses first.

On the Weilüe itself: There are a lot of problems with presenting the Weilüe as "full of lies and slander" about Cao Pi. The Weilüe was written by Yu Huan, a servant of the Cao Wei dynasty, sometime between Cao Rui's death and the fall of Wei. That he could possibly get away with publishing lies and slander against two Emperors of the dynasty he was serving is pretty close to impossible. If he had fabricated these accounts that attacked Pi and Rui, he would have been executed for doing so, official historian or no.


It is full of lies and slander about them. A lot of what it writes about Cao Rui and Cao Pi isn't true. The example with Empress Guo says it all. It accounts multiple killings to Cao Pi without explaining the context behind them, or the killings themselves just aren't true.

I'd also like a source for the information that Yu Huan was an admirer of Cao Zhi.


Whenever I read Cao Zhi's elegant and beautiful writings, they seem to me divinely inspired. I can understand well why Cao Cao favored him.


Zizhi Tongjian. viewtopic.php?f=23&t=22087

On Lady Zhen: While Lady Zhen was a very virtuous woman, she was also human. She was the primary wife and she had been favored by Cao Pi over his concubines for the entirety of their relationship. That she expressed some discontent because her husband was suddenly neglecting her in favor of his concubines and one concubine in particular is understandable. (Of course, there's also the possibility that Guo Nuwang was lying, but that's just speculation.) Just because she was kind and caring and selfless when it came to important matters does not mean she was incapable of being jealous or resentful of others.


Of course not, but it doesn't seem exactly right either. He had plenty of concubines, and he had most of his children with other women. Dongxiang was born in 210, so Cao Pi clearly spent plenty of time with his other consorts for at least 10 years in addition to Zhen. To suddenly be jealous now seems rather odd.

Not to mention there is a letter that is documented in Weishu that is Zhen Ji's apparent refusal of the title of Empress.

And, as I mentioned over in The Vs. Thread, "got sick suddenly and died" is a common shorthand for "committed suicide," and especially used when saying suicide explicitly would have been problematic. While in most cases this implication could be ignored, given that most reliable historical evidence points to Lady Zhen committing suicide, it's most likely the Weishu's way of covering up the truth.


Most historical evidence paints Cao Pi very, very poorly.

On Empress Bian: As much as I respect Empress Bian and think she's awesome, this section was basically a tangent. For the part related to your main point: it would have been incredibly improper for Empress Bian to intervene in Cao Pi's marital affairs. The Cao Zhi incident was fine because she was the mother of both parties, and her intervention on behalf of Cao Hong wasn't unacceptable because it was also an affair of the state (and also because Cao Hong had saved her husband's life.)


As Empress Dowager, Lady Bian had no right whatsoever to interfere in matters of state. She was practically the Grand Tutor. Honoured, no power. Dowager Empresses got their power from child Emperors. Her only role was to advise Cao Pi, and that's the most power she had.

She even threatened to depose Guo Nüwang, so if that isn't marital influence, then I don't know what is.

On Guo Nüwang: While I don't agree that Guo Nuwang was killed by Cao Rui (she was in her 70s when she died), I also don't agree that the Weilue was treating women badly for...basically giving an account you don't agree with or that their account of Nuwang is false. I would also like sources for Nuwang being involved with the invasion of Wu, Rui treating her like a mother (most accounts I've read indicate that their relationship was cordial but not much more than that) and the mourning period thing.


The invasion of Wu was hearsay. It is mentioned somewhere that she helped Cao Pi in political and military affairs, but that was it. The Wu invasions were his only major military efforts.

It is mentioned in Cao Rui's biography that he asked about Guo Nuwang's health every day. And he did write a poem about her, I believe it was found to boot.

She was also buried alongside Cao Pi, which is contrary to her being humiliated after death.

As for the mourning period, I can't recall the source. It lines up well with Cao Rui, as he often argued with Chen Qun over honouring female relatives and his mourning of his daughter. I believe the source I got it from was someone saying it was in Weishu.

It may interest you to know that Cao Rui favoured Guo Nüwang's family, and even made her brother a general in the army.

EDIT: A major point against Guo Nuwang: according to Dr. Rafe, Guo was the one who had Pi execute Xiahou Shang's concubine because Guo was jealous of the concubine's beauty.


Sounds like more slander. It would make much more sense of the sister of Cao Pi's close friend to make a point of being dishonoured by the presence of this concubine and killing her for that reason, than Guo Nüwang being jealous of a woman her husband had no relationship to.

All I;m saying is, is that books like Weilüe and Han Jin Chunqiu attribute a lot of killings and cruel actions to Cao Pi. But logically there's deeper meanings to them, or they just didn't happen at all. It wouldn't surprise me in the least if supposed Zhen Ji's suicide was just another result of that.
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Re: The Death of Empress Zhen

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Sat Mar 14, 2015 4:59 pm

WeiWenDi wrote:
:lol: There is that. It is kind of hard to kill Liu Xie when you're already dead!



Ninja zombie assassins. Do I have to explain everything to you guys?

- the Confucian-didactic idea for Jin's purposes then being something along the lines of, 'see? Cao Pi had woman problems - how could he have kept the affairs of his state together for very long?'


I'm not sure it is that damaging to Cao Pi given it happened to one Sima already and wasn't uncommon among Emperors. I'll leave the Bian bit to when addressing Shen Ai

I'll leave the sources to Qu Hui but I have a question for him
EDIT: A major point against Guo Nuwang: according to Dr. Rafe, Guo was the one who had Pi execute Xiahou Shang's concubine because Guo was jealous of the concubine's beauty.


Where's that from?

====

So after hearing of how selfless, kind, and caring Zhen Ji was, does it really make sense that she would complain her husband was showing favour to another woman more than her?


Yes.

Throughout history, the wife (or leading wife) has to had up with concubines/mistress/the bit on the side. Very few probably embraced it but some, like Zhen Ji, adapted very well to it. She did all the right things like being embracing and guiding the concubines (heaven help the poor lady who couldn't manage that) but she knew she was number 1. For plenty of women through history it has been yes, the hubbie is sleeping with another but he was going to come home to her, she was the one he loved, she was the one whose kids would inherit, he could have his flings (or concubines) but she had his heart.

As a general rule, the women in that situation, no matter how well they adapted, rarely react with joy unbecoming to seeing the situation fundamentally change. Hubby might have a mistress or other concubines or a fling but when that other woman (or women) becomes the number 1 instead, when she becomes the lady he goes home too, when she becomes the woman he takes to the big occasions, when your children's future is in danger, when he loves someone else now...

So yes, Zhen Ji reacting to losing her beloved and the risk to her children is human and to be expected. It would be weird actually if her reaction to her collapse in favour would be to be ok with it. To see all those years given to him and to be tossed aside just as he ascended, it would be odd if she reacted happily.

He was away for one year and had just become Emperor. And like I said, they lived together in Ye for many, many years. No issues were mentioned then, and it's not unheard of for a lord to kill his wife or at least send her away. That didn't happen. Why would Cao Pi ignore her after he became Emperor?


Because according to what you just said, he had ignored her for a year, moved residence and didn't make her Empress? Pi, for whatever reason (Guo's political advice, Zhen Ji's ageing, relationship running it's course), had fallen out of love with Zhen Ji.

If Cao Pi was to order Zhen Ji to commit suicide, would Lady Bian not stand up in her defence?


No. It was theoretically possible (as WWD says) for Bian to do so but in practise, it would have been a risk. As Zhi was her son and Hong matter of state, she could act as a shield as the Dowager. Pi's personal life, her ground is more dodgy. Had push come to shove, I doubt Bian could have got Guo deposed without repercussions but it works as a threat.

Pi is an adult, a formidable personality and if the Empress Dowager starts picking his wives, that would be a PR issue. Like emasculating PR issue. Not good for Wei, not good for Pi and I suspect not good for Bian if Pi got angry.

Cao Pi Slander is the Most Common Slander: Honestly, Cao Pi made out to be the boogeyman half the time. The number of stories about him doing something horrible to consolidate power or to just be a bad guy is kind of silly now.


Ok I'll use this for the general Cao Pi point. Cao Pi nowadays is unpopular certainly. Back then? For Jin, the histories needed to ensure the Cao's were not walking saints but as Jin claimed legitimacy from Wei, they needed Pi and co to look not too bad at the very least. Shuang could get a kicking, it was not in their interest to kick Pi whose dynasty they inherited that much. Later dynasties and pro-Han thought... to be honest they seem mostly to put their hate on Cao Cao. Pi is an afterthought, a forgettable figure.

Nowadays, yes he is unpopular. There is string after string of stories where Pi is a gigantic jerk face. That is even before we got to the invented ones. What do people think when they think of Pi? Usually first, second and third thoughts (aside from depose the Han) are not of him giving gifts to kittens to say the least. Now Cao Cao and Rui could also be jerks, could be nasty and so on but they problem is, their good side, their deeds, their personality comes off the page/screen. Pi doesn't have that for whatever reason, the only thing that sticks in people's heads are the bad ones. Which helps because there is so many bad ones even before people start inventing it.

People exaggerate Pi's badness yes. Not the histories. There isn't some giant evil conspiracy against Pi, not by Wei court, not by Jin who need Pi to look at least not a monster and not by later historians.

As for the moments you mention

1) No idea where that comes from and Pi was able to recognize Kong Rong's ability. If he had turned on Rong, hard to blame him given Rong's nasty comments about his marriage.

2) It's in the Wei-lue which is widely considered a credible source. It does make reasonable sense, just because you don't like the implications for Pi, doesn't mean it is wrong.

3) I don't believe there is a single mention of that theory in history.

4) So remind me how nice it was for Saint Pi to make up massive lies about Ding Yi to prevent a marriage and mocking a disability? :wink: Sure, Ding Yi's actions against Mao Jie, while clearly to gain Cao Cao's favour, were disreputable and it made sense for Pi to purge the supporters of his brother (particularly ones Pi had slagged off and turned against him). It wasn't justified by any crime but it made sense for Pi.

5) I have no idea if the Kong Gui charges were trumped or not so can't really comment. I assume it was fair charge until then.

6 and 7) Yeah, I have no idea where the accusations of killing his brothers come from. I could understand killing Zhang though.

8) Other then being in the sgz...

9) No comment.

10) Yeah, I think people tend to not understand why it happened and so see it as cruel. There is a question of how best to deal with siblings, use them or neuter them, and there is one easy answer. Pi was perfectly entitled to ensure his siblings could not threaten the throne

11) I would have sympathy with that argument, indeed Hong got away with a lot of ill-displince, if the histories didn't say it happened due to Pi being a jerk and that Pi's own family felt they had to intervene.

12) I have never heard of Pi demoting Zang Ba or that a man of Zang Ba's owner deserted. Your source as would love to read about this?

13) I would love to read about this incident as I know nothing of it

14) True. He could be touchy about criticism, Rui he wasn't.

15) True. However you don't seem to look at why Pi is unpopular and you also go "well novelists and less informed people make stuff about Pi." then use it to bash history with.

16) Yeah, that one I have heard.

17) That is wish fulfilment though I knew one person who insisted Zhen Ji was really in love with Zhao Yun.

18) Your really desperate for Pi to be a saint aren't you? You have two occasions where Pi's resentment for Xun being the better more honest man is noted. You have Bao Xun demoted for being right then promptly Pi abusing his power to get revenge on someone. When the high officials do their job and stop this abuse, Cao Pi kills them.

That isn't ensuring his authority, that is Pi being a vengeful jerkface.

Yu Jin: Yu Jin returned because it would be plain weird for Wu to "surrender" and keep a hostage. Some of this seems to be a misunderstanding at how suicides work, another seems to be a conspiarcy by Chen Shou and latter historians to shaft Pi. As for the "problems"

1) To make a point to Yu Jin. Not like it can't be painted over.

2) He disliked the surrender?

3) It would be politically foolish to execute one of the senior Wei generals who has just returned home (it rules out future defections back). Forcing his suicide keeps hands clean, allows Yu Jin's family to keep their honour and everyone to pretend.

4) I'm not sure why Yu Jin's feelings on returning home are an issue with Pi killing him?

5) Pi wasn't stupid, "Surrender to me and I will kill you" is a dumb slogan. It is like a football transfer, the player joining your club is fantastic, the player leaving you is a traitor who you never rated anyway.

He was indeed forgiving about military failure, it is the surrender he didn't seem to like.

6) The use of Cao Cao's mausoleum is elaborate and it makes it stand out, he could have been more subtle. As for why he chose suicide over execution, see 3. This wasn't an uncommon practise

7) It may have been less notable to the wider public in the mausoleum (I doubt Pi wanted Yu Jin learning about this before he saw the painting), it had symbolism, it was easier to do in a Cao property then invading someone's house

8) Yes. That is normal practise.

Moreover, where are the stories of Cao Pi's kindness? His hunting trip with his son Cao Rui. His kind treatment of Huang Quan, Yang Biao, and Meng Da. His humility in regards to Xin Pi, Jiang Ji, and Jia Xu. His loving relationship with his father (he wrote quite a moving poem for him you know, and Cao Cao seemed to spend a lot of time with the boy when he was young). Cao Pi rewarding those who had served long and well (Zhu Ling, Zhang Ji). He was even moved by the story of Pang Tong's brother's loyalty to his wife and sent them money as a reward. Or how he cared for and raised Cao Gan at his father's behest? And his admiration and respect for Zhang Liao (acted like a total fanboy more like) and Zhang Liao's mother (whom he had ordered his soldiers to bow before and built them both a mansion in Luoyang). His tears shed after his father died (practically breaking down). How heavily he mourned Xiahou Shang despite their falling out. His friendship with Guo Yi and how he rewarded Handan Chun despite him being a follower of Cao Zhi.


1) Man has trip with son and gets humiliated is a sign of kindness?

2) Huang Quan I agree, also go with Pang Lin (as you mentioned) as he showed kindness rather then the Meng Da "you defected, have shiny". Yang Biao maybe, there would have been at least a considerable element of PR calculation with that

3) Humility?

4) Son has loving relationship with father? That's nice but hardly makes me push aside all the people he killed and abused. Also not really kindness.

5) He could indeed. One does expect that of a ruler though and so it doesn't tend to overshadow the darker side. Acts of great charity and kindness might but doing normal things doesn't

7) It was more Rui that was kind to Cao Gan? Pi's kindness is pretty much a deathbed request due to an old flame.

8) That was pretty cool.

9) Mourning father's and friends, having friends is considered normal, not "take that Mother Theresa"

This history treats the women quite badly. It says that she was an intelligent but merciless woman who plotted against Zhen Ji. Most accounts just say that she was close to Cao Pi, clearly very smart and helped him deal with Cao Zhi and invade Wu, and some say she was kind and beautiful.



I'm sceptical about Cao Rui killing his step-mum as the timings seem off. I'm also willing to say histories can be unkind to woman though "Zhen Ji was really nice and Pi was a jerk to her" is not exactly anti-woman.

Oh of course I don't believe that it's true or that it was in any actual histories, but it's a popular folktale and it only makes Cao Zhi and Lady Zhen seem far more sympathetic while casting Cao Pi in a poor light. It's... proof let's say, that history tends to treat him very poorly.


Folktalke and culture isn't history.

Lady Bian used to be a brothel girl? That's one hell of an incredibly story.


As I understand it, more a singer in one (no idea if a euphemism) but I believe she got a black mark for that.

What other documentation would be used? Weishu says it wasn't suicide, it was illness. Chen Shou hints at Cao Pi ordering her death. Unless he was there, or used some nonsensical folk story as his basis, Weilüe would be the only resource.


People he talked to, documents in the Imperial Library, that sort of thing.

It is full of lies and slander about them. A lot of what it writes about Cao Rui and Cao Pi isn't true. The example with Empress Guo says it all. It accounts multiple killings to Cao Pi without explaining the context behind them, or the killings themselves just aren't true.


You disagree that they are true. For whatever reason, you have decided Weilue is a book of evil fiction but that doesn't mean you can say the killings themselves are simply untrue. Just that you don't believe them

Most historical evidence paints Cao Pi very, very poorly.


So the conclusion you paint is that history must ergo be wrong?

I get saying one source seems dodgy but every other source and historian is also wrong?

As Empress Dowager, Lady Bian had no right whatsoever to interfere in matters of state. She was practically the Grand Tutor. Honoured, no power. Dowager Empresses got their power from child Emperors. Her only role was to advise Cao Pi, and that's the most power she had.


An Empress Dowager had the power to interfere by advice and there was leeway to interfere by said advice. Depending on the Emperor.
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Re: The Death of Empress Zhen

Unread postby Shen Ai » Sat Mar 14, 2015 6:09 pm

Dong Zhou wrote:
Yes.

Throughout history, the wife (or leading wife) has to had up with concubines/mistress/the bit on the side. Very few probably embraced it but some, like Zhen Ji, adapted very well to it. She did all the right things like being embracing and guiding the concubines (heaven help the poor lady who couldn't manage that) but she knew she was number 1. For plenty of women through history it has been yes, the hubbie is sleeping with another but he was going to come home to her, she was the one he loved, she was the one whose kids would inherit, he could have his flings (or concubines) but she had his heart.

As a general rule, the women in that situation, no matter how well they adapted, rarely react with joy unbecoming to seeing the situation fundamentally change. Hubby might have a mistress or other concubines or a fling but when that other woman (or women) becomes the number 1 instead, when she becomes the lady he goes home too, when she becomes the woman he takes to the big occasions, when your children's future is in danger, when he loves someone else now...

So yes, Zhen Ji reacting to losing her beloved and the risk to her children is human and to be expected. It would be weird actually if her reaction to her collapse in favour would be to be ok with it. To see all those years given to him and to be tossed aside just as he ascended, it would be odd if she reacted happily.


There's no real evidence that she lost his favour either. He took power very recently and then she died not long after. The ill health claim more or less makes it accurate for him to not name her Empress right away, particularly with her rejecting his offers.

Being suddenly jealous or cruel at this part of her life right at the moment her husband took power seems more than a little odd. Moreover, killing her was extreme as well. He could have simply chosen someone else to be Empress.

Because according to what you just said, he had ignored her for a year, moved residence and didn't make her Empress? Pi, for whatever reason (Guo's political advice, Zhen Ji's ageing, relationship running it's course), had fallen out of love with Zhen Ji.


Or he moved to Xuchang to secure his position and didn't call anyone in his family to him until his power was in fact secure? Husbands kept their wives away from them. Father's kept their children away from them in different cities. If she was actually too ill to travel, that would explain it.

No. It was theoretically possible (as WWD says) for Bian to do so but in practise, it would have been a risk. As Zhi was her son and Hong matter of state, she could act as a shield as the Dowager. Pi's personal life, her ground is more dodgy. Had push come to shove, I doubt Bian could have got Guo deposed without repercussions but it works as a threat.

Pi is an adult, a formidable personality and if the Empress Dowager starts picking his wives, that would be a PR issue. Like emasculating PR issue. Not good for Wei, not good for Pi and I suspect not good for Bian if Pi got angry.


As you said, the threat is all she needed then. And she doesn't have to make him choose her as Empress, she could have just saved her life instead.

Ok I'll use this for the general Cao Pi point. Cao Pi nowadays is unpopular certainly. Back then? For Jin, the histories needed to ensure the Cao's were not walking saints but as Jin claimed legitimacy from Wei, they needed Pi and co to look not too bad at the very least. Shuang could get a kicking, it was not in their interest to kick Pi whose dynasty they inherited that much. Later dynasties and pro-Han thought... to be honest they seem mostly to put their hate on Cao Cao. Pi is an afterthought, a forgettable figure.


Wouldn't it count in their interest to make the entire Cao Wei dynasty look bad? Like usurpers to the great, 400 year old Dynasty, and that the Sima's were purging a traitor family from the realm? Making the act of abdication look good was all they really did. They didn't have to do anyone in the Cao line favours.

Nowadays, yes he is unpopular. There is string after string of stories where Pi is a gigantic jerk face. That is even before we got to the invented ones. What do people think when they think of Pi? Usually first, second and third thoughts (aside from depose the Han) are not of him giving gifts to kittens to say the least. Now Cao Cao and Rui could also be jerks, could be nasty and so on but they problem is, their good side, their deeds, their personality comes off the page/screen. Pi doesn't have that for whatever reason, the only thing that sticks in people's heads are the bad ones. Which helps because there is so many bad ones even before people start inventing it.


Well like I said, the bad ones weren't so bad really.

People exaggerate Pi's badness yes. Not the histories. There isn't some giant evil conspiracy against Pi, not by Wei court, not by Jin who need Pi to look at least not a monster and not by later historians.


Oh there certainly is. There's a ton of BS written about him and then even the true actions get taken out of context.

1) No idea where that comes from and Pi was able to recognize Kong Rong's ability. If he had turned on Rong, hard to blame him given Rong's nasty comments about his marriage.

2) It's in the Wei-lue which is widely considered a credible source. It does make reasonable sense, just because you don't like the implications for Pi, doesn't mean it is wrong.


I read that one on Wikipedia a while back, and it was mentioned that Cao Pi didn't like him.

It's not credible though. It's not even in anyones SGZ. Chen Shou didn't mention it for Cao Pi or apparently Zhang Xiu. Moreover, he was pardoned by the father. Why would he care what some 18 year old thought?

3) I don't believe there is a single mention of that theory in history.

4) So remind me how nice it was for Saint Pi to make up massive lies about Ding Yi to prevent a marriage and mocking a disability? :wink: Sure, Ding Yi's actions against Mao Jie, while clearly to gain Cao Cao's favour, were disreputable and it made sense for Pi to purge the supporters of his brother (particularly ones Pi had slagged off and turned against him). It wasn't justified by any crime but it made sense for Pi.


They got two men removed from power and killed. Two supporters of Cao Pi. And they're both supporters of Cao Zhi.

Making up a rumour that Ding Yi had lazy eye is nothing compared to that. It wasn't a pleasant action by any means (killing them), but hardly an act of cruelty, not more so than any other warlord has done in history. It's a kind of poetic justice.

5) I have no idea if the Kong Gui charges were trumped or not so can't really comment. I assume it was fair charge until then.

6 and 7) Yeah, I have no idea where the accusations of killing his brothers come from. I could understand killing Zhang though.

8) Other then being in the sgz...


Kong Gui was a supporter of Cao Zhi and a friend to Cao Cao. Some say Cao Pi made up the charges, but nothing says otherwise to him being a money thief.

Sure it makes sense in some ways, but neither were true.

It's not in Cao Pi's SGZ and I don't think Wang Zhong has one.

11) I would have sympathy with that argument, indeed Hong got away with a lot of ill-displince, if the histories didn't say it happened due to Pi being a jerk and that Pi's own family felt they had to intervene.


It was cruel of him to try and execute Cao Hong I'd say, since even though poor leadership is a bad quality, death to a long serving member of his own family was probably mostly spiteful by then. But in the end he didn't go through with it and just demoted him. Punishing the man wasn't a rime, but it was partly motivated for the wrong reasons. But Cao Pi is the only warlord or official to ever let personal grudges hinder his thought process. Cao Cao, Fa Zheng, and Zhuge Liang never did that.

12) I have never heard of Pi demoting Zang Ba or that a man of Zang Ba's owner deserted. Your source as would love to read about this?


Upon knowing the death of Cao Cao, Zang's detachment and his Qingzhou troops took leave without permission, and refused to take command from Cao Pi, Cao Cao's successor.[14] Nevertheless, Cao Pi was successful on stabilizing the situation, and formally established the state of Cao Wei as its emperor. As a result, Zang Ba was promoted along most of the officials. However, the new emperor would place Zang a direct supervisor, Cao Xiu, who had supreme authority over Qing and Xu provinces. Zang accompanied Cao Xiu on several campaigns against Sun Quan's generals, and was credited with defeating Lu Fan at Dongpu (洞浦, in the vicinity of present day Wuhu, Anhui).[15] After the victory, Zang was given the prestigious rank of Mayor of the Capitol and was called to Luoyang.[16]


(建安二十四年,霸遣別軍在洛。會太祖崩,霸所部及青州兵,以為天下將亂,皆鳴鼓擅去。) Yu Huan. Brief History of Wei.

(與曹休討吳賊,破呂范於洞浦,徵為執金吾,位特進。) SGZ.


Yeah it struck me as odd as well. Blatant insubordination like that would get a general killed, especially so early in Cao Pi's reign. Instead he just removed him from military power and made him Prefect of Luoyang and gave him extraordinary wealth (3500 households by the end of his life with Cao Rui).


13) I would love to read about this incident as I know nothing of it

14) True. He could be touchy about criticism, Rui he wasn't.


Xiahou Shang was married to Cao Zhen's sister (no name recorded). Xiahou Shang was of course, one of Cao Pi's closest friends. He had a beautiful concubine who he loved very much, and ignored his wife in favour of her. Shang's wife (Cao Zhen's sister) appealed to Cao Pi in her humiliation and sorrow. Cao Pi decided to have the concubine killed to assuage Cao Zhen's family. Xiahou Shang never forgave Cao Pi for it, and Cao Pi avoided Xiahou Shang afterwards to avoid conflict with him.

Xiahou Shang died in 225 and Cao Pi went to him before his death and held his hand and weeped when he passed.

He wasn't a guy you could outright disagree with, but if he respected you and if what you said made sense he could overlook XIn Pi manhandling him and Jiang Ji calling him out for favouritism (and a blatantly ridiculous edict).

15) True. However you don't seem to look at why Pi is unpopular and you also go "well novelists and less informed people make stuff about Pi." then use it to bash history with.


It's a comment on the culture of unfairness about his person. I can understand why historians wouldn't like him. Ended a 400 year old dynasty that was once the strongest in the world and after that Cao Pi did nothing and died with mostly administrative credits and scholarly credits to his name. His lack of greatness makes him easy to criticize.

And it didn't help that he seemed to be a man who played favourites and was a schemer/politician by nature. As opposed to Cao Zhi (whose literary skill surpassed even their father and is kind of a romantic figure), Cao Zhang (who proved himself in battle), Cao Chong (who is one of the great 'what-if' questions), and even Cao Ang (with his heroic sacrifice) Cao Pi seems a lot more petty, quiet, and easy to dislike.

16) Yeah, that one I have heard.

17) That is wish fulfilment though I knew one person who insisted Zhen Ji was really in love with Zhao Yun.


It's still a popular theory even now.

Zhao Yun? Isn't Zhao Yun 10 years + her senior and only would have been able to have conceivably met her when she was a young teenager?

18) Your really desperate for Pi to be a saint aren't you? You have two occasions where Pi's resentment for Xun being the better more honest man is noted. You have Bao Xun demoted for being right then promptly Pi abusing his power to get revenge on someone. When the high officials do their job and stop this abuse, Cao Pi kills them.


No, not really. I rather like the evil image people have of him, makes him very likeable for me, since I'm a sucker for villains. Just making a point here that his cruel actions have a lot more to them than justh im being a mean guy.

Lowly magistrate fails to obey customs, Cao Pi orders him to be punished. Seems fair. China was a highly ritualized/ceremonial society. Bao Xun cancels the order to punish him. Cao Pi is angry this random legal clerk has overridden his authority and orders him to be punished. The judge gives Bao Xun a hard labour sentence. Cao Pi's fine. Chen Qun, Wang Lang, and Hua Xin overrule Cao Pi. Cao Pi is angry at being second-guessed yet again and orders the man killed.

That isn't ensuring his authority, that is Pi being a vengeful jerkface.


He only just restored the power of old to the Three Excellencies. Right away they step on his toes on a punishment he requested. Killing Bao Xun was Cao Pi telling them he's still the boss. Poor Bao Xun, yes. But it's not entirely a cruel killing motivated by spite.

Yu Jin: Yu Jin returned because it would be plain weird for Wu to "surrender" and keep a hostage.


Yes, but it was Cao Pi's actions that got him returned.

1) To make a point to Yu Jin. Not like it can't be painted over.

2) He disliked the surrender?

3) It would be politically foolish to execute one of the senior Wei generals who has just returned home (it rules out future defections back). Forcing his suicide keeps hands clean, allows Yu Jin's family to keep their honour and everyone to pretend.


Why his father's memorial? It's not like Cao Cao was intrinsically linked with Fancheng. Why not Pang De's grave?

What did Cao Pi care for Fancheng? Other than his brother making a fool of himself again.

Politically foolish? Cao Pi stripped an arguably more successful general of his powers and relocated him. He executed noteworthy scholars and a friend to his father. He threatened to axe a veteran who saved his father's life. Surrender was something that even saddened Cao Cao. Technically, Cao Pi would be within his rights to punish Yu Jin.

4) I'm not sure why Yu Jin's feelings on returning home are an issue with Pi killing him?

5) Pi wasn't stupid, "Surrender to me and I will kill you" is a dumb slogan. It is like a football transfer, the player joining your club is fantastic, the player leaving you is a traitor who you never rated anyway.


Weeping usually indicates that you're emotional upon seeing said person. A man who feared for his life would weep for a different reason.

He still forgave military failures, like with Cao Zhen, Cao Xiu, and Zhang He.


6) The use of Cao Cao's mausoleum is elaborate and it makes it stand out, he could have been more subtle. As for why he chose suicide over execution, see 3. This wasn't an uncommon practise

7) It may have been less notable to the wider public in the mausoleum (I doubt Pi wanted Yu Jin learning about this before he saw the painting), it had symbolism, it was easier to do in a Cao property then invading someone's house

8) Yes. That is normal practise.


Or he was just old and died. He even wanted to send him to be an ambassador to Wu (or was it invading general?). And it's too... poetic and flashy. Why didn't he just send him an empty fruit basket?

Yu Jin wasn't home for years. Easy to build him a new house and then paint graffiti all over it.

If he didn't like Yu Jin he wouldn't need to honour his sons.

1) Man has trip with son and gets humiliated is a sign of kindness?


Man hash hunting trip with sons and cries upon realizing he shot Bambi's mom.

2) Huang Quan I agree, also go with Pang Lin (as you mentioned) as he showed kindness rather then the Meng Da "you defected, have shiny". Yang Biao maybe, there would have been at least a considerable element of PR calculation with that


It was more than that. He treated Meng Da the way his father treated Xiahou Dun. He gave him honoured titles and let the man ride in his carriage with him. He even joked about Meng Da being an assassin.

I dunno what PR purposes Yang Biao served. He had long fallen out of favour with Cao Cao and his son was killed for revealing secrets to Cao Zhi. And Yang Xiu was arguably the most important of Cao Zhi's advisors. He didn't need to offer him Grand Commandant as a role. Or even treat him well at all.

3) Humility?

4) Son has loving relationship with father? That's nice but hardly makes me push aside all the people he killed and abused. Also not really kindness.


Xin Pi assaults Cao Pi to make a point, Cao Pi lets him go and follows his advice. Jiang Ji calls Cao Pi a moron for giving Xiahou Shang executive power, Cao Pi recalls the edict.

I think there was also a story of someone telling Cao Pi to stop hunting so much, so Cao Pi destroyed his hunting equipment and thanked the advisor.

There's a heart in there somewhere is all I'm saying. I mean, he seemed legitimately broken up over his death.

5) He could indeed. One does expect that of a ruler though and so it doesn't tend to overshadow the darker side. Acts of great charity and kindness might but doing normal things doesn't

7) It was more Rui that was kind to Cao Gan? Pi's kindness is pretty much a deathbed request due to an old flame.


A ruler doesn't have to do it. Cao Cao never liked Zhu Ling and Cao Pi rewarded him anyways. I give Cao Rui credit for disregarding Cao Pi and Chen Qun's edicts on honouring relatives on your mother's side.

From what I've read Cao Cao told Cao Pi to take care of Cao Gan, and Cao Gan's mother actually spoke well of Cao Pi to Cao Cao. Cao Pi treated Cao Gan like a son and then had Cao Rui do the same.

One version of that story says Cao Gan even called Cao Pi father once, which brought Cao Pi to tears.

8) That was pretty cool.

9) Mourning father's and friends, having friends is considered normal, not "take that Mother Theresa"


Like I said, it was times when he showed a rather more human side. I'm not saying Cao Pi was Mother Theresa or even Lance Armstrong. But his circumspect stories of killing people off could be countered with his much less known stories of him showing a rather kind, human side.

I'm sceptical about Cao Rui killing his step-mum as the timings seem off. I'm also willing to say histories can be unkind to woman though "Zhen Ji was really nice and Pi was a jerk to her" is not exactly anti-woman.


Timing isn't just off, his behaviour towards her seemed to be care and respect. And the stories of him having her improperly buried are false as well.

Eh, history at the time was anti-woman. Chen Shou didn't even make biographies for some women (most women) or even recorded their full names.

Folktalke and culture isn't history.


It's a symbol of the culture surrounding one man that could and likely has skewed perspective of him in a historical sense.

People he talked to, documents in the Imperial Library, that sort of thing.


But Chen Shou did have Weilüe with him when he made the records and it is said by Yu Huan that killing Zhen Ji was what really happened. Imperial libraries would be the same as Weishu logically.

You disagree that they are true. For whatever reason, you have decided Weilue is a book of evil fiction but that doesn't mean you can say the killings themselves are simply untrue. Just that you don't believe them


It contradicts other writings and doesn't seem to be credible in this single regard. Other records say this was not the case (Zhen Ji's suicide) and I happen to find them more credible. There's really nothing that puts Weilüe over Weishu, not when Weilüe has it's own contradictions.

So the conclusion you paint is that history must ergo be wrong?

I get saying one source seems dodgy but every other source and historian is also wrong?


Not history, one biased writings perspective of an event.

Every other source? Name me one record from that era that isn't Weilüe and Han Jin Chunqiu that says Cao Pi actually killed Zhen Ji. Historians go off of all the texts they have. They're free to pick and choose which version they want to believe or which they find more reliable. Historians aren't authority, they're interpreters.

An Empress Dowager had the power to interfere by advice and there was leeway to interfere by said advice. Depending on the Emperor.


Advice. Like a Grand Tutor. Not as an alternativep ower figure.
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Re: The Death of Empress Zhen

Unread postby Qu Hui » Sat Mar 14, 2015 6:52 pm

General response time! Still working on the other response re: slander of Cao Pi.

Shen Ai wrote:I mean, Weilüe is the text that mentions half of Cao Pi's supposed killings when half of them never happened. And it paints Cao Rui and Guo Nüwang very poorly when it's quite apparent he treated her very well and very respectfully.

You have yet to prove that they didn't happen beyond "I like Cao Pi therefore I don't think they happened."

Shen Ai wrote:What other documentation would be used? Weishu says it wasn't suicide, it was illness. Chen Shou hints at Cao Pi ordering her death. Unless he was there, or used some nonsensical folk story as his basis, Weilüe would be the only resource.

Or he, being a historian by employment, could have realized what the Weishu's account was actually saying? He could have heard secondhand accounts from descendants of the people involved? As a historian, he would have had access to the edict ordering her death and other documents that would have recorded it?

Shen Ai wrote:It is full of lies and slander about them. A lot of what it writes about Cao Rui and Cao Pi isn't true. The example with Empress Guo says it all. It accounts multiple killings to Cao Pi without explaining the context behind them, or the killings themselves just aren't true.

You keep saying this, but you have yet to a( prove it beyond saying "I don't think it happened" and b( account for the fact that Yu Huan wasn't executed for writing it and it wasn't destroyed by Cao Wei's Imperial Censors for spreading slander about the founder of the dynasty..

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Whenever I read Cao Zhi's elegant and beautiful writings, they seem to me divinely inspired. I can understand well why Cao Cao favored him.


Zizhi Tongjian. viewtopic.php?f=23&t=22087

And? All this proves is that he liked Cao Zhi's works. That's not evidence of him slandering Cao Pi.

Shen Ai wrote:Of course not, but it doesn't seem exactly right either. He had plenty of concubines, and he had most of his children with other women. Dongxiang was born in 210, so Cao Pi clearly spent plenty of time with his other consorts for at least 10 years in addition to Zhen. To suddenly be jealous now seems rather odd.

See Dong's post, he said it much better than I could.

Shen Ai wrote:Not to mention there is a letter that is documented in Weishu that is Zhen Ji's apparent refusal of the title of Empress.

Link and/or quote, please.

Shen Ai wrote:The invasion of Wu was hearsay. It is mentioned somewhere that she helped Cao Pi in political and military affairs, but that was it. The Wu invasions were his only major military efforts.

Then why did you bring it up in the first place?

Shen Ai wrote:She was also buried alongside Cao Pi, which is contrary to her being humiliated after death.

Not really, no, her body still could have been defiled and then buried with Cao Pi. And that was proper procedure; if Cao Rui hadn't buried her with Cao Pi, it would have been seen as very disrespectful.

Shen Ai wrote:Sounds like more slander. It would make much more sense of the sister of Cao Pi's close friend to make a point of being dishonoured by the presence of this concubine and killing her for that reason, than Guo Nüwang being jealous of a woman her husband had no relationship to.

I'll recant this because I misread my source (stupid pronoun confusion), but I'm also going to point out that regardless of who demanded her death it was still a petty move that exploited Cao Zhen's connection to the emperor, who really should have known better. Cao Pi had a woman killed because his best friend's sister was jealous of her and told him to, it's really hard to spin that in a way that makes Pi or Zhen's sister not look like jerks.

Dong Zhou wrote:Where's that from?

From this list of terrible things that Cao Pi did, compiled by Tarrot and all taken from Dr. Rafe's encyclopedia. Admittedly, I made a mistake reading it and it was Xiahou Shang's wife, not Guo Nuwang, who made the request, but it was still a jerk move.

Shen Ai wrote:Making up a rumour that Ding Yi had lazy eye is nothing compared to that. It wasn't a pleasant action by any means (killing them), but hardly an act of cruelty, not more so than any other warlord has done in history. It's a kind of poetic justice.

What about Pi having every male in Ding Yi's family executed along him?

Shen Ai wrote:It's not in Cao Pi's SGZ and I don't think Wang Zhong has one.

If you have a translated copy of Cao Pi's SGZ, I would like to see it, because as far as I know it's never been translated. And Wang Zhong is mentioned in a few bios, but they haven't been translated.

Shen Ai wrote:He wasn't a guy you could outright disagree with, but if he respected you and if what you said made sense he could overlook XIn Pi manhandling him and Jiang Ji calling him out for favouritism (and a blatantly ridiculous edict).

Huo Xing (tortured and executed for opposing an invasion of Wu that Cao Pi himself later decided was a bad idea), Dai Ling (sentenced to hard labor for opposing Cao Pi's excessive hunting) and Bao Xun (will elaborate) would disagree.

Shen Ai wrote:I can understand why historians wouldn't like him. Ended a 400 year old dynasty that was once the strongest in the world and after that Cao Pi did nothing and died with mostly administrative credits and scholarly credits to his name.

Why would Chen Shou care that Cao Pi ended the Han? Why would Pei Songzhi care? Why would Sima Guang care? Why would Achilles Fang care? Why would Cutter and Crowell care? Why would Prof. Rafe care? Why would almost 2000 years worth of historians care that Cao Pi ended the Han, and care enough to slander him for all that time or not uncover this supposed conspiracy? People in the last twenty years of the Han barely cared about the Han, so why would hundreds of future historians care?

Shen Ai wrote:Lowly magistrate fails to obey customs, Cao Pi orders him to be punished. Seems fair. China was a highly ritualized/ceremonial society. Bao Xun cancels the order to punish him. Cao Pi is angry this random legal clerk has overridden his authority and orders him to be punished. The judge gives Bao Xun a hard labour sentence. Cao Pi's fine. Chen Qun, Wang Lang, and Hua Xin overrule Cao Pi. Cao Pi is angry at being second-guessed yet again and orders the man killed.

First, it was the magistrate's superior who wanted him punished, not Cao Pi. Second, the Three Excellencies were well within their rights to dismiss Bao Xun's punishment. Third, Bao Xun being executed for what Gao Rou and the Three Excellencies did stinks of Cao Pi just using it as an excuse to kill someone he didn't like.

And Cao Pi broke his own law in having Bao Xun executed for a crime not treason or rebellion, so no matter how you look at it Cao Pi was in the wrong, and in at least one case was a hypocrite to boot.

I will discuss Yu Jin and Cao Pi in-depth in my other post.

Shen Ai wrote:It contradicts other writings and doesn't seem to be credible in this single regard.

Which non-Weishu writing does it contradict, then?
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Re: The Death of Empress Zhen

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Sat Mar 14, 2015 10:30 pm

This post will probably be posted without being fully finished, hope you don't mind Shen Ai. If you do, just give me a tap

I did want to say something I forgot. I do agree that culturally, Pi gets smacked about. I think that is less the Han and more Zhen Ji (who, for whatever reason becomes a beacon whereas few give a damn about the other women killed) and Cao Zhi who over time, has touched the hearts of many with his poetry and his tale. Suddenly Cao Zhi becomes the great, romantic figure and Pi, who doesn't have that on page charisma of his father or son, does get it in the neck.

There's no real evidence that she lost his favour either. He took power very recently and then she died not long after. The ill health claim more or less makes it accurate for him to not name her Empress right away, particularly with her rejecting his offers.

Being suddenly jealous or cruel at this part of her life right at the moment her husband took power seems more than a little odd. Moreover, killing her was extreme as well. He could have simply chosen someone else to be Empress.


She was in the wrong palace (as it were), wasn't immediately crowned alongside him and hadn't been visited a year from what you said. Plus the sources.

Cruel? Being jealous when you discover you have been, in effect, dumped to the mistress is hardly surprising. Killing your wife wasn't that unusual (Rui, Quan, Hao, Shi all accused of it, let alone the Han ones) and given Pi's choice was controversial due to not being noble enough, Zhen Ji is awkward.

Or he moved to Xuchang to secure his position and didn't call anyone in his family to him until his power was in fact secure? Husbands kept their wives away from them. Father's kept their children away from them in different cities. If she was actually too ill to travel, that would explain it.


He seemed to be with other concubines and a wife would be expected at the capital fairly soon after power was secured.

As you said, the threat is all she needed then. And she doesn't have to make him choose her as Empress, she could have just saved her life instead.


At the cost of political capital, taking a big gamble

Wouldn't it count in their interest to make the entire Cao Wei dynasty look bad? Like usurpers to the great, 400 year old Dynasty, and that the Sima's were purging a traitor family from the realm? Making the act of abdication look good was all they really did. They didn't have to do anyone in the Cao line favours.


If it was Liu Yi and Liu Shi then yes it would. As they were Sima's and Jin claimed right of line through Wei, then it was more awkward. On one hand, the three main rulers (Cao, Pi, Rui and Rui's second wife) needed not to be saints whose greatness and moral character make them unimpeachably good, there needed to be moral failings to justify that Heaven wanted Sima's. Long running issues (like choice of wives actually).

On the other hand, they also don't want to be the legitimate successors of Darth Vader and his kingdom of evil.

Think of it as someone from the same party replacing the retiring PM or President. The balance they have to walk between praising their predecessor, drawing upon their legitimacy and needing to rubbish it a bit so they looked good in comparison.

Well like I said, the bad ones weren't so bad really.


Some of them, sure.

Oh there certainly is. There's a ton of BS written about him and then even the true actions get taken out of context.


Did they all have a meeting for those conspiracy? Why is Professor Rafe and the likes of Cutter in this evil conspiracy? Do they have a secret ritual?

There isn't some conspiracy and you know it. There is a cultural issue and there is BS but since you count history or any interpretation of his acts that don't result in "and those executed 100% deserved it and Pi was a saint" as BS, you hurt your own case by going too far the other way.

It's not credible though. It's not even in anyones SGZ. Chen Shou didn't mention it for Cao Pi or apparently Zhang Xiu. Moreover, he was pardoned by the father. Why would he care what some 18 year old thought?


It's in an annotation.

Bear in mind Cao Pi is the (likely) future ruler. That future ruler is pissed off at you. That wouldn't concern you?

They got two men removed from power and killed. Two supporters of Cao Pi. And they're both supporters of Cao Zhi.


Indeed. Not 100% sure on that. Indeed. That last one is why I'm not unsympathetic to Cao Pi killing them as a point of real politic. On the other hand, it wasn't going to please the gentry.

Making up a rumour that Ding Yi had lazy eye is nothing compared to that. It wasn't a pleasant action by any means (killing them), but hardly an act of cruelty, not more so than any other warlord has done in history. It's a kind of poetic justice.


So if I spread rumours that you steal candy from babies, it is poetic justice if you then later go on and do something wrong/horrible in your life. Rather then me being a slandering jerk.

Cao Pi's act of jerkery (and blocking a marriage is pretty bad) is what turned Ding Yi against Cao Pi.

It's not in Cao Pi's SGZ and I don't think Wang Zhong has one.


I know it is somewhere but I have no idea whose bio it is in. It is somewhere really odd

It was cruel of him to try and execute Cao Hong I'd say, since even though poor leadership is a bad quality, death to a long serving member of his own family was probably mostly spiteful by then. But in the end he didn't go through with it and just demoted him. Punishing the man wasn't a rime, but it was partly motivated for the wrong reasons. But Cao Pi is the only warlord or official to ever let personal grudges hinder his thought process. Cao Cao, Fa Zheng, and Zhuge Liang never did that.


I would honestly not have an issue with executing Cao Hong for the umpeeth breach of discipline. Hong was not a particularly nice man and I think if that breach had been seen as the case, it would been less controversial. Still controversial and probably commuted to a slap on the wrist to save an early PR disaster

Oh sure, they did the same. The problem for Pi is that Zhuge Liang is generally considered a good man, Fa Zheng's generally jerkitude is forgotten and Cao Cao... is probably a worse man overall but his brilliance, his charm means that is forgiven.

Yeah it struck me as odd as well. Blatant insubordination like that would get a general killed, especially so early in Cao Pi's reign. Instead he just removed him from military power and made him Prefect of Luoyang and gave him extraordinary wealth (3500 households by the end of his life with Cao Rui).


Ah, I think I know what happened here. Zang Ba didn't go absent, his men did. The Qingzhou troops went nuts and Jia Kui had to deal with it. Ba was innocent of a crime but another occasion might have got a slight demotion.

Zang Ba was later, as it were, retired to the capital but was still influential so those claiming he got punished are being inaccurate.
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