The Birthday of Cao Mao

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The Birthday of Cao Mao

Unread postby jiuyangda » Tue Nov 15, 2016 6:56 am

Assuming I got the calendar conversion calculations right, November 15th is the birthday of the Duke of Gaogui xiang, Cao Mao.

In commemoration of one of the more tragically misunderstood characters of the era, a draft translation of his SGZ entry is available here for a limited time.
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Re: The Birthday of Cao Mao

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Mon Nov 21, 2016 5:19 pm

Why a limited time?

I'm not sure Cao Mao is tragically misunderstood, he sometimes gets a bit hyped up if anything. He was clearly a smart young ruler but how smart is questionable, his patience does not seem to have been long and made Dowager Guo's hand weaker
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Re: The Birthday of Cao Mao

Unread postby jiuyangda » Wed Nov 23, 2016 6:25 am

Dong Zhou wrote:Why a limited time?


It is only a temporary rough draft.

Dong Zhou wrote:I'm not sure Cao Mao is tragically misunderstood, he sometimes gets a bit hyped up if anything. He was clearly a smart young ruler but how smart is questionable, his patience does not seem to have been long and made Dowager Guo's hand weaker


I have never seen a positive account of Gaogui in English online sources (though admittedly I have seen a considerable number in Chinese online sources). Most, particularly Wikipedia, report the narrative that the coup was rash and without reason, made right after Sima Zhao had just refused title as Duke of Jin.

This appears to be a misunderstanding of JS2, which reports that Sima Zhao declined the offer of title, but does not give the date. SGZ 4 provides the date, and indicates the refusal occurred after the death of Gaogui. Sima Zhao was Duke of Jin at the time of the coup.

SGZ 4 also makes special note to report an eclipse of the sun right before reporting the death of Gaogui. JS 12 reports the association of this event with the prophecy "The Marshal [Sima] leads troops in rebellion against his King."

The annotations to SGZ 4 also report that Gaogui specifically said that he would not submit to the humiliation of being deposed.

This is all evidence that Gaogui's decision was not necessarily rash and may have been forced by the circumstances. Though there is admittedly no written evidence of this, it seems incredibly difficult to believe that Sima Zhao was not also acting against Gaogui at this time.

SGZ 4 also includes length quotations of Gaogui's conversations with the leading academic scholars of the time. Though this seems a strange decision by Chen Shou, an apparent theme is the portrayal of Gaogui as thorough and careful in his reasoning. Considering how historiography was written at the time, it seems possible that Chen Shou included this as some evidence against the simple accusation that Gaogui was rash and foolish and brought destruction on himself.

The annotations to SGZ 4 also specifically make note that Gaogui reported to the Dowager first, implying her approval, and that Wang Shen and Wang Ye (and possibly Wang Jing) betrayed Gaogui's plans to Sima Zhao. It is difficult to see how patience could have done anything about the betrayal of Wang Shen and Wang Ye, which may well have been the critical event that ruined any hope of success.

But if my reasoning is wrong and my translation mistaken, I will dutifully remove the offending work so not as to further mislead English speakers.
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Re: The Birthday of Cao Mao

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Fri Nov 25, 2016 7:58 pm

There hasn't been a biography or anything like that but words I tend to see about him on what few discussions I have seen are things like intelligent, tragic, very few negative.

This is all evidence that Gaogui's decision was not necessarily rash and may have been forced by the circumstances. Though there is admittedly no written evidence of this, it seems incredibly difficult to believe that Sima Zhao was not also acting against Gaogui at this time.


In some way, yes Sima Zhao was acting against Cao Mao and the Wei dynasty. He was, as it, the man in charge and intended to keep it that way. Further then that? I doubt it

SGZ 4 also includes length quotations of Gaogui's conversations with the leading academic scholars of the time. Though this seems a strange decision by Chen Shou, an apparent theme is the portrayal of Gaogui as thorough and careful in his reasoning. Considering how historiography was written at the time, it seems possible that Chen Shou included this as some evidence against the simple accusation that Gaogui was rash and foolish and brought destruction on himself.


Cao Mao was an intelligent young man, clearly articulate and capable of good reasoning (I suspect he was at least somewhat allowed to win so how he compared to his fellow scholars is hard to really asses but he was clearly a capable scholar)

jiuyangda wrote:The annotations to SGZ 4 also specifically make note that Gaogui reported to the Dowager first, implying her approval, and that Wang Shen and Wang Ye (and possibly Wang Jing) betrayed Gaogui's plans to Sima Zhao. It is difficult to see how patience could have done anything about the betrayal of Wang Shen and Wang Ye, which may well have been the critical event that ruined any hope of success.


How did he think it was going to work? Even the annotation has Cao Mao informing the Dowager after he had summoned his troops. I also wonder that, while they may have had to tolerate Guo's manoeuvrings, whether they would really have tolerated her approving that revolt

jiuyangda wrote:But if my reasoning is wrong and my translation mistaken, I will dutifully remove the offending work so not as to further mislead English speakers.


Oh goodness no, don't do that. It is not an offending work, I am extremely grateful you made it. We just have different views on the Wei emperor, that's all
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Re: The Birthday of Cao Mao

Unread postby Xu Yuan » Wed Dec 21, 2016 9:24 pm

Thank you JiuYangDa, I have always felt sympathy and great feelings of remorse for the fall of Cao Mao through purely the novel's take on the situation (which is rare for a Wei Leader) and knew very little of the historical man. Now I know that Cao Mao was a deeply scholarly boy and very well may have matched Cao Chong or Zhi in terms of cleverness as he continued to confound scholars with truly well-thought out questions. His governing looked to be of great succor to the people at large, especially his actions in the aftermath of the Battle of Didao.

I was unaware that Sima Fu's cradling of his Emperor as he lay dying was historical and had believed it was novel flair. That part gets me everytime and to know it's historical further elevates Sima Fu's character in my opinion, a fellow I already had great respect for.
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