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Cao Ren, styled Zi Xiao, was Cao Cao’s younger cousin. When Cao Ren was young, he was fond of horse riding and archery. When the warlords in different regions rose in power, Cao Ren secretly gathered a thousand plus youths and they were active in the Huai and Si region. Subsequently, Cao Ren joined Cao Cao and he was given the rank of Major with Separate Command (Bie Bu Si Ma), while undertaking the responsibility of Colonel of the Strict Vanguard (Li Feng Xiao Wei). In one of the battles against Yuan Shu, Cao Ren killed and captured the most number of enemies’ soldiers. When Cao Ren followed Cao Cao in the expedition at Xu province, Cao Ren was often given command of the cavalry unit and he was the vanguard of the army. In another occasion, Cao Ren was attacked Tao Qian’s officer Lu You and he secured a big victory. After which, Cao Ren regrouped his troops with the rest of the army at the city of Peng where they served a great defeat to Tao Qian. Once again, Cao Ren was involved in expeditions with Cao Cao against counties (in Xu province) like Fei, Hua, Ji Mo, Kai Yang, etc. and Tao Qian sent his generals to reinforce those counties. These reinforcements were defeated by the cavalry unit led by Cao Ren. When Cao Cao went on the offensive against Lu Bu, Cao Ren led his own cavalry unit to Ju Yang and managed to capture Liu He, one of Lu Bu’s generals, alive, while emerging victorious. Not long after, some of the armies of the Yellow Turban Rebels were quelled and Cao Cao received the Han Emperor at the new capital, Xu Chang. All these were done with Cao Ren’s involvements and hence, Cao Ren was being appointed as the Grand Administrator of Guang Yang. Cao Cao valued Cao Ren’s bravery and strategies, and he did not want Cao Ren to be assign to govern the prefectures or counties. As such, Cao Ren was appointed as a Councellor (Yi Lang, one who would discuss the nation’s policies with the Emperor, usually appointed by the Emperor himself during the Han dynasty) and he was placed in charge of the cavalry unit. When Cao Cao attacked Zhang Xiu, Cao Ren was tasked to capture the neighbouring counties, and he managed to capture some 3000+ common folks. Subsequently, Cao Cao’s army was faced with difficulties and he retreated. During then, the morale of Cao Cao’s army was very low. Then, Cao Ren led some fierce and brave soldiers to the battle. Seeing that, the morale of Cao Cao’s army was boosted and they managed to defeat Zhang Xiu.
Some times later, Cao Cao and Yuan Shao squared off at Guan Du for a long period of time. Yuan Shao dispatched Liu Bei to attack the various counties at Yin Qiang region and most of the counties surrendered. As a result, both the officers and the common folks in Xu Chang and south of Xu Chang became greatly unsettled, and Cao Cao was worried. Cao Ren said, “The crisis at the southern region is due to the presence of a large enemy force, and this crisis cannot be averted. Liu Bei now leads some strong forces to our land and it is not surprising that the various counties surrendered. However, Liu Bei has been placed in charge of those Yuan Shao’s soldiers only recently and it is likely that he will not be able to lead them well. Hence, we will surely be able to defeat Liu Bei in the first attempt.” Cao Cao accepted Cao Ren’s suggestion and dispatched Cao Ren to lead his cavalry unit against Liu Bei’s forces. Cao Ren defeated Liu Bei in their first encounter, forcing Liu Bei to retreat, and Cao Ren managed to recover all the counties which surrendered earlier on. Yuan Shao subsequently sent Han Xun to cut off Cao Ren’s retreat at the western route. Both Cao Ren and Han Xun’s armies engaged at Ji Luo mountain and Cao Ren served a great defeat to Han Xun. Thereafter, Yuan Shao dared not send a separate force to attack Cao Cao. Cao Ren, together with Shi Huan and some other officers later managed to launch a sneak attack at Yuan Shao’s food convoy, burning all of the army supplies.
After He Bei was pacified, Cao Ren followed Cao Cao to attack Hu Pass. Cao Cao passed down the order which said, “After the city falls, all of the occupants are to be buried alive”. The siege lasted for several months but the city would not fall. Cao Ren said to Cao Cao, “When a siege is conducted against a city, the occupants of the city must be shown a path to survival. Now that you have passed down the order that all of them must die, they will fight on to protect themselves. Besides, this city is well defended and their supplies are plentiful. If we launch an attack, we will suffer casualties. If we merely lay a siege and wait, it may last too many days. All in all, you have ordered your soldiers to lay siege to a well defended city which is guarded by occupants who are only shown the path to death. This is surely not a sound plan.” Cao Cao accepted Cao Ren’s suggestion and he withdrew his previous order. The city surrendered and Cao Ren was given the title of the Marquis of Du Ting (or Du Ting Hou) for all his merits in that battle.
Soon after, Cao Ren followed Cao Cao in the southern offensive at Jing province. Cao Cao conferred Cao Ren the rank of General who Conquered the South (Zheng Nan Jiang Jun) and Cao Ren was stationed at Jiang Ling in order to resist Zhou Yu of Wu. Zhou Yu led several tens of thousand troops to attack Jiang Ling and the vanguard of several thousands soldiers was near the city of Jiang Ling. Cao Ren mounted the city wall and looked afar for sights of the enemies. Seeing the arrival of the vanguard, Cao Ren proceeded to recruit some 300 soldiers and dispatched Niu Jin to lead them to battle. The enemies were overwhelming in numbers and the troops led by Niu Jin were few. Very soon, Niu Jin was surrounded by the enemies. Chen Qiao, the Chief Secretary (Chang Shi), stood on the city to observe the battle with some of the other officers. They were terrified when they saw Niu Jin's troops being engulfed by the enemies. On the contrary, Cao Ren's anger rose and he shouted for his horse. Seeing that, Chen Qiao and the rest of the officers appealed to Cao Ren, "The enemies are many! It's better to sacrifice the life of the few hundreds than to risk the life of the General!". Cao Ren refused to heed their words. Doning his armour, Cao Ren mounted his horse and handpicked tens of the fitter soldiers under his command and they rode out of the city. When the riders were near the city's moat (some hundred steps away from the enemies), Chen Qiao thought that Cao Ren would position himself there to rally Niu Jin's hard-pressed troops. To his surprise, the riders did not stop. Leading his riders, Cao Ren crossed the moat and dashed right into the enemies encirclement! Niu Jin was soon rescued out of the encirclement. However, some of Niu Jin's troops remained trapped inside. Instead of abandoning them, Cao Ren made repeated dashes to rescue them, killing numerous enemy soldiers along the way. The enemies were forced to retreat soon after. Seeing that Cao Ren had safely returned to the city while successfully rescued Niu Jin despite the overwhelming odds, Chen Qiao and the rest of the officers exclaimed,"The General indeed behaves like a God from the Heaven!". All the three armies were convinced of Cao Ren's courage. After that incident, Cao Cao valued Cao Ren even more and Cao Ren was given the title of Marquis of Ping An Ping An Ting Hou).
When Cao Cao launched an expedition against Ma Chao, Cao Ren was given the rank of General who Pacifies the West (An Xi Jiang Jun). Cao Ren led the rest of the officers to resist the enemies at Tong Pass and defeated Ma Chao’s army at Wei Nan. When Su Bo, Tian Yin and some others rebelled, Cao Ren was tasked to undertake the responsibility of General of the Strong Cavalry (Xiao Qi Jiang Jun) and to lead the seven armies against the rebels. Subsequently, the rebels were defeated. Following which, Cao Ren was once again given the responsibility of (note that this is different from being appointed, the word used here is Xing) the General who Conquers the South (Zheng Nan Jiang Jun). Cao Ren was given the Imperial Court Order (Fu Jie) and he was stationed at the city of Fan to defend Jing province. Later, Hou Yin rebelled at the city of Wan and he committed plunder against several thousands of common people living in the neighbouring counties. Cao Ren led his army and defeated Hou Yin. After executing Hou Yin, Cao Ren returned back to the city of Fan and he was formerly appointed as the General who Conquers the South (Zheng Nan Jiang Jun). Not long after, Guan Yu attacked the city of Fan and the Han river flooded its banks. As a result, Yu Jin and his seven armies were defeated and Yu Jin surrendered to Guan Yu. Cao Ren led some 1000+ soldiers to defend the city of Fan and the city was almost completely flooded by the river water. Guan Yu boarded the vessels and used them to attack the city. The city was surrounded several times and contact with the outside world was effectively cut off. The food supplies were also running out and the reinforcements had not arrived. Cao Ren rallied his soldiers and saying that he was willing to lay down his life to defend the city. His soldiers were greatly touched and none of them had any doubt anymore. By the time the reinforcement led by Xu Huang arrived, the river water had somewhat receded. Xu Huang attacked Guan Yu from the outside and Cao Ren managed to break free of the siege. Guan Yu was thus forced to retreat.
When Cao Ren was young, he was frivolous and ill-disciplined. However, when Cao Ren was made a General, he followed and discharged the laws of the State closely and he often placed the codes of conduct by his side. Before the Duke of Yan Ling, Cao Zhang, went on the northern expedition against the Wuwan tribes, The Scholarly Emperor (Cao Pi) wrote him a letter from the Eastern Palace, advising him, “As a General, shouldn’t one follow the laws of the State like the General who Conquers the South (referring to Cao Ren)?”. When Cao Pi became the King of Wei, he gave Cao Ren the rank of General of Chariots and Cavalry (Ju Qi Jiang Jun). Cao Ren was also assigned as the overall command of the military affairs that concerned the Jing, Yang and Yi provinces, and he was given the title of Marqius of Chen. In addition, 2000 households were conferred to Cao Ren, adding onto the previous number of 3500. Cao Ren’s father, Cao Chi, was also posthumously given the title of Marquis of Chen Mu (Chen Mu Hou) and ten families were relocated to look after Cao Chi’s tomb. Subsequently, Cao Ren was tasked to defend the city of Wan. Sun Quan sent Chen Shao to occupy Xiang Yang and the Scholarly Emperor dispatched Cao Ren to attack him. Cao Ren, together with Xu Huang, defeated Chen Shao and stationed their armies at Xiang Yang. Then, Cao Ren sent General Gao Qian to move the common folks residing at Han Nan to Han Bei. The Scholarly Emperor promptly sent a messenger to confer the title of the General-in-Chief (Da Jiang Jun) to Cao Ren. Cao Ren was later ordered to station at Lin Ying and given the appointment of Da Si Ma (one of the Three Excellencies, equivalent to Tai Wei but mutually exclusive, chief of the military) while being in charge of the armies guarding the River Wei Wu. Finally, Cao Ren was stationed at He Fei. In Huang Chu 4th Year (223 A.D.), Cao Ren passed away. He was given the posthumous title of Marquis of Loyalty. His son, Cao Tai, was his heir and Cao Tai held the rank of General who Suppress the East (Zhen Dong Jiang Jun) as well as the Imperial Court Order. Cao Tai was later given the title of Marquis of Ning Ling. When Cao Tai passed away, his son Cao Chu was made the heir. Cao Tai’s brothers, Cao Kai and Cao Fan were also given titles of Marquises. Niu Jin last held the rank of General of the Rear (Hou Jiang Jun).