An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Emperor Cao Mao 曹髦

Jan 4, 2012 © Ulrich Theobald

Cao Mao 曹髦 (r. 254-260 CE), courtesy name Cao Yanshi 曹彦士, was a ruler of the Cao-Wei dynasty 曹魏 (220-265). He was a grandson of Emperor Wen and a son of Cao Lin 曹霖, Prince Ding of Donghai 東海定王.

He was in 244 given the title of Township Duke of Gaogui 高貴鄉公 in the district of Tan 郯縣 (modern Tancheng 郯城, Shandong). In 254 the regent Sima Shi 司馬師 deposed Emperor Cao Fang 曹芳 (r. 239-254) and enthroned Cao Mao who was at that time only 14 sui old.

In 255 the regional inspector (cishi 刺史) of Yangzhou 揚州 Wen Qin 文欽 and General Guanqiu Jian 毌丘儉 rose in rebellion against the powerful regent Sima Shi, but the rebellion was put down. In the same year Sima Shi died and was replaced by his younger brother Sima Zhao 司馬昭 as General-in-chief and regent. In 257 Minister of Works (sikong 司空) Zhuge Dan 諸葛誕 tried to remove Sima Zhao from power, but the mighty regent kidnapped the emperor and the Empress Dowager and defeated Zhuge Dan.

This was the last rebellion against the Sima family. Cao Mao thereupon tried to get rid of the regent by himself, but he was not able to find a larger loyalty. He was defeated and killed. Sima Zhao thereupon forced the Empress Dowager to proclaim the official deposition of Cao Mao, so that he was buried on an ordinary graveyard near the capital. He was therefore not bestowed a posthumous title of a sovereign. Sima Zhao enthroned another young prince, Cao Huan 曹奂, as emperor of the Wei.

Chen Quanli 陳全力, Hou Xinyi 侯欣一, eds. (1988). Diwang cidian 帝王辭典 (Xi'an: Shaanxi renmin jiaoyu chubanshe), 53.