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Cao Ren 曹仁 and Cao Chun 曹純

Oct 29, 2015 © Ulrich Theobald

Cao Ren 曹仁 (168-223), courtesy name Zixiao 子孝, was a military commander of the early Three Kingdoms period 三國 (220-280), and a paternal cousin of the famous warlord Cao Cao 曹操.

He hailed from Qiao 譙 in the princedom of Pei 沛國 (modern Boxian 亳縣, Anhui). Interested in martial arts, he began to assemble young man in his own army during the reign of Emperor Xian 漢獻帝 (r. 189-220) of the Later Han dynasty 後漢 (25-220 CE). Cao Cao entrusted him with a separate command over cavalry troops, and made him *fierce commander of cavalry (fengxiaowei 鋒校尉). Cao Ren took part in the campaigns against Yuan Shu 袁術, Tao Qian 陶謙, Lü Bu 呂布 and Zhang Xiu 張繡, and earned laurels in the suppression of the Yellow Turban rebellion 黃巾起意.

He received the fleeing emperor in Xu 許, the seat of the warlord Cao Cao, and was appointed governor (taishou 太守) of the commandery of Guangyang 廣陽, but Cao Cao preferred to keep him at his side, as *court gentleman for consultation acting as commandant of cavalry (yilang duqi 議郎都騎).

During the battle of Guandu 官渡 he crushed the armies of Liu Bei 劉備 and Han Xun 韓荀, and managed — together with Shi Huan 史渙 — to burn the logistics train of Yuan Shao 袁紹.

After the battle of Huguan 壺關 he was given the title of neighbourhood marquis (tinghou 亭侯) of Du 都. Thereafter he was entrusted with the southern campaign, secured the heartland of the province of Jingzhou 荊州, and held Jiangling 江陵 against the attacks of Zhou Yu 周瑜, a general of the warlord Sun Quan 孫權. For these merits, he was given the title of neighbourhood marquis of Anping 安平.

During the campaign against Ma Chao 馬超 he was given the title of General Appeasing the West (anxi jiangjun 安西將軍). He took the Tongguan Pass 潼關 and defeated Ma Chao at Weinan 渭南. In a second campaign into central China he again withstood the attacks of the southeastern warlord Sun Quan, and garrisoned his troops in Fan 樊. This place was besieged by Guan Yu 關羽, and Cao Ren's troops nearly starved, but stubbornly defended the place. Xu Huang 徐晃 finally arrived with his relief army and liberated the besieged troops of Cao.

When Cao Pi 曹丕 (Emperor Wen of Wei 魏文帝, r. 220-226) adopted the title of emperor, he made Cao Ren chariot-and-horse general (cheji jiangjun 車騎將軍), and entrusted him with the supreme command of all troops in the provinces of Jingzhou, Yangzhou 揚州 and Yizhou 益州. Xu Huang and Cao Ren conquered the city of Xiangyang 襄陽, where Sun Quan's general Chen Shao 陳邵 was lying entrenched. Cao Ren was rewarded with the title of General-in-chief (da jiangjun 大將軍), and then made commander-in-chief (da sima 大司馬). His posthumous title is Marquis Zhong of Anping 安平忠侯.

Zhang Shunhui 張舜徽, ed. (1992). Sanguozhi cidian 三國志辭典 (Jinan: Shandong jiaoyu chubanshe), 404.

Cao Chun 曹純 (d. 210 CE), courtesy name Zihe 子和, was a commander of the warlord Cao Cao 曹操, and a younger brother of Cao Ren 曹仁. His earliest title was that of gentleman attendant at the palace gate (huangmen shilang 黃門侍郎). As a young man he took part in Cao Cao's campaigns, whom he gave advice in the function of court gentleman for consultation in matters of the Minister of Works (yilang can sikong 議郎參司空).

Cao Chun earned his first laurels as commander of the Tiger-and-Panther Guard (hubaoqi 虎豹騎) and conquered Nanpi 南皮, where his troops killed Yuan Tan 袁譚, the oldest son of the warlord Yuan Shao 袁紹. A next mission entrusted to him lead him into the northern fringes of China, where he captured Tadun 蹹頓, khan of the Wuhuan 烏桓. He was rewarded with the title of Neighbourhood Marquis Gaoling 高陵亭侯.

In the course of a southern campaign, Cao Chun captured two daughters of the warlord Liu Bei 劉備 during the battle of Changban 長坂. After the conquest of Jiangling 江陵, he returned to his home town Qiao 譙. When Cao Pi (Emperor Wen of Wei 魏文帝, r. 220-226) proclaimed himself emperor, he bestowed to Cao Chun the posthumous title of Marquis Wei 高陵威侯.

Zhang Shunhui 張舜徽, ed. (1992). Sanguozhi cidian 三國志辭典 (Jinan: Shandong jiaoyu chubanshe), 406.