An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

The Regional State of Cao 曹

Don't confound this regional state of the Zhou period with the Cao-Wei dynasty 曹魏 (220-265), one of the Three Kingdoms 三國 (220~280 CE).

Cao 曹 was a rather unimportant mid-sized regional state of the Zhou period 周 (11th cent.-221 BCE) with an unspectacular history (at least as far as historiography informs us).

Map 1. The regional state of Cao 曹 (11th cent. - 487 BCE)
Map according to Tan Qixiang 谭其骧 (1987), Zhongguo lishi ditu ji 中国历史地图集. Cao was located in the Yellow River Plain and was conquered by its neighbour, Song. Click to enlarge.

The first ruler of Cao was Cao Shu Zhenduo 曹叔振鐸, a brother of King Wu of Zhou 周武王. Earl You 曹幽伯 (r. 834-826) was killed by his younger brother, Earl Dai 曹戴伯 (r. 825-796). During the reign of Duke Gong 曹共公 (r. 652-618), Prince Chong'er 重耳 of Jin 晉 stayed in Cao and was not treated with the necessary respect. When he became duke of Jin (Duke Wen 晉文公, r. 636-628), he took revenge and attacked Cao. Duke Gong of Cao was captured and only released after a while.

Duke Cheng 曹成公 (r. 577-555) met the same fate and was taken prisoner by Jin for a while. Duke Dao 曹悼公 (r. 523-515) was taken prisoner by the state of Song 宋. When he was absent, his brother, Prince Ye 野, was enthroned as Duke Sheng 曹聲公 (r. 515-512). Duke Gong died in Song, but his corpse was transferred to Cao to be buried. Duke Sheng was assassinated by his uncle, who mounted the throne as Duke Yin 曹隱公 (r. 511-506). Duke Yin himself was killed by a brother of Duke Sheng, Duke Jing 曹靖公 (r. 505-502). These fratricidal phase was ended with Duke Jing's son, Prince Yang 陽, who was also the last ruler of Cao, known as Earl Yang 曹伯陽 (r. 501-487).

The history of Cao ends with a dream, in which only a certain Gongsun Qiang 公孫彊 would be able to save the state. Gongsun Qiang was a hunter, and because of the dream, he stood in high favour of Earl Yang. He suggested to the duke to become a hegemonial lord (ba 霸), and in the belief to be on the safer side, the Earl offended the ruler of Song and ignored to pay reverence to Jin. When the army of Song attacked, the duke of Jin refused to help Cao. The Earl and Gongsun Qiang were executed, and the dynasty was ended. Cao became part of Song.

Table 1. Rulers of the regional state of Cao 曹
Capital: Taoqiu 陶丘 (modern Dingtao 定陶, Shandong)
dynastic title personal name time
Cao Shu Zhenduo 曹叔振鐸 Ji Zhenyi 姬振鐸, brother of King Wu of Zhou 周武王
Cao Taibo 曹太伯 Ji Pi 姬脾
Cao Zhongjun 曹仲君 Ji Ping 姬平
Cao Gongbo 曹宮伯 Ji Hou 姬侯
Cao Xiaobo 曹孝伯 Ji Yun 姬雲
Cao Yibo 曹夷伯 Ji Xi 姬喜 865-835
Cao Youbo 曹幽伯 Ji Qiang 姬疆 835-826
Cao Daibo 曹戴伯 Ji Su 姬蘇 826-796
Cao Huibo 曹惠伯 Ji Zhi 姬雉 796-760
Cao Mugong 曹穆公 Ji Wu 姬武 760-757
Cao Huangong 曹桓公 Ji Zhongsheng 姬終生 757-702
Cao Zhuanggong 曹莊公 Ji Shegu 姬射姑 702-671
Cao Xigong 曹釐公 or 僖公 Ji Ji 姬羈 671-661
Cao Zhaogong 曹昭公 Ji Ban 姬班 661-653
Cao Gonggong 曹共公 Ji Xiang 姬襄 653-618
Cao Wengong 曹文公 Ji Shou 姬壽 618-595
Cao Xuangong 曹宣公 Ji Jiang 姬彊 595-578
Cao Chenggong 曹成公 Ji Fuchu 姬負芻 578-555
Cao Wugong 曹武公 Ji Sheng 姬勝 555-528
Cao Pinggong 曹平公 Ji Xu 姬須 528-524
Cao Daogong 曹悼公 Ji Wu 姬午 524-515
Cao Xianggong 曹襄公 or Shenggong 聲公 Ji Ye 姬野 515-512
Cao Yinggong 曹隱公 Ji Tong 姬通 512-506
Cao Jinggong 曹靖公 Ji Lu 姬露 506-502
Yang, Baron of Cao 曹伯陽 Ji Yang 姬陽 502-487
487 Cao conquered by Song 宋.
Shiji 史記, 35, Guan Cai [Cao] shijia 管蔡世家.