Biography (COB): Cao Zhen (Zidan)

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Cao Zhen (Zidan)Cao Zhen (Zidan)
曹真 (子丹)

Comprehensive Officer Biography
Translated & Authored by

Place of Birth: Qiao County, Pei Prefecture (Presently Bozhou city in Anhui Province)
Lifespan: AD 185 – 231 (46 Years)
Titles: General Who Guards the West, Great General, Commander-in-Chief, Impressive Lord, Lord of Dongxiang, Lord of the First Rank
Family: Cao Cao, Cao Chun, Cao Hong, Cao Pi, Cao Ren

According to history, Cao Zhen was the son of one of Lord Cao’s nephews; however Lord Cao treated him as if he were his own son (1). One time when he was out hunting with Lord Cao, a ferocious tiger appeared in the woods. Zidan skillfully killed the tiger with his bow and won the respect of his patron.

Henceforth, Cao Zhen followed Lord Cao in many battles and was appointed General Who is the Core of the Army and Commander of the Central Army, he was also titled Lord of Lingshou Precinct.

After the death of Xiahou Yuan in the twenty-fourth year of Rebuilt Tranquility (AD 219), Zidan was appointed General Who Conquers Shu. When Cao Pi ascended the throne as Emperor, Cao Zhen was promoted to General Who Guards the West and titled Lord of Dongxiang.

Two years later in AD 222, Cao Zhen was appointed Great General of the Upper Army and received orders to attack Sun Quan of Wu. After defeating the army of Wu, he was appointed Great General of the Central Army.

Later on, Zidan was appointed as Senior General and titled Impressive Lord. At Qishan, Cao Zhen had many military achievements against Zhuge Liang because of his assessment of military situations.

When Cao Rui succeeded his father as Emperor, he relied heavily on the experience of Cao Zhen and Sima Yi, and appointed Zidan as Great General. When Zhuge Liang led his northern campaigns against Wei, Cao Zhen was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Wei forces.

After the attack of Shu, Cao Zhen returned to Luo Yang because he was ill. Zidan died in the year AD 231 at the age of forty-six (2). Cao Zhen was posthumously titled Lord of the First Rank.

(1) As far as I can tell from SGZ, Cao Zhen’s father was named Shao. Cao Zhen’s SGZ bio says: “真父邵募徒眾” or “Zhen Fu Shao Mu Tu Zhong.” If my interpretation of the Chinese is incorrect, kindly email me. <return>

(2) Another story tells us that Zhuge Liang wrote a letter to Cao Zhen, summarizing all of the latter’s flaws. Cao Zhen became so enraged that his condition got worse and he could not recover from his illness. <return>

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Major Sources: Beifangshi - Han/Ming Professor E.Lin (1982 Beijing)