Biography (SGZ): Cao Chong (Cangshu)

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Cao Chong (Cangshu)
曹沖 (倉舒)
(AD 195-208)

San Guo Zhi Officer Biography
Pei Songzhi in Blue, Translator Notes in Green
Translated by jiuwan (Giao Chau)

The Prince of Deng Ai was Cao Chong style Cangshu (I). At the young age of five to six years old, he was clever and quick-witted. His wisdom and thoughts were extensive, it was like that of an adult.

I: Cao Chong’s mother was Lady Huan. She gave birth to Cao Chong, Prince of Peng Cheng—Cao Ju, and Prince of Yan—Cao Yu.

Once, Sun Quan paid tribute [to Cao Cao] by presenting a huge elephant. The High Ancestor [Cao Cao] wanted to know how much the elephant weighed, so he inquired into the crowd [around him]. The present crowd of people could not produce a viable solution. Cao Chong spoke thus: “Place the elephant onto the ship. Carefully mark the water’s level. Weighing a substance’s weight can then easily then be deduced.” [Cao Cao] was greatly pleased by this, and quickly departed afterwards.

There were many matters in a militaristic kingdom, the punishments were strict and severe. [Cao Cao’s] horse saddle was in the stable where rats had gnawed away at it. The stable manager [upon viewing the saddle] feared that he would surely die. He feared that he wouldn’t be spared so he was ready to accept the punishment. Cao Chong told him: “Wait three days, everything will be as it was.” Cao Chong then proceeded to take a knife and shred his clothes as if the rats had gnawed away at it. He pretended to be very distressed. [Cao Cao] inquired into this matter, to which Cao Chong replied thus, “In this world it is considered that when rats gnaw away at one’s clothes and ruin them, it is considered a bad omen and unlucky for the owner. Now my clothes are ruined, just like the omen [so it’s going to be bad for me].” [Cao Cao] reassured his son, “These are merely foolish words, they won’t harm you.” The stable manager was then brought in and tell of the news of the horse saddle. [Cao Cao] laughed out and said, “My son’s clothes are like this, and the saddle is like that?” Nothing was further questioned.

Cao Chong’s benevolence and humane kindness, recognizable intelligence was seen by all to be in a different category. Those guilty of a crime could depend on Cao Chong to distinguish logic, several have been helped to gain pardon (1). [Cao Cao] has expressed desires to his ministers of the inheritance [to Cao Chong, naming him the successor to Cao Cao]. At the age of thirteen in the thirteenth year of Rebuilt Tranquility (Jian An) [AD 208], [Cao Chong] died of sickness (II). [Cao Cao] tried to have saved but his son died, bringing him great sadness. The Literary Emperor [Cao Pi] tried to console him, but [Cao Cao] replied thus: “This is unfortunate for me, but fortunate for you.” (2). Afterwards, [Cao Chong was posthumously] married to the clan of Zhen’s deceased daughter and they were buried together. He was bestowed a title of Chief Commandant of the Cavalry (ji du wei), and Marquis Ming Wan.

1: According to the book of Wei (Wei Shu): Each time that Cao Chong sees an accused person, he would carefully examine the grievance done upon them. He would obtain for them pardon if they were wrongfully accused and would often report it to [Cao Cao]. [Cao Chong’s] benevolence and humane kindness was distinguishable; it was in his nature. His appearance was handsome, special among the masses. Pei Song Zhi’s annotations: Your servant, Song Zhi thinks ‘his appearance was handsome’ is a kind word; split in three, most likely one of sickness.
II: From Hua Tuo’s Sanguozhi bio (SGZ scroll 29: Book of Wei 29): Cao Chong died shortly after Hua Tuo was sentenced to death by Cao Cao. Cao Cao in anguished cried out: “I regret putting Hua Tuo to death. In doing so I have condemned my son to death!” More on the circumstances of Hua Tuo’s death and Cao Cao can be found in Hua Tuo’s SGZ bio.
2: According to Sun Cheng, he says: The Spring and Autumn’s rightful conduct is the inheritance should be given to the elder, not the able. Even though Cao Chong survives it is not proper to be named heir apparent. Now that he isn’t even alive what more needs to be said? A poem reads: ‘Don’t speak rashly’. [Cao Cao] had this idea.

In the twenty-second year [AD 217], bestowed Marquis of Deng. In the second year of Huang Chu [AD 221], Cao Chong was posthumously given the title of Marquis of Deng Ai, with an additional title of Duke added on afterwards (3). In the third year [AD 222] an additional feudal title was bestowed upon Cao Chong—Duke Guan Jun. In the fourth year [AD 223] bestowed Duke Ji Shi. In the fifth year of Tai He [AD 231], added onto Cao Chong’s title was Prince of Deng Ai. In the first year of Jing Chu [AD 237], 琮坐於中尚方作禁物; a decrease of three hundred households, feudal rank was degraded to Marquis of Du Xiang. In the third year [AD 239], [Cao Chong] was restored to the rank of Duke of Ji Shi. In the seventh year of Zheng Shi [AD 246] the rank was changed to Duke of Ping Yang. Jing Chu, Zheng Yuan, Jing Yuan Zhong (V), increase/decrease, a combined total of one thousand nine hundred households.

3: According to Wei Shu Zai Ce: “In the second year Huang Chu, the eight month, third noon [afternoon, September of AD 221]; the Emperor said: ‘咨爾 the Marquis of Deng Ai, Cao Chong; formerly the Imperial Heaven has beauty in person’s body; the wise and clever in talent; finishing in a year of weaken state. Eternal enjoyment and blessing? 克成厥終. Why isn’t there prosperity to enjoy, why die so young! Zhen have received the Heaven’s Mandate, enjoying the Four Seas, side by side with the relatives, in a royal palace, 惟爾不逮斯榮, 且葬 禮未備 (III). In my bosom I grieve and lament, broken hearted and wounded. This transfer to a higher ground for burial, 使使 持節兼謁者僕射郎中陳承; furthermore, I bestow upon you the title of Duke of Deng, 祠以太牢. Let your spirit rest in the spirtual world. I mourn for you!’”

III: In Wei Shu Zai Ce, the Emperor was basically praising Cao Chong’s talents and how he died young. Cao Pi was lamented at his loss. I’m not sure how to translate the whole passage; I only did bits and pieces.

‘Zhen’ in Chinese is a special term reserved for the Emperor to use to address himself. It is another pronoun for the word ‘I’. Basically when the one says this sentence—“I will attack”, the pronoun of ‘I’ is used to address one’s self. When the emperor says the exact same sentence, he will instead say, “Zhen will attack”. Both will mean the exact same thing, difference is one is a special term the emperor uses.

According to Wei Lue: The Literary Emperor [Cao Pi] would often say: “The family’s elder is upright and exhibits filial piety, that is his duty. If Cang Shu [referring to Cao Chong] were still alive then I would not have All under Heaven.” (IV)

IV: There is also another possible meaning to this passage. When Cao Pi referred to the family elder, he could have been talking about himself or Cao Ang who is his elder. In Cao Pi’s ‘family’, he is the oldest. Empress Bian gave birth to him, Cao Zhang, Cao Zhi and Cao Xiong. But in Cao Cao’s ‘family’, Cao Ang was the oldest of all 25 sons. If the second meaning to the passage is correct then it would read: The Literary Emperor would often say: “The family’s elder [Cao Ang] is upright and exhibits filial piety. Then we split apart. If Cang Shu were still alive then I would not have All under Heaven.” Either way, Cao Pi would not have the throne.
V: The three names: Jing Chu, Zheng Yuan and Jing Yuan Zhong were all Wei reign style names. Jing Chu encompasses the years AD 237 until AD 240 where the reign style was changed to Zheng Shi. Zheng Yuan was from the years AD 254 until AD 256 where the reign style was changed to Gan Lu. Jing Yuan Zhong simple refers to the middle of the Jing Yuan reign that is from AD 260 to AD 264 where the reign style was changed to Xian Xi. So the middle of Jing Yuan would be around the year AD 262.

Copyright © 2004 jiuwan (Giao Chau)
Translated from Chen Shou’s Sanguozhi with Pei Songzhi’s annotations