Biography (SGZ): Cao Zhen (Zidan)

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Cao Zhen (Zidan)
曹真 (子丹)
Lived: AD ?–231

Sanguozhi Officer Biography
Pei Songzhi in Blue, Translator Notes in Green
Translated by Stephen So, The Historian

Cao Zhen, styled Zidan, was nephew of The Great Ancestor’s clan. When the Grand Ancestor raised his troops, Zhen’s father, Shao, was recruiting people but was killed in the region. (1) The Grand Ancestor grieved that Zhen was orphaned so young, adopted him raising him with his own sons, hence was together with Wendi (Cao Pi). Once out hunting, he was chased by a tiger, single handedly shot at the tiger, killing it. The Grand Ancestor was strengthen by his courage and made him head of the tiger and leopard riders. Took punitive actions against the bandits of Ling Qiu, and was conferred the title of Marquis of Lingshou Ting upon eradicating them. As Assistant General he led his troops to attacked Liu Bei’s general at Bian, defeated him and was hence made General of Zhong Jian (Zhong Jian Jiang Jun). He was then sent to Chang’an to lead the Central Leading Army. At the time, Xiahou Yuan had perished at Yangping, which was worrying the Grand Ancestor. [The Grand Ancestor] sent Cao Zhen in the capacity as Army Protector of the Punitive Force against Shu to supervise Xu Huang and the others, beating Liu Bei’s general Gao Xiang at Yangping. The Grand Ancestor having arrived at Hanzhong pulled out the army, sending Cao Zhen to Wudu to welcome Cao Hong and others on their return to encamp at Chencang. Wendi (Cao Pi) succeeded the kingship and made Cao Zhen General Who Suppresses the West, with the presented token of authority, Commander in Chief for all military affairs pertaining to Yongzhou and Liangzhou. In view of his records past and present, his title was upgraded to that of Marquis of Dong Xiang. Zhang Jin and others rebelled at Jiuquan, Cao Zhen sent Fei Yao to take punitive action against them and defeated them. Zhang Jin and the others were executed. In the third year of Huangchu [AD 222], he returned to the capital, was made The Great General of the First Army (Shang Jun Da Jiang Jun) supervising the various military affairs internally and externally, and presented with the ceremonial battle-axe (representation of military authority). With Xiahou Shang and others campaigned against Sun Quan, striking his encampment at Niuzhu and defeating him. He was reassigned and made The Great General of the Central Army (Zhong Jun Da Jiang Jun) with additional duties to do with central affairs. In the seventh year [of Huangchu] [AD 226], Wendi fell ill, Cao Zhen with Chen Qun, Sima Xuanwang (Sima Yi) and the others, received his will in the edict to assist in the affairs of the State. When Mingdi (Cao Rui) succeeded the throne, he upgraded his [Cao Zhen] title to that of the Marquis of Shaoling, (2)

1: [Yu Huan’s] Wei Lue: Cao Zhen’s original surname was Qin, but was later adopted into the Cao clan. One reason was that Cao Zhen’s father, Bonan, had been close to the Grand Ancestor since young. Towards the end of [the reign of] Xing Ping [AD 194–195], Yuan Shu’s band was attacking robbing the Grand Ancestor, the Grand Ancestor left and was pursued by bandits, running to the Qin family Bonan opened the door and invited him in. The bandits came asking for the whereabouts of The Grand Ancestor. He answered: “I am the person you are looking for.” And subsequently met with harm. Hence, the Grand Ancestor in remembrance of this meritorious deed changed his family name.

Wei Shu says: Shao was sincerely loyal and had ability and wisdom, and was the Grand Ancestor’s trusted confidant. In the beginning of [the reign of] Chu Ping [AD 190–195], the Grand Ancestor raised his soldiers of righteousness, while Shao recruited multitudes of people to join The Grand Ancestor’s banner. At that time, the Inspector (Ci Shi) of Yuzhou, Huang Wan, desired to harm the Grand Ancestor, but The Grand Ancestor avoided it and left only Shao alone meet with harm.

2: Your subject Pei Song’s notes: Cao Zhen’s father was named Shao. To confer him as Marquis of Shaoling, unless the books are wrong, this matter cannot be dealt with […] and was promoted to The Great General (Da Jiang Jun).

Zhuge Liang surrounded Qishan and the three commanderies of Nan An, Tian Shui, and An Ding rebelled to join Liang. The Emperor dispatched Cao Zhen to oversee the armies stationed at Mei, sending Zhang He to strike at Liang’s general, Ma Su, greatly defeating them. An Ding’s citizen Yang Tiao, and others forced the officers and people to protect the city of Yue Zhi, as Cao Zhen advanced his troops to surround them. Tiao said to the masses: “The Great General has come in person, I am willing to surrender to him immediately”, and subsequently had himself bound and went out to surrender. The three commanderies were thus pacified. Cao Zhen knew that having trounced [Zhuge] Liang at Qishan, his next attack would come via Chencang. So he dispatched general Hao Zhao and Wang Sheng to guard Chencang and administer the cities. In the spring of the following year, [Zhuge] Liang did indeed surround Chencang, as they were already well prepared, he was unable to breach their defences. [For his merits, Zhen’s] His fief was increased by another two thousand nine hundred households. In the fourth year [of Taihe] [AD 230], in the court of Luoyang, he was promoted to Grand Minister of War (Da Sima) and given the privilege of wearing his sword and shoes in as well as not being required to hurry quick stepped to Court. Zhen with “Shu has continuously invaded our borders, it is a must that we take punitive expeditions against them. Jointly attacking them via various routes we shall subdue them totally.” The Emperor accepted this proposal. When Cao Zhen was about to set off on his punitive expedition in the West, the Emperor personally came to see him off. In the eighth month, Zhen deployed the troops from Chang’an and entered the south via the Ziwu route. Sima Xuanwang travelled upstream via the Han River, meeting up at Nanzheng. Of the army one group entered via the Xie valley route while another entered via Wu Wei. However, there was thirty days of continuous heavy rain, causing the pathway by the mountain routes to be cut off, and Cao Zhen was recalled back with the army.

In his youth, Cao Zhen with fellow clansmen Cao Zun, and fellow villager Zhu Zan worked together for the Grand Ancestor. Zun and Zan both died early. Zhen lamented and pitied their passing, and asked to portion out part of his fief to conferred upon the sons of Zun and Zan. The edict read: “The Grand Minister of War (Da Sima) has benevolence to be like an uncle in bring up orphans. Sincerely he has continued to hold an ordinary desire to partition his fief to others. A gentleman grants that which is desired, it is accepted that Zhen’s partition is bestowed upon the sons of Zun and Zan as Marquis Within the Passes (Guan Nei Hou) each with an allotment of hundred households.” Whenever Cao Zhen went on campaigns, he toiled together with his men. When rewards for the army was not sufficient, he would always with the riches from his own house reward them again, and the men were all willing to be of use. Cao Zhen fell sick and returned to Luoyang. The Emperor came personally to inquire about his health. When Cao Zhen passed away, he was posthumously conferred as the Marquis of Yuan, which was inherited by his son Shuang. The Emperor in consideration of Cao Zhen’s various achievements, issued an edict reading: “The Grand Minister of War was always loyal, serving two generations of our ancestors. Internally, he did not relied on being the favourite of relatives. Externally, neither was he arrogant towards people from foreign lands. It is commendable that he maintained his position despite his conferred surpluses, being hardworking and modest was just some of his virtues. Thus all of his five sons, Xi, Xun, Ze, Yan, and Ai are conferred as Marquises (Lie Hou).” Earlier, Wendi conferred two hundred households to Zhen, conferring upon his brother, Bin, as a Enumerated Marquis.

Copyright © ~2000 Stephen So, The Historian. All Rights Reserved.
Translated from Chen Shou’s Sanguozhi with Pei Songzhi’s Commentary