Incident at Gaoping Tombs

Incident at Gaoping Tombs

The Incident at Gaoping Tombs in 249 was a coup d'etat initiated by Sima Yi against the rival faction led by Cao Shuang in the court of Cao Wei during the Three Kingdoms period of China. The incident gave rise to the Sima family's power, and provided the foundation of the upcoming Jin Dynasty.


In 247, Cao Shuang and his associates introduced a number of administrative and legal changes to enhance the central power which they controlled. Sima Yi went into hiding by faking illness and ostensibly then retired from public life. In 249, Sima Yi decided that the reign of the weak Wei Emperors needed to stop and pulled a coup d’etat. While the emperor and Cao Shuang were on a visit to the Gaoping tombs outside Luoyang, Sima Yi with troops staged a coup d'etat, seized the cortège and massacred Cao Shuang and his sympathizers. Now, Wei was in the hands of the Sima family. Henceforth, Sima Yi was appointed as Prime Minister and received the Nine Dignities from Cao Fang. Sima Yi placed his sons Sima Zhao and Sima Shi in high positions and took away power or killed anyone who still supported the Cao Family. [ Comprehensive biography of Sima Yi] ] [ The Three Kingdoms and Western Jin A history of China in the Third Century AD Part 2: Rival Empires (220-265): Wei and the Sima family] ]

In "Romance of the Three Kingdoms"

In 239, Cao Rui fell ill and died, leaving matters of state to Sima Yi and Cao Shuang. Cao Shuang assigned Sima to a position with no power, and attempted to seize power for himself. Sima Yi and later his sons feigned illness and withdrew from public life as a ploy to lure Cao into false sense of security.

In 249, While Cao was away, Sima Yi with his sons and followers stormed the imperial court and made a protest against Cao to the emperor.Cao was stripped of power and soon executed. Effectively seizing power, Sima Yi now had the position of Prime Minister. After Sima Yi died in 252, his sons Sima Shi and Sima Zhao became high rank generals, and together held complete authority over Wei.Luo, Guanzhong "Romance of the Three Kingdoms"]


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