Cao Hong

Cao Hong

Three Kingdoms infobox
Name=Cao Hong

Title= Military general
Kingdom=Cao Wei
Pinyin=Cáo Hóng
WG=Ts'ao Hung
Zi=Zǐlián (子廉)
Post=Loyal Marquis (恭侯)

Cao Hong (? - 233) was a general of Cao Wei during the Three Kingdoms era of China. He was a cousin of Cao Cao and served him from very early on.



Cao Hong's uncle Cao Ding, held a high position in the late Han court, and because of this connection, Cao Hong was given command of Qichun County (蘄春県) at a young age. In 190, Chen Wen (陳温), the governor of Yang province (揚州) pledged allegiance to Cao Cao, who had just raised an army of his own. Cao Hong was a close friend of Chen Wen, and together they joined Cao Cao. He became a general in Cao Cao's army along with Cao Ren, his brother.

During the campaign against Dong Zhuo, Cao Cao set out to attack Chenggao without much assistance, because other generals in the coalition were hesitant to engage Dong Zhuo's elite forces. Cao Cao's forces were intercepted in Xingyang, and were greatly defeated. Xu Rong, a general of Dong Zhuo's army, had injured Cao Cao and killed his horse. Cao Hong gave Cao Cao his horse and followed Cao Cao on foot. Both of them returned to their base safely.

In the Battle of Guandu, Cao Hong was responsible for guarding and maintaining the supply lines of Cao Cao's forces. His greatest accomplishment during that battle (in 202) was defending Cao Cao's supplies from the attack of Zhang He and Gao Lan after Cao Cao had burned the supplies of Yuan Shao's army at Wuchao.

In the battle for Hanzhong, in 219, Cao Hong was able to enlist the forces of the Di living in Yinping (陰平). Together with their leader Jiang Duan (強端), he defeated the invasion of Liu Bei's generals Wu Lan and Lei Tong and killed both of them. For this accomplishment, he was given the title of General who Defends the Capital (都護将軍).

Friction with others

Cao Hong had a tendency to take advantage of his previous accomplishments in order to further himself and his own position. As well as bragging about what he had done, he also was known to maliciously tease Cao Zhen, another cousin of Cao Cao, for being overweight. For this behavior, he was admonished by Yang Fu. Although Cao Hong's behavior bothered many in the Kingdom of Wei, Cao Cao compared him to Gaozu of Han, noting that in love of women and riches, they were the same.

When Cao Cao died and was succeeded by his son, Cao Pi, Cao Hong's position was put in danger. Years earlier, their relationship had been spoiled when Cao Pi requested a loan from Cao Hong but was outright refused. When Cao Cao was no longer alive to save him, Cao Pi took the opportunity to have Cao Hong arrested for a crime committed by one of his house guests. Only with the intercession of Empress Dowager Bian was his life spared, but all of Cao Hong's land, possessions, and titles were stripped. However, in 226, when Cao Pi died at the age of 41 and Cao Rui succeeded him as Emperor of Wei, Cao Hong was given titles of nobility and generalship again and was treated well for the remainder of his days. He died in 233.

He was posthumously awarded the title of Loyal Marquis (恭侯).

Cao Hong in "Romance of the Three Kingdoms"

In "Romance of the Three Kingdoms", an overly-romanticized account of the Three Kingdoms period, Cao Hong's role in the Battle of Tong Pass against Ma Chao is prominent. Cao Hong was instructed to guard Tong Pass for ten days at all costs, with strict orders from Cao Cao not to leave his fortifications. After being taunted by Ma Chao's troops for nine days, he gave in to his anger and led his troops out of the pass to do battle. He was soundly defeated, and on top of that the pass was taken by Ma Chao.

Cao Cao was greatly upset by this and ordered Cao Hong's execution but Cao Cao's advisors stopped him. However, very soon afterwards Cao Cao himself was defeated by Ma Chao, and was in danger of losing his life when Cao Hong came to his rescue and fought 100 passes with Ma Chao until losing strength and retreating. His life being saved, Cao Cao forgave Cao Hong's earlier defeat. There is no record of this incident in Records of Three Kingdoms, the official history text of the period written by Shu general, Chen Shou.


*Cao Ding (曹鼎) (uncle)
**Cao Xiu (曹休) (younger cousin, grandson of Cao Ding)
*Cao Yu (曹瑜) (uncle)
*Cao Fu (曹馥) (son)


This page is a rough translation of the Japanese version, re-arranged and re-formatted.

ee also

*Three Kingdoms
*"Romance of the Three Kingdoms"
*Kingdom of Wei
*Personages of the Three Kingdoms

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