Cao Shuang


Cao Shuang

Chinese
t=曹爽
s=曹爽

Cao Shuang (died 249) was the son of Cao Zhen, a famous commander of the Kingdom of Wei during the Three Kingdoms period. He initially held great power in the kingdom of Wei as the Grand Commander but later, he lost his power to Sima Yi and was executed on charges of treason.

Around the new year of 239, when Cao Rui grew ill, he resolved to pass the throne to Cao Fang. He initially wanted to entrust Cao Fang to his uncle Cao Yu (曹宇), to serve as the lead regent, along with Xiahou Xian (夏侯獻), Cao Shuang, Cao Zhao (曹肇), and Qin Lang (秦朗). However, his trusted officials Liu Fang (劉放) and Sun Zi (孫資) were unfriendly with Xiahou and Cao Zhao and were apprehensive about their becoming regents, and managed to persuade him to make Cao Shuang (with whom they were friendly) and Sima Yi (who was then with his troops at Ji (汲縣, in modern Xinxiang, Henan) regents instead. Cao Yu, Cao Zhao, and Qin Lang were excluded from the regency. As a result, Cao Shuang rose to power. However, Cao Shuang was clearly inadequate for the important job assigned to him. When Cao Rui asked him if could do it, Cao Shuang was so nervous that he could not even say a word to answer and finally, it was Sima Yi answered for him, promising Cao Rui that they would do their best and Cao Rui would have nothing to worry about.

Despite his inability, Cao Shuang and his brothers, Cao Xi and Cao Xun wielded great power in the Kingdom of Wei, and he was often at conflict with Sima Yi, who had greater influence and support. In 243, Sima Yi's position further strengthened by another successful deployment: Zhuge Ke of Eastern Wu was constantly sending agents to Shouchun to prepare an invasion, so Sima Yi led Cao Wei forces to Shu county (舒县) of Lujiang Shire (庐江郡), near the border. Hearing the news, Sun Quan immediately ordered Zhuge Ke to withdraw to Chaisang County (柴桑县) Yuzhang Shire (豫章郡). Sima Yi's popularity and influence instantly multiplied as he was cheered as being able to scare away the enemy numbering over a hundred thousand without a fight and thus secured the border and saved the city from certain attack. Alarmed, Cao Shuang used his greater authority than Sima Yi, to persuade the emperor, Cao Fang, as a reward, to promote Sima Yi to the rank of Grand Tutor (太傅), which actually meant that Sima was in an honorary position and was left without any real authority in military affairs.

Cao Shuang was desperate for a victory to boost his own fame, and he selected Shu Han as his target. Leading an army numbering more than fourteen hundred thousand, Cao Shuang invaded Shu Han in March, 244. However, two months later, he was soundly defeated by Wang Ping and Fei Yi in the Battle of Xingshi, and was barely able to escape back to Guanzhong with his own life. The most devastating result, however, was that Cao Shuang lost more than twelve hundred thousand troops, or fifteen percent of the total armed troops of Cao Wei's eight hundred thousand army, a serious blow that could not be recovered. Furthermore, most of the lost troops were the crack units of Cao Wei. Cao Shuang's popularity and influence was dropped to a new low as his military defeat, while in the same time, Sima Yi's popularity and influence further increased for his opposition to the campaign from the start. To fool Cao Shuang into letting down his guard, Sima Yi stopped any political activities in May. 247 and later retired, and he would go further to pretend to be ill and senile. In the winter of 248, Cao Shuang's protege Li Sheng was named as the administrator of Jingzhou, and before he left for his position, Cao Shuang sent Li Sheng to check on Sima Yi. Cao Shuang and his followers overjoyed when Li reported that Sima Yi was indeed ill and dying, that he could not even hear clearly what he said.

Cao Shuang sensed that Sima Yi no longer posed a threat to him and drew his attention away from Sima. On January 6, 249, Cao Shuang and his brothers left the capital city to accompany the child emperor Cao Fang to pay respect to Cao Rui at his resting place at Gaoping Tomb (高平陵), and they continued to stay out on a hunting expedition. Sima Yi and his sons launched a coup d'etat and seized control of the capital city by first closing all the city gates. Sima then assigned his proteges to takeover the positions held by Cao Shuang's brothers after taking the armory: Excellency over the Masses (司徒) Gao Rou replaced Cao Shuang, and Imperial Herdsman (太仆) Wang Guan (王观) replaced Cao Xi to command the imperial bodyguards. Sima Yi went to see the Empress Dowager, requesting her to give an order to arrest Cao Shuang and his brothers on charges of treason.

Huan Fan, an advisor of Cao Shuang, escaped with the seal signifying the power of Grand Commander and brought it to Cao Shuang. Cao Shuang was in a dilemma, unsure whether to surrender his power or not. Cao Shuang's family and loved ones were in Sima Yi's control, and Sima Yi promised that Cao Shuang would not be harmed, as Sima was only after Cao's power. Eventually, Cao Shuang agreed to surrender and give up his power. On January 10, 249, Cao Shuang returned to Luoyang, the capital of Cao Wei and his fate was sealed. Once having gained power, Sima Yi had Cao Shuang and his brothers arrested on charges of treason, then had them executed. Sima Yi refused to take the position of Imperial Chancellor awarded to him, and remained as Grand Tutor (太傅).

ee also

*Three Kingdoms
*Personages of the Three Kingdoms
*"Records of Three Kingdoms"
*"Romance of the Three Kingdoms"


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