An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

The Regional State of Cao 曹

Nov 1, 2018 © Ulrich Theobald
Don't confound this regional state of the Zhou period with the Cao-Wei dynasty 曹魏 (220-265), one of the Three Empires 三國 (220~280 CE).

Cao 曹 was a rather unimportant mid-sized regional state of the Zhou period 周 (11th cent.-221 BCE) with an unspectacular history (at least as far as historiography informs us).

Map 1. The regional state of Cao 曹 (11th cent. - 487 BCE)
Map according to Tan Qixiang 谭其骧 (1987), Zhongguo lishi ditu ji 中国历史地图集. Cao was located in the Yellow River Plain and was conquered by its neighbour, Song. Click to enlarge.

The first ruler of Cao was Cao Shu Zhenduo 曹叔振鐸, a brother of King Wu of Zhou 周武王. The annals do not report a lot on the early history of the state of Cao.

Earl You 曹幽伯 (r. 834-826) was killed by his younger brother, Earl Dai 曹戴伯 (r. 825-796). During the reign of Duke Gong 曹共公 (r. 652-618), Prince Chong'er 重耳 of Jin 晉 stayed in Cao and was not treated with the necessary respect. When he became duke of Jin (Duke Wen 晉文公, r. 636-628), he took revenge and attacked Cao. Duke Gong of Cao was captured and only released after a while.

Duke Cheng 曹成公 (r. 577-555) met the same fate and was taken prisoner by Jin for a while. Duke Dao 曹悼公 (r. 523-515) was taken prisoner by the state of Song 宋. When he was absent, his brother, Prince Ye 野, was enthroned as Duke Sheng 曹聲公 (r. 515-512). Duke Gong died in Song, but his corpse was transferred to Cao to be buried. Duke Sheng was assassinated by his uncle, who mounted the throne as Duke Yin 曹隱公 (r. 511-506). Duke Yin himself was killed by a brother of Duke Sheng, Duke Jing 曹靖公 (r. 505-502). These fratricidal phase was ended by Duke Jing's son, Prince Yang 陽, who was also the last ruler of Cao, known as Earl Yang 曹伯陽 (r. 501-487).

The history of Cao ends with a dream of Earl Yang in which only a certain Gongsun Qiang 公孫彊 would be able to save the state. Gongsun Qiang was a hunter, and because of the dream, he stood in high favour of Earl Yang. He suggested to his lord to attempt becoming a hegemonial lord (ba 霸), and in the belief to be on the safer side, the Earl offended the ruler of Song and ignored to pay reverence to Jin. When the army of Song attacked, the duke of Jin refused to help Cao. The Earl and Gongsun Qiang were executed, and the dynasty was ended. Cao became part of Song.

Table 1. Rulers of the regional state of Cao 曹
Capital: Taoqiu 陶丘 (modern Dingtao 定陶, Shandong)
dynastic title personal name time
Zhenduo, Elder of Cao 曹叔振鐸 Ji Zhenyi 姬振鐸, brother of King Wu of Zhou 周武王
The Grand Earl of Cao
(Cao Taibo 曹太伯)
Ji Pi 姬脾
The Second-Elder Lord of Cao
(Cao Zhongjun 曹仲君)
Ji Ping 姬平
Earl Gong of Cao
(Cao Gongbo 曹宮伯)
Ji Hou 姬侯
Earl Xiao of Cao
(Cao Xiaobo 曹孝伯)
Ji Yun 姬雲
Earl Yi of Cao
(Cao Yibo 曹夷伯)
Ji Xi 姬喜 865-835
Earl You of Cao
(Cao Youbo 曹幽伯)
Ji Qiang 姬疆 835-826
Earl Dai of Cao
(Cao Daibo 曹戴伯)
Ji Su 姬蘇 826-796
Earl Hui of Cao
(Cao Huibo 曹惠伯)
Ji Zhi 姬雉 796-760
Duke Mu of Cao
(Cao Mugong 曹穆公)
Ji Wu 姬武 760-757
Duke Huan of Cao
(Cao Huangong 曹桓公)
Ji Zhongsheng 姬終生 757-702
Duke Zhuang of Cao
(Cao Zhuanggong 曹莊公)
Ji Shegu 姬射姑 702-671
Duke Xi of Cao
(Cao Xigong 曹釐公, 曹僖公)
Ji Ji 姬羈 671-661
Duke Zhao of Cao
(Cao Zhaogong 曹昭公)
Ji Ban 姬班 661-653
Duke Gong of Cao
(Cao Gonggong 曹共公)
Ji Xiang 姬襄 653-618
Duke Wen of Cao
(Cao Wengong 曹文公)
Ji Shou 姬壽 618-595
Duke Xuan of Cao
(Cao Xuangong 曹宣公)
Ji Jiang 姬彊 595-578
Duke Cheng of Cao
(Cao Chenggong 曹成公)
Ji Fuchu 姬負芻 578-555
Duke Wu of Cao
(Cao Wugong 曹武公)
Ji Sheng 姬勝 555-528
Duke Ping of Cao
(Cao Pinggong 曹平公)
Ji Xu 姬須 528-524
Duke Dao of Cao
(Cao Daogong 曹悼公)
Ji Wu 姬午 524-515
Duke Xian or Sheng of Cao
(Cao Xianggong 曹襄公, Cao Shenggong 曹聲公)
Ji Ye 姬野 515-512
Duke Yin of Cao
(Cao Yingong 曹隱公)
Ji Tong 姬通 512-506
Duke Jing of Cao
(Cao Jinggong 曹靖公)
Ji Lu 姬露 506-502
Yang, Earl of Cao 曹伯陽 Ji Yang 姬陽 502-487
487 Cao conquered by Song 宋.
Shiji 史記, 35, Guan Cai [Cao] shijia 管蔡世家.