The territories of Cao Wei (in yellow), 262 AD.
|Capital||Xuchang (220–226), Luoyang (226–266)|
|Common languages||Old Chinese|
|Religion||Taoism, Confucianism, Chinese folk religion|
|Historical era||Three Kingdoms|
• Abdication of Emperor Xian of Han
|11 December 220|
• Eastern Wu declaring independence from Wei
• Cao Wei conquers Shu Han
• Abdication of Cao Huan
|4 February 266|
|Currency||Chinese coin, Chinese cash (Wu Zhu)|
|Today part of|| China |
|Hanyu Pinyin||Cáo Wèi|
|History of China|
|Neolithic c. 8500 – c. 2070 BCE|
|Xia c. 2070 – c. 1600 BCE|
|Shang c. 1600 – c. 1046 BCE|
|Zhou c. 1046 – 256 BCE|
|Spring and Autumn|
|Qin 221–207 BCE|
|Han 202 BCE – 220 CE|
|Three Kingdoms 220–280|
|Wei , Shu and Wu|
|Eastern Jin||Sixteen Kingdoms|
| Northern and Southern dynasties |
|(Wu Zhou 690–705)|
| Five Dynasties and|
|Northern Song||Western Xia|
|Southern Song||Jin||Western Liao|
|Republic of China on mainland 1912–1949|
|People's Republic of China 1949–present|
|Republic of China on Taiwan 1949–present|
Wei (220–266), also known as Cao Wei or Former Wei,was one of the three major states that competed for supremacy over China in the Three Kingdoms period (220–280). With its capital initially located at Xuchang, and thereafter Luoyang, the state was established by Cao Pi in 220, based upon the foundations laid by his father, Cao Cao, towards the end of the Eastern Han dynasty. The name "Wei" first became associated with Cao Cao when he was named the Duke of Wei by the Eastern Han government in 213, and became the name of the state when Cao Pi proclaimed himself emperor in 220. Historians often add the prefix "Cao" to distinguish it from other Chinese states known as "Wei", such as Wei of the Warring States period and Northern Wei of the Northern and Southern dynasties. The authority of the ruling Cao family dramatically weakened in the aftermath of the deposal and execution of Cao Shuang and his siblings, the former being one of the regents for the third Wei emperor, Cao Fang, with state authority gradually falling into the hands of Sima Yi, another Wei regent, and his family, from 249 onwards. The last Wei emperors would remain largely as puppet rulers under the control of the Simas until Sima Yi's grandson, Sima Yan, forced the last Wei ruler, Cao Huan, to abdicate the throne and established the Jin dynasty.
Towards the end of the Eastern Han dynasty, northern China came under the control of Cao Cao, the chancellor to the last Han ruler, Emperor Xian. In 213, Emperor Xian granted Cao Cao the title of "Duke of Wei" (魏公) and gave him ten cities as his dukedom. The area was named "Wei". At that time, the southern part of China was divided into two areas controlled by two other warlords, Liu Bei and Sun Quan. In 216, Emperor Xian promoted Cao Cao to the status of a vassal king — "King of Wei (魏王)" — and granted him more territories.
Cao Cao died on 15 March 220 and his vassal king title was inherited by his son Cao Pi. Later that year, on 11 December, Cao Pi forced Emperor Xian to abdicate in his favour and took over the throne, establishing the state of Wei. However, Liu Bei immediately contested Cao Pi's claim to the Han throne and declared himself "Emperor of Shu Han" a year later. Sun Quan was nominally a vassal king under Wei, but he declared independence in 222 and eventually proclaimed himself "Emperor of Wu" in 229.
Cao Pi ruled for six years until his death in 226 and was succeeded by his son, Cao Rui, who ruled until his death in 239. Throughout the reigns of Cao Pi and Cao Rui, Wei had been fighting numerous wars with its two rival states — Shu and Wu.
Between 228 and 234, Zhuge Liang, the Shu chancellor and regent, led a series of five military campaigns to attack Wei's western borders (within present-day Gansu and Shaanxi), with the aim of conquering Chang'an, a strategic city which lay on the road to the Wei capital, Luoyang. The Shu invasions were repelled by the Wei armies led by the generals Cao Zhen, Sima Yi, Zhang He and others; Shu did not make any significant gains in the expeditions.
On its southern and eastern borders, Wei engaged Wu in a series of armed conflicts throughout the 220s and 230s, including the battles of Dongkou (222–223), Jiangling (223) and Shiting (228). However, most of the battles resulted in stalemate and neither side managed to significantly expand its territory.
After Guanqiu Jian failed to subjugate the Gongsun clan of the Liaodong Commandery,it was Sima Yi who, in June 238, as the Grand Commandant (太尉), launched an invasion with 40,000 troops at the behest of Emperor Cao Rui against Liaodong, which at this point had been firmly rooted under Gongsun control for 4 decades. After a three-month long siege, involving some assistance from the Goguryeo Kingdom, Sima Yi managed to capture the capital city of Xiangping, resulting in the conquest of the commandery by late September of the same year.
Around that time, as the Korean kingdom Goguryeo consolidated its power, it proceeded to conquer the territories on the Korean peninsula which were under Chinese rule.Goguryeo initiated the Goguryeo–Wei Wars in 242, trying to cut off Chinese access to its territories in Korea by attempting to take a Chinese fort. However, Wei responded by invading and defeated Goguryeo. Hwando was destroyed in revenge by Wei forces in 244. The invasions sent its king fleeing, and broke the tributary relationships between Goguryeo and the other tribes of Korea that formed much of Goguryeo's economy. Although the king evaded capture and eventually settled in a new capital, Goguryeo was reduced to such insignificance that for half a century there was no mention of the state in Chinese historical texts.
In 249, during the reign of Cao Rui's successor, Cao Fang, the regent Sima Yi seized state power from his co-regent, Cao Shuang, in a coup. This event marked the collapse of imperial authority in Wei, as Cao Fang's role had been reduced to a puppet ruler while Sima Yi wielded state power firmly in his hands. Wang Ling, a Wei general, tried to rebel against Sima Yi, but was swiftly dealt with, and took his own life. Sima Yi died on 7 September 251, passing on his authority to his eldest son, Sima Shi, who continued ruling as regent.
Sima Shi deposed Cao Fang in 254, on grounds of planning to stage a rebellion, and replaced him with Cao Mao. In response, Guanqiu Jian and Wen Qin staged a rebellion, but were crushed by Sima Shi in an event that nevertheless took a heavy toll on Sima Shi's health, having undergone eye surgery prior to the insurrection, causing him to die on 23 March 255, but not before handing his power and regency over to his younger brother, Sima Zhao.
In 258, Sima Zhao quelled Zhuge Dan's rebellion, marking an end to what are known as the Three Rebellions in Shouchun. In 260, Cao Mao attempted to seize back state power from Sima Zhao in a coup, but was killed by Cheng Ji, a military officer who was serving under Jia Chong, a subordinate to the Simas. After Cao Mao's death, Cao Huan was enthroned as the fifth ruler of Wei. However, Cao Huan was also a mere figurehead under Sima Zhao's control, much like his predecessor. In 263, Wei armies led by Zhong Hui and Deng Ai conquered Shu. Afterwards, Zhong Hui and former Shu general Jiang Wei grouped and plotted together in order to oust Sima Zhao from power, however, various Wei officials turned against them when it was found out that Jiang Wei had urged Zhong Hui to get rid of these officials before the planned coup. Sima Zhao himself received and finally accepted the nine bestowments and the title Duke of Jin in 263, and was further bestowed with the title King of Jin by Cao Huan in 264, but he died on 6 September 265, leaving the final step of usurpation up to his eldest son, Sima Yan.
On 4 February 266,Sima Zhao's son, Sima Yan, forced Cao Huan to abdicate in his favor, replacing Wei with the Jin dynasty on 8 February 266. Cao Huan himself was spared, though, and continued to live until 302, before dying.
The system of government in Wei inherited many aspects from that of the Eastern Han dynasty. During his reign, Cao Pi established two separate government bodies – the Central Inspectorate (中書監) and the Mobile Imperial Secretariat (行尚書臺) — to reduce the authority of the Imperial Secretariat (尚書臺) and consolidate the power of the central government.
During this time, the minister Chen Qun developed the nine-rank system for civil service nomination, which was adopted by later dynasties until it was superseded by the imperial examination system in the Sui dynasty.
Cao Pi felt that the Han dynasty collapsed because the Governors (州牧) of the various provinces wielded too much power and fell out of the control of the central government. He reduced the role of a Governor to that of an Inspector (刺史), and permitted the Inspectors to administer only civil affairs in their respective provinces, while military affairs were handled by military personnel based in regional offices or in the capital.
The kaishu style of Chinese calligraphy was developed at some time between the late Eastern Han dynasty and the Cao Wei dynasty, as well as the Jian'an poetry style. The first known master of the former was Zhong Yao, an official of Wei,of the latter; Cao Cao's son, Cao Zhi.
Since the beginning of the Cao Wei dynasty, finding their roots in Cao Cao's administrative influences, intellectual constraints were relaxed, leading to the formation of new groups of intellectuals, such as, for instance, the Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove. These freedoms were overturned by the time of the Jin dynasty (it was Sima Yi himself who associated with the orthodox Confucianists, who despised these new intellectual groups, and therefore were more willing to offer their support to the Sima clan).
According to the Book of Wei , the Cao family descended from the Yellow Emperor through his grandson Zhuanxu. They were of the same lineage as Emperor Shun. Another account says that the Cao family descended from Emperor Shun. This account was attacked by Chiang Chi, who claimed that those with the family name "Tian" descended from Shun, but not those surnamed "Cao". He also claimed that "Gui" (媯) was Emperor Shun's family name.
|Province||Commanderies and Kingdoms/Principalities|
|You||Fanyang (范陽), Dai (代), Yuyang (漁陽), Youbeiping (右北平), Liaoxi (遼西), Lelang (樂浪), Shanggu (上谷), Yan (principality) (燕國), Changli (昌黎), Xuantu (玄菟), Liaodong (遼東), Daifang (帶方)|
|Ji||Wei (魏), Yangping (陽平), Guangping (廣平), Qinghe (清河), Julu (鉅鹿), Zhao (principality) (趙國), Changshan (常山), Anping (安平), Pingyuan (平原), Leling (principality) (樂陵), Hejian (河間), Bohai (渤海), Zhongshan (principality) (中山國)|
|Qing||Chengyang (城陽), Donglai (東萊), Beihai (principality) (北海國), Qi (principality) (齊國), Le'an (樂安), Jinan (principality) (濟南國)|
|Bing||Shangdang (上黨), Xihe (西河), Taiyuan (太原), Leping (樂平), Xinxing (新興), Yanmen (雁門)|
|Si||Henan (河南尹), Hongnong (弘農), Henei (河內), Hedong (河東), Pingyang (平陽)|
|Yan||Taishan (泰山), Jibei (principality) (濟北國), Dongping (principality) (東平國), Dong (東), Rencheng (任城), Shanyang (山陽), Jiyin (濟陰), Chenliu (principality) (陳留國)|
|Xu||Dongguan (東莞), Langye (principality) (琅琊國), Donghai (principality) (東海國), Guangling (廣陵), Xiapi (下邳), Pengcheng (principality) (彭城國)|
|Yong||Jingzhao (京兆), Pingyi (馮翊), Fufeng (扶風), Beidi (北地), Xinping (新平), Anding (安定), Guangwei (廣魏), Tianshui (天水), Nan'an (南安), Longxi (隴西)|
|Yu||Chen (陳), Yingchuan (潁川), Runan (汝南), Liang (principality) (梁國), Pei (principality) (沛國), Qiao (譙), Lu (魯), Yiyang (弋陽), Anfeng (安豐)|
|Liang||Wuwei (武威), Jincheng (金城), Xiping (西平), Zhangye (張掖), Jiuquan (酒泉), Xihai (西海), Dunhuang (敦煌)|
|Yan||Huainan (淮南), Lujiang (廬江)|
|Jing||Jiangxia (江夏), Xiangyang (襄陽), Xincheng (新城), Nanyang (南陽), Nanxiang (南鄉), Shangyong (上庸), Weixing (魏興), Zhangling (Yiyang) (章陵 / 義陽)|
|Temple name||Posthumous name||Family name (in bold) and personal name||Reign||Era names and their year ranges||Notes|
| Cao Teng |
|(N/A)||(N/A)||Cao Teng's posthumous name was granted posthumously by Cao Rui.|
| Cao Song |
|(N/A)||(N/A)||Cao Song's posthumous name was granted posthumously by Cao Pi.|
| Cao Cao |
|216–220||(N/A)||Cao Cao's temple and posthumous names were granted posthumously by Cao Pi.|
| Cao Pi |
| Cao Rui |
|(N/A)||(N/A)|| Cao Fang |
|240–249||Cao Fang became "Prince of Qi" (齊王) after his dethronement. He was posthumously granted the title "Duke Li of Shaoling" (邵陵厲公) in the Western Jin dynasty.|
|(N/A)||(N/A)|| Cao Mao |
|254–260||Cao Mao was granted the posthumous name of "Duke of Gaogui" (高貴鄉公).|
| Cao Huan |
– - – - – = The dashed line denotes an adoption
The 230s decade ran from January 1, 230, to December 31, 239.
The Three Kingdoms from 220 to 280 AD was the tripartite division of China among the states of Wei, Shu, and Wu. The Three Kingdoms period started with the end of the Han dynasty and was followed by the Jin dynasty. The short-lived Yan kingdom in the Liaodong Peninsula, which lasted from 237 to 238, is sometimes considered as a "4th kingdom".
Gongsun Yuan, courtesy name Wenyi, was a warlord and vassal of the state of Cao Wei during the Three Kingdoms period of China. He rebelled against Wei in 237 and declared himself "King of Yan" (燕王). In 238, the Wei general Sima Yi led forces to Liaodong and successfully conquered Yan.
Cao Rui, courtesy name Yuanzhong, was the second emperor of the state of Cao Wei during the Three Kingdoms period. His parentage is in dispute: his mother, Lady Zhen, was Yuan Xi's wife, but she later remarried Cao Pi, the first ruler of Wei. Based on conflicting accounts of his age, Pei Songzhi calculated that, in order to be Cao Pi's son, Cao Rui could not have been 33 when he died as recorded, so the recorded age was in error; Lu Bi and Mou Guangsheng argued instead that Cao Rui was Yuan Xi's son.
Cao Huan (246–302), courtesy name Jingming, was the fifth and last emperor of the state of Cao Wei during the Three Kingdoms period. On 4 February 266, he abdicated the throne in favour of Sima Yan, and brought an end to the Wei regime. After his abdication, Cao Huan was granted the title "Prince of Chenliu" and held it until his death, after which he was posthumously honoured as "Emperor Yuan ".
Emperor Wu of Jin, personal name Sima Yan, courtesy name Anshi (安世), was the grandson of Sima Yi, nephew of Sima Shi and son of Sima Zhao. He became the first emperor of the Jin dynasty after forcing Cao Huan, last emperor of the state of Cao Wei, to abdicate to him. He reigned from 266 to 290, and after conquering the state of Eastern Wu in 280, was the emperor of a reunified China. Emperor Wu was also known for his extravagance and sensuality, especially after the unification of China; legends boasted of his incredible potency among ten thousand concubines.
Sima Yi, courtesy name Zhongda, was a Chinese military general, politician, and regent of the state of Cao Wei during the Three Kingdoms period of China.
Sima Zhao, courtesy name Zishang, was a Chinese military general, politician, and regent of the state of Cao Wei during the Three Kingdoms period of China.
Sima Shi, courtesy name Ziyuan, was a military general and regent of Cao Wei during the Three Kingdoms period of China. In 249, he assisted his father Sima Yi in overthrowing the emperor Cao Fang's regent Cao Shuang, allowing the Sima family to become paramount authority in the state, and he inherited his father's authority after his father's death in 251. He maintained a tight grip on the political scene and, when the emperor, Cao Fang, considered action against him in 254, had him deposed and replaced with his cousin, Cao Mao. This tight grip eventually allowed him to, at the time of his death in 255 after just having quelled a rebellion, transition his power to his younger brother, Sima Zhao, whose son Sima Yan eventually usurped the throne and established the Jin dynasty.
Empress Guo, personal name unknown, formally known as Empress Mingyuan, was an empress of the state of Cao Wei during the Three Kingdoms period of China. She was married to Cao Rui, the second ruler of Wei; she was his third wife and second empress. The limited information we have about her appears to portray her as an intelligent woman who fought hard to prevent her empire from falling into the hands of the Sima clan during the reigns of her adopted son Cao Fang and his cousin Cao Mao, but was unable to stem the tide.
Yang Hu, courtesy name Shuzi, was a military general, government official, and scholar who lived during the Jin dynasty of China. His advocacy for plans to conquer the rival state of Eastern Wu finally persuaded Emperor Wu to carry them out, but he did not live to see the plans implemented. He was known for his humility and foresight. Chen Shou, who wrote the Records of the Three Kingdoms, described him as a man of medium height with fine eyebrows and a beautiful beard.
Guanqiu Jian, courtesy name Zhonggong, was a military general of the state of Cao Wei during the Three Kingdoms period of China.
Sima Fu (180–272), courtesy name Shuda, was an imperial prince and statesman of the Jin dynasty of China. He previously served as an official in the state of Cao Wei during the Three Kingdoms period before his grandnephew, Sima Yan, usurped the Wei throne in 266 and established the Jin dynasty. Sima Guang, author of Zizhi Tongjian, claimed to be his descendant.
Wang Xiang (185–269), courtesy name Xiuzheng, was a Chinese politician who lived through the late Eastern Han dynasty (25–220), the Three Kingdoms period (220–280), and the early Western Jin dynasty (265–316) of China. He served among the highest positions in the government, including Minister of Works (司空) and Grand Commandant (太尉) in the Cao Wei state during the Three Kingdoms period, and Grand Protector (太保) during the Western Jin dynasty. He was also one of The Twenty-four Filial Exemplars.
The Three Rebellions in Shouchun were a series of revolts that occurred in the state of Cao Wei during the Three Kingdoms period. The rebellions broke out in the later years of Wei when the Sima clan, headed by Sima Yi, usurped state power. The military governors of Shouchun rose in revolt thrice in the name of a rebellion to oust the Sima clan from power. The respective leaders of the three rebellions were Wang Ling, Guanqiu Jian and Wen Qin, and Zhuge Dan. All the revolts were eventually suppressed.
Sima Yi's Liaodong campaign occurred in 238 CE during the Three Kingdoms period of Chinese history. Sima Yi, a general of the state of Cao Wei, led a force of 40,000 troops to attack the kingdom of Yan led by warlord Gongsun Yuan, whose clan had ruled independently from the central government for three generations in the northeastern territory of Liaodong. After a siege that lasted three months, Gongsun Yuan's headquarters fell to Sima Yi with assistance from Goguryeo, and many who served the Yan Kingdom were massacred. In addition to eliminating Wei's rival in the northeast, the acquisition of Liaodong as a result of the successful campaign allowed Wei contact with the non-Han peoples of Manchuria, the Korean Peninsula, and the Japanese archipelago. On the other hand, the war and the subsequent centralisation policies lessened the Chinese grip on the territory, which permitted a number of non-Han states to form in the area in later centuries.
Guanqiu Jian and Wen Qin's Rebellion, or the Second Rebellion in Shouchun, was a punitive uprising led by Guanqiu Jian and Wen Qin, two generals from the state of Cao Wei, against the regent Sima Shi and his clan. This was the second of a series of three rebellions that all took place in Shouchun in the 250s during the Three Kingdoms period in Chinese history.
The coup of Cao Mao was a coup d'état that occurred on 2 June 260 in Luoyang, the capital of the state of Cao Wei, during the Three Kingdoms period. Cao Mao, the nominal emperor of Wei, attempted to launch a coup to oust the regent Sima Zhao, who effectively controlled the Wei government. However, the coup concluded with Cao Mao's death and Sima Zhao retaining his status. Contrary to its intention, the coup actually increased the Sima clan's power and influence in Wei, thus providing a foundation for the eventual usurpation of the Wei throne in 266 by Sima Zhao's son Sima Yan, who founded the Western Jin Dynasty.
The Advisors Alliance is a 2017 Chinese two-part television series based on the life of Sima Yi, a government official and military general who lived in the late Eastern Han dynasty and Three Kingdoms period of China. The series starred Wu Xiubo as the main character, with Liu Tao, Li Chen, Janine Chang, Tang Yixin, Yu Hewei and Wang Luoyong playing supporting roles. The first part of the series started airing on Jiangsu TV and Anhui TV on 22 June 2017. The second part started airing on Youku on 8 December 2017.
The military history of the Jin dynasty encompasses the period of Chinese military activity from 266 AD to 420 AD. The Jin dynasty is usually divided into the Western and Eastern Jin eras. Western Jin lasted from its usurpation of Cao Wei in 266 to 316 when the Uprising of the Five Barbarians split the empire and created a number of barbarian states in the north. The Jin court fled to Jiankang, starting the era of Eastern Jin, which ended in 420 when it was usurped by Liu Yu, who founded the Liu Song dynasty.
Spring, first month (Feb. 15 – Mar. 15). The Emperor was about to come to Xu-chang when the south gate of Xu-chang collapsed from some unexplained cause. The Emperor was displeased at this and did not enter the city.
In the tenth month of 220 (November), various ministers proposed that Cao Pi replace Liu Xie as the emperor, citing various astrological signs. On November 25, Liu Xie performed various ceremonies in preparation for abdicating the throne. On December 11, Liu Xie formally abdicated the throne and Cao Pi ascended as the new emperor.
On 11 December Cao Cao's son and successor Cao Pi received the abdication of the Han Emperor and took the imperial title for himself, with a new reign period Huangchu "Yellow Beginning," named in honour of the new Power of Yellow and Earth which had been foretold should succeed to the Red and Fire of Han. (Cf. note 84 to Jian'an 24.)
When it was established, Wu had only one-sixth of the population of the Eastern Han Empire (Cao Wei held over two-thirds of the Han population).
In the eighth month of 221, Sun Quan sent ambassadors to Wei declaring himself a subject of Cao Pi’s state
Eighth month (Sept. 5 – Oct. 3). Sun Quan sent an envoy to declare himself the subject of the Wei
The Emperor sent a sealed edict to summon Gongsun Yuan. In the end, Gongsun Yuan arose in an armed rebellion, meeting Guanqiu Jian at Liaosui. It so happened that it rained for more than ten days and the water of Liaosui rose greatly. Guanqiu Jian fought him, but was unsuccessful and withdrew his troops to Youbeiping.
The Emperor summoned Sima Yi from Chang'an and had him lead an army of forty thousand men in a campaign against Liaodong.
On the day ren-wu (September 29), Xiangping fell. Gongsun Yuan and his son Gongsun Xiu, leading several hundred mounted men, got through the encirclement and fled towards the southeast. The large Wei forces instantly struck at them and killed Gongsun Yuan and his son on the Liangshui.
capital on the middle reaches of the Yalu near the modern Chinese town of Ji'an, calling it 'Hwando'. By developing both their iron weapons and their political organization, they had reached a stage where in the turmoil that accompanied the break-up of the Han empire they were able to threaten the Chinese colonies