Cao Cao is the leader of Wei and Cao Pi's father and Xiahou Dun, Xiahou Yuan, and Cao Ren's relative (usually seen as cousins). Nicknamed "Hero of Chaos", he is willing to fulfill his ambition through any means necessary. He's a very controversial figure in Asian history as historians find it difficult to judge the morals behind his actions.
In Dynasty Warriors Online, he is 36 years old and his height is 174 cm (5'8 1/2").
while serving Cao Cao you will gain
Peace + 10
Musou + 15
Cao Cao is seen as a cunning yet feared man. Relentless in his desire to end the land's chaos, he will use any means to achieve his plans, even if it makes him an enemy to the other kingdoms. Fuelled by his ambition to rule the land, he believes his rule to be predestined and is undeterred when Shu or Wu call him a traitor to the Han Empire. However, he also has a fierce temper and will often scold his men's incompetence if the battle goes badly for him.
Caring little about status or olden traditions, he judges men solely based on their achievements and skill (often referring to his skilled officers as "talent"). Belying his bad reputation, he treasures his retainers and will treat them with generosity. He's particularly close to Xiahou Dun, as they seem to instinctively understand one another. Many of his retainers admire his integrity and swear to never abandon him. He respects his son and is confident that Cao Pi will one day be his able successor.
His personality in Kessen II is similar yet slightly different from his Dynasty Warriors counterpart. He's depicted as a ruthless tyrant with "a heart of ice". Harshly changed by war and forced to suppress his emotions, he's arrogant in his rightful rule with the Mandate of Heaven. However, he privately mourns losing his mother from a young age and truly wishes to make a world of peace. Meeting Diao Chan and learning his relation with his rival helps him overcome his warmongering bravado.
The swords famed to have been wielded by Cao Cao in the novel appear in both Dynasty Warriors and Romance of the Three Kingdoms. The one he had by his side, the Heavenly Sword, acts as his third, fourth, and Standard weapons in Dynasty Warriors. Treasured by Cao Cao, its name means to "cut through" the heavens and it could slice through solid rocks with ease. Its counterpart is literally translated as "Blue Band", but it is sometimes known as "Sword of Light". Cao Cao wields the blade himself in the games as his Strength weapon. In the novel, he left it in the care of Xiahou En. When he heard Zhao Yun had ran off with it, Cao Cao immediately wanted the valorous warrior to be captured and brought to his side.
Cao Cao's fourth weapon is often named after "the villainy or cruelty of heaven" in English ports, referencing to how in most of the works Cao Cao appears in states "that heaven is on his side", usually during the times where Cao Cao is spared after humiliating and crushing defeats with a sudden momentum shift.
His Skill weapon, the Seven Star Sword, is a long sword of legend said to be engraved with the mythical Big Dipper constellation. Just as how the constellation is said to protect highest power of the universe, the sword is fabled to do the same for the land. It has the power to mystically guard a nation's prosperity and ward off any enemies. The particular star set in the center of the formation is associated as a fierce commander's star, which implies the sword additionally has the power to guarantee victory from any battle. In the novel, Cao Cao tried to use the sword's reputation to assassinate Dong Zhuo.
Cao Cao's personal item in the Asian ports of Warriors Orochi is the "New Book of Mengde" (Mengde being his style name). In order to educate his followers in the novel, Cao Cao authored the book for them while taking inspiration from the Art of War. While the intentions seemed righteous, the narrative twists it to instead be just another pompous act of Cao Cao's authority. Its existence caused him to look foolish in an incident when Zhang Song, who was angered by Cao Cao's rejection, instantly recited the book's contents on the spot. Upset by his own writings being used against him, Cao Cao ordered for Zhang Song to suffer one hundred whippings and for his work to be incinerated. The book in the novel is said to be roughly based on Cao Cao's actual notes on the Art of War, a compilation which is commonly titled Emperor of Wei's Annotation of Art of War. The main difference between the two books is that the historical text is actually praised and still being used today.
"Lord, your clear-thinking is superior to Yuan Shao. Your daring is superior to Yuan Shao. Your ways of employing men is superior to Yuan Shao. Your decisiveness is superior to Yuan Shao."
―Jia Xu at the Battle of Guan Du.
Cao Cao was technically born to the Xiahou family, but his father was adopted into the Cao family so Cao Cao name stayed with the latter. This makes him related to two of his most trusted generals, Xiahou Dun and Xiahou Yuan. He was a handful growing up as he was very cunning and mischievous. He had a passion for hunting and the arts as a child and his childhood friend was Yuan Shao (whom who he would later become enemies with). He was said to be kind and fair.
Rise to Power
Cao Cao was given a post in now days would equivalent to the police force in the capital Luoyang when he was older, and did not discriminate as to punishments. Once when a high ranking minister broke the curfew he gave him 50 lashes, this troubled the ministers enough that they "Promoted" him to get him out that post. Cao did little noteworthy after which until the Yellow Turban where he proved himself as a general and given a high post. From this post he spoke out against Dong Zhuo when he usurped the throne. He joined the coalition against Dong Zhuo and supported Yuan Shao leading the coalition. Although they failed Dong Zhou was killed by Lu Bu. In the chaos in the capital Cao convinced the emperor to come to Xu Chang under his control. This gave Cao Cao considerable influence in the courts. He thought Yuan Shao to be a good adviser to the Han and tried to put him in that post. This infuriated Yuan Shao as the post was actually lower than his current post. Cao Cao appeased him by giving his title.
Cao Cao was fairly quiet for the next few years till Lu Bu chased Liu Bei out his city. At this, Cao Cao drove an army to Xia Pi and besieged Lu Bu's forces, diverting the nearby river to flood the city. After Lu Bu was captured by his own men, the warrior attempted to sweet talk Cao Cao into letting him join his army, claiming that together, they could easily conquer all of China. Cao Cao, always on the lookout for powerful recruits, almost accepted Lu Bu's offer, but Liu Bei reminded Cao Cao that Lu Bu had betrayed and murdered his several previous masters, so Cao Cao had Lu Bu executed as a precaution. Liu Bei stayed with Cao Cao a while but tensions strained and he left. Later on Yuan Shao raised a massive army to Guan Du to retake the emperor. Although they overwhelmed Cao Cao's army in numbers, Yuan Shao ignored good advise and they defected to Cao Cao and told him how to defeat Yuan Shao. Cao listened to their advise and burned Yuan Shao's supplies then chased his army down. Yuan Shao died shortly afterward and Cao Cao extinguished what was left of his army. Cao Cao then expanded his territory south, fear making it so that military action was unnecessary.
Conflict with the Three Kingdoms
Inflamed by arrogance he started his army into a navy and went south to conquer Wu at Red Cliffs. However do to his arrogance in numbers he was careless and lost spectacularly, wiping out his navy virtually. It was a while before he himself could admit this defeat. A few years after the battle, he was shaken by the news of Liu Bei gaining land as he saw him as a man with potential. Both admired and rejected each other. He would have continued strife and skirmishes with both kingdoms mostly small scale rather than huge battle. In 216, Cao Cao took the title "Prince of Wei", named so after the districts he governed.
Historically, Cao Cao died in 220 from a severe stroke (thought to be a tumor due to his odd behavior and shaking). There are other ideas of how he died, including the influence of the mystic Zuo Ci. After his death, Cao Cao became part of the Chinese equivalent of the western phrase "Speak of the Devil" ("Speak of Cao Cao, and thus Cao Cao appears"). He governed the Wei district but wasn't a ruler of a kingdom. He was named as such posthumously.
Romance of the Three Kingdoms
"In peace you are an able subject, in chaos you are a crafty hero."
―An apprehending of Cao Cao by Xu Shao.
Cao Cao, in his youthful years, loved the hunt and song and dance. His father, Xiahou Song, was a descendant of the Xiahou bloodline, but was adopted by the Eunuch Cao Teng, and thus, Xiahou Song became Cao Song. Cao Cao was said to be extremely clever, as well as scheming and wild. His uncle, enraged at his nephew's constant antics, complained to Cao Song, who reprimanded his son. The next time Cao Cao saw his uncle, he pretended to be in a fit. The uncle, terrified, reported what happened to Cao Song, who rushed to his son only to find him calmly normal. Cao Song asked Cao Cao what was wrong and he responded, "Nothing of the sort ever happened. My uncle accuses me of everything because I have lost favor with him." Cao Song believed his son, and from then on ignored his brother's claims, leaving Cao Cao to do as he pleased, and grew up uncontrolled.
Around this time, a man by the name of Qiao Xuan said to Cao Cao, "The empire is near ruin only by a man capable of dominating the age. You could be the one." Throughout his youthful years, Cao Cao received much more praise. Another man, He Yu, said, "The house of Han is going to fall. Yet I feel certain this is the man to steady the realm." Cao Cao sought a reading from Xu Shao in Ru Nan, who was known for his insight into one's human character. "What manner of man am I?" he asked Xu Shao, who refused to answer. The fortune teller eventually said, "In peace you are an able subject, in chaos you are a crafty hero."
The Han in Peril and the Seven-Star Sword
When Zhang Jue and his followers rose to cause what is known as the Yellow Turban Rebellion, Cao Cao had already been promoted to the rank of Cavalry Commander, and led five thousand mounted soldiers to the district of Yingchuan for the imperial Han. There he encountered a fleeing troop of Yellow Turbans headed by two of the three rebel leaders, Zhang Bao and Zhang Liang, who were also Zhang Jue's brothers. Cao Cao's troop killed thousands in the ensuing battle, while also taking horses, banners, gongs, and other military apparel. The two rebel leaders escaped, splitting up, with Cao Cao joining with the main imperial force and pursuing Zhang Liang. With seven consecutive victories against Zhang Liang, the Rebellion crumbled with its leaders dying off.
Cao Cao later helped in defeating the corrupt Ten Eunuchs. Though he was called "inferior" by the Regent-Marshal He Jin, he voluntarily helped in guarding He Jin before the his death.
With Emperor Xian without close advisers, Dong Zhuo took the position as one and essentially took over the imperial court. Yuan Shao called for the minister Wang Yun to come up with a plan to assassinate the self-proclaimed Prime Minister Dong Zhuo, and under the guise of a birthday, Wang Yun gathered all of the other officials into his home. He and the others began weeping at the thought of Dong Zhuo's tyranny, but Cao Cao mocked them, asking, "This courtful of nobles can weep 'till morning and round to the next evening, too. But can you weep Dong Zhuo to death?"
He later volunteered to assassinate Dong Zhuo, as Cao Cao was close and trusted enough by him. He was given the Seven-Star Sword, a jeweled dagger, and the next day, Cao Cao arrived at the prime minister's private quarters, went behind Dong Zhuo's back, and prepared to stab him. However, Dong Zhuo quickly turned around and asked what Cao Cao was doing, as he could see the weapon from the metal reflectors on his person. Cao Cao saw Lü Bu, the powerful adoptive son of Dong Zhuo, and, shakily dropping to his knees, proposed the weapon as a gift to distract Dong Zhuo. The prime minister accepted the gift, and Cao Cao fled.
Escape from Dong Zhuo
"I would rather betray the world than have the world betray me!"
Because he was found out, Cao Cao was named as a wanted fugitive. He was passing Zhongmou county for his home district when he was arrested by the guards at the gates and taken for questioning. When questioned, Cao Cao said his surname was Huangfu and was a traveling merchant, however, the magistrate recognized him and after folling with him for some while said, "I knew you as Cao Cao when I was in Luoyang seeking office. Why are you concealing your identity? You are under arrest. Tomorrow I will deliver you to the capital for the reward." The guards were sent away by the official, and that night, he took Cao Cao and questioned where was Cao Cao going. Cao Cao responded by saying he'd go back to his village and rally the other lords for a unified military action against Dong Zhuo. Afterwards, the magistrate personally removed Cao Cao's bonds, and introduced himself as Chen Gong. Together and armed with a sword each, they set out for the village.
After three days worth of traveling, they stopped at a location called Chengao, and came to the home of Cao Cao's father's oath brother, Lu Boshe. After conversing of the recent events and welcoming Chen Gong for saving the Cao clan's lives, Lu Boshe went out and said he was going to get wine. After sitting awhile, Cao Cao overheard knives being sharpened, and someone shout "Let's tie 'em up an' kill'm." Cao Cao and Chen Gong both went into the farmhouse where they heard the mumbling, slaughtered everyone in the house, but almost immediately saw a trussed pig for slaughtering. The two fled the scene, and later encountered the wine-carrying Lu Boshe back on the road, while the uncle tried stopping Cao Cao, earnestly saying he was supposed to have his family slaughter a pig for dining. Cao Cao and his companion rode on, but the former rode back and called out to Lu Boshe before cutting him down. Chen Gong, astounded, said, "What had happened at the farm was a mistake ― But why this?"
Cao Cao reasoned with speculation that Lu Boshe after finding out about the killings would have a mob after the murderers, but was met with: "But you murdered him knowing he was innocent ― a great wrong." Cao Cao said, "I would rather betray than have the world betray me!"
The next day, Cao Cao realized Chen Gong had left after thinking him inhumane, and went out to his home, relaying the recent events to his father and suggested him to have the family property sold to recruit troops. Instead, a wealthy local by the name of Wei Hong, was convinced by Cao Cao's ambition to donate his funds to the cause of raising an army. Cao Cao forged a imperial decree and had it sent to various areas, recruited some volunteers and raised a white flag bearing the words "Loyalty and Honor." Support came pouring in, and one day, two men named Yue Jin and Li Dian came to offer their service. They were assigned as headquarters guards. Xiahou Dun, Xiahou Yuan, Cao Ren, and Cao Hong, all of whom were Cao Cao's relatives from different sides of the family, also came, bringing a total of one thousand men each. Clothing, banners, grain, and armor later came in from Wei Hong and other benefactors.
The Allied Forces
Yuan Shao arrived later with an army of thirty thousand to form an alliance with Cao Cao, and soon seventeen other lords came and camped outside of the area. Cao Cao recommended Yuan Shao as leader of the Allied Forces, considering his family's importance in the Han court from the previous four generations.
When Dong Zhuo's forces were retreating from Tiger Trap Pass and Luoyang, Cao Cao asked the other lords why weren't they pursuing the confused army of the enemy, but they all agreed it would be better to rest the troops. Cao Cao, disagreeing, led his own force of ten thousand to pursue Dong Zhuo. After being beat back, Cao Cao's army was ambushed by a command led by Xu Rong. Cao Cao rode blindly, running into Xu Rong, who then hit Cao Cao in the upper arm with an arrow. He quickly fled, but was again ambushed by a pair of soldiers who cut down his horse and seized him. Cao Hong rode out, slayed the two soldiers, and the two escaped. Dawn came, and, yet again, Xu Rong appeared to kill Cao Cao. Just in time, Xiahou Dun and Xiahou Yuan appeared with several dozen horsemen scattered Xu Rong, who himself was killed by Xiahou Dun.
His whole force reunited, Cao Cao came back to Luoyang, where the allied forces were headquartered, and was met with a banquet in hopes of cheering him up. Despaired, Cao Cao explained his plan of having the lords occupy and protect each of the surrounding regions, letting their power be known to the land, gain the support of commoners, and eventually defeat Dong Zhuo. He then made clear how the anti-Dong Zhuo armies lost the confidence of the commoners, and his own shame. Cao Cao left his allies, as did Gongsun Zan and Liu Bei.
Dong Zhuo was later betrayed and killed by his own son, and the two remnants of his force, Li Jue and Guo Siseized control of the court and the emperor.
Building His Forces
Cao Cao was recommended by Zhu Jun to put down a Yellow Turban rebellion in Qingzhou. As such, he was sent with Bao Xin, another governor, to put the uprising down. Bao Xin was later killed in his own charge, and Cao Cao soon merged the troops left from Bao Xin with his own. Wherever he went, rebels swore alleigance to him and were merged with his force. In only one hundred days, Cao Cao had the surrender of over three hundred thousand troops, and one million noncombatants. His fame spread through the land, and he was promoted to General who Guards the East.
Xun Yu, and his nephew, Xun You were later summoned into Cao Cao's service. They recommended Cheng Yu, who recommended Guo Jia, who recommended Liu Ye, who in turn recommended Man Chong and Lu Qian into service. Mao Jie was also advised to be accepted. A warrior by the name of Yu Jin entered Cao Cao's service with several hundred troops, and Xiahou Dun had a colossal man by the name of Dian Wei come into the army.
"Cao Cao in all his vaunted cunning,
Slew his hosts and kept on running.
Now that his whole clan's been slain,
The scales of Heaven are level again.
―A poet describing the event.
Cao Cao wished to reunite with his family, so his father and entire clan loaded up and traveled to Cao Cao. They passed through Xu province, whose imperial inspector was Tao Qian, a warm man who had always wished to be associated with Cao Cao. He treated the passing Cao clan with the utmost hospitality, and even held a two-day banquet for them. Tao Qian personally escorted them out of the area and had one of his generals, Zhang Kai, accompany them for safety along with five hundred men. However, during a stormy travel, Zhang Kai and his followers discussed slaying the Cao clan and stealing their goods to become rich. They did so, and burned down the temple they were staying at. Some messengers were able to escape and made their way to Cao Cao to report what had happened.
Cao Cao fell to the ground, crying, and gnashed his teeth together, swearing revenge against Tao Qian, whom Cao Cao believed allowed his family to die. He ordered a full-scale invasion of Xu province, leaving only thirty thousand of his men to guard his teritorry. His armies slaughtered all of the inhabitants of the province wherever they went. He rejected the pleadings for ceasefire by Chen Gong, who had sought to bring peace, and Liu Bei.
Word soon came that Lu Bu was attacking Cao Cao's territory of Puyang, so Cao Cao withdrew his forces.
Cao Cao would later found the empire that would become the Wei dynasty, with his successor Cao Pi abdicating the emperor after Cao Cao's death.