John’s Historically Inaccurate Ramblings: “I Would Rather Betray Others than Have Others Betray Me.”


PHOTO / LaowaiCareer

Hello, readers. I feel as though I should shake things up and embark on a journey to the East for a short period. In the West, we have the Iliad, an epic poem about war, rage, and death. In China, there is the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, an epic of the Han Dynasty’s descent into a chaotic civil war that would outlast those who would set it in motion. And who better to begin with than the person the book says started it all: Cao Cao, which is pronounced Tsao Tsao.

 Most histories start the fall of the Han with the Yellow Turban Rebellion. Cao Cao was appointed as a cavalry commander, but the book insinuates that he was unusually efficient at moving troops around. The fact that he was a cavalry commander suggests that all of his troops were mounted, ergo, could move faster. 

The book then suggests that Cao Cao had directly tried to assassinate Dong Zhuo, the corrupt imperial regent who had deposed Emperor Shao and instated Emperor Xian. In reality, Cao Cao had simply left for Chenliu one day to build up an army and contribute to the growing coalition against Dong Zhuo. 

Following Dong Zhuo’s defeat, the coalition fractured, and Cao Cao was able to secure most of northern China from his old allies. After gaining the now-powerless Emperor Xian, Cao Cao was able to become the new imperial regent. At this point, what we know as the three kingdoms finally form, and Cao Cao sought to unify China. To do so, he would march against the southern warlords of Sun Quan and Liu Bei, only to be defeated decisively at the Battle of the Red Cliffs. 

From there, Cao Cao would grow old as his northern kingdom and the southern warlords entered a stalemate of castles and fortifications on the border. His son, Cao Pi would usurp Emperor Xian, only for Cao Pi’s children to be politically outmaneuvered by Cao Cao’s favored adviser, Sima Yi. In the book, Cao Cao gets a bad rap as a traitor, when the records speak of an old and tired general who was willing to see his country at peace. But peace required stability, and in his eyes, the elimination of all the power-hungry warlords around him required just such action.