Cao Cao, the treacherous hero in troubled times, is actually an honest villain

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Cao Cao


?1? Strange origin

Let’s start with the origin of Cao Cao. As the saying goes, “dragon begets dragon, Phoenix begets Phoenix, and mouse begets son to make a hole in the ground.” The ancients believed that birth was to decide one’s fate.

Cao Cao’s family background is quite humble. His father Cao song was originally not surnamed Cao, but Xiahou. In order to curry favor with powerful people, he recognized Cao Teng, the official of Zhongchang, as his adoptive father, so he took the surname Cao. In this way, Xia Houyuan and Xia Houdun are both direct relatives of Cao Cao and his cousins.

Zhongchang Shi is also called Zhongchen Shi, which is the name of eunuch. Eunuchs, on the one hand, have a high status in the imperial court


Red people around; On the other hand, he has a low status and is a servant of the royal family. Therefore, in the denunciation against Cao Cao written by Chen Lin on behalf of Yuan Shao, it is said that Cao Cao is “redundant and ugly”, that is, he is a very ugly person left by eunuchs. This is jiejiadi’s words, which hit the nail on the head and hurt Cao Cao’s self-esteem.

Cao Cao has never denied the birth of such an adopted son of a eunuch. He advertises that he is the descendant of Cao can, the famous prime minister during the period of Liu Bang, the emperor Gaozu of the Han Dynasty. In fact, his family name is not Cao, but he has to boast like this. It’s really pulling the tiger skin as a flag to talk about leniency and masturbation.

It can also be seen from here that Cao Cao attaches great importance to his origin, and he has a strong sense of inferiority. At the same time, I have strong self-esteem – although I am not of high birth and my composition is not good, I have the ability. I want to use my ability to change my social status. Although Cao Shen is not my ancestor, I can continue this ancestor’s genealogy with the help of the improvement of social status.

This is a kind of mentality of Cao Cao. It is this mentality that makes Cao Cao have the spirit of hard work and enterprising spirit, and also endows him with that kind of rough and simple style of life. Anyway, my family background is not high. I can do whatever I like without any psychological burden.

This is completely different from the origins of Liu Bei and Sun Quan. Although Liu Bei is a peddler of weaving straw sandals and selling mats, and his social status is very low, his lineage is particularly pure and comes down in one continuous line with the royal family. Sun Quan was born in a feudal family, and his social status has always been high. Therefore, both Liu Bei and Sun Quan belong to noble families, or declining noble families.

And Cao Cao has neither royal blood as noble as Liu Bei, nor noble ancestors as noble as Sun Quan. He is just a civilian, of course, a civilian who clings to powerful people. This special civilian background is related to Cao Cao’s unique mentality and unique personality.

?2? Kill LV boxhe

In the novel, Cao Cao’s first disgusting act was to kill LV boshe (Volume I “Cao mengde murders Dong Zhuo”). This is one of Cao Cao’s most abominable vices in his life. Some people say that it was “mistakenly killing LV boxue”, which is not accurate, because he mistakenly killed LV boxue’s family. For LV boxue, it was obvious that he wanted to kill him.

Cao Cao attempted to assassinate Dong Zhuo, fled Luoyang and took refuge in a hurry. Passing Zhongmou County on the way, the county magistrate Chen Gong admired Cao Cao’s heroic act of daring to risk his life to assassinate Dong Zhuo. He admired him very much and thought he was “a loyal man in the world”, so he let him go. His own county magistrate was also improper, and he abandoned his official to follow Cao Cao to flee.

Cao Cao and Chen Gong fled to Chenggao and went to Lu boshe, Cao Cao’s father’s friend. Father’s friend, the ancients called “fatherhood”, just as we now call “Uncle”, is an elder.

LV boxhe also admired Cao Cao’s heroic act of assassinating Dong Zhuo, so he warmly entertained him, ordered his family to kill pigs, and rode a donkey to the West Village to sell wine. This was a high etiquette at that time.

At this time, Cao Cao was still in shock. He suddenly heard the sound of sharpening knives behind the villa. He was suspicious. After sneaking into the thatched cottage with Chen Gong, he heard someone say across the wall, “tie it and kill it.” Let’s tie him up and kill him.

Cao Cao thought, isn’t this going to kill me? Tie me up and kill me. Therefore, he started first, pulled out his sword and went straight into Chen Gong, regardless of whether men, women, young or old, and killed eight people in a row.

After killing, he saw that what was tied under the kitchen was a pig. He wanted to kill it but didn’t kill it. Then he realized that people wanted to kill a pig to entertain him. People who have lived in rural areas know that pork is usually eaten only during the Spring Festival. Until the 1960s and 1970s, pigs were only killed during the Spring Festival, and pigs were not killed at ordinary times. It must be a noble guest to kill pigs and entertain guests at ordinary times. They were very enthusiastic about entertaining Cao Cao and treating him as a guest of honor. As a result, he killed all his family. It was really a manslaughter at this time. In a hurry, Cao Cao and Chen Gong had to run away.

On the way, they met Lu boxhi, who came back from buying wine in high spirits. Cao Cao first put LV boxhe in the past, and then deliberately told him that someone was coming later. When he turned his head, Cao Cao killed him with a knife.

At this time, it is not manslaughter, but intentional murder. So Chen Gong scolded Cao Cao and said, “it’s very unjust to kill someone because you know it!” You know that you just killed by mistake, but now you deliberately killed LV boshe. This is an act against morality.

So, should Cao Cao kill Lu boxue? Why?

Our evaluation


Events can have two perspectives: the perspective of morality and the perspective of reality. The moral point of view is a kind of moral judgment. On the moral judgment bench, from a moral point of view, after Cao Cao killed LV boxhe’s family, he deliberately killed LV boxhe. It is intolerable that he should be so cruel to his father’s friend and a friend who warmly entertained you.

But from another perspective, what should Cao Cao do in that realistic situation? What can he do? This is worth considering. In other words, when we put ourselves in that particular situation, Cao Cao was fleeing in a hurry and panicked like a lost dog. At this time, he felt that anyone could hurt him, because he was offering a reward for catching him, and anyone could take his life. At this time, his awareness of survival and survival is very strong. Killing LV boxhe’s family is of course unintentional and accidental, but if you don’t kill LV boxhe at this time, in terms of probability, he has a 50% safety factor and a 50% insecurity factor, which is certain. LV boxhe may or may not sue him. If you take into account the emotional factors, Lu boxhe came home to see that all his family members were killed, and Lu boxhe is more likely to betray Cao. When Cao Cao killed LV boxhe, he would be able to save his life 100%. So Cao Cao did a very decisive behavior, but behind this decisive behavior, there are his practical considerations.

The real hateful thing is not that Cao Cao killed LV boxhe, but that Cao Cao did such a great injustice, and he didn’t even have a sense of shame. He also said such a famous saying through the ages: “it’s better to make me lose the world, rather than teach the world to lose me!” Even Chen Gong, who has always admired him, felt that he was a “wolf in the heart and a dog in action” and left him.

The description in the novel is based on historical facts. According to the notes of peisongzhi in the annals of the Three Kingdoms, quoting Sun Sheng’s “miscellaneous words of similarities and differences”, after Cao Cao killed LV boxhe’s family, “pathetically” said, “it’s better for me to lose someone than someone else!” The word “Pathetique” conveys the complex psychology of Cao Cao after killing. The novel deleted the ideograph of “Pathetique” and added the modifier of “the world”, which became a criticism of Cao Cao.

The meaning of this sentence is very clear, that is, everyone in the world can’t fail me, but I can fail anyone in the world. This puts me on the opposite side of the world. From this point of view, we can see that there is a strong place in Cao Cao’s character. He dares to make enemies with the world, which is a prominent feature of Cao Cao’s character.

Further, we can also see that if someone else did such a thing as killing LV boshe, Chen Gong would certainly excuse his behavior. He wanted to defend: “I didn’t mean it. I didn’t mean to escape. There’s no way. I really had to. Please forgive me this time.” Others will always defend, but Cao Cao did not defend. He spoke frankly about his principles of life.

According to the ancients, “two words teach thousands of generations to scold: although they don’t last forever, they can also last forever.” (Jin Huanwen’s words after being quoted in the annotation of the romance of the Three Kingdoms in Jiajing Edition) Cao Cao’s words are enough to leave a bad name for thousands of years. So through the ages, no one will put these two sentences into a banner, hang it in his study, and tell others that this is my motto. But Cao Cao was able to do so. He took these two words as his motto openly.

Therefore, compared with ordinary political ambition, Cao Cao is indeed different. General political aspirants tend to hide their true faces, but Cao Cao dares to express his internal psychology frankly, which is also a prominent feature of Cao Cao’s character.

Li Zhi said very interestingly when commenting on the romance of the Three Kingdoms. He said, “who in the world doesn’t have this intention, who can open this mouth?” (the fourth general comment of Mr. Li zhuowu’s criticism of the annals of the Three Kingdoms) that is to say, all people in the world will have this kind of heart, that is, I’d better treat all the people in the world unfairly, but no one in the world can treat me unfairly, and I will repay any wrongdoing to me; But I can lose someone else, I can feel at ease. Everyone in the world has such a heart, but who dares to say so frankly? Only one person dares to say so, Cao Cao.

Therefore, the novelist commented on Cao Cao, saying that Cao Cao was “a villain with one heart and one mouth”. This is quite different from Liu Bei’s “gentleman outside but villain inside”. Cao Cao is a villain, but his heart is the same. This reminds us of a saying of Confucius in the Analects of Confucius: “a gentleman is frank, and a villain is always sad.” Now Cao Cao is different. He is a frank villain. He is not a gentleman who is always sad. He is a “villain”, but he is “Frank”, which constitutes a contradictory combination, similar to the contradictory combination of “treacherous hero”.

“Frank” is a unique personality quality of Cao Cao, his unique way of being and dealing with the world. But he is essentially a “villain”. His words and actions are definitely villain’s words and actions from a moral point of view. If a gentleman, such as Liu Bei, would not do so, let alone say so. Of course, Liu Bei also has many villains, which is another matter. However, Cao Cao did so and said so. He was bold, bold, responsible and responsible. He was a man, which was admirable.

?3? Avoid killing Yang Xiu

Cao Cao’s treacherous character of “a villain with one heart” was also incisively and vividly displayed in the event of avoiding killing Yang Xiu.

In the novel, Cao Cao and Yang Xiu form a very special relationship. Because Cao Cao is always thirsty for talents, he attaches importance to talented and wise people, and has gathered a group of talented and wise people around him. He is good at reusing them. Yang Xiu is very smart and talented. In a sense, his smart talent is not inferior to Cao Cao, that is to say, Yang Xiu’s IQ will never be lower than Cao Cao. However, why can’t Cao Cao consistently put him in important position?

Why did Cao Cao kill Yang Xiu? Some people think that this is because Cao Cao is afraid of talent. Several things are written in the novel, which prominently reflects “the treacherous hero’s taboo of being smart”, that is to say, Cao Cao taboos too smart people like Yang Xiu. Several stories are written in the novel (Volume 15 “Cao mengde hates killing Yang Xiu”).

The first story is that Cao Cao built a garden and inspected it after completion. Now, after the building is completed, the leaders have to check and accept it and cut the ribbon. After reading it, Cao Cao didn’t say a word, just wrote the word “live” on the door, and left with his hands on his back. The workers don’t understand what it means. It’s OK to build a garden. Why did you write the word “live” without saying anything? At this time, the clever Yang Xiu guessed it. He said, “the prime minister thinks the door is too wide. Isn’t the word ‘live’ in the ‘door’ the word ‘wide’?” So the workers immediately narrowed the door and asked Cao Cao to accept it. Cao Cao was happy when he saw it. When he asked, he knew that it was Yang Xiujie’s word, “although he was happy, his heart was very evil”. He praised it orally, but he was very jealous in his heart.

On another occasion, the northern part of the Great Wall paid a box of crisp sugar to Cao Cao. Cao Cao read it, wrote the words “Yihe crisp” vertically on the box, and put it on his desk. When Cao Cao went to bed, Yang Xiu let everyone stutter. After Cao Cao woke up, he wanted to eat crisp sugar. As soon as he saw it was gone, he asked what was the matter? Yang Xiu said, “the prime minister has a life. The box says’ one bite for one ‘. How dare we disobey the prime minister’s order?” Cao Cao “was very happy, but his heart hated it”, and he hated Yang Xiu even more in his heart.

There is another thing that is hard to tolerate. Cao Cao told the left and right, “I dream of killing people. Don’t come near when you are asleep.” “Killing in a dream” is indeed a very special character. As mentioned earlier, Cao Cao has an inferiority complex. If this inferiority complex really becomes a heart disease, if he is neurotic, he will be very suspicious, and he will always prevent others from attacking him even when he sleeps. Like those who speak of martial arts now, he covers himself with martial arts. You can’t touch him easily. Cao Cao is the same. He covers himself when he sleeps. If you touch him easily, he will kill you. So he asked his attendants not to touch him easily.

Cao Cao took a nap that day, and the quilt fell to the ground. A bodyguard was kind, afraid that he might catch a cold, and hurriedly took a quilt to cover him. Unexpectedly, Cao Cao suddenly jumped up and pulled out his sword to kill the bodyguard. After the killing, he continued to sleep.

After waking up, why did a bodyguard lie on the ground, bloody? Cao Cao was surprised and asked, “who killed me?” Everyone told him that he killed it in his dream. Cao Cao cried bitterly and ordered the bodyguard to be buried. When he was buried, Yang Xiu went to pay tribute to the bodyguard and sighed, “you are the cone in your bag!” Who let you knowingly commit it? Death is also a vain death.

Cao Cao was very unhappy because Yang Xiu was exposing his shortcomings. In fact, Cao Cao didn’t dream of killing people. He killed people because he was too suspicious. What Yang Xiujie revealed was the weakness of Cao Cao’s character. We know that if a person is ill, he is particularly afraid of you talking about him. If he has a pimple on his face, you always say that he has a pimple on his face. Of course, he is very uncomfortable. If you see it, why do you have to say it? If a person is ill, especially with this kind of mental disease, he is most taboo to others to say that he is ill. Just like being drunk, I’m most unhappy that you say he’s drunk. So Cao Cao hated Yang Xiu even more.

Finally one day, Cao Cao caught Yang Xiu’s handle. At that time, Cao Cao attacked Xishu and followed


They are all ready.

That night, Cao Cao was so upset that he couldn’t sleep and walked around the village privately. Seeing that the sergeants were packing up, he hurriedly summoned Xia Houdun and learned that this was Yang Xiu’s idea. Cao Cao was very angry and said, “stand up to Confucianism and dare to disturb our soldiers!” So Yang Xiu was beheaded in public.

Why did Cao Cao kill Yang Xiu? The ancients believed that this was because Yang Xiu was too smart. Cao Cao was a man all his life. He hated too smart people most and was afraid that others would have higher IQ than himself. Yang Xiu’s IQ is higher than his own, so he has to kill. Actually, it’s not.

I think Yang Xiu’s IQ is really high, no less than Cao Cao, but his EQ is not good. The reason why EQ is not good is that he doesn’t understand his position and doesn’t deal with the relationship between superiors and subordinates.

We know that as a subordinate, his IQ may be higher than that of his superiors, but he must not show all the wisdom and intelligence in front of his superiors. Even if your idea is the first one, you should take it as the idea of the leader, and do it seamlessly. What’s more, it’s absolutely taboo to show what the leaders think and what they haven’t said in advance.

Yang Xiu didn’t handle the relationship between superiors and subordinates well, so he was sure to die. This is caused by Yang Xiu’s personality problems. A person has talent, but he can’t reveal it too much. “Show his talent and promote himself”, which is very taboo. Especially when dealing with the relationship between superiors and subordinates, we should put our position right. Yang Xiu didn’t put his position right, so he deserved it.

Of course, there is a more important reason why Cao Cao killed Yang Xiu, because Yang Xiu assisted Cao Zhi.

Yang Xiu’s official position is the marching master, an official under Cao Cao. He chose Cao Zhi from Cao Pi and Cao Zhi, the two successors of Cao Cao. Why did he choose Cao Zhi? In a sense, it may also be speculation about Cao Cao’s meaning.

When Cao Cao chose his successor, he originally wanted to choose Cao Zhi, because Cao Zhi was more optional than Cao Pi in all aspects. He was smarter and better. However, although his IQ is higher than Cao Pi, his EQ is not as good as Cao Pi. At the beginning, Cao Cao considered intelligence from the perspective of intelligence. He believed that Cao Zhi’s intelligence, talent, conduct, unity, cohesion and other aspects of literati and celebrities were worthy of attention. So Cao Cao’s first choice of successor was Cao Zhi. Yang Xiu probably saw through Cao Cao’s mind and decided to assist Cao Zhi.

We know that Cao Pi is older than Cao Zhi. According to the ancients’ tradition of establishing a legitimate leader, Cao Cao’s successor should be Cao Pi, not Cao Zhi. Therefore, counselors dissuade Cao Cao from disturbing the “family law”. It is very dangerous for a disordered family law to cause the situation of “brothers at the wall”. Yuan Shao suffered internal strife because he changed to establish a young son, which is a lesson from the past. In the normal order, the eldest is the eldest and the second is the second. There is no objection. It’s natural. However, if you want to distinguish between virtuous and foolish, it is difficult to distinguish who is virtuous and who is foolish. There is no simple scale to distinguish, and there is too much randomness.

But Cao Cao is an extraordinary person. He doesn’t follow the general rules. He has to make his own choices with his own mind. In order to test the behavior of these two sons, Cao Cao made a very damaging move: on the one hand, he publicly ordered Cao Pi and Cao Zhi to go out of Yecheng gate respectively; At the same time, he secretly ordered that the defenders should not let Cao Pi and Cao Zhi out of the city.

At this time, Cao Pi took the lead. Sometimes you can’t be one step ahead in doing things. You might as well lag behind, look at what others do first, and then decide what you should do. It’s safer. Cao Zhi has a high IQ. He is not in a hurry to win the first prize. He wants to see how Cao Pi does it first. Cao Pi was impatient and had to go out of the city first. Cao Pi had no choice but to return home after the city defenders tried to stop him.

When Cao Zhi heard about it, he quickly consulted Yang Xiu. Yang Xiu said, “the son of God is ordered by the king to behead him if there is any obstruction.” So Cao Zhi went to the gate, and the gatekeeper still stopped him from leaving the city. He killed the gatekeeper with a knife and left the city.

Cao Cao was very happy to know the situation and thought that Cao Zhi was still powerful. So you can see that Cao Cao himself is a traitor. When he measures people, he doesn’t look at your morality and character. He looks at your treachery and power. It depends on whether you can cheat, cheat, use power, and use power, so he appreciates Cao Zhi’s practice very much.

But when he inquired, it was Yang Xiu’s idea again. As we have just said, Yang Xiu is a direct subordinate of Cao Cao. Cao Cao’s subordinates must be loyal to Cao Cao and cannot tear down Cao Cao’s walls. If you are not loyal to me, you are betraying me; You can betray me today, and you can still betray my son tomorrow. Cao Cao reasoned according to this logic. This is the way of treacherous males’ reasoning, which is different from ordinary people. He didn’t believe that Yang Xiu was loyal to Cao Zhi now and would be loyal to Cao Zhi all his life. Because he thought, I use you Yang Xiu as the marching master, you can “counselor military aircraft, always know internal and external affairs”, the position is very important, but you actually stabbed me in the back, making me smart behind the back, which is not good, so you have to kill.

Moreover, Yang Xiu often gave advice behind the scenes to help Cao Zhi fight against Cao Pi and win Cao Cao’s favor, and it worked repeatedly. When Cao Cao heard of it, he said angrily, “man! Ann dares to copulate my son to insult the orphan!” How dare you play with me! At this time, Yang Xiu’s heart to kill him became stronger, but he kept silent for many times because he was worried about the soldiers’ comments. Later, there was the “chicken ribs” incident. Yang Xiugang hit the muzzle of the gun and was sure to die.

It can be seen that Cao Cao’s “taboo to kill Yang Xiu” hides a deep political consideration within the appearance of “taboo to talents”: not only his vigilance against Cao Zhi’s talent recruitment and Party building for personal gain, but also his purpose of succeeding Cao Pi smoothly and removing obstacles, and more importantly, the punishment for Yang Xiu’s infidelity and turning his elbow outward. Isn’t this also the expression of “better make me lose the world than teach the world to lose me”?

It can also be seen from this matter that Cao Cao is indeed farsighted. He doesn’t kill a person easily. He must have his special reason to kill a person. This reason may not conform to the moral code, but it certainly conforms to the practical code, and also conforms to the life code of the treacherous hero. As a traitor of a generation, Cao Cao believed in the life principle of “better make me bear the world’s people than teach the world’s people to bear me”. You can’t bear me. Even if you are my confidant and you are my important minister, you can’t bear me. This principle is iron and steel.

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