On Cao Zhi’s “seven step poem”

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The popular TV series “Three Kingdoms” is called Cao Zhi’s “poem of boiling beans” (“boiling beans burn bean ferns, and the beans cry in the kettle. They are born from the same root, so why bother to fry each other?” It is called “seven step poem”. I opened the romance of the Three Kingdoms and found another one.

The background is as follows: in the first month of the 25th year of Jian’an, Cao Cao, king of Wei, suffered a relapse of “wind salivation”, refused the treatment of “opening the brain to take salivation” by Hua Tuo, a famous doctor, and died at the age of 66. Next, in the 79th “brother forced his younger brother Caozhi to write poems, and nephew trapped uncle Liu to subdue the law”, after Cao Cao died, Hua Xin secretly drafted an imperial edict, forcing Emperor Xian to surrender the imperial edict and canonize Cao Pi, the son of Bian, as king of Wei. Cao Pi became king. Cao Zhi, the Marquis of Linzi, and Cao Xiong, the Marquis of Xiaohuai, were not satisfied. Cao Pi sent troops to capture him. Cao Xiong hanged himself for fear of crime, and Cao Zhi was captured. His mother, Bian, was shocked and went out of the hall and called Cao Pi to meet him. Bian cried and said to Cao Pi, “your brother Cao Zhi is usually drunk, careless and indulgent. You should remember the feelings of your compatriots and don’t kill him. In this way, I can rest in peace under the nine springs!” So Cao Pi wanted to kill Cao Zhi, but he didn’t want to disobey his mother’s orders. Later, according to Hua Xin’s plan, Cao Zhi was summoned to see him and said to him, “in the past, you used to boast about yourself in your articles in the day. I deeply believe that you must use someone else to write a poem. I now limit you to seven steps to recite a poem. If you can, you will not die; if you can’t, you will be severely punished and will never forgive!” Cao Zhi said, “I would like to ask for help.” At that time, a Chinese ink painting hung on the wall of the hall, showing two cows fighting and one falling into a well. Cao Pi pointed to the painting and said, “this is the title of the painting, but the words’ two oxen fighting under the wall, one fell into a well and died ‘are not allowed in the poem.” Cao Zhi took seven steps and wrote a poem: “two flesh walk together, with a concave bone on his head. When they meet at the foot of a mountain, they look abrupt. Two enemies are not afraid of steel, and one flesh lies in a well cave. It’s not as powerful as strength, and it doesn’t let off steam.” Should this be the real “seven step poem”? But it has been called another poem – “boiled bean poem” by people (including TV Series). As a matter of fact, the poem of boiling beans was written by Cao Pi after Cao Zhi wrote the “seven step poem” and Cao Pi never died. Cao Pi said, “I still think it’s too late. Can you write a song in response?” Cao Zhi said, “wish is a proposition.” Cao Pi said, “you and I are brothers. Taking this as a topic, we are not allowed to violate the words’ brother ‘.” Cao Zhi’s brief thought is a poem of “boiling beans”.

The above is neither a textual research nor an academic dispute. It is just an occasional discovery in reading the “Three Kingdoms”.

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