Anyone Interested In Cao Cao?

Sep 2019
21
UK
I'm working on a historical fiction graphic novel about him and his life from 155-220 AD, marking the end of the Han Dynasty which he both saved and doomed. A political and military mastermind, a patron of the arts and sciences, a hero to his friends and death to his enemies, he was an exceptionally interesting man.
It's a tragedy that a lot of his reputation is marred by more popular tales. Tales people take as granted despite them going by the name 'Romance of the Three Kingdoms'. As in Romanticisation.
The Cao Cao you think you know isn't even half the story.

I've recently graduated in Illustration and my final major project was a short graphic novel. It didn't actually have Cao Cao in it but he was a major influence on the scene. The main characters are Cao Pi (His eldest son), Sima Yi (His protege), Kong Rong (A philosopher-turned-warlord who's Cao Cao's biggest enemy in court) and Taishi Ci (One of the most fearsome warriors of the age)
If anyone's interested, please let me know.

I've just joined this site and, if anyone's familiar with the history, romance, any related works of media, it would be great to have some people to discus things with and bounce ideas off of.
Glad to have finally found this site and I hope I enjoy it as much as you do.
 

Lord Oda Nobunaga

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
5,605
Ontario, Canada
Maybe not in the West but in Asia this has been done to death. I don't know what you could do differently.
Plus I don't know how you could only cover Cao Cao while also giving a broad and proper view of the Three Kingdoms.

Have you read the Romance of Three Kingdoms or Records of Three Kingdoms? I would start there. I guess I am kind of interested, you can send me messages if you want, or discuss here.
 
Sep 2019
21
UK
Maybe not in the West but in Asia this has been done to death. I don't know what you could do differently.
Plus I don't know how you could only cover Cao Cao while also giving a broad and proper view of the Three Kingdoms.

Have you read the Romance of Three Kingdoms or Records of Three Kingdoms? I would start there. I guess I am kind of interested, you can send me messages if you want, or discuss here.
Well, yeah. That's the thing.
Romance and Records only tell half the story.
I've actually got The Biographical Dictionary Of Later Han To Three Kingdoms by Rafe de Crespigny (My prized possession) and I'm using it as key reference.
My goal is to individualise as many people as possible.
Because, it's not enough that Cao Cao is often seen as the villain but they make everyone under him unremarkable.
Men like Xun Yu, Xu Huang, Zhang Liao, Cheng Yu, Yu Jin and countless others are barely recognised. I aim to change that.
I'm out to do this differently.
Another thing that's inspired me is the Cao Cao Yingxiong TV Series. A series that was seen as controversial in China so the team behind it had to get it aired in Japan and South Korea before the Chinese networks felt confident in broadcasting it.
You can find it on Youtube (Where I am, anyway)
It presents a look at his early life and the men who shaped his world.

This is a scene I've got, based on a scene from Cao Cao's early career, judging local public officials for corruption while a selection of his friends watch with admiration.
 

Lord Oda Nobunaga

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
5,605
Ontario, Canada
The Record of Three Kingdoms is the main source. The reason why it seems incomplete is because the whole text is divided into multiple biographies. Cao Cao's biography is the biggest and both the writer Chen Shou as well as other editors like Pei Songzi were positive with regards to Cao Cao.

I have seen part of the Cao Cao 2013 series, frankly I didn't enjoy it as much. This whole Cao Cao paragon of virtue good guy thing they had going felt really impotent. Though not a mustache twirling villain, Cao Cao didn't accomplish what he did by being nice. Moreover I would actually assert that Cao Cao was an amoral, if not outright immoral personality. This doesn't mean I dislike Cao Cao at all, in fact I despise Liu Bei, who was moralizing despite also being completely hypocritical and back stabbing.

The most interesting adaptations that I have seen were the 2011 Three Kingdoms, the Chinese manhua Ravages of Time and the absolutely insane over the top anime/manga Soten Koro: Beyond the Heavens.

I actually really enjoyed reading Soten Koro: Beyond the Heavens if only for its thematic complexity, it doesn't so much care about the history as much as it does using the character tropes and creatinig a sort of meta analysis of concepts like "Heaven", "Earth", "Man", "Mandate of Heaven" and even goes so far as to touch on subjects like society and religion. Cao Cao is actually the protagonist in this series, he is cold and calculating but also somehow very charismatic and Human, as opposed to robotic. I'm pretty sure at one point they also declare that Cao Cao is the incarnation of the Yellow Emperor, but it also leaves it somewhat vague. I think the point was less so about literal deities and more so about perception of these concepts and how Cao Cao himself is perceived. The Manga actually starts off with a lengthy diatribe about contemporary perceptions (as in the 1990's) that if Cao Cao was not a hero then Mao Zedong could not be a hero either. Well it was entertaining, but the writer's personal take was interesting.

 
Sep 2019
21
UK
The Record of Three Kingdoms is the main source. The reason why it seems incomplete is because the whole text is divided into multiple biographies. Cao Cao's biography is the biggest and both the writer Chen Shou as well as other editors like Pei Songzi were positive with regards to Cao Cao.

I have seen part of the Cao Cao 2013 series, frankly I didn't enjoy it as much. This whole Cao Cao paragon of virtue good guy thing they had going felt really impotent. Though not a mustache twirling villain, Cao Cao didn't accomplish what he did by being nice. Moreover I would actually assert that Cao Cao was an amoral, if not outright immoral personality. This doesn't mean I dislike Cao Cao at all, in fact I despise Liu Bei, who was moralizing despite also being completely hypocritical and back stabbing.

The most interesting adaptations that I have seen were the 2011 Three Kingdoms, the Chinese manhua Ravages of Time and the absolutely insane over the top anime/manga Soten Koro: Beyond the Heavens.

I actually really enjoyed reading Soten Koro: Beyond the Heavens if only for its thematic complexity, it doesn't so much care about the history as much as it does using the character tropes and creatinig a sort of meta analysis of concepts like "Heaven", "Earth", "Man", "Mandate of Heaven" and even goes so far as to touch on subjects like society and religion. Cao Cao is actually the protagonist in this series, he is cold and calculating but also somehow very charismatic and Human, as opposed to robotic. I'm pretty sure at one point they also declare that Cao Cao is the incarnation of the Yellow Emperor, but it also leaves it somewhat vague.

Really?
I guess I just prefer Cao Cao 2013 since it's not about kissing Zhuge Liang's arse (A character who is also highly overrated. My take on him is basically kind of a megalomaniac)
He sort of loses his moral compass as he goes on but across his life, he still maintained an air of, if not honour then at least consideration.
But as I said, one of my main goals is individualising other characters.
That's why I kind of went off Souten Kouro. I like what they did with Cao Cao but the way they seemed to make every other character goofy caricatures who are basically there to be stunned at the main characters got boring after a while.

Do you like the illustration?
His friends, (Left-to-Right) are Bao Tao, Bao Xin, Wang Yun, Xun Yu, Xun You, He Yong and Chunyu Qiong.
 

Lord Oda Nobunaga

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
5,605
Ontario, Canada
What I like about Soten Koro is that it didn't pull any punches.
Cao Cao 2013 just felt like revisionism. Not that Cao Cao doesn't deserve the record to be set straight, but the lengths that they went to in order for Cao Cao to seem like the good guy I found quite absurd. Yet somehow they didn't do Dong Zhuo any justice and he still seems like a caricature. Where as the Dong Zhuo in Soten Koro was pretty great. Ultimately it is his recklessness and just everyone being against him in general which did him in, rather than any particular decision on his part. He wasn't some kind of fat bloated idiot, but was actually pretty badass. Dong Zhuo actually did some good historically, most adaptations or sources don't even bother to report on that. His issue was above all that he had awful timing, and he should have just waited for someone to knock down the Han house of cards. But I suppose someone had to do it and it ended up being him. Once he took power he killed way too many guys, even if they did deserve it. Naturally this turned many of the officials against him, to what extent their own corruption was a factor I guess that we will never know.

The caricatures in Soten Koro I didn't so much have a problem with, since it is hard to characterize so many characters. It is more about what they did with the caricatures. Although I didn't take issues with any of it since that whole series was already pretty extreme and over the top. I assume Cao Cao was the Chadwick Strongpants archetype, but maybe not as over powered at least physically, and he doesn't always win. The other thing I hated about Cao Cao 2013 is that the actor just didn't match the character. He looked fairly small, he was always acting timid and awkward. Where as Chen Jianbin in Three Kingdoms was great. He he was kind of goofy and awkward but the right amount and offset by his care free attitude, stoicism, hilarious fits of rage and contrasted by an unsettling sincerity, kind of straight forward bad manners. Also he looked physically imposing even if he is never depicted fighting in that entire series. More so his charisma and way of acting and speaking that made him seem frightening.

I assume it is when Cao Cao was the Chancellor of Jinan?
If I'm not mistaken, didn't Cao Cao have Chunyu Qiong executed?
 
Last edited:

VHS

Ad Honorem
Dec 2015
4,603
Florania
What I like about Soten Koro is that it didn't pull any punches.
Cao Cao 2013 just felt like revisionism. Not that Cao Cao doesn't deserve the record to be set straight, but the lengths that they went to in order for Cao Cao to seem like the good guy I found quite absurd. Yet somehow they didn't do Dong Zhuo any justice and he still seems like a caricature. Where as the Dong Zhuo in Soten Koro was pretty great. Ultimately it is his recklessness and just everyone being against him in general which did him in, rather than any particular decision on his part. He wasn't some kind of fat bloated idiot, but was actually pretty badass. Dong Zhuo actually did some good historically, most adaptations or sources don't even bother to report on that. His issue was above all that he had awful timing, and he should have just waited for someone to knock down the Han house of cards. But I suppose someone had to do it and it ended up being him. Once he took power he killed way too many guys, even if they did deserve it. Naturally this turned many of the officials against him, to what extent their own corruption was a factor I guess that we will never know.

The caricatures in Soten Koro I didn't so much have a problem with, since it is hard to characterize so many characters. It is more about what they did with the caricatures. Although I didn't take issues with any of it since that whole series was already pretty extreme and over the top. I assume Cao Cao was the Chadwick Strongpants archetype, but maybe not as over powered at least physically, and he doesn't always win. The other thing I hated about Cao Cao 2013 is that the actor just didn't match the character. He looked fairly small, he was always acting timid and awkward. Where as Chen Jianbin in Three Kingdoms was great. He he was kind of goofy and awkward but the right amount and offset by his care free attitude, stoicism, hilarious fits of rage and contrasted by an unsettling sincerity, kind of straight forward bad manners. Also he looked physically imposing even if he is never depicted fighting in that entire series. More so his charisma and way of acting and speaking that made him seem frightening.

I assume it is when Cao Cao was the Chancellor of Jinan?
If I'm not mistaken, didn't Cao Cao have Chunyu Qiong executed?
If we apply 21st Century ethical standards on ancients such as Cao Cao, most ancients will appear uncivilized and downright inhumane.
For example, a contemporary Canadian prime minister might not have a single human killed (directly or indirectly); was this possible for
ancient or medieval political or military leaders?
Note that Cao Cao was a relatively small guy (according to the remains in the tomb, about 155cm) and plain looking. To that, keep the
image of Deng Xiaoping in mind.
Chunyu Qiong lost his nose during battle; he was captured and executed.
 
Sep 2019
45
Canada
I'm working on a historical fiction graphic novel about him and his life from 155-220 AD, marking the end of the Han Dynasty which he both saved and doomed. A political and military mastermind, a patron of the arts and sciences, a hero to his friends and death to his enemies, he was an exceptionally interesting man.
It's a tragedy that a lot of his reputation is marred by more popular tales. Tales people take as granted despite them going by the name 'Romance of the Three Kingdoms'. As in Romanticisation.
The Cao Cao you think you know isn't even half the story.

I've recently graduated in Illustration and my final major project was a short graphic novel. It didn't actually have Cao Cao in it but he was a major influence on the scene. The main characters are Cao Pi (His eldest son), Sima Yi (His protege), Kong Rong (A philosopher-turned-warlord who's Cao Cao's biggest enemy in court) and Taishi Ci (One of the most fearsome warriors of the age)
If anyone's interested, please let me know.

I've just joined this site and, if anyone's familiar with the history, romance, any related works of media, it would be great to have some people to discus things with and bounce ideas off of.
Glad to have finally found this site and I hope I enjoy it as much as you do.
I love Cao Cao. I would be interested in reading something about him