272 Beijing Opera Performers - Cao Cao - Number 21
Beijing Opera - "Meeting of the Elite"
Cao Cao with a watery white face is the leading character in the list-opera "Meeting of the Elite." In 208 Cao Cao (155-220) led a huge army to the Yangzi with the intention of crushing both Sun Quan and Liu Bei. Pang Tong, a military advisor of Sun Quan's at the time, tricked Cao Cao into chaining his ships together, saying they would move more steadily that way. Cao Cao was much pleased and held a sumptuous banquet on the river to celebrate his anticipated victory, during which he brandished a spear and composed a song to glorify his military successes. Shortly afterwards, Huang Gai, a general of Wu, pretending to surrender, sailed over to Cao Cao's camp and set fire to the chained ships. Cao Cao was completely defeated.
Cao Cao rose to prominence when he suppressed the Yellow Turban rebellion in the last years of the Han. Though the rebellion was suppressed, the dynasty was irreparably weakened, and in the ensuing chaos Cao Cao occupied the strategic northern section of China around the capital of Luoyang. His domain was known as the Kingdom of Wei. Confucian historians and popular legends alike describe him as the archetypal unscrupulous villain; he is portrayed as such in the famous 14th-century novel Sanguozhi Yanyi ("Romance of the Three Kingdoms"). His son, Cao Pei, founded the Wei dynasty (220-265/266).Back to Beijing Performer's List - Page 1