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Cao Rui
(205 - January 22, 239) China

Cao Rui



Cao Rui was the son of Cao Pi and the second emperor of the Cao Wei. He is also known as the Emperor Ming of Wei, or Wei Ming-ti. His courtesy name was Yuanzhong. When Cao Rui was born, his grandfather Cao Cao was the paramount warlord of Han Dynasty, who had rendered Emperor Xian of Han a mere figurehead. His father Cao Pi was Cao Cao's oldest surviving son and the heir apparent.

Cao Rui's reign was viewed in many different ways throughout Chinese history. He was an emperor who was known to have been a strong military strategist and a supporter of the arts. He was also known to be astute in commissioning capable officials. However, he also expended great amounts of money and labor on excessive projects of building palaces and ancestral temples, and his reign saw the stalemate between his empire, Shu Han, and Eastern Wu become more entrenched.

His building projects and his desire to have many concubines (who numbered in the thousands) greatly exhausted the imperial treasury. On his deathbed, he entrusted his son Cao Fang to the regency of Cao Shuang and Sima Yi - a fatal mistake for his empire, as Cao Shuang monopolized power and governed incompetently, eventually drawing a violent reaction from Sima, who overthrew him in a coup d'etat and became in control of the Cao Wei government, eventually allowing his grandson Sima Yan to usurp the Wei throne.


Cao Rui had two known male lovers. One was Qin Lang, a cavalry general. Another one of Cao Rui's supposed affairs (with his cousin Cao Zhao, also a cavalry officer) was mentioned in The History of Passion, but the official history contains no mention the Cao Zhao/Cao Rui pairing. The fondness of Cao Rui for Qing Lang, however, can be found in the historical records of Wei. Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms: Chapter 3 of The Book of Wei:

The Spring and Autumn of the Wei Clan states:

Lang's moniker is Yuanming. He was a native of Xinxing. The biography of Emperor Xian of Han states that Lang's father's name was Yilu. Qin Yilu was sent by Lu Bu to take a message to Yuan Su. Su gave him a wife from the Han Imperial House. Yilu's ex-wife Madam Du was left behind in Xiapi.

While besieging Lu Bu, Guan Yu asked Cao Cao to give him Madam Du as wife. Cao Cao suspected that Madam Du was a great beauty. After the city fell, Cao Cao saw Madam Du and took her into his harem. Yilu surrendered to Cao Cao. At that time, Liu Bei had gone to Xiaopei. Zhang Fei planned on following him and said to Yilu. "Someone took your wife. And you are still serving that someone? What a worm you are! Why don't you come with me to Xiaopei?" Yilu followed him for a few miles, then regretted his decision and wanted to turn back. Zhang killed him.

Lang lived with his mother in Cao Cao's palace. Cao Cao loved him very much. At every banquet, he would ask the guests, saying, "Is there anyone in the world who loves a stepson as much as I do?"

An Overview of The History of Wei states:

"Lang roamed freely among the nobles, and his presence was accepted among all the civil servants and military officers. When King Ming (Cao Rui) came to the throne, Lang was entrusted with access to the inner palace, and given the position of Cavalry General. Lang was often in the king's entourage when the king attended to state business, or went out in his chariot. Sometimes King Ming took delight in declaring an amnesty. The pardoned criminals ranged from those who had committed minor offenses to those who had broken major laws. Lang could not admonish the king into quitting this practice, yet he was unable to recommend even one innocent person (to be pardoned).

The king was on intimate terms with him. Every time he asked after Lang's well-being, he would call him by his pet name A Su. The king gave him many rewards and built him a great residence in the capital. Although everyone around knew that Lang had no power to do them favors, they still tried to get close to him to share in his honor. Many left him bribes and he was as rich as a noble..."

Lang and Kong Gui were both listed in the "Favored Male Courtiers" (a term with a sexual connotation, that usually refers to male sexual favorites of rulers, high-ranking officials and generals.) section of An Overview of The History of Wei.


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