Cao Jie 曹節 was a eunuch and Regular Palace Attendant and acted as chief of the Regular Attendants under Emperor Huan and Emperor Ling 靈. After his death, Zhang Rang eventually became the new leader. While Zhang Rang was opposed by General-in-Chief He Jin, Cao Jie was opposed by General-in-Chief Dou Wu.
Cao Jie was a man from Nanyang who entered service under Emperor Shun. He was an associate of Liang Shang and friend to Liang Ji. In historical records he is not mentioned until he escorts the young Liu Hong to the capital, together with Liu Shu, both of them bearing the Staff of Authority at that time.
On the 8th of August in 168 A.D. rewards were given for the selection of the Emperor. Cao Jie became Marquis of Chang'an District. His soon to be opponent Dou Wu was enfeoffed as Marquis of Wenxi. Altogether eleven men were given fiefs as marquises.
Later, he established good relationships with the Emperor's wet nurse, Zhao Rao, and the Empress-Dowager and he, together with Wang Fu, insinuated themselves into her favour. The Empress-Dowager trusted them, and there were several occasions that she issued edicts of enfeoffment or appointment at their behest.
Chen Fan and Dou Wu were annoyed by this and when they met each other at the court Chen Fan said privately to Dou Wu:
- "Cao Jie, Wang Fu and the rest of them have held power since the time of the late Emperor. They have confused and disturbed all the empire. Unless we execute them now, they will certainly upset things for us later."
Dou Wu expressed his full agreement, and Chen Fan, delighted, pushed himself up from his mat. Then Dou Wu called up his close colleague the Prefect of the Masters of Writing Yin Xun and they consulted together and made plans.
Dou Wu went to see the Empress-Dowager and requested the removal of the eunuchs, for the sake of purifying the court. The Empress Dowager disagreed, saying there have been eunuchs since the beginning of the Han.
A while later Dou Wu managed to get Guan Ba, Su Kang and some other Attendants arrested and executed. Then Dou Wu made further accusations, calling for the execution of Cao Jie and his associates. The Empress-Dowager hesitated, for she was too soft-hearted to bear with the consequences of such action. The matter dragged on without any decision.
In the winter of the year 181 A.D., Cao Jie died as Marquis of Huarong. His place as Grand Prolonger of Autumn was given to Zhao Zhong.
Fact vs. FictionEdit
- …Cao Jie was not one of the Ten Regular Attendants that appear in Romance of the Three Kingdoms.
- …Cao Jie was not killed in the eunuch massacre in 189. Cao Jie died in 181.