The Cao Man zhuan 曹瞞傳 (Biography of Cao Man or Biography of Cao the Concealer) is a biography written by an unnamed subject of Wu. "Man" 瞞 in Cao Man zhuan could refer to Cao Cao's infant name "A-Man" 阿瞞. The literal meaning of 瞞 is 'conceal'.
The popular phrase “Among men Lü Bu, among horses Red Hare” comes from this text.
The Cao Man zhuan is lost, but fragments of it remain. Pei Songzhi cited the Cao Man zhuan on several occasions in his extention of Chen Shou's Records of the Three Kingdoms. Described as a "hostile piece of propaganda".
Fragments in Records of the Three KingdomsEdit
Book of Wei 1 - Annals of Emperor Wu (Cao Cao)Edit
- “The Cao Man zhuan, composed by a man of Wu, and Guo Ban’s Shiyu both present the following: [Cao] Song was a son of the Xiahou clan and was the younger brother of Xiahou Dun’s father. Therefore the Great Ancestor (Cao Cao) was of the same clan as Dun, as their fathers were brothers.”
- The Cao Man zhuan states, “The Great Ancestor was a carefree and amiable person lacking in severity and he enjoyed music, keeping musicians and performers close by, and frequently would employ them from sunup to sundown. He wore clothing of light silk and on his own person he wore a small belt pouch that he used for holding his handkerchief and small items, and on occasion he put on a cap when appearing before guests. Often he would join people in discussion and tease them by means of poems read aloud. He gave it his all without concealing anything until he was so joyous and mirthful that he was in convulsions, even up to the point of his hat falling off and his cup falling onto the table, and when eating meat dishes in every case he soiled his hat. His frivolity and lightness were thus. However, his wielding of the law was stern and severe, as if any of his generals were persons who reckoned themselves as surpassing him then he accorded with the law and executed them, to the point that of old friends and old enemies in either case there were none left. For such persons being punished by death he would always face them with head lowered and tearful lamentation for them, but in the end none were spared. Earlier, when Yuan Zhong was Chancellor of Pei state it was his desire to use the law to rein in the Great Ancestor. Additionally Huan Shao of Pei state belittled him and when they were in Yan province Bian Rang of Chenliu spoke his opinion that they should oppress the Great Ancestor, so the Great Ancestor killed Rang and executed his family. Zhong and Shao both took refuge in Jiao province and the Great Ancestor immediately tasked the Grand Administrator Shi Xie with totally eradicating them. Huan Shao was captured and brought forth as the leader, kowtowing and apologizing before the imperial court, but the Great Ancestor said, ‘To kneel is fitting for the death of a wicked man!’ and straightway executed him. Once he had led out the army and was passing by a field of grain. He gave an order, saying, ‘The soldiers are not to damage the grain, violators will be executed.’ The cavalrymen all got down from their horses so as to restrain them from going over to the grain, whereupon the Great Ancestor’s horse went galloping into it so he had the Master of Records come talk over his infraction. The Master of Records answered him according to the meaning found in the Spring and Autumn Annals, that a punishment is not to be imposed upon a superior. The Great Ancestor said, ‘I have laid out the law and myself have transgressed it, but how is a commander to submit? It is true that I act as commander of the army and cannot commit suicide, so I ask for myself to be punished.’ For this reason his assistants used a sword to shear off his hair so that it fell to the earth. Once there was a concubine who routinely served him as he rested during the day, and he laid his head on his pillow to sleep and spoke to her, saying, ‘In a short while come wake me up.’ The concubine, seeing the Great Ancestor was sleeping peacefully did not wake him, and when he himself awoke he struck and killed her with a staff. He frequently went on campaign against bandits and the government grain stores were deficient, so he secretly went to the supply master and said, ‘What is to be done?’ The supply master answered, ‘We can use the fewest hu of grain needed.’ The Great Ancestor replied, ‘Perfect.’ Afterward those within the army were saying that the Great Ancestor was deceiving the men, so he spoke to the supply master, saying, ‘I single you out to act as a pretext for me and be killed to satiate the men, lest the enterprise fall apart.’ He thereupon beheaded him and, taking the head and exposing it in public, said, ‘He dispensed few hu of grain and stole from the government granary, so I beheaded him at the army gates.’ Such did he cruelly and viciously deceive and in all things he behaved the same as this.”
Book of Wei 6 - Biography of Yuan ShaoEdit
Book of Wei 7 - Biography of Lü BuEdit
- The Cao Man zhuan states: “The people used the phrase: 'Among men Lü Bu, among horses Red Hare'.”
Book of Wei 10 - Biography of Xun YuEdit
- ↑ 吳人作《曹瞞傳》 (“A man from Wu 吳人 composed 作 Cao Man zhuan 曹瞞傳”)
Chen Shou. "Book of Wei 1" in Records of the Three Kingdoms, cited by Pei Songzhi.
- ↑ Kongming's Archives, biography of Cao Cao. Copyright © 2006 Adrian Loder.