Cao Bao (died 196) was a military officer serving under Tao Qian, the Governor of Xu Province, during the late Eastern Han dynasty of China. He became a subordinate of Tao Qian's successor, Liu Bei, after Tao's death in 194. He was killed by Zhang Fei in 196 after a quarrel.[1]

Cao Bao
Chancellor of Xiapi (下邳相)
In office
? (?)–196 (196)
MonarchEmperor Xian of Han
Personal details
Pizhou, Jiangsu

In historical recordsEdit

The only known information about Cao Bao in history comes from Pei Songzhi's annotations to Chen Shou's Records of the Three Kingdoms (Sanguozhi), which recorded the history of the late Eastern Han dynasty and the Three Kingdoms period.

An annotation from the Yingxiong Ji (英雄記) in the Sanguozhi recorded:

"Liu Bei left Zhang Fei behind to defend Xiapi (下邳; Xu Province's capital) and led his troops to battle Yuan Shu at Shiting (石亭) and Huaiyin (淮陰). Cao Bao, a former officer under Tao Qian, remained in Xiapi. Zhang Fei wanted to kill Cao Bao (for reasons unknown). Cao Bao fled back to his own camp and strengthened his defences while sending a messenger to request aid from Lü Bu (who was taking shelter under Liu Bei then). Lü Bu attacked Xiapi and defeated Zhang Fei and drove him away."[2]

Another annotation, also from the Yingxiong Ji, in the Sanguozhi, recorded a different account:

"[...] Xu Dan (許耽), who was from Danyang (丹楊) and was serving as a General of the Household (中郎將) under Liu Bei, sent a Major (司馬) Zhang Kuang (章誑) to meet Lü Bu at night. Zhang Kuang told Lü Bu, "Zhang Yide (Zhang Fei) quarrelled with Cao Bao, the Chancellor (相) of Xiapi, and then killed him. The city is now in a state of chaos. [...]"[3]

Sima Guang used the second account when he compiled the Zizhi Tongjian.[4]

In Romance of the Three KingdomsEdit

Cao Bao's conflict with Zhang Fei was dramatised in the 14th-century historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms.

In the novel, Cao Bao was Lü Bu's father-in-law. He was coerced by Zhang Fei to drink wine even though he insisted that he abstained from alcohol. When Cao Bao pleaded with Zhang Fei to stop forcing him to drink by asking the latter to "spare him in consideration of his son-in-law", Zhang became furious because he hated Lü Bu. He ordered his men to flog Cao Bao 50 times and only gave up when the other officers begged him to stop. Cao Bao bore a grudge against Zhang Fei for the beating, so he secretly contacted Lü Bu and assisted his son-in-law in seizing control of Xiapi. Zhang Fei was drunk when Lü Bu attacked the city so he lost the battle and fled from Xiapi. Cao Bao led about a hundred soldiers to pursue Zhang Fei but ended up being killed by the latter.[5]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b de Crespigny (2007), p. 34.
  2. ^ (英雄記曰:備留張飛守下邳,引兵與袁術戰於淮陰石亭,更有勝負。陶謙故將曹豹在下邳,張飛欲殺之。豹衆堅營自守,使人招呂布。布取下邳,張飛敗走。) Yingxiong Ji annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 32.
  3. ^ (英雄記曰:布水陸東下,軍到下邳西四十里。備中郎將丹楊許耽夜遣司馬章誑來詣布,言「張益德與下邳相曹豹共爭,益德殺豹,城中大亂,不相信。丹楊兵有千人屯西白城門內,聞將軍來東,大小踊躍,如復更生。將軍兵向城西門,丹楊軍便開門內將軍矣」。布遂夜進,晨到城下。天明,丹楊兵悉開門內布兵。布於門上坐,步騎放火,大破益德兵,獲備妻子軍資及部曲將吏士家口。) Yingxiong Ji annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 7.
  4. ^ (袁術攻劉備以爭徐州,備使司馬張飛守下邳,自將拒術於盱眙、淮陰,相持經月,更有勝負。下邳相曹豹,陶謙故將也,與張飛相失,飛殺之,城中乖亂。袁術與呂布書,勸令襲下邳,許助以軍糧。布大喜,引軍水陸東下。備中郎將丹陽許耽開門迎之。張飛敗走,布虜備妻子及將吏家口。) Zizhi Tongjian vol. 62.
  5. ^ Sanguo Yanyi ch. 14.
  • Chen, Shou (3rd century). Records of the Three Kingdoms (Sanguozhi).
  • de Crespigny, Rafe (2007). A Biographical Dictionary of Later Han to the Three Kingdoms 23-220 AD. Leiden: Brill. ISBN 9789004156050.
  • Luo, Guanzhong (14th century). Romance of the Three Kingdoms (Sanguo Yanyi).
  • Pei, Songzhi (5th century). Annotations to Records of the Three Kingdoms (Sanguozhi zhu).
  • Sima, Guang (1084). Zizhi Tongjian.