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Cao Zhang

Cao Zhang (曹彰; styled Ziwen 子文) was a son of Cao Cao and a general of the Kingdom of Wei|Wei during the Three Kingdoms period in China.

The second of Cao Cao's four sons by the Lady Bian, Cao Zhang was said to have excelled in archery and armed combat in his youth. Though Cao Cao criticised his lack of learning, Cao Zhang often accompanied his father on campaign. It was obvious that unlike many of his other brothers, Cao Zhang wanted to pursue a career in the military. In 216, he was enfeoffed as Marquis of Yanling (鄢陵侯).

Cao Zhang held his only active independent military command in 218, when the Wuhuan rebelled on the northern frontier. Cao Zhang was given the titles of General of the Gentlemen of the Household in the North (北中郎將) and General of the Resolute Cavalry (驍騎將軍), then dispatched with a force of mixed infantry and cavalry to suppress the revolt. He fought a number of battles in what are now the provinces of Hebei and Shanxi, distinguishing himself with personal bravery. By year's end the rebels, including the Xianbei leader Kebineng, had surrendered. Cao Zhang returned swiftly to take part in the Hanzhong campaign against Liu Bei but upon reaching Chang'an, found that the fight was over. He was received personally by Cao Cao, who praised him, "What an amazing performance from my yellow-haired kid!" Cao Cao promoted him to become General of the Elite Cavalry (越騎將軍) and kept him at Chang'an to defend against a northern offensive by Liu Bei.

Shortly after returning to Luoyang in 220, Cao Cao became ill. He died as Cao Zhang was on-route to see him, leaving the throne to his eldest son Cao Pi. For a time there was nervousness at the capital for fear that Cao Zhang would contest the throne with his own armed forces. Upon his arrival, however, Cao Zhang affirmed his loyalty to Cao Pi. When the latter forced the abidication of Emperor Xian of Han China|Emperor Xian and became emperor himself, Cao Zhang was awarded stipends from 10,000 households. In 221, his hereditary rank was advanced to Duke and in 222, he was made King of Rencheng (任城王).

Cao Zhang died the next year whilst attending court at the capital. He received the posthumous appellation of "Wei" (威), meaning "Majestic" and was buried with honours befitting royalty.

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