Empress Cao (Han dynasty)
|Empress of the Eastern Han dynasty|
|Died||260 (aged 62–63)|
Cao Jie (197-260), formally known as Empress Xianmu, was an empress of the Eastern Han dynasty. She was the second wife of Emperor Xian, the last Han emperor, and became known as the Duchess of Shanyang after her husband's abdication. She was a half-sister of Cao Pi, who ended the Han dynasty by forcing Emperor Xian to abdicate the throne in his favour and established the state of Cao Wei.
Family background and marriage to Emperor Xian
Cao Jie was a daughter of the warlord Cao Cao, who by 196 had Emperor Xian under his control and issuing edicts in Emperor Xian's name to his own benefit in his campaign to reunite the empire, which had been held by regional warlords. In 213, Cao, who by that point had been created the Duke of Wei (later King of Wei), offered three daughters to be Emperor Xian's consorts—Jie and her older sister, Cao Xian (Chinese: 曹憲), and younger sister, Cao Hua (Chinese: 曹華). Initially, their titles were Furen (夫人), and in 214 their titles were upgraded to Guiren (貴人).
In 214, Emperor Xian's first wife Empress Fu Shou was discovered to have advocated a conspiracy against Cao Cao in 200, and although 14 years had elapsed, Cao was still so angry at her that he forcibly had her deposed and executed. In 215, Cao Jie was named Empress to replace her.
As empress and duchess
Not much is known about Empress Cao's life as empress, but it was clear that by that point her husband was thoroughly powerless, as her father held all power. In 220, her father died, and her brother Cao Pi succeeded him as the Prince of Wei. Later that year, he forced Emperor Xian to abdicate in favor of him, ending the Han Dynasty. It is said by traditional historians that when Cao Pi sent messengers to demand Empress Cao surrender her empress seal, she refused several times, but finally relented. As her husband was created the Duke of Shanyang, she was given the title the Duchess of Shanyang. Her husband died in 234, and she died 26 years later and was buried with him with honors due an empress, using Han ceremonies.
Empress Fu Shou
|Empress of Eastern Han Dynasty
|Empress of China (Northern/Central)
Empress Guo Nüwang of Cao Wei
|Empress of China (Southwestern)
Empress Wu of Shu Han
|Empress of China (Southeastern)
Empress Pan of Eastern Wu