BEIJING, Jan. 7 -- The legendary politician and
general from the Three Kingdoms Period (AD 220-280), Cao Cao can rest in peace
now that his descendants proudly acknowledge him.
For centuries, despite Cao's record as a fair ruler
and military genius who treated his subordinates like family and was also
skilled in poetry and martial arts, he suffered from a bad reputation.
This fact is best reflected by the Chinese
saying, "speak of Cao Cao and he will appear" - which broadly translates as the
English idiom "speak of the Devil".
Few people have openly acknowledged they were Cao's
descendants over the past centuries, making Cao's family tree an untraceable
one, an unusual phenomenon considering his historical importance.
However, after last month's release of the discovery
of Cao's tomb in Anyang county, Henan province, Cao Jian'ou, from Jiangxi
province, claimed he was one of Cao's 82nd generation descendants. In the next
few days, a few dozen people said they too had descended from the former ruler.
"This suggests the public has started to see Cao Cao
as he was," says Liang Mancang, an expert on Chinese history between the Han and
Wei dynasties (206 BC-AD 265).
According to Liang, Cao's image started to be
distorted during the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907) when Confucian historians, who
didn't like the fact that Cao usurped the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220) throne,
described him as the archetypal unscrupulous villain.
Cao was represented as a cunning and deceitful man in
Chinese opera, where the character of Cao is given white facial makeup to
reflect his treacherous personality, in comparison to a red face indicating
uprightness and loyalty, or the black face of a rough and forthright character.
In the 14th century, when novelist Luo Guanzhong
wrote The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, which has become one of the four
classic Chinese novels, he took much of his inspiration from the opera.
Over the past decades, however, thanks to the
development of Chinese archaeology and an increasing public interest in history,
there have been attempts to revise this negative image, the most recent and
successful one being CCTV's hit TV program Lecture Room, featuring Professor Yi
Zhongtian lecturing on the Three Kingdoms.
The professor from Xiamen University in Fujian
province, brought to life the high-brow literature of The Romance of Three
Kingdoms thanks to his unique points of view and witty exposition.
Cao is Yi's favorite character in the Three Kingdoms
and he describes him as a "loveable but treacherous hero."
(Source: China Daily)