Cao Huan

Cao Huan (246-302), formally known as Emperor Yuan of Wei, was the fifth and last emperor of the state of cao wei during the three kingdoms period of Chinese history.

In 265, Cao abdicated in favor of Sima Yan, then Emperor Wu of the jin dynasty, and was granted the title of "Prince of Chenliu" (陳留王), which he carried until his death. After his death, he was buried with honors befitting that of an emperor and given a posthumous name.

Family background and ascension to the throne

Cao Huan born Cao Huang (曹璜) in 246. His father Cao Yu (曹宇), the Prince of Yan, was one of the youngest sons of the late han dynasty warlord Cao Cao. In 258, at the age of 12, in accordance with cao wei's regulations that the sons of princes (other than the first-born son of the prince's spouse, customarily designated the prince's heir) were to be instated as dukes, Cao Huan was instated as the Duke of Changdao (常道鄉公).

In 260, after the ruling emperor Cao Mao was killed in an attempt to seize back state power from the regent Sima Zhao, Cao Huang was selected to succeed Cao Mao.


At the time Cao Huang became emperor, his name was changed to "Cao Huan", because it was difficult to observe naming taboo with the name "Huang" (which was a homonym to many common terms—including "yellow" (黃) and "emperor" (皇)). During Cao Huan's reign, the Sima clan controlled state power, and Cao was merely a figurehead and head of state in name. In 263, Cao Huan instated his wife Lady Bian as empress.

For the first few years of Cao Huan's reign, there were constant attacks by forces from the rival Shu Han state, under the command of Jiang Wei. While Jiang's attacks were largely easily repelled, Sima Zhao eventually ordered a counterattack on Shu Han, with an invading force of 180,000 men commanded by Zhong Hui and Deng Ai. In late 263, Liu Shan, the emperor of Shu Han, surrendered to Deng, bringing an end to his state. After the fall of Shu Han, Deng was framed for treason by Zhong and stripped of command. In early 264, Zhong plotted with Jiang Wei to restore Shu Han and eliminate all the cao wei generals who might oppose him. However, the generals started a counterinsurgency and killed Zhong and Jiang. Shu Han's former territories (in present-day Sichuan , Chongqing , Yunnan , southern Shaanxi , and southeastern Gansu ) were completely annexed by cao wei.

Abdication and later life

cao wei itself did not last much longer, however. In 263, Sima again forced Cao Huan to grant him the nine bestowments and this time finally accepted, signifying that an usurpation was near. In 264, he was promoted to the Prince of Jin — the final step before usurpation. After he died in 265, his son Sima Yan inherited his position, and later that year forced Cao Huan to abdicate in favor of him, establishing the jin dynasty. He granted Cao Huan the title of "Prince of Chenliu", which Cao carried until his death.

Not much is known about Cao Huan's life as a prince under Jin rule. Sima Yan (later known as Emperor Wu of Jin) permitted him to retain imperial banners and wagons and to worship ancestors with imperial ceremonies. He also permitted Cao not to refer to himself as a subject of his. He died in 302 during the reign of Emperor Wu's son, Emperor Hui. He was buried with honors due an emperor and given a posthumous name.

Era names

Jingyuan (景元) 260-264

Xianxi (咸熙) 264-265

Personal information


Cao Yu (曹宇), Prince of Yan, son of Cao Cao


Empress Bian, daughter of Bian Lin (卞綝), instated in 263

Last update 20-06-2012

Site Search


Random Articals

Join Our Newsletter




Send This Page to Friend

To Email this page to a friend

1. Use Your Default Email Client
2. Use Our Recommend Page

Online Contact



If you like this article please feel free to share it to your favorite site listed below:

Choose A Style:

Font Family

Font Colors
black Blue Green Purple Red Default
Font Size

Site Options Help

control panel