Quick Facts about Emperor Wendi
- Wendi’s name at birth was Cao Pi (Ts’ao Pi).
- He was a son of Cao Cao (Ts’ao Ts’ao) of the Kingdom of Wei.
- After his father, Cao Cao’s death in 220 CE, Cao Pi became the ruler of the Wei kingdom.
- Wendi (Wen-ti) means “Literary Emperor”.
End of the Eastern Han Dynasty
During the last years of the Eastern Han dynasty, rebellion was rampant. Warlords and overlords from provinces and kingdoms were siding with and against each other, and with and against the imperial court.
Cao Pi’s father, Cao Cao, sought to create his own Han dynasty in northern China. He was a general who became more of a dictator than an emperor.
Cao Cao waged war against other warlords in an attempt to rebuild a Han dynasty that had been devastated by rebellion. To help him in his task, he sided with the Yellow Turbans who had attempted to overthrow Emperor Xiandi, the last Eastern Han dynasty emperor, but were now willing to work with someone to rid themselves of other rulers.
If Cao Cao had lived, he may have gotten his wish, as his efforts were paid off with the unification of China north of the Yangzi River by 205 CE.
The Rise of Cao Wei
In 220 CE after the death of Cao Cao, the leadership of the Kingdom of Wei fell to his son Cao Pi who became known as Emperor Wendi (also known as Wei Wendi). To further cement his rule and prove his right to lead the Chinese people, Wendi ordered Emperor Xiandi, the last emperor of the Eastern (Later) Han dynasty, to abdicate the throne. Xiandi was not killed but was allowed to leave the court.
Poetry and Cao Pi’s Literary Works
Even with all of the military strategies and exploits, the Cao family were poets. During this time in China’s history, a form of poetry with verses of five to seven characters known as “shi” was popular. One of Cao Pi’s verses or shi is the oldest known to exist. As well, the oldest Chinese literary critique “Essay on Literature” is attributed to Wendi.
China under the Cao Wei Kingdom
The capital of the Kingdom of Wei was in Luoyang, Henan province.
The wealthy families that before had been able to pay or bribe their way into court or government positions no longer had the means to do so since there was no longer a unified court. Instead, they began working at the local level to secure government positions for their family and successive generations.
Local government officials ranked each person and soon, the family you were born into and what office a parent held, assured a position. This was unlike the earlier Western and Eastern Han dynasty methods of obtaining a government office based upon your Confucian scholarship and exam taking skills.
Chinese historians use the Wei family of the Three Kingdoms period as the official imperial line. The other families in control at the time – Wu and Shu Han vied for the right to be known as the imperial line, but to no avail.
Wendi died in 226 CE and his son, Mingdi, succeeded him a ruler of the Kingdom of Wei.
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