Better I betray the world than have the world betray me!
~ Cao Cao's most famous quote, after escaping an 'assassination attempt'.

Cao Cao is a major antagonist and can be considered to be the main antagonist in the classic Chinese novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms and its multiple adaptations. He is an evil commander of the Wei empire, who seeks to become an emperor of China.


Cao Cao was born in Qiao (present-day Bozhou, Anhui). His political career began when he broke the Yellow Turban Rebellion which threatened the power of the Han Dynasty at the end of the dynasty's reign. After successfully breaking the rebellion, he was given a position and then took the opportunity to take control of the Qingzhou Prefecture. He then strengthened his position by persuading the former Yellow Turban rebel member to join his personal army. He received and provided protection to Emperor Xian of Han who at the time was threatened. But then instead replaced Emperor Xian and took this opportunity to defeat some warlords around the Xuchang region which was the center of his power.

In the battle of Guandu, Cao Cao greatest victory is to conquer Yuan Shao, who at that time was the biggest warlord in northern China. After the conquest, he was officially appointed as prime minister and managed to unite northern China. After gaining a position as prime minister, Cao Cao then composed the power to conquer southern China, which was ruled by Liu Bei and Sun Quan. The Chibi War is a war between Cao Cao and Liu Bei and Sun Quan. However, Cao Cao received a defeat in the famous war in the history of China.

After Cao Cao's death, his son Cao Pi later described himself as emperor of Wei and set up Cao Wei country. Later, Cao Cao was then posthumously titled "Grand Ancestor Emperor Wu of Wei".

Other media

Cao Cao appears in the Dynasty Warriors video game series, where he can't be considered a villain, since in Wei's point of view, he is a hero. In the Warriors Orochi game series he also appears commanding resistance forces against Demon Armies.



  • Cao Cao is initially treated as a villainous character, but later games began looking to his historical record, which portrayed him as a capable and wise ruler. While he's slowly gotten a better characterization as the series has gone along (especially after 6), outside of the Wei campaign, he's still mostly portrayed as ruthless and cruel. Historically, he was an excellent leader both as an administrator and a commander, and he treated his men as family (though this particular aspect of his personality is very much part of his character in the games).