Empress Mao
Empress of Cao Wei
TenureNovember or December 227 – 22 September 237
PredecessorEmpress Wende
SuccessorEmpress Mingyuan
Died(237-09-22)22 September 237[a]
SpouseCao Rui
IssueCao Yin, Prince Ai of Anping
Posthumous name
Empress Mingdao (明悼皇后)
FatherMao Jia (毛嘉)

Empress Mao (died 22 September 237),[a] personal name unknown, formally known as Empress Mingdao, was an empress of the state of Cao Wei during the Three Kingdoms period of China. She was married to Cao Rui, the second emperor of Wei.


From a poor family from Henei with her father Mao Jia (毛嘉) a carpenter in the department of public works.[2] Empress Mao became a concubine of Cao Rui during the reign of his father, Cao Pi when Cao Rui was Prince of Pingyuan and Lady Yu, also from Henei, was the chief wife. However Cao Rui was noted to show great favour to Mao, often sharing a carriage with her.

When Cao Rui became emperor in 226 following his father's death, Mao was made a Noble Lady and it wasn't till late 227 that the new Emperor picked who would be Empress, with grain given out to those who had lost their spouse, the childless, orphans and the helpless.[3] Mao was made Empress, to the annoyance of Lady Yu who told Rui's grandmother the Empress Dowager Bian the Cao's failure to pick an Empress from proper background would bring down the state. Lady Yu was promptly sent away. Soon after, Cao Rui ennobled her father Jia and gave brother Mao Zeng (毛曾) position, and would continue to show the family great favour. However when Cao Rui ordered officials to go to Mao Jia's house for banquets and events, Mao Jia's foolish behaviour including calling himself "Lordly Person" made him a mockery at court.

Over time Consort Guo became Cao Rui's favoured concubine and the Empress Mao began losing favour. Things came to head in 237 when Cao Rui hosted a party in the Rear Palace for the senior concubines with music and merriment. Consort Guo requested that Empress Mao be invited to join as well, but Cao Rui refused and further ordered that no news about the feast be given to Empress Mao. However Empress Mao knew of the party and pointedly asked the next day "Was yesterday’s party in the northern garden pleasant?". Cao Rui believed someone had leaked and the usually tolerant Emperor killed over ten of his attendants then ordered Empress Mao to commit suicide on 22 September 237. She was buried on 25 October 237 with honours befitting an empress, and her family remained honoured.

In Romance of the Three Kingdoms

Empress Mingdao is introduced in chapter 105 as the novel sets out Cao Rui's opulence and lack of restraint. Her background is ignored; initially beloved by Cao Rui, she becomes empress as soon as he becomes emperor. Neglected when he became more interested in Consort Guo, when Guo urges Cao Rui to invite the empress he said he would eat or drink nothing if Mao was at the garden feast. With Cao Rui then missing for a month, Empress Mao and her ladies come to the Blue Flower Pavilion to entertain themselves when they hear music in the Fragrant Forest Park, Mao makes enquires and is saddened to have hear what her husband had been up to. The next day she spots Cao Rui from her carriage and enquired about the party. Scared by Cao Rui's violent reaction, she returns to her palace. Cao Rui then orders her death and immediately makes Guo empress, the court officials are too frightened to protest.

The next chapter, after the destruction of Gongsun Yuan, Cao Rui is awoken during the middle of the night by a cold wind and in the darkness, he sees Empress Mao and some attendants. They come to his bed and demand his life, the freighted emperor then becomes mortally ill.

See also


  1. ^ a b Cao Rui's biography in the Sanguozhi recorded that Empress Mao died on the gengchen day of the 9th month of the 1st year of the Jingchu era of Cao Rui's reign.[1] This date corresponds to 22 September 237 in the Gregorian calendar.


  1. ^ ([景初元年九月]庚辰,皇后毛氏卒。) Sanguozhi vol. 3.
  2. ^ Sanguozhi vol.5.
  3. ^ Sanguozhi vol. 3.
Chinese royalty Preceded byEmpress Guo Nüwang Empress of Cao Wei 227–237 Succeeded byEmpress Guo