Cao Guo Jiu | Ts’ao Kuo-chiu | Cao Yi | Cao Jing Xiu

  • Cao Guojiu, a virtuous man disliking imperial corruption
  • Seeking Taoism after his brother's crimes
  • Encounter with Lu Dongbin at a river
  • Representation in official robes, holding a golden tablet or brass chimes

One of the legendary BA XIAN, or Eight IMMORTALS, in TAOISM is Cao Guojiu. According to most legends, he was the brother of Empress Cao (or Empress Ts’ao Huo) of the SONG DYNASTY, living in the 11th century. Cao Guojiu, a virtuous man, disapproved of the corruption within imperial life. Following his brother's murder and attempted seduction of the victim’s wife, Cao Guojiu sought refuge in the mountains, aspiring to learn Taoism from a monk.

What is GuoJiu

In Chinese, GuoJiu means the brother of the Empress

In this folkore, there are two brothers of the Empress:

  • The Older Brother, Cao JingXiu, i.e. Cao GuoJiu
  • The Younger Brother, Cao JingZhi

Cao Guojiu's Guilt and Practice and Cultivation

During the reign of Emperor Renzong of the Song Dynasty, a scholar from Chaozhou named Yuan Wenzheng, along with his wife Mrs. Zhang and their three-year-old son, traveled to the capital city to take the imperial examinations. Upon seeing Mrs. Zhang's beauty, the Younger Brother of the Empress, Cao JingZhi, lured the couple into his mansion, where he murdered Yuan Wenzheng and his son, disposed of their bodies in a well, and forcefully took Mrs. Zhang as his concubine, bringing her along to his post as Governor of Zhengzhou.

Bao Zheng, a renowned official known for his integrity, was returning to the capital after a military campaign when he encountered a strange wind. Following the wind, he arrived at the Cao Mansion, where he retrieved the bodies of Yuan Wenzheng and his son from the well. Upon hearing the news, Cao JingXiu dispatched men to Zhengzhou to kill Mrs. Zhang and silence her. However, a servant named Zhang Qing managed to rescue Mrs. Zhang, and an elderly man who turned out to be Taibai Jinxing, the star god of Venus, guided Mrs. Zhang to Dongjing.

Mistaking Cao JingXiu for Bao Zheng, Mrs. Zhang intercepted his carriage and pleaded for justice, narrowly escaping death. She then twice visited Kaifeng Prefecture to seek redress, and Bao Zheng devised a plan to lure the two Grand Secretaries into his custody. The Grand Lady of the Cao Mansion and Empress Cao herself came to Kaifeng Prefecture to plead for leniency, but Bao Zheng remained resolute. Even Emperor Renzong personally intervened, issuing an edict of pardon. However, by the time the edict reached the execution ground, Cao JingZhi had already been beheaded.

Cao JingXiu, having been spared, was deeply ashamed of his actions. He retreated to the mountains, dedicating himself to spiritual cultivation, dressing in simple robes and abstaining from food for weeks.

One day, he encountered the immortals ZhongLi and ChunYang, who asked him, "We have heard that you are cultivating. What are you cultivating?" Cao replied, "I am cultivating the Dao." The immortals inquired, "Where is the Dao?" Cao raised his finger towards the sky. "Where is the sky?" Cao pointed his finger to his heart. The immortals laughed and said, "The heart is nothingness, and nothingness is the Dao. You have already seen your true nature." They then imparted upon him the secret techniques of returning to the original, and he was inducted into the ranks of immortals.

Representation of Cao Guojiu

Cao Guojiu is often depicted in official robes, wearing an elaborate court headdress. In statues, he is shown holding either a golden tablet or a pair of brass chimes used in temple ceremonies and theatrical performances. The nobility and theatrical performers considered Cao Guojiu as their patron.