Episode 42 Companion: Northern Exposure




A general breakdown of the Three Kingdoms’ borders for much of this tumultuous period:

Three Kingdoms map



In light green: You Province, consisting of the Liaodong Peninsula, much of Manchuria, and parts of North Korea.



You Province had long been governed by the Gongsun Clan, and had remained in charge after Cao Cao had opted not to attack their fortifications back in 207-208 after conquering the Wuhuan tribes around White Wolf Mountain.

By the 230’s, You’s paramount leader was Gongsun Yuan (below), who was proclaimed the King of Yan in 237 after conducting a treaty of alliance with Emperor Sun Quan of Wu.


Though Gongsun soon reneged on his agreement with Sun Wu and attempted to ally with Cao Wei later that year, Wei invaded and destroyed the Gongsun Clan’s hold on power in 238, thereby reabsorbing the Province under its direct administration.


Emperor Cao Pi of Wei

Born: 187 CE

King of Wei: 220 CE (age: 33)

Emperor of Wei: winter of 220

Died: June 29, 226 (age: 39)

Cao Cao’s second son, who deposed Emperor Xian and ended the Han Dynasty once and for all.  He reigned as Emperor for 6 years, and like his father before him proved unable to reunify the southern states under his rule.

EPSON scanner image



Emperor Cao Rui of Wei

Born: 204 or 205 CE

Emperor of Wei: 226 (age: 21-22)

Died: January 22nd, 239 (age: 35)

Cao Pi’s eldest son (though quite possibly not actually of his bloodline, and instead of the Yuan Clan).  As emperor, he is remembered as a strong military strategist and political leader, astute in commissioning capable officials, as well as a notable supporter of art and poetry (like his father and grandfather before him). He devoted much of Cao Wei’s resources into building palaces and ancestral temples, and his reign saw the stalemate between his empire, Shu Han, and Sun Wu become even more entrenched.

In 237, he dispatched his top adviser and military commander General Sima Yi to lead a force of 40,000 to invade and depose Gongsun Yuan of You Province (who had styled himself the King of Yan).  He would die two years later after taking ill in 238, but managed to (fatefully) designate his adopted son Cao Fang as his successor under the regency of Sima Yi and Cao Shuang.



Sima Yi

Born: 179 CE

Regent of Wei: 239-251 (age at start of regency: 60)

Died: September 7th, 251 (age: 71-72)

Sima Yi, though perhaps best known for defending Wei against Zhuge Liang’s northward incursions throughout the 230’s, also led Wei’s only successful territorial expansion under the Cao Clan’s reign, conquering both Liaodong and much of Goguryeo between 237 and 247.

More on Sima Yi’s later life in Episode 41…






The Goguryeo-Wei War

Here’s an outline of territories claimed by the Goguryeo Kingdom (though it’s not altogether accurate, since Liaodong was definitely not under Korean control during this period):


The King of Goguryeo, Dongcheon

Born: 209 CE

King of Goguryeo: 227 (age: 18)

Destruction of capital (Hwando) and subsequent flight: 238-239 (age: 29-30)

Death: 248 (age: 39 or 40), in Pyongyang



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