Controversy surrounding the seven-step poem of the Three Kingdoms period

Some researchers think that the story that Cao Shi saved his life by completing “The Seven Poets” after seven steps is childish.

In early November, billionaire Elon Musk posted on Twitter Posts Lost the exam (Seven-Step Poetry), causing curiosity around the world about intent.

Cook beans and burn pea branches,
Beans in the pot cry.
Born from the same root,
Why burn each other?

(Translation by Phan Ke Binh)

A series of Chinese newspapers reported on Elon Musk’s move and the author’s caption Lost the exam Cao Shi (192-232) – the third son of Cao Cao and his wife Vu Tuyen Bien, and a famous writer of the Three Kingdoms period. But according to QQ, the author and the story surrounding the poem still have many questionable points, which have not been verified.

The most popular story about Lost the exam In 220, Cao Cao died, Cao Phi (Cao Shi’s brother) from the Crown Prince ascended to the throne of Wei King, then proclaimed himself Emperor Wei. Despite owning the throne, Cao Phi is still afraid that Cao Shi plots to overthrow him, trying to eliminate his brother. Once at the palace, Cao Phi used the excuse that Cao Shi made a mistake, asking Cao Shi to write a poem in seven steps. Failure to do so will result in death. Cao Shi then used the image of a bean branch to boil a bean to describe the fact that the brothers were in conflict because of the power struggle. Cao Phi was touched and spared Cao Shi’s life.

Painting of Cao Shi by Gu Kaizhi (348-405) - ancient Chinese painter and politician.  Photo: QQ

Painting of Cao Shi by Gu Kaizhi (348-405) – ancient Chinese painter and politician. Photo: QQ

The earliest poem appeared in the pen Neolingualism by the writer Luu Nghia Khanh in the Liu Song dynasty (420-479). When the book came out, Cao Shi had been dead for more than 200 years. This is also the sole source of the article failed exam, Subsequent records are all taken from the book. Some researchers argue that the content in Neolingualism grounded because Luu Nghia Khanh is smart, has outstanding talent, and many other information of The neo-linguistic world reliable.

However, Lost the exam not recorded in both sets Collection of Cao Shi, one is compiled by Cao Shi himself, one is compiled by Cao Due (the son of Cao Phi). There is an opinion that Cao Due may not allow to take notes Lost the exam to protect the image of his father.

Therefore, the authenticity of Lost the exam controversial. Writer and scholar Du Thu Vu said that with Cao Phi’s intelligence, if he wanted to kill Cao Shi, he could not present a challenge that was both brutal and like a child’s game at the palace. Moreover, Cao Phi understands that Cao Shi is smart, exported into poetry, he will not make it difficult for his brother in this way. Therefore, Du Thu Vu thinks that the touching story of Cao Phi pardoning his brother’s life thanks to the poem is childish.

According to Du Thu Vu, Lost the exam unique comparison, bearing the sound of the Yuefu (Han dynasty’s musical organ), likely precisely written by Cao Shi. But the context of the work can be created by later people. Diep Gia Doanh – an expert in studying classical literature – also told the story about the unreliable poem context.

Some researchers believe that Lost the exam It is not the work of Cao Shi, but the result of the introduction of Buddhism into China. The element of “seven steps” has similarities with the story of the Buddha who was born walking seven steps, under each step a lotus bloomed. The detail “cooking beans in a cauldron” is also often found in books on Buddhism, talking about sufferings and tribulations in human life.

Researcher Tran Dan Khac said that after being introduced to China, stories about Buddhism gradually took on a more regional identity to be closer to the lifestyle and local people. Many famous historical figures were passed down orally as the main characters in Buddhism, the story of the poem Lost the exam also, because after the death of Cao Shi hundreds of years, the new work was handed down.

Controversy surrounding 'Seven sets of exams' in the Three Kingdoms period

The anecdote that Cao Shi wrote poetry after seven steps has been adapted many times in movies and television series. In “Three Kingdoms” 2010, Ly Vu Hien played Cao Thuc. Video: Bilibili

Nghinh Xuan (follow QQ)


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