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Yang Xiu (Han dynasty)

Yang Xiu
A Qing Dynasty illustration of Yang Xiu
Advisor of Cao Cao
Born 175
Died 219 (aged 43–44)
Traditional Chinese 楊修
Simplified Chinese 杨修
Pinyin Yáng Xīu
Wade–Giles Yang Hsiu
Courtesy name Dezu (德祖)

Yang Xiu (175–219), courtesy name Dezu, was an advisor to the warlord Cao Cao during the late Han Dynasty period of Chinese history.


Yang Xiu was the son of the esteemed official Yang Biao and the grandson of Yang Ci. His mother, Lady Yuan, was Yuan Shu's sister. Yang Xiu served as Registrar to Cao Cao. Yang Xiu was executed in 219 for informing his friend Cao Zhi of a council's agenda so that he could prepare beforehand.

Sometime during the 200s, Yang Xiu was nominated as Filial and Incorrupt and became Registrar to Cao Cao, the Imperial Chancellor. He was said to have been skilled in both civil and military affairs and understood Cao Cao well. Because of this, Yang Xiu became an influential figure in the government.

He was a close friend of Cao Zhi and became involved in the fight between Cao Zhi and Cao Pi for succession. Yang Xiu's close links with Cao Zhi caused him misfortune during Cao Zhi's occasional misbehavior such as the incident in Ye city, where Cao Zhi drunkenly rode through the gate reserved for only the emperor. But the final blow was when Yang Xiu was discovered to have leaked the council's discussion agenda to Cao Zhi so that his friend could prepare beforehand and impress Cao Cao. Because of this and remembering his connection with Yuan Shu, Cao Cao had Yang Xiu executed.

After his death, Cao Cao reproached Yang Xiu's father Yang Biao, who had previously retired from politics, for showing sorrow at the death of his son, but Yang Biao refused to show remorse for his grief and continued to acknowledge his sadness.


"Once, a garden door was built by some servants of Cao Cao. When he arrived, he did not talk to his servants about their work but instead wrote a character, "活", meaning "alive", on the door. Nobody could understand what Cao Cao meant by this, except Yang Xiu, who explained that, since, in Chinese, "門" means door, writing the character "活" inside a door forms the character "闊", which means "wide". Thus Cao Cao was indicating that he thought the door was too wide. The servants of Cao Cao then altered the garden door, and when Cao Cao heard that it was Yang Xiu alone who had understood his meaning, he became alerted of his talent.
Once, a nomadic tribe sent a box of cake to Cao Cao as a gift, who wrote the words "一合酥" on the box, which in English, means "a box of cake". However, when Yang Xiu saw it, he took out a spoon and shared the cake with the other followers of Cao Cao. Cao Cao, mystified, asked why, to which
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