After the death of Tung Ch’o, Lu Bu managed to seize control of the capital for a short period of time. The loyalists led by Li Ru and Fan Chou initially fled from the capital city of Chang’an, but they managed to lure Lu Bu out with a decoy and seized the capital along with the Emperor Xian inside it. However, Li Ru and Fan Chou proceeded to fight each other for supreme power and mistreated the Emperor.
One of Li Ru’s generals kidnapped the Emperor, and Ts’ao Ts’ao quickly befriended this traitor offering him help against his former master. One day, Ts’ao Ts’ao said that he would bring the Emperor to the city of Xuchang. His friend did not suspect anything and allowed him to do so, but Ts’ao Ts’ao quickly seized power by pretending loyalty to the Emperor Xian. He quickly built his army and his position at Xu Chang. Soon, he was powerful enough to crush Li Ru and Fan Chou as well. Now, he was one of the most powerful warlords of the north after Yuan Shao.
Just then, he invited his father to reside with him at Xuchang, which was now the capital of his powerful Wei kingdom. Ts’ao Kao, who was Ts’ao Ts’ao’s father, resided with his friend Tao Qian, who was governor of Xuzhou (a wealthy coastal city) and admirer of Ts’ao Ts’ao along the way to Xuchang. Tao Qian was an old, benevolent man who threw a great banquet who Ts’ao Kao and sent him off with a body of personal guards.
Unfortunately, these guards were up to no good. They were originally criminals who were given a second chance by the benevolent governor, but their evil habits died hard. One day, the guards murdered Ts’ao Kao and fled with his treasures, including gifts that Tao Qian had given him.
Ts’ao Ts’ao was furious upon hearing this news. In his tantrum, he blamed Tao Qian for his father’s death and led a great army against Xuzhou. Tao Qian had no chance against Ts’ao Ts’ao’s vast army. He knew he was ruined. Just then, Liu Pei, who was residing with the warlord Gongsun Zan at the city of Ping Yuan, decided to rescue Tao Qian. He set off from Xuzhou with his tiny band of militia and send his younger brother Chang Fei to negotiate peace with Ts’ao Ts’ao.
Ts’ao Ts’ao actually had no intention of signing a treaty with Chang Fei, but events worked out in Chang Fei’s favor. Just then, Lu Bu, now a warlord without land, invaded Ts’ao Ts’ao’s capital base at Xuchang. Pretending to accept Chang Fei’s explanation, Ts’ao Ts’ao quickly returned to Xuchang where he did battle against Lu Bu.
Now, you will recall that Lu Bu was the greatest warrior in China. In the revolution of the seventeen warlords many years earlier, he was able to fend off Liu Pei, Kuan Yu, and Chang Fei on his own. He easily defeated Ts’ao Ts’ao, so Ts’ao Ts’ao pretended to be dead and he spread the rumor out. When Lu Bu thought Ts’ao Ts’ao was dead, he attacked the Wei camp carelessly and was ambushed. It was a great victory for Wei. Now, Ts’ao Ts’ao easily recaptured Xuchang, and Lu Bu was again landless.