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enter image description here

The greatest traitor has always resembled an honest man and the greatest falsehood comes across as truth.

Righteousness and evil cannot be discerned by their appearance.

People have decided wrongly about me in the past.

Today they still misjudge me,

and may continue to do so in the future

However, I shall remain myself.

I have never cared about others misjudging me

Did Cao Cao say that? In what context? Is it fictional?

Who was Cao Cao? Cao Cao was the last prime minister of the Han Dynasty and usually remembered as the king of Wei, one of China's Three Kingdoms. After his death, his son toppled the Xian Emperor and established the Wei dynasty.

Why do I seriously doubt the quote? I do not know the source. I've read the whole Romance of Three Kingdoms and I do not remember him saying this.

Searching the web only shows that he supposedly said this but not the source.

I want to know more context.

| improve this question | | | | |
  • 4
    A little introduction about who Cao Cao was would improve the question. – Spencer Sep 7 '19 at 23:15
  • 1
    I saw those pics everywhere and I saw evidence everywhere. I do not know whether the source is fiction or not. Cao Cao is much more well known to say that "I'd rather betray the world then letting the world betray me". – user4951 Sep 8 '19 at 6:06
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    Much improved - thank you for the update! – Mark C. Wallace Sep 8 '19 at 9:21
  • @user4951 The selected answer has already explain the source of the mis-translation. It also worth notice that the picture posted is quite questionable since the english context and scene really doesn't match. It's quite obviously the famous scene of "横槊赋诗" before the battle of Chi'Bi which really has nothing to do with the context at all. If the pics is really "everywhere" as you mentioned, then it's actually quite another sad and bad meme image that got created in internet age. – tweray Sep 17 '19 at 1:01
  • @Spencer, that was a little silly. We don't demand people explain who George III was or Robin Hood. Anyone who could answer this question would already know Cao Cao, since he is the antihero/villain of about a tenth of Chinese plays, operas, etc. and usually the most powerful character/faction in games about the Three Kingdoms era. – lly Feb 29 at 9:10
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I highly doubt it.


Bar one line, that almost-exact quote

The greatest traitor has always resembled an honest man and the greatest falsehood comes across as truth.

Righteousness and evil cannot be discerned by their appearance.

People have decided wrongly about me in the past.

Today they still misjudge me,

and may continue to do so in the future.

However, I shall remain myself.

I have never cared about others misjudging me

can be heard from 31:24 to 31:46 in this video, which is an episode from the 2010 TV series, which itself is mainly based on The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, which in turn is a novel loosely based on the Records of the Three Kingdoms.

Chinese transcription of the quote in that video:

...大奸似忠,大僞似眞

忠義和奸惡都不是能夠从表面就能看得出來的。

也許你們从前錯看了我曹操。

現在又看錯了。

可是我仍然是我,

我从來都不怕別人錯看我。

I cannot find 大奸似忠,大僞似眞 in either the Records or the Romance.


Well, the Romance was supposedly written in the 14th century. According to this Baidu article, The greatest traitor has always resembled an honest man (大奸似忠) first appeared in a Song Dynasty text (宋・邵博《聞見後錄》), so such a quote cannot possibly be attributed to the historical Cao Cao.

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  • Can you link to video that have english subtitle? – user4951 Sep 11 '19 at 8:09
  • @user4951 youtube.com/… – dROOOze Sep 11 '19 at 8:18
  • The quote first being attested in a Song dynasty source doesn't imply it couldn't possibly have come from Cao Cao. Plenty of sources haven't survived antiquity and the middle ages, and the Chinese were even more fond of quoting snippets and showing off their learning than the Byzantines were. It would change a great deal if the Song source were quoting a lost work that attributed the line to Cao Cao. [/devil's advocate] – lly Feb 29 at 9:21

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