Thank you to the Society for Military History.
The Han dynasty was in trouble.
For four centuries the Han had ruled China. Founded by a peasant rebel named Liu Bang, they had ascended to rule in 206 B.C.E. By 196 C.E. they were in clear trouble, however. Civil War had forcedEmperor Xian to move his capital to Xuchang. From there he had little practical control over China, but rather sat as a figure head while powerful warlords ruled their individual territories unchecked.
By 208, twelve years after the move of the capital, Cao Cao was one of the most powerful of these warlords. Xuchang was in the heart of the territory he held. When the Imperial court had moved, he had been a small timer. However, he took advantage of his stranglehold over the court’s line of communications to rise from a small time warlord to being the man who ruled the entire north of China in the name of Emperor Xian.