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January 25, 2010

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Wanted: Cao DNA to identify warlord

RESEARCHERS from Fudan University plan to collect DNA samples from men surnamed Cao to discover whether a newly unearthed tomb in Henan Province belongs to Cao Cao, a third-century warlord and ruler.

The plan has attracted nationwide attention, much of it skeptical. Many people in the online community doubt if DNA could conclusively identify Cao Cao's remains.

Researchers from Fudan's Life Sciences School will compare the DNA samples with those taken from the tomb's corpse to determine whether it is Cao Cao.

"Are the researchers suggesting that I am actually one of the descendants of Cao Cao, simply because my surname happens to be Cao," asked Cao Mingxu, a 22-year-old student at Shanghai Institute of Foreign Trade.

Cao said he would not offer his DNA to this "ridiculous" research until there are scientific facts proving he is indeed a descendant of Cao Cao.

Cao Deqiang, Cao Mingxu's father, agreed that the research could be a big waste of time.

According to an online survey by, 293 out of 325 respondents doubt the research will lead to the final truth and believe it is simply a promotion to boost the university's reputation.

One professor also expressed doubt about the DNA plan.

Ding Mei, a professor from China Medical University, said while the research is theoretically possible, it would be unwise to draw any conclusions.

Ding said it would be difficult to collect pure DNA samples from the corpse after so many years. He added that many people would likely say that they are descendants of Cao Cao to gain notoriety.

The body was found in a two-chamber tomb in Anyang City in December last year. The man was found to have died in his 60s, coinciding with Cao Cao's death age.

According to legend, Cao Cao (AD 155-220) built a strong and rich state.


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