Cao Cao ([tsʰǎu tsʰáu]; Chinese: 曹操; 155 – 15 March 220), courtesy name Mengde, was a Chinese warlord and the penultimate Chancellor of the Eastern Han dynasty who rose to great power in the final years of the dynasty. As one of the central figures of the Three Kingdoms period, he laid the foundations for what was to become the state of Cao Wei and was posthumously honoured as "Emperor Wu of Wei". Although he is often portrayed as a cruel and merciless tyrant in subsequent literature, Cao Cao has also been praised as a brilliant ruler and military genius who treated his subordinates like his family. During the fall of the Eastern Han dynasty, Cao Cao was able to secure the most populated and prosperous cities of the central plains and northern China. Cao had much success as the Han chancellor, but his handling of the Han emperor Liu Xie was heavily criticized and resulted in a continued and then escalated civil war. Opposition directly gathered around warlords Liu Bei and Sun Quan, whom Cao was unable to quell. Cao was also skilled in poetry and martial arts and wrote many war journals.