Cáo Hóng appellation Zǐlián was Tàizǔ’s younger cousin. (1) Tàizǔ raised righteous troops to suppress Dǒng Zhuó, reached Xíngyáng, was by Zhuó’s officer Xú Róng defeated. Tàizǔ lost horse, the bandits pursued extremely rapidly, Hòng dismounted, to give his horse to Tàizǔ, Tàizǔ declined, Hóng said: “Under Heaven can be without Hóng, it cannot be without you.” Therefore he on foot followed arriving at Biàn river, the river was deep and could not be crossed, Hóng followed the river and obtained boat, with Tàizǔ together crossed, returned escaping to Qiáo.
Yáng Province Inspector Chén Wēn previously with Hóng was friendly, Hóng commanded household troops of over a thousand men, joined Wēn in recruiting troops, obtaining Lújiāng superior armored two thousand men, east arrived at Dānyáng and again obtained several thousand men, with Tàizǔ met at Lóngkàng. Tàizǔ campaigned against Xú Province, Zhāng Miǎo raised Yǎn Province to rebel and welcome Lǚ Bù. At the time there was great famine, Hóng commanded troops at the front, first occupied Dōngpíng and Fàn, gathering provisions and grain to supply the army. Tàizǔ suppressed [Zhāng] Miǎo and [Lǚ] Bù at Púyáng, [Lǚ] Bù was defeated and fled. Therefore [Cáo Hóng] occupied Dōng’ē, turned to strike Jǐyīn, Shānyáng, Zhōngmù, Yángwǔ, Jīng, Mì over ten counties, and captured them all. For his beginning to end achievements he was appointed Falcon Raising Colonel, promoted Raising Warfare Internal Cadet General.
Heaven’s Son set capital at Xǔ, appointed Hóng as Critical Consultant Grandee. He separately campaigned against Liú Biǎo, defeated [Liú] Biǎo’s separate officers at Wǔyáng, Yīnyè, Dǔyáng, Bówàng, had achievements, promoted Severe Edge General, fief as Guómíng precinct Marquis. Continuously followed campaigns, appointed Regional Protector General. Emperor Wén succeeded the throne, appointed him General of the Guard, promoted General of Elite Cavalry, advanced in fief to Yěwáng Marquis, increased fief by 1000 households, adding to the previous to 2100 households, rank as Specially Advanced; later transferred fief to Dūyáng Marquis.
- (1) Wèishū states: Hóng’s father’s older brother Dǐng was Secretariat Documents Director, appointed Hóng as Qíchūn Chief.
Originally, Hóng’s family was wealthy but his nature was miserly, Emperor Wén when young asked to borrow but was not accepted, always resented this, and therefore because his household retainers that violated law, sent him down to prison and was about to execute. The various ministers together pleaded but none were able to obtain it. Dowager Empress Biàn said to Empress Guō: “If Cáo Hóng today dies, I tomorrow will order the Emperor to depose you the Empress.” Therefore she shed tears and repeatedly pleaded. Thus he obtained dismissal from office and removal of nobility territory. (1) Hóng was the late Emperor’s meritorious minister, and of the time’s people many were disappointed.
Emperor Míng succeeded the throne, appointed him General of the Rear, again gave fief as Lèchéng marquis, fief of 1000 households, ranked Specially Advanced, again appointed General of Elite Cavalry. Tàihé Sixth Year  died, posthumous name Gōng-hóu “Respectful Marquis.” His son Fù succeeded the marquisate. Previously, Tàizǔ divided Hóng’s households to give fief to his son Zhèn as a ranked marquis. Hóng’s distant cousin’s father Yú, was cultivated and careful sincere and respectful, office reached General of the Guard, fief as ranked Marquis.
- (1) Wèilüè states: Emperor Wén arrested Hóng, at the time Cáo Zhēn was at the left and right, and pleaded for him saying: “Now to execute Hóng, Hóng will certainly believe it was due to Zhēn’s slander.” The Emperor said: “I personally punish him, what is your involvement?” It happened that Dowager Empress Biàn reproached angrily the Emperor, saying: “Between Liáng and Pèi, if not for Zǐlián there would be no today.” Imperial Order therefore released him. Yet it still confiscated his wealth and estate. The Dowager Empress again for this spoke, and later then it was returned to him. Previously, when Tàizǔ was Excellency of Works, to personally lead subordinates, every year had audits, having his home county measure assets. At the time Qiáo Magistrate measured Hóng’s assets on the Excellency’s family’s level, Tàizǔ said: “How can my family assets compare to Zǐlián’s?” Emperor Wén at the East Palace, once from Hóng borrowed silk fabric of a hundred pǐ, Hóng would not agree. When Hóng violated law, he himself judged he would certainly die, when he obtained pardon, he was pleased, and sent up letter apologizing: “I your servant from youth was not understanding, mistaken in human relationships, when grown did not act [grown up], but then graciously obtained forgiveness. By nature I am without restraint to know to be content with a share, and instead have a ravenous wolf’s insatiable character, old age and senility increases greediness, stirring and breaking the state’s nets, criminal persecutions three thousand, without pardon or forgiveness, and should meet with execution, and discarded in the various markets, yet immersed in heavenly favor, bone and flesh again lives. I your servant in looking up at heaven’s sun, am burdened in shame to the spirits, in looking down to ponder transgressions and faults, am humiliated and shame and in terror shaking, not able to hang myself to self cut apart, solemnly dirtying face at the watchtower gates, I bow and present memorial to explain feelings.”