Guo Moruo

Guo Moruo, courtesy name Dingtang, was a Chinese archaeologist, historian, poet, politician, and writer.


Family history

Guo, originally named Guo Kaizhen, was born on November 10 or 16, in the small town of Shawan. Shawan is located on the Dadu River some southwest from what was then called the city of Jiading , 嘉定), and now is the central urban area of the prefecture level city of Leshan in Sichuan Province.
At the time of Guo's birth, Shawan was a town of some 180 families.
Guo's father's ancestors were Hakkas from Ninghua County in Tingzhou fu, near the western border of Fujian. They moved to Sichuan in the second half of the 17th century, after Sichuan had lost much of its population to the rebels/bandits of Zhang Xianzhong. According to family legend, the only possessions that Guo's ancestors brought to Sichuan were things they could carry on their backs. Guo's great-grandfather, Guo Xianlin, was the first in the family to achieve a degree of prosperity. Guo Xianlin's sons established the Guo clan as the leaders of the local river shipping business, and thus important people in that entire region of Sichuan. It was only then that the Guo clan members became able to send their children to school.
Guo's father, one of whose names may possibly have been Guo Mingxing, had to drop out of school at the age of 13 and then spent six months as an apprentice at a salt well. Thereafter he entered his father's business, a shrewd and smart man who achieved some local renown as a Chinese medical doctor, traded successfully in oils, opium, liquor, and grain and operated a money changing business. His business success allowed him to increase the family's real estate and salt well holdings.
Guo's mother, in contrast, came from a scholar-official background. She was a daughter of Du Zhouzhang, a holder of the coveted jinshi degree. Whilst serving as an acting magistrate in Huangping prefecture, now part of Qiandongnan Miao and Dong Autonomous Prefecture, in eastern Guizhou, Du died in 1858 while fighting Miao rebels, when his daughter was less than a year old. She married into the Guo family in 1872, when she was fourteen.


Guo was the eighth child of his mother. Three of his siblings had died before he was born, but more children were born later, so by the time he went to school, he had seven siblings.
Guo also had the childhood name Guo Wenbao, given due to a dream his mother had on the night he was conceived.
A few years before Guo was born, his parents retained a private tutor, Shen Huanzhang, to provide education for their children, in the hope of them later passing civil service examinations. A precocious child, Guo started studying at this "family school" in the spring of 1897, at the early age of four and half. Initially, his studies were based on Chinese classics, but with the government education reforms of 1901, mathematics and other modern subjects started to be introduced.
When in the fall of 1903 a number of public schools were established in Sichuan's capital, Chengdu, the Guo children started going there to study. Guo's oldest brother, Guo Kaiwen, entered one of them, Dongwen Xuetang, a secondary school preparing students for study in Japan; the next oldest brother, Guo Kaizou, joined Wubei Xuetang, a military school. Guo Kaiwen soon became instrumental in exposing his brother and sisters still in Shawan to modern books and magazines that allowed them to learn about the wide world outside.
Guo Kaiwen continued to be a role model for his younger brothers when in February 1905 he left for Japan, to study law and administration at Tokyo Imperial University on a provincial government' scholarship.
After passing competitive examinations, in early 1906 Guo Moruo started attending the new upper-level primary school in Jiading. It was a boarding school located in a former Buddhist temple and the boy lived on premises. He went on to a middle school in 1907, acquiring by this time the reputation of an academically gifted student but a troublemaker. His peers respected him and often elected him a delegate to represent their interests in front of the school administration. Often spearheading student-faculty conflicts, he was expelled and reinstated a few times, and finally expelled permanently in October 1909.
Guo was glad to be expelled, as he now had a reason to go to the provincial capital Chengdu to continue his education there.
In October 1911, Guo was surprised by his mother announcing that a marriage was arranged for him. He went along with his family's wishes, marrying his appointed bride, Zhang Jinghua, sight-unseen in Shawan in March 1912. Immediately, he regretted this marriage, and five days after the marriage, he left his ancestral home and returned to Chengdu, leaving his wife behind. He never formally divorced her, but apparently never lived with her either.

Study abroad

Following his elder brothers, Guo left China in December 1913, reaching Japan in early January 1914. After a year of preparatory study in Tokyo, he entered Sixth Higher School in Okayama. When visiting a friend of his hospitalized in Saint Luke's Hospital in Tokyo, in the summer of 1916, Guo fell in love with Sato Tomiko, a Japanese woman from a Christian family, who worked at the hospital as a student nurse. Sato would become his common-law wife. They were to stay together for 20 years, until the outbreak of the war, and to have five children together.
After graduation from the Okayama school, Guo entered in 1918 the Medical School of Kyushu Imperial University in Fukuoka. He was more interested in literature than medicine, however. His studies at this time focused on foreign language and literature, namely the works of: Spinoza, Goethe, Walt Whitman, and the Bengali poet Tagore. Along with numerous translations, he published his first anthology of poems, entitled The Goddesses . He co-founded the Ch'uang-tsao she in Shanghai, which promoted modern and vernacular literature.

Personal Highlights

Guo joined the Communist Party of China in 1927. He was involved in the Communist Nanchang Uprising and fled to Japan after its failure. He stayed there for 10 years studying Chinese ancient history. During that time he published his work on inscriptions on oracle bones and bronze vessels, Corpus of Inscriptions on Bronzes from the Two Zhou Dynasties. In this work, he attempted to demonstrate, according to the Communist doctrine, the "slave society" nature of ancient China. His theory on the "slave society of China" remains highly controversial, although it was praised by Mao Zedong and the party.
In the summer of 1937, shortly after the Marco Polo Bridge incident, Guo returned to China to join the anti-Japanese resistance. His attempt to arrange for Sato Tomiko and their children to join him in China were frustrated by the Japanese authorities, and in 1939 he remarried to, a Shanghai actress. After the war, Sato went to reunite with him but was disappointed to know that he had already formed a new family and returned to Japan.

1937-47 - '' Prolific Writer''

Guo Moruo was a prolific and talented writer from his earliest publishings. Following the full scale Japanese invasion of China, he fully developed his literary achievements with his Chinese opera in historical settings. The operas were set in the early Qing back through the Han dynasty. By using the historical figures in opera settings, he used all the devices including action, song, verse, costume, and drama. It was a renewal of an ancient art form which had contemporary relevance. Guo used the operas to develop patriotism and valor against invaders as well as to cultivate national unity against Chiang Kai-Shek.and Kuomingtong. All of this in the context of Marxism. The operas could be produced for Mao's peasant army to boost morale and incite courage. It paralleled Chen Fangwu's schools on the march. They both educated and molded a moving red army. This is an excerpt from his .
1937 he organized a propaganda troop for the Frontline.  Reported directly to Chou En-lai for wartime literature work as a "non-party" person.
1938 Went to frontline Wuhan as Third Political Section Head.  October Wuhan fell to Japanese.  Went to Chungking 重庆 in the interior of China..
1939  "Shi Gu Text Research"《》published.  April 1940 archeology dig of Han tomb in Chungking which resulted in this study of the first known stone carved calligraphy. This dig was controversial since some archeologists were concerned about preservation. But Guo did his research and wrote his paper anyway.
1941 Edited. "50 Years of Verse" 《五十年简谱》. Rewrote "Cherry Blossom" 《棠棣之花》 。1942 wrote historical dramas "Qu Yuan"《》、"Hu Fu"《》, "Gao Jian Li"《高渐离》, "Peacock Courage"《》. Translated Goethe  "Hermann unt Dorothea"《赫曼与窦绿苔》.  Established  the publisher 群益出版社 and edited "Chong Yuan" 《中原》.  1943 wrote a historical drama "Nan Guan Cao" 《》. Not only do the operas reflect the views discussed above. Even the archeological calligraphy study and the Goethe translation adhere to them. Despite the propaganda there is exceptional literary value accorded by the Chinese literary circles. The following book by 邢小群 has lively discussions about the events at publication of the operas and other works. It includes reactions by Zhou En-lai and the opposing Kuomintong officials. 1944 published 《》, a collection of writings which became designated study material by communist party.  1945 drafted  "Call for Democratic Politics".  Published  "Bronze Age"《青铜时代》 and《十批判书》.  Moved to Shanghai ln the summer.  Joined the intermittent peace talk between Kuomintong and Communist parties.  Published "Historical Figures" 《》.
1947 Translated Goethe "Faust".  Edited "Time of Youth" 《少年时代》、"Spring and Autumn of Revolution"《革命春秋》, 《天地玄黄》.  Went to Hong Kong.  1948 wrote "War Memoirs" which he renamed "Hong Bo Qu" 《洪波曲》.  Then went to the red army liberated. areas in the Northeast. Even though he was not a military man, he liked to be near the action.
''Excerpt from "Qu Yuan" [屈原].''
Scene 4, circa 300 bc set just outside the Chu capitol's "Dragon Gate", with an old fisherman using a 4 corner net by the river. He sings:

. . 农民困在田间,
Farmers toil in the fields,
Two legs covered in mud.
A year's harvest from blood and sweat,
Fills full the master's warehouse.
Princes and dukes sleep in palaces,
Their beautiful women like goddesses.
Mosquitoes and fleas are clever,
and do not go near their bodies.
Emperor above stays dazed at the throne,
With drunks on both sides.
How much disaster and hardship in this world,
They close the eyes and ignore.
The scene changes to dialogues between the fisherman, a young palace woman and an old lady. They talk about a palace intrigue.
. These operas powerfully portrayed the dysfunctional society at the time and motivated legions of followers. They were also prescient. Seven years later Mao moved into Zongnanhai, the palace next to the Forbidden Palace. Guo moved into the compound formerly belonging to Qing Prince Gong. Both Mao and Guo were well known for taking advantage of women. Soon after his Great Leap Forward produced famine and after that the Culture Revolution produced greater disaster during which Guo lost two sons. Guo Moruo's life is full of ironies as the stream of recent research documents .

A communist leader , flawed genius 马列领袖 泥涂奇人

Along with holding important government offices in the People's Republic of China, Guo was a prolific writer, not just of poetry but also fiction, plays, autobiographies, translations, and historical and philosophical treatises. He was the first President of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and remained so from its founding in 1949 until his death in 1978. He was also the first president of University of Science & Technology of China, a new type of university established by the Chinese Academy of Sciences after the founding of the People's Republic of China and aimed at fostering high-level personnel in the fields of science and technology.
For the first 15 years of the PRC, Guo, with his extensive knowledge of Chinese history and culture, was the ultimate arbiter of philosophical matters relating to art, education, and literature, although all of his most vital and important work had been written before 1949.
With the onset of the Cultural Revolution in 1966, Guo became an early target of persecution. To save face, he wrote a public self-criticism and declared that all his previous works were in error and should be burned. He then turned to writing poetry praising Mao's wife Jiang Qing and the Cultural Revolution and also denounced former friends and colleagues as counterrevolutionaries. However, this was not enough to protect his family. Two of his sons, Guo Minying and Guo Shiying, "committed suicide" in 1967 and 1968 following "criticism" or persecution by Red Guards.
Because of his sycophantic loyalty to Mao, he survived the Cultural Revolution and received commendation by the chairman at the 9th Party Congress in April 1969. By the early 1970s, he had regained most of his influence. He enjoyed all the privileges of the highest-ranking party elites, including residence in a luxurious manor house once owned by a Qing official, a staff of assigned servants, a state limousine, and other perks. Guo also maintained a large collection of antique furniture and curios in his home.
In 1978, following Mao's death and the fall of the Gang of Four, the 85 year old Guo, as he lay dying in a Beijing hospital, penned a poem denouncing the Gang.
The White-Boned Demon was a character in the Ming-era novel Journey to the West, an evil shapeshifting being, and was a popular derogatory nickname for Jiang Qing.
Guo was awarded the Stalin Peace Prize in 1951.
Guo was held in high regard in Chinese contemporary literature, history and archaeology. He once called himself the Chinese answer to Goethe and this appraisal was widely accepted. Zhou Yang said: "You are Goethe, but you are the Goethe of the New Socialist Era of China." Especially in his early years, he was a prolific writer as well as being multi-faceted. He wrote poetry, prose, opera, critiques, archeology and politics. He participated fully in the many literary journals of the 1920s to 30s. A unique contribution is the group of traditional Chinese operas in a modern context produced mainly in the 40s.
Despite his achievements, he was also criticised as the first of "Four Contemporary Shameless Writers". For example, he spoke highly of Mao Zedong's calligraphy, to the extent that he justified what the Party Leader had written mistakenly. And during the Cultural Revolution, he published a book called Li Bai and Du Fu in which he praised Li Bai while belittling Du Fu, which was thought to flatter Mao Zedong. His attitude to the Gang of Four changed sharply before and after its downfall.
In his private life, he was also known to have affairs with many women, whom he abandoned shortly after. One of them, Li Chen, committed suicide after his betrayal.

Vignette: A Pause for Literary Entertainment

鱼酒唱和诗卷 手卷.
November 1937 just before Guo went to join the red army, he was able to enjoy a poem recital party.with old friends. They were friends about a dozen years ago in Beijing and Tokyo and collaborated closely on many literary journals. Guo Moruo 郭沫若 just came back from his 10-year exile in Japan. These friends just arranged his Shanghai accommodations. Guo, Shen Yinmo, with his constant companion Zhubaoquan 保權, Zhang Fengju   with his new bride and Shen Wangsi 沈迈士 enjoyed a fish and wine fest to produce this joint handscroll.  The celebration was in the Jingjiang Hotel. Not long after this, Guo departed to join the red army at the front lines against the Japanese near Shanghai.
These are three paragraphs, by Guo Moruo, Zhang Fengju and Shen Yinmo:
麵條要板板,冷水再沖沖。玉箸拈之碧,椒油拌以紅。命長增口福,運大足心雄。省得聰明誤,聾盲備一躬。 十一月五日與尹默保權、鳳舉夫婦共飲於錦江,尹默答余沖字韻詩,即席步韻成一即事之作。余才短,未能立即唱和,歸途始得此,今日復應尹默招,地同人同,尹默復帶有良紙佳筆,因書出之,奉尹默先生。郭沫若  
廿六年十一月八日於錦江 沫若兄此詩句句皆有本事,惟地同人同一語與事實略有出入。因今日座中另有邁士先生在,特拈出之以備後日史家之索考。 舉 ......
才飲自家酒,酒氣已沖沖。玉箸依然碧,胭脂分外紅。多魚歎今日,凡韻怪茲雄。沫若輸一着,聰明半在躬。 即席聯吟,沫若易末兩語為「賭酒誰之罪,吃虧應反躬」. 尹默  鳳舉  


Guo had five children with Sato Tomiko and six with Yu Liqun. An article published in the 2000s said that eight out of the eleven were alive, and that three have died.
With Sato Tomiko :
With Yu Liqun :