Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Guo Moruo, Chinese Poet and Scholar

Guo Moruo, Wade-Giles romanization Kuo Mo-jo, original name Guo Kaizhen (born November 1892, Shawan, Leshan county, Sichuan province, China—died June 12, 1978, Beijing), Chinese scholar, one of the leading writers of 20th-century China, and an important government official.
The son of a wealthy merchant, Guo Moruo early manifested a stormy, unbridled temperament. After receiving a traditional education, he in 1913 abandoned his Chinese wife from an arranged marriage and went to Japan to study medicine. There he fell in love with a Japanese woman who became his common-law wife. He began to devote himself to the study of foreign languages and literature, reading works by Spinoza, Goethe, the Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore, and Walt Whitman. His own early poetry was highly emotional free verse reminiscent of Whitman and Percy Bysshe Shelley. The new-style poems that Guo published in Shishi xinbao (“New Journal on Current Affairs”) were later compiled into the anthology Nü shen (1921; “Goddess”). Its publication laid the first cornerstone for the development of new verse in China. In the same year, Guo, together with Cheng Fangwu, Yu Dafu, and Zhang Ziping, gave impetus to the establishment of the Creation Society, one of the most important literary societies during the May Fourth period in China. Guo’s translation of Goethe’s Sorrows of Young Werther gained enormous popularity among Chinese youth soon after its publication in 1922. He became interested in the philosophy of the Japanese Marxist Kawakami Hajime, one of whose books he translated in 1924, and Guo soon embraced Marxism. Although his own writing remained tinged with Romanticism, he declared his rejection of individualistic literature, calling for a “socialist literature that is sympathetic toward the proletariat.”
Guo returned to China with his wife in 1923. In 1926 he acted as a political commissar in the Northern Expedition, in which Chiang Kai-shek (Jiang Jieshi) attempted to crush the warlords and unify China. But when Chiang purged the communists from his Kuomintang (Nationalist Party) in 1927, Guo participated in the communist Nanchang uprising. After its failure he fled to Japan, where for 10 years he pursued scholarly research on Chinese antiquities. In 1937 he returned to China to take part in the resistance against Japan and was given important government posts.
As a writer, Guo was enormously prolific in every genre. Besides his poetry and fiction, his works include plays, nine autobiographical volumes, and numerous translations of the works of Goethe, Friedrich von Schiller, Ivan Turgenev, Tolstoy, Upton Sinclair, and other Western authors. He also produced historical and philosophical treatises, including his monumental study of inscriptions on oracle bones and bronze vessels, Liangzhou jinwenci daxi tulu kaoshi (1935; new ed. 1957; “Corpus of Inscriptions on Bronzes from the Two Zhou Dynasties”). In this work he attempted to demonstrate, according to communist doctrine, the “slave society” nature of ancient China.
After 1949 Guo held many important positions in the People’s Republic of China, including the presidency of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. In 1966 he was one of the first to be attacked in the Cultural Revolution. He confessed that he had failed to understand properly the thought of Chinese Communist Party leader Mao Zedong and stated that all his own work should be burned. Strangely, however, Guo was not, as were many of his colleagues, stripped of all official positions. His vast body of work was compiled into Guo Moruo quanji, 38 vol. (1982–2002)“The Complete Works of Guo Moruo”). It is divided into three parts: literature, history, and archaeology.

The Chinese author Kuo Mo-jo (1892-1978) was a Marxist interpreter of early Chinese society and thought and one of the major cultural figures of modern China.

In its early phase, modern Chinese literature was markedly romantic in its championship of the individual and its demand for the overthrow of the old society. Later, this dual passion was enlisted in the cause of communism, and a new literature was born that slights the romantic individual. Kuo Mo-jo is a representative figure in that, though an arch rebel and romantic in his early phase as a writer, he soon curbed his individualistic predilections to embrace Marxism and ended up after a long career in literature and politics as a sycophantic singer of praise of the Communist regime.
Early Career
Born into a gentry family in Loshan, Szechwan, Kuo Mo-jo early chafed under parental and school authority and was once expelled from school for insubordination despite his excellent academic record. He was constrained by his parents to marry a complete stranger who appeared to him utterly repulsive. This distasteful experience precipitated his decision, despite his defective hearing, to study medicine in Japan. He thought, with many patriotic youths of his time, that medicine was one of the best ways to strengthen his country. He arrived in Japan in 1913, and while studying for his degree, he read on his own a great deal of literature, especially the German and English romantic poets. Supporting a wife and a growing family on a government scholarship, he began to entertain thoughts of a literary career because of the manifest success of the new literary movement in China since 1917. In 1921 he formed the Creation Society (Ch'uang-tsao shê) with his friends in Japan: Yü Tafu, Chang Tzu-p'ing, Ch'eng Fang-wu, and T'ien Han.
In the same year Kuo published a volume of poetry entitled Nü-shen (Goddesses) and a translation of Goethe's Sorrows of the Young Werther. Both books captured instant Chinese attention. In the next year the Creation Society launched Ch'uang-tsao Chi-k'an (Creation Quarterly), which espoused romanticism and art for art's sake in conscious opposition to the championship of a realistic and humane literature by a rival group, the Society for Literary Research. The magazine, which ceased publication after only six issues, was succeeded by several other Creationist journals, including Hungshui (The Deluge) in 1925 and Ch'uang-tsao Yüeh-k'an (Creation Monthly) in 1926. Active in all Creationist enterprises, Kuo wrote prolifically in all types of writing during the early phase of the society.
In the 1920s Kuo was acclaimed primarily for his poetry. In such ambitious poems as "The Hound of Heaven," "The Nirvana of the Phoenixes," and "Earth, My Mother," he resorts at once to Western and Chinese mythology and a modern scientific vocabulary to imitate Shelley and Whitman. With equal fervor he sings the chaos of modern city life, the imminent collapse of the present society, and the rhapsodic vision of a future humanity. In the more subdued nature poems of this period the influence of Goethe and Tagore is apparent.
Revolution and Scholarship
Kuo wrote that he was converted to Marxism in 1924 after reading a book by a leading Japanese Marxist. Certainly by 1925, the year that marked China's massive resistance to imperialist exploitation in the so-called May Thirtieth movement, Kuo and several other Creationists had become active in politics and openly advocated a revolutionary literature.
That year Kuo left Shanghai for Canton to serve as a dean in Sun Yat-sen University, and in the next year he joined the Northern Expedition against the warlords as a propagandist in the Political Department of the Revolutionary Army Headquarters. At that time the Kuomintang and the Communist party were in close cooperation, and many revolutionary writers besides Kuo participated in the expedition; it was only after the forcible expulsion of Communists from the Kuomintang government in 1927 that these disillusioned veterans returned to their literary career with the avowed purpose of propagating Communist revolution.
Kuo fled to Japan in February of 1928. With the critic Ch'eng Fang-wu, he continued to direct the Creation Society until it was forced to disband by government order a year later. A political refugee unable to freely express his views in Chinese publications, Kuo turned to translation and, more fruitfully, to a study of ancient Chinese society and thought with the aid of archeological findings and Marxist notions about feudal society. While his interpretations and conclusions are debatable, Kuo's series of classical studies, which continued until the 1940s, certainly mark him as a scholar of intellectual vigor.
War Years and After
When the Kuomintang government and the Communists again agreed to cooperate on the eve of the Sino-Japanese War in 1937, Kuo deserted his Japanese wife and children and returned to China a vindicated hero. He was now entrusted with important government functions, first as head of the Third Department (in charge of propaganda) in the Political Training Board of the National Military Council and, from 1940 on, as chairman of the Cultural Work Council and, also beginning in 1940, as chairman of the Cultural Work Committee. Still in charge of propaganda, he now enjoyed much less power owing to the worsened relations between the Nationalists and Communists.
Nevertheless, Kuo did much to promote the Communist cause in the early 1940s, especially in his role as a playwright. He had written closet dramas in the 1920s; now he again turned to historical themes to write plays that would rouse the patriotic sentiment and include veiled antigovernment and pro-Communist propaganda. These plays, notably T'ang-ti chih hua (The Devoted Siblings) and Ch'üYüan, were great commercial successes and ushered in the trend for historical plays in wartime China.
Kuo Mo-jo visited the Soviet Union in 1945 and stayed in Hong Kong during the civil war between the Chinese Nationalists and Communists. On the eve of the Communist victory in 1949, he returned to China as its ranking man of letters, and with the establishment of the People's Republic, he was awarded many honors and positions: vice-premier of the State Administration Council (1949-1954); chairman of the All-China Federation of Literary and Art Circles; and president of the Academy of Sciences, the nation's leading research organization.
Kuo was thus, at least until the cultural revolution in 1966, nominally in charge of all creativity and research in China. But actually he was a front man for the Communist party and enjoyed little exercise of power. His verses and public utterances after 1949 suggest something of a sycophantic clown, a fool in Mao Tse-tung's court.
On the eve of the cultural revolution, Kuo recanted his entire literary career, declaring that all his publications deserved to be burned. This apparently saved him from the ignominy of persecution that soon was inflicted upon nearly all the ranking writers and artists of the nation. Over the years Kuo had been writing a long autobiography in several volumes, a document of great historical interest, but it seemed unlikely that he would continue with the story to cover the post-1949 years. He died on June 12, 1978, in Peking (now Beijing).
Further Reading
Aside from Kuo Mo-jo's Selected Poems from "The Goddesses" (1958) and Ch'üYüan: A Play in Five Acts (1953), there are only a score of poems and a few stories available in English in such anthologies as Kai-yu Hsu, ed., Twentieth Century Chinese Poetry: An Anthology (1963). A good critical study is Milena Dolezelová-Velin-gerová, "Kuo Mo-jo's Autobiographical Works," in Jaroslav Prušek, ed., Studies in Modern Chinese Literature (1964). David Tod Roy, Kuo Mo-jo: The Early Years (1971), is a detailed intellectual biography of Kuo's early life. Most accounts of modern Chinese literature include a discussion of Kuo Mo-jo. Among these Liu Wu-chi's supplement to Herbert Allen Giles, History of Chinese Literature (1966), gives the most rounded treatment, while Chihtsing Hsia, A History of Modern Chinese Fiction, 1917-1957 (1961), offers the most trenchant criticism.
Guo Moruo or Kuo Mo-jo (both: gwô' môrhwô', -zhô'), 1892-1978, Chinese writer and scholar. He co-founded the Creation Society, which promoted a romantic style of writing. His love stories and experiments in free verse, particularly his poetry collection The Goddesses (1921), won immediate popularity. He wrote several historical plays, notably Ch'ü Yüan (1942), about the dissident poet of the 4th-century B.C.; Guo, an avowed Marxist, wrote it while living in territory controlled by the Nationalist Party. He also wrote numerous studies on Chinese archaeology, history, and literature. He served as a prominent government official from 1949 until his death.

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Guo Moruo (Chinese: 郭沫若; pinyin: Guō Mòruò; Wade–Giles: Kuo Mo-jo; November 16, 1892 – June 12, 1978), courtesy name Dingtang (鼎堂), was a Chinese author, poet, historian, archaeologist, and government official from Sichuan, China.

Biography[edit source | edit]

Family history[edit source | edit]

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 40 km southwest from what was then called the city of Jiading (Lu) (Chia-ting (Lu), 嘉定(路)), 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.[1]
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 (ca. 1605-1647). 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.[1]
Guo's father, one of whose names may possibly have been Guo Mingxing (1854–1939), 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.[1]
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,[2] (in eastern Guizhou), Du died in 1858 while fighting Miao rebels, when his daughter (the future mother of Guo Moruo) was less than a year old. She married into the Guo family in 1872, when she was fourteen.[1]

Childhood[edit source | edit]

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.[1]
Guo also had the childhood name Guo Wenbao ('Cultivated Leopard'), given due to a dream his mother had on the night he was conceived.[1]
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.[1]
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 (1877–1936), 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.[1]
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.[1]
After passing competitive examinations, in early 1906 Guo Moruo started attending the new upper-level primary school (高等小學 gaodeng xiao xue) 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.[1]
Guo was glad to be expelled, as he now had a reason to go to the provincial capital Chengdu to continue his education there.[1]
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.[1]

Study abroad[edit source | edit]

Dr. Guo Kaizhen memorial at Kyushu University
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.[1] When visiting a friend of his hospitalized in Sain 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.[3]
After graduation from the Okayama school, Guo entered in 1918 the Medical School of Kyushyu Imperial University in Fukuoka.[1] 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 (女神 - nǚ shén) (1921). He co-founded the Ch'uang-tsao she ("Creation Society") in Shanghai, which promoted modern and vernacular literature.

The war years[edit source | edit]

Running script of Guo Moruo
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 (两周金文辭大系考釋).[4] 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, soon 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,[3] and in 1939 he remarried to Yu Liqun (于立群; 1916–1979), a Shanghai actress.[3][5] After the war, Sato went to reunite with him but was disappointed to know that he had already formed a new family.

As a communist leader[edit source | edit]

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 (USTC), a new type of university established by the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) after the founding of the People's Republic of China and aimed at fostering high-level personnel in the fields of science and technology.
In 1966 he was one of the first to be attacked during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. He confessed that he had not properly understood the thought of Mao Zedong and agreed that his works should be burned. 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.[6][7]
Unlike others similarly attacked, Guo's life was spared as he was chosen by Mao as "the representative of the rightwing" in the 9th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in 1969. He had regained much of his influence by the seventies.
Guo was awarded the Stalin Peace Prize in 1951.

Family[edit source | edit]

Guo had five children (four sons and a daughter) with Sato Tomiko and six with Yu Liqun (four sons and two daughters). An article published in the 2000s said that eight out of the eleven were alive, and that three have died.[8]
With Sato Tomiko (listed chronologically in the order of birth):
  • son Guo Hefu (郭和夫) (December 12 (or 31, according to other sources) 1917, Okayama - September 13, 1994). A chemist, he moved from Japan to Taiwan in 1946 and to mainland China in 1949. He was the founder of the Institute of Chemical Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.[9]
  • son Guo Bo (郭博) (born 1920), a renowned architect and photographer. He came to China in 1955, invited by his father, and worked in Shanghai, where he participated in the design of many of its famous modern buildings.[9] Guo Bu is also known as a photographer of Shanghai's heritage architecture;[9] an album of his photographic work has been published as a book.[10]
  • son Guo Fusheng (郭福生).
  • daughter Guo Shuyu (郭淑禹), a Japanese-language teacher, now deceased.
  • son Guo Zhihong (郭志宏).
With Yu Liqun (listed chronologically in the order of birth):
  • son Guo Hanying (郭漢英) (born 1941, Chongqing). An internationally published theoretical physicist.[9]
  • daughter Guo Shuying (郭庶英).[11] She published a book about her father.[12]
  • son Guo Shiying (郭世英) (1942 - April 22, 1968). In 1962, while a philosophy student at Beijing University, he created an "underground" "X Poetry Society". In the summer of 1963 the society was exposed and deemed subversive. Guo Shiying was sentenced to re-education through labor. While working at a farm in Henan province, he developed interest in agriculture. Returning to Beijing in 1965, he enrolled at Beijing Agricultural University. In 1968, kidnapped by Red Guards and "tried" by their "court" for his poetry-society activity years before he jumped out of the window of the third-floor room where he was held and died at the age of 26. His father in his later writing expressed regret for encouraging his son to return to Beijing from the farm, thinking that it indirectly led to his death.[6][7]
  • son Guo Minying (郭民英), (November 1943, Chongqing - April 12, 1967). His death is described as an unexpected suicide.[7]
  • daughter Guo Pingying (郭平英)
  • son Guo Jianying (郭建英) (born 1953).

Commemoration[edit source | edit]

  • Guo's residence in Beijing, near Shicha Lake (Shichahai), where he lived after the war with his second (or third, if the arranged marriage is to be counted) wife, Yu Liqun, is preserved as a museum.[13]
  • Guo and Sato Tomiko's house in Ichikawa, Japan, where they lived in 1927-37, is a museum as well.[14] Due to the Guo Moruo connection, Ichikawa chose to establish sister city relations with Leshan in 1981.[15]

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