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Guo Moruo

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Guo Moruo

Guo Moruo
Born Guo Kaizhen 郭開貞
(1892-11-16)16 November 1892
Leshan, Sichuan
Died 12 June 1978(1978-06-12) (aged 85)
Alma mater Chengdu Shishi High School
Spouse(s) Zhang Jinghua (1890-1980, m.1912)
Sato Tomiko (1894-1995)
Yu Liqun (1916-1979, m.1939)
Children 8 sons and 3 daughters
Awards 1948 Research Fellow of the Academia Sinica

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 1
    • Family history 1.1
    • Childhood 1.2
    • Study abroad 1.3
    • The war years 1.4
    • As a communist leader 1.5
  • Legacy 2
  • Family 3
  • Commemoration 4
  • Honours 5
  • References 6
  • Further reading 7


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 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]


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

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 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.[3]

After graduation from the Okayama school, Guo entered in 1918 the Medical School of Kyushu 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

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

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.


Guo was held in high regard in Chinese contemporary literature, history and archaeology. He once called himself Chinese answer to German Goethe and was widely accepted. Zhou Yang said: "You are Goethe, the Socialism New Era Goethe."(“你是歌德,但你是社会主义时代新中国的歌德。”)[8]

Despite his achievements, he was also criticised as the first of "4 Contemporary Shameless Writer".[9][10][11]。 For example, he spoke highly of Mao Zedong's calligraphy, to the extent that he justified what the Party Leader had written wrong.[12] 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.[13] His attitude to the Gang of Four changed sharply before and after its downfall.[14][15]

In his private life, he was also known to have an affair with many women, who he abandoned shortly after. Of these women there's one called Li Chen (立忱) who committed suicide after his betrayal (disputed).[16]


Guo Muoruo and Sato Tomiko with their children

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.[17]

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.[18]
  • 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.[18] Guo Bu is also known as a photographer of Shanghai's heritage architecture;[18] an album of his photographic work has been published as a book.[19]
  • 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.[18]
  • daughter Guo Shuying (郭庶英).[20] She published a book about her father.[21]
  • 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).


  • 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.[22]
  • Guo and Sato Tomiko's house in Ichikawa, Japan, where they lived in 1927-37, is a museum as well.[23] Due to the Guo Moruo connection, Ichikawa chose to establish sister city relations with Leshan in 1981.[24]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n David Tod Roy, "Kuo Mo-jo: The Early Years". Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts. 1971. No ISBN.
  2. ^ 黄平州, now part of Qiandongnan Miao and Dong Autonomous Prefecture
  3. ^ a b c Yan Lu. "Re-understanding Japan: Chinese Perspectives, 1895-1945". University of Hawaii Press, 2004. ISBN 0-8248-2730-9 Partial text on Google Books
  4. ^
  5. ^ The Westernization of Chinese Theatre (CCTV)
  6. ^ a b - Portraits of China's historical figures (This article contains portraits of a number of people who participated in the Cultural Revolution - as actors or as victims - painted by Xu Weixin, and biographical comments).
  7. ^ a b c 《郭沫若的晚年岁月》:郭民英与郭世英 (Guo Moruo's late years: Guo Minying and Guo Shiying). This article is based on the book "郭沫若的晚年岁月" (Guo Moruo's Late Years) by Feng Xigang (冯锡刚). ISBN 7-5073-1622-X. (Chinese)
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ 《传记文学》第六十五卷第六期,1984年转载。該文亦有人提出質疑,懷疑謝冰瑩捏造。
  17. ^ 郭沫若之女细说父亲往事 (Guo Moruo's daughter recalls details about events in her father's life) (Chinese)
  18. ^ a b c d 长子郭和夫 ("Guo Hefu - the eldest son"), and following chapters, from the book "现代名人的后代" (Xiandai Mingrende Houdai, "The heirs of the famous people of our times") by 吴东平 (Wu Dongping). Hubei People's Press, 2006. ISBN 7-216-04476-2.
  19. ^ Guo Bu, "Zheng zai xiao shi de Shanghai long tang (The Fast Vanishing Shanghai Lanes)". Shanghai Pictorial Publishing House (1996). ISBN 7-80530-213-8. (In Chinese and English)
  20. ^ USTC Newsletter 2001 No.2 (2005-08-14)
  21. ^ Guo Shiying (郭庶英), "My father Guo Moruo" (我的父親郭沫若), Liaoning People's Press (辽宁人民出版社), 2000, ISBN 7-205-05644-6. The book's cover and table of contents are available on
  22. ^ Former Residence of Guo Moruo
  23. ^ City of Ichickawa: 郭沫若紀念館 (Guo Moruo's Memorial House) (Japanese)
  24. ^ City of Ichikawa: Leshan City
  25. ^ Badraie

Further reading

Academic offices
New title President of the Chinese Academy of Sciences
Succeeded by
Fang Yi
Vacant until 1979
President of the University of Science and Technology of China
Succeeded by
Yan Jici
Vacant until 1980
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