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Guo Moruo in his daughter’s eyes

Interviewed by Zhu Xiaofeng, recorded by Lv Sha | 2013-08-02 | Hits:
(Chinese Social Sciences Today)
Guo Moruo
Guo Moruo (November 16, 1892-June 12, 1978) was an influential figure in modern Chinese intellectual history. He made enormous contributions to literature, history, archeology, ancient characters, art and translation.  Guo was the first president of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, three-term-president of the China Federation of Literary and Art Circles, and president of the University of Science and Technology in China. He was also the first chairman of the Editorial Board of Historical Research.
Guo Pingying (b. August 1946) is the former Vice Director of the Institute of History of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS). She is also the former Curator of Guo Moruo Memorial and Guo Moruo’s daughter.
Chinese Social Sciences Today: Whenever you mention Guo Senior (an honorary title for Guo Moruo), you called him Guo Moruo directly, instead of “dad.” As his daughter, could you please tell us more about Guo Senior, and how his legacy appears from your perspective?   
Guo Pingying: Family plays a significant role in my life. However, as a curator of the Guo Moruo Memorial and a compiler of Guo’s works and historical materials, I would like to maintain an objective disposition toward my work. Since Guo Senior was so widely learned and wrote knowledgeably in many disciplines, it is a huge challenge for us to comprehend the full breadth of his oeuvre. Based on the limits of my own knowledge, I feel that I am not fully qualified for this current undertaking. Just as one researcher from CASS’s Institute of History said, it is difficult to appreciate the greatness of Guo Moruo without first understanding ancient writing. Given that I am not well versed in ancient Chinese, I find myself in the position of being unable to fully realize his greatness.
Chinese Social Sciences Today: Even though it may be difficult to summarize the breadth of Guo Senior’s achievements, we genuinely hope to hear any insight or personal feeling you can offer about his work and contributions to Chinese culture. Would you mind elaborating a bit?
Guo Pingying: I’d be happy to elaborate on my understanding of my father from a more subjective point of view.
Guo Senior’s historical research mainly focused on the Spring and Autumn period (771 BCE-475 BCE) and Warring States period (475 BCE-221 BCE), which held strong resonance with him because of his traditional education in Confucian classics during his youth in Sichuan. His keen interest on these historical periods seemed to surpass the detached perspective of historical research itself. He even analogized the place of the Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States period in ancient history to the role of the May Fourth Movement in modern history, noting that the thought emerging from both of these times became a catalyst for accelerating social progress.
Within ancient Chinese cultural traditions, he preferred Confucianism. Still, he was a pioneer who waved the flag of personal liberation during the May Fourth Movement. Unlike other intellectuals of his peer group however, he still wrote Chinese classical romantic poetry, and did not jump on the “Down with Confucius” bandwagon. During that time he was studying Chinese traditional culture and comparing it with German culture. He always held Confucianism in high esteem, and his awareness of it ran through his whole life and influenced his research on traditional culture.
Chinese Social Sciences Today: I think you have described the real Guo Moruo, as opposed to the distorted image presented by the media.
Guo Pingying: Absolutely. My father’s research interests were wide ranging and his perspective was very broad. This alone can be demonstrated from his voluminous translations: he translated over 5 million words—enough to match the life’s work of a professional translator—in fields extending from poetry, drama, and literature to political economy and the natural sciences. Being so widely read, he was able to grasp new ideas from world culture and introduce the frontiers of western science and culture to a Chinese audience. 
Chinese Social Sciences Today, No. 379, Nov. 14, 2012
      (Edited and Translated by Zhang Mengying)