Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Kuo Sung-tao
KUO Sung-tao 郭嵩燾 ( 伯琛, 筠仙, 玉池老人), Apr. 11, 1818–1891, July 18, statesman, scholar and diplomat, was a native of Hsiang-yin, Hunan. In his younger days he studied in the Yüeh-lu Academy (嶽麓書院) at Changsha where he became a close friend of Tsêng Kuo-fan [q. v.] and Liu Jung (see under Lo Ping-chang). Becoming a chin-shih in 1847, he was selected a bachelor of the Hanlin Academy, but owing to mourning for the death of his parents he did not immediately assume office. In 1852 when the Taiping forces invaded Hunan, Tsêng Kuo-fan, who was then at home observing a period of mourning, was ordered to take charge of organizing volunteers in his native place. Tsêng was about to decline the appointment, but Kuo Sung-tao persuaded him to assume the responsibility. In 1853 Kuo was with the volunteer force which lifted the siege of Nanchang and released Chiang Chung-yüan [q. v.] from the beleaguered city. While in Nanchang, Kuo learned of the activity of the Taipings on the water, and suggested the establishment of a fleet on the Yangtze—a plan that was later put into effect (see under P'êng Yü-lin). Kuo was also one of the promoters of the plan to collect local taxes on merchandise, known as likin 釐金, in order to finance the war against the Taipings. The likin tax, introduced as an experiment at Yangchow in 1853 by Lei I-hsien 雷以諴 ( 鶴皋, chin-shih of 1823), became an important source of income to provincial treasuries until its abolition in 1930–31.
Made a compiler of the second class, Kuo Sung-tao went to Peking in 1857 and in the following year was appointed to serve in the Imperial Study. In 1859 he was sent to Tientsin to assist Sêng-ko-lin-ch'in [q. v.] in building up the defenses against the British and French allies but shortly afterwards was sent to Shantung on a customs mission. In matters of foreign relations Kuo Sung-tao strongly opposed resort to force—at a time when many high officials maintained a hostile attitude to foreigners. Being at variance on this matter with his superior, Sêng-ko-lin-ch'in, and others, and aware that any suggested plans for the reform of the Shantung customs would be used against him, he resigned in 1860 and went home. But he was there not more than two months, when Tientsin fell to the allied forces (1860), resulting in the flight of the Court to Jehol and the burning the Yüan-ming Yüan (see under Hung-li).
In 1862, on the recommendation of Li Hung-chang [q. v.], then governor of Kiangsu, Kuo Sung-tao was appointed grain intendant of the prefectures of Soochow and Sungkiang, and before long was made salt controller of the Liang-Huai region. In 1863 he became acting governor of Kwangtung where he facilitated the collection of revenues, subdued pirates, improved relations with Western powers, and helped to suppress a contingent of Taiping rebels under Wang Hai-yang (see under Hung Jên-kan). Nevertheless he was for some reason discharged from office in 1866. He was summoned to Peking in 1874, and in the following year was made judicial commissioner of Fukien. On February 21, 1875 the British interpreter, Augustus Raymond Margary, was killed in Yunnan (see under Ts'ên Yü-ying), and this incident led to further difficulty with England. Whereas most high Chinese officials took a militant attitude, Kuo submitted a memorial to the throne suggesting that Ts'ên Yü-ying [q. v.], governor of Yunnan, should be sent to the Board of Civil Office for questioning. This memorial stirred violent criticism, and some officials accused Kuo of trying to curry the favor of westerners.
The Chefoo convention (see under Li Hung-chang) which resulted from the Margary affair, stipulated that China should send a mission of apology to London. As important Chinese officials had already recommended the establishment of legations abroad, the government took the opportunity to appoint Kuo (1876) minister to England, and he was therefore the first Chinese minister of modern times to be stationed in a Western country. He and his staff and his associate, Liu Hsi-hung 劉錫鴻 ( 雲生) who was later appointed minister to Germany (1877–78), set out from Shanghai on December 3. 1876. On his staff was the Scotsman, Samuel Halliday Macartney 馬格理 ( 清臣, 1833–1906), who had been in the service of the Chinese government since 1862 and had for ten years (1865–75) directed the Arsenal at Nanking. On this mission Macartney served as secretary, and later as counselor in the Chinese Legation at London, until a few months before his death. Arriving in London on January 21, 1877, Kuo presented his letter of credence at Buckingham Palace on February 6. Early in 1878 he was appointed concurrently Minister to France, and then took up residence in Paris. But in the autumn of the same year he was ordered back to China and Tsêng Chi-tsê [q. v.] was appointed to take his place. Kuo's tenure of office abroad was comparatively uneventful. From the beginning he was reluctant to accept the appointment and, moreover, was on bad terms with his associate, Liu Hsi-hung. He repeatedly urged the government to introduce railways, machinery and other Western conveniences, but his suggestions were strongly resented by recalcitrant officials in power and evoked a reprimand. Upon his return to China he did not proceed to Peking; so convinced was he that his life would be in danger there, that he pled ill health and went directly to his home. For a time he taught in the Academy, Ch'êng-nan Shu-yüan 城南書院 at Changsha and spent his last years chiefly in writing. As his studio was styled Yang-chih Shu-wu 養知書屋, he was also known as Yang-chih hsien-shêng (先生). But even in retirement he was always concerned with the welfare of the nation, especially with its foreign relations. On the question of the treaty of Livadia (see under Ch'ung-hou) and the French intervention in Annam (see under Li Hung-chang), he submitted memorials and offered opinions. As a liberal statesman he advocated the construction of railways and the establishment of a telegraph service. He was perturbed at the fatal obstinacy of the government authorities in matters of foreign affairs, and rightly so, for their policies resulted finally in the Boxer Uprising of 1900, nine years after Kuo's death.
Kuo Sung-tao produced several works on the classics, among them the 禮記質疑 Li-chi chih-i, in 49 chüan, first published in 1890. It is recorded that he also left a work, 湘陰圖志 Hsiang-yin t'u-chih, a topographical study of his native district in 34 chüan. His diary of the journey from Shanghai to London, entitled 使西紀程 Shih-hsi chi-ch'êng, appears in the collectanea Hsiao fang-hu chai yü-ti ts'ung-ch'ao (1891, see under Hsü Chi-yü). His collected works, Yang-chih shu-wu ch'üan-chi (全集), including 15 chüan of verse, 28 chüan of prose and 12 chüan of memorials, were first printed in 1892.
Two younger brothers: Kuo K'un-tao 郭崑燾 (意城, 樗叜, 1823–1882), a chü-jên of 1844, and Kuo Lun-tao 郭崙燾 ( 叔和, 志城, 1827–1880), were learned scholars who rendered valuable service in the suppression of the Taipings. Kuo Sung-tao's eldest son, Kuo Kang-chi 郭剛基 ( 依水), who died in early life, married Tsêng Chi-ch'un 曾紀純, fourth daughter of Tsêng Kuo-fan. A son of Kuo K'un-tao, Kuo Ch'ing-fan 郭慶藩 ( 孟純, 子瀞, 1844–1896), wrote or compiled some ten works, among which were the comprehensive annotations to Chuang-tzŭ, entitled 莊子集釋 Chuang-tzŭ chi-shih, 24 chüan, printed in 1894.
[1/452/1a; 5/15/5b; Autobiographical notes (玉池老人自叙, 1893); Liu Hsi-hung, 英軺日記 Ying-yao jih-chi in Hsiao fang-hu chai yü-ti ts'ung-ch'ao (see under Hsü Chi-yü); Chang Tê-i 張德彝, 四述奇 Ssŭ-shu ch'i (1883); Boulger, The Life of Sir Thomas Macartney (1908), with portraits; for a definitive history of the likin system see Lo Yü-tung 羅玉東, 中國釐金史 Chung-kuo li-chin shih (1936).]