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  • From the May Fourth Movement to Communist Revolution: Guo Moruo and the Chinese Path to Communism
  • Jin Qiu (bio)
Xiaoming Chen . From the May Fourth Movement to Communist Revolution: Guo Moruo and the Chinese Path to Communism. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2007. xi, 156 pp. Hardcover $60.00, ISBN 978-0-7914-7137-1.

Guo Moruo is one of the leading literary figures in modern China. He is a major scholar of Chinese archeology, a foremost expert on jiagu wen (oracle bone script) and jin wen (bronze inscriptions), a well-known historian, a talented poet, a [End Page 217] playwright, and a prolific writer. His publications include seventeen volumes of Moruo wenji (Literary works of Moruo), thirty-eight volumes of Guo Moruo quanji (The complete works of Guo Moruo), and numerous other publications, with more than ten million words in all his published works.1 In 1999, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences ranked him number one among the thirty-four most renowned Chinese scholars, and hundreds of books have been published in China about his life and his academic achievements.2

Guo, however, is also one of the most controversial figures.3 Because of his heavy involvement in the Communist government after 1949, many question his personal integrity and the quality of some of his works after 1949, especially after the Cultural Revolution. The controversy over Guo led to intensive debates and even lawsuits in China in the late 1990s.4 Probably for a similar reason, Guo has not been an attractive subject in the West. While hundreds of books on Guo have been published in Chinese, only a few studies in English are exclusively on Guo's life or works, among which, Xiaoming Chen's monograph From the May Fourth Movement to Communist Revolution: Guo Moruo and the Chinese Path to Communism is, so far, the most important.5 The book offers a comprehensive description and systematic analysis of Guo's early conversion from a Confucianist to a Communist after the May Fourth Movement in 1919.

Through this relatively short but condensed study, Chen presents convincing arguments about why Guo was attracted to the Communist ideas and how he could follow the Communist teaching without totally abandoning his beliefs of Confucianism. Through detailed analyses of Guo's writing, Chen explains, step by step, the change in Guo's thinking and his eventual conversion to what Chen calls a "Confucian Communist" (p. 52), Guo's synthesis of Confucianism and Marxist Communism (pp. 101-107). Chen's framework of analysis, which separates the four main orientations of Confucianism, "xiushen 修身 (morally cultivate the self), qijia 齊家 (regulating the family), zhiguo 治國 (managing the state), and ping tianxia 平天下 (harmonizing the world)," is innovative and convincing, providing a key to understand Guo's conditional acceptance of the Communist theory (p. 3). As one of major representatives of the May Fourth movement, or a "May Fouthian" (p. 7), Guo vehemently opposed qijia or lijiao 禮教 (religion of rituals) part of Confucianism, but remained loyal to other cannons of Confucianism, such as xiushen, zhiguo, and especially ping tianxia. Guo seemed to be convinced, according to Chen, that the "cosmopolitanist" worldview expressed in the Communist ideas would come together without much problem with the "Confucian cosmopolitanist perspective" (p. 2), or more specifically, the concept of datong 大同 (great harmony), which, according Chen, was one of the most important converging points of the two worldviews in Guo's understanding of Confucianism and Communism (pp. 86-90). On the level of managing the state, Guo believed that the "Confucian concept of rule 'by men of virtues,' " was not "contradictory to Marxism, because Marx recognized the importance of having 'proletarian countries' [End Page 218] before the cosmopolitan Communist ideal is achieved" (p. 101). Neither did he see much conflict "between his ideal of individual freedom and the Communist collective goal of emancipating the whole of mankind" (p. 87). He did not even see the two "diverge greatly on the family issue," because "Marxist Communism is not against 'filial piety' or 'family' " (p. 101). All this explains why in Marxism Guo "finally found a modern scientist way to realize the dream of Confucius," who as Guo suggested, "was only...