Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Kuo Hsiu

KUO Hsiu 郭琇 (T. 瑞甫, H. 華野), July 28, 1638–1715, Apr. 10, official, was a native of Chi-mo, Shantung. Made a chin-shih in 1670, he was nine years later appointed magistrate of Wu-chiang, Kiangsu, where he gained popularity for his interest in public works and his efficient administration. He sponsored the compilation of the local gazetteer, Wu-chiang hsien-chih, 46 + 1 chüan, which was printed in 1684. On the recommendation of T'ang Pin [q. v.], governor of Kiangsu, he was in 1686 made a censor. In this capacity he became one of the most famous officials of the K'ang-hsi period. Early in 1688 he memorialized the throne on the failure of Chin Fu [q. v.] in his attempts at river conservancy. At the same time he denounced the Grand Secretaries, Mingju [q. v.] and Yü Kuo-chu 余國柱 (T. 佺廬, 兩石, chin-shih of 1652), as well as several other officials, for corruption. Mingju and Yü were dismissed and the other officials accused were either cashiered or degraded. Kuo Hsiu was rapidly promoted and in 1689 was made president of the Censorate. Later in the same year he memorialized the throne on the bribery case of Kao Shih-ch'i and Wang Hung-hsü [qq. v.] who were both dismissed. At the same time, however, Kuo Hsiu himself was accused of recommending officials to Ch'ien Chüeh 錢珏 (T. 霖玉, H. 朗亭, d. 1703), then governor of Shantung. Kuo was degraded and before long various charges of corruption were brought against him by his enemies. The most serious charge against him was one concerning the administration of the granaries during his term as magistrate of Wu-chiang. In 1690 he was tried at Nanking by officials friendly to Mingju and Kao Shih-ch'i and was sentenced to banishment. But in the following year the sentence was set aside by Emperor Shêng-tsu, and Kuo was allowed to return to his home in Chi-mo.

After eight years of retirement, Kuo Hsiu met the emperor in June 1699 at Tê-chou, Shantung, when the latter was returning from his third tour of South China and had occasion to hear how well Kuo was remembered by the people of Wu-chiang. A few days after this audience, Kuo was appointed governor-general of Hu-kuang (Hunan and Hupeh). As such Kuo proposed a comprehensive land survey of that region. Despite his warning that the government would receive about thirty percent less in taxes after the survey was made, his plan was approved by the emperor on the ground that it would benefit the poor. But during his four years in Hu-kuang not even the first steps toward the survey were taken. Several times he was denounced as unfit for his post. Pleading illness, he asked five times for permission to retire, but was repeatedly ordered to remain at his post. Finally news of the revolt of the Miao tribesmen in western Hunan which he had neglected to bring to the attention of the government was carried to the throne, and investigation by Chao Shên-ch'iao [q. v.] proved Kuo responsible. On account of this and other charges Kuo was dismissed in 1703. He died twelve years later, leaving a collection of memorials entitled 華野疏稿 Hua-yeh shu-kao, (also known as 松璧奏疏 Sung-pi tsou-shu), in 4 chüan supplemented by a nien-p'u, and other biographical material. These were printed in 1732 with prefaces added later. According to some accounts Kuo's early days as an official at Wu-chiang were marked by corruption, but for three or four years he escaped detection. When T'ang Pin became governor of Kiangsu in 1684, he became aware of Kuo's irregularities and warned him of the consequences. Kuo went to T'ang, made a confession, and took an oath to refrain from further illegal practices. He lived up to his promise.

[1/276/4a; 3/160/34a; Chi-mo-hsien chih (1873) 9/名臣 6b, 10/17a; Li Kuang-ti [q. v.], Jung-ts'un yü lu hsü-chi, chüan 14.]

Fang Chao-ying