Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Kuo Shang-hsien

KUO Shang-hsien 郭尚先 (T. 元開, H. 蘭石, 伯抑), 1785–1833, Feb. 18, was a son of Kuo Chieh-nan 郭捷南 (T. 邦賢, d. 1820). His ancestral home was in P'u-t'ien, Fukien, but he was born at Li-yang, Kiangsu, in the home of his paternal grandfather, Kuo Chan-hsüan 郭占選 (T. 子徽, chü-jên of 1760), who was at that time magistrate of Li-yang. He passed the provincial examination as chieh-yüan (the highest ranking chü-jên) in 1807. Two years later he became a chin-shih and was appointed a member of the Hanlin Academy with assignment to study the Manchu language. Later (1811) he was made a compiler of the Academy. In 1813 he was examiner of the province of Kweichow; in 1816, of Yunnan; and in 1819 of Kwangtung. He returned home in 1820 to observe the period of mourning for his father and while there assisted in the relief of the famine which afflicted Fukien in the following year. In 1828 he was appointed commissioner of education of Szechwan, and two years later was made assistant secretary of the Supervisorate of Imperial Instruction. After several promotions, he was made early in 1832 director of the Banqueting Court, and in the same year was appointed director of the Court of Judicature and Revision, and was ordered to take charge of the provincial examination of Shantung. Soon after his return to Peking he became seriously ill and died early in 1833 at the age of forty-eight (sui).

Kuo Shang-hsien was noted for his calligraphy, in which he was regarded by his contemporaries as the equal of Chao Mêng-fu (see under Tung Ch'i-ch'ang) of the Yüan dynasty and of Tung Ch'i-ch'ang [q. v.] of the Ming. Soon after reaching the age of forty his hair turned white, and this occurrence—unusual in China—was attributed by his close friend, Lin Tsê-hsü [q. v.], who composed his funerary inscription, to over-exertion in writing. However that may be, it is known that he seldom refused requests for specimens of his handwriting. Kuo Shang-hsien wrote many comments upon the calligraphy of famous men. A collection of these was made by his son-in-law, Hsü Tsu-fang 許祖淓 (T. 徵甫, d. 1866) and was printed with movable type in 1874 by Kung Hsien-tsêng 龔顯曾 (T. 詠樵, chin-shih of 1863), in 4 chüan, under the title 芳堅館題跋 Fang-chien kuan t'i-pa. Kuo Shang-hsien was also a painter, and in the last chüan of this work may be found his comments upon his own paintings. The Fang-chien kuan t'i-pa is included in the collectanea, 述古叢鈔 Shu-ku ts'ung-ch'ao. The original draft of Kuo's diary of his trip to Szechwan—beginning with his appointment as commissioner of education on September 9, 1828, and ending with his return to Peking on January 29, 1832—was published under the title 使蜀日記 Shih-Shu jih-chi, 1 chüan, by his son, Kuo Chien-ling 郭籛齡 (T. 祖武, 子壽, H. 山民). Kuo Shang-hsien's collected works were edited and printed in 1845 by Wei Mao-lin 魏茂林 (T. 賓門, H. 笛生, chin-shih of 1809), under the title 郭大理遺稿 kuo Ta-la i-kao, 8 chüan; and his poems were published under the title 增默庵詩 Tsêng-mo an shih, 2 chüan.


[2/73/14b; 6/7/6a; 20/4/xx (portrait); 29/8/17a; Fukien t'ung-chih (1871) 227/11b, (1922) 列傳 38/13a, 15a, 藝文 66/9b, 32/3b, 文苑 9/14a, 15b.]

S. K. Chang

J. C. Yang