Gu Hongming

Gu Hongming (Chinese: 辜鴻銘; Wade-Giles: Ku Hung-ming; Pinyin: Gū Hóngmíng; courtesy name: Hongming; ordinary name: 湯生 in Chinese or Tomson in English) (18 July 1857 – 30 April 1928) was a British Malaya born Chinese man of letters. He also used the pen name "Amoy Ku".

Gu hongming
Gu Hongming (1857–1928) in his old age.


Gu Hongming was born in Penang, British Malaya (present day Malaysia), the second son of a Chinese rubber plantation superintendent, whose ancestral hometown was Tong'an, Fujian province, China,[1] and his Portuguese wife.[2][3] The British plantation owner was fond of Gu and took him, at age ten, to Scotland for his education. He was then known as Koh Hong Beng (the Min Nan pronunciation of his name). In 1873 he began studying Literature at the University of Edinburgh, graduating in the spring of 1877 with an M.A. He then earned a diploma in Civil Engineering at the University of Leipzig, and studied law in Paris.

He returned to Penang in 1880, and soon joined the colonial Singapore civil service, where he worked until 1883. He went to China in 1885, and served as an advisor to the ranking official Zhang Zhidong for twenty years.

Leo Tolstoy and Gu were both opposed to the Hundred Days' Reform, which led by Kang Youwei.[4]

From 1905 to 1908, he was the director of the Huangpu River Authority (上海浚治黄浦江河道局) in Shanghai. He served in the Imperial Foreign Ministry from 1908 to 1910, then as the president of the Nanyang Public School, the forerunner of Shanghai Jiao Tong University. He resigned the latter post in 1911 as a sign of his loyalty to the fallen imperial Qing government. In 1915, he became a professor at Peking University. Beginning in 1924 he lived in Japan and Japanese-administered Taiwan for three years as a guest lecturer in Oriental cultures. Then he returned to live in Beijing until his death on 30 April 1928 at the age of 72.

An advocate of monarchy and Confucian values, preserving his queue even after the overthrow of Qing Dynasty, Gu became a kind of cultural curiosity late in his life. In 1934, writer Wen Yuan-ning wrote: "That ostentatious display of his queue is very symptomatic of the whole man. He is cross-grained: he lives by opposition."[5] Many sayings and anecdotes have been attributed to him, few of which can be attested. Literary figures as diverse as Ryūnosuke Akutagawa, Somerset Maugham and Rabindranath Tagore were all drawn to visit him when they were in China. No scholarly edition of his complete works is available.

He was fluent in English, Chinese, German, Russian and French, and understood Italian, Ancient Greek, Latin, Japanese and Malay.

His character appeared in the drama "Towards the Republic".[6]


His English works include:

He acquired Chinese only after his studies in Europe, and was said to have a bad Chinese hand-writing. However, his command of the language is far above average. He penned several Chinese books, including a vivid memoir recollecting his days as an assistant for Zhang Zhidong. He translated some of the Confucian classics into English, notably The Discourses and Sayings of Confucius and The Universal Order or Conduct of Life; and rendered William Cowper's narrative poem The Diverting History of John Gilpin into classical Chinese verse (known as 癡漢騎馬歌).


  1. ^ Liu, Suyong (July 22nd, 2013). "'The eccentric' Gu Hongming". Chinese Social Sciences Today (478). Check date values in: |date= (help)
  2. ^ Denison, Edward (2017). Architecture and the Landscape of Modernity in China before 1949. Routledge. ISBN 1317179285.
  3. ^ Müller, Gotelind (2006/1). "Gu Hongming (1857-1928) und Chinas Verteidigung gegen das Abendland" [Gu Hongming (1857-1928) and China’s defence against the occident] (PDF). Orientierungen. Zeitschrift zur Kultur Asiens: 6. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  4. ^ Lee 2005, p. 10.
  5. ^ "The Late Mr. Ku Hung-Ming," in Wen Yuan-ning, and others, "Imperfect Understanding: Intimate Portraits of Modern Chinese Celebrities," edited by Christopher Rea (Amherst, MA: Cambria Press, 2018), p. 72.
  6. ^ Müller, Gotelind (2007). Representing History in Chinese Media: The TV Drama Zou Xiang Gonghe (Towards the Republic). Volume 1 of Asien: Forschung und Wissenschaft/LIT Studies on Asia Series. LIT Verlag Münster. p. 83. ISBN 3825807878.
  7. ^ Gu, Hongming (1901). Papers from a Viceroy's Yamen: A Chinese Plea for the Cause of Good Government and True Civilization in China. Shanghai Mercury.
  8. ^ Gu, Hongming (2013). The Spirit of the Chinese People: The Classic Introduction to Chinese Culture. CN Times, Incorporated. ISBN 1627740112.
  • Huang Xingtao 黃兴涛 (1995). Wenhua guaijie Gu Hongming (文化怪杰辜鸿铭 "Gu Hongming: a cultural eccentric"). Beijing: Zhonghua Book Company.
  • Kong Qingmao 孔慶茂 (1996). Gu Hongming pingzhuan (辜鴻銘評傳 "A biography of Gu Hongming"). Nanchang: Baihuazhou wenyi chubanshe.

External links

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.