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Guo Yu (Book) 国语 – Top 100 Books in China

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China’s first history book written with the state as the narrative unit


Chinese Name: 国语

English Name: Guo Yu, Guoyu, Discourses of the States

Other Names: Chun Qiu Wai Zhuan春秋外传, Zuo Shi Wai Zhuan左氏外传

Author: Zuo Qiuming 左丘明 or ?

Originally Published: End of the Spring and Autumn Period

Genre: History

Brief Introduction of Guo Yu

Guo Yu is China’s first history book written with the state as the narrative unit. It compilation method is based on national classification and language dialogue.

Guo Yu has 21 volumes, including Zhou周, Lu鲁, Qi齐, Jin晋, Zheng郑, Chu楚, Wu吴 and Yue越. The chronicle dates from the middle of the Western Zhou Dynasty to the turn of the Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States Period, about 500 years ago.

Compared with Zuo Zhuan, most of the events recorded in Guo Yu are not related, and they focus on recording words. They often reflect the facts through words and depict the characters’ images through the dialogue between characters, which has a certain literary value. Guo Yu is arranged by countries in a certain order. In terms of content, it focuses on the statements of historical figures. This is the biggest feature of Guoyu

Guoyu has a strong ethical tendency in content, promotes the spirit of morality, respects the norms of rites, and believes that “Rites礼” are the foundation of governing the country. And the thought of loyalty to the king is very prominent.

Guo Yu has a relatively progressive political view, opposes autocracy and corruption, attaches importance to public opinion and talents, and has a strong people-oriented thought.

Guo Yu records the economy, finance, military, art of war, diplomacy, education, law, marriage and other contents of the spring and Autumn period. It is very important to study the history of the pre-Qin period.


Author of Guo Yu

The author of Guoyu has been controversial since ancient times. It was Sima Qian, a great historian of the Western Han Dynasty, who first proposed that the author of Guoyu was Zuo Qiuming.

However, after the Jin Dynasty, many scholars doubted this kind of statement. Fu Xuan, a thinker of the Jin Dynasty, first raised an objection, “Guoyu was not written by Zuo Qiuming.”

Since the Song Dynasty, many scholars, including Kang Youwei康有为, suspected that Guoyu was a fake work of Liu Xin刘歆 in the Western Han Dynasty.

In modern times, scholars still argue endlessly, generally denying that Zuo Qiuming is the author of Guo Yu, but there is a lack of conclusive evidence.

Zuo Qiuming左丘明
Zuo Qiuming左丘明

Zuo Qiuming (556-451 BC), a historian, writer, thinker and essayist in the late Spring and Autumn Period.

He once served as a historian of the state of Lu鲁国. In order to analyze the Spring and Autumn Annals, he wrote Zuo Zhuan and Guoyu国语. When he wrote Guoyu, he was blind. The two books recorded many important historical events of the Western Zhou Dynasty and the spring and Autumn Annals, and preserved high-value original materials. Due to the detailed historical materials and vivid writing, it has aroused the interest and discussion of scholars at all times and at home and abroad.

Zuo Zhuan and Guo Yu左传与国语

Zuo Qiuming is the founder of Chinese traditional historiography. The historians regard Zuo Qiuming as the founder of Chinese historiography. Zuo Qiuming’s thought was Confucianism, which more reflected the interests and requirements of the people at that time.


Excerpts of Guo Yu


Choosing kindness is like climbing a mountain. If you choose to take the right path in life, your status will be higher and higher. Choosing evil is like a landslide. If life chooses an evil Road, it is on a road of no return and will collapse in the end.


If you don’t block the source, the water will flow out again.


If education is not good, national politics will be difficult to govern.


If we don’t compete for the working time of farmers, the people will become rich; If you don’t rob animals, cattle and sheep will continue to grow.

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