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《The Paintings of Guo Xiuyi》

Cover Page and Photos

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By Huang Xiangming


Artist and Calligrapher Guo Xiuyi (1911 – 2006) was my Mother. I am well acquainted with many details of her personal life and artistic career.


Guo Xiuyi was born in Shanghai. She had an interesting dual career - being dedicated to Social Reform and promoting Democracy and Women’s rights in China - all in addition to her being a productive Artist. Coming of age during an important time in China, Guo was drawn without hesitation into the Chinese Patriotic Movement during 1930s.


In 1934 Guo married Huang Qixiang(Huang Chi-hsiang), a renowned patriotic general against Japanese invasion, and my Father.   General Huang Qixiang fought with American alliance in the war and Guo Xiuyi was with her husband at the front of the battle fields.


As the leader of the Women’s Work Team of the 11th Army Group, Guo risked her own life to save the lives of wounded soldiers and civilians. In 1938, she joined with Madam Song Meiling(Soong May-ling) and Madam Deng Yingchao to found the China War  Time Children Care Association, which rescued, cared and educated for more than 30,000 orphans of the War.


With a Chinese victory after eight years of hard war, Guo Xiuyi, together with her husband, were recognized for their dedication and outstanding contributions.  Both of them were awarded the Medal of Victory. Husband Huang Qixiang was awarded the Medal of Freedom by the American President Harry Truman.


With the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, and in the years that followed, Guo Xiuyi subsequently served as a Member of the Standing Committee of the National Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, as Honorary Deputy Chairwoman of the Central Consultative and Control Committee of Chinese Peasants and Workers Democratic Party, as a Member of the Standing Committee of Women’s Federation, and as Executive Director of the China Council for Promotion of Peaceful Unification.


In 1951 at 40 years of age,  a dramatic change took place all of a sudden in her life.   One day,  at the house of Lao She, a well-known writer, a scroll of painting by the elder artist Baishi drew her attention by accident.   After admiring in front of the painting, she was profoundly inspired and decided to get apprenticed to Qi Baishi, one of the greatest master in traditional Chinese painting. 


Together with Madam Hu Jieqing, the wife of the writer Lao She, Guo Xiuyi approached Qi Baishi and asked him to take them on as his disciples. Although Qi Baishi was no longer taking students, he was persuaded, and Guo and Hu began class with the aged Master – the last two disciples of his school.

The elderly master earnestly instructed: “Painting is a very lonely job. While painting, you have to purify your heart by discarding any ideas of seeking fame or wealth. When you see some merits in paintings by others, either ancient or contemporary artists, you should learn it and make your work truly like it but never brag about it. While learning from someone you may see their shortcomings, and then of course you would ignore it- but you should never talk derogatorily about him. Observe closely the natural wonders around you. Only by doing so can you achieve supernatural power in your own hands while painting.”

The trick lies between likeness and unlikeness. Making your work too much similar to a master is to please the vulgar taste, while too much unlikeness is actually deceiving the world.”


“One lives (succeeds) by learning from me. One dies (fails) if he makes his work too much like mine.”    Guo bore the master’s teachings in mind, devoting all her energy to diligent studying and learning the craft. As a result she made marvelous progress and gradually brought into full play all her talent in the art of painting.


Besides concentrating her effort on grasping the quintessence of the Qi School and learning the master’s skills the hard way, Guo also learned and integrated the merits of other schools of painting: learning the style of Master Pu Xuezhai for rockery, orchid and bamboo, how to paint flowers and plants from Master Wang Xuetao, still life sketching from Master Huang Yanghui. Studying and contrasting the styles and methods of the various schools of painting, Guo was able to bring them together in a comprehensive manner for her use, thus forming her own unique style.

Everything painted by Guo seems alive on paper: human figures, landscapes, birds, and other animals, fish and shrimp, plants and flowers. All her paintings are true to life, full of vitality, showing inspiration and creativity. Other disciples of Qi Baishi praised her: “Should her work be put next to our teacher’s best examples, who can tell which one is the Master’s?”

Master Qi Baishi was overjoyed to see his disciple’s success. He would smile and take up his brush to add some fascinating touches on her painting. Once he wrote: “The dark ink color was added by Baishi to the cat painted by my disciple Xiuyi.” Another: “My disciple Xiuyi painted seven chicks and me, the meddlesome old man, added five more.”

Master Qi Baishi wrote such words of encouragement on nearly a hundred pieces of Guo’s paintings within just a few years. Such rare action could only express his praise and his fondness for his favorite disciple.


Five more such examples:

His inscription on “Crabapples in Autumn”: “With the autumn breezes coming back the crabapple tree has come to fruit. In this school of mine Xiuyi is the only disciple who has made such incomparable progress.”


For “Liu Hai Teasing the Gold Toad”: “The folds in the figure’s clothes painted by the author are not in the least different from what I did. No wonder people in the capital thought it was my work with her signature on it. Even myself could not tell the difference.”


For “Butterflies Lingering around Flowers”:  “Life-like over the treetops they fly together. The painting by my disciple Xiuyi would fly together with her teacher’s”   


On “A Rooster in the Morning” is “Xiuyi’s painting is as brilliant as mine.”

On “The Last Lotus Leaves in Autumn Rain”:  “My disciple Xiuyi is quite accomplished in the art of painting.”

In 1953, The First National Art Exhibition and Sales was held in Beijing. The first piece of work for which there was an offer to purchase was Guo Xiuyi’s “Playing Chicks”. Guo, however, refused the offer, being embarrassed by the attention. She had always kept a humble attitude and she had no desire, after less than three years’ study of the art, to stand out so conspicuously among the famous masters by having her work sold before any other.

It was only at the encouragement by her respected teacher, the persistence of the buyer, and the persuasion of the sponsors of the exhibition that she reluctantly agreed to accept the offer – thus selling a work for the first time and having become a Professional Artist.


Guo Xiuyi’s works have been exhibited many times and several were acquired by the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. Paintings have been previously catalogued in two published albums: “Art Treasures Collected by Mao Zedong” and also “Elegant Paintings Collected and Stored in Zhongnanhai”.  Guo

Xiuyi also served as the Vice President of The Beijing Research Society of Qi Baishi’s Artistic Works.


In Memory of Well-Known Painter Madam Guo Xiuyi

Preface     --By Lou Shibai


As the greatest master in traditional Chinese painting, Master Qi Baishi took on many students during his lifetime.  One of his many self-engraved seals reads: “Three thousand disciples of mine exceed those of either Zhao or Wu.”  This is one of his favorite seals, boasting that he had so many disciples everywhere and neither Master Zhao Zhiqian nor Master Wu Changshuo of the old times could match.  

Among the many disciples of Master Baishi, there is no lack of accomplished female artists.  And Madam Guo Xiuyi was an outstanding representative of them.  She was not only a renowned painter but also a prominent social activist and one of the forerunners in Chinese women’s movement. 

Xiuyi was born in 1911 in Shanghai, though her family roots were originated in GuangDong.  Being well educated from a very young age, she was deeply influenced by China’s traditional culture.  At 18, she graduated from a girls’ art school in Shanghai.  Later on in Germany, she was married to Mr. Huang Qixiang(Huang Chi-hsiang), a famous patriotic general.  The newly-wed couple returned to China in 1936 to participate in the Anti-Japanese War.  They made profound influence on Communist Party and Nationalist Party united together to fight against Japanese invasion.  They maintained close friendships with former Premier Zhou Enlai,  Marshal Zhu De,  Marshal Ye Jianying and other leaders throughout long years of sharing weal and woe.  In August 1949, at the invitation of the Chinese Communist Party, Xiuyi and her husband left Hong Kong for Beiping to attend the new Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. 

In 1951 Xiuyi went through a formal ritual to become a disciple of Master Baishi.  She studied diligently and learned skills and essence of Chinese traditional painting from the master painter.  Together with Madam Hu Jieqing, Xiuyi would attend painting classes at Master Baishi’s art studio every Monday morning from 1951 to 1956.  I happened to be there on many occasions, and had opportunities to exchange views with them of how to improve our painting skills.  We often cooperated to work on some paintings together.  Being a gifted and diligent student, Xiuyi made rapid progress under Master Baishi’s guidance.  She learned to grasp the knack of essential art style typical of Master Baishi.  As a result, her paintings were much appreciated and praised by her mentor.

Once Xiuyi showed a painting of chicks she had just completed for comments, Master Baishi watched her work with pleasure and took up his brush to add some fascinating touches on her painting.  His joy of seeing his disciple’s progress was revealed by his inscription:  “My disciple Xiuyi painted seven chicks and me, the meddlesome old man, added five more.”  Such praises were frequent.  Taking the painting of “Watermelon” for example, he wrote: “Xiuyi has become so proficient in her brush painting that she is envied by her fellow disciples.  I cannot help but feel proud so I put down this note.”  Another inscription is found on her painting “Myna and Begonia”: “The myna painted by my disciple Xiuyi seems to be singing with its mouth open and you could hear its voice.  What a masterpiece….”

I remember that Master Baishi saw a porcelain god of longevity at Xiuyi’s living room when he was visiting there.  The vivid porcelain figurine has a broad and round forehead and long eyebrows, with a dragon-head cane in one hand and holding a peach in the palm of another hand.  At the request of Xiuyi and her husband, Master Baishi agreed to paint the god of longevity right there.  With just a few brushes, a vivid figurine came alive on the paper.  With surging enthusiasm, the Master continued to paint the folds and various shades of the cloud patterns on the figurine’s robe.  He carefully filled in the blank spots outside the cloud patterns with gamboges color.  This figurine painting is one of the few brilliant works done by the Master painter in his late life.  That scene at Xiuyi’s living room was so vivid as if it had happened only yesterday.

The year 1953 marked the 60th birthday of Chairman Mao.  Xiuyi painted “Peach and Evergreen” as a birthday present, which is published in “Art Treasures Collected by Mao Zedong”.

One episode I have kept in mind took place in the autumn of 1955.  Master Baishi was over 90 by then.  To provide him with a comfortable and quiet living environment to spend his remaining years, Premier Zhou Enlai had the Ministry of Culture and the National Association of Arts to purchase a residence at Yu Er Hutong in Di An Men, which used to be a mansion by some prince of the old times.  The aged artist moved in and before long found the new home quite inconvenient in many ways.  He missed his old home so much that, in the spring of 1956, he visited Premier Zhou at Zhongnanhai and expressed his wish of moving back to his old residence.  To soothe Master Baishi, the Premier invited him to dinner and chatted with him.  Meanwhile he was sending a car service for Xiuyi to get to the scene to help.  After the dinner, the Premier and Xiuyi accompanied the old man to return to his previous residence.  Before his departure, the Premier requested Xiuyi to stay on and help the old man arrange everything for the moving back.  He told Xiuyi that he would expect her to regularly tell him about the living conditions of Master Baishi. 

Xiuyi followed the Premier’s instructions closely.  She did her best to make her beloved teacher’s life back to the normal within a very short time.  When the Premier learned that the old man was feeling much better, he commended Xiuyi for her excellent effort.  From this we can tell how important Xiuyi was to her teacher in his remaining years.

However, I feel very sorry for both Xiuyi and her husband Huang Qixiang about their wrongful sufferings during the “cultural revolution” period.  Much of valuable time was wasted as she was forced to stop painting and give up her artistic pursuit.  Even so, she never waived her support to the leadership of the Communist Party and socialism.  She always loved her motherland and the people.

Xiuyi was lucky to see the day when the country became prosperous and Chinese culture revitalized again.  In her late years, she took over responsibilities as one of the leaders of the Chinese Peasants-Workers Democratic Party.  She made great efforts for the peaceful unification of our motherland and to introduce to the world about China’s progress.  Busy as she was engaged in social activities, Xiuyi could finally pick up her brush again to produce numerous paintings full of enthusiasm for China’s reforms and opening up to the world. 

In 2001, Xiuyi and her disciple staged a large-scale show of paintings at the Exhibition Hall of Fine Arts under the title “Welcome Spring in the New Century”.  The paintings carried out the romantic charm of Master Qi by depicting beautiful flowers and plants, birds and animals, mountains and rivers with lucid and vigorous colors.  A large audience came to the show admiring the paintings and expressing positive feedbacks.

In my opinion, Xiuyi proved herself to be a patriotic personage, a prominent social activist and a successful painter.  She will be remembered as a great person as well as a great painter.

On the occasion of Publication of Xiuyi’s album of paintings, I’d like to jot down a few words from my heart to commemorate our profound friendship of several decades as a preface of the album.

90-year-old Lou Shibai at Laoan Thatched Cottage

Beijing, China






Madam Guo Xiuyi


Master Qi Baishi, General Huang Qixiang (Huang Chi-hsiang) and Madam Guo Xiuyi


Master Qi Baishi and Madam Guo Xiuyi


  Master Qi Baishi(2L), Madam Guo Xiuyi(1R), Madam Hu Jieqing(2R) and Madam Gao Shangqian(1L) in the art studio



Happy Hours

      Front Row From Left to Right: Master Xu Beihong, Master Qi Baishi, Mr. Wang Chaowen

Back Row From Left to Right: Madam Liao Jingwen, Madam Hu Jieqing, Madam Guo Xiuyi, Madam Xin Fengxia, Nurse Wu

(Mr. Wang Ren provided the lead, the Beijing Art Academy provided the photo)



Click Here to See Photo


Madam Guo Xiuyi and Madam Song Meiling(Soong May-ling) in Hankou China in 1938



Madam Guo Xiuyi and Madam Deng Yingchao



Madam Guo Xiuyi was painting


Painting “Peach and Evergreen (Symbol of Longevity)” for Mao Zedong’s 60th birthday in 1953 was cataloged in the “Art Treasures Colleted by Mao Zedong”



Painting “Herbaceous Peony, Crabapple and Maple”, with inscription of Master Huang Miaozi, was a present to Madam Deng Yingchao in 1982.   Later it was cataloged in the “Elegant Paintings Collected and Stored in Zhongnanhai”



 Qi Baishi

 Qi Baishi


 Chen Lifu


 Zhang Ding


  Zong Delu

To Purchase "The Paintings of Guo Xiuyi", Click Here 


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