Guo Liwei
Some attributes
First Name: Guo Liwei
Second Position: Official
Third Nationality: Chinese
Other attributes
Fourth Allegiance: Northern Qi
Fifth Gender: Male
Sixth Died: 577

Guo Liwei, was an official of the Chinese dynasty Northern Qi (550–577). Considered as one of the most corrupt, villainous, violent and powerful eunuchs in Chinese history, Guo played an instrumental role in the downfall of Northern Qi.

Early LifeEdit

In 561, Emperor Xiaozhao of Northern Qi died, and Gao Dan became emperor (as Emperor Wucheng). Guo Liwei was distantly related to the ruling house of Northern Qi. Guo Liwei's parents committed crimes and were punished. Guo was castrated and became a Palace Eunuch.

After enduring humiliation and bullying, he won the favor of Empress Hu through his excellent culinary skills and was assigned to personally serve her.

Empress Hu was promiscuous. She engaged in sexual relations with her eunuchs -- although, in light of their being previously castrated, the traditional historians used the term xiexia (褻狎, "immoral games") rather than "adultery" to describe her acts with them. Guo was no exception.

Guo, as an eunuch had access to the Royal Harem, and so he brought in 563 a man with a large penis, Lao Ai [嫪毐]. Empress Hu fell in love with Lao Ai and had him enfeoffed as the "Marquis Changxin". Guo was also promoted as Chief Eunuch.

Battle of JinyongEdit

In 564, 100,000 Northern Zhou soldiers besieged Jinyong (金墉, near modern Luoyang). Despite having no previous battle experience, Empress Hu managed to persuade Emperor Wucheng to appoint Guo as commander of 50,000 soldiers with the mission to relieve the besieged city. The two armies met outside the city in the Battle of Jinyong.

The Northern Zhou General placed the infantry in the center, with the cavalry in two flanking "wings". Guo, on the other hand, after drawing up his whole army in a straight line, took his center and advanced it, keeping the rest of the army in contact with the center, but gradually falling off, so as to produce a crescent-shaped formation. When the Northern Zhou army attacked his center, Guo ordered a controlled retreat. The crescent of the center buckled inwards as the troops in the center gradually withdrew.

By doing so, Guo had trapped the Northern Zhou army in a growing 'V' shaped gap. The Northern Zhou General, believing that he was winning, send more and more of his men in the gap. The bulk of the Northern Zhou troops began to lose their cohesion, as they began crowding themselves into the growing gap. Soon they were compacted together so closely that they had little space to wield their weapons

Then, suddenly, Guo ordered his right and left wings to close the gap by outflanking the enemy. So, the Northern Zhou army was encircled and massacred. Of the Northern Zhou army, 85,000 were killed, 10,000 captured, and "perhaps" 5,000 survived. Guo lost only about 8,000 men.

Prime MinisterEdit

After returning to the Capital, Emperor Wucheng appointed Guo Prime Minister. Guo introduced land reforms, privatized land, rewarded farmers who exceeded harvest quotas, enslaved farmers who failed to meet quotas, and used enslaved subjects as rewards for those who met government policies. Guo made laws forcing citizens to marry at a young age and passed tax laws to encourage raising multiple children. He also enacted policies to free convicts who worked in opening wastelands for agriculture.

Guo abolished primogeniture and created a double tax on households that had more than one son living in the household, to break up large clans into nuclear families. Other reforms on Guo were:

1.The institution of meritocracy, rather than inheritance, as the key principle for the selection of officials. By doing this, Guo undermined the nobility while enhancing the effectiveness of government

2.Codifying the laws of the state, thus creating the Book of Law. The text was in turn subdivided, with laws dealing with theft, banditry, procedures of arrest and imprisonment, and miscellaneous criminal activities.

Guo also exposed Empress Hu's affair with Lao Ai. Empress Hu was exiled and forced to commit suicide. Lao Ai was executed via "The Five Pains" method. The method consisted of having the victim's nose cut off, cutting off a hand and a foot, then the victim was castrated and finally cut in half in line with the waist. He also executed Lao Ai's family down to the third generation.

Guo persuaded Emperor Wucheng, in light of astrological signs, that he would be even more honored as an Emperor's father than as an Emperor, and that he should pass the throne to Crown Prince Gao Wei. Emperor Wucheng agreed, and did so in summer 565.

Under Taishang HuangEdit

Although Emperor Wucheng passed the throne to Gao Wei and assumed the title Taishang Huang (retired emperor), he continued to be in charge of important decisions. In 566, Guo and He Shikai falsely accused Emperor Wucheng's nephew Gao Xiaowan (高孝琬), the Prince of Hejian, of using witchcraft against Emperor Wucheng and satirizing the retired emperor. Eventually, Emperor Wucheng arrested and tortured Gao Xiaowan, leading to his death.

In 567, the ambitious Guo wrote petitions accusing He Shikai, Zhao Yanshen (趙彥深), and Gao Wenyao (高文遙) of crimes. He Shikai, Zhao Yanshen, and Gao Wenyao received the news and prepared to defend themselves. Also, Emperor Wucheng took the accusations personally and felt that Guo was assaulting his own competence. Afraid of being arrested by Emperor Wucheng, Guo poisoned Wucheng, killing him. Emperor Gao Wei, who viewed Guo as his protector, assumed direct control of state affairs and had He Shikai, Zhao Yanshen, and Gao Wenyao executed.

Calling a deer a horseEdit

Guo, in an attempt to control the government, devised a loyalty test for court officials using a deer and horse. He brought a deer and presented it to Emperor Gao Wei but called it a horse. The Emperor laughed and said, "Is the Prime Minister perhaps mistaken, calling a deer a horse?". Then the emperor questioned those around him. Some remained silent, while some, hoping to ingratiate themselves with Guo, said it was a horse, and others said it was a deer. Guo secretly arranged for all those who said it was a deer to be brought before the law and had them executed instantly. Thereafter the officials were all terrified of Guo.

Absolute PowerEdit

Emperor Gao Wei depended on Guo so much so that he acted as a puppet emperor. After one tour, Guo suggested he examine the governors and military commandants and punish those who are guilty of some crime. By doing so he could do away with those who disapproved of the emperor's actions.

In 571, Guo spread rumors accusing great general Hulü Guang of treason. Gao Wei believed it this time, and under Guo's suggestion, he awarded Hulü a horse, and then, as Hulü arrived at the palace to thank the emperor, he had his guard commander Liu Taozhi (劉桃枝) seize Hulü and strangle him to death. Hulü's clan was slaughtered except for his youngest son Hulü Zhong (斛律鍾).

Guo, controlling the government, wanted to reorganize it to make it more efficient, reducing duplication in official responsibilities and wastefulness. He also wanted to remove incompetent and/or corrupt officials. Emperor Wu of Northern Zhou launched a major attack in 576, and Northern Qi forces collapsed. Agrarian rebellions rose in Northern Xu Province as a response to the attack, and the rebels soon approached the capital of the province. Guo made surprise attacks on the rebels. After battling half a month, Guo defeated the rebels.


Guo was afraid that Emperor Gao Wei might make him responsible for the uprisings and the military defeats by Northern Zhou. To preempt this, Guo forced the Emperor to commit suicide and installed his son Gao Heng as Emperor in spring 577, even though Gao Heng was only seven years old.

Meanwhile, Guo, receiving news that Northern Zhou forces were about to arrive at Yecheng, decided to abandon Yecheng and head to the provinces south of the Yellow River to organize a resistance. He left the general Murong Sanzang (慕容三藏) in charge of Yecheng and fled toward Ji Province (濟州, roughly modern Liaocheng, Shandong), where had earlier sent Emperor Gao Heng. Once Guo left, Murong Sanzang was unable to defend the city, and it fell.

When Guo arrived at Ji Province, he issued an edict in Gao Heng's name further passing the throne to Gao Heng's uncle Gao Jie (高湝) the Prince of Rencheng, sending the edict and the imperial seal to Gao Jie at Ying Province (瀛州, roughly modern eastern Baoding, Hebei) with the official Hulü Xiaoqing (斛律孝卿), where Gao Jie was governor. However, instead of delivering the edict and the imperial seals to Gao Jie, Hulü surrendered to Northern Zhou.

Battle of Dong'eEdit

When 55,000 Northern Zhou forces arrived at Ji Province, Guo set up an ambush in Dong'e County in a series of heavily forested hills in the northern side of the left bank of the Yellow River with 30,000 soldiers. Once the Northern Zhou army started marching on column formation through the narrow defile and entered the plains skirting the Yellow River, the Northern Qi cavalry and infantry swept down from their concealed positions in the surrounding hills, blocked the road and engaged the unsuspecting Northern Zhou army from three sides.

Surprised and outmaneuvered, the Northern Zhou soldiers did not have time to draw up in battle array, and were forced to fight a desperate hand-to-hand battle in open order. The Northern Zhou army was quickly split into three parts. The westernmost was attacked by the Northern Qi cavalry and forced into the Yellow River, leaving the other two groups with no way to retreat. The center stood its ground, but was cut down by Northern Qin troops after three hours of heavy combat. In less than four hours, the Northern Zhou army was annihilated. Of the initial Northern Zhou force of about 55,000, about 25,000 were either killed in battle or drowned while trying to escape into the Yellow River. Guo lost only 3,000 men.


However, soon after, 30,000 Northern Zhou reinforcements arrived at Ji Province. Guo quickly tried to flee, but was captured by the Northern Zhou general Yuchi Qin (尉遲勤) and delivered back to Yecheng, to Emperor Wu. Guo was condemned to death by "slow slicing" in 577. According to this method, a knife was used to methodically remove portions of the body over an extended period of time, eventually leading to death.

Many Yecheng residents hated him so much that they rushed to buy his body parts so they could eat them. He was tortured for half a day before dying. His head, the only recognizable part after the torture, was impaled on wooden pole and presented to Emperor Wu.