2. The War Years

In 1939–40, Hou Beiren received a scholarship to study at Japan’s Kyushu Imperial University (Kyushu Daigaku) where he majored in sociology.1 Though ongoing confrontations with Japan, such as the 1937 Marco Polo Bridge Incident, had seen thousands of Chinese nationals return to China, Japan remained a popular destination for Chinese students up until the end of the war in 1945, when diplomatic relations between the two countries were officially severed.2

After graduating in 1943, Hou returned to China, taking up a post in Chongqing as a researcher on Japanese affairs at the Chongqing Institute of International Studies, where he specialised in translating works from Japanese.3 The wartime Chongqing experienced by Hou was a fascinating and cosmopolitan place, seat of the Nationalist government and temporary national capital since 1937, with over 20 foreign missions and embassies, and populated by numerous “foreign advisers, diplomats, military officers, reporters, intellectuals and special agents” from Allied and Western powers.4

While in Chongqing he met with the acclaimed and innovative painter Fu Baoshi (1904–65), exhibiting with him in early 1943.5 Numerous artists were based in Chongqing at the time, including Xu Beihong (1895–1953), Zao Wou-ki (Zhao Wuji, 1920–2013), Huang Junbi (1898–1991) and Ai Zhongxin (1915–2003).6 In 1945, Hou took up a post at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Waijiao bu), from which he resigned later that year following the end of the Sino-Japanese War. In September of 1945, he then became editor at Reincarnation (Zaisheng), a Guomindang-affiliated journal based in Shanghai, which claimed that “national revival was its direction, and it proposed detailed and systematic plans of national revival for readers’ deliberation.”7

Visiting the Mountain, Fu Baoshi (1904–1965), painted in Chongqing in the mid-1940s just before Fu returned to Nanjing |
Visiting the Mountain, Fu Baoshi (1904–1965), painted in Chongqing in the mid-1940s just before Fu returned to Nanjing | The Metropolitan Museum of Art | 2019.290.10

Following the Japanese surrender in August 1945, the Guomindang government decided to relocate from its temporary capital in Chongqing back to Nanjing in May of 1946. While in Chongqing, Hou appears to have had some involvement in the January 10, 1946 Conference for Political Dialogue, which involved representatives of the Guomindang, Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the China Democratic League. In late 1946, Hou also was involved in the drafting of the revised 5 May 1936 Constitution Draft, and he served in the role of legislator until his resignation in 1947, whereupon he returned to Beijing with his wife Zhang Yunqin, whom he had married in 1946.8


  1. In a 1986 interview, Hou states that he studied at Japan’s Kyushu University in Kyoto from 1936–39, going on to say that his studies were related to the links between Chinese and Japanese culture. See Yu 1986: 59. The dating of events in Hou’s, particularly his early life, varies among published interviews. ↩︎

  2. Liu-Farrer 2011: 23. ↩︎

  3. Hou Beiren meishuguan 2014, vol. 2: 233. Yu 1986: 59. ↩︎

  4. Chang and Zhou 2017: 580. See also Mitter 2013: 173–196 for an excellent description of the experience of life in wartime Chongqing. ↩︎

  5. Possibly in a group exhibition held at the Jialing Art Club (Jialing Meishu hui). See Chung 2011: 216 and Johnson 2016: 8. ↩︎

  6. Sullivan 1959: 97–98. ↩︎

  7. Zheng 2012: 228. The journal was founded in May 1932 and continued until 1949. ↩︎

  8. Shu and Xu 2013: 186. ↩︎