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Su Shi

Su Shi (蘇軾) (1037-1101), whose courtesy name is 子瞻, self-titled Dongpo Chushi (東坡居士, The one lived in DongPo) and is often referred to as Su Dongpo (蘇東坡), was a poet and statesman of the Song Dynasty.


He was born Meishan in what is now Sichuan Province. His brother Su Che (蘇轍) and his father Su Xun (蘇洵) were both famous literati. In 1057, he and his brother passed the civil service examinations to attain the degree of jinshi, a prerequisite to holding high government office at that time. Throughout the next twenty years, he held a variety of government positions all throughout China, most notably in Hangzhou, where he was responsible for constructing a pedestrian causeway across the West Lake that still bears his name.

He was often at odds with a political faction headed by Wang Anshi. This faction's rise to power eventually resulted in Su being exiled twice to remote places in the Song empire; the first time (1080-1084) to Huangzhou (now in Hubei province) and the second time (1094-1100) to Huizhou (now in Guangdong province) and Hainan island. In Huangzhou, he lived at a location called the "Eastern Slope", from where he got his literary name Dongpo, which means "Eastern Slope" in Chinese. He died in Changzhou, Jiangsu Province.


Su Dongpo was a prolific poet and calligrapher; some of his notable contributions include "Chibifu " (written during his first exile) and "Suidiaogetou (Remembering Su Che on the Mid-Autumn Festival)." His poetry tended to have more vivid descriptions of natural phenomena than his contemporaries. He also wrote essays on politics and governance such as "Liuhoulun."