Collected Essays of Su Shi


Presented here is a collection of essays written by Su Shi (1037‒1101), also known as Su Dongpo, a famous Song dynasty writer, poet, artist, calligrapher, pharmacologist, gastronome, and statesman. Along with his poetry, Su’s other extant writings, including his travel literature, are also of great value. At the age of 19, he passed the highest-level civil service examinations and attained the jin shi degree. During the next 20 years, he held a variety of government positions, most notably in Hangzhou, where he was responsible for constructing a pedestrian causeway across the West Lake, which still bears his name, Su ti (Su Causeway). Often at odds with other politicians, Su Shi was exiled at least twice, between 1080 and 1086 and between 1094 and 1100. He lived at a farm called Dongpo (Eastern Slope), hence his literary pseudonym, where he wrote some of his best poems. Later he was pardoned and was posted to Chengdu, but he died in 1101 while enroute to his new assignment. A prolific author, Su wrote thousands of poems, of which around 2,700 survive, and about 800 letters. He also wrote essays about his travel experiences. During the Ming dynasty, especially in the late Ming, numerous critical works were written on Su Shi, which summarized and confirmed for later generations his literary achievements and contributions. This collection, in a Ming edition, contains about 90 of his essays, including essays on historical figures, such as the one on Zhuge Liang, the statesman during the Three Kingdom era, and his preface to a collection of the work of Ouyang Xiu (1007‒72), a famous statesman, historian, poet and Su’s patron. Also included in this work are Su’s personal accounts of the sights and sounds of places in the form of fu (Chinese rhapsodies or odes), such as Qian hou Chi bi fu (Earlier and later Red Cliff rhapsody), inspired by the third-century historical naval battle of the Three Kingdoms. The distinctive feature of this work is that it was printed with the three-color printing process, selected by Min Errong, one of the Min clan of Wuxing, who specialized in printing rare books. The text is printed in black, the punctuation, done by Qian Fenghuan, is in red, and the punctuation marks, by Mao Lumen, are in blue. The work has a preface written by Shen Anzhang.

Last updated: January 10, 2018