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Su Shi

Su Shi (1037-1101), often known as Su Dongpo, was an eminent writer of the Song Dynasty (960-1279). Being a native of Meishan of Meizhou (in present-day Sichuan Province), he was born in a not wealthy landlord family, and much edified by his father, Su Xun. He became a successful candidate in the highest imperial examinations in the second year of the Jiayou reign, and served as a local official in Hangzhou, Mizhou, Xuzhou, Huzhou and other places in succession from the fourth year of the Xining reign and the early years of the Yuanfeng reign. In the second year of the Yuanfeng reign, he was falsely charged with some crimes and later exiled to Huang Zhou and Ruzhou. In the sixth year, someone framed a case against him again. Later, he served as a county magistrate in Yingzhou, Yangzhou, Dingzhou, Yingzhou and Huizhou, etc. He passed away in Changzhou in July of the first year of the Jianzhong Jingguo reign.  

The poems and lyrics of Su Shi were of a virile timbre and an unrestrained spirit. Most of Su Shi's poems were written to express his own feelings and sing the beauty of nature. Farewell to Lu Yuanhan Posted to Weizhou, Watching Rainstorms at the Hall of Youmei and Drinking after the Rain on the Lake are classic poems with an imagination unbounded, written in either powerful or refined and delicate strokes. His Poem on the Wall of Xilin Temple was considered to have fully captured the realism of Song Dynasty poetry. On Paintings of Wang Wei and Wu Daozi, Reading Meng Jiao's Poems, and On Paintings of Wang, Assistant Magistrate take art criticism as their subject matters, raising the culture of the Song Dynasty to new heights. 

Compared to his poems, Su Shi's lyrics made an even greater impact in terms of creativity. He went beyond merely describing sorrows felt by parting lovers and broadened his canvas to include recollections of the past, travel notes and reasoning, sweeping aside the gentle and restrained style of the lyrics created in the late Tang Dynasty (618-907) and the Five Dynasties Period (907-960), to establish the powerful and free school of lyrics.

Prelude to a Water Melody and Charm of a Maiden Singer are thought to best represent the style of Su Shi's lyrics. Prelude to a Water Melody imagines extreme loneliness in heaven and entrusts the poet's hopes in securing eternal happiness in the earthly world. Charm of a Maiden Singer expresses the poet's uplifting sentiments by describing the grand view at the former site of the Red Cliff and praising the mettle of ancient heroes. Both poems were written at a time when the poet was frustrated in his career, there fore a tone of "life is but a dream" may be sensed now and then in the poems. Still, this cannot stifle the poet's enthusiasm and optimism conveyed in the poems.

Su Shi, his father Su Xun and younger brother Su Che were known as the "Three Sus". Su Shi was a master of all literary forms, including poetry, lyrics, Fu and prose essays. About 2,400 poems and lyrics by Su survive, many of which are vivid evocations of the poet's own experiences.