Morning Cloud was the name of a fairy who had an affair with a lord and has the connotation of love-making. Su Shih‘s adored concubine named Morning Cloud was an orphan growing up in a pleasure house as an entertainer playing Pipa, dancing and serving tea. She was only twelve when they first met and became his concubine at fourteen.
The photo of the statue was taken at her grave in Huizhou or Su’s wild south. The second portrait shows a contemporary painting of her with a Pipa, but she was called “blue little sleeves” in many poems of Su and his friends because she always dressed in turquoise.
The romance between Su and Cloud is well loved by the Chinese speaking world globally. Su had a baby with Cloud but he died as an infant.See most touching poem on love and loss. She found solace in Buddhism and the couple were best spiritual companion to each other.
In the exile at Huizhou Su started calling Cloud the Celestial Maiden and himself Vimalakirta, an Indian lay practitioner who was highly cultivated. His sutra was renowned with Celestial Maiden’s spiritual petals scattered on disciples to ascertain their practice on nonduality. Petals fell off clothes of those who practiced well but clung on those with dualistic thoughts. She asked the disciples,
“Why are you brushing off petals?”
One said, “It’s not in line with Buddha’s teaching.”
“It is not the petals, but the individual’s dualistic thinking that is not aligned with the teaching. It is like fear. If you love life and fear death, senses of sight, hearing, smell and taste can deceive you; the enlightened stands above all senses.”
See below the pagoda named “Six Metaphors” after the last lines Morning Cloud recited from the Diamond Sutra at her death.
“All laws of actions are
like dream, mirage, bubble and shadow
as dew and lightning.
It should be observed as such.”
You can see her grave right behind the Pagoda and there are statues of Morning Cloud and Su on site.