Su’s Wild South sights at Huizhou

Huizhou is a city located in central Guangdong province in the south. Part of the Pearl River Delta, Huizhou borders the provincial capital of Guangzhou to the west,Shenzhen and Dongguan to the southwest, South China Sea to the south. Its southern part (Huiyang district) is a part of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen built-up area, the biggest built-up area in the world with more than over 44 million inhabitants encompassing the whole Shenzhen known for electronic manufacturing.

The city also has a West Lake where Su and his concubine Morning Cloud strolled.

Huizhou West Lake

A 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.”

Pagoda and Morning Cloud's grave

You can see her grave right behind the Pagoda and there are statues of Morning Cloud and Su on site.

Statue of Morning Cloud Dong Po and Morning Cloud statue

Elephant Head Mountain mentioned in the second Novella is 18 kilometres away from the Huizhou city area. 

Other than the exotic fruits and lychee poetry, Su also wrote about locals eating rats in the Wild South. It is interesting to read Peter Hessler’s first chapter “Wild Flavor” in “Strange Stone: Dispatches from East and West” inviting readers along on a taste test between two rat restaurants in South China.

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Exotic Fruits in Su Shih’s Wild South Exile

Lychee

This is Su ‘s favorite fruit, he has written a few poems about it. (See lychee poetry).

The fruit is indigenous to China. On the tree, it is protected by a bumpy, leathery rind that is inedible. This rind easily comes away from the juicy flesh of the fruit, which is translucent and a pearly white color. It is sweet and crispy, and many people enjoy eating it fresh.

Lychee is also found canned or dried.  In the center of the fruit is a hard seed or nut, which is discarded. It is inedible, like the rind, and slightly toxic.

The fruit is also pressed for juice and used to flavor tea.

Longan

Dragon Eye with Seed

Su Shih wrote one or two poem(s) about it and also in Lament for Lychees.
The longan is a brown skinned fruit that is said to be the “little brother” of the lychee. It is native to China and South East Asia and is a little larger than an olive. The longan has a musky, grape flavor and is sweeter than a lychee but not as juicy. The longan has a whitish, translucent flesh that encases a small black seed, and its skin is pale brown and brittle.

The longan ‘s Chinese characters mean dragon’s eye. It is the seed at the center of the fruit that gave it the “eyeball” name. The seed is jet black and shiny with a circular white spot at its base, giving it the appearance of an eyeball. In China, the longan is used more often in traditional medicine as a dried fruit de-seeded.

Loquat

loquat with seeds

This is a common fruit in the Chinese world. A very popular syrup for cough and sore throat can be found in Chinese supermarkets or medicine stores around the world. A loquat is both a tree and its fruit, thought to have originated in China. At least 1,000 years ago, the Japanese began to cultivate the loquat. Loquats are now grown in the Middle East, parts of Europe and Africa, Brazil, Hawaii, and throughout California.

Both the exterior and interior of the loquat are edible, though some prefer to peel the fruit. The three or four seeds, which look a bit like hazelnuts, are not edible, as they contain a small amount of cyanide. In any preparation of the loquat, the seeds should be discarded.

Waxberry

waxberry open fruit

Su mentioned the fruit in his lychee poetry.It is also called tree berry, the waxy fruit of the wax myrtle tree. They have been collected for thousands of years in China and used medicinally from the ancient time. The fresh fruit is uncommon in Chinese markets or supermarkets but may be found as dried fruit products.

Lychee Poetry

loquat waxberry

Eating Lychees

Under Mount Lofu all four seasons are like spring,
waxberries and loquats fresh everyday.
Feasting on lychees, three hundred a day,
I would not mind being a Peak South local.

Lament for Lychees

Every ten li a station swirling with dust,
every five li a post urging couriers to hurry.
Men die like flies, their corpses line the road,
so lychees and longans may be delivered to court.
Carriages race over hills,
boats sweep through the seas.
With newly plucked fruit on fresh boughs,
leaves still dewy,
all to win a smile from the beauty in the palace.

Dragon Eye Trees   Lychee bunch on tree
Though it cost bloodshed and strife, its effect remains for ever.
Lychees came from different districts at different eras
people still hate the ministers who recommended offering
but nobody would commerorate the ones with integrity.
I only wish heavenly father would have mercy on the little people,
don’t ever create such sensual beauties to become people’s doom,
if only wind and rain are well tempered
for a prosperous harvest in all the valleys,
the best omen is people exempt from hunger and cold.
Didn’t you see the officials pack and cage tea shootlings
from best cultivation areas for offerings?
Wrangling for new ideas for offering to gain favors,
today’s limited items become offering tea.
Do our emperors really lack these things?
How disgusting and mean to indulge only
the emperor’s mouth and body?
It’s a pity ministers remaining at the capital
came from model families for loyalty and filial piety,
they too offer peony to gain favors.