Red Cliff

Red Cliff Yellow Buildings Red Cliff Portal

Less than a hundred feet tall and half a mile stretch of fire red rock, in the shape of castle mural with an embedded nose in the middle, this is Su Shih’s Red Cliff; some called it Red Nose Hill. A small hill standing by the side of Yang Tze or Great River with tree roots anchored in the riverbed, it looks up the sky. Waves roar in Great River while pavilions and pagodas spread over the top of the hill. Click on Red Cliff Poem.

Many claim the historic site for Battle of Red Cliffs in year 208 is west of Huang Gang city and currently where Red Cliff City is situated, and not Su’s Red Cliff. Below are sights at Red Cliff City depicting the Red Cliff batte.

Red CLiff in Red Cliff City Three Kingdom Red Cliff ancient battle site

Red Clif Battle ShipsRed Cliff BoatRed Cliff Battlefield Red Cliff Warriors

In Su’s prose poetry he refers to only three of the key characters in the battle of Red Cliffs: Tsao, the defeated northern warlord; Zhou, the general who crafted the strategy leading to victory for two southern warlords in the Three Kingdom Era; the beautiful wife of General Zhou.

Tsao was known as a merciless tyrant, military genius and brilliant ruler. Su mentions in his poem Tsao’ss initial success overtaking one warlord’s territory and then he headed further south along the river eastward for more victory. With two hundred thousand soldiers in battleships stretching a thousand miles, his naval flags and banners covered the sky. Complacent, he composed a poem holding a lance crossway in his hand and poured wine to the river gods. He was defeated by coalition of two southern lords with Zhou’s brilliant strategy of setting Tsao’s linked battleships on fire. The southern warlords had far less ships and soldiers compared to Tsao, they won with wits rather than force.

Along with the other famous sage strategist holding a feather fan, handsome Zhou’s head wrapped in green silk talked and laughed their way through the battle as enemy’s battleships vanished in smoke and ashes.

You can watch the Red Cliff movie by John Wu with English subtitles in full on youtube. Below is a trailer for you to get a feel.


History of Su Dyke

Su spent five years in Hangzhou as governor of two terms that were eighteen years apart. He wrote a lot about the Cold Spring Pavilion (below left) where he did his work and not at his government office.

Cold Spring Pavilion Chien Tang River Waves 1

West Lake supplied fresh water to the city residents but fast growing water plants often covered the lake in Su’s time. In Su’s first term, he dug four wells as reservoirs in addition to the existing two. He delivered fresh water to the entire city with bamboo pipes from the six wells. He cleared West Lake, almost one third of which was covered by water plants.

Eighteen years later, again the lake was half covered with water plants and the bamboo pipes were broken. The Canals were known for shallow water level and accumulated silt that affected its traffic. Chien Tang or Money Pond River is known for its swirling waves with mud and sand even today (above right). He repaired the six wells, replaced the bamboo with clay pipes connecting them to West Lake and deepened the canals with underground trenches. He used Money Pond Bay as water source of North Canal and West Lake for Salt Canal. He built a fresh water and muddy water lock where the two canals merged in the north. The muddy water lock was shut on high tide to prevent silt and water level of the canal maintained with the other lock to ensure free flow of traffic. He employed welfare to work residents to dredge West Lake, and used dredged piles to build a direct dyke running from north to south, it shortened the long walk meandering along the lakeshore.

Overview of Su Causeway 1

Nine pavilions and six bridges were built; willows, magnolia, peach blossoms and hibiscus planted, creating a picturesque promenade when in bloom.

Su Causeway PromenadeWillows & Blossoms at Su Causeway 1

Indigenous People of Hainan

Su was very friendly with the indigenous people and also dressed like them even when he returned north. Li people gave him venison they hunted and Tan people gave him oysters that he enjoyed tremendously.


Li people were the earliest indigenous inhabitants of Hainan. They are believed to be descendants of ancient tribes from mainland, who settled on the island between 7 and 27 thousand years ago. Below you can see the legendary Mother Li Hill, their lodgings, hair ornaments, tattoes and Li women crossing the stream.

Li Mother Hill Hainan aborigine village

Li women ornamentsTattoed Feet 1


Li food and wine brewing gear below (Su Shih wrote a lot about wine brewing,)

Li food Modified Li Wine Brewing


The boat people are Tan who fish and eat a lot of seafood. They came from the coastal areas of Mainland China.

Hainan Tan people 


They are tribes from Mainland China.

Miao Housing with patterns Miao woman with basket     Miao clothing

Miao FluteMiao Old Man with instruments

Five Colors Rice and Bamboo Rice

Miao Five Color RiceMiao Colored Rice Bamboo Rice

Su’s Homeland of Meishan

Meishan is located on River Min, north of ChengDu city in SiChuan Province in South West China. The famous LoShan Buddha by the river is not too far from Meishan .

Lo Shan Buddha close up

A historic temple commemorating Su Shih, his father and brother, also notable writers (the “three Su”) is located in the city.Located in the west of Meishan city, Sansu Shrine is their former residence. See the entrance (below left )and the Chinese character of Su (right).

THree Su Shrine Entrance          Modified Character of Su

Hall of Mocked Rock Landscape in Wood (below), Ancient Well (left)and Ink-stone Washing Pool (right) are the only relics left.

Modified Hall of Mocked Rock Landscape in WoodAncient Well in Su's Home in MeishanInk Well Washing Pond

Su’s mother Lady Cheng, a remarkable woman who developed three of the eight best literati in the most prosperous era of Tang and Sung Dynasty in history of Chinese literature. Besides her Su’s first wife Wang Fo.

Su's mother Lady Cheng and First Wife Fo

Begonia, the flower of Su’s homeland that frequently appears in his poetry. (The Begonia tree is prettier than the common plant that we are familiar with.)

Begonia Tree with Blossoms

Nest Vegetable (Click for photo)

Su wrote a poem about the vegetable.

His childhood friend whose surname was the character of “Nest”  walked thousands of miles all the way from Meishan and brought seeds of his favorite vegetable from homeland when he was banished to Huangzhou or HuangGang City today. Not only did he plant them, he named the vegetable after his friend. It was some kind of wild peas. When you harvested the vegetable, you stir fried it with salt, orange shreds, black beans, ginger and spring onion.

Su wrote, “A dish is delicious because it’s from homeland’s nest.” He expressed nostalgia through the vegetable and composed a poem,

“I am aging
yet I can’t forget our homeland,
my native tongue remains
at my childhood stage.
This vegetable is a beauty;
it is in my heart all year…..”

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.

History and Culture of Dong Po Pork

Dongpo Pork is the most famous cuisine of Hangzhou both for its cultural legacy and taste.  It was first documented in Ode to Pork when Su Shih was banished in Huangzhou (Today’s HuangGang City of Hubei province) where he took on the name Dong Po, but best known as Hangzhou cuisine.

When Su returned to Hangzhou as governor the second time, he led the people to dredge West Lake. The people loved him so much that they carried a large amount of pork and wine to show their appreciation for him. Su Dongpo cooked and then distributed the pork workers who contributed to the dredging. They named it Dongpo Pork.

Jade Dong Po Meat

This piece of tender, juicy, melting-right-in-mouth Dongpo pork is a hard, cold stone transformed along with “Jadeite cabbage” into two of National Palace Museum’s most famous masterpieces . It is quartz curio of jasper chlcedony.