Su Shih (Dong Po)
Su Shih’s father named him “Shih” because he knew his son’s flamboyant character and his glaring talents would cause troubles. He wanted his son to be inconspicous like the “Shih”,the frontal bar that has a significant function for people to hold on yet inconspicuous in a carriage. His brother was named “Che” meaning effacing like the tracks left by a carriage. He is called “Yo” in the novella, meaning “let it be”. (His other name is “Son of Let it be”. ) Su failed his name, he was persecuted and exiled because he was too conspicuous and important for the imperial family and common people alike.
In his first exile, he called himself the layman at “Dong Po’ which means East Slope, the piece of land he farmed on. He is better known as Su Dong Po by most Chinese.
The left picture with the three Sus statues: Su Shih on the far left, father sitting in the middle and brother on the far right. The middle:Su in a hat designed by himself and literati’s clothes. It was the fashion trend for people claiming to be scholars to wear Dong Po hat after Su’s design. The right picture is Su in exile at Hainan Island wearing a bamboo hat and wood sandals..
Wang An Shi (Bull Head Premier)
Wang was well known in history for his reforms, but he was considered a rascal until late 19th century or early 20th century when some scholar began to praise him as a visionary way before his time.
The second character “An” of his name means “Stable” or “Unmoved” and the last character “Shi” means “Rock” or “Stone”. Indeed he stood behind his reforms “Unmoved as a Rock”, he was also insensitive to anything physically or emotionally like a rock.
In his time someone wrote a novel about him anonymously with the title “Bull Head Premier”. The first portrait is probably more authentic while the second drawing shows him holding a tablet with other statesmen at court.
Chang Dun (Bastard Chang)
The character “Dun” means sincere, honest, kind and accomodating. (Lin Yutang named him “Chun” in the biography”The Gay Genius: Life and Times of Su Dong Po” instead even though the pronounciation of the same character is marked “Dun” in the Chinese English dictionary he compiled.)
His other name can be translated is “Son of Thick”.He was born of incest between the mother-in-law(his mother) and son-in-law (his father). He was indeed a son of the thick-skinned and a bastard. He was wicked and unkind in the eyes of most Chinese past or present. He was known to be a great womanizer skilled in sexual pleasures.
The first portrait is Chang in his extravagant Premier attire. The second portrayed the women who had an orgy with Chang from folklore tales.
His emperor name was “Divine” or “Godly”. His “Divine Mission” was to make his dynasty strong again and supported Wang An Shi’s reforms as his key policies. He mandated Su’s first exile succumbing to New Party’s plot and died in regrets.
The first portrait is probably more authentic but the headpiece of emperors may vary, the last drawing portrays the emperor at an audience.
Noble Empress Dowager
Her original maiden name was Gao Tau Tau, the surname Gao means noble, lofty or superior. Tau can mean haughty or arrogant, she had very high standards for herself in keeping ancient Chinese woman’s virtues.
She was Divine Emperor’s birth mother but overturned his son’s reforms and reverted to the ancestral ways in accordance with Confucian teachings. She orchestrated Su’s super comeback.
Morning Cloud was the name of a fairy who had an affair with a lord and has the conotation of love-making. Su’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.
Li Tze Yuan
In his time the surname “Li” denoted him as a the indigenous tribesman of Li at Hainan Island. “Tze Yuan” means “Son of Clouds”. Li tribes originally lived on Mother Li Mountain up in the clouds.
The above is a wax statue at Dong Po College or Hall of Study at Hainan.Although he wore clothes of a Chinese scholar, his features was angular and skin dark like the Li tribe.
Buddhist Monk Foyin (Cartoon on left)
He was Su’s best friend and teacher at Hangzhou. The name “Foyin” means Buddha seal. All the folklore tales about Su and him have marks like the Buddha seal.
During meditation sitting, Su said Foyin looked like dung but he replied that Su looked like a Buddha.The moral is “your words reflect your mind and heart”.
Taoist Wanderer Wild Wu (Portrait in middle)
His official name was Wu Fu Gu, “Fu Gu” meaning “returning to the ancient” but his other name was “Tze Yay” meaning “Son of the Wild” or “Son of the Natural”. He was known as founder of Chiaozhou cuisine that preserves the natural taste of food.His signature line “real taste is bland” applies to life as well.
He did not believe in Su’s alchemy or life nurturing practice but dedicated in Taoist philosophy of Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu, living with an empty mind like the withered tree, in poverty and seclusion, open and free rambling afar.
Confucian Scholar Cheng Ho (Portrait on right)
He was very well known for his Confucian teachings in history. The second character “Ho” of his name means hoary, not interesting or ancient. Su was at odds with his conservative ways.