Su Zhe - a Famous Politician and Essayist
Su Zhe (Chinese:苏辙, 1039 A.D. - 1112 A.D.) was a politician and essayist from Meishan, (which now belongs to Sichuan Province), China. As it was common for people in ancient China to have alternative names, he was also called "Zi You" or "Tong Shu".
Su was highly honored as a famous politician and essayist in the Song Dynasty, as were his father Su Xun and his elder brother Su Shi. All of them were among "The Eight Great Men of Letters of the Tang and Song Dynasties". Sansu temple where they lived was rebuilt into Sansu Museum in 1984, and this building has been one of the most famous cultural attractions. Su Zhe left many fine works and most of them have been widely read.
Su died in 1112 A.D. at the age of seventy-four.
Su Zhe was born in 20 February 1039 in Meishan, which now belongs to Sichuan Province. At the age of 18, he and his brother Su Shi passed the highest level civil service examination to attain the degree of jinshi, a prerequisite of high government office.
In 1070, Su Zhe wrote a letter to the emperor to point out that it was not wise to reform. And he also wrote to the chancellor Wang Anshi to criticize the new laws. Su Zhe's first remote trip of exile was to Junzhou, Shanxi Province. In 1079, his brother Su Shi wrote a poem just to criticise the chancellor Wang Anshi because he was often at odds with a political faction headed by Wang Anshi. However, his political opponents said that he was criticizing the emperor, so the government sent Su Shi to the prison and then had him exiled for political crimes (乌台诗案). Su Zhe respected his brother very much and the brothers had good relationship, so Su Zhe tried to save his brother from the prison and he hoped that he can use his official position in exchange for his brother's safety. But unfortunately, he was also involved in that case and was exiled to Junzhou.
Su Zhe settled in Yinchuan in 1104 and he enjoyed a peaceful life there without the stir of society. And then in 1112, he died. One of his descendants, Su Xuelin, was a famous essayist and novelist in modern China.
1.Achievements in politics
In 1057, when he was 17, Su Zhe and his brother Su Shi passed the civil service examinations to attain the degree of Jishi, a prerequisite for high government office.
In 1070, Su wrote a letter to the emperor saying that it was so ridiculous to change the law because it was immutable, which was aimed at criticizing Wang Anshi's reforms.
In 1072, Su was appointed as Tuiguan in Henan.
Throughout the following twenty years, Su experienced a really hard period in his position. During his demotion, Su Zhe traveled to Ruzhou, Yuanzhou,Huazhou, Leizhou and other places.
Finally in 1104, Su Zhe lived in a farm in Xuzhou and spent the last years enjoying the peaceful life there until he died in 1112.
2. Achievements in literature
Being an essayist, Su Zhe was especially skilled at Celun (策论), which led him had a special statu in Song Dynasty. Compared with his brother Su Shi's talent, he was indeed weak in some aspects. However, according to what Su Shi had said about him, Su Zhe's accomplishments in essay did reach to a certain point that would never end. Except Celun, Su was also good at political comments and historical essays. For example, in his work"Letter To Emperor", he pointed out that the most important factor that caused the society in ferment was that people had been impoverished for such a long time (今世之患, 莫急于无财). Same as both of his father and his brother, all his historical essays were amied at criticizing the social condition in order to attract the emperor's attention to build a better environment for further development.
Su Zhe excelled in the shi, ci and fu forms of poetry, and during his writing, he tried to catch up with his brother but only to achieve less satisfied result.
The two books of Su Zhe, "Chun Qiu Jie Ji" and "Shi Ji Zhuan" had made a significant innovation to the study of "The Book of Odes".