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The Best of Su Dongpo

Ten classic lines from the prolific Song poet, who was born 982 years ago today

Today is the birthday of Hangzhou poet Su Shi (苏轼), better known as Su Dongpo—and well-known to food lovers for his namesake dish of “Dongpo” pork (东坡肉).

The Song dynasty poet is widely recognized as one of the most accomplished in history. Even today, over 900 years after his death, his words still have great influence on Chinese people. Today, TWOC selected ten of his most philosophical lines to share. Enjoy!

1. 人有悲欢离合,月有阴晴圆缺,此事古难全

Men have sorrow and joy; they part and meet again. The moon is bright or dim; it waxes and wanes. Nothing in history has ever been perfect.

2. 高处不胜寒

It’s cold to be up so high.*

*It’s lonely at the top.

3. 此心安处是吾乡

Hometown is where my heart settles down.

4. 腹有诗书气自华

One who is filled with knowledge always behaves with elegance.

5. 人间有味是清欢

The true happiness of life is a kind of mild joy.

6. 天涯何处无芳草

Is there anywhere in the world where you can’t find fragrant grasses?*

*Today this expression is often used to comfort people nursing broken hearts, meaning “There are plenty of fish in the sea.”

7. 春江水暖鸭先知

A duck in the river is the first to know the warmth of spring.*

*It’s easier for an insider to sense upcoming changes

8. 春宵一刻值千金

A joyful moment on a spring night is worth a thousand taels of gold.

9. 人生到处知何似,应似飞鸿踏雪泥。泥上偶然留指爪,鸿飞那复计东西

What is life like? It should be like wild geese stepping on snow and mud. Their footprints are occasionally left on the mud, but how can the wild geese know where they are flying?

10. 横看成岭侧成峰,远近高低各不同。不识庐山真面目,只缘身在此山中

From the front it looks like a range; from the side, a single peak. Far, near, high, low, no two perspectives are alike.Why can’t I tell the true shape of Mount Lu? It’s because I am in the mountain.


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