Su Dongpo is an important part of Hainan’s cultural landscape

By Nicki Johnson / HICN / Updated: 16:51,31-May-2021

In 1097, literary great Su Dongpo, also known as Su Shi, was exiled to Danzhou, Hainan. That was 924 years ago, but his cultural influence can still be felt here on the island. On the morning of April 28, Hainan Diary brought well-known author Ye Zhaoyan and noted scholar Liu Daxian to Danzhou’s Dongpo Academy to get a sense of what Su Dongpo’s life was like in the years of his Hainan exile and to study his lingering cultural influence. Liu Daxian exclaimed that the culture of Su Dongpo was like a concentrated cultural capsule that still had potency all these many years later.

Statue of Su Dongpo (Photo by Zhong Yu)
 

After entering the Dongpo Academy, Liu Daxian read one of Su Dongpo’s poems on the wall aloud. He said that through that poem, it was possible to get a glimpse into what Su Dongpo’s life had been like. He greatly admired the creative concept of the work.

Dongpo Academy, originally known as Zaijiutang, is located on the eastern outskirts of Danzhou’s Zhonghe Town. Here, Su Dongpo gave lectures and met with friends during the three years of his Hainan exile. Since then, the original edifice has been continually repaired and expanded. The current Dongpo Academy covers 25,040 square meters and is a national cultural protection site.
 

 

The Dongpo Cultural Exchange Hall (Photo by Zhong Yu)
 

According to Danzhou Museum Deputy Curator Huang Hailan, Su Dongpo’s student Jiang Tangzuo became Hainan’s first successful candidate in the provincial imperial examination two years after Su Dongpo’s departure from the island, and 9 years after his departure Fu Que also passed the  final imperial examination, breaking Hainan’s historic scholarship drought by becoming the first student from the province to succeed in this notoriously difficult test. Su Dongpo has always loomed large in the cultural landscape of Hainan, and in Danzhou, he is even more revered for the culture and teaching he brought to the local people.

After visiting Dongpo Academy, Liu Daxian said that Su Dongpo had been a legend in his own time, and his arrival in Danzhou had a huge effect on the area, kicking off a new cultural era in Hainan.

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