On March 7, 1082, iconic Chinese poet Su Shi[1] went to Sand Lake in the southeast of Huang Zhou[2] to buy some lands with a few friends. On their way back, it started down pouring. Su Shi immortalized this chance encounter with a poem[3]:

Calming the Wind and Waves
Listen not to the rain beating against the trees.
Why don't you slowly walk and chant with ease?
Better than saddled horse I like sandals and cane,
Oh, I would fain.
In a straw cloak, spend my life in mist and rain.
Drunk, I am sobered by vernal wind shrill
And rather chill.
In front I see the slanting sun atop the hill;
Turning my head, I find the dreary beaten track.
Let me go back!
Impervious to wind, rain or shine, I'll have my will.

A natural born optimist, Su Shi at this very moment effortlessly achieved the ultimate cool admired by all Chinese intellectuals that came after him. Unlike his peers, he maintained his composure and feared nothing. He was not intimidated by rain or wind, or the lack of saddled horse. He toyed with what came at him and carried on with having fun with them. He was comfortable with what he got and tried to make the most out of it in a game spirit. He carried himself with supreme confidence, while at the same time staying vigilant to his surroundings with a keen sense of what's happening around him. He was determined to march forward and wouldn't be deterred by the legacy. He's got grit.

Huang Zhou at the time was hardly a chosen destination by Su Shi's preference. He was demoted and banished from the capital city and cast away, due to political differences with the ruling power. It was a low point in his illustrious political career. Somehow Huang Zhou became quite a source of inspiration for Su Shi during his four-year stay there. Among all 2,000-plus poems and articles in his life, about one third came from the Huang Zhou era. Su Shi did more than just walking and singing in the rain with only a straw cloak. He turned an adversity into opportunity, carpe diem, and lived his life to the absolute fullest.

That, is the spirit of 1082.


[1]: Su Shi (苏轼/苏东坡, 1037 to 1101), legendary Chinese polymath, poet, writer, politician, calligrapher, painter, pharmacologist and gastronome of the Song dynasty.  Su Shi is revered by many to be the greatest Chinese artist ever lived.

[2]: Huang Zhou (黄州) is known as Huang Gang (黄冈) today in Hubei province, China. Huang Gang enjoys a reputation in modern China for producing astounding high percentage of International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO) world champions.

[3]:  The English version above by Xu Yuanchong of Peking University seems to be the best. Here's the original Chinese version.


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