Su Dongpo Left His Jade Belt in Jinshan

    Su Dongpo (1037-1101) is a writer in our Northern Song Dynasty, who really deserves the title of great literature master in Chinese history. On politics, he suffered attacks again and again and his last half life was passed almost in relegation, but he was professional at all literature aspects including poetry, Ci (another kind of Chinese poetry), arts, calligraphy and drawing. He created his own style and his works represents the top achievements of literature at Northern Song Dynasty either on quantity or on quality. He was always in his vigorousness of diligent, open-minded and understanding and left rich treasures everywhere he visited. The most popular story about him in Zhenjiang may be that Su Dongpo left his jade belt in Jinshan.

    At around A.D.1078 of Song Dynasty, the great master Su Dongpo and Foyin abbot in Jinshan Temple were closest friends, and they were called “intimate friends without concerning to ages and social status”. Su Dongpo was degraded in his early life to live in Huangzhou and Foyin at that time was living in Guizong Temple located in Lushan Mountain which was in the opposite bank of Huangzhou. Thus Su and Foyin always wrote letters or sent poems to each other. Later Su was transferred to work in Changzhou and he sometimes lived in Suanshan Mountain in Zhenjiang, and Foyin then was abbot of Jinshan Mountain and Jiaoshan Mountain. Thus their intercourses became closer. One day, Su was directing for Hangzhou to take his new post there and he passed by Runzhou (nowadays Zhenjiang) and specially paid a visit to Foyin at Jinshan Temple. When he arrived, Foyin was ready to giving lectures to other monks. Su entered sharply and directly walked into abbot’s room. At the very time Su entered and had not stopped in the room, Foyin said then jokingly: “There is no seat for you”, and didn’t want Su to take seat. Su, as a smart man, knew that the words didn’t mean that Foyin knew no etiquette; it was that Foyin was playing some word wisdom. Then Su replied with Buddhism words:“what about I borrow the Four Essence of you for seat now?”. Hearing these words, Foyin knew that Su was then offering to teach fish to swim and using Buddhism words to reply. Foyin then wanted to take the advantage to examine Su and bet at it: “I have a question and if Su can reply then I will save a seat for you; once you fail to reply, then you should lose your jade belt”. Su never imagined that he would fail and nodded at the idea pleasantly. Foyin asked: “since the Four Essences are invisible and the Five Factors are non-existing. Then Su, where can you take a seat?” (Four Essences: Earth, Water, Fire and Wind. Buddhism take them to be the four basic essence composing everything in the world; Five Factors: Factors of form, feeling, appraisal, mental and consciousness, in Buddhism, they formed the human beings). Yeah, since the Four Essences are invisible and the Five Factors are non-existing, then there is nothing and where should a seat come from? Foyin’s question stumped Su who had always thought himself smart and he had no words to reply but to remove his jade belt and send as a gift. Receiving the jade belt, Foyin also took out his vestment as a return. Su composed three poems titled Gave Belt to Foyin and got vestment in return o describe this story, the poem said: “my weak body is intolerable of the jade belt, my stupid brain is again beaten by the wise Foyin. I shall go to beg for food before the recreational place, then I win over a used monk vestment”; “The Belt served so many people, it is still carefree to pass down to me! The exchanged vestment also meet my personality, just like I was back from begging to the emperor!” these poems reflects his feelings for being frustrated in political journey.
    Later, a pavilion named “Liu Yu Tang”(means the place where the jade belt was left) was built in Jinshan Temple and the jade belt was placed there for travelers to watch. The jade belt has now gone through five dynasties including Song, Yuan, Ming, Qing Dynasties and the Republic of China (1912-1949) and has covered a history of nearly one thousand year. It may be the mere remains of Su Dongpo, thus it is very precious. The belt and the ancient Ding (a king of bronze vessel) of Zhou Dynasty, bronze drum created by Zhuge Liang and the authentic painting of Jinshan Picture made by Wen Zhiming are the four treasures of Jinshan Mountain.

    There are many other similar stories about the mutual jokes between Su Dongpo and Foyin. For example, Su loves pork very much and had once said “food without pork will make people weak”. The nowadays popular “Dongpo Pork” is created by him. Foyin gave rich dishes to serve Su every time, thus he paid little attention to the Buddhism rules that Buddhism locations permit no meat or fish and always cooked pork for Su in the temple. After drinking wine and eating pork, Su always became drunk as a lord and sometimes he slept on the Buddhist bed and waked up at midnight with so much inspiration to compose poems and then wrote down his poems on the wall of the temple. One day, the pork Foyin cooked for Su disappeared and was eaten by somebody else, Foyin was angry and annoyed, then Su made a poem on this accident, making fun of Foyin, the poem said “the former Huiyuan master monk preparing wine for Tao Yuanming, and nowadays Foyin cooking pork for Su Dongpo; all preparation are ready to serve, then for who’s sake the preparation is?” Foyin said nothing but smiled when he saw the poem.

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