Su Wu Herding Sheep, 1968
In the year 100 BCE, Su Wu became a hero never to be forgotten in Chinese history. General Su Wu led an envoy to the northern Xiongnu tribe in order to peacefully improve their relations with the Han dynasty. Upon arrival, the leading Khan forced Su’s surrender and demanded he abandon his loyalty to the Han dynasty. The Khan attempted to persuade Su Wu with high positions, but he refused to denounce his loyalty. Su Wu was first tortured and then held captive in a cave without food or drink, left to survive only off of the wool from his coat and the snow that had fallen into the cave. Eventually Su Wu was exiled to Lake Baikal in the wild steppes of northwestern China to tend a flock of sheep. He was not permitted to return unless he could accomplish the impossible, make his flock of all male sheep produce lambs. The painting portrays Su Wu enduring this punishment as he bares the long cold winters shepherding his flock of sheep. After 19 years of being exiled, the Han and Xiongnu tribe reconciled and Su Wu was finally released. As a result of his heroism, Su Wu became a symbol of undying loyalty, even in times of suffering and hardship.
Holly Battelle, Colby ‘08