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Su Dongpo’s Formula for True Wellbeing

Song dynasty man of letters Su Dongpo developed his own system for staying fit and living well that combined good daily habits and a roll-with-the-punches attitude with meditation and morning exercises. By adopting Su Dongpo’s unique regimen, which embodies the spirit of traditional Chinese wellness practice, we too can live in the moment and live life to the fullest.


In addition to being one of the most illustrious poets, essayists and calligraphers of the Song dynasty, Su Dongpo also wrote extensively on the art of living well, the pith of which is found in his Thoughts on Wellness.

According to Su Dongpo, the four cardinal rules of wellness are spending more time relaxing and calming the spirit, rising early and sleeping early – the benefits of which are far more valuable than those of material gain – walking, not driving, to destinations within walking distance, and eating only when one is hungry. In this way even the simplest meal will taste like a rare delicacy.

Su Dongpo’s formula for wellbeing also includes finding inner peace in all places and situations, and being industrious at home and work. His own views were censored numerous times during his political career, and yet he remained impervious throughout. We would do well to emulate his peaceful and conciliatory approach to adversity.

Su Dongpo introduced a new way of staying fit through a program of morning exercises and meditation. In his essays on wellness, Su Dongpo said one should rise at the break of dawn. Sitting upright in a lotus position, one should then click the teeth together several times, inhale deeply and exhale forcefully, and then massage the designated pressure points, eyelids and tips of the ears till warm. Lastly, one should brush the hair repeatedly (more than one hundred times). Su Dongpo was a firm believer in the power of meditation, so much so in fact that he believed meditating could turn one day into two, in effect doubling one’s lifespan. In this way 70 years of age would be equal to 140.

The regimen prescribed by Su Dongpo can help us live in the moment and enjoy healthier, more fulfilling lives.