He was named Shi (軾) by his father Su Xun after a decorative arm rest used in the front part of Chinese carriages. The name was chosen to remind the boy to attend to his public appearance. Similarly, his brother Su Zhe was named after another carriage-related concept, zhe meaning wheel track and implying the boy should try to leave his mark in life. Su Shi's courtesy name was Zizhan. His pseudonym was Dongpo Jushi, from which he is often also referred to as Su Dongpo.
Su Shi was born in Meishan, near Mount Omei in what is now Sichuan province. His brother Su Zhe (蘇轍) and his father Su Xun (蘇洵) were both famous literati. Su's early education was conducted under a Taoist priest at a local village school. Later in his childhood, his mother, a highly educated woman conducted his education. In 1057, when Su was 19, he and his brother both passed the (highest-level) civil service examinations to attain the degree of jinshi, a prerequisite for high government office. His accomplishments at such a young age attracted the attention of Emperor Renzong, and also that of Ouyang Xiu, who became Su's patron thereafter. Ouyang had already been known as an admirer of Su Xun, sanctioning his literary style at court and stating that no other pleased him more. When the 1057 jinshi examinations were given, Ouyang Xiu required—without prior notice—that candidates were to write in the ancient prose style when answering questions on the Confucian classics. The Su brothers gained high honors for what were deemed impeccable answers and achieved celebrity status, especially in the case of Su Shi's exceptional performance in the subsequent 1061 decree examinations.
Su Shi (January 8,1037 – August 24,1101) , also known as Su Tungpo, was a Chinese writer, poet, painter, calligrapher, pharmacologist, gastronome, and a statesman of the Song dynasty. A major personality of the Song era, Su was an important figure in Song Dynasty politics, aligning himself with Sima Guang and others, against the New Policy party led by Wang Anshi. Su Shi was famed as an essayist, and his prose writings lucidly contribute to the understanding of topics such as 11th-century Chinese travel literature or detailed information on the contemporary Chinese iron industry. His poetry has a long history of popularity and influence in China, Japan, and other areas in the near vicinity and is well known in the English-speaking parts of the world through the translations by Arthur Waley, among others. In terms of the arts, Su Shi has some claim to being ''the pre-eminent personality of the eleventh century''.