Su Wu (140-60 BC), born in Duling, Jingzhao (now in Chang’an county, Yanta district, Xi’an), was a government official in the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 24). His father Su Jian served with distinction in the wars with the Xiongnu, a powerful nomadic tribe.
In 100 BC, Emperor Wu of the Western Han Dynasty dispatched Su Wu to visit the Xiongnu as a royal emissary, but Su was detained since he was accused for being part of a plot to kidnap the mother of Chanyu, chieftain of the Xiongnu tribe.
Chanyu attempted to lure Su into surrender instead of sentencing him to death, as he respected Su’s integrity. However, Su would rather die than surrender and even attempted suicide twice.
Su was once detained in an outdoor crypt without any food or drinks. He ate part of his felt blanket and drank snow to keep alive. Later, he was exiled to Beihai (now Lake Baikal in Russia), and was allowed to return to the Central Plains when lambs were given birth by a ram, which is impossible.
After Emperor Wu’s son ascended to the throne, the relationship between Xiongnu tribe and the royal family gradually thawed. In 81 BC, Su finally returned to Chang’an (now Xi’an).
During the 19-year detention, he always kept the scepter that represented his identity as a royal emissary and never surrendered. He was included in the list of 11 exemplary statesmen of the Western Han Dynasty due to his faithfulness.