Han-shan (Cold Mountain), Han-shan (Cold Mountain) poetry, Buddhist, Buddhist poetry, Zen / Chan poetry,  poetry, Taoist poetry Han-shan (Cold Mountain)
China (730? - 850?) Timeline
Buddhist : Zen / Chan
Taoist

Poems by Han-shan (Cold Mountain)
Books

Both Toaists and Zen Buddhists claim Han-shan as theirs. The poetry of Han-shan shows a familiarity with both traditions, though he seems to have enjoyed poking fun at Taoists and Buddhists alike.

An early biography places the dates of his life in the seventh century, but Red Pine (the translator of The Collected Songs of Cold Mountain) points out arguments that seem to suggest dates in the late eighth century.

It is difficult to speak of Han-shan's life with historical certainty since so much folk legend has also grown up around him. Autobiographical hints appear in several of his poems and there are a few historical references to him, as well as his two companions, Feng-kan (Big Stick) and Shih-te (Pickup).

As a young man, Han-shan was apparently a part of the privileged civil servant class, but he left his family and wealth at about age thirty to take up the life of a hermit poet, settling in a remote cave beneath a rocky overhang. It was from this natural retreat that Han-shan took his name, which means Cold Mountain or Cold Cliff. (Han-shan is known in Japan as "Kanzan.")

Han-shan is said to have been handicapped, having difficulty walking. He describes himself in one poem wearing heavy wooden clogs, which are thought to have helped him to walk.

About a day's journey away was the Kuoching Temple at Mount Tientai. It was there that he befriended Feng-kan (Big Stick) and Shih-te (Pickup). Many stories are told of the antics of these three, as they poked fun at the self-importance of many of the monks, while they themselves, in their foolishness, enacted the true Dharma or Way.

Traditionally, Han-shan is said to have lived to be 120 years old and, in fact, in one of his poems he states that he is over 100 years old, so this may be true.

In the legendary stories surrounding Han-shan, he does not die; he disappears. A high official is said to have finally recognized that Han-shan, despite the crazy image he cultivated, was actually a great spiritual being. The official sent several people to Han-shan's isolated retreat to bring him back but, on seeing their approach, Han-shan wedged himself into a crack within the cliff wall, crying out "Thieves!" Then the crack closed around him. The fissure of that crack is still said to be visible.

After Han-shan's disappearance, the poems he had inscribed on local stones and trees were gathered together, along with the poems of his companions, Shih-te and Feng-kan, and they soon began to circulate.

Han-shan was popularized in the West by the Beats. Gary Snyder did an early translation of Han-shan's poetry and Jack Kerouac dedicated The Dharma Bums to Han-shan.

Poems by Han-shan (Cold Mountain)


Recommended Books: Han-shan (Cold Mountain)

The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry The Poetry of Zen: (Shambhala Library) The Collected Songs of Cold Mountain A Drifting Boat: Chinese Zen Poetry Sunflower Splendor: Three Thousand Years of Chinese Poetry
Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems The View From Cold Mountain





Han-shan (Cold Mountain)