Ocean Hermit – sailing, solitude and stories

My plans to retrace Captain Cook's unfinished voyage have been postponed a year while I work on the next Marine Diesel Basics book and get my new boat SV Oceandrifter ready for sea.

* Han Shan – hermit poet of ancient China

Han Shan aka Cold Mountain

Han Shan – better known outside China as “Cold Mountain” – was a hermit who lived in the Teintai Mountains south of Beijing in the 7th or 9th Centuries. He lived in a cave high up Cold Mountain where he sought “enlightenment” or at least to live free of the restrictions of  society. He is known to us today because of the poems he wrote and stuffed in trees and crevices around the cave.

In my first thirty years of life

I roamed hundreds and thousands of miles.

Walked by rivers through deep green grass

Entered cities of boiling red dust.

Tried drugs, but couldn’t make Immortal;

Read books and wrote poems on history.

Today I’m back at Cold Mountain:

I’ll sleep by the creek and purify my ears.

Thankfully, Han Shan’s poems were gathered together by Lu Ch’iu-yin, Governor of T’ai Prefecture and later published. The Governor wrote in his preface to the poems (here translated by American scholar Gary Snyder):

“He looked like a tramp. His body and face were old and beat. Yet in every word he breathed was a meaning in line with the subtle principles of things, if only you thought of it deeply. Everything he said had a feeling of Tao in it, profound and arcane secrets. His hat was made of birch bark, his clothes were ragged and worn out, and his shoes were wood. Thus men who have made it hide their tracks: unifying categories and interpenetrating things. On that long veranda calling and singing, in his words of reply Ha Ha! – the three worlds revolve. Sometimes at the villages and farms he laughed and sang with cowherds. Sometimes intractable, sometimes agreeable, his nature was happy of itself. But how could a person without wisdom recognize him?

Han Shan’s poems have been translated into many languages, including English and Japanese; in Japan he is a revered figure of Zen.

(For the full preface by Governor Lu Ch’iu-yin and the complete poem extracted above go to here.

More about Han Shan on wikipedia:  Han Shan

There is also a half-hour documentary about Han Shan called “Cold Mountain” that follows  poets Gary Snyder and Jim Lenfestey, and Red Pine (Bill Porter) (who wrote a book about hermits in China) on their quest in 2006 for the cave where Han Shan discarded the cares of society.

You can watch the documentary free online at: www.cultureunplugged.com

Here is the trailer for the film.

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This entry was posted on January 23, 2011 by in Book Reviews, Current Affairs, Hermits, Hermits & Solitude and tagged , , .
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