These are poems of great serenity, great satisfaction, great joy. The Mountain Poems of Meng Hao-Jan can be read in an evening, revisited for a lifetime. Find time for it. —Kansas City Star
The Mountain Poems of Meng Hao-Janby Meng Hao-Jan, David Hinton (Translator)
The first full flowering of Chinese poetry occurred in the illustrious T’ang Dynasty, and at the beginning of this renaissance stands Meng Hao-jan (689-740 c.e.), esteemed elder to a long line of China’s greatest poets. Deeply influenced by Ch’an (Zen) Buddhism, Meng was the first to make poetry from the Ch’an insight that deep understanding
The first full flowering of Chinese poetry occurred in the illustrious T’ang Dynasty, and at the beginning of this renaissance stands Meng Hao-jan (689-740 c.e.), esteemed elder to a long line of China’s greatest poets. Deeply influenced by Ch’an (Zen) Buddhism, Meng was the first to make poetry from the Ch’an insight that deep understanding lies beyond words. The result was a strikingly distilled language that opened new inner depths, non-verbal insights, and outright enigma. This made Meng Hao-jan China’s first master of the short imagistic landscape poem that came to typify ancient Chinese poetry. And as a lifelong intimacy with mountains dominates Meng’s work, such innovative poetics made him a preeminent figure in the wilderness (literally rivers-and-mountains) tradition, and that tradition is the very heart of Chinese poetry.
This is the first English translation devoted to the work of Meng Hao-jan. Meng’s poetic descendents revered the wisdom he cultivated as a mountain recluse, and now we too can witness the sagacity they considered almost indistinguishable from that of rivers and mountains themselves.
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Read an Excerpt
Autumn begins unnoticed. Nights slowly lengthen,
and little by little, clear winds turn colder and colder,
summer’s blaze giving way. My thatch hut grows still.
At the bottom stair, in bunchgrass, lit dew shimmers.
Gathering firewood I enter mountain depths,
mountain depths rising creek beyond creek
choked with the timbers of bridges in ruins.
Vines tumble low, tangled over cragged paths,
and at dusk, scarce people grow scarcer still.
Mountain wind sweeping through simple robes,
my chant steady, I shoulder a light bundle,
watch smoke drift across open country home.
Meet the Author
Meng Hao-jan (689-740 C.E.) is generally considered to be one of China’s most important poets, but before now, there has never been an edition of his work in English. Ch’an (Zen) Buddhism was coming to maturity and becoming widely practiced among the intelligentsia of China. Ch’an not only clarified the spiritual ecology of early Taoist thought, it also emphasized the old Taoist idea that deep understanding lies beyond words. In poetry, this gave rise to a much more distilled language, especially in its concise imagism, which opened new inner depths, non-verbal insights, and outright enigma. It was in the work of Meng Hao-jan that this poetic revolution began, a revolution that marked the beginning of Chinese poetry’s first great flowering. He opened the poetic ground that would be cultivated so productively by the great poets that followed, and he was revered by those poets as their esteemed elder, first master of the short imagistic landscape poem.
Translator: David Hinton’s many translations of ancient Chinese poetry have earned wide acclaim for creating compelling contemporary poetry. He is also the first translator in more than a century to translate the four original masterworks of Chinese philosophy: Tao Te Ching, Chuang Tzu, Analects, Mencius. He has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship as well as numerous fellowships from the National Endowment of the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. In 1997 he received the Landon Translation Award from the Academy of American Poets.
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