This collection is one of the earliest and most important works of Chinese Buddhist poetry and is especially influential in the later literature of the Zen Sect of Buddhism, which looked back to these poems as a classic of Zen literature. The poems cover a wide range of subjects: the conventional lament on the shortness of life, bitter complaints about poverty, avarice, and pride, accounts of the difficulty of official life under a bureaucratic system, attacks on the corrupt Buddhist clergy and the foolish attempts by Taoists to achieve immotal life, and incomparable descriptions of the natural world in a mountain retreat. These poems represent the largest number so far made available in English and are important both as vivid descriptions of the wild mountain scenery in Han-shan's home, Cold Mountain, and as metaphors of the poet's search for spiritual enlightenment and peace.
About the Author
Burton Watson is one of the world's best-known translators from the Chinese and Japanese. His translations include The Lotus Sutra, The Vimalakirti Sutra, Ryokan: Zen Monk-Poet of Japan, Saigyo: Poems of a Mountain Home, and The Columbia Book of Chinese Poetry: From Early Times to the Thirteenth Century, all published by Columbia.