Selected Han-Shan Poems for Hippie Reading
The Buddhist Yogi C. M. Chen
Han-Shan was the incarnation of the Mahabodhisattva Manjusri. His poems,
of course, do not belong to the School of Poetic Laws but to that of Naturalism
and Spiritualism. He himself also confessed that he neglected those Poetic
Laws, as is said in his poem:
Someone laughs at my poems,
Yet they are fine and fun!
Need no commentary,
Nor any signatory.
Not sad for no one knows,
Hardly anyone follows.
The poetic law I neglect,
Many mistakes can detect,
Yet when they meet wise men.
Inspire the whole world they can.
Hence, those who want to learn the methods of poetic rules, laws, rhymes,
tones and antithesis, do not pay deep appreciation to Han-Shan's poems.
Because there were many well known poets in the same generation of the
Tung Dynasty when Han-Shan lived, the young poets neglected Han-Shan and
followed others. However, the Buddhists of China, both scholars and practitioners,
do like his poems very much. When I was young I could repeat many of his
Nowadays his poems are respected by Hippies in the West and many new
translations have been recently published. Burton Watson has translated
100 of Han-Shan's poems, Bill Wyatts about 80, Arthur Waley 27, and Gary
Snyder 24, as far as I have learned. There might be some more translations
in English, French and German which I have not yet seen. Our Saint Han-Shan
foretold that his poems will inspire the whole world and this seems to
Hippies call him The Ancient Chinese Hippie. The problem is whether
or not an Ancient Hippie is the same as a modern one. I therefore made
a comparative study and from the content and purport of Han-Shan's poems,
I give some advice to the modern Hippie with a hope that every modern Hippie
can possess the same merits and characteristics as Han-Shan. That is why
this booklet has the title it does.
The total number of Han-Shan's poems was 600 as his poem states:
Quintets are five hundred,
Triplets are twenty-one
Six hundred all of mine.
They are written in caves,
They are all that I have,
One realizes altogether
Might be the Buddha's mother!
But nowadays we can find only about 300 of his poems because they were
written on cave walls, trees, bamboo and walls, some of which had already
vanished in his lifetime.
Here I have translated about eighty poems. They are selected from the
Chinese edition as a witness to my advice and hope that every Hippie will
treat them as the teaching of Han-Shan himself and that some advantages
of spiritual life may be found therein.
I. Drop Out
A. Han-Shan the Mahabodhisattva dropped out completely and never dropped
into any community. He had two very affectionate friends. One was Feng
Kan, an incarnation of the Buddha Amitabha; the other was Shih-Teh, an
incarnation of Samantabhadra. Both were working in the Kuo-Ching monastery.
Feng Kan was a rice-pounder and Shih-Teh was an errand-boy in the kitchen
who collected the surplus food and kept it in a bamboo for Han-Shan. But
they never united together as a community. Han-Shan did not even like the
monastery and lived alone on a mountain.
I live in a corner out of the way
And I visit the Holy monks on highway
I often discuss the Tao with Feng Kan
(Tao means path not Taoism)
And talk with Shih-Teh, and a little while stay.
I go back and climb the cliff alone!
Not one talks with me on the path so long.
The Tao is like a stream without source,
Yet the water is in every mouth!
Our modern Hippie, after dropping out of the plastic society, drops
into a modern plastic society in which there are no laws, rules, leaders,
but only over-freedom which creates many dangerous situations such as suicide,
homicide, venereal disease, craziness, and so on, even more so than in
the plastic society.
B. Han-Shan dropped out like a deer who has been wounded by a hunter
and flees away, never touching any man again. Modern Hippies drop out like
fish when bait is swallowed. They are easily lured by some party That is
why some Chinese Hippies in California work for the Communist Party, being
lured by $20 per day! Try reading this poem of Han-Shan and take the example
of the deer:
In remote forest lives the deer,
Drinks water and eats grass with cheer!
Stretches out its legs when it lies down,
How blissful is this creature dear !
If it's caged in a splendid hall,
Where food is quite rich but with fear,
It will always refuse to taste,
In its pure mind it could not bear!
C. Han-Shan's dropping out resulted in his poverty, but the modern Hippies
still take the good food of the plastic society and use the modern things
of the plastic society. Are not habits like movies and singing inherited
from the plastic society? Han-Shan begged--is there any modern Hippie who
is really like a beggar? Actually most Hippies are from the middle class;
they have money to spend in the same manner as other members of the plastic
My dear Hippies, try reading the following poems. Would not tears drop
from your sympathetic eyes!
New corn is not yet out,
Old corn is all at nought!
I beg from those rich men and wait,
Standing lonely outside their gate.
Husband says ask wife,
Wife says ask my husband.
Both are very stingy,
The more rich, the more bound!
If you ask of its colour,
It's neither red nor yellow.
In summer it's my shirt,
In winter it's my mat.
It can be used as both.
All year long, it is thus!
Dropped out to be real hermit,
Sleep only on the summit.
Green lichen climb everywhere,
Blue creeks sound like songs here and there,
I feel happy and gay,
I remain in a quiet way!
No defilement from the world,
A pure white lotus I hold!
Han Shan has a house:
No walls, no mouse!
Six doors are open,
Roof is the heaven!
Rooms have nothing at all,
East wall beats the west wall.
No family, who follows?
No furniture, who borrows?
A little fire to rid my cold,
When I'm hungry herbs are boiled.
Not like those rich farmers
Occupy many farms.
They will all go to hell soon.
Once they fall never come on!
Please think it o'er and o'er,
You will find out what's your wrong!
Alas! ill and poor man!
No friend, no kinsman!
No rice in the jar, Dust is in the pan.
My hut leaks, My bed breaks,
Yet I'm not sad,
For sad makes bad!
Some persons did advise me,
To accept a kind of fee!
To build good farm with walls!
Alas! I could not agree!
When I live in village,
Men treat me as a sage!
When I go to city,
Men seem to have pity!
Some say my robe is short,
Others say my shirt is dirty.
With eagle's eyes look at me,
They dance! As sparrow and bee!
D. Han Shan had passed through the hearing and thinking knowledges of
Buddhism and was hastened by the Truth of Impermanence to drop out for
the purpose of having more time to practice Buddhism diligently. But in
Hippiedom, other than those few who have already become Buddhists, most
Hippies never see any kind of truth in religion and are driven by the industrial
tension of their nation, difficult examinations of college and the heavy
responsibility of family to drop-out. They want only rest, relaxation and
laziness, and they have not meditated on the idea of impermanence. When
they were rebelling, they hoisted flags on which was written, "There is
no cure for birth or death, but enjoy the interval." Their definition of
birth and death are the actual dates of one's birth and death and the whole
lifetime between those dates is the interval. But Buddhists say our life
is only based upon inhalation and exhalation, when one is stopped, life
is finished. One realizes that one dies every second, there is no certain
or confirmed interval, so one has to utilize even a microsecond to practice
the Dharma and one should not do any other worldly tasks. That is why one
must drop out completely. So many hungup people scarcely drop out despite
my tearful advice. If you have already dropped out, it is very rare and
you must meditate on the truth of Impermanence and practice the Dharma
diligently. One should not be lazy. Please read the following poems of
Since I came to the region of Tien-Tai,
How many winters and springs come and go.
Landscape does not change, men become old,
And so many youths died I often saw.
I dwell in the mountain with crags,
Far from humans there are just birds.
What is left in the old court yard?
A stone and some white clouds to gird.
I have lived there for many years,
I saw winter and spring as a cord.
Who could describe the ruling palace?
Its vanity who will regard?
Even those ancient sages
Could reach the non-death stage.
Rebirth becomes again death,
The only dust he has.
Bones gather as mountain,
Tears as stream it maintains,
They left only empty names,
Transmigration is certain.
See the flower under leaves.
How long can it nicely live.
Today it fears to be picked,
And tomorrow it takes leave.
It is just like the Beauty,
When she is old, she seems dirty.
Compare her with the flower
Nice looking can not deceive!
Riding my horse by a ruined town,
Sad for its long vanished past!
High and low walls are with grief!
Large and small are the old graves.
Drifting shadows are from silent bush,
Long moan from the graveyard ends a hush.
It's a pity too mundane is our flesh.
It should be immortal through gnostic wash!
On bay horses with coral whip in hands,
Young folk galloped along Lo-young Land!
They are proud of their youth and strong health!
Which leads them to forget that age will end!
Even though white hair will grow on old men,
Rosy cheeks can by no means be defended.
Take one look at the graves of Pewmong,
Is it like the Peng-Lai, a fairy land?
II. Turn On
A. Han-Shan never turned on to drugs as can be seen in his poem:
Some men do fear to be old,
But worldly things do hold.
They seek drugs for long life,
Dig up herbs either hot or cold
Many years get no effect.
Himself is the one to scold.
A hunter wearing the robe,
How Sand could be the gold!
I am a monk without formal discipline.
Even for longevity drugs I'm not taking
There is not any sage still remains--
Their graves are at the foot of mountains.
One of his poems may be misunderstood to mean that he had taken drugs.
But in my translation below, the sentences are very clear:
I lived Cold Mountain many an Autumn,
Without sorrow, alone I sing my song.
The silent door need not shut,
Sweet spring goes itself so long.
Nectar boils in the cauldron,
Pine leaves and tea taste are strong.
Gatha Pill stops my hunger.
Mind is quiet, Bone is like stone!
The Chinese transliteration of what I translate as Gatha Pill is "Chia
T'o". It is from hybrid Sanskrit and can have two meanings, either translated
from Gatha which means stanza, or from Agoda which means a kind of medicine.
The former meaning can take the latter as its metaphor as the Agoda can
cure the poison, so the stanza of Dharma (Gatha) can cure the mental poison.
It was not a pill for longevity or for searching for God. In a translation
of this poem by a Westerner this was mistaken as a drug, but I translate
it as Gatha which means stanza, and it may be proved by the Buddha's saying
in the Avatamsaka Sutra:
I am just like the Agoda, Which cures the poison!
B. Han-Shan never turned on to free love. From the following poems we
know what his idea concerning women was:
The kids in the city
All well dressed in beauty
Play with birds and flowers,
And sing songs under moonlight.
Their long poems seems for good,
Their charm-dance looks are right.
Could they do this forever?
Roses will be buried in dirt!
A young girl when married to an old man,
Will not bear white hair of her husband.
Youth married old woman, in that case,
Not be pleased by her yellow face.
But how is the old man with old wife?
They have no love for each other in life,
A young man and a young girl in one door,
Behave lovingly to each other but no more!
The girdle ornaments of the girl in town,
Give forth their tinkling and beautiful sound.
The parrot voice is heard in the flowers.
The fine guitar is strummed under the moon.
A lengthy song takes three months to recite.
A short dance attracts men of great amount.
Alas! It's not continuously like this,
The Lotus can not endure the monsoon.
Small birds sing on the branch of rose,
Their sound is surely sweet and smooth.
The nice girl with a pearl-like face,
Looks at it and sings some sweet prose.
Plays so long still not satisfied,
She enjoys her own golden youth.
When rose falls and birds fly away,
She weeps as Autumn winds arose.
Han-Shan viewed those girls as all other things as impermanent. He did
not live even with his own wife. His poem quoted below can prove this:
I have dreamt that I returned home.
Saw my wife weaving at her loom.
She stopped the shuttle, seemed something desired.
She lifted it again and looked so tired.
I cried out to her,she looked at me.
No longer could she know whom I might be.
Because since our parting years went past,
My hair on my temple (body) has turned to frost.
What Dharmas was Han-Shan turning on to? The poems mentioned below have
been classified. My good Hippies may take them as good examples and practice
the same as did Han-Shan himself or his incarnations.
C. Han-Shan turned on to the Vinayas or commandments.
It was twenty years ago I called at Kuo Ching Temple.
And all the monks laughed at me.
They said I was a foolish man.
Ah, was I really a fool?
But not a style of their sample.
I do not know my real self,
How could they know my example.
I bowed my head but did not ask,
Even ask what was their principle.
Whenever some man blamed me,
I knew that it was so simple.
Though I didn't give tooth for tooth,
Yet I enjoyed my mind ample.
The speech that I had, Seemed to be so mad.
Face to face I say, So hate me they may.
Straight mind causes straight talk,
There is nothing dark.
When pass the death-creek,
I may be a little quick.
You fall into Hell.
Your Karma will tell!
My eastern neighbour is an old woman,
She became so rich a few years before,
Three years back she was more poor,
Now she laughs at me as no money more.
She laughs at me as I did before,
I laugh at her, were unable to score.
If we laugh at each other without cease
We might be left in a game without peace.
Anxiety is not easy to drive away.
Somebody said this is not really the way.
It was driven away yesterday,
But it's coming again on this day.
Anxiety has lingered on since last month
Will be renewed in the future and stay.
All men know that under their hats
There is no less sad than he's got.
I advise all you youngsters
Quickly leave the fire quarter.
Three carriages have been prepared,
Carry you from the shelter.
Pure land is everywhere.
Once for all, all things alter!
In the space no up nor down,
To and fro there is no matter.
If you realize such a truth,
There is nowhere you can't enter!
D. Han-Shan turned on to the great compassion. Although he dropped out
he never hated the Hung-ups as deeply as modern Hippies do. My good Hippies,
try to practice the Bodhicitta and great compassion, and do not join any
rebelling movement if you desire real fellowship with Han-Shan.
When all men meet Han-Shan,
They call him mad person.
They do not too much look at me,
Face and dress are not much to see,
They can't get my view, I say,
I can't get the stress they lay.
To them, all that I can speak:
Try to climb up to the peak.
From the above poem we know he was so kind that he hoped to save others
by living and practicing on the peak together.
I saw the foolish cheater,
As a basket of water,
Though he quickly fetched it back,
The basket held no matter.
I saw the cheated man
like the leek on plain.
Though daily it's cut,
Yet it grows again!
I see those worldly men,
Worry, Worry, again.
On the day when they die
Only their graves remain.
Four feet wide,
Twelve feet long.
Could they worry once more,
I would tablet a stone!
Many live in Tien-Tai-Chih,
Who do not know Han-Shan-Tze
Nor understand what he says,
But simply call it nonsense.
Why so often to be grieved,
like mushrooms, men can't live long!
Within only some ten years,
Kinsmen have taken leave.
Try to think over yourself
All sorrows, it's the chief,
Ah, need not say more again,
Just practice hard in the cliff.
Alas, those Hungups,
Wandering no end!
Daily become old,
Not any rest to spend.
Only for some food,
Through a lot of time,
To hell himself he sends!
Tell you the Buddhist Scholars,
Don't always think with reason.
Realize the nature of Truth,
You will know Buddha very soon.
The natural truth is right here,
Without looking any further on.
Don't leave the root and take the branch,
To hold which you are going wrong!
E. Han-Shan turned on to meditation throughout his whole lifetime. Modern
Hippies like meditation. But they do not like to make preparation for it.
They do not like to follow the many steps to reach it. Such an important
practice cannot only be found in poems. Please read my book Buddhist Meditation:
Systematic and Practical. All the preparation, steps, and methods, of Samatha
and Samadhi are included within it.
Since I have escaped to Cold Mountain,
Eat the wild fruits I obtain.
In my life to worry nothing,
Passing on with whatever condition,
Days and months slip by as water,
Time is like stone-sparks, no matter!
Let the world itself change and change,
I sit in cave, nothing alter!
I enjoy my great Buddhist way,
On plants and stones it is to lay,
My minds nature is free and vast,
White clouds are with me, day by day!
My path is not open to the world.
My heart is void unable to say!
On the stone bed I sit alone,
The white moon rises up round and gay!
My mind is like the white moon,
Clean and clear as the mirror,
Nothing can compare with it,
How could I make metaphor?
Advise you of the plastic society,
Don't only talk without any good conduct,
If you have no reason you will be blamed,
If you have reason, you will still reach defeat,
In the defiled world there are evil men,
Just like plasters covering much deceit.
See him the man who has no worldly task,
He is liberated without any conceit.
Let three evil realms be their own nature.
He returns to natural reality!
Pure and holy he lives in the Dharma,
Never drinks the Avidya water of dirt!
I see those wise men,
Who know their own minds!
Without any knowledge,
The plain truth they find!
Love not the matter,
Leave passions behind!
When mind becomes void,
Suchness is in hand!
I meditate in the cave.
The bright moon shines in the sky.
All phenomenon are shadows,
And the moon, grasping not, yet shines.
Vast and pure is my spirit,
So wondrous yet empty!
From the finger is seen the moon,
From the moon the truth comes so soon!
I sit in front of the cliff,
So long all the clouds take leave.
The clean stream becomes cold,
The green cave is high enough,
Tree's shadow becomes so stiff,
Moonlight seems bring the night up,
As my body touches no dirt!
So my mind has no grief!
The deeper the better is the cave!
No body walks on this narrow wave.
White clouds rest on the highest hill,
Green cliff hides the monkeys who trill,
No relative other than these,
I do like live here at my will!
Let my face and seasons change,
My mind-pearl is always so still!
Talk about food can't feed!
Talk about clothes can't warm!
You must eat the rice,
Wear clothes in good form,
If you don't think of,
Practice seems to harm,
If you turn in your mind,
Buddha is at home!
I could not change my rule,
I'm not straw mat to roll,
Wander in the forest,
Sit on the stone I cull!
If you do want a good place to live on,
The ice mountain is ideal one, I have found.
Breezes murmur gently between calm pine trees.
It's elating to hear and one is free,
Under these trees there is a grey haired man,
Reading his Sutra as much as he can,
For ten years he did not return,
He forgot the roads by which he came!
I stay in such obedience!
No body is my audience!
Sitting among the brilliant clouds,
I am always in silence!
III. Tune In
A. Han-Shan tuned in to nature which has nothing to do with primitive
life, long hair and long beards, but the nature of landscapes and his own
body and mind. He harmonized himself and identified himself with nature.
There is no differentiation between subject and object. Read the following
Laughable is the path to Han-Shan,
Carriage and horses there is no sign,
Uncountable are the curves of the streams,
And the grades of the hills over toppings.
Though different grasses are to dew bend,
Yet, all pines sing the same song in the wind.
When the way seems to be lost,
Shadow helps body to mend!
The spring in green creek is clear,
Moonlight on cold hill is white,
Silence makes the spirit cheer,
When mind is void, matter is alright!
When many birds start to call,
I still sleep against the wall.
Peach blossoms beautiful
Willow leaves dance very cheerful
Bright sun seems to swallow the peak
White clouds wash in the creek.
Who knows this way without world dust
Able to call on Han-Shan and trust!
I stand on the peak,
Sun shines its bright light,
Look around the clear sky,
Crane and clouds friendly fly!
Call me to pick the flowers,
In the so lovely river!
We play till the evening,
We see the wind rising,
Waves circle the mandarin,
Water birds move their wings.
I stay in the boat wide,
My mind expands no hide!
Old year is gone,
The spring has come.
Flowers smile at the creek,
Cliffs dance in clouds and fog!
Butterflies seem so glad;
Fish and birds are as if mad!
No end has our friendship.
So cheer I lose my sleep!
How noble is the nature!
The one without creature!
You find it but not see
Goes through without structure!
Catch it and it seems my mind,
Expand it where all may reach!
If you do not believe it,
You meet it but no fixture!
B. Han-Shan tuned in to his meditation.
All things have settled since I lived on Cold Mountain!
No task could trouble me in my mind again.
I write all my poems on the wall of the cave.
And rest like a boat without anchor to attain
See the bright moon
Shines on each town,
Round in the sky,
Pure for so long!
Men differ one another,
I see no right or wrong!
To me it is like a gem,
At night it is like the sun!
The mountain is like powder,
The Sumeru, a mustard,
The great ocean like one drop,
All induced in mind standard.
From which grows the Bodhi-seed.
Leaves cover many a god.
You who love the Dharma,
Tangle not things easy or hard!
Ancient traces are still on stone,
Highest peak is an empty point.
Moon is always bright and clean
There is no east or west to count.
I look at the clean stream,
And sit on the great stone,
Mind depends on nothing;
All worldly tasks have gone!
Among many long creeks and high summits
There is a man who is a happy hermit.
In day time he wanders in the mountain,
At night sleeps in any cave, without permit.
Let all the springs and summers pass themselves,
Silent and quiet he has no self to fit.
What a great pleasure of Independence!
Suchness is just like autumn stream to sit.
I have chosen such a solitude so high,
The unspeakable best hermitage in Tien-Tai.
Apes brayed for cool in the fog about the spring,
The peaks green united with my grass opening.
Pick some leaves to cover my house of pine.
To my place draw the stream instead of wine.
I have very willingly dropped out;
Take only herbs and tune my life into nought.
On Tien-Tai Mountain I make my home.
Clouds and vapour make no guest come.
It's in the deep cliff a thousand feet
On a high peak with brooks round and fit.
Trips near by the stream with wooden shoes,
Go round them, only a stick to use.
I feel my whole lifetime is of magic
Full of the bliss is my lonely picnic!
Tzon Tze said, "The good death you are having
Is making the earth and sky your coffin."
I shall rest myself there some days later,
Need no money of paper or pewter!
(It is a Chinese custom that when one dies foil money is offered to
the dead person).
To the fly my flesh will be given all !
I will not trouble the crane to condole
Ancients were hungry in Shu-Yong-San,
Both life and death are happy and whole.
Nothing is born before earth,
It has no form, health or disease
It's the master of all things,
Follows no reason to cease.
Climb up to the Cold Mountain
The path to it has no end.
In the long stream there are stones,
On the two shores grass to defend.
C. Han-Shan tuned in to his happiness from his realization of meditation.
Only white clouds are on the hill,
No worldly dirt in Silence.
Straw hut easy to build,
Light borrowed from moon-essence!
Stone bed above the green lake,
Wild deers are good audience!
I enjoy my happiness,
A man beyond existence!
If you want always happiness.
You have to be a hermit.
Nice flowers save in forest,
In four seasons you may meet.
Sit quietly in the deep cave,
The moon shines her light so sweet,
Although I am very delighted
Yet all fools I can't forget.
I like my happiness in the hill,
I'm free from all kinds of dependance!
Take little food to support my body,
Besides meditation no circumstance!
Some times I read sutra and sastra,
Some times climb on peak in far distance,
I used to see village of down side,
And upside the clouds in transference!
The bright moon seems become very fresh,
A lonely crane is my existence!
D. Han-Shan finally tuned in to his great Nirvana which is no-birth
and no-death. Read the following poems. They make this booklet an auspicious
end of no-end.
Know you not the birth and death,
They are like water and ice.
Water becomes ice and vice versa.
There is nothing otherwise,
Dead man have to be born,
Living men will be gone.
Water never harms ice,
To me both are so nice!
No birth no death!!
Without turning on there would be no tuning in: without practice, no
perfection. I have given much advice upon the Buddhist course in the booklet
entitled "Welcome Hippies Through This Way" (Booklet New No. 48). Please
kindly refer to it.
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