Hanshan (c.730? – c.850?) was a legendary figure associated with a collection of poems from the Chinese Tang Dynasty in the Taoist and Chan tradition. No one knows who he was, or when he lived and died. In the Buddhist tradition, Hanshan and his sidekick Shide are honored as emanations of the bodhisattvas Mañjuśrī and Samantabhadra, respectively. In Japanese and Chinese paintings, Hanshan is often depicted together with Shide or with Fenggan, another monk with legendary attributes.
- Once, my back wedded to the solid cliff,
I sat silently, bathed in the full moon's light.
I counted there ten thousand shapes,
None with substance save the moon's own glow.
The pristine mind is empty as the moon,
I thought, and like the moon, freely shines.
By what I knew of moon I knew the mind,
Each mirror to each, profound as stone.
- Encounters With Cold Mountain, tr. Peter Stambler (Foreign Languages Press, Beijing, 1996)
- All the people in the Kuo-ch'ing monastery—
They say, "Han-shan is an idiot."
"Am I really an idiot:" I reflect.
But my reflections fail to solve the question:
for I myself do not know who the self is,
And how can others know who I am?
- Translated by D. T. Suzuki
- Note: This poem, translated by D. T. Suzuki, is not a complete Han-shan poem. It is lines 3–8 of a 14 line poem, numbered 271 by Red Pine.
Cold Mountain Transcendental Poetry
- Cold Mountain Transcendental Poetry by the T'ang Zen poet, Han-shan (2005, 2011), tr. Wandering Poet, ISBN 978-0-6151-6006-1 ISBN 0615160069 LOC Number 2007937840
- There is a Precious Mountain
Even the Seven Treasures cannot compare
A cold moon rises through the pines
Layer upon layer of bright clouds
How many towering peaks?
How many wandering miles?
The valley streams run clear
- Among a thousand clouds and ten thousand streams
Here lives an idle man
In the daytime wandering over green mountains
At night coming home to sleep by the cliff
Swiftly springs and autumns pass
But my mind is at peace, clear and free
By now I need nothing to lean on
To be still as the waters of the autumn river
- I dreamed a place where I have come to dwell
Cold Mountain says it all
Monkeys scream, the valley fog is cold
My door blends with the color of the peaks
I gather leaves and thatch a hut among the pines
Dig a pond and lead a trickle from the brook
Long ago I left the world behind
Eating ferns I pass the years in peace
- Cold Mountain is hidden in white clouds
It's peaceful to be cut off from the busy world
I use dry grass for cushions in my mountain home
My only light is the round moon
My bed is the rock beside the green pool
Tigers and deer are my companions
I delight in this happy peaceful life
Forever beyond the world of men
- I settled at Cold Mountain long ago
Already it seems like ages
Wandering free I roam the woods and streams
Lingering to watch things be themselves
Men don't come this far into the mountains
Where white clouds gather and billow
Dry grass makes a comfortable mattress
The blue sky is a fine quilt
Happy to pillow my head on the rock
I leave heaven and earth to endless change
- Today I sat before the cliff
Until the mist and rainbows disappeared
I followed the emerald stream
Explored a thousand tiers of green cliffs
In the morning my spirit rests among white clouds
At night a bright moon floats in the sky
I am free of the busy world
There is not a doubt in my heart or a worry to disturb my mind
- When you live on Cold Mountain long enough the autumns pass quickly
When you live alone you have no worries
When you leave the doors open no one bothers you
The bubbling stream runs forever
In the cave a clay pot boils over a fire on the ground
A wandering breeze stirs the fragrant pines
When hungry I eat one simple meal
And lean against the rock in complete harmony
- I'm happy in the every day Way
Among the mist and vines and caves
The wilderness is boundless
My companions are lazy white clouds
There are roads but they do not reach the world
My mind has come to rest and nothing can stir my thought
On a bed of rock I sit alone in the night
While a round moon climbs up Cold Mountain
- I love the joy of mountains
Wandering free with no concerns
Every day I find food for this old body
There's leisure for thinking, nothing to do
Often I carry an ancient book
Sometimes I climb a rock pavilion
To look down a thousand foot precipice
Overhead are swirling clouds
A cold moon chilly cold
My body feels like a flying crane
- Tier on tier of beautiful mountains and streams
Blue green vistas locked in white clouds
The mist makes my bandana wet
Dew coats my grass cape
My feet climb in straw sandals
My hand holds an old wooden stick
When I gaze down again on the dusty world
It has become a land of phantoms and dreams to me
- How wonderful is Cold Mountain
Climbers are all afraid
The moon shines on clear water twinkle twinkle
Wind rustles the tall grass
Plum trees flower in the snow
Bare twisted trees have clouds for foliage
A touch of rain brings it all alive
Unless you see clearly do not approach
- Climb the steep Cold Mountain way
Roads to Cold Mountain are many and never ending
The valleys are long and deep, the peaks piled high
The streams are wide, the grass is thick
The moss is slippery though there is no rain
The pines sigh though there is no wind
Who can escape the snares of the world
And come to sit with me among the white clouds?
- Since I retired to Cold Mountain
I've lived by eating mountain fruits
What is there to worry about?
Life passes according to karma
The months pass like a flowing stream
Days and nights like sparks from flint
Heaven and earth endlessly change
While I sit happily among these cliffs
- People ask the way to Cold Mountain
Roads do not go through
Summer arrives yet the ice has not melted
Though the sun is out it's foggy and dim
How did I arrive here?
My mind and yours are not the same
When our minds are one
You will be here too
- When people look for the road in the clouds
The cloud road disappears
The mountains are tall and steep
The streams are wide and still
Green mountains ahead and behind
White clouds to east and west
If you want to find the cloud road
Seek it within
Note: The following three poems are examples of Han-shan's three word per line poems. They are literal translations, word for word, and illustrate a simple childlike side of the old poet:
- Tiers of mountains
Cold wind feet
Not need fan
Ice cold through
Moon shines bright
Mist covers everything
Sit all alone
One old man
- Cold Mountain cold
Ice freezes rock
Mountains are green
Snow is white
Sun shines bright
Every thing melt
Every thing warm
Warms old man
- Cold Mountain Son
Forever not change
I live alone
Beyond life death
Note: The following two playful five word per line poems are also literal translations.
- Often sit alone happy happy
Thoughts somewhat far gone gone
Clouds circle mountain soft soft
Wind through valley swish swish
Ape in tree bounce bounce
Bird in forest chirp chirp
Time turns hair gray gray
Winter is here sad sad
- Remote remote Cold Mountain road
Cold cold ice cold cliff
Chirp chirp often many birds
Lone lone no sign people
Swish swish wind blow face
Gentle gentle snow settle head
Day day no see sun
Year year no see spring
- Someone sits in a mountain vale
A robe of clouds, rainbows for tassels
The fragrant forest is the place to live
The road has been long and difficult
With a heart full of doubt and regret
A life has passed and nothing has been accomplished
Others call it failure
I stand alone devoted to this Cold Mountain life
- If you want a peaceful place to dwell
Cold Mountain is guaranteed forever
A light wind blows softly in the pines
The sound is good when you are close
One old man sits beneath the trees
Reading Lao Tzu and Huang Ti, mumbling
I could not find the world if I searched ten years
I've forgotten the road by which I came
- Variant, lines 5–8:
- Under a tree I'm reading
Lao-tzu, quietly perusing.
Ten years not returning,
I forgot the way I had come.
- Translated by Katsuki Sekida
- Under a tree I'm reading
- Variant, lines 5–8:
- The higher the trail the steeper it grows
Ten thousand tiers of dangerous cliffs
The stone bridge is slippery with green moss
Cloud after cloud keeps flying by
Waterfalls hang like ribbons of silk
The moon shines down on the bright pool
I climb the highest peak once more
To wait where the lone crane flies
- I sit cross-legged on the rock
The valleys and streams are cold and damp
Sitting quietly is beautiful
The cliffs are lost in mist and fog
I rest happily in this place
At dusk the tree shadows are low
I look into my mind
A white lotus emerges from the dark mud
- Old and sick, more than one hundred years
Face haggard, hair white, I'm happy to still live in the mountains
A cloth covered phantom watching the years flow by
Why envy people with clever ways of living?
- Do I have a body? Or have I none?
Am I who I am? Or am I not?
Pondering these questions, I sit
Leaning against the cliff while the years go by
And the green grass grows up between my feet
And the red dust settles on my head
Then men of the world come and thinking me dead
Bring offerings of wine and fruit
- If your house has Cold Mountain poems
They are better for you than sutras
Hang them up where you can see them
Read them and read them again
Cold Mountain: 100 Poems by the T'ang Poet Han-shan
- Cold Mountain: 100 Poems by the T'ang Poet Han-shan (1970), tr. Burton Watson, Columbia University Press, ISBN 0-231-03450-4.
- I divined and chose a distant place to dwell
T'ien T'ai: what more is there to say?
Monkeys cry where valley mists are cold
My grass gate blends with the color of the crags
I pick leaves to thatch a hut among the pines
Scoop out a pond and lead a runnel from the spring
By now I am used to doing without the world
Picking ferns I pass the years that are left
- As for me, I delight in the every day Way
Among mist-wrapped vines and rocky caves
Here in the wilderness I am completely free
With my friends, the white clouds, idling forever
There are roads, but they do not reach the world
Since I am mindless, who can rouse my thoughts
On a bed of stone I sit, alone in the night
While a round moon climbs up Cold Mountain
- Story on Story of wonderful hills and streams
Their blue-green haze locked in clouds!
Mists brush my thin cap with moisture
Dew wets my coat of plaited straw
On my feet I wear pilgrim's sandals
My hand holds a stick of old rattan
Though I look down again on the dusty world
What is that land of dreams to me?
- People ask the way to Cold Mountain.
Cold Mountain? There is no road that goes through.
Even in summer the ice doesn't melt;
Though the sun comes out, the fog is blinding.
How can you hope to get there by aping me?
Your heart and mine are not alike.
If your heart were the same as mine,
Then you could journey to the very center!
- I brewed potions in a vain search for life everlasting,
I read books, I sang songs of history,
And today I've come home to Cold Mountain
To pillow my head on the stream and wash my ears.
- If you're looking for a place to rest
Cold Mountain is good for a long stay
The breeze blowing through the dark pines
Sounds better the closer you come
And under the trees a white haired man
Mumbles over his Taoist texts
Ten years now he hasn't gone home
He's even forgotten the road he came by
- Do you have the poems of Han-shan in your house?
They're better for you than sutra reading!
Write them out and paste them on a screen
Where you can glance over them from time to time
- Worry for others— it does no good in the end.
The great Dao, all amid joy, is reborn.
In a joyous state, ruler and subject accord,
In a joyous home, father and son get along.
If brothers increase their joy, the world will flourish.
If husband and wife have joy, it's worthy of song.
What guest and host can bear a lack of joy?
Both high and low, in joy, lose their woe before long.
Ha ha ha.
- Translated by Mary Jacob
- Note: It is unlikely that this poem, translated by Mary Jacob, is authored by Han-shan. In comparing it with every poem in the corpus it will be found that there is not a close match. Moreover, neither the language nor the content of this poem is that of Han-shan. Most importantly, this poem does not have the appropriate number of lines for a Han-shan poem. Jacob's poem has 9 lines; there is not a single example of a 9 line poem in all of Han-shan's poetry. All of Han-shan's poems are 4, 8, 10 or 14 lines, with a few that have more than 14. Further, Jacob's poem has an odd number of lines; there is not a single example of a poem with an odd number of lines in all of Han-shan's poetry. Finally, the 9th and final line in Jacob's poem has the words “ha ha ha.” Not a single Han-shan poem has those words as a final line. Perhaps someone is having a joke?