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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!

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[citation needed]
    • 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[edit]

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
    Happiness forever!
  • 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.
  • 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[edit]

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[citation needed]
    • 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?

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