Chinese Poetry, Poetry

Look Beyond the Town Gate at the Mounds Below the Pines

Cold Mountain (Han Shan) was a Chinese poet and hermit who wrote his poetry 1,200 years ago on the rocks, trees and temple walls of the Tientai Mountains where he lived. He was a Taoist and a Buddhist and though he was never critically acclaimed as a great poet, he’s become a much loved persona in the history of Chinese literature and Zen. This is song #94 of Red Pine’s translation of his work, a poem about the futility of amassing earthly riches.

 

A wise man isn’t greedy
a fool loves a furnace
his fields encroach on those of others
the bamboo grove is his
he strains his arms gathering riches
grits his teeth and goads his nag
he should look beyond the town gate
at all the mounds below the pines

 

Han Shan
From: The Collected Songs of Cold Mountain