Chinese Poetry, Poetry, Zen Stories

It Now is Me, I am Not It – Dongshan

Attributed to Master Dongshan, the 9th century founder of the Caodong (Soto) School, this short verse stands in contrast to his longer and more famous teaching verse, The Hokyo Zanmai or The Song of the Jewel Mirror Samadhi. After spending some time with Master Yunyan, Dongshan was preparing to leave. He asked the master how… Continue reading It Now is Me, I am Not It – Dongshan

Chinese Poetry

A Lifetime is Empty Like the Void – Wang Wei

Considered one of China's greatest classical poets, 8th century Wang Wei was also a painter and musician, as well as a courtier and statesman during the Tang Dynasty. His art was deeply influenced by his study of Ch'an, whose philosophy was expressed through the simplicity of the images in both his paintings and his verses. … Continue reading A Lifetime is Empty Like the Void – Wang Wei

Chinese Poetry

Do Not Pass Your Days and Nights in Vain – Shitou’s Sandokai

The Sandokai, sometimes translated as The Harmony of Difference and Equality, was written by master Shitou – known as Sekito Kisen in Japanese – an 8th century Chinese monk, and a student of Huineng and Huineng’s successor, Qingyuan Xingsi (Seigen Gyoshi). The Sandokai was written at a time when there were two opposing factions within… Continue reading Do Not Pass Your Days and Nights in Vain – Shitou’s Sandokai

Chinese Poetry, Poetry

Dongshan’s Hokyo Zanmai – Song of the Jewel Mirror Samadhi

Within a tradition already rich with sublime poetry, the Song of the Jewel Mirror Samadhi stands out as one of the most profound and beautiful verses to come out of 9th century China. The poem is attributed to master Dongshan Liangjie (known as Tozan Ryokai in Japan), who was the founder of the Caodong tradition… Continue reading Dongshan’s Hokyo Zanmai – Song of the Jewel Mirror Samadhi

Chinese Poetry, Poetry

Ch’i-chi’s Little Pines

The orphan Ch'i-chi became a monk at an early age and matured during the end of the T'ang era, which was a tumultuous time in China both socially and politically. Ch'i-chi gathered a lot of recognition during his life for his poetry and writing. 'Little Pines' is a meditation on time and the mystery of… Continue reading Ch’i-chi’s Little Pines

Chinese Poetry, Poetry

Fu Ta-shih’s Poem: Empty Handed, I Hold a Hoe

The legendary inventor of the kyozo, the custom-made building for housing sutras, Fu Ta-shih (also known as Bodhisattva Shan-hui) was a 6th century Chinese poet and lay master. Below are two translations of one of his famous short poems or gathas.    Empty-handed, I hold a hoe. Walking on foot, I ride a buffalo. Passing… Continue reading Fu Ta-shih’s Poem: Empty Handed, I Hold a Hoe

su tung-p'o
Chinese Poetry, Poetry

Su Tung-P’o’s Rapt in Wine Against the Mountain Rains

Su Tung-P'o was a poet of the Song era who is also known as Su Shi, and who published under the name Dongpo Jushi. A prolific figure of his time, Su Tung-P'o was a statesman who was accomplished not only in literary terms, but also as a painter, calligrapher and cook. Influenced by his study… Continue reading Su Tung-P’o’s Rapt in Wine Against the Mountain Rains

Chinese Poetry, Poetry

Shitou’s Song of the Grass-Roof Hermitage

Shitou - known as Sekito Kisen in Japanese - was an 8th century Chinese monk, a student of Huineng and Huineng's successor, Qingyuan Xingsi (Seigen Gyoshi). He is credited with writing two of the most famous Zen poems in China - the Sandokai and this, the Song of the Grass Roof Hermitage. The beauty of… Continue reading Shitou’s Song of the Grass-Roof Hermitage

Chinese Poetry, Poetry

Swift Clouds and the Jewel Hare

This short poem by an 11th century Chinese poet called Gen of Kohoin is written as an uncomplaining, almost joyful anticipation of death. The Jewel Hare he refers to in the last line is a classic image for the moon, after the myth of the rabbit on the moon's face.   At ninety-nine, snowy side-locks,… Continue reading Swift Clouds and the Jewel Hare

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… Continue reading Look Beyond the Town Gate at the Mounds Below the Pines