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 Texts, Japanese Texts, Texts

When One Can Know What is the Truth of the Heart

The most effective religious or philosophical texts are the ones that transcend time and culture and get to the core of the human situation which is timeless, no matter where and when in the world we live. Daikaku Zenji (Chinese name - Lanxi Daolong) was a monk and master who traveled from his birthplace in Western China… Continue reading When One Can Know What is the Truth of the Heart

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

Chinese Texts, Koans

Master Ma-tsu and Original Mind

"Strange words and extraordinary actions" were the hallmark of 8th century Ch'an master Ma-tsu (also written as Mazu Daoyi) whose teaching methods involved the kind of unorthodox actions that became associated with certain forms of Zen, especially Rinzai. Ma-tsu was particularly fond of holding up his fly whisk, shouting and hitting his students, in order… Continue reading Master Ma-tsu and Original Mind

Book Excerpts, Chinese Texts

Chuang Tzu: How To Find What You Already Know?

With great power also comes great responsibility, but not always great wisdom. Chinese philosopher Chuang Tzu, whose writings form one of the pillars of Taosim, took a dim view of much of human activity and the accumulation of power and knowledge, recommending instead the cultivation of a kind of wisdom in tune with the Tao,… Continue reading Chuang Tzu: How To Find What You Already Know?

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 Texts, Texts

Host and Guest

The theme of host and guest is popular within Chinese Zen, broadly used to illustrate the interplay between relative and absolute. One of Zen's major tenets is that our personalities and beliefs are not absolute, but rather 'guests' within an impenetrable 'host'. This relationship then becomes more complex when we talk about guests within hosts… Continue reading Host and Guest