Han-shan (Cold Mountain) poems

Clambering up the Cold Mountain path,

The Cold Mountain trail goes on and on:

The long gorge choked with scree and boulders,

The wide creek, the mist-blurred grass.

The moss is slippery, though there’s been no rain

The pine sings, but there’s no wind.

Who can leap the world’s ties

And sit with me among the white clouds?


* * *

Thirty years ago I was born into the world.

A thousand, ten thousand miles I’ve roamed.

By rivers where the green grass grows thick,

Beyond the border where the red sands fly.

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.

Gary Snyder translations

[titled Han-shan and Shih-te(?)]


You have seen the blossoms among the leaves;

tell me, how long will they stay?

Today they tremble before the hand that picks them;

tomorrow they wait someone’s garden broom.

Wonderful is the bright heart of youth,

but with the years it grows old.

Is the world not like these flowers?

Ruddy faces, how can they last?



When I see a fellow abusing others,

I think of a man with a basketful of water.

As fast as he can, he runs with it home,

but when he gets there, what’s left in the basket?

When I see a man being abused by others,

I think of the leek growing in the garden.

Day after day men pull off the leaves,

but the heart it was born with remains the same.



I spur my horse past the ruined city;

the ruined city, that wakes the traveler’s thoughts:

ancient battlements, high and low;

old grave mounds, great and small.

Where the shadow of a single tumbleweed trembles

and the voice of the great trees clings forever,

I sigh over all these common bones —

No roll of the immortals bears their names.


Cold Mountain


tr. by Burton Watson

Shambala, 1992

ISBN 0-87773-668-5

[Kanzan and Jittoku by Kaihoku Yusho]

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